The Million Dollar Question

 Over the past two years, I have received numerous emails and had countless face-to-face conversations all surrounding the same million dollar question — “What do you eat?”

These days, my dietary routines are rather consistent whether in or out of a show prep. Now that I’m finished competing, I have a little more flexibility allowed for a treat meal or two per week but Carter has taught me a well balanced system and I enjoy my nutritional routines. I follow a really balanced strategy that leaves me feeling satiated, provides a variety of food groups and flexibility and best yet, I don’t feel like I’m “dieting”. I’m also confident that I’m getting the best of the best foods and nutrients into my system.

If you’re training hard but eating crap, you’re really doing yourself a serious disservice. I promise if you’re eating poorly, despite your training efforts, you’re not going to get optimum performance in the gym, you’re probably not going to get proper recovery post training and your simply conflicting your efforts towards your physique goals.

On the Precision Nutrition website, there is an interview with Carter Schoffer from 2006. The last question they ask him is “How important is nutrition in the body transformation process?”
Carter’s response really puts it into simple perspective, he says: “Absolutely critical. Nutrition is 100% important just as exercise is 100% important. I mean, you often hear people say things like, “Nutrition is 90% while training is 10%,” or even, “Nutrition is 50% while training is an equal 50%.” I think they’re missing the point. It’s like asking, “What’s more important, the lungs or the heart?” Bottom line is that if you can’t breathe, you die, just like you die if you can’t pump blood. They’re both necessary, and there’s no room for fractions of importance, it’s an absolute. But which do I see people neglecting the most? Definitely nutrition.” — CS

Carter’s strategies (for me) are an extension of the Precision Nutrition system.

The following Top 10 Rules are from Precision Nutrition‘s Gourmet Nutrition book written by Dr. John Berardi and Dr. John Williams. My diet is tailored to my body and goals but it does follow these similar parameters:

1. Eat every 2-3 hours – no matter what.
This doesn’t need to be a full meal each time, I make sure I’m feeding the fire for a total of 5-6 feedings per day.

2. Ingest complete, lean protein each time you eat.
Some of my routine favorites include eggs/egg whites, chicken, turkey, bison, lean ground beef, salmon and shrimp.

3. Ingest vegetables every time you eat.
Aim for a variety of both green and colored, 1. to keep out of a food rut and 2. to optimize the benefits from the intake of various vitamins and minerals provided by the different vegetables.

Some of my personal favorites include: (Green) – Spinach, Broccoli, Asparagus, Green Beans, Zucchini, Cucumbers (Colored) – Tomatoes, Carrots, Mushrooms, Onions, Peppadews, Sun dried tomatoes, Acorn Squash, Butternut Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Canned Pumpkin, Eggplant, Yellow Summer Squash

4. If want to eat a carbohydrate that’s not a fruit or a vegetable, you can – but you’ll need to save it until after you’ve trained.
I aim to keep these carbs gluten free, including but not limited to: oats, sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa and beans.

5. A good percentage of your diet must come from fat. Just be sure it’s the right kind.
Best from three types of fat – saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Your saturated fats should come from animal products, your monounsaturated fat should come from mixed nuts, olives and E.V. olive oil. Your polyunsaturated fats should come from flaxseed oil, fish oil and mixed nuts.

Some of my personal favorite daily fats include: avocado, extra virgin olive oil, natural nut butters, almonds and fish oil.

6. Ditch the calorie containing drinks.
Yup, that includes alcohol!! Aim to stick with water and green tea. I also include coffee 🙂

7. Focus on whole foods.
Read as UNPROCESSED FOODS! ‘nuff said. 🙂

8. Have 10% Foods
If you’re not in a contest prep, which most of us are not – plan your socializing or reward meals into your week with the 90/10 rule. Don’t interpret this as permission to go overboard, but if you’re on point 90 percent of the time, allow yourself what you enjoy too. For example, with 5 meals a day, 7 days a week – that is 35 meals for the week – 10 percent of that is 3 treat meals per week.

9. Develop food preparation strategies.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. The hardest part about eating well is simply being prepared. Create strategies and habits for yourself to develop CONSISTENCY. Do your routine grocery shopping for the right items. Prep food on certain days of the week (perhaps Sunday and Wednesday). Tupperware your food and take it with you. These are habits that need to be prioritized. I hear it all the time, “I don’t have time” or “I can’t do it like you” but it’s just a priority one has to make if the goals are important enough. Also find foods and tricks for quick on-the-go meals. (I will post more on tips in a future post). It’s a learning curve, give yourself time to learn the tricks and build routines – but start developing a strategy.

10. Balance daily food choices with healthy variety.
Again, Carter did not prescribe certain vegetables, fruits or proteins that I had to eat at certain times. Rather he gave me parameters – a food group and the measurement. He hammered home however that it was MY RESPONSIBILITY to take in the variety.

So there you have it. The 10 nutritional strategies to begin physique and performance success in the kitchen. In future blog posts, I will share with you some of my favorite meals and recipes, certain superfoods, plus more specifics about my personal diet.

For now keep it simple and see if you can adopt these 10 key take-aways.

For more information, you can also visit Precision Nutrition and Body Transformation.


7 responses to “The Million Dollar Question


  2. I JUST wrote a blog post on the same topic, but it was more a rant on the rules and restrictions we all go through in trying to find our diet “niche”. I used to do a lot of the things you are doing now, and while they may have worked, the did not work for me mentally and set me up for obsessive behavior that ended up taking over my life. I’m working on finding balance and so far am having great success with my new strategy. I believe in SOME of the things you stated, but some of the things that you are stating as things you do are rooted in myth, not science. “Eat every 2-3 hours to stoke the fire” is a total myth Ali. You’re not stoking your metabolism. Martin Berhkam and Brad Pilon went the complete opposite direction of that and did research finding it JUST DOESN’T MATTER how often you eat.

    Now post-workout nutrition is another story. I agree with you it’s absolutely essential, along with variety in choices. I believe that having freedom will allow you to stick to any diet much closer than being too restrictive, and I like the style Carter has chosen with that – it’s nice to see. I don’t understand #4 at all. Is it the starch that you want to replace glucose in your liver/muscles, etc.? Again, that’s another thing that’s more based in myth than truth.

    Overall I think you did a lovely job outlining what you do on a day to day basis because to be a figure competitor takes tremendous dedication and focus, and I know people are interested in what you eat to get there. 🙂 I know you don’t pay him to teach you why about things, you just hired him to get you there, but I would really urge you, in your new-found life of lifting, to question the “why’s” around some of these. The research on them is extremely liberating from the bodybuilding myths and dogma.

    • Hi Angela,

      Thanks for taking the time to read this and post. I read your post and you make some great points there too. When it comes to nutrition, there are many ways to skin a cat, hence so many approaches out there. Just like in the strength and conditioning world – there’s often a debate on what’s good, bad, right and wrong. Hopefully, people can see / appreciate the general similarities and not argue the smaller differences.

      Ultimately, we’re trying to get people to eat a less and make better food choices than the average American.

      I appreciate learning the science behind things and I certainly want to continue to learn new perspectives / approaches. However, to me, things don’t always have to make scientific sense. If it makes common sense and it works, well that’s good enough. For example, “eat every 2-3 hours” – whether it does anything for my metabolism or not, I know if I exceed 4-5 hours without eating throughout the day, when it comes time to eat (if I don’t have a prepacked meal with me) I will want to overeat. Keeping myself fed consistently and frequently helps to avoid that.

      I’m not a nutritionist, nor do I claim to be an expert in nutrition. I have however played with my nutrition for a long time and this strategy works for me and makes common sense. I am not a new-found lifter, in fact, I’ve been lifting for 13 years and studying this field for five (yes, still young, but not new). I was a Strength Coach first before I was a Figure Competitor and still consider it in that order. I have managed however, to change my physique especially over the last year, with these strategies. With regard to Carter, you’re incorrest in your assessment. I DO in fact hire Carter to teach me – not to just get me to the stage. We have a great rapport and I continue to work with him out of show preps so that I can continue to learn and pick his brain on these very topics. He’s a very bright guy.

      I hope I touched on all your points. Thanks again.

  3. I forgot to give you a link to my blog if you want to check out that article! 🙂

    • Again, great points Angela. Feel free to email me personally if you ever want to share thoughts, research, etc.

      Have a great weekend and best of luck with your newest approach and what works best for you 🙂

  4. Hey thanks so much for your comments, Alli! You really hit home and I’m glad we agree on a lot. You said it best when there’s many ways to skin a cat – any diet will work, it’s just what can each person stick with, which is different. I love your reasoning behind why you eat every few hours – and that’s what I want to teach people, reason, which I know you do, too. 🙂

    And what I said with new-found lifting, I didn’t mean you’re new to lifting, I know you’ve been hard core for a LONG time – I just meant your new plan now that you’ve shifted focus! Rock on! 🙂

    And that is wonderful news that I am wrong and Carter DOES in fact teach you. Each coach I’ve ever hired to help me with my diet has just doled them out, and they specifically told me “it’s not my job to teach you, it’s my job to get you lean”. So I’m thrilled to hear about the rapport you have – it seems rare, sad to say. I know I haven’t found it before.

    Thanks for your continued blogging and sharing. Enjoy your weekend, and I’ll stay posted for your next blog entry 🙂

    • Hey, my pleasure Angela. I appreciate a difference of opinion, it gets the wheels turning and your blog post certainly makes good points as well. I hope you got my email too. 🙂

      As to the top 10 rules above, I really do endorse their system. It may not be a one size fits all system – but whole-heartedly believe it’s pretty close and a great one that I’ve battle tested personally. I also think that without getting into too many specifics for each individuals program – “the rules” provide general guidance and structure which are what many people are looking for at the start.

      In my last prep, under Carter’s nutrition and training, I managed to achieve my leanest measurements while maintaining my weight – so I spared very little muscle. I never got sick through the season nor I did not have a single injury (old or new) flare up. I also got stronger throughout the entire prep. Those are all really valuable gains to me. On top of that, he is a very caring person and quick to respond to my questions – perhaps I ask too many questions sometimes!! 😉

      I’m sorry you haven’t found a coach yet who makes you feel like they’re there to help you in all ways possible. Unfortunately, like every profession out there, there are great ones and not so great ones in the mix. Keep me posted on the findings of your latest system / efforts. I also think Alwyn Cosgrove’s recent blog post “Absorb what is useful” is fitting to your quest to find the right system. So props to you for trying different things, researching different things and absorbing what is useful to create your own style.

      Please keep me posted, as I said, when you find a great read.. I’m always interested to sponge up what information I can.

      Take great care,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s