Athletes- Solid Diet For Solid Performance

Nutrition has been one of the most overlooked aspects of performance sports for a long time. It’s unfortunate that most people only get into the nutrition aspect of the game when they want to change their physique or weight class. Even if someone isn’t trying to change their body composition it is still something that goes a long way towards performance. Why don’t more people focus on it? While someone might love training it’s likely they don’t really enjoy following a meal plan. I understand it because it’s definitely not easy, at least not in the beginning. But it pays off big come competition time.

You might think you’re dedicated to what you want to achieve but how dedicated can you possibly be if you are letting a huge hole in your plan go unchecked? You never miss training sessions and always give it 100% in the gym but how’s your diet? If it isn’t very good then I would say you aren’t nearly as dedicated as you think you are. Or like many people you just may not know how important it actually is. I competed for 4 years in powerlifting before I gave my diet a second thought. What I realized after getting my diet in check was that I could have hit all the same numbers 40lbs lighter and been more consistent performance wise in training. So for 5 years I had a massive hole in my game plan that went unchecked without a second thought. That sucks.

Sleep and food solidify everything you are trying to accomplish in training. Without proper recovery between sessions your end game is going to suffer whether you see it or not. I say this because for people who have never followed a meal plan for performance since they have no results for comparison. You may think you are feeding your body well enough but until you focus on specific nutrition you have no idea.

Having your food intake consistent and optimized takes a lot of variables out of the equation that you don’t need to be dealing with. The best thing you can do for your training is to remove as many variables as you can. This means fixing everything you have control over in a way that it becomes a constant. As far as food intake is concerned this means knowing what you are putting in your body for training and recovery. Having your food intake structured and constant means no training sessions are lost to poor performance due to being depleted and run down. If you aren’t giving your body what it needs, it won’t do what you want it to do. If you don’t know what your body needs then you will be shooting in the dark trying to fix the issue.

When one of my athletes tells me they had a bad training session or possibly a string of them we go over the variables that can cause that, apart from the training itself. The main things I check are sleep and food/water intake. One of these being off can cause training to take a hit. Without having a set intake to work from it’s impossible for you to figure out if your performance was suffering due to diet. So for example if an athlete says they are sleeping well and their food intake has been consistent, the variable left is workload in training. With this athlete we can more easily figure out what’s going on in training that’s affecting performance. They may need a deload, complete rest, a volume change, a frequency change, etc. Without the other variables in check you will have no idea as to what’s causing the problems in training. You can take a shot at changing up the training, but if that’s not the issue you will be back to the same problem again and again.

Having a set food intake also allows you to adjust the food with training adjustments. If the athlete is going into a more intense phase you know that food intake may need to be adjusted with it. It also allows for some more accurate food intake manipulation in and around training sessions as well as changing macro ratios based on the type of training for that session. Knowing an athletes typical food levels also makes for more efficient weight manipulation for weigh ins and competition day food planning. So to beat a dead horse, without the baseline intake to work from all of this becomes impossible to optimize.

Getting Started
So how do you go about getting on the right track? It’s hard for me to give specific macronutrient numbers because so many factors influence food intake. What I will try to do is give a breakdown for just a starting point which can be adjusted depending on how your body responds to it. There are plenty of bodyfat calculators or picture examples of what certain %’s look like visually. Get a rough idea of what your bodyfat may be. Lean body mass (LBM) is Weight – (weight X %). If you are 200lbs and 15% bodyfat | 200 – (200 x .15)= 170LBM.

Starting Point To Find Baseline
LBM x 1.5g carbs (170 x 1.5= 255) 4 cals/gram
LBM x 1.5g protein (170 x 1.5= 255) 4 cals/gram
LBM x .25g fat (170 x .3= 51) 9 cals/gram
2, 499 Cals
255g carbs, 255g protein, 51g fat

Let’s start at 5 meals.
Divide the carb and protein by 5. 255 / 5 = 51g. You are going to aim for 50g carbs and 50g protein (+/- 5g) for each meal.

Fats are going to come in through many foods in small amounts, and in some food larger amounts. For simplicity you can just track what I call direct fat sources. So any fatty sources like red meat, salmon, 93% ground chicken/turkey, whole eggs, nut butters, nuts, oils etc you track for your 51g (+/- 5g). The fats that come in through clean carbs and lean meats, don’t worry about for now.

Greens- try to get at least 2-3 cups a day of green beans, broccoli, asparagus, spinach etc. Don’t worry about the macros coming in from these sources.

All clean, real food. In most cases, if it isn’t processed it isn’t off limits. Try to limit yourself to 1 protein shake a day. Whole food protein does work better than powder for most purposes.

After running your numbers for a week you can see how these macro amounts work for you. Check weight lost/gained, energy during the day and in training, strength and overall performance. If the food needs an adjustment up or down based on these factors, start with adding/subtracting some carbs.

If energy and strength improve and are consistent, without an uptrend in weight, you’re where you need to be for maintenance. If they improve but your weight goes up, dial the carbs back some. If energy and strength take a hit, you need more carbs and/or fats. Always adjust more heavily on carbs. Adjustments are done week to week. You run a plan for a week, evaluate, then adjust if needed. Repeat. If your goal is fat loss those macro ratios would change but that’s for another day and another post. This is to get someone not following any type of plan onto a plan for performance and recovery. If you do have a weight loss goal you should still find your baseline first so you have something to work from when programming for a cut.

So many competitive athletes let the diet go unchecked because they don’t have to look a certain way. For athletes with weight requirements or weight classes they just eat to maintain weight but the intake is all over the place and the macronutrient amounts aren’t consistent. Meaning if they need to lose a few pounds they just eat less overall or to gain they just eat more, of whatever. It might work as far as keeping your bodyweight where it needs to be but I guarantee your performance will suffer.

Again, the numbers above are just a rough guideline of how to get started but it’ll get you going on a better path if you aren’t following any type of meal plan currently.

If anyone has questions feel free to reach out and we can go over whatever you want.

Eddie Debus

New Year’s Resolution Weight Loss

We’re almost at the mid-point of December and January 1st will be here before we know it. In this industry that means a lot of people are going to be taking another shot at getting in shape. There’s nothing wrong with making a new year’s resolution to change your life and lose weight but there are right and wrong ways to go about doing that. So in hopes of shedding light on some misconceptions and pitfalls, I’m going to cover them here. And hopefully this new year’s will be the last time you have to make a resolution to get in shape.

Don’t overcommit

You might be very motivated to get your weight loss going but don’t make the mistake of trying to commit to 5+ days a week in the gym. You can get there eventually but it’s not needed right away and can actually end up being counterproductive. For people who are not in the habit of managing their time to make it to the gym consistently it’s too much too soon. The biggest thing here is the mental aspect of success vs failure. You want to build from a place of successes rather than constantly feeling like you’re falling short. That feeling of not living up to initial commitments and expectations has killed far more fitness goals than it has accomplished.

I recommend starting at 3 days per week. This is something that’s more than manageable for most and is plenty of exercise to see a lot of progress. You don’t have to be in the gym 5 days per week to reach your weight loss goals so don’t make the mistake of putting that pressure on yourself. I recommend a minimum of 30 minutes per session and a maximum of 1 hour. If you are going to start off only doing cardio, then all you will do is 30 minutes. If you plan to start off with some lifting and cardio, then you have 30 minutes for lifting followed by 30 minutes of cardio. Both are more than sufficient to get you going and seeing progress from week 1.

To put it simply, the major goal here is to build the habit of exercising in a way that you’re accomplishing what you have committed to. Once you’re in the habit of making your 3 sessions a week you can then add a 4th if you want. The feeling of achieving what you set for yourself each week, rather than constantly falling short of it, sets the pace and motivation to continue. You can always increase as you go but don’t try to go from 0-100 right out of the gate.

Diet Mistakes

This is actually the area that’s going to derail most of the new year’s resolutions. Don’t pick a fad type diet (pretty much any diet that has a name). Don’t cut out carbs. Don’t start doing cleanses. Don’t under eat.

Your goal is to break bad habits and replace them with good ones. Spending 100’s of dollars on some supplement program or cutting out entire food groups is absolutely not what you want to do. The people who go this route are also the people who gain all the weight back once they stop the plan. You need to learn how to eat so you can stay in shape long term and not struggle with it.

If you aren’t going to be on a structured meal plan that’s fine. There are just a few simple rules to get you going on the right path.

1: Meal frequency
Eat your first meal before you leave for work in the morning. Lean protein and a good carb source. It could be egg whites, turkey, and an apple for example. Your last meal of the day, contrary to popular belief, can be eaten close to bed time. Those 2 are easy because you’ll normally be home for them so no prep has to be done ahead of time. 2-3 meals for during the day which will make a total of 4 or 5 meals total. You don’t have to eat exactly every 3 hours. The goal is to not go 5 and 6 hours without eating. Eat when you can, just eat the meals. Simple.

2: Lean protein, good carbs
The plan is centered around protein and it’s the foundation of the diet plan. This means at each meal there’s going to be a solid protein source. Stick mostly to leaner sources like chicken breast, lean pork, lean fish, nonfat greek yogurt, egg whites, turkey breast, a protein shake etc. The fattier sources such as red meats (leaner cuts like sirloin, 93% or better ground), salmon, whole eggs etc. are ok also but you want to limit these sources to no more than once a day for most people.

You are also going to have a moderate amount of good carbs with most meals as well. A piece of fruit, berries, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, black beans, potatoes, pretty much anything that isn’t processed is fair game. Don’t be afraid of carbs.

What you will limit will be fat intake. Oils, nut butters, nuts, fatty meats, whole eggs, should be kept to a minimum. And yes healthy fats can be problematic for weight loss.

3: Don’t under eat
This is a major problem with most people new to this journey. If you’re hungry all day, hungry after your meals, tired and sluggish, mentally foggy, etc. there’s a problem with your food intake. You don’t need extreme caloric deficits to lose weight. You should feel satisfied and have plenty of energy during the day if you’re eating right, all while losing weight. Being aware of portions and intake is good, eating like a 65lb 10 year old is not.

4: Leave most of the supplements alone
Don’t go and drop money on fat burners and whatever else seems like it’s going to help. If you don’t have points 1,2, and 3 right, supplements are going to be a waste of money and you don’t need them anyway. Supplements can be helpful but focus on the majors first because that’s going to be responsible for 98% of all progress made. Some of the supplements can also be counter productive if not used correctly so it’s better to just stick to the basics. A good multivitamin and a high quality protein powder are all you need to get started right.

5: Water intake
No you don’t need to drink a ton of water. This is also something that can be counterproductive. You want to drink enough water to make sure you’re hydrated but you don’t have to continuously be drinking. A good indicator that your water intake is on point is needing to use the bathroom roughly every 2 hours. Any more frequent than that, drink less.

I coach athletes, competitors, and beginners. All different types of people have to be approached differently. I come from a competitive background, so I’m not opposed to serious hard work and discipline. It’s all I knew for 15 years. My point in saying that is this. What I’ve laid out here isn’t to make things easy by taking things slower. It’s actually the best way to get a beginner into a plan that they can stick with, improve with, and make consistent progress long term. Do things the right way from the beginning and set yourself on a foundation that can last a life time. Do it the wrong way and you may be making the same resolution again for 2019.

No matter what, just don’t give up. If you have some slips just get back to the plan. This is a process and perfection isn’t going to happen overnight. Just keep making the effort, keep moving forward, and the goal will happen. If you don’t quit, you don’t fail.

As always, I’m available to talk and answer any questions you have. No charge. Just get in touch with me by email at or by phone/text at (631) 747-7577. I hope everyone reaches their goals in 2018. It’s worth it.

Eddie Debus
IG @savage_athletics