I know it can be difficult to train your body to eat a good lunch when all you want is a carbfest after your workout, but hold off. You’ve still got to pay careful attention to the percentages you’re using to fuel your body.
“Meal” is a relative term for bodybuilders. Most of the really hulking guys I know eat five or six small meals, but some call them all meals, and some like to differentiate between “meals” and “snacks,” devoting slightly higher calorie counts to three meals. To each his own, I say.
So much of a bodybuilding diet is tailoring your caloric and macronutrient needs to the way you feel best eating. After all, if you’re eating everything you’re “supposed” to eat, and you’re either not seeing the results you want or feel miserable all of the time, that particular diet or nutrient breakdown just isn’t working for you.
However you choose to break your food down, it’s important to look at the link between dietary fat and testosterone in the body.
The Testosterone-Fat Link
Many bodybuilding diets are designed to be extremely low in fat, hinging on the belief that low-fat equals less fat covering up your hard-won physique. What you may not know, however, is that too little fat in the diet lowers your testosterone levels.
A 1997 study conducted at Penn State University keyed us in on two important facts. First, that the test subjects who ate a moderate amount of fat had higher testosterone levels than those eating a diet low in fat. Second, that testosterone levels depend only monounsaturated and saturated fats, not polyunsaturated ones.
What does it all mean, then? It means that the message we’re bombarded with to remove vast amounts of fat from the diet as well as replacing all fats we choose to keep with the monounsaturated variety lowers testosterone.
Since testosterone is key in the size and development of the musculature, clearly the last thing we want to do is lower it. This is especially true since many bodybuilders use a testosterone supplement at some point to reach a personal peak.
The Right Kind of Fat
I’m not telling you to go out and get a Big Mac and large shake, not by any stretch. There are far healthier options out there!
Probably the best options for saturated fats are coconut oil and palm kernel oil due to their medium-chain triglycerides. This particular length of triglyceride is found from very few sources (including horse’s milk), and it can make a big difference in your health. When you’re looking for monounsaturated fats, go with avocado, olive oil, walnuts, and peanut butter.
Another great option is Omega-3 fatty acids. These are found in cold-water fish like mackerel, sardines, tuna, salmon, and sturgeon. Fish isn’t your only option for Omega-3s, though! Vegan sources like pumpkin seeds, and flax seeds.
In a Men’s Health article based on these findings, they suggested keeping the level of fats in the diet, primarily in the form of monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats, to 35-50%.
The Penn State study found that a diet with a fat macro ratio of 35-40% reduced the risk of heart disease by 21%, where a low-fat diet reduced the same risk by only 12%.
Of course this depends in part on your body type, with endomorphs and ectomorphs likely wanting to stay toward the higher end and mesomorphs cutting back a bit. The hard part about a building diet is that that it’s so individual, so it often takes a great deal of time to ascertain what will work best for you.
Eating a Lunch with Healthy Fats
One of my absolute favorite lunches is to shred four ounces of chicken breast and mash half an avocado into it. Then I add 2 Tbsp. salsa and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and a bit of cayenne pepper. It ends up being like southwestern chicken salad and comes in at a respectable 250 calories. It is easily doubled for those who are bulking (or tripled)!
If you’re eating carbs in your lunch, I like to wrap it all up in a whole wheat tortilla, but it’s great right out of the bowl if you’d prefer to spend your carbs elsewhere. The chicken salad itself is 8 grams of carbs, 26 grams of protein, 12.5 grams of fat, coming in with a macronutrient ratio of 13/32/45. Not bad for a snack!
Another fantastic thing about the avocado is that, because it’s got such a creamy mouth feel, it can replace mayonnaise in almost all “salad” recipes. It may take a bit of time to get used to the green color, but once you do, you’ll start craving those little green eggs!
I confess that I love sandwiches, perhaps more than I should. But this salmon salad makes me totally OK with not having bread. After all, when it comes to choosing whether to eating a slice of bread or two small peaches, I’ll pick the fruit any day of the week. Instead, I serve this over a bed of spinach and romaine or other seasonal greens.
Crunchy Salmon Salad
- 4 ounces salmon, cooked
- 1/4 avocado, diced
- 1 tbsp walnuts
- 1 green onion, finely chopped
- 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
- 1 tbsp. dijon mustard (or less if you don’t prefer it to be spicy)
Mix all ingredients and serve over salad greens. If you’d like a little more flavor, add some balsamic vinegar (sparingly) to the greens.
As stated, the recipe has 340 calories, 13 grams of carbs, and 26 grams of protein, and 23 grams of fat. This translates to a macro ratio of 15/31/54. Of course, adding the greens will increase the carbs and decrease the fat. I like to aim for at least three cups of greens.
Sometimes you just don’t feel like eating something you have to cook. Believe me, with three kids and one on the way, I understand. That’s one of the reasons many bodybuilders keep a supply of hard boiled eggs in the fridge. While eggs have some saturated fat, they are primarily unsaturated.
Two eggs, along with one cup of low-fat (2%) cottage cheese and a medium banana is fast, easy, and portable. It contains 445 calories with 28 grams of carbs, 43 grams of protein, and 18 grams of fat. This gives you a macro breakdown of 25/39/36, which is just fantastic!
Keep at It!
Working your macros takes some patience, but you’ll be rewarded for all of that hard work. When you live in the real world, it can be difficult to maintain the diet portion of your routine, but it’s worth it in the end.
I hope you’ve gotten some ideas for quick and easy lunches that will satisfy your hunger and boost your testosterone!