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6 Food Rules Healthy Muscle Builders Live By

Eating for muscle, rather than taste, is a very different approach. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Eating for muscle, rather than taste, is a very different approach. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson recently shared his muscle-building meal plan, startling some with the more than 4,000 calories and 36 ounces of cod he consumes on a daily basis. While my Oklahoma-raised husband nary includes seafood on the menu, he has been “eating for muscle” since high school, as he has trained and competed in wrestling, bodybuilding and power-lifting.

Over the past decade, I have been forced to cede significant kitchen territory to culinary enigmas such as chocolate-flavored whey protein, pink-hued pre-workout powders and multi-piece shaker bottles. As a result, I have observed at close range the food rules of a deliberately anti-foodie subculture, where positive nitrogen balance triumphs over palatability.

 Protein is king

 

When it comes to muscle-building, lean proteins are the way to go. Credit: Thinkstock.com

When it comes to muscle-building, lean proteins are the way to go. Credit: Thinkstock.com

A veritable army of protein-rich comestibles rules our kitchen. Dozens of eggs, pounds upon pounds of lean meat and gallons of milk colonize the refrigerator. Large, barrel-like canisters of protein powder and accompanying supplements set up camp in one of the largest cupboards. Far from a child’s after-school snack, skim string cheeses populate the dairy drawer, ready in waiting for when hunger strikes.

Food is fuel

Each meal is planned to have a specific amount of carbohydrate, fat and protein. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Each meal is planned to have a specific amount of carbohydrate, fat and protein. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Anyone following an eating plan like this calculates each meal to provide a specific amount of carbohydrate, fat and protein, referred to as “macros.” This means that seasoning, texture and overall flavor may fall to the wayside. For example, on the morning of my husband’s final bodybuilding competition, he ate his last meal: a boiled chicken breast and a side of cooked oatmeal with cinnamon. He ate it cold. Out of a plastic container. Standing up. He might not have tasted it at all. It was just fuel. One last fill up before the show.

Taste is secondary

Protein shakes may come in options like chocolate malt and banana cream, but they aren't necessarily for foodies. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Protein shakes may come in options like chocolate malt and banana cream, but they aren’t necessarily for foodies. Credit: Thinkstock.com

When protein commands the kitchen, flavor may be highly compromised, as foods take on a decidedly chalky taste. With options like chocolate malt, cinnamon graham cracker and banana cream, protein powder flavors may mimic a dessert menu, but they taste nothing like it. While there are certainly vegetarians and vegans who successfully follow muscle-building diets, it is unlikely many foodies could follow this regimen.

Cheating is part of the plan

Bodybuilding resources promote scheduling “cheat meals,” food breaks that understandably relieve the monotony of the diet. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Bodybuilding resources promote scheduling “cheat meals,” food breaks that understandably relieve the monotony of the diet. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Not all muscle-building meals are so profoundly ascetic. Bodybuilding resources abound that promote scheduling “cheat meals,” food breaks that understandably relieve the monotony of the diet, enhancing compliance and preserving sanity. Cheat meals also purportedly boost hormones and insulin sensitivity, which can be affected by prolonged calorie restriction during stricter phases of the pre-competition diet.

Bulk is good

Key to a muscle-building diet is to prepare food ahead of time. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Key to a muscle-building diet is to prepare food ahead of time. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Building muscle bulk is one thing. Preparing food in bulk, known as meal prep, is another. Take, for example, the ingredients for one week of my husband’s lunches: 6 pounds of ground turkey, two cups of whole grain pasta, four cups of chopped vegetables and another four of greens, plus olive oil and low-calorie salad dressing. He prepares these meals in a fury on Sunday evenings, transforming our kitchen counter into a Ford-inspired assembly line. In under an hour, he cranks out five identical lunches, programmed for macros and packed into transportable containers. You can judge a muscle-building kitchen by how many pieces of Tupperware it holds.

Meal prep is not cooking

Meal prep is about efficiency, convenience and perhaps above all, adherence. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Meal prep is about efficiency, convenience and perhaps above all, adherence. Credit: Thinkstock.com

Make no mistake. Meal prep is not exactly cooking. It lacks cooking’s therapeutic value, its sensual processes, its variation and its creativity. Meal prep is mass assembly, measured and calculated. Meal prep is about efficiency, convenience and perhaps above all, adherence. Because sticking to the plan facilitates meeting one’s goals. It means making weight or achieving a competition-ready physique at just the right time — and if everything falls into place, winning.

Main photo: Eating to build and maintain muscles, rather than taste, is a very different approach to your diet. Credit: Thinkstock.com



Zester Daily contributor Emily Contois, born in Australia and raised in the Big Sky Country of Montana, spent a bit over a decade training in classical ballet before turning her attention to the study of food, health and culture. A doctoral student in American Studies at Brown University, Contois has an MLA in gastronomy from Boston University, where she was a three-time recipient of the Julia Child Award. Her work has been published in CuiZine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures, Fat Studies, the Graduate Journal of Food Studies, Inside Higher Ed and The Inquisitive Eater.

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