Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Nutrition - Ken Leistner

by Ken Leistner (1986)

With the American public’s penchant for going head-over-heels for every new dietary fad, it should be no puzzle why the lifter is even more prone to grasp onto the latest and greatest nutrition news as soon as it hits the airwaves. My PLUSA columns and THE STEEL TIP have discussed glandular extracts, amino acids, protein powders and the rest of the supplement market that takes a nice percentage of many lifters’ incomes monthly. One may feel that the expense is justified, even if legitimate research indicates that some of these products do not deliver the results they purport to, because of the psychological advantage they provide, but this isn’t logical thought. I have no objections to anyone spending their money as they see fit, but did you ever wonder why PLUSA and every other musclebuilding magazine carries ads that offer seemingly new and/or more effective products on an almost monthly basis? Do you believe that nutritional science is finding breakthroughs that will add pounds to your total that quickly, or is it more likely that as products fall into disfavor due to lack of promised results distributors and manufacturers have to come up with others to take their place of suffer financial loss?

More important than the supplement issue is the inability of most lifters to eat properly or sensibly. Diet is a result of many influences, but at some point common sense has to be injected into the equation if one plans to meet their nutritional requirements for growth and repair. Many lifters do, in fact benefit from nutritional supplements because their eating habits are so poor, but again, this is approaching the problem from the wrong perspective. How should one eat for maintenance, repair, growth, increased muscular size and strength, maximum energy levels, alertness, and comfort. It’s easy to list a number of foods that supposedly supply one with all the nutritional micronutrients needed for good health, but if intestinal distress is the result, or if the products can not be found in a particular part of the country it makes little sense to make their recommendation.

Fortunately, there are a number of non-commercial biased, sensible, easy to implement books that clearly explain in a non-technical way the nuts and bolts of nutrition, and that includes nutrition for the athlete. Most lifters will probably be offended because after reading these books it becomes immediately apparent that those who engage in heavy exercise do not have nutritional needs that are impossibly different from the average man or woman. There is no doubt that doing a 500-pound sets you apart from the crowd, but your nutritional needs are based on things more important than that. One source that I always enjoy reading, having read them many times, is the series of RIPPED books by Clarence Bass. The fact that Mr. Bass is well-educated, clearly spoken and most importantly, very factual in the material presented, holds little weight (no pun intended) in many lifting circles. “How much can he lift?” “He’s too skinny to squat much. How can he tell me what to eat?” These and other pearls of wisdom were uttered by patients or former patients of mine who failed to see that the size of one’s arm has nothing to do with the legitimacy of their claims or information. As it is, Clarence was, many years ago, a heck of an Olympic lifter, often competing and winning at the state and national levels. That too means nothing in terms of the material in the books, but it does let you know that he trains and competes as well as eats. His commonsense approach which relies on caloric control is the one and only way to gain or lose weight sensibly. He suggests the use of some nutritional supplements, especially when cutting food intake down in preparation for contests, or when losing weight for a specific purpose. However, all of the things he recommends are easily obtainable in any supermarket.

Dr. Nathan Smith’s FOOD FOR SPORT, the series of nutrition books by Dr. Ellington Darden, and REALITIES OF NUTRITION, by Ronald Deutsch are “traditional” books which still carry the message of truth and sensibility. As it stands now, the average, hard-training lifter (that in itself is a misnomer, for the average lifter does not train “hard”) may need additional calories to replace the ones burned during training, slight increases in protein (the need of which is quite moderate to begin with), minor increases in consumed electrolytes and water soluble vitamins when training in particularly hot or humid weather, and little else over and above the nutrition needed by the man or woman in the street.

Those few who have made a comfortable living by exploiting a population sample that almost begs to be taken, will, of course, tell you a very different “truth”, citing chapter and verse from “recognized experts” that everything from plant extracts to slaughterhouse refuse will make you bigger and stronger and healthier. One needs no more than a smattering of sense to eat two to four meals per day which supply the number of calories needed to gain, lose, or maintain bodyweight; enough protein from a relatively easy to assimilate source to supply the body with the material needed for repair and growth; enough fat to insure that fat soluble vitamins will be transported and nerves and cells will have what is needed for their repair and maintenance, yet not more than is recommended for good health and longevity; carbohydrates which will contribute to the overall caloric intake and supply the “fuel” for energy producing reactions; and enough fluid to keep the body hydrated and able to complete all of its necessary chemical reactions. Does one need a PhD in Biochemistry to do this? A brochure from a nutritional supplement house? Probably not, but you wouldn’t know it if you walked into most gyms.

You need to have a lot of different vitamins and minerals and the best way to get them is through a variety of foods. The reason that food scientists always recommend eating a “balanced” or varied diet is that this increases the probability of getting all of the varied nutrients you need, day to day. Overemphasis on foods and nutrition wastes valuable time and energy that can be spent more productively elsewhere. Can you eat almost anything? Certainly, if done in moderation and infrequently. Can you supply your carbohydrates and protein at Skyline Chili when in Cincinnati of Sonny Bryant’s Barbecue in Dallas or Bruno’s Pizzeria in the wilds of West Lafayette, Indiana? Of course, as long as common sense is used in choosing the foods that give you the macro and micro nutrients you need for your body to function. It’s time to take “athletic nutrition” down from its pedestal (you’ll note that some of those propping it up have their hands on your wallet) and approach nutrition with the common sense and logic it deserves.

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