Our friend Robert “Bob-tana” Santana, RD, SSC, is back on the podcast to talk more about nutrition and diet. Since joining Starting Strength Online Coaching as the head nutrition coach, Santana has evolved his approach to coaching clients to reach their body composition goals. Observing that the biggest hurdle for clients was their compliance with eating their prescribed macros, he now offers more guidance on meal planning with specific foods to show clients what compliance can look like on a day-to-day, meal-to-meal basis. The result is essentially an LP for nutrition, a step by step process for changing eating habits toward the ultimate goal of eating healthfully and sustainably for a strength training lifestyle.
To help his clients, Santana revisited some of the strategies he has used in the past with his own bodyfat loss journey. One such strategy is the cheat meal, a designated, scheduled meal (or day) during which the client can eat whatever they want, keeping only gross calories in check (to avoid massive overeating). Santana describes how he programmed his cheat meals, going out to eat once per week. He would order whatever he wanted, however knowing that restaurants typically serve large portions and cook nearly everything in lots of added fat (oils, cream, and butter), he would only eat 1/3 to 1/2 of the meal. This approach gave him a psychological break from the sheer amount of decision making involved in sticking to a macro plan, without sending him off the rails.
As mentioned in previous podcasts, fat is the enemy of recomposition goals. The reason is because dietary fat is comprised of triglycerides, and so are the body’s fat cells – 75% triglycerides, in fact. Consequently the body needs to do very little chemistry to store excess fat calories as bodyfat. Carbohydrates, on the other hand, must be first metabolized into glucose, then glycogen, then – if they cannot be stored as glycogen in either the muscles or the liver – into triglycerides via a complex process. All this conversion is metabolically expensive (burns a lot of calories in the process, the so-called “thermic effect of food”), so the body prefers to use carbohydrates for energy instead. Studies support this understanding, demonstrating that test subjects on a low fat diet only begin to acquire adipose tissue when their carbohydrate levels get very high. This is common sense, too. Carbs have less than half the caloric density of fats (4kcal per gram vs 9kcal). So it follows that one would have to eat double the carbs to displace fats, gram for gram, without accounting for the thermic effect of food.
So, what are some practical steps to improving your eating habits? Santana has a few basic steps you can follow to improve your eating incrementally. Incorporate one habit at a time; once you’ve complied with it for two weeks, incorporate the next habit.
- Eat breakfast, and make sure you get plenty of protein.
- Eat carbs an hour before training.
- Drink enough water, at least 2L per day.
- Eat a protein source at least 3x per day.
- Have at least one fruit and one vegetable per day.
Over a period of a few months, the acquisition of these eating habits will lead to a meal plan incorporating the habits and some specific macro targets.
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