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Best diet to break through a training plateau

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Although there are many differences of opinion when it comes to the best diet for increasing your strength gains, this article aims to cover everything you need to put together your own diet plan. This includes the amount of protein, carbs and fats as well as providing a sample diet plan.

If you are trying to break through a strength plateau in one of the major lifts such as the bench press then it really comes down to 3 main factors.

[checklist]

  • The training routine
  • The diet
  • The supplement plan
  • [/checklist]

    While we have already taken a look at the most effective supplements for increasing your recovery and strength, this article will take a look at something much more important; the diet.

    Although supplements can be extremely effective when stacked correctly and taken on a regular basis, they are no substitute for a healthy diet plan, and should only be included once your diet plan is written down and being kept to.

    [divider]

    How much protein should I be eating?

    Although the exact amount of protein you need to eat per day varies, it is now generally accepted that 1g per pound of bodyweight is the minimum you should be looking to consume each day.

    Bear in mind that this measurement is based on someone training with heavy weights for power, speed and bodybuilding purposes. If you are training for endurance or trauma recovery then 0.7g per pound of bodyweight will suffice.

    This should be taken as a starting point and adjusted according to how often you train and how quickly you are recovering.

    For example if you have a bodyweight of 200lb then start off with 200g of protein per day.

    While this sounds a lot, it’s worth bearing in mind that most protein shakes will contain around 30g to 40g of protein per serving. When you are on 2 or even 3 protein shakes per day this soon adds up.

    [divider]

    Eat protein with every meal

    [one_half]If we keep working with the 200g of protein per day example, sticking to a meal schedule of 3 meals per day would mean you needed approximately 67g of protein per meal.

    While this may seem a lot, with 100g of chicken containing approximately 30g of protein you would only need 200g of chicken to reach this goal. Next time you are in a supermarket take a look at the packets of chicken and you will see that this really isn’t that much.

    The main reason that strength athletes and bodybuilders will split their diet into 6 meals per day or more is due to providing your muscles with a constant flow of nutrients.[/one_half]
    [one_half_last]Try to make sure you eat a high quality source of protein at every meal, such as chicken or fish[/one_half_last]

    By spreading the amount of protein your body has to digest and use over a longer period of time this also puts less strain on your kidneys.

    This is particularly true when on a low carb diet where excessive protein and lack of carbs for energy can lead to a build-up of Ketones due to the body trying to use fat cells for fuel. These Ketones can then harm the kidneys when they are excreted by the body.

    But there also seems to be a limit to the amount of protein your body can effectively use at any one sitting.

    One study found that consuming a meal with 30g of protein boosted muscle-building activity by about 50%, but eating a serving containing much more protein didn’t have any greater effect on muscle protein synthesis.

    For this reason it is recommended to consume approximately 30g of protein per meal, but more post workout where your body is starting a state of repair and is absorbing and finding use for the nutrients more readily.

    After an intense, heavy weights workout, consuming closer to 60g of protein is recommended.

    [divider]

    The importance of carbs after a workout

    Although many people will be more worried about how much protein they are eating each day, carbohydrates are still extremely important and the main fuel used by muscles during your weights workout.

    Possibly the main reason people stay away from carbs so much is the fact that there are different types, as well as the bad rep they get for being taken too late in the day.

    The most important time to consume carbohydrates on training days is directly after your workout. With your body using glycogen for energy, your glycogen stores will be depleted by a heavy weights workout.

    By providing your muscles with a source of ‘good’ carbs immediately after training you are not only increasing the growth potential and make your muscles look fuller, but also improving the speed at which your muscles will start recovering.

    After a weights workout it’s crucial to replace the glycogen and amino acids lost through the stress on the muscles by feeding your body a quick digesting food source with plenty of protein and carbs to prevent possible muscle tissue loss.

    This is why if you look on the nutritional details label of protein powder tubs that are labelled as ‘mass gainers’ you will usually see a much higher ration of carbs to protein (2:1).

    Unless you are extremely active throughout the day, these types of protein shakes should only be taken post workout when your body will make best use of the higher carb levels and create an insulin spike as it restores glycogen levels in the muscles.

    In terms of how many carbs you should consume per day to break through a plateau, it really depends on how physically active you are outside the gym as well as how often you are working out.

    How many carbs do I need per day?

    For most ‘bulking’ and strength diets it is generally accepted that a 2:1:1 diet will see the best results (50% Carbs, 25% Protein and 25% Healthy fats).

    If we keep our 200lb bodyweight example, if 3000 calories is their current daily intake then it is recommended to increase the calories by 500 per day to gain strength and size.

    So this puts us at needing 3500 calories to gain strength and size. With carbs needing to make up 50% this sets the carb calories around the 1750 mark.

    Knowing that there are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates, this then equates to 438g of carbs per day. Spreading this across the 6 meals per day would then give us an average of 30g of protein per meal and 73g of carbs.

    This is of course based on averages and not necessarily how it should be added to your diet.

    For example if you wanted to keep carbs out of your last meal of the day because you aren’t active that late and want to prevent unnecessary fat gain, then the carbs spread across the previous 5 meals would equate to 87g per meal.

    [divider]

    Why the best diet plans should include healthy fats

    [one_half]Although entire books have been written on the importance of healthy fats in a diet, we will try to summarise the most important reasons for including healthy fats such as Omega oils in your diet.

    When it comes to fats there are really two main types; saturated fats / trans fats and ‘healthy’ fats such as Omega 3, 6 and 9. While trans-fats should certainly be avoided, ‘healthy’ fats such as Omega-3 are the ones that you should be looking to include in your diet.

    The Omega-3s contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which lower bad cholesterol and lower blood pressure.

    There are many sources of Omega-3s, including salmon, canola, soybean, olive and flaxseed oils, and walnuts. You can also obtain these via fish oil supplements.[/one_half]
    [one_half_last]Healthy fats are essential to make sure you have best diet for supporting healthy joints, heart and brain function and many other benefits[/one_half_last]

    Carrying on from our 3500 calories per day example, we now have 875 calories to allocate to healthy dietary fats. Although this is the same amount of calories we allocated to protein, because of the increased amount of calories per gram of fat (9 calories per gram of fat compared with 4 calories per gram for protein) this means you would only need 97g of fats per day.

    [divider]

    Sample diet plan

    The following sample diet plan is based on our example of the 3500 daily calorie requirement for a weightlifter with a 200 lb bodyweight looking to make strength gains to break through a plateau.

    Targets:

    Calories – 3500
    Protein – 200g
    Carbohydrates – 438g
    Fats – 97g

    [divider]

    Meal 1: 7am

    [one_third]
    Food choice
    4 Whole Eggs
    3 Slices of Ezekiel Bread
    1 Apple
    Meal totals:
    [/one_third]
    [one_sixth]
    Protein
    24g
    12g
    0.3g
    36.3g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth]
    Carbs
    4g
    45g
    14g
    63g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth]
    Fats
    20g
    1.5g
    0.2g
    21.7g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth_last]
    Calories
    308
    240
    53
    601
    [/one_sixth_last]

    Meal 2: 10am

    [one_third]
    Food choice
    110g Tuna
    200g Quinoa
    200g Salad
    1/2 Whole Grain Bagel
    Meal totals:
    [/one_third]
    [one_sixth]
    Protein
    25.5g
    8.8g
    2.5g
    5g
    41.8g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth]
    Carbs
    0g
    42.6g
    6.4g
    35g
    74g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth]
    Fats
    0.8g
    3.8g
    0.1g
    1.5g
    6.2g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth_last]
    Calories
    116
    240
    32
    170
    558
    [/one_sixth_last]

    Meal 3: 1pm

    [one_third]
    Food choice
    100g Chicken breast
    150 Cooked brown rice
    1 Apple
    1/2 Whole Grain Bagel
    Meal totals:
    [/one_third]
    [one_sixth]
    Protein
    31g
    3.9g
    0.3g
    5g
    40.2g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth]
    Carbs
    0g
    34.4g
    14.1g
    35g
    83.5g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth]
    Fats
    3.6g
    1.3g
    0.2g
    1.5g
    6.6g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth_last]
    Calories
    165
    167
    53
    170
    555
    [/one_sixth_last]

    Meal 4: 4pm

    [one_third]
    Food choice
    2 Scoops protein powder
    200g Oats
    1 Banana
    Meal totals:
    [/one_third]
    [one_sixth]
    Protein
    33.5g
    5.1g
    0.9g
    39.5g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth]
    Carbs
    55g
    24g
    18.7g
    97.7g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth]
    Fats
    8.2g
    3g
    0.3g
    8.8g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth_last]
    Calories
    458
    142
    73
    673
    [/one_sixth_last]

    Meal 5: 7pm (Post workout nutrition)

    [one_third]
    Food choice
    2 Scoops protein powder
    200g Oats
    1 Banana
    Meal totals:
    [/one_third]
    [one_sixth]
    Protein
    33.5g
    5.1g
    0.9g
    39.5g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth]
    Carbs
    55g
    24g
    18.7g
    97.7g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth]
    Fats
    8.2g
    3g
    0.3g
    8.8g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth_last]
    Calories
    458
    142
    73
    673
    [/one_sixth_last]

    Meal 6: 10pm

    [one_third]
    Food choice
    3 Scoops casein protein powder
    30ml Udo’s Choice oil
    Meal totals:
    [/one_third]
    [one_sixth]
    Protein
    35g
    0g
    35g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth]
    Carbs
    2.8g
    0g
    2.8g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth]
    Fats
    0.6g
    29g
    29.6g
    [/one_sixth]
    [one_sixth_last]
    Calories
    158
    270
    428
    [/one_sixth_last]

    [divider]

    Actual amounts:

    Calories – 3488
    Protein – 232g
    Carbohydrates – 418.7g
    Fats – 79.5g

    Despite the distribution of carbs and protein around the times you most need them (breakfast, pre and post workout), it’s still difficult to get the levels exactly right when planning a diet.

    As long as the ratios are as close as possible then it shouldn’t make a huge difference if you get a small amount more protein and small amount less carbs. This plan is of course based around a very specific diet plan and calorie target of 3500.

    If you like the idea of this diet plan but want to swap a couple of foods then a useful tool to find out how much of you need of the food you are adding is the CalorieKing.

    This is an excellent way of quickly finding a particular food and finding out the nutritional values either by popular measurements or even per gram.

    [divider]

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