You may have heard before that 80 percent of your results in the gym are based around your nutrition.
But is that really accurate? And where does that statement come from anyhow?
Vince Gironda was the first person to advocate that “your (body building) success is 80 percent nutrition.”
If you don’t know Vince Gironda, you should get to know him.
Gironda was one of the first bodybuilders ever to create a “ripped physique.” In fact, in his early bodybuilding days, many judges actually placed him low stating he was “too ripped” (at the time, they weren’t used to seeing that level of shredded-ness on anyone). He was also one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first coaches when Schwarzenegger first moved to America in the 60s.
Gironda’s secret for creating results?
He stuck to a strict combination of proper exercises, adherence to exercise form and utmost attention to a clean diet.
While 80 percent may or may not be the exact percentage that nutrition impacts your training, there is no denying it: you cannot separate nutrition and training — particularly for the 98-99 percent of people who are not genetically superheroes. And, more often than not, the cleaner and more consistently you can abide by a clean, quality diet, the more you are going to reap the benefits and results of all your hard work inside the gym.
Although some peoples’ main motives for working out are so they can “eat whatever they want,” for the vast majority who want to get leaner, stronger, fitter, toner, more ripped, or simply overall healthier, nutrition is hands down part of their equation.
So what does “good’” nutrition even look like if you want to see results?
Each body is different, and exact percentages, macronutrients and energy intake will be different, but if we are simply talking about the foundations of good nutrition (which is where you should start anyways), then the answers are pretty straightforward across the board (as the human body is innately wired to need and thrive off of certain foods).
For starters, the biggest key to good nutrition comes in the form of liquid fuel: water.
Since your body itself is composed of more than 60 percent water, it is no big secret that it requires water to function at its peak for your metabolism, digestion, recovery, performance and daily life demands.
Drink half your weight in ounces of water each day as a baseline for good hydration. Relying on thirst alone to be your gauge for water is not enough (particularly since thirst is one of the last signs to warn you that your body is in a state of dehydration). Properly hydrate throughout the day, and on the days that you train and/or exert more energy or sweat, hydrate more, accordingly.
With water intake established, here are a few more simple and basic keys to your success on the nutrition front:
1. Protein. Protein is essential for muscle synthesis and ample recovery. This includes options such as: pasture-raised organic chicken, wild-caught seafood, grass-fed beef, nitrate-free turkey and/or ham, nitrate-free sausage, pork, pasture-raised organic eggs, ground turkey, tuna (low-sodium). The reason organic, free-range and grass-fed options are best is due to the number of nitrates, hormones and chemicals added to much of our meat supply that we really have no idea what it is we are consuming. Not to mention, it just tastes better! Compare a 99-cent box of white eggs from the grocery to the $5.99 carton of pasture-raised organic eggs, and the color of the egg yolk alone will be enough to tell you their is a difference (pale, milky soft yellow compared to the rich, golden, sometimes even orange yellow yolk of the organic egg). Aim to eat protein with every main meal the size of 1-2 palms of your hand. Protein is also great in between meals as snacks.
2. Fat. Yep you heard right. Fat is essential — and is actually your body’s preferred source of energy. Consume these with every main meal as well as snacks if you so choose. Some great options include: avocado, nuts, seeds, raw nutbutter, extra virgin olive oil, coconut butter, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, tallow, lard, egg yolks, nitrate free bacon, black olives, avocado oil, walnut oil, pumpkin seed oil, macadamia oil, palm oil, unsweetened coconut and coconut milk.
3. Veggies with every main meal. Two words: Vitamins; Minerals. Veggies add color to your plate, aid in digestion (a la fiber) and provide your body with key nutrients, essential to your metabolic function and all around health. “Color” is something that many traditional “clean” body building diets fail to include (think: bland oatmeal and egg whites, chicken breast and broccoli, protein bars and/or shakes, and fish with maybe some more broccoli). How boring! Clean eating does not have to be bland or boring at all and veggies actually provide a ton of flavor to your palate! Think roasted brussels sprouts drizzled with balsamic vinegar, green bean almondine, mashed cauliflower made with chicken stock and grass-fed butter, oven-roasted carrot fries, asparagus spears wrapped in nitrate free bacon, sautéed rainbow chard or kale in coconut oil, zucchini or spaghetti squash noodles topped with a hearty homemade meat sauce … the world is your oyster.
4. Some fruit. Fruit gets mixed reviews, depending on whom you ask. Some believe fruit is the key to good nutrition, and eat tons and tons of it on a daily basis (morning, noon and night), others say fruit is the devil and a culprit for unwanted body fat. So where does fruit fall into play? For most people 1-2 servings of fruit can be a perfectly healthy part of a foundational clean diet. Not only does fruit, like veggies, contain vitamins and minerals not found in many proteins and fats, but it also adds color to your plate! As for digestion, most people find they best digest fruits when eaten alone or as part of a small snack/meal—rather than with many complex proteins, other carbs or heavy fats. If eating with other foods, this could look like 1/2 large honey crisp apple with one to two chunks of full-fat raw grass-fed cheese slices, 1/2 banana with one to two tablespoons of almond butter, a heaping handful of fresh berries topped with some unsweetened coconut flakes, a small orange or slice of cantaloupe alongside some leftover salmon in the morning, a small peach or pear with a fistful of raw macadamia nuts, some pork tenderloin with a homemade blueberry glaze, roasted chicken cooked up in the crockpot with some diced apples and cinnamon, homemadecoconut milk ice cream or yogurt with fresh raspberries stirred in … you get the picture. Stick to your one to two servings for blood sugar balance and control.
5. Little starch. Generally speaking, most Americans eat diets rich in starches and grain-based carbohydrates. Cereal, pastries, bagels and oatmeal for breakfast; sandwiches, wraps, or frozen meals with pasta, rice or other grains for lunches; granola bars and snack crackers between meals; and more rice, pasta, rolls, etc. for dinner. Your body does not need this much glucose, and when in excess, the body prefers to store what it does not use in our cells for later (i.e. fat storage). That being said, carbs are not evil and you DO need carbs — particularly after exercise for muscle recovery. Just be mindful here. The majority of your carbs, for a heart-healthy normal diet should come from veggies and some fruits. And when consuming starches, reach for options, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, squashes, some properly prepared rice (soak the night before cooking) and grains (like quinoa or steel cut oats) can also have a place in your diet — just don’t go overboard.
6. No sugar. You don’t need it. And if you think you do … you may have some blood sugar dysfunction going on. Your body and brain should be able to get the energy and nutrients it needs to thrive (and not feel deprived) when you focus your nutrition efforts on eating protein, fats and veggies with every main meal, and reaching for protein and/or fats between meals as snacks. The quality carb sources you do incorporate as well (particularly post-workout, such as a sweet potato with some pulled chicken, or homemade applesauce pancakes, or butternut squash and bison hash, or 1/2 banana or coconut water with your protein shake) should give you the sugars you need for energy.