The Athlete

Maximising Caloric Efficiency - A complete anabolic study


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In part one of these article we looked at how what foods we choose to get our macronutrients from can affect how well we utilise them. Our conclusions were that in order to maximise caloric efficiency we had to:

1. Maximise the Biological Value of Protein consumed.

2. Eat mostly low GI carbs.

3. Eat mainly unsaturated sources of fats high in Essential Fatty Acids.

This is simple enough. In this article I will show you further ways in which to maximise the absorption of nutrients.

Our first priority is to come to terms with some simple facts about all our body processes. There is not one bodily system or process that is MORE efficient when the body is dehydrated. As soon as you become even slightly dehydrated the whole body losses efficiency. You become really rather lame, rather quickly. Digestion is compromised, strength goes down, endurance is out the window etc. Being dehydrated is your worst enemy. I said it in the article regarding macronutrient intake but it bears repeating. Get 30 ml of water for every pound that you weigh, every day, before you begin to factor in your activity level. So a 15 stone guy needs around 6 litres of water per day, just to sit on the couch. Have him do a strenuous weights session and run some sprints and he'll probably want closer to 8 litres. A ten stone person needs 4200 ml (just over 4 litres) in order to sit around doing nothing all day. Given a high activity level they would do better on 5 - 6 litres, or more if they live in a hot climate.

The easiest way I know to up your water intake is to fill a bottle and keep it with you at all times, sipping whenever you like. As soon as it is empty, fill it again and continue throughout the day. You can keep a note of how many "refills" you get through and this will give you a fair idea of your total water intake. If you are currently getting by on very little water, then yes you will become better acquainted with your bathroom on this kind of intake. You will also more than likely feel less tired, get less headaches, think clearer and faster, and be less grumpy to! Many athletes are chronically dehydrated and notice an immediate gain in performance when they start to pay better attention to their water intake, I have seen 3 - 4% improvements in distance runners best times simply by hydrating them, so get on with there a bottle of water by your side right now? If not, why not?

Our next point for improving nutrient uptake is to break our intake down in to smaller portions and then eat them more frequently. 3 meals a day is for normal people. Athletes need more, much more. When I lay out a diet I typically aim for 4 "meals" and 4 snacks every day for a total of eight feedings. For most people that means eating every 90 minutes to 2 hours whilst they are awake, and yes this includes those who are aiming to lose weight. Imagine being on a weight loss diet and having to eat every 90 minutes. Sounds good eh? Eating more frequently keeps blood sugar levels and insulin levels stable, which helps to prevent carbohydrates being laid down as body fat whilst giving you stable and high levels of energy. No more mid-afternoon energy crashes. Many meals also means eating smaller portions, which again are less likely to cause body fat deposition and will be more likely to be fully utilised by the body. So, whatever your total food intake per day is, break it down in to 5 - 8 portions and learn to graze rather than gorge.

OK, so your eating 8 times a day, your drinking your water, your eating high BV proteins, low GI carbs and high EFA fats. Your done, right? Of course not!

You have now laid down a framework of macronutrients and water. You are in a position to begin to fine tune your diet to suit your daily activity level and time your micronutrient intake in order to maximise efficiency. That much applies to every athlete, regardless of goals.

Everything that follows is geared up to the athlete who wishes to increase lean muscle tissue. Don't worry if this is not you (although for 90% of people it will be). Future articles will be aimed at those who wish to loose body fat, so read on anyway, many of the principles apply to all groups.

First of all get yourself a paper and pen and let's take a look at when you train, and write it down.. Write this down too, with your waking time at the top of a page and your bed time at the bottom. These times have several implications. Let's assume I am going to train at 10am. That means that before 10am I will need to fuel my muscles with plenty carbohydrates to get through the workout. I only got up at 6 am, so I have four hours to "fill up" my glycogen stores. Before 10 am I need to make sure my body has all the vitamins, minerals, co-factors etc it needs to perform at its best. Before 10 am I want to maximise my storage of creatine so ATP regeneration is at its highest during my workout. Before 10am I need to make sure I am adequately hydrated, having not had anything to drink since 11pm the night before. And so on...there are so many things to consider and at first it seems like a bit of a planning nightmare but in truth it is quite easy. For my first meal of that day I will focus on getting plenty glycogen from carbs, sufficient amino acids to stop the catabolism that will have began during the night and the basis of my vitamin and mineral formula. In addition to this I will start my water intake and get my creatine in...

Meal 1.


100g Oatmeal based muesli, 250g Yogurt, 1 serving ProPower Protein Plus in 500ml skim milk, Mega-Nutrient (multivitamin / mineral), cup coffee.


Start drinking 50g Maltodextrin in 2.5 litres water with 10g creatine monohydrate, 10g L-glutamine, 20g whey and 10ml Glycerol. If you are using Branch chain amino acids add them to this pre workout formula in accordance with this table. Using BCAA pre-workout can spare muscle amino's and increase testosterone levels post-training (Eur Journal Appl Physiol 1992; 64:272-277).

There is no need to combine protein sources in meal 1 as Protein Plus is a near perfect complete protein, as is the Whey in water taken in the hydration formula. In addition Protein Plus provides Glucosamine Sulphate for joint support and yet more complex carbs for fuel. Mega-Nutrient provides a full compliment of vits and minerals in a natural base, and glycerol and creatine both act to increase water uptake in to muscle cells.

Meal 2.


3 Slices wholemeal toast, 6 egg whites, 3 yolks, 2 potato waffles, 1 grilled tomato, tablespoon flax seed oil. Cup Green Tea, 500mg Vitamin C, 100 IU Vitamin E.

Again the emphasis here is on complex carbs and adequate protein. The egg + potato combination offers a very high BV Protein. The main points to take in are that the first meal of the day and the pre-training meal are both high in complex carbs, with each containing 20% or more of your daily intake.

The breakfast is high carb because you need to replenish glycogen stores after fasting all night, and the pre-training meal is high carb to provide fuel for the upcoming workout. These carbs are a mix of GI, mostly low GI in order to provide a stable energy level for the lifting to come. The vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant, with assistance of oligomeric procyanidins from green tea and flavanoids (along with naturally occurring vit C) from the tomato. In a similar way the naturally occuring vit E in egg yolks should increase the uptake of the supplemental form. In addition to this Vits E and C are thought to work synergistically, with C allowing E to function better as a free radical scavenger. Can you see what I mean about efficiency now?

Meal 3.

9am onwards.

Meal three will be consumed from 60 minutes prior to the workout right up through the workout itself. It is a simple combination of a scoop of whey protein in water. The reasoning behind this is that Whey will begin to have an effect on blood levels of aminos about 90 minutes after you take it, so by drinking a little whey in water an hour pre-workout you ensure that post-workout your body is primed for growth and repair just when you need it most.

Key points introduced here are as follows...

1. Hydrate yourself. 30ml / pound bodyweight as a starting point for water intake.

2. Eat every 90 minutes to 2 hours.

3. 20% of your days carbs come at breakfast, 20% pre-workout, 20% post workout. The remainder can be spread through the days meals equally or tapered off towards the evening. When you are more active during a given period of time, eat more carbs at the preceding meal.

4. Get a nutrient basis first thing in the morning then target specific nutrients depending on your immediate needs. For example pre-workout you need your anti-oxidants to minimise free radical damage.

5. Take specific nutrients alongside foods that already contain those nutrients for maximal absorption.

6. Combine nutrients synergistically e.g. green tea, tomato, egg yolks, and Vits C / E taken together work as a potent antioxidant and free radical scavenger.

7. Remember that the blood levels of amino acids post workout will be determined by the PRE-WORKOUT feedings, it is ideal to get a fair amount of Whey 60 mins prior to beginning lifting in order to maximise blood levels of aminos after the workout.

Look out for part 3 of this article which will cover post workout nutrition.

- The