Strength Training Nutrition

Full Range Strength Training Nutrition is based on following your true nature: your biology, not ideology. You are a wild animal with nutrient and food requirements that evolved in the stone age.  The best diet for building strength is composed of those foods that you could acquire in Nature without human interference.

Training imposes stress on the body that results in a demand for nutrients for repair and growth of new muscle, tendon, ligament and bone tissue.  To get the most from your training, you need to put high quality food into your body.  The best foods are those provided by Nature even in the absence of human interference (i.e. agriculture and food processing):  fruits, vegetables, nuts, soft seeds, animal meats, and honey.  I call this The True Human Diet™.

True Human Nature

Humans are by nature highly carnivorous frugivores.  Nature, the Creator has made our bodies highly adapted to consumption of fruits, vegetables, meat, nuts and soft seeds. Man-made and processed foods are incompatible with the healthy function of the genes, cells, tissues, and organs given to us by the Creator (Nature). 

The True Human Diet™

The True Human Diet™ provides the best strength training nutrition.  The True Human Diet™ is based on the following principles:

1.  The best diet consists of natural foods.
2.  Nature is defined by the absence of ideology and artifice.
3.  Natural food means food that is by its both provided and edible to humans in its natural state.
4. Absent ideology and artifice, our Nature-given senses of vision, smell and taste guided our ancestors and will guide us to food choices that satisfy our needs for health and fitness.

The True Human Diet™ consists of animal eggs, flesh, organs, eggs and fats.  The following foods are optional:

  • vegetables (flowers, leaves, stems, roots, bulbs, corms, and so on)
  • fruits and berries
  • nuts and soft seeds that are edible and digestible raw
  • honey and tree saps (maple, birch, etc.)

The True Human Diet™ excludes foods that exist only because of human interference in Nature through agriculture or are edible only if we use culinary arts to substantially transform the raw materials provided by nature.  These include:

  • mature dry cereal grains
  • mature legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
  • refined starches, sugars and proteins
  • most oils derived from plants
  • alcoholic beverages

The excluded foods are harmful in one of several ways.  Cereal grains and legumes contain types of carbohydrate that promote metabolic disorders and gut inflammation. They also contain anti-nutrients that block absorption of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Many oils contain toxic omega-6 fats. Alcohol is toxic. 

Strength Training Nutrition Basics

There are two primary purposes for optimal strength training nutrition.  The first is to build and maintain strong basic tissues from head to toe.  The second is to facilitate recovery and tissue repair and hypertrophy after training sessions.  The last is to act as an ergogenic aid to facilitate high performance in training sessions

Excess Carbohydrates Weaken The Body

For Full Range Strength, it is important to avoid excessive carbohydrate in the diet, as carbohydrate ingestion drives fat gain, dental decay, and general decline in vitality and health. 

Dietary carbohydrates feed acid-forming bacteria that colonize the mouth, and the acids produced weaken human teeth and gums, causing dental caries and periodontal disease. Without strong teeth and gums, good nutrition is impossible.  It has been found that ancient hunters eating low carbohydrate diets had much better teeth than subsequent farmers eating high carbohydrate diets. Populations eating high carbohydrate, low fat diets have an increased prevalence of periodontal disease; eating more fat and less carbohydrate protects against tooth decay and loss.

There exists a considerable and growing body of evidence that diets bad for the teeth are also bad for the body. Dental disease caused by carbohydrates is most likely the harbinger of systemic diseases such as digestive system diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and a myriad other diseases that were rare to non-existent in human tribes that lived on meat and fat, but epidemic in civilizations built on high carbohydrate diets.

Also, many people do not tolerate carbohydrates or plant foods, especially vegetables, due to their contents of natural pesticides, as explained by Dr. Georgia Ede in her excellent article on hazards of consuming plant foods. In the following video Dr. Ede discusses the known hazards versus the unknown benefits of eating plants:

Little Shop of Horrors? The Risks and Benefits of Eating Plants — Georgia Ede, M.D. from Ancestral Health Society on Vimeo.

If you do tolerate plant foods in some amount, I suggest that you focus on low carbohydrate varieties and keep your total carbohydrate consumption to less than 10% of your calories.  For many people, less than 5% is even better.  Some people do even better on a completely carnivorous, ketogenic diet, which is what European ancestors likely consumed during several hundred thousand years of ice ages in Europe. Visit my page on Ketogenic Diet for Strength Training to learn how eating a ketogenic diet can raise your testosterone levels and make you stronger.

Fruits and Vegetables In Strength Training Nutrition

Fruits and vegetables may act as ergogenic aids.  Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly potassium, which is necessary for optimal muscle function and easily lost through sweat and urine. 

Fruits and vegetables provide potassium in the form of bicarbonate precursors, which neutralize acids produced by metabolism.  Bicarbonate has been shown to be a performance enhancer due to its ability to buffer acute acid build up during high intensity exercise [1].  Fruits and vegetables are at least as effective as sodium bicarbonate for buffering metabolic acidity [2].

Fruits and vegetables also provide nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator and ergogenic aid. Multiple studies show that increasing intake of nitric oxide from fruits and vegetables improves exercise performance [3]. Beets in particular have been shown to be very effective for improving blood flow and reducing inflammation and oxidative stress [4].

There exists some evidence that "Higher intake of foods rich in potassium, such as fruit and vegetables, may favor the preservation of muscle mass in older men and women" [5].

To get the possible ergogenic benefits of eating some plants without getting harmful doses of sugar (all starch is sugar), I recommend eating 1-2 small servings of low sugar fruits and some low carbohydrate but high potassium fibrous vegetables daily.  Good choices include but are not limited to various berries, small citrus, beet greens, spinach, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cabbage, beet root, carrots, and onions.

I also highly recommend two types of fungi: mushrooms and nutritional yeast.  These fungi are low in carbohydrate and have immune-boosting polysaccharides.  Mushrooms are also very high in potassium, and nutritional yeast is rich in B-complex vitamins and a compound called ß-glucan, which has been shown to improve immune function in athletes [9]. 

Since diets high in carbohydrates appear to make the body weak and sick, and dietary carbohydrate is not essential, it is ideal to keep carbohydrate intake below 20% of calories.  For some people a ketogenic diet might be the best for building full range strength.  You can get the ergogenic benefits of eating fruits and vegetables by using pure potassium bicarbonate  or potassium citrate instead.

Protein For Strength Training Nutrition

Research suggests that when in intensive training, adults need at least 1.3-1.8 g protein per kg body weight (0.6-0.8 g per pound of body weight) [6].


There exists evidence that individuals engaged in heavy resistance training require a minimum protein intake of 2 g/kg/d (roughly 1 g/lb/d) (i.e. more than twice the RDA).  Further, it has been found that people engaged in heavy resistance training may gain more muscle and lose more fat if they consuming 4 times the RDA for protein (3.4 g/kg/d or about 1.5-1.7 g/lb/d) [7].


The available evidence indicates that in general, animal proteins are more effective for promoting muscle protein synthesis and hypertrophy than plant proteins [8]. 

It may be optimal to consume about 20-40g of animal protein within one hour following a full body strength training session [9].

Choose animal proteins such as wild game, beef or pork, turkey, chicken, and fish. If you can afford it, choose meats from local, grass-fed or pastured animals. However, keep in mind that all beef and lamb produced for commercial sale in the U.S. comes from animals that were grass-fed for most of their lives.  There exist some nutritional  differences between meats from 100% grass-fed and those from corn-finished animals, but they are of uncertain importance, as discussed in this lecture by Peter Ballerstedt Ph.D. 

As a general rule, men should consume 300-500 g and women 200-300 g of meat daily, although this may vary from individual to individual.  You can allow your appetite for meat to guide you to the right amount.

Volek et al [10] found a negative relationship between percent of dietary energy as protein and testosterone levels (see figure below).  Individuals with a protein intake above 20% of calories had significantly lower testosterone levels.  However, this correlation does not prove that high absolute or relative protein intakes reduce testosterone levels.

A high percent of energy from protein (proportion) does not even signify a high absolute protein intake.  For example, a person consuming only 1200 calories and 100 g of protein will be obtaining 33% of energy from protein.  This person could have a low testosterone level due to energy and fat restriction, not protein intake.  Individuals in Volek's study who had a higher proportion of dietary energy from protein may have had lower fat and/or calorie intake. 

Previous to the widespread use of steroids in strength sports including bodybuilding, it was common for body builders to consume diets very high in protein and fat to promote testosterone production and muscle growth. One of the leaders of this approach was Vince Gironda, the "Iron Guru" who coached the first winner of the Mr. Olympia contest, Larry Scott.  Based on his long experience helping people gain lean mass, Gironda recommended a very high protein, high fat, moderate to low carbohydrate diet.  A staple was whole eggs blended with half & half, cream, or whole raw milk.  Gironda and his students would consume up to 3 dozen eggs per day.  One dozen eggs provides 72 grams of protein.  Protein intakes were 1.5 to 2.0 g per pound of bodymass.  The combination of high protein and high fat increased testosterone levels and muscle growth. 

Source:  Figure 2 in Volek et al.[10]

I suggest that you include a cup or two of bone broth in your daily strength training nutrition diet; this supplies minerals and collagen protein that helps to prevent and repair injuries to cartilage, tendons and ligaments.

Fats For Strength Training Nutrition

A healthy diet provides at least 60% of calories from fat. Saturated and monounsaturated fats may be best for maintaining high testosterone levels needed for building strength, while diets high in polyunsaturated fats have been linked to lower testosterone levels [10]. 

Thus, the best dietary fat sources for strength training nutrition are those rich in both saturated and monounsaturated fats, such as the natural fats found in animal products, including tallow, lard, cream, and butter, and other fats rendered from mammals. 

Second best are highly saturated or monounsaturated whole plant fats, such as coconut, palm nut, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, avocados, and olives, or oils from these plant foods.

Several studies have also provided evidence that a high cholesterol diet has an anabolic effect promoting gains of lean muscle


Notes

1. Lancha Junior, Antonio Herbert et al. “Nutritional Strategies to Modulate Intracellular and Extracellular Buffering Capacity During High-Intensity Exercise.” Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z.) 45 (2015): 71–81. PMC. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.  <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4672007/?log$=activity>

2. Goraya, Nimrit et al. “A Comparison of Treating Metabolic Acidosis in CKD Stage 4 Hypertensive Kidney Disease with Fruits and Vegetables or Sodium Bicarbonate.” Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology : CJASN 8.3 (2013): 371–381. PMC. Web. 12 Apr. 2017. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3586961/>

3. Clements, William T., Sang-Rok Lee, and Richard J. Bloomer. “Nitrate Ingestion: A Review of the Health and Physical Performance Effects.” Nutrients 6.11 (2014): 5224–5264. PMC. Web. 12 Apr. 2017. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4245587/>

4. Clifford, Tom et al. “The Potential Benefits of Red Beetroot Supplementation in Health and Disease.” Nutrients 7.4 (2015): 2801–2822. PMC. Web. 12 Apr. 2017. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425174/>

5. Dawson-Hughes B, Harris SS, Ceglia L. Alkaline diets favor lean tissue mass in older adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2008;87(3):662-665.

6.  Phillips SM, Van Loon LJ. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38. doi:10.1080/02640414.2011.619204. Review. PubMed PMID: 22150425.

7. Antonio J, Ellerbroek A, Silver T, et al. A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women – a follow-up investigation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2015;12:39. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0100-0.

8. Witard, Oliver C. et al. “Protein Considerations for Optimising Skeletal Muscle Mass in Healthy Young and Older Adults.” Nutrients 8.4 (2016): 181. PMC. Web. 12 Apr. 2017. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4848650/>

9. Macnaughton, Lindsay S. et al. “The Response of Muscle Protein Synthesis Following Whole‐body Resistance Exercise Is Greater Following 40 G than 20 G of Ingested Whey Protein.” Physiological Reports 4.15 (2016): e12893. PMC. Web. 12 Apr. 2017. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4985555/>

9. Carpenter, K., Breslin, W., Davidson, T., Adams, A., & McFarlin, B. (2013). Baker's yeast β-glucan supplementation increases monocytes and cytokines post-exercise: Implications for infection risk? British Journal of Nutrition, 109(3), 478-486. doi:10.1017/S0007114512001407

10. Volek JS, Kraemer WJ, Bush JA, Incledon T, Boetes M. Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985). 1997 Jan;82(1):49-54. PubMed PMID: 9029197.