There are a lot of facts bombarding our gray matter nowadays. Pretty much everyone realizes that we live in an age of information overload. This certainly holds true with bodybuilding and nutrition. Yet with all the science and speculation, practical applications of the information are sometimes hard to come by.
Take dietary fat, for example. You may read on one site how fish oils are important (they are), while on another site you're reading about the wonders of flax oil (flax is also good). But how do you incorporate these lipids into your daily meal plan without turning into a human equivalent of a crankcase?
While you ponder how to make better dietary fat choices, the information blitzkrieg continues. On the nightly news you may see health blurbs about the benefits of monounsaturated fats. Those centenarian Mediterranean folk are indeed onto something, aren't they? On the radio, a similar message reaches your ears: "Garlic oil was found to have beneficial effects..." But my question remains, do you include these lipids into your eating schedule? And if not, why not?
I received a flyer the other day in my mailbox at school. I'll paraphrase: "Replacing a portion of one's dietary carbohydrate with monounsaturated fat appears to be a healthy choice." Well duh! At last, researchers other than me are getting the word out that not all fats are evil. The body metabolizes various dietary fats in vastly different ways. One's lipid choices can actually worsen (or conversely, lessen) inflammation, affect estrogen function, improve lean-body mass gain, and so much more.
That flyer I received at school is what prompted this article. Rather than tell everyone exactly what to eat (which I don't do), I thought it better to offer some "good fat" recipes to help readers put available lipid research into practice. Some are simple, but that's the bloody point! Here goes:
Meal: Snacktime Au Naturale
(Natural Peanut Putter Sandwich with Flax Bread)
Two tablespoons natural peanut butter (without all that added oil)
Two pieces flaxseed bread (e.g. Brownberry® brand)
Why You Care: No, regardless of its name, this is not meant to be eaten naked. But there is a critical reason for the "natural" part. Regular peanut butter has linoleic acid-rich vegetable oil added, but we already get too much of that stuff. Peanuts, by themselves, however, have mostly monounsaturated fatty acids. Flax bread contains both linolenic acid (an omega-3 type polyunsaturated fatty acid) and often contains those cool "lignan" phytochemicals that combat estrogen. I personally eat two to three sandwiches a day – with my clothes on.
Meal: The Breakfast of Deities
(Omega Eggs with Flax Toast)
Six to Eight regular egg whites
Two whole (white + yoke) omega-3 fatty acid-containing eggs
Two to Four pieces flaxseed bread (e.g. Brownberry® brand)
One to two tablespoons modified lipid margarine (e.g. Smart Balance® brand or Kerrygold® pasture-grazed Irish butter)
Why You Care: Who needs a mere "champion"? This meal is the alpha and the omega of breakfasts. It contains both alpha-linolenic acid from the flax AND fish oil-derived omega-3 fats. These latter fatty acids include DHA (docosohexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapenaenoic acid) and the special eggs provide 200-300 mg of them. Margarines with proprietary proportions of particular fatty acids provide valuable energy (kcal) with a cholesterol reducing bonus. (See below for more on pasture-fed dairy and beef farms.)
Meal: Multipurpose Mediterranean
(Stir Fry in Olive Oil)
Chicken breast cubes or strips, pre-cooked
Peeled, pre-cooked shrimp (pricey, though)
Artichoke hearts from a jar in olive oil or broth
Sun dried tomatoes in olive oil (jar)
Crushed garlic/ garlic oil from jar
Pesto from jar
Bow tie pasta (optional if on low-carb diet)
Why You Care: Hey, how many meals can you impress your girlfriend with and get the bodybuilding nutrition you want? Yes, this meal takes longer to prep than others but scoring tons of protein and healthy fats won't be the only score of the evening! You'll look like the king of romance and all you did was throw everything in a pan. This fancy-shmancy meal provides monounsaturated fatty acids and hugely underrated garlic lipids along with the protein. Go get her, tiger.
Meal: Uppercut from the Sea
(Salmon Filet with Garlic and Special Margarine)
6 ounce salmon filet
One to two tablespoons modified lipid margarine
Two tablespoons minced garlic (possibly in its own oil).
Why You Care: Ding, Ding! That bell means I cook with big George. Maybe you do, too. Bust out your fat-reducing grill and do your screaming tendonitis a favor. No one's throwing left jabs with inflamed triceps tendons... or building big guns. But believe me, lipid nutrition does play a role! Heck, you may even return to those days of heavy triceps extensions. Just rub the minced garlic into the filet and slap on the grill. Add the margarine for more flavor and moistness. If much fat drains away from the filet, pour it back over the salmon when you're done cooking (about 4-5 minutes). One of the best sources of anti-inflammatory omega-3s is, of course, salmon and the garlic lipids do you some favors too. Let's get ready to ru-u-umble!
Meal: Sophomore Salmon
(Salmon Patties with Crushed Crackers)
One can salmon (de-bone if you're not into fish spines)
Two tablespoons modified lipid margarine or olive oil for frying
Two tablespoons minced garlic (possibly in its own oil)
Non-fatty crackers (saltine-type) added to formable consistency
One egg white
Why You Care: Not everyone can afford salmon filets. Been there. Umpteen years of college has taught me to eat on a budget. If you're a struggling student, the old salmon patty stand-by is a winning move. This is a good one to take with you in a cooled, insulated lunch bag so that you can eat on schedule. Otherwise it's one demerit and a half-pound of atrophy for tardiness.
Meal: Livestock Lipidfest
(Grassfed Beef Burgers)
One-half pound grass-fed beef (e.g. GrassfedOrganics®, Vermont Beef® or similar brand)
Whole grain bun
Slice of onion (form burger patty around it)
Two slices cheese from grass-fed dairy cows(e.g. Kerrygold®, etc.)
Why You Care: Common grain-fed beef has an omega-6: omega-3 ratio of about 20:1; that's pretty lousy – and about what most Americans eat in general. Reportedly, however, grass fed beef has a much better ratio of about 3:1. That actually looks more like fish! Remember, the lower we can get those omni-present omega-6 fats and the closer the ratio is to 3:1, the better. It's also been reported by specialized beef retailers that pasture-grazing (grass-fed) cattle have about 3-4 times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in their muscles than common grain-fed types. The butter and cheese have better lipid profiles, too. Yee haw!
And that completes our recipes. Admittedly, I don't always go for expensive (about twice normal) imported grass-fed dairy products, but it's cool to know they're out there. Luckily, you can find a few "tree hugger" type web sites that'll ship pasture-fed beef and/ or dairy from within the States, too. Before you start thinking that special lipids are too difficult to obtain, however, take another look at the simpler suggestions in this article. It is do-able. Besides, I've never said that bodybuilding nutrition was easy or cheap.
There are some other dietary maneuvers I personally enjoy as well. I buy flax seeds and toss them in a food processor, then add them to whole wheat flour for anti-estrogen pancakes. They go great with "omega eggs." I also like to (minimally) drink two cups of skim or 2% milk with some of these fatty feasts to up the protein content. A whey/ casein protein shake is also a nice addition to the PB sandwiches. Lastly, when I eat fried foods, I use a combo of special lipid margarine and olive oil. I've pretty much ditched the "vegetable oil," corn oil, and even soybean oil for a while. The omega-6 fatty acids in these foods are just too pervasive.
Let's wrap things up. I've tried to offer whole food sources of beneficial fats rather than simply telling everyone to toss in a tablespoon of separately-purchased flax or fish oil. I hope you like the recipes. I don't expect you all to don an apron and go toe-to-toe with Emeril, but this approach does teach a bit more about actual food. Besides, most brands of supplemental oils will make your meals taste funkier than week-old herring. And capsules offer only small quantities of lipids. If you do buy some special oils in a bottle, look for ones that contain vitamin E to slow spoilage and REFRIGERATE them! I once puked for 24 hours straight after swilling some un-refrigerated flax oil. Ugh!
Against my better judgment, I'll leave you with that thought as you get ready to prepare some of these meals. Bon appetite!