A Snapshot of My Off-Season Diet — Health, Recovery, and Efficiency

TAGS: off-season diet, grocery shop, real-world nutrition, real world, real world application, meal prep, Mark Dugdale, bodybuilding, diet, Nutrition

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It’s been 19 months since I competed. My family and business required all my attention over that period of time. Some days I worked 16-hour days. I train more as therapy to maintain my sanity amongst the chaos of life than for an impending competition.

Despite my absence from the stage, I often get emails asking about my diet. Yes, it’s different and much looser than my OCD-fueled approach while highly focused on professional bodybuilding. In fact, that makes this article that much more applicable. It presents a real-life snapshot of a guy who’s interested in health, recovery, and perhaps most importantly, efficiency. Time is a scarce commodity. Here’s my diet.


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Foresight

One of the largest stumbling blocks to eating well is a lack of foresight. In the absence of forward planning, you’re screwed if you want to maintain favorable body composition. I’m not suggesting being anal-retentive to the point of weighing food, but a little planning and meal prep are essential. I grocery shop and prepare my weekday lunches on Sunday to ensure I’m covered with quality nutrition for my middle meal of the day. Oh, that brings up another point – gone are the days of eating every two hours. In fact, intermittent fasting shows promise from a health and longevity standpoint, but that’s a topic for another article.

Protein is the first priority of my meal. Taking speed and expense into account, I often grab a six-piece bone-in organic chicken pack from Trader Joe’s. Want a perfect, tender chicken? Toss all six pieces into a Le Creuset cast iron Dutch oven for about an hour at 360 degrees.

Chicken

I’ll rotate vegetables every couple weeks to avoid stagnation. Don’t be the chicken, broccoli, and brown rice guy 52 weeks of the year. This week, I went with yellow onions and shaved Brussel sprouts cooked in coconut and avocado oil on the stovetop.

Veggie prep

In regards to starchy carbs, rice is my go-to preference. Cooking from scratch, I’ll select basmati based on the glycemic index. Basmati (52) edges out brown rice (55) due to the amount of digestive resistant starch it contains. When in a hurry, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market both carry frozen brown rice.

All combined, I have five meals with each yielding approximately 40 grams of protein, 50 grams of carbs, and 12 grams of fat.

Breakfast

OK, in my haste to encourage at least a small amount of meal planning, I skipped the first meal of the day. After decades of eating eggs, a huge favorite of mine, I’ve developed an allergy. No worries, because I no longer have time to prepare breakfast. This may sound odd, but here’s the truth concerning my early morning nutrition.

I weight train four days per week, so my first nutrition consists of Biotest Plazma. Two servings equal 76 grams of carbs and 30 grams of protein.

Plazma

I drink it throughout my workout and then have a Biotest Finibar with coffee once I get to my office. I’m obsessed with Finibars and coffee. The combination is a little slice of heaven. I like to add ghee (clarified butter) and macadamia nut milk to my coffee. A Finibar contains 40 grams of carbs, 16 grams of protein, and 7 grams of fat.

Coffee

Two to three days per week my day starts with a 60-minute session of Hot Yoga (Hatha). I’ll drink BCAAs mixed in water, lemon, and cranberry juice. On my way into the office, I’ll eat a can of black olives. Essentially no carbs or protein here, but it replenishes sodium lost at hot yoga and contributes about 25 grams of fat.

Dinner

Dinner

OK, full disclosure; I eat whatever Christina makes for dinner, and it varies widely. Some days are healthier than others. She loves salads, so I typically get in a good amount of veggies, but not on this day. Today she made tri-tip organic steak in a cast iron skillet, au gratin with Yukon gold potatoes, black garlic bread, and green beans.

Tri-tip steak

 

Au Gratin

I don’t care for garlic, but I recently discovered black (fermented) garlic. It tastes nothing like regular garlic, contains a much higher amount of the active ingredient allicin, amino acids, and nearly twice the antioxidants.

Black garlic bread

Snacks

In regards to snacking, I’m a popcorn fanatic. Heirloom popcorn with avocado oil and Himalayan pink salt is my favorite. I also love pickled beets. If I get hungry during the day at work, I’ll grab a bar. Three of my favorites are Greens+ Protein Bar, which is an organic plant-based protein bar by Garden of Life, or the Mitomix Bar by Dr. Mercola.

Protein bars

In conclusion, you need to arrive at a diet that’s manageable. I hope a look into one day of my diet gives you some ideas. Planning out a few meals for the week prevents ending up at a fast food restaurant. My weekdays stay fairly structured, whereas weekends tend to be more relaxed. For example, on Saturday nights, I date my wife, which more often than not includes happy hour at Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria in Seattle — the best wood-fired Italian pizza on the planet. Not to mention their beet, goat cheese, and pistachio salad is killer!

Beets

Presently, I’m sitting at about 225 pounds, which is slightly heavier than my typical off-season when in competition mode. Frankly, I’m a little surprised that I didn’t drop some weight. I don’t lift as heavy or as long, but intensity remains high. I love the gym. So long as my nutrition supports recovery and body composition stays in check, I’ll stay the course knowing I can’t outwork a really bad diet. Cheers!

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