How can you get all the protein you need on your bodybuilding diet without getting sick of the three Cs: chicken, cooking and chewing? Many bodybuilders cook up to a dozen chicken breasts at a time, choking them down over a period of days.
They repeat that process endlessly, making mealtime one of the least pleasant parts of being a bodybuilder. It may be unpleasant, but it’s also necessary there simply is no substitute for the anabolic drive obtained from a whole-food meal that’s high in protein and consumed at the right time. Protein shakes also play an important role in helping a trainer get all the protein he needs every day (at least a gram per pound of bodyweight daily), because they make it easier to do this.
So, how do you meet your nutritional needs without making mealtime a misery? We offer the following suggestions.
1 Shop Till You Gain
Try to do as much of your food shopping as you can at once. By shopping only once a week (or even less frequently), you can greatly reduce the amount of time you spend foraging. Removing these daily errands from your schedule allows you to spend more time on what’s important for growth: training, eating and recovering from your workouts.
2 Join A Warehouse-Style Store
The annual fee (usually 50 bucks or less) is well worth the savings you’ll accrue by regularly shopping at a discount warehouse. You’ll find almost all the foods on your menu at a club store, simplifying your weekly shopping trip.
3 Buy Meat In Bulk
Whether you shop at a discount-style store or a regular grocery store, you can often save as much as 50% by buying in bulk. Whatever your favorite types of meat boned chicken breast, lean cuts of beef or even pork buy large discounted packages. Divide them into individual portions.
Freeze most of them (make certain they’re properly wrapped so they don’t spoil or get freezer burn), and put those that you’ll be using within a day or two in the refrigerator.
4 Buy Ready-To-Eat Foods
Bodybuilders overlook a lot of bodybuilding-friendly foods because they get so focused on chicken breasts and rice. In addition to the basics, buy canned fish (sardines, salmon and tuna) and meat. Buy high-protein canned chili. These have long shelf lives and they’re convenient.
5 Eat Foods That Contain Fat
Cheese, nuts and egg yolks are great high-protein foods (and nuts and cheese, if properly stored, also stay fresh for a long time). They contain fats, making them satisfying snacks to curb junk-food or carb cravings. Reduced-fat cheese is probably the best option, but don’t fear the real thing, either. Great snack choices include boiled eggs, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews, mixed nuts, cottage cheese and white cheeses, such as mozzarella and Swiss.
6 Drink Milk
Milk usually stays fresh for a week or two after purchase. For those times when you don’t even have what it takes to mix up a protein shake, you can just pull milk out of the refrigerator. Consume 32 ounces, and you get 36 grams (g) of protein with only about 360 calories.
To boost your recovery and anabolic drive, add fat-free or low-fat milk to your protein shake for an infusion of carbs.
7 Prep Food Once A Week
Doing most of your food prep once a week provides a solution to one of the most difficult bodybuilding-nutrition issues: time management. Devote a couple of hours to cooking once a week, and the rest of the week you will be able to make bodybuilding meals in a modicum of time.
The goal is to prepare as much food as you can without spending all your time in the kitchen.
8 Defrost In The Refrigerator
Move meat from the freezer to the refrigerator a day before it will be cooked. It takes longer to defrost meat this way, but it will add storage life after it’s been cooked (and help you avoid food poisoning). Put only as much meat in the refrigerator as you plan to cook the next day.
9 Prepackage Your Meals
Once you’ve cooked several portions of meat, package it so it’s safe and convenient to eat. Place servings into individual containers that are safe to use in a microwave oven. (Some plastic containers are not microwavable and should be avoided.) As an alternative, place what you’ve cooked into one large container and parcel out your meals on a daily basis (cooked meat should safely last in a fridge for three or four days).
10 Grind Your Meat
Here’s a kick-ass way to get down two or three more chicken breasts per meal with fewer hassles: Grind the meat. It makes it easier to chew, easier to swallow and ultimately easier to get sufficient protein for best-case-scenario growth (it speeds up absorption, helping to increase the efficiency of the protein consumed and the speed at which the amino acids arrive at the muscle cells). Cooked ground chicken makes an ideal postexercise meal (eaten about an hour after a postworkout whey shake). An electric meat grinder may cost $100 or more. You can also ask a butcher to grind your meat for you.
Keep in mind that once meat has been ground, it spoils more quickly, so you need to cook it soon after (the same day is the best option).
11 Chop Your Chicken
If grinding isn’t your bag, broil chicken breasts as usual, let them cool in the fridge for a day, then cut them into strips and put them into a food processor. Add flavorings whatever floats your boat (light mayo, pepper, balsamic vinegar, a bit of mustard) and mix. You’ll have a chicken-salad-type paste that delivers protein, taste and digestibility. Baked or broiled chicken breast that’s been chopped or ground has about 30 g of protein per 100 g (about four ounces) of meat.
12 Squeeze Your Tuna
For an ultimate on-the-go meat source, try pouch tuna rather than canned. Clip the corner off the package and squeeze a tablespoon or two of mustard into it. Massage gently to mix and, bingo, you have a dose of high-protein tuna that’s ready to go.
13 Shake, Shake, Shake
Whole foods are best for most meals, but protein shakes are preferred for a couple of your daily meals. These include pre- and postworkout meals, which are ideal times for a protein shake with simple carbs (about 40 g of protein with 50-100 g of carbs); late-night low-calorie high-protein meals; and when you’re in a crunch and can’t spend time preparing or eating solid food. Protein shakes should have a part in your total bodybuilding nutrition picture, but learn to use them appropriately.
14 Flavor Your Shakes
If you’re sick of the taste of your protein shake, consider adding light chocolate syrup that’s low in carb calories. You won’t blow your diet by adding a little bit of flavoring. If you don’t want even that small amount of calories, look for a sugarless (sweetened with sucralose) version in your favorite flavor.
Feel free to throw in some frozen fruit if you’re blending your shake (blueberries and strawberries are two great options they add flavor, few calories and plenty of beneficial nutrients).
15 Prepare Bodybuilding Desserts
Pudding is an old standby for bodybuilders. Instant sugarless pudding mixes added to your favorite whey protein makes a damn good dessert that’s still allowed on most diets. Mix powdered whey with pudding and whip it until it has a nice texture. You can also put pudding in a blender with your shake to make a thicker drinkable version.
16 Buy Protein In Bulk
You can save a lot of cash if you buy unflavored whey protein in bulk. A 50-pound bag of whey protein isolate will keep you in protein for months. All you have to do is add flavor to create your own variety of shakes whenever you want. Browse the Web for bulk deals.
The Last Bite
Poor nutrition is the number-one reason bodybuilders don’t get the results they want from their training. When you follow good nutritional habits, your training gets better. When your training gets better, your gains improve. Use the suggestions we’ve given you here, stay focused on your nutrition and watch your muscles expand.