DIETING IS FOR losers. Keto, Paelo, Whole 30: America loves itself a fad diet, and some of them may even help you lose weight. Except that weight loss is only one of many reasons to eat a healthy diet.
The other reasons include fighting disease-stoking inflammation, keeping your cholesterol in check, fortifying your immunity, staving off (or blunting the effects of) diabetes, nourishing your brain, elevating your energy, and building strength.
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For people who are serious about getting in shape and building muscle, that last word is critical.“Diet is a key piece of building strength,” says Brian St. Pierre, C.S.C.S., R.D., director of nutrition at Precision Nutrition, a company whose clients include the Carolina Panthers and the San Antonio Spurs.
“Without adequate calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients, you will not be able to maximize strength, adequately recover, or perform at your peak,” St. Pierre says.
And that kind of strength doesn’t just apply to your workouts but to everything in between: at work, with your family, during downtime.
Will you likely lose weight on this program, too? For sure.
Will you gain muscle? Absolutely—although a strength diet considers not just mass but other factors in overall health.
The true strength of the Strength Diet, devised with the guidance of St. Pierre, is less about what you lose and more about what you gain: vitality, longevity, and simplicity.
Step 1: Calculate Your Strength Nutrients
Okay, this involves (a very little bit of) math. But the rest is way, way more delicious. Promise.
Set your calories:
If you want to maintain your current bodyweight but add strength, your total daily caloric goal should be about 15 times your current bodyweight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 2,250 calories daily (150 x 15).
This essential nutrient builds muscle and fills you up. The oft-cited target of eating about 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is the gold standard. So if you weigh 150, that’s 150 grams of protein, spread throughout the day. Target zoonutrients, such as creatine, that occur only in animal foods, to further stoke muscle power and strength.
Fill in your fats:
You need at least 20 percent of your calories to come from fats in order to maintain your hormone levels, says St. Pierre. And prize healthy fats. They lower inflammation, improve immunity, and boost your health. (So you never miss a workout.)
Start with a base of 20 percent. Pierre recommends diversifying the carbs you eat, making sure to include phytonutrients (nutrients that occur only in plant foods, with distinct colors signifying different types, to boost health and manage) and myconutrients (nutrients that occur only in mushrooms and other fungi, to avoid deficiencies that hamper physical function and strength).
You may want to tinker with this percentage as you adapt the diet to suit your tastes and needs.
You’ll notice you have some calories left over, about 750. From here, how you allocate those nutrients is up to you. St. Pierre says to play around with adding more fat or more carbs until you find a balance that satisfies your stomach and your taste buds.
(If you’re not sure where to start, split the remaining calories into carbs and fat and see how that feels.)
Get the Internet to do this all for you:
Use Precision Nutrition’s calculator to do the work. Just plug in your data and choose “Body Recomposition” as your goal. Select your eating style and customize your macros (balanced, low-carb, low-fat, etc.). The formula will spit out a plan to maximize your strength.
Step 2: Build Your Power Meals
How you choose to enjoy your Strength Diet is up to you. But here’s roughly what a typical day might look like for that soon-to-be-strong-as-hell 150-pound guy.
Savory Oatmeal Bowl
2 soft-boiled eggs; 2 cups sauteed spinach; 4 cremini mushrooms (quartered); and 2 slices torn prosciutto (sizzled) over 1 cup cooked oatmeal, drizzled with olive oil and topped with freshly ground black pepper.
Nutrition: 449 calories, 30g protein, 38g carbs (7g fiber), 21g fat
3 large pieces beef jerky
Nutrition: 246 calories, 20g protein, 7g carbs (1g fiber), 15g fat
Salmon Burger with Wasabi Mayo
4 oz cooked salmon tucked inside a whole-grain burger bun and loaded up with 1 cup pea shoots, 1/2 avocado (sliced), and 1 Tbsp mayo mixed with 1/2 tsp wasabi powder. Serve with a ripe Asian pear.
618 calories, 37g protein, 47g carbs (14g fiber), 33g fat
2 scoops protein powder in water
220 calories, 48g protein, 4g carbs (0g fiber), 1g fat
Apricot Pork Chop with Kale-Cherry-Quinoa Salad
4 oz pork chop seared with 1/2 red onion (quartered) and 3 apricots (pitted and quartered). Serve with 1 cup cooked quinoa mixed with 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 cup kale (finely chopped), 1 Tbsp apple-cider vinegar, 1/2 cup cherries (pitted and halved), and salt and pepper to taste.
653 calories, 39g protein, 76g carbs (11g fiber), 23g fat
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