Welcome back everyone! Thank you for reading the first installment of this series. Now that we know how many calories and grams of protein we need…
LET’S DIG A LITTLE DEEPER, SHALL WE?
They say you are what you eat, and it is indeed true. Our bodies break down everything we eat to replenish and repair our cells. Shouldn’t we repair our cells with good shit? Yes, I think we should.
In this article we are going to focus on food quality to bring us maximum gainz, minimum fat gain, and an overall feeling of health, energy, well-being, and maybe just a touch of glamour. While the focus on this is still muscle gain, this info is vital for everyone.
READ YOUR INGREDIENT LISTS
This is most of the battle when it comes to quality. If we don’t know what’s in our food, how can we know how it will affect us or that it is giving us what we need or don’t need?
Why didn’t I say to read the nutrition facts? Because the table with the percentages of fat, protein, carb, fiber, etc. is kinda arbitrary information that isn’t very helpful because it is only based on a 2,000 calorie diet—and you will definitely be eating a lot more than that.
Pay little attention, if any, to those percentages on the label. That part of the label is helpful in terms of seeing the grams of protein and calories if you are seriously tracking them. But the most important part of all of that is the ingredients.
Look for foods with only ingredients that you are familiar with and can pronounce (duh, Landen, we’ve all heard that before—but it’s worth repeating!). Look for foods with as few ingredients as possible.
And learn about ingredients that you don’t know. Knowledge is power! Food companies are very tricky. They love to sneak sugar, salt, and fat into all kinds of things because they know you will become addicted to it and buy more.
When we were hunters and gatherers, it wasn’t often that we would encounter these three things (especially sugar). So our bodies adapted to really like them so that when we found them, we would eat a lot of them to store some fat to keep us from dying of starvation in between meals.
If you have a sweet tooth, don’t feel bad about it. It is simply eons of evolution trying to keep us alive. Nowadays, we don’t have any issue finding these things again, especially sugar. Here are some names for sugar often on ingredient lists:
Agave, Anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, sugar, syrup, white sugar, carbitol, concentrated fruit juice, corn sweetener, diglycerides, disaccharides, evaporated cane juice, erythritol, Florida crystals, fructooligosaccharides, galactose, glucitol, glucoamine, hexitol, inversol, isomalt, maltodextrin, malted barley, malts, mannitol, nectars, pentose, raisin syrup, ribose rice syrup, rice malt, rice syrup solids, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, sucanet, xylitol and zylose.
Holy motherfucking shit! That’s a lot of names for sugar! Some of these, such as erythritol and xylitol, are sugar alcohols and don’t get digested well and therefore don’t supply many if any calories. Still, know what you are eating. Those sugar alcohols may fuck up your stomach giving you gas and other ass issues!
Luckily we have smartphones now and while they may be the demise of our civilization, they sure are great when we need to look shit up. If you see something that you are not sure about, look it up!
EAT THE RIGHT MEAT
Eating the right meats can help you thrive, but simply eating all the meat can make you sick as fuck and is also really terrible on the environment.
In fact, there are more greenhouse gases (especially methane, one of the worst kinds) produced by factory farming alone than all the cars on the planet! HEY GLOBAL WARMING!
The “right” meat comes from animals that have had as decent a life as possible, hopefully raised locally and aren’t factory farmed at all, and most importantly are fed what they are meant to eat.
For instance, eat pasture raised grass-fed beef, lamb, bison, chicken, etc. Eat pork that is raised humanely. Pigs are omnivores like us, so they may have eaten many things but those adorable sons of bitches also have feelings like us and need to be treated like the fine swine they are.
Eat more exotic meats like ostrich, duck, horse (just kidding, maybe not horse, but I mean, it isn’t any worse than any other animal. We simply have a more emotional connection to horses).
I know it sounds a little hippy dippy, but I believe that whatever energy an animal experiences is stored in its cells and when you eat the meat of the animal the energy is transferred to you. So if you eat an animal that has been tortured and sick its whole life, you are absorbing that energy. If you eat an animal that has been given a nice life, good food, and love, you will absorb that energy. Remember science class? Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it only transforms from one form to another.
Cows are a great example of animals not being fed the right food. Cows are meant to eat grass. That’s it! Their whole body is designed for grass.
But in factory farms, they are fed weird mixtures of corn, soy, other shit, and sometimes even cow and cow blood. This makes them gassy and produce all that methane.
What’s worse for you, besides all the rising sea levels, is that they produce all the wrong fats in their body. When cows eat grass, their bodies produce a more balanced fat profile of omega-3s and omega-6. When they eat corn and shit, it is mostly omega-6.
While we do need some omega-6 fats, we never have to look to add them to our diets because they are in such abundance. Too much causes inflammation (which we learned a little about in part one).
Omega-3 helps to reduce inflammation. It’s the same shit that you get when you eat fish, flax, chia seeds, and take fish oil and stuff. Omega 3 and 6 are like a see saw always trying to find balance.
FACTORY VS. FARM
Below is what a factory farm feedlot looks like. These horrible places also will have a huge pond of waste and discarded blood that is incredibly toxic and unfortunately usually finds its way to our water supply.
Under that picture are some grassfed cows. Look at those happy motherfuckers. Wouldn’t you rather have that happy cow on your plate? I sure as shit would.
This info also applies to dairy products if you eat them, and eggs as well. They should also come from good sources. Eggs from pastured, free range hens are the best. Organic or cage free means very little.
Again, let’s see the comparison… The top picture is a clusterfuck of cage free hens. The bottom is a picture of free range hens. See the difference? Yeah, me too. Now, get me some goddamn waffles and fry up one of those free range chickens!!!
When looking at processed meats, read your ingredients. Avoid nitrates which are commonly added to processed meats as a preservative. Research shows that they are a one way ticket to cancertown.
There are plenty of bacons and sausages and deli meats without them, such as D’artagnan and Applegate Farms. So go get yo’ bacon, bitch! Just nitrate free (it may also say uncured on the package).
I know these criteria make meat a little more expensive, but guess what else is expensive? A fucking triple bypass and a lifetime of insulin injections! So think of this like insurance for your future healthy self, and our future healthy planet.
SHOULD I ALWAYS EAT ORGANIC?
While organic meats can be better than non-organic, many of the animals are still fed the wrong food, just an organic version and can therefore be called organic. For example, cows eating organic corn, soy, and blood are still organic cows, but unhealthy ones. It’s better to go with grass fed, pastured, local etc…
Organic fruits and veggies are often better. Sometimes they aren’t completely necessary. If you eat the skin, usually get organic. Also, remember to get organic grains as much as possible.
If you are on a budget and can’t always buy organic, here is a great list to help you make those choices. Behold the “Dirty Dozen,” the 12 most contaminated fruits and veggies which you should always try to get organic:
12 Most Contaminated Types of Produce
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Grapes (Imported)
And the “Clean Dozen”…
12 Least Contaminated Types of Produce
- Sweet Corn (Frozen)
- Sweet Peas (Frozen)
- Kiwi Fruit
DO YOUR BEST, BUT DON’T KILL YOURSELF
Do the best you can with this. Even in New York City, I often have trouble finding some better meats depending on where I shop. Farmers markets or stores like Whole Foods and Westerly are usually your best bet, but a lot of good things are found in regular grocery stores, too.
Grocery stores are finally catching on. Most fish and seafood is an excellent choice, try and stick to wild and sustainably caught rather than farm raised. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch is a great resource to see what fish is currently better to eat in regards to sustainability.
Unfortunately, we do not yet have GMO labeling laws. While there is a big debate as to whether GMOs are harmful or not, I personally do not believe they are beneficial. They have developed GMO salmon, for instance, that eats corn.
Remember how cows make undesirable inflammatory fat when they eat corn? Well, I suspect salmon which are usually known for their high omega-3’s from eating krill and sea plants, would also make inflammatory omega-6 fat if they ate corn. I am no scientist, but that is my hypothesis.
In conclusion, QUALITY matters. Eat what you can pronounce. Don’t ever eat factory farm meats (unless you are at a restaurant or something and really have no choice, but these days most restaurants will have the choice), and eat what your Sicilian great grandmother would have eaten…before she was sent to Shady Pines.
Landen Jones is a Precision Nutrition Certified Ninja Trainer at the Mark Fisher Fitness Enchanted Ninja Clubhouse of Glory and Dreams. His additional certifications include ACE, SFG, USAW, FMS 1&2, and HKC. He’s also NYC’s reigning Hottest Gay Trainer.