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The 12 Rules of Right Eating

Since the beginning of March I've traveled three separate one-week intervals from San Francisco to London, from Columbus to Pittsburgh and from San Diego to Tulsa. Each excursion drew on my experience and history as a muscle-building contributor and each added to them immeasurably. I was pressed before people, young and old, who love bodybuilding, the iron and the steel: fans, competitors, entrepreneurs, promoters, curiosity seekers and consumers. I was an inquiring curiosity in a curious world.

I learned some things. Londoners are more fit and less fat than most folks I know and put up with far more grief. They rush about physically from place to place to keep up and get things done. Almost athletic. They have less, which curbs gluttony and engenders resourcefulness and action. Obesity in check. I love the town and the people. They serve beer in the pubs, which in contrast to their track work on the streets and in the underground, they drink slowly and with genuine laughter. The jolly pubs also serve up ample portions of protein and fresh vegetables — the right foods. Stay lean and survive or become lean as you survive — there's a correlation here somewhere.

Also, I learned or rather was dramatically reminded that be it ever-so-humble, there's no place like home (Santa Cruz, California, USA). Let us choose to be lean and fit by the marvelous activity of resistance exercise and the ingesting of the finest of the right foods. What a privilege, what an advantage, what a simple and desirable responsibility. Let us have all that we already have and add the qualities of life that only we, personally and internally, can supply. Let's get to work.

Our topic this week is your favorite four-letter word, diet. Don't gasp, shred the newspaper and go for the chocolates. Relax. Read the twelve simple rules that follow and toss out the ones you don't like. It's a start.

RULE # 1 — Be tough. Stay away from nasty fats, excessive salt and simple sugars. This eliminates ninety-nine percent of the fast foods, munchies and soft drinks. Who needs them? In a few short weeks, you won't want them, wonder why you ate them and feel sick if you do! I don't mean to be rude, but … junk is for dumpsters.

RULE # 2 — Eat a basic breakfast of complex carbohydrates, protein and fat to establish your metabolism for the day and provide fuel and muscle-sustaining ingredients. In a nutshell (and setting aside for now the hormonal and enzyme chemistry taking place at all times), protein builds muscle while carbohydrates and fats supply fuel for energy. Breakfast can be an easy-to-prepare meal from a quality protein shake to a bowl of oatmeal, scoop of cottage cheese and fruit. If you don't feed yourself a wholesome meal in the morning, your body will draw on your muscle stores as a source of energy, putting you in a slump and muscle deficit. Major insurance policy: Add a good vitamin and mineral formula and a gulp of flaxseed oil (essential fatty acid) each morning to protect your system and put order and efficiency in your body chemistry.

RULE # 3 — This one can be the rascal — with whatever effort it takes, feed yourself every three to four hours throughout the day; again, each meal consisting of protein, fat and carbohydrate. Any combination of the following is perfect: tuna and brown rice, hamburger patty and red potato, cottage cheese and fruit, chicken and salad, etc. You'll notice that sandwiches are not in my top-five list. Discover Tupperware and packet-size meal replacement powders.

RULE # 4 — Newsflash: To gain weight, eat more. Assuming you're hitting the weights, be prepared for solid bulk weight; lean muscle mass exclusively is a daydream. To lose weight, eat less, still as often. Don't starve the muscle.

RULE # 5 — I have always instinctively leaned toward a higher protein intake over carbohydrate to build a lean body. Emphasize protein. Vegetarians, take particular care in order to get plenty of protein in your diet.

RULE # 6 — Between-meal snacking for the trainee looking to gain weight is okay if the snack is truly nutritious — no junk. Don't let snacks be a substitute for a complete meal or become a weak habit. You, who are seeking weight loss, consider snacking counter-productive. Good snacks are fruits or vegetables, jerky, protein energy bars, yogurt, cottage cheese and light protein drinks.

RULE # 7 — Simple carbohydrates (sugar, honey, soft drinks, candy and cakes) provide us with a quick pick-up but let us down just as quickly. Excessive sugar plays havoc with our insulin metabolism and leads to fatigue, poor performance, fat storage and diabetes.

RULE # 8 — Fuel up before your workout. Eat a small, easily digested meal about an hour before you train. With protein and complex carbohydrates in your system, you'll train harder, longer and with more enthusiasm. You won't experience low blood sugar jitters or dizziness; you'll get a great pump and probably hit that last rep. Big Tip — whey protein drinks work great here and work well as post-workout muscle repair food. Convenient, inexpensive and effective.

RULE # 9 — Similarly, you need to eat a hearty protein meal with sufficient carbs within forty-five minutes of the completion of your workout. This is necessary to provide the muscle-building materials to repair depleted tissue and support the process of building new muscle.

RULE #10 — The most important ingredient in your body is plain water. The quality of your tissues, their performance and their resistance to failure is absolutely dependent on the quality and quantity of the water you drink. Detoxify. Flood yourself throughout the day, especially during exercise.

RULE #11 — Sleep, rest and relaxation are of prime importance. It's during periods of sound sleep that our bodies recuperate and build muscle tissue.

RULE #12 — Regard the twelve rules listed as a regular life-long, life-rewarding priority, one that hones discipline and is honed by that same discipline. Next time we meet, I'll introduce you to the commercial gym and what you can expect there. Remember, also, that laughter builds strong bodies and healthy minds. It restores the soul.

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