Squatober: Pumpkin Spiced Lean Gains
Fall is upon us. Pumpkin spice has entered heavy rotation at Starbucks, tans are starting to fade, and Christmas decorations are already out for sale (come on people, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet). Needless to say, sweater weather is upon us. As the cyclical nature of a diet goes, calories start increasing as the temperature drops. There’s nothing wrong with this cycle, we just need a plan in place to make sure our time isn’t wasted.
I’ve seen it countless times, usually the cycle goes like this:
- Gym goer decides to “bulk” over the winter months
- Drastically increases calories seemingly overnight
- Adds 20-30lbs of bodyweight in 2-3 months and gets worried about the loss of their abs
- Jumps right back into diet with a “cut” and starts to push their bodyweight back down as they anticipate getting “beach ready” for spring break
What’s the end result? They usually end up 5-10lbs heavier with worse body composition than they started with.
So, the main goal with this article is to provide you with a 3-month diet plan for October, November, and December to really push hard and pack on lean muscle before you move into a more diet-centric phase for the spring (if that’s your goal). Each month will have a slightly different training emphasis but the nutritional components will stay relatively static.
Before We Start…
Nutrition is simple but also complex at the same time. If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this: “Eat like an adult.”
In other words, compose your dieting around minimally processed whole foods which are naturally occurring: meat, eggs, dairy, rice, potatoes, oats, veggies, fruit, nuts, etc. These should be the foundational staples in your dietary arsenal, not the additive bonuses sprinkled on top.
Most folks (incorrectly) assume that body composition is the primary indicator of health. As such, we have an industry predicated on skin filled selfies while ignoring the silent epidemic of sleep deprivation, endocrine dysfunction, and digestive disturbances common within the fitness industry.
“Just because you can get away with it in appearance, doesn’t mean you can get away with it in health.” – Luke Leaman
The truth is, you may be able to get away with eating poorly while you’re young if you have good genetics and activity on your side. But, we must keep in mind that food is much deeper than macros, ratios, and percentages. Food is a nutritive signal to your body. Everything you eat plays a role in your gut microbiome, hormonal status, and cellular metabolism.
“We propose that the additive and synergistic effects of phytochemicals in fruit and vegetables are responsible for their potent antioxidant and anticancer activities, and that the benefit of a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is attributed to the complex mixture of phytochemicals (more than 8,000 present in whole foods.” – (Liu et al. 2003)
You can’t replicate it with a pill, powder, or potion. Nutritional biochemistry is far more complex than we realize. Remember, eat like an adult.
The Nuts and Bolts of Performance Nutrition
These next 4 points will constitute the bulk of our nutritional recommendations for this magical holiday season of diet and gains. But, keep in mind, this concentrated block of training and nutrition is geared towards a more intermediate or advanced lifter.
We’re not going to cover the basics on caloric intake, macronutrient ratios, or meal prep efficiency. Those are what most start with but after a few months your progression with the basics will slow. That’s when we need to move ahead with a more detailed and calculated approach to your diet.
Carb Heavy Around Lifts
If you’re not familiar with exercise physiology, there are these nifty little membrane proteins called GLUT-1, -2, and -4 which help transport glucose out of the blood stream and into the cell.
However, the important point you need to remember from this discussion is: GLUT-4 is ONLY active during periods of activity, more specifically high intensity activity (i.e. weight lifting).
Therefore, you are most insulin sensitive when you are most active. This makes sense logically as this give us the greatest chance of restoring muscle glycogen that is used during high intensity work.
Takeaway: I typically recommend for folks consume 50-60% of their carbs around the pre, intra, and post-workout windows. So, in the case of someone consuming 400 grams of carbs daily, they would want to put 200-250 grams of carbs around the lift. Their diet might break down like this:
- 50g Preworkout
- 50g Intraworkout
- 100-150g Postworkout
One final caveat: If you’re pushing 4,000+ calories, this is going to be slightly tougher as you’re bordering on 500-600g of daily carbohydrates depending upon your macros. As such, you will likely have to spread your carbs more throughout the day. But you should also seek to push as many into the workout window as possible.
2. Pay Attention to How You React to Food
Have you ever eaten a certain food and noticed you get weird symptoms from it? Nothing crazy, just somewhat abnormal. It could be bloating, gas, heartburn, or maybe even a small immune reaction (itching, runny nose, rash, etc.)?
That’s just normal, right?
No, do not confuse ‘normal’ with ‘common.’ Just because everyone else has it doesn’t mean you should have it as well.
Obesity is common, it is not normal.
Point being, you need to pay attention to specific foods and how you react to them.
Some people don’t do well with bread.
Others get jacked up with oats.
Some get foggy headed when they eat eggs.
Others get post nasal drip as soon as they eat pizza or ice cream (dairy).
Takeaway: If you find yourself reacting strangely to normal meals, you can get scientific and run an elimination diet. Or, you can keep it simple, drop the “big 6”, and see if it helps:
3. Use Intra Workout Carbs
Most folks discuss the need for carbs in the preworkout period for “readily available energy.” While that is (potentially) true, most of the folks that I work with find that they experience quite a bit of benefit from INTRA-workout carbs.
Now this concept in and of itself isn’t necessarily ground breaking. But, for some reason, it hasn’t caught on within the mainstream fitness realm.
Endurance athletes use gel, bars, and “goo” to push liquid carbs into their system while training. But why don’t strength athletes use this performance enhancer as well?
Takeaway: Without delving into the biochemisty and physiology behind intraworkout carbs, consider using 20-30 grams of liquid carbs the next time you train. If you pair this with some electrolytes and Beast Sports Creature, I think you’ll be surprised with your performance and pumps.
4. Alternate Whole Foods With Super Shakes
Sometimes I get bored of chewing. When you’re trying to push calories high, food quantity usually goes up. You might get tired of having to sit over a plate of food for 30-45 minutes while you mindlessly nosh on 1,200 calories.
I get it, trust me.
But, you can work to reduce this psychological and physical stress by alternating whole food meals with super shakes. If you’re not familiar with the concept, it is based loosely around the idea of smoothies consisting of the following:
- Pick a liquid (almond/coconut milk, water, etc.)
- Use Beast Protein
- Pick a veggie (spinach, kale, beets, pumpkin, etc.)
- Add a fruit (banana, berries, pineapple, etc.)
- Pick a healthy fat (walnuts, almond butter, cashews, etc.)
- Finish with a “topper” (cocoa nibs, shredded coconut, dark chocolate, etc.)
You will easily be able to add 500-700 calories of nutrient dense food in the form of a shake to your diet if you use this formula. Not only that, it’s fairly cheap, convenient for busy lifestyle, and portable.
Takeaway: If you’re bored with sitting in front of a plate for hours on end, consider using super shakes in your diet. Your digestive tract will thank you.
We’re also giving you a great deal to go with this training program! For a limited time, get a FREE BCAA 2:1:1when you spend $50. Plus get 25% off your purchase when you use code BCAA25. It’s that easy, so take advantage!