You know protein is important for a multitude of things when it comes to success as an athlete. It stimulates muscle growth, provides the raw materials for that muscle growth to actually happen, it enhances your recovery from your training, it helps support your immune system, it helps fight off cravings, the list could go on…
Long story short –
If you’re under-eating protein, you’ll want to fix that ASAP…
Like I said, you know this. I don’t need to convince you any further…
Now, the question becomes – How do you increase your protein intake?
The simple answer?
EAT MORE PROTEIN!
This is where the overthinking comes in…
“But, what protein should I eat?”
“How should I time the protein intake?”
“Is there a special source of protein that I should be focusing on?”
Let me repeat – STOP. OVER. THINKING.
All you gotta do is eat more of the protein sources that you’re already eating every day.
Today, I want to present to you 3 insanely simple ways to increase your protein intake without the insane confusion that most of the nutrition industry will lead you to, LOL.
Let’s get into it!
TIP #1 – Increase protein portion sizes.
Number one on our list of ways to boost your protein intake is to simply increase the portions of protein that you eat at each meal. Assuming you’re eating protein at every meal/snack, this should be simple. If you’re not eating protein at every meal, START THERE FIRST!
Remember, you’re going to be getting your protein from things like meat, poultry (chicken, turkey, etc), seafood, protein powders, and possibly some plant-based sources like tempeh, tofu, etc. You might also be supplementing with protein powder, which is totally fine!
If you’re already getting protein in with each meal, then logically, increasing the portion size of that protein source would be the easiest way to increase your protein intake.
For example, if you have 4oz of chicken with your dinner you’ll be getting ~20g of protein from that. By simply increasing from 4oz to 6oz of chicken you can increase your protein intake from that meal by 10g (that’s a 50% increase with almost no extra effort!).
So, let’s say you’re 150lbs and your daily protein goal is 150g (1 gram per pound of body weight).
You’ve been trying to hit this target, but you find yourself struggling to get past 120g…
What should you do?
Well, let’s say you’re eating 4 meals per day and eating ~35g of protein at each meal.
At lunch and dinner, you could increase your protein portion sizes to get ~15 extra grams of protein from each meal. That would add 30g to your daily total and put you right on target to eat 150g of protein.
It’s really as simple as that!
Tip #2 – Add an extra meal or protein-rich snack throughout the day.
This tip is especially helpful if you’re eating a relatively small amount of meals throughout the day.
For example, if you’re only eating 3 meals per day and you’re struggling to hit your protein target, then just add a 4th meal that has a normal protein portion size and that will dramatically increase your protein intake.
You may have to cook a little extra protein when you meal prep, but the overall effort to do so is very low.
Let’s use our 150lb basketball player as an example again…
This time, let’s say he’s only eating 3 meals per day and each meal has 40g of protein…
This would put him at 120g of protein for the day, which is well below his goal…
Rather than increase the protein portion at each meal (40g per meal is already a pretty large amount), it would likely be easier for him to add a 4th meal throughout the day that has 30g of protein. Since he’s only eating 3 times per day right now, that should be pretty easy to do.
By doing this, he’ll raise his protein intake from 120g up to his target of 150g.
Tip #3 – Utilize protein powder to increase your protein intake.
For some reason, people tend to have a negative view of protein powder…
Obviously, getting most of your protein from whole food sources should be the number one priority. This will ensure that you get all of the vitamins and minerals that come from whole food sources, which protein powder tends to lack.
However, there is nothing inherently “bad” about protein powder and it is a totally safe option for you to use to increase your protein intake throughout the day.
I use protein powder nearly every day, and most of the athletes that I work with use it to.
It requires literally ZERO prep!
Just add it to water or toss it in with your smoothie and you’re all set. Logistically, it’s a no brainer.
I’ll likely write an article on picking a specific protein powder in the near future, but for now just understand that you can go with either whey protein or a plant-based protein blend. Whey is optimal when it comes to stimulating muscle protein synthesis; however, if you have a sensitive stomach, I’d recommend going with the plant-based source as whey can cause bloating and other GI issues for some people.
The most important thing to remember as an athlete looking for a protein powder is to BUY FROM A SOURCE THAT IS 3RD PARTY TESTED!
The last thing you want is to get popped for banned substances that you didn’t even intend to consume. Look for brands that are “NSF Certified for Sport.” You’ll see a little blue circle with “NSF” in white letters on the container (or the website if you’re ordering online).
Now, how much protein powder should you use daily?
Ideally, I’d recommend sticking to 1 serving per day. This will make sure that you don’t miss out on any micronutrients that you get from whole food sources.
If you really need to, 2 servings can be acceptable if you’re struggling to hit your protein goal.
If you’re struggling to hit your protein intake, remember these three tips:
1 – Increase protein portion sizes with each meal.
2 – Add an extra meal that has protein in it.
3 – Consider using protein powder.
If you implement these strategies consistently, you’ll be crushing your protein target with no issues!
As always, if you have any questions about the material in the article, please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @tclarknutrition, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Also, if you’re looking for more ways to take your nutrition to the next level, check out these FREE resources I put together going over the 4 nutritional mistakes that are destroying your athletic performance. I hope you enjoy them!
In response to the article, by far the most common concern that was expressed to me by the athletes following me was the fear that gaining weight would lead to fat gain.
Here’s the thing –
Gaining considerable amounts of muscle will likely come along with some degree of fat gain, however, truly noticeable fat gain can be avoided effectively if the process of gaining is done correctly.
If you’ve tried “bulking” in the past or you know a friend/teammate that tried packing on the pounds only to end up a heavier, chubbier version of themselves…
Odds are, they made three key errors that we’ll cover in today’s article.
ERROR #1 – The calorie surplus was too large.
For some reason, there is this belief that you need to eat an inhuman amount of food to make muscle growth happen.
Oftentimes, I’ll see athletes go into a 1000 calorie surplus thinking that it is necessary to gain muscle.
If you remember from last week’s article, the recommended starting point for a calorie surplus is about 300-500 calories above maintenance. This is usually a good range to aim for when it comes to increasing your weight while minimizing fat gain.
At a certain point, providing your body with more calories won’t lead to more muscle growth. It’s important to remember that muscle gain is a relatively slow process. If you add more calories than are needed by your body to facilitate lean tissue growth, your body will just store that energy for later use in the form of fat.
So, to minimize that excess fat gain, make it a point to provide your body with what it needs to make muscle growth happen, not more than that.
Remember, you should be aiming to gain roughly 1% of your body weight per month. This comes out to 0.25% of your body weight per week.
If you notice that you are consistently gaining more than the recommended rate, consider decreasing total calorie intake by 5%.
ERROR #2 – Lack of structure in the nutrition plan.
For whatever reason, there’s this notion that the only time you have to really pay attention to your nutrition is during a fat loss phase.
That could not be any more FALSE.
Structure in your nutrition plan is equally as necessary during a muscle building phase, so you can minimize the amount of fat that you gain in the process.
A common practice that I see in several athletes trying to gain is the “see food” diet, where the athlete will just eat anything and everything in sight to try and gain weight.
Usually, the athlete will gain weight. However, it’s usually the wrong type of weight.
Lack of structure typically leads to the excess calorie surplus that we talked about in error #1.
Now, the good thing is that you don’t need to be as strict during a muscle building phase. It’s most important to at least have a rough idea of what your calorie, protein, carb, and fat intake is.
I usually recommend to be within +/- 100 calories of your goal and within +/- 10g of each of your macronutrient targets. This recommendation is obviously dependent on the individual, but it’s a good starting point for most athletes to make sure they are structuring their food intake appropriately.
ERROR #3 – You’re too attached to the number on the scale.
Eating only to see the scale go up every day is a fast track to gaining unwanted body fat.
Your body weight can fluctuate 1-3% overnight, regardless of if you gained or lost any muscle.
For example, you could be 200lbs one day and wake up at 198lbs the next.
What you do NOT want to do is freak out and increase the calories because you “lost” two pounds. Those two pounds that you lost were mostly water weight. This is completely normal.
Making the mistake of increasing calories before you need to is an easy way to end up accidentally eating in a 1000+ calorie surplus and put on a ton of extra body fat.
Now, I do recommend that you weigh yourself every day. This is so we can take the averages every single week.
The weekly averages of your body weight give us a much more accurate idea of if you ACTUALLY gained weight.
So, if after 2-3 weeks your weekly average weight hasn’t gone up, then you’ll want to pull the trigger and make the adjustment to increase your food intake.
Also, I’d highly recommend keeping track of your progress pictures and weight room progress. If you didn’t gain any weight over 2 weeks but you LOOK way better and you’re still getting stronger in the gym, consider waiting another week or so before increasing your calorie intake.
As always, this situation is very individual so if you have any questions about your specific situation please email me at email@example.com.
WRAPPING IT UP
This one was a relatively short article, but I hope it got the point across.
If you’re going to put in the effort to train hard (even at home during the quarantine), you want to make sure that the weight you’re gaining the type of wait you want to gain – MUSCLE!
As always, if you found this article helpful I’d really appreciate it if you shared this with another athlete who you think it would benefit. The more athletes we can help, the better!
Also, if you’d like to learn more about the 4 most common nutritional mistakes that I see athletes make all the time, get your free copy of the eBook HERE.
Thanks so much for reading, I hope you found this article helpful. Talk to you next time!
As a basketball player, I think it goes without saying that you understand the importance of training…
Without constantly working on your skills, there’s absolutely no way to make it to the next level of the game as a high school, college, or professional player.
But like I said, you already knew that, and you spend hours upon hours in the gym on a weekly basis.
Now, let me ask you:
Have you ever been in a position where you know deep down that you’re one of the most skilled players on the court, but weren’t able to fully put those skills on display because of a lack of physical strength, explosiveness, or speed?
Have you ever experienced dead legs in the second have of the game that’s impacted your ability to perform in the clutch? Maybe your coach even had to sub you out in the 4th?
Have you ever dealt with nagging overuse injuries and illnesses that impacted your ability to train or compete to the best of your ability during the season?
Have you been training insanely hard and consistently on the court and in the weight room, but not seeing the level of progress that you feel like you deserve to see?
Have you tried to gain muscle before, only for your metabolism to be “too fast” and ending up right back at square one?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, now let me ask you:
If I presented you with the solution to each and every one of those problems and unlocked the ability to get the most out of your training and truly achieve your athletic potential, would you like that?
Well, today I do have the solution for you: NUTRITION!
For whatever reason, nutrition and proper eating habits often fly under the radar for most basketball players. In my opinion, there are a few reasons for this:
1 – We (I hooped, too) tend to be taller and lankier naturally and burn a ton of calories on the court, so it’s very difficult for us to gain weight even if we eat junk all the time. This lack of fat gain leads us to believe that our eating habits are “fine” and we don’t need to worry about it. As you’ll learn by the end of this article, that couldn’t be any more false!
2 – Nutrition advice to athletes is often communicated very poorly. I don’t know about you, but if someone’s best advice is to “eat your vegetables” and “cut out fast food” without any further explanation as to how that’s even helping me, I’m probably not going to listen.
As a basketball player and as someone who’s taking the time to read this, you’re a hard working individual who’s hungry to get better. I’d argue that if you truly understood the treasure chest of results on the court that you would be unlocking by eating properly, you would be open to implementing those strategies.
By the end of this article, you will have a crystal clear understanding of exactly how fueling properly will allow you to use nutrition as your “secret weapon” and finally achieve the level of athletic performance on the basketball court that has been eluding you for so long.
Let’s get into it!
REASON #1 – FOOD IS FUEL FOR PERFORMANCE ON THE COURT
Quite literally, food provides the energy you need to fuel performance and play your best on the court.
We take in energy through food in the form of calories and we use these calories on the court, in the weight room, and through a number of other processes in your body!
One of the main reasons that you actually start to get tired and run out of energy on the court is because you didn’t eat enough. You can think of under-fueling like starting a long road trip with a gas tank that’s half full. You’re going to need to stop and take a break to refuel earlier than if you took the time to fill up your gas tank completely.
So, if you’ve been feeling more tired than usual in the second half of your games or later into your workouts, odds are that you aren’t eating enough calories!
REASON #2 – EATING PROPERLY HELPS YOU RECOVER BETTER
Logically, in order to progress on the court you need to be able to push yourself during your training sessions.
Additionally, we know that results don’t happen overnight. Elite shooters like Steph Curry didn’t develop sniper-like range in one workout. It took him years upon years of hard work to get there.
In order to effectively put in those years of hard work and high quality training sessions necessary to reach the highest level in basketball, you need to be able to bounce back and recover from your previous workout.
If you fail to recover effectively, not only are you setting yourself up for increased risk of injury (more on this later), the quality of your next session won’t be as good. Your reps might not be as sharp, you might not be as explosive, etc.
How do you avoid this and truly maximize each and every session?
You do this by fueling yourself properly (eating the right amounts of the right types of food)!
In future articles, I’ll go over more in depth strategies on how to accomplish this. For now, I just need you to understand that fueling properly will undoubtedly improve your ability to recover from your training sessions.
REASON #3 – FUELING PROPERLY IMPROVES DECISION MAKING
It’s one thing to be a freak athlete, it’s another to actually make good decisions on the court. Not fueling correctly can have dire consequences when it comes to your ability to stay mental sharp, especially late in the game when it matters most.
Earlier in the article we established that your muscles need fuel to perform at a high level for the duration of your training sessions and competitions.
What is often overlooked is that your brain needs fuel too! To be exact, it needs roughly 130g of glucose (a type of carb) per day. If you don’t meet those needs through diet, then your body will actually be more prone to break down muscle tissue to create new glucose to fuel your brain. A little sciencey, I know; but, it’s important to know why this is so important!
With that being said, the extent of nutrition’s impact on the brain isn’t limited to fueling. There are also other essential nutrients that our food provides us that support your mental function and ability to make sound decisions, remember plays and defensive assignments, etc.
For example, a special type of fat called “omega-3” fat is an important component of your nervous system and helps to manage inflammation throughout your body, brain included.
Additionally, the building blocks of proteins called “amino acids” help to make neurotransmitters, which is how the different cells in your brain actually talk to each other.
Lastly, other vitmamins and minerals further help you to fight off inflammation and keep your brain functioning properly.
REASON #4 – PROPER NUTRITION IS ESSENTIAL FOR MUSCLE GROWTH AND FAT LOSS
There’s simply no way around it.
Unless you’re a true beginner and have never stepped foot into a weight room, nutrition affects your ability to effectively put on muscle and lose body fat to get lean.
Odds are if you’re a hooper, you’re probably trying to put on muscle and get stronger to be able to hold your own on the court and give you an increased level of confidence.
This may seem impossible because of the amount of running up and down the court that you do and the insane amount of calories that you burn.
You may have even tried lifting in the weight room and seen some progress at first, only to have it level off and get stuck at a certain body weight.
The reality is that your ability to gain muscle consistently over time comes down to your nutrition.
See, muscle is an “expensive” tissue. It takes a lot of calories to build and maintain.
So, if there aren’t enough calories coming in, it doesn’t really make sense for your body to invest in muscle growth!
Because of this, you need to be in a calorie surplus to gain muscle. This means that you’re eating more calories than your burning every day and you actually have energy leftover to build muscle.
If you’ve ever hit a muscle growth plateau and wondered if genetics or some mysterious outside force is limiting your progress, think again. You simply need to eat more calories!
And it’s hard to accomplish this unless you’re actively paying attention to your eating habits.
REASON #5 – FEW ATHLETES ACTUALLY PAY ATTENTION TO NUTRITION
You’d be surprised…
Despite the insane amount of benefits (on and off the court) that come from fueling yourself properly, a large amount of athletes don’t actually pay attention to this stuff.
Even at the professional level, there are guys that still eat like garbage. However, there’s a VERY important distinction to be made here –
The guys that actually last in the League or overseas for 10+ years almost always have their nutrition dialed in and are taking care of their bodies.
I recently interviewed NFL Linebacker, Josh Martin, on my podcast and he made the statement that: “You don’t see guys lasting in the league that don’t take care of their bodies.”
This also applies to basketball, no doubt. How do you think that guys like Vince Carter, LeBron James, and the late great Kobe Bryant were able to last as long as they have in the NBA?
So, if you want any chance of being like these select few elites, proper nutrition is a must.
It’s also important to note that because so many athletes disregard this stuff, it presents you with a very unique opportunity.
If you are part of that select group of hoopers that actually dials this stuff in, you’re putting yourself in a position to absolutely dominate your competition.
All things being equal (talent, genetics, etc), the athlete who is fueled properly and eating the right foods will win every single time.
So, I urge you, take advantage of this opportunity and use nutrition as your secret weapon.
You’ll have your teammates and competition wondering how on earth you’re not dying during conditioning, how you’re able to last so deep into the 4th quarter without your legs giving out, how you’re able to stay healthy year round with these nagging injuries that plague many players…
It’s a fun place to be, trust me :)
REASON #6 – NUTRITION HELPS YOU GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TRAINING SESSIONS
If you’re going to put in the amount of work in the gym and on the court that it takes to become an elite basketball player, wouldn’t you agree that it’s important to squeeze every ounce of progress you can out of each training session?
Training is an investment, and proper nutrition helps you to maximize your return on investment.
Like we talked about earlier, if you’re not implementing a proper fueling strategy, the quality of your training session and the amount of benefit that you will get out of it will be significantly diminished.
If you’re under-fueled, fatigued, achy, etc…
Your reps will not be as sharp, you’ll be more prone to mess up on drills, and you simply won’t have the fuel left in the gas tank to perform that last drill in the session to be the best of your ability.
If you’re serious about maximizing your results and actually seeing the progress you deserve from the work you’re putting in, nutrition needs to be considered an essential piece of the puzzle.
REASON #7 – NUTRITION WILL HELP YOU STAY HEALTHY YEAR ROUND.
Logically, how do you become an elite level basketball player?
You have to train hard and you have to train often.
You also need to be available to perform when it matters during your season.
There’s no way around that.
Now, to be able to train hard and often, you need to be available and healthy enough to train.
To be able to show up day in and day out during your season, you need to be healthy enough to play.
If you’re constantly injured or dealing with illnesses, both of these requirements will be difficult (or impossible) to meet.
While sometimes injuries and illnesses simply just happen, a lot of times they are preventable through taking the appropriate steps to take care of your body.
A major component of this, as you’ve learned so far in this article, is nutrition!
Consistently under-fueling leads to a situation known in scientific research as relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S). When you don’t eat enough, one of the major consequences is an increase in risk of injury and illness.
Additionally, other nutrients in your food like vitamins and minerals help your body to fight off inflammation (a key contributor to many overuse injuries). You get these vital nutrients from high quality foods like meats, fruit, veggies, nuts, to name a few (there are many more).
Dehydration (not drinking enough water) can also lead to an increased likelihood for injury and illness. Water actually serves as a lubricant for your joints to keep them operating smoothly and also impacts your ability to get rid of toxins in the body through sweat and going to the bathroom.
Long story short, if you’re goal is to stay as healthy as possible so you can actually be healthy enough to train the way you want and show off the results of all that hard work…
Nutrition must be a part of your game plan!
WRAPPING IT UP
To recap quickly, why do you need to pay attention to your nutrition?
REASON #1 – FOOD IS FUEL FOR PERFORMANCE ON THE COURT
REASON #2 – EATING PROPERLY HELPS YOU RECOVER BETTER
REASON #3 – FUELING PROPERLY IMPROVES DECISION MAKING
REASON #4 – PROPER NUTRITION IS ESSENTIAL FOR MUSCLE GROWTH AND FAT LOSS
REASON #5 – FEW ATHLETES ACTUALLY PAY ATTENTION TO NUTRITION
REASON #6 – NUTRITION HELPS YOU GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR TRAINING SESSIONS
REASON #7 – NUTRITION WILL HELP YOU STAY HEALTHY YEAR ROUND.
I hope that I’ve convinced you by now!
As you’ve learned, nutrition is an integral piece of any truly successful basketball player’s plan of action.
Without a doubt, if it is ignored, you’re leaving untapped potential on the table (and I know you don’t want that).
In future blog articles, I’ll be going over some of the specific strategies that I use with my elite athletes in order to fuel them for optimal performance.
In the meantime check out my podcast, the Peak Performance Project, for more in-depth discussion on exactly how to use nutrition to maximize your potential as a basketball player.
If there is any way that I can personally help you with your nutrition or answer any questions that you have, please feel free to reach out to me at @tclarknutrition on Instagram or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Not big enough to hang with more muscular athletes…
Not strong enough to confidently hold my own on defense or drive to the basket without getting bullied (I play basketball, if you couldn’t tell)…
Not physically built enough to feel confident in the way I looked. Sure athletic performance was priority number one, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want to put on some muscle just for the sake of putting on muscle…
I didn’t know what to do…
How much food to eat, what foods to eat, how to recover properly…
And it showed, since I stood 6’ 5’’ tall but only weighed 179lbs…
Me during my freshman year of college, after losing 21.5lbs in a month…
After a while, I had enough of the frustration and constant inability to play to the best of my ability due to the lack of strength on the court. So, I did some research for myself…
Slowly but surely, I began to put the pieces together and figure out how to build the muscle and strength that I sought after…
So, over the course of the next several months I put on quite a bit of quality mass (we also want to make sure you’re putting on lean muscle, not fat mass)…
My performance on the court improved drastically…
My strength, speed, endurance, etc. saw considerable improvement…
My confidence skyrocketed on and off the court…
And I want YOU to experience that same physical and mental transformation…
That’s why I began to coach athletes, run the Next Level Nutrition for Athletes program, and also put together this free guide for you…
So, without any further adieu, let’s get into the fun stuff…
My transformation over the course of an offseason, after learning how to use nutrition properly.
GAINING MUSCLE AS A TEAM SPORT ATHLETE
As much as you may want to put on mass quickly and get “jacked,” you must understand that your primary goal as an athlete is performance on the field or on the court. It is not to step on stage at a bodybuilding show (if it is, this is the wrong book). Your approach must reflect that.
A very common mistake I see among athletes that finally figure out the principles of muscle gain (more on this in just a second), they go wild and start gaining crazy amounts of weight. Even if this weight is primarily lean mass, it’s still weight. This extra load that you are now carrying around will undoubtedly impact how you move around on the court/field.
For that reason, I typically recommend that you gain weight at a slow and steady pace to:
Avoid unwanted fat gain and maximize the ratio of muscle:fat gained during a gaining phase.
Avoid any negative impacts on your performance as an athlete.
As I just mentioned, you can accomplish this by going slow and steady…
The rate of weight gain is largely dependent on your individual situation and context; however, I can provide you with general guidelines that I’ve found to work well with the athlete’s I’ve coached.
Typically, a rate of weight gain of 0.25-0.5lbs per week seems to work very well. Where you fall in this range will be dependent on a couple of things, like:
What sport you play…
What position you play…
What part of the year you are in relative to your competitive season…
Your training age…
Your personal preferences…
For example, an offensive lineman in football will likely be able to get away with putting on weight at a quicker rate than a point guard in basketball. For the point guard, significant weight gain too quickly will likely result in feeling sluggish on the court and lacking the ability to accelerate and/or change direction appropriately.
In regards to the time of the year, typically the offseason phase of the periodization cycle (more on this in the Athlete’s Guide to Nutritional Periodization, one of my free ebooks) is when you will want to focus on any body composition changes like muscle gain or fat loss…
When looking at training age, newer athletes will likely be able to put on muscle mass at a faster rate. More advanced athletes that have been weight training for some time now will likely need to be on the lower end of that spectrum in order to maximize the muscle:fat ratio…
And as for preferences, it’s pretty self-explanatory. If you’d rather remain a bit leaner and are okay with gaining more slowly, then do that. If you’d rather gain a bit more quickly at the expense of some leanness, then that’s cool too.
The biggest thing for you to remember is to appropriately examine each of the 4 criteria so you can ensure that this muscle growth endeavor will help your performance, not hurt it…
One last thing on the topic of rate of weight gain:
WEIGH YOURSELF DAILY, NOT WEEKLY.
Weighing in daily allows you to take weekly averages. Comparing these weekly averages allows us to account for fluctuations throughout the week and get the most accurate picture possible of how you are progressing…
For example, if you weigh in every Monday, you could run into this issue:
One Monday, you have an upward fluctuation (2lbs) in weight…
The next Monday, you have a downward fluctuation (-2lbs) in weight…
If you’re only looking at those to snapshots in time, you would assume that you lost 4lbs over the course of the week (not good!)…
In response to this catastrophe, you’ll likely overcompensate by increasing calories drastically…
But, what if I told you that you actually gaining 0.35lbs that week??
If you would have weighed in daily and took the averages, you would have seen that and know to simply stick with the plan…
Now, let’s get into setting up your initial prescription!
When it comes to calories, the focus in this phase is making sure you are in a moderate
calorie surplus . When you are in a calorie surplus, you are eating more calories than
you are burning on a daily basis. In the vast majority of cases, this is a requirement for
muscle growth to occur. The surplus in calories is going to fuel optimal performance in
the gym and provide your body with the raw materials necessary for growth. The
exception to the rule would be if you are a complete beginner to training (as an athlete,
it is very unlikely that is the case).
So, how much of a calorie surplus should you be in?
It really depends on the individual and how quickly you wish to put on weight. Like we
discussed, as an athlete you don’t want to put on weight too quickly.
The first step to determining what this amount is for you†is determining what your
maintenance calories are. It is a very similar process to what we used during the
in-season phase. Simply take your bodyweight and multiply it by 16 .
This estimate, while a good starting point, in real life application it will likely be a bit too
low due to the amount of training and activity that occurs for most athletes in the offseason. However, I’d prefer you start low and work your way up in a systematic
fashion rather than launch yourself sky high into an aggressive surplus.
How you’ll accomplish this is through keeping track of your weight over the course of
this process of ramping up calories. Keep increasing calories by 100-200 calories
each week until you hit that tipping point where your weight begins to increase.
Ideally, I would like to see the rate of increase at 1% of your body weight pounds per month, or 0.25% of your bodyweight per week. Like we just covered, that is aggressive enough to see noticeable changes, but slow enough to not see any of the negative consequences of putting weight on too quickly. Once you hit that tipping point, you will likely be set at that calorie amount for several weeks unless your level of activity and calorie expenditure drastically changes.
Here is an example of how that process would look in application:
PROTEIN: During a muscle building phase, I recommend that you
keep protein at 1g per pound of bodyweight. For example, a 200lb individual would
eat 200g of protein.
This amount of protein is enough to support optimal rates of muscle protein synthesis,
while also leaving more than enough room for adequate carbohydrate intake to fuel
Technically, the optimal range is 0.8-1.2g per pound of BW, so you could go down as
low as 0.8g/lb if you want to leave room for even more carbohydrates in your daily
However, I would encourage you to stay at the 1g/lb mark. The reasoning behind this is twofold.
First of all, during a strength-focused phase, you’ll be consuming plenty of carbs. Most of the time, these carb sources will have a residual amount of protein in them (4g here, 5g there…) that will inflate your daily protein total. Yes, the protein from carbohydrate sources still counts towards your daily protein goal; however, residual protein from carb sources are typically not the highest quality proteins. This means that they do not have a complete amino acid profile like meat and other animal products do.
By keeping the goal at 1g/lb, you give yourself enough room to get include
more animal products like meat and dairy (if tolerated) which have a more complete
amino acid profile and are more effective in promoting muscle protein synthesis.
The second reason behind keeping protein at 1g/lb is that in most cases, as an athlete
you will still be performing skill workouts while in a muscle building phase. Depending
on the sport, these skill-work sessions will be largely cardio-base. This is not necessarily
advantageous for maximum muscle growth. By keep protein a bit higher, we can
attempt to offset this situation and optimize muscle growth even with cardio-based
skill-work sessions present in your training schedule.
FAT: When it comes to muscle growth, fat is often overshadowed by both protein and carbs (more on these in a second). However, fat is also very crucial when it comes to maximizing your gains! One of the main ways that it does this is by helping to maintain proper hormonal health. Some of the fat that we eat (specifically cholesterol) is one of the main building blocks for our steroid hormones. The most notable of these when considering muscle gain is testosterone!
If you’re not getting enough fat into your diet, you won’t be maximizing hormonal health and your muscle growth will likely suffer. Fat is also very important for managing inflammation and supporting optimal nervous system health.
With all that being said, as an athlete trying to build muscle you don’t want to go crazy with the fat. This is because it’s not as optimal of a fuel source for your muscles when comparing it to carbs. Fat takes more time to break down and utilize, and during high intensity activity you do not have that luxury!
To balance the benefits and the drawbacks, I recommend that you have your fat intake set at 25-30% of your daily calorie intake. This will be plenty to support overall health, while leaving more than enough room for adequate protein and carbohydrates in your diet.
You can go below 25%, but I would not recommend going below 20% since it seems that going lower than that will negatively impact testosterone levels.
CARBOHYDRATES: Much like in-season, during a strength-focused phase in your
offseason carbs are your best friend. Carbs are your body’s primary fuel for performance.
In a muscle building phase, fueling performance is paramount because it allows you to
perform more reps at heavier weights during your training sessions. This means more
volume, and more volume typically means more muscle growth (within reason, of
Also, taking in adequate carbohydrates allows you to recover and bounce back more
effectively from one training session to another by blunting the cortisol response to
To determine the amount in your daily intake, simply take the calories you get from both
protein and fat and subtract it from your total daily calorie goal. Then divide that number
by 4, since carbs have four calories per gram.
For example, if your calorie goal is 4000cals per day, your protein goal is 200g, and your fat goal is 110g, the calculation would look like this:
200g P x 4 = 800 calories from protein
110g F x 9 = 990 calories from fat
4000 – (800+990) = 2210 calories leftover for carbs
2210 / 4 = 552.5g of carbs per day
Round this to 555g of carbs per day
Feel free to direct message me if you have any questions about the specific calculations, or click HERE to have me build your plan for you!
Your body is an adaptation machine…
Whatever you throw at it, it will adapt accordingly. This is how our species has managed to survive for so long…
So, how does your body adapt to being in a calorie surplus?
Well, a couple of things happen…
One of these adaptations that occurs is muscle gain. This is the desired adaptation that we are trying to achieve through the stimulus of the calorie surplus…
Your body is smart though…
When it comes to muscle gain, your body doesn’t really want to go crazy with it. That’s because muscle is an “expensive” tissue. It costs a lot of calories to maintain…
Back in the good old caveman days, this is not necessarily advantageous and can actually be dangerous. In a situation where food is scarce, the last thing your body wants to do is burn crazy amounts of calories on the daily. It would much rather be stingy with calories and save as much energy as possible…
Unfortunately, your body doesn’t quite understand that there’s a market around the corner and that there is actually no imminent danger of starvation…
What does this have to do with your muscle gain?
Well, as you increase amounts of lean tissue (muscle), your metabolism actually increases and your burn more total calories on a daily basis.
So, what was once a surplus for you may now be your maintenance calories or even a deficit…
This is one of the reasons why we see plateaus in muscle gain…
So, what do you do?
If you’ve been stuck and the same weight for more than 2 weeks and your appearance in the mirror has not changed either, then increase calories by 5%…
This increase will likely come through carbs, fats, or both (for team sport athletes, carbs are typically most optimal but this is largely up to personal preference).
Then, continue to monitor your progress over the next 2 weeks and see if anything changes. If you see the needle move again, then stick with that new prescription…
If you are still stuck, then increase by another 5% of total calories…
Wash, rinse, and repeat until you begin to see progress again…
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS TO MAKE BEFORE ADJUSTING
Have you been hitting your macros?
If you haven’t been hitting your number within 5g on a daily basis, then do not adjust. Before adjusting, focus on hitting your current numbers.
Think of this like a GPS. If you try to get directions to a destination without a set starting point, the GPS won’t work. If you try to make an adjustment to your plan without having a consistent baseline to start from, it won’t work!
Trust me on this, I’ve seen it time and time again in my experience as a coach. You can try adjusting, but unless you have that consistency first, it ain’t going to work…
Have you been seeing strength gains in your training?
Remember, your number one goal is improving athletic performance. If you’ve been seeing those improvements, then the plan is working regardless of whether or not you’ve seen an increase in scale weight!
While increasing calories likely wouldn’t hurt, I’d advise patience here especially if you’re not working with a coach.
Have you been sleeping/recovering optimally?
I don’t care what your macro prescription is; if you’re not sleeping and recovering enough, then you are NOT maximizing your results.
Lack of recovery encompasses over training, not getting enough sleep, under eating, too much lifestyle/emotional stress, etc.
Often times, simply shifting your focus to sleep and recovery rather than the “go hard or go home” mentality that so many athletes have will serve you much better when it comes to building muscle.
When it comes to sleep, I recommend a minimum of 7 hours per night, but honestly it should be closer to 8-9 hours per night if you’re really serious about maximizing lean muscle gain…
I’ll likely put together another guide entirely on sleep since it is such an extensive topic, but feel free to reach out personally if there’s any way that I can help you out!
This is a severely overlooked topic when it comes to nutrition for muscle growth…
People love to focus only on calories in vs calories out, and by down so they are missing a great opportunity for advancement. Let’s see why…
Well, a major component of being able to build maximum muscle is the ability to accumulate volume (lifting heavier weights, doing more reps, etc)…
In order to do this, you need to be consistent in the gym for a considerable amount of time…
If you’re constantly dealing with nagging injuries and illnesses, it becomes difficult to create that consistency and as a result, your progress comes to a screeching halt and you might even regress…
What does food quality have to do with this?
Well, if you’re constantly stuffing yourself with s****y foods in order to hit your calories, you’re going to be allowing inflammation to run rampant. This is a big no-no when it comes to recovery….
Also, these types of foods tend to lack micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) which your body needs to recover to the best of its ability and to support basic metabolic processes. If you’re getting most of your calories from low quality sources, you’re missing out on these vital nutrients…
Instead, focus on getting 80-90% of your foods from whole, unprocessed sources. Sure, there’s room for flexibility and it’s important that you include your favorite treats as well. It just needs to be in moderation (moderation is HUGE). There’s nothing wrong with having a piece of cake, but if you’re downing half a cake each day because “it fits,” it’s no wonder your feel like crap all the time (and it shows in your lack of results).
A good rule of thumb to follow when it comes to getting in plenty of vitamins and minerals throughout the day is to aim to have 1-2 “fist sized” servings of veggies/fruit with each meal. This is a great and easy way to cover your bases with your needed micronutrients.
One exception to this rule would be your pre and post workout/game meals. During these meals, you’ll want to minimize fiber intake so your body is able to utilize those nutrients very quickly.
When choosing your fruits and veggies, try to get a wide variety of different colors. This is because specific colors tend to signal the presents of specific micronutrients. For example, if spinach is the only veggie you ever eat, you’re likely missing out on nutrients from produce of other colors!
PERIODIZING YOUR APPROACH
As this guide comes to a close, we must discuss this topic. If you’ve read The Athlete’s Guide to Nutritional Periodization, you’re already familiar with this concept (if you haven’t read it yet, get on that!!!).
The concept is nutritional periodization…
As much as I would love for the gainz to be eternal, that just can’t be the case…
Eventually, your body will adapt so much that we simply cannot continue to compensate by ramping up calories. Insulin sensitivity will be impaired and your body will not even be able to properly utilize the additional carbs that you are pumping in…
So, what’s the solution?
Simply move to a different phase!
Typically, after a muscle building phase, we want to move into a brief maintenance phase. This way we allow your body to get used to this new state as its “new normal.”
This maintenance phase typically lasts for 3-4 weeks. To determine your new maintenance, I would recommend using a formula like the Harris-Benedict equation. If you do a quick Google search, you’ll be able to find a calculator to use for this.
After this phase, the next phase really depends on where you are in your year…
As a team sport athlete, you’re likely running this gaining phase during your offseason. Because of this, you likely won’t have time for a full-blown fat loss phase, nor is it necessary…
If you feel good and your biofeedback is on point, then I would be good with you sitting at maintenance or in a slight surplus going back into your preseason and then in-season phase. Then just focus on insulin sensitivity and recovery in the postseason phase…
If you feel sluggish, a little too heavy, and/or you have hard numbers from a blood glucose monitor that shows insulin resistance then I would recommend going into a quick “mini cut” for 3-6 weeks (dependent on your timeline). This brief, aggressive decrease in calories will help to restore insulin sensitivity and improve biofeedback. If you need help with this, just click here to get on a call with me so I can personally help you!
The biggest thing for you to remember is to take a bird’s eye view of your progress and your game plan going forward. It’s easy to get caught up in what the next week will look like, when you should be looking at the next year. As a coach, I take this responsibility off of my athlete’s shoulders and do the planning for them. If you’re doing this on your own, you simply need to be that much more diligent…
I really hope this guide was helpful for you and you now have a solid understanding of how to go about building muscle as a team sport athlete!
Be sure to stay on the lookout for other free guides that I’ll be putting out in the future, and if you know another athlete who would benefit from this, it would mean the world to me if you shared it with them!
Lastly, be sure to reach out on Instagram (@tclarknutrition), Facebook, or via email (email@example.com) if you have any questions or would like to learn more about the coaching program!
Good luck on your muscle building journey, and keep me updated on your awesome progress!
BULLETPROOF YOUR RESULTS
To learn more about the Elite Nutrition Coaching program where I build your Individualized Nutrition Prescription for you and guide you through the process of creating phenomenal results, click HERE.
If you’re reading this article, you are hungry to improve….
You also might be somewhat stuck and confused about what to do…
By far, this is the best way to bulletproof your progress, and I wanted to make sure you had the opportunity to join. Click HERE to apply for a free call!
/content/uploads/HR1firstname.lastname@example.org/content/uploads/HR1email@example.com 17:28:402020-03-24 17:28:40Your Guide to Putting on Muscle As a Team Sport Athlete (Step-By-Step)
Everyone and their mom is looking for tactics and strategies right now…
What’s the best home workout to do?
What’s the best nutrition plan to follow?
Or, even worse…
What’s the best Netflix show to watch??
On top of that, every single trainer, coach, and gym out there is feeding into this demand. And honestly, who can blame them?
But unfortunately, there is a major gap in all of these home workouts and quick-fix nutrition strategies…
Very few of them will be a catalyst for long term success. Rather, they will be a short term band aid that makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something rather than actually making any meaningful, long lasting progress.
What I want to propose to you today is a framework for long lasting, meaningful progress in your development as an athlete.
See, there’s a second part of the quote that I shared with you above:
Tactics don’t mean s*** without a framework to operate inside of.
The tactics absolutely work. In fact, I posted a blog article and a podcast going over some tactics for getting your calorie intake up, even when grocery stores are being raided by your local Karens and Susans (check those out after you’re done here).
But, these tactics cannot stand on their own merit. Rather, they are components and puzzle pieces to a much larger framework.
Establish your foundation, and the tactics will be more effective, easier to implement, and their benefits will last for much longer.
If you can develop and implement a strong framework for your athletic success during this period of chaos and unpredictability you will:
1 – See considerable improvements in your athletic performance physically and mentally over the course of the COVID-19 madness
2 – When the dust settles and the madness is behind us, you while be set up to continue that upward trend of success and development for the rest of your career (and quite frankly, your life)
I think you can get on board with that, right?
If not, feel free to go back to your one-off home workouts. No love lost…
Okay, now you might be thinking, what is this framework?
In short, here it is:
1 – Identify the gap
2 – Build the bridge
3 – Cross the bridge
4 – Recover from the journey
Now that you’re nice and confused, let’s break down each of those components in depth so you understand how it works and why it is the most effective way to maximize this period of time that we find ourselves in…
Step 1 – Identify the Gap
What is the gap?
Well, I believe that every athlete has a gap.
A gap between where you are now, and where you want to be.
You could be a benchwarmer trying to get some minutes in the rotation…
You could be a sixth man trying to crack the starting lineup…
You could be a starter trying to win a spot on the All-League team…
Even LeBron James, the best player in the NBA (and arguably the GOAT), likely has a gap between where he is now and what he wants to accomplish…
You get the point.
Now, what’s so profound about this?
In my experience, most athletes understand where they want to be. However, the vast majority do not have a clear understanding of where they are right now.
Most of the time, they choose to ignore the present situation. ‘Cause let’s be honest – it doesn’t feel good to acknowledge that you’re a bench warmer (been there), or that you got snubbed for the MVP award, or that you’re 20lbs overweight…
It’s painful, and 99% of humans run from pain.
In order to maximize the time we are spending in quarantine and social distancing, I need you to be in the 1%.
I need you to get uncomfortable.
I need you to do the hard work of looking yourself in the mirror and acknowledging what needs to be improved in order to truly achieve your athletic potential.
Here’s a quick exercise for you to do:
Answer these questions (I recommend writing them out):
In a perfect world, what do you want to accomplish next season?
What do you currently do very well/What are your strengths?
What do you not do well in your sport/What are your current weaknesses?
What needs to change between now and next season in order for you to accomplish your goals? (This is identifying the gap)
Now you have an understanding of where you are now, and where you want to be next season.
You’ll notice that there is a gap between the two.
Now that we’ve identified the gap, our next step in the framework is to fill it in…
Step 2 – Build the Bridge
This is where everyone usually starts…
This is where the strategies and tactics come into play, and we essentially “build the bridge” between where you are now, and where you want to be.
And we all know that strategies and tactics are fun and exciting!
But remember, you must complete step one of the process before beginning to build the bridge.
The key takeaway from this step of the process is setting expectations, as well as creating confidence in and commitment to the process.
Without the commitment coming internally from YOU, no strategy or tactic thrown at you by me or any other coach will work…
The reality is that you probably have some very lofty goals (league MVP awards, college scholarships, pro contracts, etc).
The reality is that the gap between where you are now and those awards/scholarships/contracts is likely pretty substantial, and probably very intimidating.
I’m here to tell you that nearly any gap can be filled.
I’m not here to tell you that it will be quick or easy.
If you can acknowledge that it will take time, and you can acknowledge that it will take effort, then you can fill in the gap.
Now, I’m not just asking you to put blind trust into your plan and hope that it works. The last thing I want you to do is waste precious time trying to follow a s****y strategy.
By setting expectations around exactly what the plan will look like, we create the necessary confidence and commitment to the plan.
As a coach, this is where I create confidence in the plan through individualization, education, and proper periodization (I’m talking in terms of nutrition, but this can be applied to training, skillwork, etc.).
If you understand the exact gameplan, roughly how long it will take, why we are doing what we’re doing, and the plan is individualized to your needs and preferences, you’ll be a lot more likely to create that necessary commitment to the plan.
This is what I go over with every athlete I work with on our very first coaching call, because I know that without the long term vision of how we are going to get you from point A to point B, you will fail (and we don’t do that on my team).
Long story short, we gotta build you a damn nice bridge ;)
Now we find ourselves at the critical point in your journey…
Will you actually do the work?
The path is laid out, right in front of you, but will you effectively do the work of crossing the bridge and getting to the Promised Land?
In theory, it seems simple…
But, no matter how nice the bridge that we built is, s*** will hit the fan…
There will be missing pieces, there will be giant gusts of wind that nearly know you off…
Most can’t cross the bridge alone, but rather cross it with an entire expedition party…
When it comes to athletes, think about it:
They don’t do this stuff alone! They have a team of trainers, coaches, physical therapists, doctors, and nutritionists around them to guide them through the process…
What makes you so arrogant that you’re going to do this completely on your own?
Allow others to help make your journey easier!
There are three ways to make bridging the gap as seamless and effective as possible:
Individualization – Two athletes should not be following identical plans. You have different bodies, training demands, lifestyles, preferences, etc.
Having a plan constructed for you by a knowledgeable coach is a great way to ensure that it is effective and something that YOU can actually stick to.
Community – This s*** is hard sometimes. There will be periods of time on that “bridge” when you feel like giving up. Having a team of professionals and like minded peers makes the journey a hell of a lot easier and more likely for you to succeed.
This can be a bit difficult to accomplish right now during COVID-19, but a great way to create a sense of community is through Facebook groups (I’ll be creating one for athletes soon!).
Accountability – The bridge is there, but few will cross it. Having people (like a coach) in your corner to make sure that you do the work every single day to get to your goal streamlines the process and drastically increases the likelihood of you being successful. I talk with my athletes and general population clients every single week in order to make sure they are moving in the right direction.
With these components, bridging the gap between where you are now and where you want to be becomes a lot more enjoyable, and a lot more likely to be done…
Step 4 – Recover from the Journey
I need you to remember this equation:
STRESS + RECOVERY = ADAPTATION
Pursuing your goals is stress, albeit positive stress.
With that understanding, also comes the understanding that we need recovery in order to facilitate long term athletic success.
If you continue to “grind” and “hustle” without prioritization of recovery, you will put yourself in a position of degradation rather than adaptation.
Many athletes separate the pursuit of greatness from the process of recovery.
We must reframe this. In fact, the two are greatly intertwined. One cannot occur without the other.
For example, if you just finished a grueling season and do not take the time to adequately recover, you are setting yourself up for failure in the coming offseason. If you end up getting injured or sick in the offseason, your performance in the following season will be compromised.
You see how this can lead to a dirty cycle?
While recovery isn’t as flashy as the “grind,” it is JUST AS IMPORTANT.
How can you implement this framework during the COVID-19 pandemic?
You don’t have to wait for this pandemic to be over in order to implement this framework…
(If you haven’t noticed, that’s what your competition is doing. Now is a great time to create an advantage over them)
On the same token, this framework does not expire once life gets back to “normal,” like a lot of the other band-aid solutions being offered in the training and nutrition space currently…
Like we established at the beginning of the article, this framework sets you up for long lasting success.
For now, I just want you to start with Step 1
Your job going away from this article is to identify the gap.
Where are you now?
Where do you want to be?
What needs to change to get you from Point A to Point B?
Take some time to think about this and write it out, then let me know what you come up with. I’ll personally help you “build the bridge” so you have a game plan to operate inside of…
Now that we have established the framework, future articles and podcasts will be centered around the strategies and tactics that fit inside of the framework in order to maximize your progress.
In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for your answers :)
PS – If you’re interested in online nutrition coaching in my Elite Nutrition Coaching program, click HERE to apply for a free strategy call to see if we are a good fit
PPS – Don’t forget to share this article with a friend!
/content/uploads/HR1firstname.lastname@example.org/content/uploads/HR1email@example.com 07:00:422020-03-19 05:45:47Why Everyone Else Is Approaching COVID-19 Training and Nutrition Strategies WRONG [And What To Do Instead]
Who would have thought that when s*** hit the fan, people would go out and fight to the death for toilet paper?
Seriously though, if you need that much toilet paper to get through a ~4 week (more or less) period at home, you’ve got other issues besides COVID-19…
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of today’s blog, remember:
For actual information on the virus itself and the overall situation, please refer to the leading health authorities such as the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization).
And whatever you do, please do NOT get your COVID-19 gameplan from Karen down the street who did in fact buy 19 pallets of toilet paper…
Now, for the fun stuff…
If you’re like me and the rest of the athletes and general population clients that I work with, you’re probably worried about how you’re going to make progress during this time. Also, for my basketball and football players out there, you either just started or are in the middle of your offseason (the best time to improve as an athlete)…
So, how can we put you in a position to get stronger, faster, more athletic, and overall better at your sport, even if you’re stuck at home…
Well, there are a number of things that we can focus on; but, one of the biggest factors that will play a role in facilitating adaptations as an athlete is NUTRITION (surprise, lol)
When it comes to nutrition, the number one priority for nearly every athlete should be meeting your daily calorie needs. If you don’t already know this, your body takes in calories via food and burns calories through a number of different factors (topic for a different post).
If you’re goal is to get stronger, in better shape, build muscle, etc. then you’ll want to be at caloric maintenance (eating as much as you’re burning) or in a surplus (eating more than you’re burning).
But, there’s a really big elephant in the room that we need to address:
How are you going to get your calorie needs in if your local Karen is clearing off the shelves at the grocery store as if the apocalypse is coming?
Also, what if we end up at a point where we can’t leave the house?
Now, to implement these tricks, you’ll have to brave the grocery store at least once. But, you should be able to stock up on foods that will keep you well supplied while you remain at home and practice social distancing.
Tip #1 – Buy fresh, and freeze later.
At this point, it’s likely that the frozen section of your grocery store has been completely ransacked. Frozen meats, fruits, veggies, all gone…
You may think that hope is lost, but think again…
What you can do is buy fresh meat, fresh fruit, fresh veggies, and put them in the freezer to freeze them yourself if you know that you’re not gonna use ‘em right away.
Here is a list of foods you can freeze to help guide your decision making in the grocery store:
-Banana (peel it first, then freeze)
-Meat (beef, steak, etc)
-Poultry (chicken, turkey, etc)
Most any fruit and veggie will work, and I’m sure there are foods that weren’t included here that could be used to. If you have questions about a specific food that I missed, just shoot me a text at 818-210-4351 and let me know or join my email community here.
Tip #2 – Stock up on dry goods, even if they are a different brand than usual or a food that you wouldn’t have considered eating before.
In an ideal world, stocking up on dry goods would mean your usual rice, oats, etc. These foods have a longer shelf life and can be a great way to get your calories in, even when you’re stuck at home.
However, now is not the time to be picky. In many locations, it’s going to be tough to find the ideal options here. If they are available, by all means get what you would normally get. With that being said, do not be afraid to try a different brand or even venture out and try a food you would have overlooked in the past.
For example, if you’ve never tried quinoa before but all the rice is sold out already, now might be the time to try it!
Here are some options for you to think about buying:
-Pasta (whole wheat, regular, black bean pasta, lentil pasta, etc. Get what is available)
-Beans of all varieties
If you have a tough time finding anything in your local grocery stores, you can also order quite a bit of food online through resources like Amazon, Thrive Market, Butcher Box, and many more. The biggest key is to take action NOW, because the situation is changing at such a rapid rate.
Tip #3 – Look for more calorie dense foods
You want to make hitting your calorie targets as easy as possible.
While fruits and vegetables are great for overall health/support your immune system, and I would 110% recommend that they be on your grocery list during this pandemic…
You’re going to need some extra help when it comes to meeting your calories needs.
Here’s where being a bit of a nutrition nerd is helpful:
Remember the three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
We know that protein has 4 calories per gram, carbs have 4 calories per gram, and fat has 9 calories per gram. This means that fat is more calorically dense than protein and carbs.
We also know that protein is crucial for building lean muscle and maintaining it. So, we don’t really want to sacrifice that if we can help it.
We also know that carbohydrates are your body’s fuel for high intensity exercise. While you may be training at home (and you should be training at home) during this time, it is reasonable to assume that the duration and intensity of the training will be lower. This means that your need for carbs will likely be lower as well.
So, our priority becomes meeting your calorie needs and protein needs (if feasible with your given resources).
In the current situation, eating a diet that is slightly higher fat than usual and lower carbohydrate than usual can be helpful in accomplishing the goal of reaching your calorie target.
Some higher fat foods that can make this easy to accomplish are peanut butter, almond butter (any nut butter, really), nuts, seeds, oils, fatty cuts of meat, etc.
Notice that I did not say that you HAVE to do this. It may just be something that you want to think about, especially if your training intensity has gone down and you’re spending most of your day without movement (i.e. playing video games when you normally would be walking to and from class). If you have the resources to eat your normal amount of carbs and you still plan on training at a high intensity, then you may just want to keep your plan as is.
Another way to get more calorie dense foods into your diet is to include some lower fiber carbohydrates. Think about white rice versus fruits/veggies. White rice is much more calorie dense than fruits/veggies. This is NOT saying to exclude fruit and veggies (we all know how helpful they are for keeping you healthy, which is the #1 priority right now). What I am saying is to look for calorie dense options to eat in conjunction with nutrient dense options.
Something else you can do to get your calorie intake up is to consider stocking up on foods that you wouldn’t normally think of as “healthy.” Things like chocolate, candy, etc. are very calorically dense and typically have a longer shelf life. During a time like this, you will also be very likely to find them still on shelves in the store since most buyers will overlook them while stocking up on more standard foods like oats, rice, meats, etc.
Tip #1 – Buy fresh, and freeze later.
Tip #2 – Stock up on dry goods, even if they are a different brand than usual or a food that you wouldn’t have considered eating before.
Tip #3 – Look for more calorie dense foods
Whatever plan you have, it’s not going to be perfect.
Accept that, and do the best you can with what you’ve got!
I truly hope these tips helped make navigating the madness a little bit easier, and I will be continuing to put out related resources over the coming days and weeks in the form of blogs, podcasts, guides, lists, etc.
The best place to get first access to any resources I put out is in my email community. You can join it for free by clicking HERE!
Lastly, please be sure to reach out and let me know of any nutrition questions or concerns that you have during this time! I will do my absolute best to help you as best as I can.
It’s a time for us to get better together.
PS – Remember to play your part and practice social distancing!
When it comes to nutrition, I see a lot of athletes spending way too much time worrying about the minutia when they could be getting far more benefit from simply mastering the fundamentals…
And it pains me so much to see this because I know you’re working hard in the gym…
But remember, over here we work hard AND smart…
In today’s blog, I’m going to teach you how to know what will actually matter in your journey and what you can disregard…
A good way to visualize this is as a pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is what’s going to get you the biggest bang for your buck. As you move higher and higher up the pyramid, those things still matter to some extent, but not nearly as much as the fundamentals at the base of the pyramid…
At the base of your nutrition period is adherence, or how well you can actually stick to your plan. This one is quite straightforward. I don’t care what your plan is; if you can’t actually stick to it, it sucks and you need a new one.
A step about adherence on the pyramid is energy balance, or “calories in versus calories out.” A calorie is literally a unit of energy. Much like adherence, energy balance is relatively straightforward…
As an athlete, you must ensure that you are taking in enough energy to support your training and competition demands. This is the first place I look when working with an athlete in my private coaching program. If you’re not consuming enough energy from the food that you eat, your are undoubtedly leaving performance on the table (not good)…
Now, I’m not going super in depth into how to figure out how many calories you need in this blog (more on that in my free eBook), but generally you’ll want to be at maintenance or in a slight surplus to support your performance. Just please, don’t put yourself in a calorie deficit when performance is the top priority (i.e. during your in-season phase)…
Next up in the pyramid are macronutrients, or “macros” for short. Macros are the building blocks of the food that we eat and the are actually where your body gets calories from.
There are 3 macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Each of them have a certain number of calories per gram and each of them have a VERY important function in the body. Whatever you do, do not exclude any particular macro from your diet!
Macros are important because they give us a concrete tool to determine where you are getting calories from. This has major implications on your performance because, like I said, each of the macros have different functions. For example, carbs are a great source of fuel for high intensity activity, whereas fat isn’t as great of a fuel source in that scenario. So, we need to make sure you’re getting plenty of carbs in as an athlete to fuel your training and likely don’t want to rely on fat for this purpose.
Now, fat is very important for other reasons, like hormonal health, nervous system health, and more. So, like I said before, we don’t want to exclude it from your diet. We simply want to be aware of the different functions of each macro in order to maximize your performance and recovery as an athlete.
Moving on to the next step up the pyramid, we have micronutrients. Micros are vitamins and minerals that your body needs for a number of different functions. Unlike macros, your body doesn’t actually get calories from micros. But, that doesn’t mean that they’re unimportant!
Yes, food is fuel for athletes. However, you don’t want to force your body to run on low quality fuel…
Think of your body like a Lambo. Sure, it could probably run on low grade fuel, since fuel is fuel. But, is it going to last for very long without issues popping up? Probably not…
It’s the same for your body. Can it run on low quality, nutrient-sparse foods? Yes, it can. Calories are calories. But by relying on low quality foods, your setting yourself up for suboptimal recovery and potential injury/illness.
So, long story short, get your fruits, veggies, and whole foods in to support your recovery as an athlete!
Next, we have nutrient timing. This refers to how you timing your meals and how you time specific macros throughout the day.
For the typical general population client, this would be starting to get into the minutia. However, as an athlete, I would still consider this part of the fundamentals. Knowing how to time your meals around your training and competition will go a long way in supporting optimal performance and recovery.
Like calories, I’m not going to go too deep into how to set these meals up; for more on that, click here to access my free eBook that lays it all out for you.
In this blog, I simply want you to understand the importance of this!
Lastly, we have supplements. This section of the blog is gonna be relatively brief because I would much rather you focus on the other things that we discussed. For the most part, you’ll get much more bang for your buck by focusing on things like calorie intake, macros, food quality and timing, etc than you will by stressing over which supplements to take.
With that being said, there are some foundational supplements that are helpful for athletes and I do recommend these to the athletes that I work with. They include, Vitamin D, fish oil, creatine, magnesium, and a multivitamin.
Now, you do NOT have to take these. But you have nothing to lose by doing so. For a deeper breakdown of how to set up your supplement regime, read more in the free eBook!
WRAPPING IT UP
Hopefully you now have a better understanding or where your priorities should be placed! I promise you, if you master the fundamentals laid out in this blog, your performance as an athlete will improve drastically.
If you haven’talready, be sure to check out the free ebook for a deeper dive into exactly how to set up your own nutrition plan (the same techniques I use with the athletes I work with inside of the Elite Coaching Program). Click here to get your copy!
And as always, be sure to reach out and let me know if there’s any way that I can help you out!
You’ve likely heard the word thrown around now and then, usually accompanied by some horror story about how it leads to all these unfavorable symptoms…
But, I’m here today to tell you that as an athlete, cortisol is actually on your side. You just need to know how to manage it properly.
So, what exactly is cortisol?
Cortisol is a hormone; this means it’s one of the little messengers in your in your body that allows your cells to communicate with each other! Specifically, cortisol is a steroid hormone (even more specifically, a gluco-corticoid). Now, you don’t need to memorize all this stuff; you just need to have a general idea of what it does…
Cortisol levels tend to elevate during a stressful situation and it is one of the key players (along with adrenaline and noradrenaline) that primes your body for action. One of cortisol’s main jobs is to break down stored fuel like glycogen, body fat, and sometimes even muscle to fuel your body for the stressful situation it is undertaking…
As an athlete, this is what allows your body to utilize stored fuel for your training and it’s part of what allows you to perform optimally. So, like I said, cortisol is actually on your side when it’s functioning properly!
Along with regulating blood sugar levels, cortisol also suppresses inflammation and the activity of your immune system…
Why might it do this?
Let me paint a picture for you:
Imagine you are getting chased by a big old grizzly bear….
What’s the number one priority in that situation?
Your body doesn’t give a crap if you’re at risk for coming down with the flu, because that grizzly will take you out far more quickly than the flu ever will!
Well, here’s the thing:
Your body views your training just the same as it views the grizzly bear…
Your body views a stressful situation at work or school just the same as it views that grizzly bear…
Your body views any stressor just the same as it views that grizzly bear…
So, my point is, if you constantly stress yourself out via training, work, etc. for too long, other important bodily functions will take a back seat and suffer because cortisol will be chronically elevated.
Usually in athletes, this chronic state of high cortisol is brought about by one of three things:
Lack of sleep
Yes, lifestyle factors will influence your recovery as well; however, it is likely that managing these three components will get you the biggest bang for your buck.
In most athletes, symptoms of excessive cortisol levels via stress will rear their ugly head through lack of energy, lack of progression in your training, lack of motivation, constant nagging injuries/illness, etc…
Now, I don’t just want to say these things and leave you hanging. Let’s get into some quick and easy practice that you can implement to make sure that cortisol is working for you, not against you…
First things first, eat enough calories! Under eating is a very common mistake I see in most athletes that come to me. This is a pretty significant stressor, so correcting this will go a long way in help you perform and recover to the best of your ability.
Building off of that last point, be sure to eat enough carbs. Carbs not only directly fuel your training, but they also play an important role in managing cortisol levels. See, carbs cause the release of insulin, your body’s main storage hormone. This counteracts high cortisol levels and causes them to drop, bringing you back to normal. A great way to apply this information is to be sure your post-workout meal has a carb;protein ratio of 2:1 or 3:1. This will help bring cortisol levels back down to baseline following a stressful session or competition!
Another really simple thing you can do is to not train like an a******. If you’re feeling beat up and run down, give yourself a day (or days) off. As an athlete myself, I know how driven you are to get better. But remember this, the gains aren’t made while you’re training, they’re made while you’re recovering. And if you’re not recovering properly, you’re not maximizing your performance and you’re putting yourself at risk for injury.
Lastly, but definitely not least, you must be sure to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep (specifically, lack of quality sleep) is one of the biggest contributors to cortisol levels that are out of whack.
If you do those simple things, you will put yourself in a great position when it comes to managing your cortisol levels effectively and allowing yourself to actually recover after each session. Remember, the better you can recover, the better you’ll be able to perform day after day.
If you want to take a deeper dive into exactly how you can set up your own nutrition plan to perform to the best of your ability, just click HERE to download the free eBook i put together for you. This takes you step-by-step through the exact process that I use with my own athletes when constructing their nutritional game plan. Again, just click here to download it for free!
As always, be sure to reach out and ask any questions if there’s any way at all that I can help you out! Thanks for reading, and I’ll talk to you soon…
When I first got into nutrition, I did what was probably the worst thing I could’ve done for my athletic performance…
At the time, I was just about to start my first season playing basketball at the collegiate level…
I was doing everything “right” (or at least I thought I was)…
I was in the gym every single day, working my ass off…
But I wasn’t seeing the results should have been seeing…
That’s when nutrition finally came into the picture…
Unfortunately, like I said, I did what was probably the worst thing I could have done for my performance on the court…
Ever heard of the “Paleo diet?”
Well, if you haven’t, the main idea behind it is eating “like the cavemen did” by focusing on meats, veggies, fruits, etc. In theory, it sounds pretty healthy, right?
For someone simply trying to improve overall health or lose some extra body fat, Paleo can actually be a valid option. But, for a high-performing athlete, it’s missing a very crucial piece of the puzzle…
Carbohydrates are literally rocket fuel for your performance and without them, you’re likely leaving quite a bit on the table…
And by excluding grains from your diet, like you would in a paleo style approach, you’re making it that much more difficult to get the appropriate amount of carbs on a daily basis…
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to try getting 300+ grams of carbs per day from just fruits and veggies…
As a result of lacking the proper fuel needed to sustain my performance in the gym and on the court, I ended up losing 21lbs in just over a month (definitely not a good thing in my case). My performance went to crap, and I was feeling lightheaded towards the end of practice on a regular basis.
After a couple of months of unknowingly running myself into the ground by under eating, I actually came down with pneumonia. Now, I’m definitely not saying that it was caused by under eating; however, the stress response to under eating in combination with the high levels of training stress along with the added load of college classes in a new environment very well could have compounded and weakened my immune system.
Now, this blog post isn’t gonna go deep into the science of all that (topic for another day). The main takeaway I need you to understand from today’s post is that the nutrition requirements for an athlete cannot be met with a fad diet meant for the average person…
As an athlete, your goal is performance, not dropping a couple of pounds of body fat…
You need to be fueling yourself properly to excel in your training sessions and your competitions. If you are chronically under-eating because you are following a dietary approach meant for a sedentary desk-job worker looking to drop 15lbs, you’re not going to be maximizing your performance (you’ll likely be harming it quite a bit)…
Am I saying that you can never try to get lean or drop body fat as an athlete? Not at all. If you’re in the correct phase of your periodization cycle (more on that HERE), you can definitely make it happen in a safe, healthy, practical way that won’t tank your performance in your sport.
So, hopefully this quick blog post helped to shed some light on what not to do when it comes to your eating habits as an athlete. If you need any help with this stuff, just go ahead and shoot me a message on IG, facebook, or via email!
Also, if you want to learn exactly how to create a nutrition plan tailored for your sport, your goals, and your lifestyle just click HERE to download the free ebook I wrote that outlines, step-by-step, the exact process I’ve used with myself and all of my athletes to take their performance to the next level.