A noted nutrition expert gives you a peek into his pantry. How does yours compare?
As dutiful T-Mag readers, you've read my theoretical nutrition articles and you've discussed and debated the principles on the forums. But it's easy to talk the nutritional talk the question is, do you walk the nutritional walk? (In case you're wondering, the nutritional walk involves a Huggy Bear kind of lean combined with a Travolta-in-Saturday-Night-Fever kind of strut.)
By offering you a glimpse at the contents of my kitchen, this article series is intended to give you a way to check your own practical nutrition habits against my own, and see how nutrition theory is put into practice. In Part 1, I gave you a tour of my fridge, and this time around I'll show you the contents of my cupboard, covering both pantry items and supplements.
By the end of this article, you should see that good nutrition practice involves limits and discipline, but not the austerity that most people assume it does.
Let us recommence.
The pantry is where the average kitchen goes horribly awry. Cookies, crackers, potato chips, baking supplies, and other hydrogenated and over-sweetened junk, all perched high above on a shelf, ready to snipe away at your hard-earned health and body composition. If this is your kitchen, carefully position a large trash receptacle directly beneath said shelf. With a smooth sweeping motion, use your forearm to plow these enemies into the abyss below. Replace with the following:
Quantity: 3 lb. bag
If you're looking for soluble fiber and low-GI carbs and you should be oats are your first choice. I get between 1 to 2 cups each morning, boiled, cooled and mixed with chocolate Metabolic Drive® Protein, mixed berries, pineapple and a small quantity of mixed nuts. I place this bowl right next to my omelet for a breakfast that's hard to beat.
Quantity: 2 lb. bag
I prefer to make my own mix, and it usually consists of walnuts, pecans, and cashews in equal proportions. Half of the mix is then chopped in a blender or food processor to be added to my morning oatmeal, my salads, and as a topping on my salmon. I'll use the rest for my snacks, which are extremely useful in mass phases.
Dried Fruit Mix
Quantity: 1 lb. bag
Dried fruit is a good way to add occasional variety to oatmeal and salads, and you can usually find a good mix at high-end markets and grocery stores. The one I buy includes currants, dates, pears, mango, apples, and banana.
Quantity: 2 x 2 lb. bags (1 bag lentils, 1 bag mixed beans)
Beans are a magical fruit, containing soluble fiber, lots of B-vitamins, calcium, a good dose of amino acids (although beans are low in the amino acid methionine and therefore aren't considered a complete protein), and a big whack of anthocyanins, known for their powerful antioxidant capacity. I throw a cup or two of legumes on my plate a few days per week.
Whole Wheat Pasta
Quantity: 2 x 2 lb. bags
As a God-fearing Italian, I have to admit that I love pasta. But, as a gut-fearing weight lifter, I definitely have to choose the lower GI, nutrient dense whole-wheat variety. During phases that require or allow for higher carbohydrate intake, I'll eat one whole-wheat pasta meal per day. During other phases, the pasta stays on the shelf. The general rule is to have two types of pasta on hand: one long cut, such as spaghetti or linguine, and one short cut, such as penne or fusili.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Quantity: 1 bottle
100% extra virgin olive oil is used in my salads and for pan-frying my egg white omelets. While the bottled form will definitely suffice, you might also want to pick up a spray can as well (also in 100% extra virgin olive oil), as it does make cooking with oil more convenient.
Quantity: 2 boxes of 20 packets each
organic green tea without any added herbs or flavoring agents, except for the rare occasion when I buy a green tea/peppermint tea blend. For more on green tea and other anti-oxidant supplements, see Are You Getting Rusty?
I'm always amused when I hear someone describe good nutritional programs as "boring." I just picture them stuffing their vacant faces with canned tuna, day in, day out, like the orphans and their gruel in Oliver Twist, or sleeping face first in a plate of broccoli, drooling like that kid in Ferris Bueller's Day Off during Ben Stein's history lesson. I suppose that the opposite of boredom is excitement, but is that what people really want from their food? A meal so exciting it will have them doing a post-meal cha-cha on their dining table? If that really is the case, may God help us all.
What I think people mean to say is that eating well is challenging because healthy food tends to be less sweetened and flavored, and there is always a temptation to revert back to old habits. It's not that healthy food must necessarily be bland and over time you could become accustomed even to "blandness" but that many people have never learned to cook, since most of the food they eat is either cooked for them (e.g., fast food) or preflavored and prepackaged. If you're in that situation, do yourself a favor and read Massive Cooking, by Ken Kinnan. There you'll find a great introduction to flavoring and cooking, including many quick and easy tips to help ease your taste buds into their new roles.
I personally keep a few things on hand: salt, pepper, fresh garlic, basil, oregano, chili powder, onion powder, and cinnamon. Seasoning mixes are also handy and take the guesswork out of flavoring. For example, right now I have Italian, Indian, Mexican, and Thai mixes in my cupboard, and combined with all the protein sources I listed in Part 1, these allow for all kinds of combinations.
Supplementation should be determined by your training goals and your resources, both time and money. Other than your post-workout drinks, fish oil caps, the occasional scoop of protein or a MRP, and perhaps some necessary micronutrients, no supplement should be taken year-round. And while it should go without saying that supplements should supplement and not replace a solid training and nutrition program, this is one of the most common mistakes I see, even in intermediate trainees. For an idea of what I might have on hand on an average, sunny June day:
Quantity: 2 x 2lb. containers
Most of your protein should come from meat, fish, poultry and eggs, as I discussed in Part 1. Getting all of your protein from whole food sources, however, is not always possible or practical, particularly if you need to eat more than 6 meals per day to get your required caloric intake. Nevertheless, I generally limit myself to one daily protein powder meal, either with my oatmeal at the beginning of the day or as a snack or shake prior to bedtime (chocolate for the former, vanilla for the latter).
Biotest Surge® Post-Workout Drink
Quantity: 2 x 3lb. containers
Optimizing nutrition during the pre-workout to post-workout period was the focus of my Ph.D. dissertation and is something in which I believe strongly. I designed Surge to do just that, and it does its job exceptionally well. Of course, I should mention that I have a financial interest in the product, so a portion of the proceeds from all Surge sales goes toward cigars and hookers for myself and my staff. For more on pre-workout and post-workout nutrition, read Precision Nutrition.
Quantity: 1 300g container
Creatine is always found in my cupboard, and rare indeed is the day that I don't take my 5 grams (that's right, I don't cycle or load). On training days, I mix it in with my post-workout drink (Surge, naturally). On rest days, I put in my morning green tea.
Quantity: 3 bottles
Fish oil, high in EPA and DHA, should be a staple of everyone's diet. I take the concentrated kind, standardized for 60% combined EPA and DHA, for no other reason than that it allows me to take fewer capsules. Doing so is more expensive, however, and if I couldn't afford or find the 60% version, I wouldn't hesitate to buy the cheaper 30% version found in virtually every nutrition store. I take two capsules with every solid food meal.
Quantity: 1 90 capsule bottle
I travel a great deal, which sometimes makes it difficult to get quality sleep. I find ZMA to be useful in this regard, and so I keep it in my cupboard and in my luggage. For me, anyway, ZMA tends not to induce sleep as much as deepen it. Expect your dreams to be extremely vivid, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on the subject matter.
In a pinch, I've also found magnesium alone to be useful.
If you wish to expedite the process of reaching your goals, you'll do the following:
- Do an inventory of all the food in your house, excluding nothing. Everything goes on the list, even if you didn't buy it and don't intend to eat it. If it's in the house, either you, someone you love, or someone you want to have sex with will eventually eat it, so everything is fair game.
- Compare your list to mine, checking off both the foods that are on my list but not yours and those that are on your list but not mine.
- Of those checked foods, you may uncheck any of those that are fresh protein sources, fruits or vegetables. As much as I may try, I can't be expected to eat every known type of meat, fruit and vegetable, so these kinds of variations are justifiable.
- Add up the number of remaining checked items, and divide by the total number of items on your list.
If your answer is:
- 0.1 or less (10% variation): You're right on track, having done all that you can to make your home base an environment conducive to success. 10% is a perfectly acceptable variation, which allows you to both achieve your goals without requiring robotic adherence.
- 0.1 to 0.25 (10% to 25%): You're close, but some changes must be made. Add foods from my list and subtract foods from yours to make up the difference.
- 0.25 to 0.5 (25% to 50%): You've got some work ahead of you. Building a successful nutrition program from this selection of foods will be difficult and will require an overhaul.
- 0.5 or more (over 50%): You're a candidate for "Extreme Makeover: Kitchen Edition."
While this formula may seem a bit gimmicky, it nevertheless offers a useful indication of how well your home is suited to the task at hand, assuming that you draw your meals rather evenly from all the foods.
The final step is to round up all the offending grub, and give it a warm send off as it pulls away in the back of a garbage truck. For those who think it would be more charitable to drop it all off at a food bank, I have news for you: the poor don't want your mother's half-empty box of Ho-Ho's. If you really want to help, make a donation, drop off some good food, or volunteer your time.
There it is, dear readers. Populate your kitchen with the foods above, and you will have built the foundation for nutritional success.