Warning: somewhat sciency article but, dense with flavorful (pun intended) knowledge bombs that will optimize your performance.
As we all know going without food would not allow you to build muscle, regenerate tissue, or sustain life. However, what you don’t know is how to use this fuel at certain times to benefit your training and performance. Contrary to popular belief carbohydrates are your friends, fat free diets aren’t good for you and there’s a time and place for every macronutrient.
Before I get into becoming a flexible dieter, I think it’s vital to first understand what macronutrients are. Macronutrients simply are fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Fats are a vital survival macronutrient for when humans didn’t know when their next meal was. Carbs simply put are the fuel for muscles. Protein is the building block of all organic tissue. All 3 are vital to human/sports performance and body composition.
Now in order to know become a flexible dieter it’s important to make sure that you know what types of exercise utilize specific fuel sources. Low aerobic exercises that keep your RER (how much of a muscle is activated measured by neurological impulses) low, usually around .82 millivolts/second primarily, use fats for a source of fuel. However it’s when your RER gets to 1.0 millivolts/second that the main source of fuel becomes carbohydrates. Put simply the intensity of your workout determines what substrate (fuel source) you are using.
Now you’re not going to find someone who can measure your EMG and then determine when you should be eating fats or carbs, that’s not logistically idealistic. Instead something I do, and something that I would stress to someone who really wants to optimize performance in the gym, is to eat different foods before and after each workout depending on subjective intensity.
Here’s a simple layout that I, as an Olympic Weightlifter, use when I’m doing 2-a-days that demonstrates flexible dieting.
In order to promote recovery and be able to train more often I tend to do multiple sessions per day. Therefore, in the morning I will usually do low intensity, easy bodybuilding (sets of 5 pull-ups), and moderate isometric training (planks) while still fasting. This training promotes blood flow (which allows for recovery), allows me to train more often (train more=stronger) and also burns fats as my primary substrate (helps body composition).
On the other hand as an Olympic weightlifter I need to be able to have a high power output on every sport specific rep so that I can perform as efficiently as I need to. Therefore before and after those sessions I am going to primarily have carbs (the source of fuel for high power output, high ATP/ CP usage activities) to fuel my fasted muscles that want that sugar they just burned. As a side note I usually feel amazing on the second session of a day because of the easy recovery workout I did earlier (another topic for later)
Now I’m not saying that in order to perform better you have to train multiple times a day. Instead what I’m saying is that if you use certain foods for certain training that use certain energy systems you are going to have…
Better body composition (less fat, more lean muscle)
You are going to know what to fuel your body depending on the energy system used and recover better and
You are going to perform better no matter what sport or activity you’re
So to make a long and lengthy explanation of flexible dieting simple- know when to eat specific types of food (macros), don’t restrict any macronutrient, and watch the gains come.
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