T Nation

Food That Works


Sure, this is a super-generalized post about dietary strategies for bodybuilding (it's really not), but none-the-less, here goes.

This is for the "In the Trenches" guys (and gals). Not your everyday in the trench folk (though there's possibly something to gain here for them as well), but the one's that are in the trenches but stuck in a rut.

Us bodybuilder have known for some time now that we're not typical. We have strange, sometimes very strange, eating habits. This has been pointed out to us on more than one occasion. Regardless of who is making the observation, nor how rude it may come across, we brush that shit off and go about our business because we know "a bit" more about nutrition than your average person, some more than others, to say the least. Sometimes we're collectively, or individually wrong or ill-advised to make the some of the decisions we make, but overall we have a good plan, and we seek to improve it. We work with iron and food. We do this in the name our game, bodybuilding.

The point of this post is to discuss how you make food work for you. What tweaks have you made that may be unusual. In particular, feel free to discuss any unique obstacles you overcame, or are currently overcoming, in this pursuit. By that I mean, what unique food challenges do you face that someone else (bodybuilder or average citizen) may not have had to face?

I didn't call this post "Foods that Work" because that would simply be a list of "healthy foods".

My personal experience -- I've always had IBS. Out of ignorance, I thought it was something I was plagued with, not realizing that the food I was eating was the cause. Slowly over time, I found the trigger foods/food combinations that were at work. Not only were these foods not helping me gain muscle, they were harming my recovery and actually robbing me of critical nutrients. So in the pursuit of bodybuilding, I discovered my weakest point was my gut.

By addressing my gut health, my overall health and RECOVERY have gone way up. Largely by simply eliminating certain foods, and prioritizing others. Also, I discovered that my liver needed a boost and found supplements to help out with that... Having legitimate gut health issues can lead to an inability to absorb critical nutrients that the liver needs to do it's job (type 1 detoxification pathway...). So by improving digestion (not simply adding in a multivitamin), I am able to get more nutrients that the body needs, but also adding in "extra stuff" the body uses for detoxifying, particularly NAC and calcium d-glucarate.

Overall, I'm feeling pretty damn good and healthy. No longer dealing with sluggish, depressive feeling, nor getting chronic food poisoning, diarrhea, etc. and haven't been sick with cold or flu in some time. I really am feeling great. I don't mean to brag, but I just feel that now my body is in a better place to train, recover, etc. now that food is working for me, rather than against me.

...oh yeah, so to wrap this out, and to stick to the point of the post, putting food to work for me isn't just about macros. When I first got into bodybuilding, I read and I read, but nothing pointed me in exactly the right direction. Believe it or not, I would easily overtrain and get sick. Slowly I learned about ways to boost the immune system, and many times the info kept pointing me in the same direction. I learned it was a bit more serious than IBS, and as a result I had developed some immune issues. They weren't life threatening but certainly got in the way of gaining muscle. When the body is spending so much energy unnecessarily fighting shit, it has little energy left to do petty tasks like building extra muscle. So I admit, I did a lot of "alternative" health research, but you have to set your filter pretty high when it comes to that stuff. I learned a lot along the way, and I'm to a point now that I'm really ready to put food to work for me.


Here's what has worked for ME (I don't tell anyone else what to do here regarding this issue): eat more like a "regular person" while still getting the proper caloric and protein amount.

That' pretty much all I care about aside from getting a decent amount of veggies, fruits, and EFA's per day.

I get my protein and caloric allotment from three to four meals a day now, never more. So if I need a 800 calorie meal with 60 grams of protein, I simply get the proper amount of protein, eat veggies in the meal, and after that, get the additional calories from whatever I want, literally from whatever I want. Like the other day, I woke up to a scrambled concoction my fiance made for me consisting of four eggs, sausage, spinach, onions, tomatoes, and shredded cheese and on the side had Trader Joe's Chocolate Almond Granola cereal with whole milk. I estimate that at about 800 or 900 calories and 60 grams of protein. Later on I had a huge serving of homemade tuna salad on white (gasp) baguette. For dinner I had Bratwurst with egg noodles, pork gravy, onion and mushrooms. This is pretty much how my days look now, REGULAR PEOPLE'S/so-called "cheat" foods in amounts that don't get me fat.

Gone are the days of being a slave to food.

Partially why I have done this is because I came to grips that I will not be setting the bodybuilding world on fire, will not be given extra attention in this world for having a four pack instead of a six pack, or whatever.

For others more involved, I don't recommend this approach of estimating and laxity, but for some guy who just wants to be in shape, it works.


Great words of advice!! Most people don't realize that the pro's and even the people on the cover of those magazines DO NOT look like that year-round. It's impossible to add muscle on a "cutting" diet. Calories scare the shit out of most people.


Great post. Definitely enjoyed my training a lot more since implementing a similar strategy. That being said, I think everyone should have a period tracking calories to get an idea of what foods contain what macro's and calories.


It took me a few years to come to this exact conclusion and I have never been happier and felt more free in my life. Great advice.


Agree on all points. I pretty much eat whatever I want. Im very "carb tolerant" so I can stay sub 10% eating pancakes and shit like that (ive experimented thoroughly with this- good times). Though I still need a moderate amount of protein if im gunna recover from workouts, I pretty much feel best if carbs are high and fat is low.
Just eat what makes you feel good, and keep an eye out for foods that give you the sniffles or don't digest well.


I really like your take Brick... and like cally, I as well have recently had revelations which will hopefully clarify a lot about how I get along with food.

To add to my own experiences above:
Admittedly, this should go in the confessions thread (because some people are gonna call me crazy), but I notice that food combinations make all the difference to me. Experimenting with ketogenic diets (due to the restrictive nature - no carbs!) has revealed I do really good by avoiding certain combos, especially what boils down to a combo meal at a burger chain. Now I know what you're thinking, but this is just an example. I have been puzzled in the past about my digestion and thought I had to be a slave to digestive enzymes, but I'm figuring out now what sets me off, and realizing that I can actually eat most foods, just not all at the same time.

To make more sense of it, I'll take Brick's breakfast from the post above: "scrambled concoction my fiance made for me consisting of four eggs, sausage, spinach, onions, tomatoes, and shredded cheese and on the side had Trader Joe's Chocolate Almond Granola cereal with whole milk." Now, I'd do amazing with the scramble part, especially if I cooked the hell out of the veggies (to break em down). BUT if I added the granola and milk I would get an upset, gurgly stomach and possibly get you know what.

I attribute this to not the milk, nor the grain (although I usually avoid most grains), but the combo - multiple protein sources (I used to aim for this). If I had the cereal by itself, it wouldn't be a big deal (still not great). Something about grains and milk protein, plus the lactose seems to make it all cascade out of control. It's strange, because I do just fine with raw milk on it's own, and also good quality pre-workout drinks with whey and maltodextrin (cytogainer is an example) make me feel great.

So it's not specifically milk protein and starch. A milkshake I do fine with as well (although not healthy of course), but if I had a milkshake with a cheeseburger (either because of the combination of proteins and or grains), or two milkshakes (too much lactose), it's no bueno.

So it' seems to boil down to this: I have much more difficulty with digestion when I combine the following - grains, starches (potatoes), fibrous veggies, milk protein or cheese, meat, sugar. By paying attention to what really sets me off, I am learning how to fuel my body for construction. The majority of folks may not have as big of issues as me, but perhaps this info can help out some people. I'd urge you to give my experience consideration.


Very interesting topic
Sometimes I am really bloated and dont know why
It can even become so bad that being at work and not being able to fart becomes a torture
I always thought it would be because of too much fiber but lately i found out thats not the case


Yup. I think one should educate themselves so they can estimate what's going on. After that, you can estimate, And like I said, estimation is alright for hobbyists and those who wanna feel and look alright. For competitors or someone who's physique is important for income then it's different.


There are really only a few foods I feel I really 'know' work and don't work for me.

DO work: Pancakes
Idk why, but if I ever have to go to a pool party, something with my shirt off, whatever, I usually load my carbs the night before from all pancakes. Always look full and lean afterwards. Totally could be a placebo effect but pancakes leave me no bloat, I can eat a ton of them, and feel great

DON'T WORK: Oats and Sweet Potatoes
I know these are BB'ing staples, but eating either gives me a full gut, gas, and usually horrible bowel movements, at least eating them in any considerable amount. Sweet potatoes I can have now and again, especially if it's just an ingredient in something, not just a cooked sweet potato. But oats almost every time fuck me up. Sucks because I probably went a year eating those as my carb sources because every BB'ing site/magazine said so, and I felt horrible the whole time lol


Egg whites, oatmeal, tuna, banana, chicken breast, brown rice.

And brown rice and sweet potato are interchangeable, so there's between six and seven, depending.

That's it.


fartn and shittn never bothered me long as it's my farts winning the battles


I almost lost my mind eating like that for the better part of a decade.


Staples. Egg whites, chicken breasts, pro powder, Greek yogurt, fat free cream cheese
Basmati rice, honey nut cherrios, French bread, ice cream.


Um, hello?




Hey Mutantcolors - You're not from Santa Maria are you? Cause I am... LOVE ME SOME TRI-TIP!!


I am not, I just posted the best looking photo of tri tip I found on the first page of an image search. I am known to knock back whole tri tips over a two day period.

Haha, here...yes that's me.


hi Dave


Has someone been watching Mike Pulcinella videos? Got it word for word.

Or have I missed a trick here