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:
- 1 scoop GF Chocolate Whey Protein, 3/4 c frozen Spinach, 1 cup Whole Milk- Blend with Vitamix and attempt to enjoy.
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.
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.
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