Nutrition Strategies for Busy Lifters

TAGS: proper nutrition, Nutrition Strategies for Busy People, nutrition and performance, cookbook, recipe, protein, david allen

The role that nutrition plays in health, performance, and physique is well established. As a gym owner, trainer, and athlete, I want to maximize its effects toward all three as well as set a good example for my members, clients, and family. However, despite what you may think, running a gym has actually made this process more difficult than ever. The demands of running my own business pack my schedule full and this can make getting the proper nutrition somewhat difficult at times.

As easy as it would be to just say screw it, that isn't what I want nor is it an attitude that I would accept from any of my clients. So I've had to find some ways to get my nutrition in despite the lack of consistent time to plan, prep, and consume. I know that I’m not the only one who has a busy schedule and lots of responsibilities, so if you’re like me, these tips should help you stick with your nutrition goals and get the most out of their effects.

Peri-Workout Nutrition

I’m not sure that there has been any greater breakthrough in performance nutrition in the last decade than the establishment of peri-workout nutrition. Because it can have a huge impact, it is worth your time investing in some quality products and a quality protocol. If you’re going to mess up the rest of the day by eating poorly or skipping meals, at least make sure that you have your intra-workout ready to roll. Luckily, I can just leave all my supplements at the gym and make my drink prior to training. However, if this is something that you can’t do, keep them in your gym bag, make your drinks beforehand, or keep them in a locker at the gym.

supplements david allen protein shaker bottle 081414

I'll vary my protocol based on what type of training I’m doing, but two of the more common protocols that I use are as follows:

Higher volume/bodybuilding type training

  • 90–120 grams cyclic dextrin
  • 50 grams hydrolyzed whey
  • 1 serving citrulline malate
  • 1 serving beta alanine
  • 10 grams creatine
  • Mio for flavor

Lower volume higher intensity/powerlifting type training

  • 60–90 grams cyclic dextrin
  • 25 grams hydrolyzed whey
  • 10 grams creatine
  • Mio for flavor

During the higher volume work, I'll start sipping the drink somewhere around 15 minutes prior to training and usually finish it before I finish training. During the higher intensity work, I'll usually wait until after my heavy main movement, take a 15-minute break to drink half to three-quarters of the drink, and then finish the workout sipping on it. I find that powerlifting gear, a belt, high internal pressures, and a stomach full of liquid tend to make for a crappy training session. So if I drink half the drink after my heavy main movement and give it 15 minutes to digest, I feel more refreshed for the rest of the workout. Because I only have half the drink left, I can take small sips and finish it without filling my stomach up.

Chicken breast

Planning, Preparing, and Consuming

When I plan my nutrition, I write out the exact amounts of protein, carbs, and fat for each of my meals. From there, I have an excel spreadsheet that I use that spits out the exact amounts of different foods I need to reach those amounts. Next, I'll round off some numbers to make them easier to measure and weigh and come up with some specific meals and some generalized meals. Personally, I know that I have time to sit down and eat one and maybe two meals a day. However, I need to consume at least four meals while at work, so the other two have to be something that I can drink fast. I specify the exact amounts for these and make them every morning.

Here's an example:

Meals 1 and 3 (shake)

  • Whey isolate, 2.5 scoops
  • White rice flour, 1/3 cup
  • 1.5 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fruit
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1 cup almond milk

Total preparation time: Five minutes

Total consumption time: I drink these while doing other work, so I don’t have to dedicate any time away from something else.

raw potatoes on white background

For my meals that I sit down and eat, I'll usually prepare whatever is necessary for these on Sunday night and Thursday night and make enough to last through the next preparation time (although I'll tell you what I do when this doesn’t happen). I'll have these precooked and measure them out in the morning to take with me to work. Here's an example:

Meals 2 and 4

  • 9.5 oz lean protein
  • 3/4 cup white rice, 8 oz red potatoes, 6.5 oz white or sweet potatoes (I choose one of these)
  • 1.5 tablespoon butter, 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoon coconut oil (I choose one of these)

Total preparation time: 20–40 minutes to cook protein, potatoes, etc.; two minutes to weigh in the morning; two minutes of microwave time

Total consumption time: 10 minutes

Next, I have my intra-workout shake as stated above. The total preparation time for this shake is five minutes (only because I always forget to wash my container from the previous day and it takes a good three minutes of hot water and soap to make it slightly decent to drink out of). Because I'm drinking it while training, I don’t have to take any time away from something else to eat it.

Finally, I eat breakfast for dinner at night. This doesn’t take me long to prepare, so I don’t pre-make anything on it.

free range eggsHere's an example:

Meal 6

  • 7 eggs
  • 1 cup muscle eggs
  • Bowl of cereal and almond milk
  • Quart of Gatorade

Total preparation time: Seven minutes

Total consumption time: 10 minutes

So my total preparation time for food each day is around 20 minutes with another 20–40 minutes two days a week. My total consumption time a day is around 30 minutes. In total, I'm giving less than an hour a day toward preparing and eating food. I would venture to say that the vast majority of people give more time each day to eating than this whether through preparing each meal, driving to find something to eat, or sitting down at a restaurant. Using this method, I have been able to not only devote less time to eating than the average American, but I have been able to do so eating six meals (double the average American) and in a strategized way that is geared to helping maximize my performance and health. Maximize your nutrition through smart planning and preparation. Know how much time a day you have to give toward it and come up with a plan that fits that schedule and also fits your needs as an athlete.

Go-Tos, Back-Ups, and Experiments

OK, so here is the strategy for making sure that your nutrition plan can fit both your schedule and your needs. It's very important to develop a three-tier system of go-tos, back-ups, and experiments.

Go-tos are those foods that you know you like and you know how to cook without a recipe. They will make up the backbone of your nutrition plan. These are the foods that you'll prepare on a daily basis or on a weekly basis to take with you to eat each day. For me, these are things like chicken breasts, eggs, potatoes, rice, protein powder, white rice flour, olive oil, and butter. I don’t need to look up how to grill chicken breasts or how to make scrambled eggs. I’ve been doing it for enough years now that I can make them the way I like very quickly. This cuts down dramatically on my preparation time. These are what you'll write into your nutrition program and shop for at the grocery store. The more variety, the better, but for some people with limited tastes or limited experience, you may have to stick with just a handful of items at first.

Still life

Back-ups are the items that you go to when something came up and you didn’t have time to go to the store or prepare your food. Maybe you left your lunch box at home and now you’re stuck at work with nothing to eat. Back-ups aren't the tastiest (or healthiest), but they get the job done until you can get back on track with your go tos. They keep you from bombing your diet that day and screwing yourself up. These need to be easily storable, easily made, and easily eaten. For me, these are things like canned tuna, canned chicken, protein powder, and beef jerky for protein sources. For carb sources, I always keep those Uncle Ben’s rice packets that are microwaveable, Ramen Noodle Soup, Easy Mac, and Rice Krispy treats (post-workout carbs). For the most part, my fat sources all remain the same. I will store all these at work and at home in amounts enough to get me through two to three days without cooking or prepping anything (you never know). Are they the tastiest or best to eat? Probably not but they get the correct amount of protein, carbs, and fats in my body and that’s better than skipping a meal or eating some unknown amounts.

Finally, you have your experiments. These are things that the Minx always writes about in her articles and logs. You’ll probably have to go to the store and buy some stuff that you’ve never bought before and you’ll have to follow a recipe. You may even have to do some crazy stuff like measuring liquids versus solids and mixing stuff in a bowl. You don’t know how it’s gonna turn out. You just hope that the Minx and you share similar flavor preferences. These are what you wanna make on a Friday or Saturday for fun to try new things. Maybe you’ve never made a pork tenderloin before and you want to give it a try. The time to try this for the first time isn't on Sunday when you have to have all your food prepped for the week. These are great to get some variety into your nutrition as well as try out some potential new recipes to add to your go-to list.

As a gym owner who works 10- to 12-hour days, I don’t have the time I used to put toward my nutrition, but that doesn’t make it any less of a priority. I still have a responsibility to myself as an athlete to fuel my body in a way that will maximize my performance and to myself, my family, and my clients to live a healthy lifestyle and be a good example. So like many things in life, I had to adapt and learn a new way of accomplishing the same goals. Many of you are busy like me, so I encourage you to use some of these tips and some of my examples as a way to maximize your nutrition as well.


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