I have always been a little obsessive about food. Probably comes from a combination of having parents who battled weight problems, and from engaging in high school wrestling. Of course, after 4 years of cutting about 30lbs for every wrestling season, i gained about 80lbs getting my undergraduate degree, right up to the 280lb mark at a steady rate of 20lbs per year. It was good weight, I was no fatter at 280lbs graduating than i was at 200lbs entering college. I was much stronger though, and sold on the prospect of gaining muscle and strength by gaining weight. I would later push my weight clear up to 360lbs by force feeding myself, a weight at which I was the strongest I had been or will ever be again.
So, most of my life, all the way from age 15 right up to age 35 when I ended my career as a competitive lifter I have been either losing weight, or purposefully gaining weight. It was always pretty easy for me to do either one, actually. A matter of performance and will power.
Where losing or gaining weight are easy, especially when done inside a competitive sport that demands a certain body for success, maintaining a healthy weight and healthy long term eating patterns is hard. Being hungry is easy when you have a goal you are working towards, being stuffed and nauseous is easy if you are determined to weigh 2 more pounds by the end of the week. Finding a happy and sustainable midpoint between the two is hard.
I have found a few things that seem to work for me. I make no claim to the perfection of this diet, or that it will work for you. I do know that lifters that I coach also tend to do better when they eat more like this than the normal diet.
I eat eggs and meat for breakfast, and drink tea or water. Carbs for breakfast encourages me to overeat, make me gain weight, and make me feel like crap all morning. I get some variety by adding veggies to the eggs, or using salsa, but its almost always eggs and some sort of meat.
I don’t eat much for lunch. I am simply not that hungry. Some of this is on purpose, i eat my fill at breakfast because I am normally not at home at lunch time and it’s hard to eat well when you are eating out. I try to keep it limited to leftovers from the night before, or if I am home, sometimes another smaller omelet. In any case, lunch is small, and I don’t cook for it unless its just a few eggs. But, that can hardly be called cooking.
Dinner is my biggest meal of the day. I have heard time and time again that this is not best, that breakfast should be, or that you should not be eating a heavy meal in the evening. This doesnt work well for me. If I don’t eat a big dinner, I get hungry later in the evening and don’t sleep well. Even if I don’t get hungry, I don’t sleep as well. Plus, dinner is the only meal I really spend time cooking, and if the food is good, i want to eat my fill. If i don’t, eventually I feel deprived. That is not sustainable for me. So I save my biggest meal for the time I have to spend a bit of time cooking, and I enjoy it.
I always come back to a basic meat and vegetables for dinner. Other stuff makes me feel lazy and sleepy right after dinner. If i start eating too much bread or rice or pasta i gain weight. I think to be sustainable you have to feel good, be able to get full and not feel deprived, and enjoy your food. Most of my dinners have some sort of mix of meat and vegatables fixed together in a sort of stir-fry with olive oil and spices. I prefer beef, but will try chicken or even some sausage now and again. I use a lot of the bags of frozen veggies from the supermarket, but when I have time I stop by the farmers market on the way home from the gym. Zucchini and yellow squash, different colored peppers, portobello mushrooms, even asparagus. Whatever blend they happen to have in the frozen section of Costco or Lucky’s supermarket. One of my favorite things is to dump about 2-3lbs of a frozen mixture of cauliflower and broccoli in a LARGE skillet, then season with about 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce, half a cup or so of soy sauce, and generous amounts of Louisiana sauce. Let the veggies simmer a bit, then add in 2-3lbs or tri-tip, london broil, or sirloin cut up to bite size. Cook till done and eat, lol. You can do the same, same seasoning even, with a wide variety of mixed vegetables. Or you can experiment with different spices. This will feed 3 normal people. Up the meat to 4lbs and its dinner for 2 weightlifters.
Another thing I like is to get a pan that will go in the oven, something ceramic with sides 3-4 inches high. Cover the bottom with carrots, portobello mushrooms cut up, maybe some potatoes. Then get a chunk of tri-tip and wrap it up with bacon strips, and lay it right on the veggies. Some crushed garlic is nice if you like garlic. Lot’s of steak seasoning, even on the vegatables helps. Cook in the oven till done, then dump it on a plate and eat up. All the juice and fat from the bacon and tri-tip makes the veggies taste real real good.
A bunch of green onions makes a nice sweet tasting side dish for a steak. Take two bunches of green onions, rub them thouroughly in olive oil and lay them out parallel in a cookie sheet. Sprinkle liberally with good steak seasoning and put the sheet into the oven, set the oven on broil. Take them out when the tops are turning brown. Lay beside a grilled steak, along with an ear of corn if you like.
These few examples don’t mean I never make fajitas or spaghetti or my homemade pizza, 3 of my son’s favorite dishes. But I stick to the meat and veggies theme in whatever form sounds good that night for about 6 nights a week. 5 at the very least. If leftovers start to get piled up, we might just have leftovers from the last couple of nights for supper some night.
This type of a diet makes me feel better than any other way I have ever eaten. Lot’s of meat. Lot’s of veggies and a large variety. A few eggs. Very little fruit. Bread or rice or pasta only infrequently. Heavy on the protein and fat, lower on the carbs. It works for me and it works for many others. Kevin Cornell lived with me for a while and ate pretty much what I fixed. In 2 months he went from lifts of 142kg snatch and 172kg clean and jerk weighing 100kg, to lifts of 151kg snatch and 180kg clean and jerk weighing 95kg. He gained strength while losing 11 pounds. And he wasn’t dieting, most of the time I was yelling at him to eat more but he couldn’t.
Just food for thought.