The Four Seasons Of Lifting - Part 3
In the previous instalments of the “Four Seasons of Lifting series” (The Four Seasons of Lifting – Part 1, The Four Seasons of Lifting – Part 2) I explained a system where you vary your training drastically from period to period. To get the most out of these different training approaches, you should get your nutrition program in line since training and nutrition should be synergistic to create the best results possible.
In this article, I will explain how to modulate your dietary approach to the type of training you are doing.
First, Establish Your Baseline Protein Intake
I believe that unless you are using anabolic steroids, your protein intake should be right around 0.8 or 1g per pound of bodyweight. So, if you are 200lbs that means between 160-200g of protein per day.
If you are a natural athlete, your body cannot use more protein than that to build muscle so overloading on protein is unnecessary. It might also actually decrease the rate of your gains by desensitizing your body to the anabolic boost due to a sudden increase in blood amino acids. Amino acids are not just building blocks for muscles. They have actual actions, one of which is to stimulate anabolism: triggering muscle growth. For that to occur, you need a sudden increase in blood amino acid levels, something that isn’t possible if you are overconsuming protein all day: if blood amino acid is always high, your body doesn’t sense the sudden elevation. It’s not the amount of blood amino acid levels that triggers protein synthesis, but the variation between the low point and high point. The greater the variation and the more sudden the increase, the greater the anabolic trigger.
If you are constantly shovelling protein into your body, you might have more building blocks to build muscle but you have less of the trigger that tells your body to use those building blocks. If you are using anabolic drugs it’s a different story, of course, because the drug artificially increases protein synthesis, therefore you don’t need to trigger it with a spike in amino acid levels.
Second, Find Your Optimal Caloric Intake Level
For one week you will eat as per your usual habits but:
- Ingest 0.8 to 1.0g of protein per day
- Write down everything you eat and drink in a nutrition journal. Not just the food but the actual amount.
- Weigh yourself first thing in the morning on the first and 8th day (so both Monday mornings, for example).
At the end of the week, calculate your average daily caloric intake. For example, let’s say that you ingested the following:
Monday: 2800 calories
Tuesday: 3200 calories
Wednesday: 3100 calories
Thursday: 3250 calories
Friday: 3000 calories
Saturday: 3100 calories
Sunday: 2900 calories
This gives you an average of 3050 calories per day.
Now, look at your bodyweight. If it didn’t change at all in one week, your caloric intake is likely at or around your maintenance level, making it a good baseline.
If you gained some weight, your average intake has a surplus. Gaining a full pound would represent a surplus of around 500 calories per day, and half a pound around 250 calories per day, etc.
If you lost weight, you are in a deficit. Again, losing a pound represents a deficit of around 500 calories per day, 2 pounds, 750-1000 calories per day and half a pound, around 250 calories.
From the results of the week, you can establish with decent precision what your maintenance level is. I know that a lot of people frown upon the “calories in vs calories out”. Every study using a stable protein intake level found that caloric intake is the no.1 most important element in losing or gaining weight. So, to establish maintenance caloric level it is perfectly adequate.
IMPORTANT: This is not a perfect science. There exists some normal day to day weight variation from water retention or stomach content, for example. So, you might have to adjust caloric intake during your training phases. Still, this method gives you a pretty good starting point and is at least as effective as theoretical estimation formulas.
Third, Calculate Your Maintenance Energetic Intake
When you know your adequate protein intake and your maintenance caloric level, you can establish how much “energetic nutrients” you must consume to maintain your weight.
You do this by subtracting protein calories from your maintenance caloric intake.
For example, let’s assume that your baseline protein intake is 200g per day. That is 800 calories from protein. If you have a maintenance caloric level of 3100 calories per day it means that 2300 of those calories must come from either fats or carbs (3100 – 800). That number is your “energetic calories intake”.
This is an important number because we will use it for every phase in the “4 seasons plan” to calculate how much food, fats and carbs to ingest.
In four seasons of lifting part 4, we will discuss how to select the proper nutrients balance for each of the 4 “seasons”. stay tuned!