My friend, Josh Childress, is a professional athlete. He shot me this text over the weekend:
I was reading your blog and saw your routine for meals. I'm trying to lean out and increase my energy because I have some workouts coming up . . . was wondering if you have any suggestions on natural products to take pre and post workout . . . I'm also considering the idea of hiring a meal service delivery.
The following is the response I sent him within a few hours of getting his message. Please know, the information I received via text was all that I knew about his situation. My reply was simply a general offering to help him get going in the direction I thought was best.
You may not be a professional athlete but you may share a similar desire that Josh has. You want some simple, actionable advice on how to get lean and some sound direction on what supplements to consider. And that's why I'm re-publishing my email response, with a hope that you too will gain some insight and implement what you find useful for your own journey.
My Advice to a Pro Athlete Who Wants to Get Lean
(*The bold italics indicate what I've added to this post and wasn't included in the original email. As of now, I'm not affiliated with an of the brands I suggest in this article).
Pre and post workout
Pre-Workout formula: Onnit T+
This is an awesome certified drug free pre-workout that has a legit clinical studies behind it's efficacy. In fact, the trials they've ran show an average of 36% increase in strength in athletes. At it's core, it's an BCAA blend augmented with natural ingredients to support performance.
Post-workout formula: Orgain
I know you mentioned you take Orgain and that's a product I love. If your digestive system is handling it well and you enjoy the taste, I would stick with it. I'm assuming you're training pretty hard right now, so two scoops immediately post workout will do the job. I suggest you mix it or blend it with water.
Total energy intake (calories)
Overall intake is something to consider as well. I'm not sure how specific you'd like to get, but with your goal of leaning out right now here is a baseline starting point:
- 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. For example, if someone is 200 lbs, we want to be in that range of 160-200g of protein per day.
- Carb intake should be centered around post-workout times. This is when your muscle cells are most primed to absorb nutrients. Keep them high quality (potatoes, quinoa, rice, berries, citrus fruits, bananas.).
- Most fats should be consumed from all natural sources: Nuts, coconut, fat from organic meat (if you eat meat), free range eggs, avocado, olive oil on salads, and fat from fish.
For optimal athletic performance and desired leanness there are some additional things you may want to consider:
- Vitamin D: We get vitamin D from sunlight. But most of us are deficient. This deficiency, especially in athletes can cause performance to dip. Muscle contractions are slower and weaker. Lean body mass is reduced and the body fat is more easily stored. Mood disorders like mild depression can also sink in. A lack of vitamin D also leaves the immune system vulnerable causing athletes to get sick. A good starting point is to supplement with 5,000 IU's a day. You can get a good vitamin D from Whole Foods.
- ZMA: This is a Zinc + Magnesium combo. I've found over the years of training people, most are deficient in these too. Zinc supports a higher level of testosterone to be released in the body naturally. Magnesium helps your cells absorb carbs more effectively so you can use them for energy. This blend will also calm your nervous system down - that's why I suggest to take it at nighttime so you helps you get restful sleep which is critical to performance.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: There is a laundry list of benefits to Omega 3's, but one that I like to point out to athletes is that it reduces inflammation. When you train your body it releases cortisol which is good during the workout, but it's imperative that the cortisol levels return to normal as fast as possible to shift the body into recovery mode. Omega-3 help with that. I like to suggest algae based Omega 3's because they come straight from the source (sea vegetables) rather than sourcing them from the fish.
- BCAA's: Like omega-3's, BCAA's have a laundry list of benefits for the strength-based athlete. If you're workouts are lasting any longer than 45 minutes or you're training multiple times per day, I suggest you sip on 10g of BCAA's during each workout. (This would be in addition to your pre-workout formula).
- Water: If you can, drink alkaline PH balanced water. I really like essential enhanced, but there are plenty to choose from. Aim for a gallon a day. Drinking high quality water keep inflammation at bay.
- Sleep: If possible, seven or more hours per night. Consider the quality of sleep too. If you can, shut down all screens, TV's, and laptops an hour before bed. The blue screen disrupts natural sleep hormones that hinders the quality the sleep you get over-night. Keep the room cool between 60-67 degrees. The room should be as dark as possible too.
- Meditation: Since managing cortisol levels is crucial to performance, adopting a simple daily meditation practice is sound. By doing so you'll improve your ability to recover from the stress of your workouts. It can also help with reward-based eating or cravings. Daily meditation has shown to improve impulse eating and slows the rate at which you eat - both of which can help when the goal is to lose fat.
- Meal delivery service: These can be great. They are ultra-convenient and that's pretty much what you're paying for. I'd also suggest - depending on how specific you want to get - that it's important to know that quality and quantity of food both matter. So most delivery meal services offer pretty good food, it's the amount that needs be dialed in. Knowing how much food you need to illicit your desired response is the golden ticket to leaning out. The ratio of protein, carbs and fats are also something to consider. We don't need to go down the rabbit hole in this email, but if you want to get really detailed to ensure the result you want, we can go there, just let me know.
- "Add-in strategy": You mentioned that snacks - cookies and such - tend to creep into your daily eating. You're not alone here brother! We all have some type of temptation. The best way to manage this is to use the "add-in" strategy. So, rather than focusing on what you can't have, focus on "adding-in" more of the good stuff (which you already know). And then, once you've loaded up on the good stuff, allow yourself to have a cookie (instead of 3 or 4). With the amount of training your doing along with your build, having a treat in addition to a solid diet won't derail you.
- Eating for performance vs. Fat loss: I don't know too much of the nature of your upcoming event, but it seems like you're building up to something. Leading up to these workouts, we can lean you out for sure, but I strongly recommend that you consider manipulating your fuel source a few days prior to your event(s). During a fat loss phase, you're pretty much eating less than you're burning which causes an energy shortage. But when it comes to performance we want you running on all cylinders and peaking with optimal energy levels - both physically and mentally. To do this, we add-in some high quality carbs over the 2-3 day span leading up to the event (s) in addition to a bump in overall calorie intake.