How to Eat for Health & Strength

How to Eat for Health & Strength

As mentioned in last week’s post, making health your main focus periodically is important to stay feeling fresh in workouts and keep your body feeling good for the long haul.


But if that sounds boring because you’re a goal-oriented person, I’ve got good news.


Eating for health can also pair well with eating for building muscle and strength. In fact, this is what I’m personally focused on right now for myself.


Plus, fall / winter is perfect timing for both. That way, if you want to do a “cut” or weight loss focus next spring, your metabolism and hormones will be healthy and you’ll have more muscle to show off after shedding body fat.


If this sounds like the perfect focus for you too right now, here are four nutrition keys to getting your healthiest AND strongest.

#1  Eat at maintenance calories — Then slowly increase to a slight caloric surplus.

Undereating, which I’ve found to be surprisingly common, not only taxes your health but results in minimal strength gains.


So the first step is to bring your food up to your body’s ideal maintenance calories if it’s not already. This is the amount your body needs to maintain its weight while allowing your health to thrive.


To figure out your ideal maintenance calories, you can work with a trusted nutrition coach (the most accurate way but of course I’m biased!) or use a generic online calculator like this.


For the average active person, here’s also a rough multiplier that can get you in the ballpark: Your bodyweight x 14 to 16.


For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, then your ideal maintenance calories might be around 2100-2400.


If you’re significantly undereating compared to this number, you may need to reverse diet and slowly work up to it.


Once you’re in the right range, you’ll probably want to slowly increase food a little more so you’re in a slight surplus.


Tracking markers like your lifts, bodyweight, measurements and pictures will help make sure you’re making progress while keeping those gains lean.

#2   Keep food quality high.

Speaking of lean gains, it’s normal and sometimes necessary to gain a little body fat in the process of gaining muscle. But the cleaner you eat — along with keeping your caloric surplus small — the easier it is to minimize any body fat gained.


And of course, eating mostly fresh, whole unprocessed foods will also provide your body with the nutrients it needs to optimize your health.

#3   Eat about 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, aim for 150 grams of protein per day. Or, if you have a lot of weight to lose, use your goal bodyweight.


While you might already know that protein is key for building strength, it’s also key for health because it’s a component of every cell in your body. It’s a building block for tissues, bones, skin, blood, and it plays a role in helping your body detoxify and create hormones.


Plus, many protein sources contain valuable nutrients that are difficult to find or absorb from other foods like iron and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K.

High-Quality Protein Sources: free-range poultry, grass-fed beef and bison, wild-caught fish and seafood, eggs

#4  Balance carbs and fat.

While both are important to include in your diet when it comes to health and strength, the exact balance is highly individualized. This is also where you could see the greatest difference if you were optimizing for just health OR strength. 


For example, fats are a precursor to building hormones and carbs, while also helpful for hormonal health, are especially key to building muscle and strength. So if you were focused on only health, I might push your fats a bit higher and lower carbs. Or vice versa if you were only focused on strength. But I think there’s a sweet spot you can use for both.


For fat, a general amount to aim for is around 30% of your calories or at least 60-75 grams per day. This would look like including 1-2 healthy fat sources per meal like olive oil or avocado. (Eggs or fattier meat can also count as a source.)


Once you know your total calories, protein, and fat, the rest of your calories can come from carbs. This would look like a few servings of fruit per day and generous servings of veggies and starchy carbs like potatoes and rice at each meal.


High-Quality Fat Sources: healthy oils (olive, avocado, coconut), avocado, nuts and seeds, egg yolks

High-Quality Carb Sources:  fruits and veggies, potatoes, yams, rice, oats, quinoa

Alright, that was a lot of info! Feel free to reach out with any questions or if you need help applying the steps above to your own eating and goals.


Now to put this into action, take a moment to ask yourself: which key above can you improve upon? And what’s what one next step you can take to do so?


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Don’t like ’em? No problem. You can unsubscribe in a click.