Planning your scheduleOne of the most useful bodybuilding diet tips is to plan your weekly schedule. However, the hardest part is that there are always unforeseen events or last-minute meetings that inevitably step in to ruin your well-crafted plans. Training has never been an issue as you can find a gym anywhere you go and if you are stuck in a hotel room you can always find a way to leverage some furniture to do some basic strengthening movements. The real challenge for me has always been able to continue to follow a healthy diet when I'm travelling or I'm out of the office with customers. In the course of my years as a competitive bodybuilder one of the most useful bodybuilding diet tips I learnt was to embrace a more flexible and scientific approach to dieting both in the off-season as well as during contest prep. In a nutshell I learnt to give less importance to meal frequency and pay more attention to reach the total daily/weekly amount of macronutrients established by my diet. As a matter of fact timing of nutrients is always secondary since there's typically a constant absorptive overlap between meals in a well-constructed diet (Aragon, 2008).
Skipping mealsMoreover, contrary to popular belief there's no need to eat frequently to stoke the metabolic fire as the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) is directly proportional to the amount of calories and nutrients consumed in a meal (Bellisle et., 1997). Thus there's really no difference by the end of the day between three large meals or nine tiny bites. These two scientific insights were quite life changing in my continuous strive to find a healthy balance between my professional obligations and my objective to improve my body composition. I remember when I thought there was no option: "You skip a meal, you lose your gains" or "if I can't find a certain type of food then I'm off diet." From a psychological perspective it was also very difficult to stay on track with my plan: too much pressure and more additional stress. Now I'm not obsessed anymore about meal frequency and nutrient timing. When I'm out for a business trip I take the time to enjoy my meals whenever I have a chance without keeping an eye on the clock at all times. Some days I eat three meals other times six meals a day, I'm definitely less stressed and I manage to stay on track with my wellness goals regardless of my busy schedule. This is where supplements play also quite a strategic role in helping reaching my daily macro- and micro-nutrients quotas. When packing my work bag I always look to bring with me portable, healthy and easy-to-consume meals. Finding a ready-to-eat source of carbs and fibre has never been an issue: fruit, bread, rice cakes, oat, vegetables can be found in any supermarket or convenience store. High quality protein sources and healthy fats are instead sometimes a challenge to get hold off. Thus in the last years I spent my time making a list of the best portable and ready-to-eat protein and fats sources.
7 bodybuilding diet tips for men with busy livesHere are some of the bodybuilding tips I'd recommend you try:
1. Tuna cans or bagsWhen I'm out for more than one day and grilled chicken breast can't be an option (as it's perishable), tuna in brine or spring water can be a good alternative source of lean protein (circa 26g per 100g) and virtually zero carbs. I usually go for the plastic packed tuna rather than the tinned tuna as it's much easier to step away from a meeting room, tear the plastic bag and have a tasty dose of your beloved protein with no dripping and no mess!
2. Beef Jerky and Beef BiltongBe careful to avoid sodium and sugar filled brands of Beef Jerky and Beef Biltong, but low sodium, natural, or lightly-flavoured options are a great source of protein. I love this chewy snack as it's very portable and satisfy my cravings for beef when I'm stuck in a hotel and there are no steakhouses on my way. A 50g serving is packed with over 30g of protein and less fat than in an average ribeye steak.
3. Almonds, walnuts and pumpkin seedsMy diet includes a good variety of healthy fats such as fish oils, avocado, extra virgin olive, coconut oil, Flax Seed oil, etc. However, when I travel I can't always bring with me liquid or perishable items thus I usually opt for nuts as a good source of healthy fats. 23 almonds are the equivalent of a tablespoon of olive oil (14g of fats), a great source of vitamin E and other important minerals such magnesium and manganese. Walnuts are one of the top 10 natural foods, high in Omega-3 fatty acids and an amazing source of copper. Omega-3 fatty acids are a staple in my diet throughout the year as they help my body fight inflammation caused by a number of external and internal stressors. Finally pumpkin seeds are another great source of protein, magnesium and zinc. These are great as a afternoon snack or in the morning with your breakfast.
4. Protein cookies and barsProtein Cookies can be delicious and nourishing options for a mid afternoon snack or when you feel you deserve a special treat. When I have time I like to bake them by myself with simple ingredients but more often I end up buying them online as the packaging is more portable and it keeps them moist and fresh for longer. A 75g protein cookie contains circa 30g of proteins, 20g of carbs and 10g of fats. Moderation is always key as it's very easy to overindulge with these bad boys, but as we said earlier it's just a matter of keeping track of your daily macros and make sure you reach the quotas established by our diet.
5. Oatcakes and rice cakesAs I said previously, carbs and veggies are pretty easy to find in any place I go, thus I don't spend too much time packing these goods. However oatcakes and rice cakes are good source of healthy and gluten-free carbs when you are in off-season or when your daily carbs intake is higher than usual. I love oatcakes in the morning for breakfast with smoked wild Atlantic salmon. Each cakes is rich in low-GI carbs, fibre and fats, perfect also for a pre-workout meal. Rice cakes are my staple during contest-prep but also very convenient when you are out of home and you want to add a fast digesting carbs source to your daily quota.
6. Whey protein isolateSupplements should "supplement" your diet rather than simply replace your food intake, but when you are out of home the whole day supplements represent a fantastic and very portable solution to help you reach your daily macros and micronutrients quotas. I usually choose whey protein isolate with the highest protein concentration (90%) and low lactose (carbs). When I go to the office I bring a serving or two for my afternoon meals, especially if I have to stay late. When I travel, protein powders with a piece of fruit are a great meal replacement, quick and easy to consume. If I train abroad I also take a serving of whey protein isolate as a pre- and post-workout to activate protein synthesis and keep my body anabolic. Protein powders can be easily carried in a protein shake, or sachets or you can use GoNutrition One Shot™ bottles which are ready to shake protein drinks.
7. Maltodextrin and Waxy Maize StarchSame as above if I train abroad I also make sure I bring with me a couple of servings of Maltodextrin and Waxy Maize Starch to be consumed in my pre- and post-workout to slow down the other parallel process triggered by training, aka muscle breakdown. These carbs source have also a great osmolarity index, meaning that they don't tend to sit too much on your stomach and help replenish your muscle glycogen faster after an intense workout. So, there we go guys, these are my bodybuilding diet tips to help you keep a healthy lifestyle even when your schedule is packed or you're always out of home. Let me know your thoughts and feel free to share other meal ideas with me. I know I'm not alone on this journey and many other people like me strive everyday to find this healthy living balance - Mens Sana in Corpore Sano.