Hardcore weight training: That's the yellow and black Camaro 2SS sitting out in the driveway ready to blow your mullet clean off.
Now, if intense training is the sports car, then what does that make food?
No, Bumblebee, not the gasoline. Food is the steering wheel.
And not getting the right food into your piehole is, without a shadow of a doubt, the brake.
That's how powerful food is in the bodybuilding game: it steers the direction of your balls-out training. In fact, as many of us have experienced, you can take the same training program and turn it into a mass phase or a cutting phase just through food manipulation.
From the crucial peri-workout feedings to the last meal of the day, the foods you consume drive the results of your gym efforts.
So let's quit spinning the wheels on that Camaro and talk food. Foods to get you bigger, foods to get you leaner, and foods to make you live long enough to chase your great-grandkid's girlfriend around the house, no frickin' electric scooter required.
Fiber, healthy monounsaturated fats, protein... Yawn.
Yeah, yeah, you know almonds are good for you, but here's something really cool:
In a study published in the International Journal of ORMD, one group of reduced-calorie dieters enriched their diets with almonds while another group ate the same amount of calories but consumed no almonds.
The result? The almond-eaters lost more body fat and more inches off their waists than the non-almond eaters. Remember, the study participants ate the same amount of calories.
This result may be partly due to the fact that the fiber in almonds prevents some of the calories from fat from being absorbed. "The fiber binds with a portion of the fat so that it doesn't come into contact with the intestinal wall," researcher Dr. Michelle Wien, explained. "It just gets flushed out of the body."
So, almonds are sorta like that Orlistat weight loss drug and its impotent cousin, Alli, only, you know, without all the anal leakage and explosive shitting.
Dr. Jonny Bowden notes that epidemiologic studies universally show that those who eat the most nuts also tend to have the lowest levels of body fat. No, you can't eat them by the handful all day long when in a fat loss stage, but the good fat, the protein, and the fiber content combine to make almonds super satiating (filling).
Long story short, make three ounces of almonds part of your summer lean-down or your next contest prep and you'll lose more body fat than if you didn't.
Not on a diet? Wanting to get so big that an ox yoke looks more appropriate on you than a necklace? Well, for the mass-seeking bodybuilder, almonds provide clean calories and have been recommended by bodybuilding nutritionists like Mike Roussell for those seeking to ditch the "skinny-fat" look.
Keep a bag of natural almonds in your car, your laptop case, or at your desk and snack on them throughout the day. Just a handful here and there can help you reach the 800 to 1000 additional calories per day that most hypertrophy experts say are needed to fuel muscle growth without gaining ridiculous amounts of body fat.
Now, since we all love to eat, here's a badass way to get more almonds into your diet. As a bonus, if you make this for your wife or girlfriend, her panties will fly right off and hit the ceiling... and stick.
- Big package of slivered or sliced almonds
- A few pats of omega-3 Smart Balance butter
- 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin
- 1.5 cups of unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1/3 cup Splenda or your preferred artificial sweetener
- 1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
- 1 8oz package of cream cheese, fat free or plain depending on your goals
- Combine the gelatin with two tablespoons of water. Let sit for five minutes or so until it thickens up and turns into a hockey puck.
- Melt the butter in a pan and toss in enough almonds to cover the bottom – use a lot for a thick crust, a little for a thin. Toast for a bit, then toss to coat. Pour butter-coated almonds into pie pan and spread evenly to form "crust." A springform pan works best. (Ask your granny to borrow hers.)
- In a small saucepan, whisk together the almond milk, sweetener, and vanilla. Bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, add gelatin mixture. Bring down to simmer and whisk until dissolved.
- In a food processor (or even your blender) add cubed cream cheese. Pour hot almond milk mixture in and pulse until smooth.
- Resist the urge to drink it right out of the blender, Mondo.
- Pour mixture into pan over almond crust. Add some extra almonds on top to make it pretty, 'cause you know you like that stuff, tough guy. Refrigerate for 2 hours before making a damn fool of yourself eating it in one sitting while watching Jersey Shore.
Notes and Variations
- Need more quality calories, pencil-neck? Blend in a tablespoon of almond butter along with the cream cheese.
- Want a chocolate-almond cheesecake? Use unsweetened chocolate almond milk or a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. (More on almond milk below.)
If you make it, hit "discuss" below, show us your pics, and tell us about your variations.
Yeah, I have a hard-on for almonds this month. Beats that one time in 7th grade when I had a hard-on for Funyuns. Now that was embarrassing. But almonds? No shame, baby.
Now, let's piss off half our readership and talk about the only subject more divisive than health care reform: milk.
Milk is always a controversial topic. Is it a staple bodybuilding food and a good source of protein? Or is it a toxic sugar-bomb packed with pregnant-cow hormones (and not the good ones!)?
Bodybuilding and powerlifting nutritionist Shelby Starnes notes, "I never use milk and I don't allow my clients to either. Lactose is just not a good carb source, not to mention many people are allergic to it. Casein and whey are exceptional protein sources though, but get them on their own from high quality powders like Metabolic Drive®, without the fat and lactose found in milk."
Dr. Jonny Bowden also recommends against milk, unless it's raw, unprocessed, and straight from the teet. Not that practical for most of us since raw milk is illegal in 22 states. Plus, in spite of all the raw milk cheerleading, reports still surface every year of salmonella typhimurium infection caused by raw milk consumption. So, it's tricky stuff.
Plus, I'm not allowed within 100 yards of a cow since the "tipping incident" of 02'. In my defense, the cow tripped as I went to pet it. At 2AM. While on a sangria bender. But still.
Survey most bodybuilding nutritionists and they'll tell the physique-conscious person to avoid or at least reduce milk intake. It's very allergenic, it's sugary, it quite possibly decreases Testosterone in males, and many bodybuilders notice a bloating, abs-blurring effect from it. And, well, when it comes right down to it, it's kinda weird for human adults to be drinking baby juice meant to nurse another species.
Sure, sure, milk is better for the skinny 14-year old kid than Pepsi, but not so great for many of us grown-ups.
If you're one of those lifters who avoids regular milk because of the lactose or whatever reason, a good substitute has been Calorie Countdown milk beverage (formerly known as Carb Countdown). Now another alternative is making its way into the mainstream: almond milk.
Many lactose intolerant lifters and bovin-lovin' vegans have been making almond milk for years. The process involves a lot of overnight soaking, blanching, pealing, and straining. It's a tedious, expensive, and rather wasteful process to say the least. Thankfully, the Blue Diamond almond people have brought it to the mass market.
You can get the unsweetened variety in plain, vanilla, or chocolate. It contains only 40 calories per cup, 0 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of carbs (one of which is derived from fiber). Compare that to regular skim milk, which has 90 calories per cup, 12 grams of sugar and 13 grams of questionable carbs.
Now, almond milk isn't a protein source; it only has a gram per cup. Rather, it's a milk-replacer for recipes, your Fiber One cereal, or your coffee. I like a big cold glass with one of Dr. Lonnie Lowery's "lab rabbit" protein cookies.
Look for almond milk in health food stores and higher-end grocery stores. It runs about $3.59 per half gallon at my local market. More expensive than real milk, but hey, cheaper than bullshit soy milk!
Here's a quick way to use it and give Starbucks the finger at the same time:
- In a shaker bottle, add:
- 1 or 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
- 1 packet artificial sweetener of choice
- 1 serving instant coffee
- Handful of ice
Shake it like you're mad at it, then enjoy.
- Add a scoop of vanilla or chocolate Metabolic Drive® for a snack on the go.
- Use one of the other flavors of almond milk.
Bread – yes, even bread containing whole grains –is a physique wrecking-ball for many bodybuilders. (And in this context, I'm defining "bodybuilder" as someone who wants to gain a lot of muscle without unnecessary fat gain.)
As many of us learned during the fat-free diet crazes of yesteryear, getting rid of dietary fats and replacing them with junk carbs from breads not only lead to fat gain, but the lack of dietary fats even caused Testosterone levels to plummet. Mike Roussell even notes that we should embrace saturated fat as part of our diets because it likely helps support healthy Testosterone levels.
The lesson? To get big and V-shaped, ditch the bread and embrace the whole eggs.
Sadly, tell most people to dump bread and they'll look at you like you just gave their favorite grandma a purple nurple. During church.
Now we may have a solution here: high fiber, low carb, high protein bread that, as a bonus, also contains some Testosterone-supportive fats.
The secret ingredient? You guessed it: almonds. Actually, almond flour in this case, which became popular after every woman in America decided she was allergic to gluten.
Almond flour or almond meal is nothing but ground-up almonds. If it says unblanched that means the skins are left on. Blanched means the skins are removed which will give you a lighter, whiter, smoother bread if that's what you prefer. (I used unblanched in the pic you see here.)
Here's how to make your own T-supportive almond bread. Don't worry, it's so easy even Ronnie Coleman could make it. If, you know, he could fit into a kitchen.
- 2 cups of almond flour
- 1 tablespoon of baking powder
- 4 whole omega-3 eggs
- 5 tablespoons of virgin organic coconut oil (heat to liquefy if
- 1/2 cup hot water
- Non-stick baking spray
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. The oven is that boxy thing somewhere near your fridge. No, not the microwave. The bigger boxy thing. With knobs 'n shit.
- Whisk the wet ingredients together. Mix the dry ingredients together. Now mix both together. The result is swamp sludge. But it'll look better soon.
- Pour into a sprayed-up 4 x 8 loaf pan or disposable foil pan.
- Bake for 40 minutes or so.
- Eat in one sitting. Go to sleep. Poo like the god Thor the next morning. Take a photo of it. Put it on your Facebook wall. Bask in the glory that is you.
- This recipe makes a savory loaf. For a dessert-like bread, add 3 or 4 tablespoons of Splenda, a shot of vanilla extract, dried fruits, and chopped nuts.
- Various dried spices like cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, ginger and allspice add tons of flavor and no unnecessary calories if you're cutting and keeping meals volumized.
- You can also go with 1 cup of almond flour and 1 cup of milled flax seed. But don't eat that in one sitting or you'll blow your bunghole to China the next day.
- Almond flour expert Elana Amsterdam, author of The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, says not to use Bob's Red Mill brand of almond flour or your recipes may turn out runny. She also says to use only the blanched stuff, but I've had great results with my uncircumcised almonds. So there, Elana.
A study published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology (which I found on the back of TC's office toilet, the nerd) discovered that finely ground almonds – almond flour in other words – significantly increased the levels of beneficial gut bacteria.
As you know, digestion issues are hot topics amongst several T NATION coaches and nutrition gurus who believe that we've neglected that part of the bodybuilding equation for far too long.
Steer the direction of your training efforts. Use foods like almonds tactically to manipulate your body into packing on more muscle and dumping excess body fat.
That's right, body-build with heavy weights, cheesecake, a coffee drink, and bread. Whoulda thunk it?