| Snack: The Meal Misnomer

Author / John

Weakness is a disease and food is the cure.

When meat heads aren’t talking about shaking weights, they are indeed discussing meat…and  nutrition in general.  It’s the primary means for recovery and we know that intelligent caloric intake is oftentimes the difference between riding the bench and starting.  So, whether we are at PAHQ, in the airport, at a restaurant, or a social gathering, we are constantly bombarded with questions about our diet.  It’s unavoidable in this line of work as it is a major component to every person’s daily life and for better or worse it is a reflection of their priorities.  Inevitably, the conversation always reaches the million dollar question: “What about snacks?”


 Snacks are for toddlers.

Without fail, one of the most common nutrition questions is regarding that mini-meal that people sometimes consume between actual grown-up meals.  Physically, emotionally, and sexually mature men and ladies alike are shamelessly inquiring about adorable bits of food they refer to as “snacks”. What the shit is a snack and what is our preoccupation with them? As far as I’m concerned there is no such thing as a snack, nor should any adult male be nonchalantly throwing around the term.  Why, you say?  Because toddlers snack. If you are hungry enough to eat food, it’s a “meal” and the sooner you wrap your mind around that concept you’ll be able to step up your nutrition game.

You see, when people use the term “snack” they have a tendency to pick foods that are most commonly associated with the word.  Unfortunately those foods have been steadily marketed to us by companies who stand to gain quite a bit by our consumption of seemingly “healthful” mini-meals.  Whether conscious or unconscious, our brains have linked the idea of snack with prepackaged, no prep needed, preservative laden treats.  Usually this falls into the dried fruit, nuts, seeds, bars, whatever category (note: those are the less threatening choices). Ultimately, this translates to a less than optimal macronutrient balance (Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins). “Snacks” can be extremely calorically dense, which is not always a bad thing depending on your goals, but those calories could be lacking the ideal fatty and amino acid profiles which promote recovery.


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I sympathize with pre and post workout meal struggles. Generally, they are of smaller portion so as not to upset the stomach but, when prepared properly, they still fall well within the “meal” guidelines. Basically each meal, regardless of size, should contain fat, protein, and carbohydrates. How much of each is going to be dependent on the type of activity you will do or did do. We are certainly not low-carb proponents, we simply advocate earning your carbs. If your training looks like lifting heavy weights and some not-so-intense accessory work you probably didn’t earn your carbs on that given day. But if your conditioning happens to be “Fight Gone Worse” or “Kalsu” you’ve met the carb requirement.


Teach a man to fish…

I wish that I could tell you that the process of creating the perfect pre and post workout meals is a complicated one but that would be disingenuous.  The truth is that it’s not complicated.  Eat real foods that don’t irritate your gut and be conscious of the macronutrient ratio.   The training will dictate exact percentages, but we suggest starting with a 40% Protein, 30% Fat, 30% Carbohydrate spread.  (Up the carbs to 35-40% depending on activity.)

Eating for performance is not necessarily sexy, nor does it have to be.  Here are some examples of great pre and post workout foods that get the job done.  Notice that I’ve stuck with red meat for after the workout as it’s merely my personal preference for feeling lighter on my feet while training.


  • 3 Scrambled Eggs, 1/2 Avocado, 1/2 cup mashed Plantain- Combine for a quick “scramble”.
  • 4 oz Chicken, 1/2 c cooked White Rice, 1/2 cup Broccoli, 1/4 cup coconut milk – Season with curry powder to taste.
  • Egg cupcakes- 3 Eggs, 1 c chopped Spinach, 3 slices cooked Bacon or Smoked Salmon- Combine and put into cupcake tin to bake.


  • 4 oz Steak, 1 tbsp Coconut Oil, 5 Parsnip Spears (made in oil like fries)
  • 4 oz GF Ground Beef, 1/2  Lg Sweet Potato, 1/4 c Red Onion – Dice and sautee to create hash.
  • 4 oz Pork Chop, 1/4 c diced Apple, 1/2 c diced Acorn Squash, 2 tbsp coconut oil – Sautee all and top with a dash of cinnamon.

Can’t “Eat the Weak” after workouts?

Here is my go-to when I can’t bring myself to stomach solid foods after a hard workout:

movies pulp fiction samuel l jackson actors faces eating big mac tasty burger 1920x1080 wallpape_www.wallpaperhi.com_46

Taking the time to prep and enable yourself to eat intelligently will provide innumerable benefits from hypertrophy, to recovery, to improved sleep, and the list goes on.  So, the next time you reach for a pre/post workout “snack” or something to tide you over until the next meal, ask yourself- “Am I toddler or a Man?”.  If you can confidently answer with the latter, then sit down and enjoy a meal like one.

For more great meal ideas check out these books by PaleOMG. 


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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. Kyle Kraft on June 23, 2014 at 5:13 pm


  2. Mex on June 23, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Love it

  3. jakejourd on June 23, 2014 at 7:26 pm


    Are you an advocate of John Kiefer’s carb backloading protocol? In short, put off breakfast 3 or so hours after wake up, protein and fat only throughout the day, after 6pm go to town on high GI carbs for dinner and the meal before bed such as white rice, sweet potatoes, gluten free pizza, and even ice cream. His research shows that individuals who are doing heavy concentric loading have a different insulin response in that any glucose intake is stored in the muscle tissue as opposed to adipose tissue for use in the next days workout. Off days there is no back loading. Thoughts? Thanks for any and all feedback


    • CALI on June 24, 2014 at 12:02 pm


      Although I’m no expert on Kiefer’s complete protocol, it’s my understanding that he doesn’t put emphasis on food quality which is a HUGE red flag for me. This is what @shebeast (Paula) was referring to. Also, a lot of his “research” and “findings” are predicated on the time of day that you workout. He is a proponent for eating carbs at night with the implication that one is training on an empty stomach in the morning. We realize that life is more complicated than that and that different athletes have different practice/training schedules.

      And, not necessarily directed at you Jake, but what the fuck does “heavy concentric loading” have to do with anything let alone an insulin response? I mean, is he, or you, suggesting that no eccentric loading is being done..or that it’s somehow a different load? Are we talking about exclusively doing bottom position squats and pin presses? Because that does not sound accurate.

      In any event, admittedly I haven’t bought his book but I know he relies heavily on what worked for himself. One thing that actual substantive research has found is that the body loves change. Virtually any change. That could be one reason that people see success in varying nutritional protocol – regardless of what it is (changing foods, times, quantity, etc.) Just as an aside, it’s also speculated that the body, if not prompted by active change by an individual, can create the necessity for change by becoming sick or developing allergies.

      In short, following the general nutritional guidelines we provide is an excellent baseline. Some days maybe play with eating more carbs at night if you know you have a big morning the next day. I remember once I stayed up all night drinking RBV’s (redbull vodkas), slept for literally 40 minutes, and then competed in 3 workouts. I smashed it that day but would I make a habit of training in that state? Definitely not. Just some “food for thought”.

  4. Paula on June 24, 2014 at 3:22 am

    Heard Kiefer speak at length at the Paleo Fx April past. Interesting concept, would love to hear Cali’s thoughts on it. I have played around with it (minus garbage foods) and have had some good results.

    • CALI on June 24, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      Hey Paula- See my response to Jake.

  5. Paula on June 24, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Thanks Cali, I do train early in the day 9:30 to 12 ish but not on an empty stomach, could be one reason the carbs at night help. And there was definitely a “huge red flag”; anyone that would stand up and promote eating Hostess cherry turnovers caused me to doubt them. He even told one gluten intolerant presenter that the reason he had problems with it was that he needed to “build up an immunity” to it by “periodically eating a little bit”.

  6. jakejourd on June 24, 2014 at 6:53 pm


    Thanks for getting back to me. I would recommend reading his backloading protocol, in terms of ‘crap carbs’ i do agree with you and paula, however, i use calorically dense/ carb based nighttime meals if I feel im at a caloric deficit with good results, especially during training the following day. In regards to your question about insulin effects from concentrically loaded movements that is where I would recommend reading the book. Kiefer’s research is based off of working with Type II diabetics. He found that heavy lifting, concentric movements primarily, actually made Type II diabetics insulin sensitive. This is where he ties in his research regarding insulin shuttling glucose into muscle tissue as opposed to adipose tissue if one is to consume nighttime carbs. Kiefer is NOT a proponent of empty stomach morning workouts. Its cited many times his book that after 5PM is the ideal time for optimal strength work. Morning is the second best, with noon workouts being the least effective for carb backloading to work. Thanks again for your response, I cant cite all of Kiefer’s findings without rewriting the whole book. I am however a little bothered by his comment regarding gluten intolerance if those were in fact his words.

  7. Jeff Hertzberg on June 24, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    He also recommends training at night. 5 pm is the optimal time. And definetly not fasted. Just protien and fats before your workout. Then after training have your days worth of carbs in the past workout meal (s). It’s in essence a carb cycling program with high carbs on your training days and less then 30 grams on your off days. I’ve been using it for about a month and been enjoying it.

  8. Ingo B on June 25, 2014 at 8:46 am

    John and co. discussed carb loading during the last podcast (61)

  9. jakejourd on June 25, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Awesome thanks Ingo B

  10. Luke Summers on June 25, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Haven’t read the book either, but you hear “profound” findings from people like this:

    “He found that heavy lifting, concentric movements primarily”

    And they attribute it to some magic recipe.

    Most heavy lifting and common training practice include eccentric and concentric muscle contractions, minus *effective* O lifting. My guess is the Type II diabetics aren’t efficient o-lifters.

    To me, based of synopsis provided, the findings are that people who have shitty lifestyle who decide to get off their ass and train improve insulin sensitivity.

    No fucking duh!

    Consistency with food quality is paramount. Meal timing and carb loading are 3rd tier objectives for most people:

    Tier 1 – Consistently train, hydrate, and restrict your foods to the eat with abandon list
    Tier 2 – Get your sleep and recovery in check
    Tier 3 – Tinker with supplements, meal timing and other shit like carb loading

    If you haven’t tackled tier 1, then why the fuck do you even worry about the other two tiers?!?!

  11. jakejourd on June 26, 2014 at 7:30 am


    This is why I brought it up, for feedback. I wasn’t implying that lifts don’t include concentric and eccentric movements. Kiefer just keys off on the concentric portion of lifting. I’m just the messenger. Thanks for your input.


  12. AJ on August 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Hey Cali,

    Quick question I was thinking about this weekend. What are your recommendations for when you are busy and miss some meals on your off day, but you’re also stuck in a bind food wise? In those cases, which is less harmful to your training long term; trying to stay with healthy foods that may not put you near your energy needs for that day, or making sure you get adequate protein and enough food (but may be lower quality and mixed macro) to recover?

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