Whenever anyone expresses dissatisfaction with their bodybuilding results, whether they are on a quest for greater mass or razor cuts, the first thing I ask about is their nutrition. Though everyone certainly doesn’t train optimally, I find that even fewer have a firm handle on their nutrition. As anyone who has followed the wisdom of John Parrillo at any point in the past 30-plus years should know, nutrition is equally if not more important to the end results than anything you do in the gym. With that in mind, here are 5 rules that I consider carved in stone, 5 commandments thou must heed if you expect your training efforts to bear fruit.
1 . Failing to plan
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Good nutrition requires consistent planning and execution. Regular folks don’t put a lot of thought into what they will eat on a daily basis, and it shows. As a bodybuilder, you eat twice as many meals as the average man or woman, because this is what stokes your metabolism and makes your body the muscle-building, fat-burning factory it is. But unless you live in some place with a 24-hour buffet of all the right foods you need, you must cook all those meals yourself. Since the volume of food you consume is so much greater, you need to both buy and cook food in mass quantities. When will you shop for that food, and where? When will you cook? Do you have containers to freeze and store individual meals, so you can simply thaw them out and eat them as needed in the days to come? These are all questions you should have the answers to. You can’t eat the way a bodybuilder does by winging it and eating whatever happens to be around your house. First, you need to be sure you always have all the meats, poultry, fish, starchy carbs, and vegetables in stock. Running out isn’t an option, nor is not cooking. It takes planning and attention to stay on top of a good diet day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.
2. Skipping Meals
Most of you probably wouldn’t dream of skipping a workout. If you’re like me, you’ve trained when you were sick, or when school, job, or family demands were so overwhelming that the gym was logically the very last place you should have been. Why? Because you love training! It’s fun and therapeutic. Not all of us love to eat, or at least not the way we must as bodybuilders. I sure do get sick of eating sometimes. Cut me some slack, I’ve been putting meals down every 2-2.5 waking hours for almost 30 years! But I do it every day anyway, because I know it’s what needs to be done if I want to so much as maintain my muscle mass at this point, much less build any new lean tissue. Eating all your meals every day over many thousands of days is how you build thick slabs of muscle that set you apart from all the other gym rats who won’t eat the way you do.
3. Eating Fast Food
While you can make the argument that eating something is better than eating nothing, you should also recall the old computer programmer adage, ‘garbage in, garbage out.’ It’s a lot easier and more convenient to go get your next meal from a drive-thru than it is to sit there and cook it yourself. But you know in your heart of hearts that the quality of that fast food protein is crap compared to freshly cooked meats, fish, and poultry. Fast food not only uses low-quality meats to cut their costs, but they load it all up with sodium and preservatives too. Even if it might taste good, it’s not good for you, and consistently eating low-grade garbage like this will have you looking and feeling worse. Don’t be lazy, cook your own meals!
4. Relying too much on supplements
Even though John Parrillo has made his living selling supplements for decades, and even though his products are of the highest quality and taste delicious, John himself has always made a point to tell bodybuilders to always make solid food meals their priority. Shakes and bars are very useful for getting all your nutrients in every day, especially for extremely busy types who don’t have the luxury of sitting down to a meal every two hours. Most top level bodybuilders have shakes once or twice every day. Yet there are plenty of others who rely on shakes and bars for at least half their meals out of laziness. Personally, I would never want to see anyone eating less than four solid meals a day on any regular basis. Use supplements to ‘supplement’ your diet, not to completely replace food.
5. Skimping on Protein
Finally, you know you are supposed to be getting 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight every day, but do you? Do you always? It’s very likely that if you really look at all your meals, you are shortchanging yourself of this vital macronutrient. This is yet another reason why buying your own meats and weighing or measuring them is a good idea. You might think it’s no big deal to eat 40 grams of protein at a meal instead of the 50 you may need to hit your daily total. It is a big deal if you wind up doing this at a lot of your meals.
You know that hard training needs excellent nutritional support to yield optimal results. Don’t sabotage yourself by working your ass off in the gym but slacking on your food! Abide by these 5 rules and watch your muscles take on the size and shape you envision for them.
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