body builders talk about eating "clean" when preparing
for a competition or simply as a lifestyle choice. In its broadest
definition, eating clean refers to eating for maximum health benefits.
This is a big departure from the common attitude towards food
as a source of pleasure.
can require considerable discipline-you'll have to avoid junk
and processed foods, and you'll need to set aside enough time
each day to cook fresh meals rather than relying on fast food.
If you're considering a clean diet, here's what it will mean.
If you're eating clean, you'll need to get plenty of protein.
But high-fat meats such as pork and fatty steaks, as well as high-sodium
bacon and ham, shouldn't be on your menu. Instead, you'll need
to eat lean, healthy protein such as chicken and turkey breast,
lean beef, salmon, and tuna. Turkey bacon can generally be substituted
for high-fat pork bacon, and leaner cuts of steak for the richer
cuts that are higher in fat. When cooking poultry, be sure to
take the skin off-it's loaded with saturated fat.
additives. Clean eating involves staying away from processed
foods such as canned food, frozen dinners, boxed mixes, concentrated
and unconcentrated fruit juices, pre-cooked meals, packaged foods,
and processed meats such as bologna, hot dogs, and most luncheon
meats. Processed foods usually contain excess sodium, sugar, trans
fats, calories, and other unhealthy chemicals used as preservatives,
sweeteners, flavor-enhancers, or dyes. Clean eating usually involves
choosing foods as close to their natural states as possible-fresh
fruits and vegetables as well as fresh, non-processed meats and
sugar. Refined and simple sugars get absorbed in the blood
very quickly, causing an insulin flood and making your energy
level spike and then crash. When eating clean, body builders avoid
the sugars found in jams, candy bars, cakes, pies, soda, chocolate,
ice cream, pastries, and other junk foods. Some sugars are safe,
however; these include the natural sugars found in most fruits,
as well as those found in green vegetables, mushrooms, nuts, and
carbs. Carbs might be the preferred method of getting energy
to your working body-they're considered more healthy than sugar.
However, some carbs can be as bad as refined sugars-they're digested
quickly and cause a spike in insulin, raising and dropping your
energy levels. However, some carbohydrates are digested more slowly,
releasing sugars into your bloodstream at a more even rate. These
won't cause heavy insulin release or an energy boost followed
by a crash.
carbs include white breads and rice, white pasta, potatoes, refined
cereals, honey, corn and corn chips, and carrots. If you're eating
clean, stick to the carbs found in nuts, beans, fruits, brown
rice, yams, whole grain oats, wholemeal bread, and whole wheat
fats-not "bad." Contrary to popular belief, you
actually need fat in order to stay healthy. But not all fats are
created equally. The idea of "good" and "bad"
fats can cause confusion, so here's a relatively simple breakdown.
fats include trans fats and saturated fats. Saturated fats are
the types usually found in meat-the fat in steak, bacon, cheese,
milk, egg yolk, and chicken skin. Trans fats are also known as
"hydrogenated"-and they are made artificially by adding
hydrogen to vegetable oil. These fats are often used for processed
food, because they don't go bad as quickly as more natural saturated
fats. Trans fats are often found in crackers, cookies, donuts,
and other sweet and buttery-tasting snacks. Both of these fats
can hurt your health by causing cardiovascular disease and diabetes,
increasing cholesterol, and, in the case of trans fats, increasing
your risk of stroke. They're also more readily stored as fat in
your body than "good" fats.
fats include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated
fats are found naturally in olive oil, avocados, nuts, corn oil,
grape seed oil, and canola oil. Polyunsaturated fats are usually
found in sunflower, vegetable and cottonseed oils. These fats
are usually considered to be best for cooking, and some types-particularly
olive oil-promote cardiovascular health. You'll gain weight if
you eat these fats in excess, but they are healthy when taken
in moderation. You can also get your polyunsaturated fats intake
from oily fishes like salmon, herring, sardine, trout and mackerel.
When in doubt
about fat, remember that if it's solid at room temperature, it's
probably bad for you. If it's liquid at room temperature, it's
Some nutritional studies have indicated that alcohol in moderation
can be good for you. If you're body building, however, you're
generally advised to avoid it. Alcohol packs a caloric punch,
with almost twice as many calories per gram as carbs or protein.
It's almost as fattening as actual fat, and it supplies no nutritional
value along with its calories. Most mixed drinks contain high
sugars and fats, while wine and beer contain carbs. When you consume
alcohol, you'll also reduce the amount of testosterone your body
produces. Since testosterone helps your body burn fat and build
muscle, any reduction is bad for your body building efforts.
alcohol harms you in other ways-from decreasing your motivation
to damaging your liver if used in excess. Although it's usually
considered a staple of the Western diet, those following a clean
diet avoid it as a general rule.
does involve some sacrifices; you'll need to make healthy eating
choices on a consistent basis. But the rewards of eating clean
are numerous. You'll look and feel better, and you'll see more
consistent results with your body building routine.
About the author
Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body
Building Resource which provides articles on weight training,
nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.