Many of us have more things in common with Dr Bruce Banner (The Incredible Hulk) than we either realise, or actually care to admit! Somewhere lurking deep inside is a monster clawing and biting at the surface, raging to get out. The beast within can manifest itself in many ways, it’s down to us to channel it towards our training, intensity and drive …and what better time of the year to do it than Halloween!
Seasonal Variations in Our Diet
The colder autumnal and winter seasons inherently increase the amount we seem to want to eat. Granted, we humans are not seasonal species like hamsters or voles, we should not see the temperature drops or heavy rainfalls as an excuse to cram eat and conserve fat and nutrients…your local supermarket will still be open when it’s a bit nippy outside! Instead we should harness this urge, channel the metabolic and hormonal shifts that occur in response to seasonal variations and use this time to feed the beast. The spring and summer months are gone, and so too is the optimal time to strip and tone up, therefore why don’t you swim with the current instead of fight against it and maximise your gains! In a peer reviewed Polish study, humans reveal seasonal changes in food choices, the researchers noticed a significant preference towards starchy foods and hot boiled vegetables, foods that were hearty and wholesome, foods that are generally inherently high in calories and fat (unless you opt for a lean meat or tomato based sauce etc). The repercussion is a total increase in overall calorie consumption and a net increase in weight…this is the beast beginning to surface, so embrace it (Rosenthal, Genhart, Jacobsen et al. 2006).
Maximise your Nutritional Intake
Avoid empty calories! Meaning to limit the intake of foods that provide little more than calories i.e. have next to no nutrients per serving e.g. a typical takeaway or bar of chocolate. There is never an excuse to scrimp on nutrition, this doesn’t mean to say you can’t enjoy a take away on pay day, or a bag of sweets on a road trip, just be sure you don’t make it a habit.
Consume lots of lean meat. The misconception when gaining size and muscle mass is that the more protein and calories you get in the better. This is generally true, but sustainable muscle mass, healthfulness and longevity can be optimised, and it can be done in three key ways:
1.) Limit red meat, or at least cut off the visible fat. To reduce your overall saturated fat intake (linked to high LDL cholesterol which increases risk of heart disease) it is wise to avoid the visible white fat on meat and to grill so to allow the marbled fat inside the meat to drain away. Red meat is a great source of energising iron but its high content of myoglobin (the pigment that gives meat its characteristic red colour), if consumed in excess i.e. more than 2-3 portions (approx size of a deck of cards) has been linked to increased risk of some cancers.
2.) Opt for white meats such as chicken, turkey, quail, white fish and pork. They are naturally lower in total calories and fat but relatively bland, meaning you can add an array of calorie and nutrient dense sauces and flavourings to suit your taste. Try a cheese and bacon sauce fortified with dried skimmed milk powder. The cheese and bacon is quite high in salt, but the calcium, protein and calories that come with them make them an ideal, nutritious and calorie dense sauce! The addition of a couple of tablespoonfuls of skimmed- milk powder will almost double the nutrient content whilst not affecting the overall amount of food you have to consume. Also consider our almond chicken recipe which combines one egg and crushed almonds to deliver a super protein rich meal with more than its fair share of healthy monounsaturated fats.
3.) Limit your intake of processed meat. The processes involved in producing processed meats mean the total percentage of actual meat in the end product is markedly lower than in the original meat source. The level of saturated fat is generally higher than in fresh meat and a salt source known as sodium nitrite which has been linked with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Granted, the risks are only if these foodstuffs are consumed in excess, but it is worth knowing so that you can lower your overall load i.e. careful not to consume bacon for breakfast, ham for lunch, and mince for dinner every day.
Opt for a nutritional supplement. When nutrient dense calories are the target, few nutritional sources beat a Mass/Weight gainer powder. The average weight gainer supplement delivers the same amount of calories as an average, full on roast dinner…that’s close to 700 calories per scoop and double the protein at approx 35-45g, but without the fat, salt and bloating!
Another highly effective lean mass gainer is Creatine Monohydrate. Monohydrate is the purest (other than 100% pure creatine) form of creatine available and is the most readily absorbed meaning we pee less of it down the toilet. To maximise the absorption of creatine, try consuming it with a quick release (high glycaemic index) sugar. This causes a surge in the levels of the anabolic (growth) hormone insulin, meaning you significantly increase muscle hypertrophy (growth) if you consume quick release carbohydrates such as fresh fruit juice, dextrose or maltadextrin with both your creatine and protein shake.
So the above supplements feed the beast…now it’s time to unleash it.
To do this, stack your mass gainer and creatine with a nitric oxide based pre-workout supplement such as Gaspari Nutrition SuperPump Max! Feel the nitric oxide widen your blood vessels allowing a surge of oxygen to enter your muscles and brain, let the invigoration channel the frustration of being tied down all this time! Harness the energy that comes courtesy of the increased perfusion of blood around your body, make the most of every last rep, look in the mirror during your training session and see the pump, try and wipe your backside after your session and feel the pump. Get an itch on your back within 30mins after your training session then good luck…my advice to you; invest in a back scratcher because you will have absolutely NO CHANCE of reaching it!
Rosenthal, N, E., Genhart, M., Skwerer, R, G & Wehr, T, A. Disturbances of Appetite and Weight Regulation in Seasonal Affective Disorder. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 499: 216-230.