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New member
Jul 6, 2008



Nearly ten years ago I wrote a book called Muscle Meals. I know at least several thousand of you have heard of it. Alas, the print run ran out some years ago, but, strangely, the orders keep straggling in. When these requests are returned, I am invariably asked why we don't have more printed or, at the very least, write a whole damn new one. In exploring the later possibility, I ultimately decided that there is enough to fill another book, but, I wondered if it was really necessary; there are other things I want to write. It can indeed get boring when you eat like a bodybuilder, that's why I wrote the first book. However, in the real life of a real live bodybuilder, we all eat more or less the same five things - with or without my book. Even I eat more or less the same five things every day. The only time I really stretch my legs in the kitchen anymore is on my cheat day (Sunday - the most holiest of eating days as far as Italian Americans are concerned). And when I am, I'm not making bodybuilder food. Well, sometimes I am, or at least following the Muscle Meal philosophy of making "normal people food" better for bodybuilding. But, sometimes, I just have to make good old fashioned lasagna, or something equally blasphemous. It keeps me sane. Relatively.
On top of every possible food stereotype that could be attached to Italians from New York City, my affliction with food is exacerbated by the fact that everyone in my immediate family does something with food. My mother and sister own a bakery, my father (the psychiatrist) took up baking bread as his therapy and now turns out no less than 47 varieties, one better than the other - and the best pizza I've ever eaten in my life - from his custom made wood-burning oven. And, my brother is a chef who eventually became an executive for some gigantic food distribution company. I grew up surrounded by food - damn good food; I ate plenty of it too, and in doing so learned how good food should taste. I know where to find the best pizza is in New York depending if you want thin or thick crust; I know where you can still buy cannolis stuffed to order; and the best way to piss me off in an Italian restaurant is to sauté my escarole in anything but extra virgin olive oil. Put it this way, as far as I, or either of my grandmothers are concerned, the only negative side effect I've experienced in bodybuilding is that I've develop a "taste" for plain chicken breasts and steamed rice.
I'd like nothing more than to be able to graze at will on pizza and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, but I don't like looking the part. Since I firmly believe in practicing that for which we stand, I take my bodybuilding seriously, and in so doing, I have a predilection to, among other things, follow my diet.
The term "my diet" needs to be taken in context. Regardless of who came up with it, and regardless of who is on it, "my diet" refers to that certain amalgam of macro nutrients that, if you're going to be serious - is strictly followed all the time. "All the time" is predicated upon how serious you are. You know your body and to thine own self be true - you know what it takes - every bodybuilder has "his diet," or they are doing someone's diet, or someone is doing theirs. So, really, eating the way we do is our "diet" - it's our lifestyle, our culture; it's not what those outside out little world mean by "diet."
But, here's the problem. Those of us who have become enlightened all know that the best weapons in our arsenal to fight the never ending battle for lean muscle, are the knife and fork. If that be the accepted case, then the following must also be accepted: the sheer effort that would go into preparing six or seven elegant displays of culinary wizardry to fuel your bodybuilding endeavor is a foolish notion, much less a full time job. So, you are pretty much going to end up eating the same five things. Life being what it is, it just ends up that way. Some guys avail themselves to even less variety - less to think about. So-and-so big name bodybuilder with a thick German accent told me, "I only eat chicken and rice. Sometimes a salad. That's it."

My five things might be different than your five things, but chances are your list looks something like this:
1 - oatmeal, cream of what, cream of rice
2 - egg whites
3 - pasta, rice, potato, yam
4 - chicken breasts
5 - canned tuna

Am I right? I'm right, aren't I? There is actually a good reason why you're eating these same five things - pus the broccoli. (Bodybuilders eat broccoli. No one really counts it as a nutrient, we just eat it because It's green). I don't care who's diet you're on; whatever guru you consulted or whatever diet program to which you've subscribed, it doesn't matter. Your diet is inevitably broken down into macro nutrients, of which there are just three - protein, carbohydrates and fat, and it is the suggested proportion to each one that constitutes your daily meal plan. Ultimately, you can narrow it down to how many oz. Or cups of carbs, how many oz. protein, and how many tsp. of fat, you get for each meal. Partitioning that scant amount of macronutrient out among exciting ingredients might be a pleasurable challenge sometimes, but in the real world of seven meal a day eaters, rattling too many pots and pans will get you edgy. Out of sheer economy, the field of choices dwindle. "if race horses only get grain and hay and Equipoise, then I should be able to get by on tuna and rice and Equipoise," is reasoning I've heard more than once around the gym.
So, basically, I feel there is a divergence in the path, and the few of you who take the road less traveled and become uninvolved emotionally with food deserve my attention first - before a whole new book is written. I don't believe there too many of you who eat the same five things totally devoid of emotion though. But, if you are bodybuilder - a true hard core bodybuilder - and you stick to those same five things pretty much all the time, you might as well do them right.
Now, the five things I mentioned above I consider components to meals and some of them can be made in quantity and portioned out in plastic containers. With just a little extra effort one day a week, you can also make some low fat marinara sauce, or Mexican salsa to keep on hand to put on your chicken and pasta, or chicken and rice, or egg whites and rice, etc. One of my buddies does two days worth of meals at one time. That means he's only cooking for about an hour, four times in eight days. He's got 12 big square Tupperware containers and he cooks and weighs out all his food, and puts together a meal like a TV dinner in each container. Eight ounces of chicken breast, a cup and a half of rice and some broccoli, as an example. He stacks them up in the fridge, takes a couple with him and he is never more than 90 microwave seconds away from a perfect diet meal. The discipline required is that you just make sure you go to the grocery store, get your stuff and cook it every other day. This method is a bit of a production, but not terribly painful and if you do it right, it is 100% foolproof. I'd have to say this is the best way of doing bodybuilding nutrition right, and my friend looks it.
Second to that, is what I do. I keep the components cooked and portioned out in plastic containers and keep them in the refrigerator. Other than breakfast, which I like to make fresh, I keep enough chicken breasts and rice or pasta, plus a big container of steamed broccoli and a couple of different sauces, and I put it together when it's time to eat. Sometimes I'll do another breakfast meal. It's easy, everything is right there. Anyway, if you keep the components made, I'll give you a few ways of using them so that you are still eating the same five things, but liking them a bit more.
Number one - oatmeal, cream of wheat, cream of rice - these are pretty damn simple, especially if you have a microwave and you like oatmeal. Just follow the instructions on the label. Microwaved oatmeal is about the most common bodybuilder morning fare. Egg whites and oat meal. You can even get it at Denny's. Cream of wheat and cream of rice get mentioned because they are in the same family as oatmeal, but you actually have to cook them. The instructions are on the label and don't leave out the salt! oatmeal, cream of wheat, cream of rice all taste 100% better with that little bit of salt. About 1/8 tsp. per cup of water if it's not on in the cooking instructions. They also taste good with a little cinnamon, Butter Buds or Molly McButter, and Equal. Splenda (sucrulose) is a better sweetener, if you can find it. One tablespoon of flavored coffee creamer such as Coffeemate French Vanilla - fat free - really makes oatmeal and cream of rice taste incredible for very negligible extra calories. If you make any of these regularly in the same bowel - like most of us - you will become so adept at the preparation that measuring will no longer be necessary; you'll be able to tell just by looking at it.
Number two - egg whites - what can you say other than yuck? That's all I can say. I hate egg whites. But, they are a great source of easily digested protein so, I do eat 12 of them almost every morning. A lot of us do - egg whites and oat meal. Lately, I've been into pasta in the morning rather than oatmeal for my carbs and I came up with this really good egg white pasta thing. Whatever proportion of macro nutrients you have been assigned will determine the exact amount of each ingredient. For example, according to my Intrafitt diet , I get 3.5 ounces of pasta (dry) and 3 ounces of mozzarella cheese with my 12 egg whites to give me the 750 calories with the 50/30/20 I need. It's really easy. Boil the pasta in lightly salted water (do not leave out the salt) until it is very al dente, then scoop it out of the water and right into a hot non-stick pan that has been liberally sprayed with cooking spray. Beat up the cheese with the egg whites and pour them over the pasta. Scramble it all up with a rubber spatula and you're done. Sometimes I'll take out half the egg whites and add a chicken breast, or occasionally turkey ham; sometimes I'll take out an ounce of cheese and replace it with a tablespoon full of pesto. If there are some sautéed oyster mushroom in the fridge, they can go in too. In one variation or another, I eat that almost every morning. I actually look forward to it.
Number three - pasta, rice, potato, yam - these make up at least 90% of your carb choices. pasta is the easiest. Just boil the water, add salt, and cook the pasta until it is tender but firm on the inside - al dente. You have to salt the water. Avoidance of sodium is one thing, but you have to eat. Pasta boiled in salted water tastes - just like oatmeal, cream of rice and cream of wheat - 100% better than without the slat. I even think the texture is different. One tablespoon for every two quarts of water isn't gong to kill you, and you throw most of it away when you drain the pasta. Portion your pasta out immediately because it will stick together as it cools making a big vat of it a little unruly come meal time when you just need a cup or so. A little hit of cooking spray on the pasta after it's drained will help keep it from sticking together.
Rice is best cooked the same way. There is a steaming method that requires an exact 2:1 ratio of water to rice. This is cooked slowly and the rice absorbs all the water as it cooks. I don't like this method because it takes too long, the rice comes out too starchy, and you have to pay too close attention to it. I just want to hurry up and eat. Just boil the rice in lightly salted water just like pasta. When the rice is cooked to your liking, drain it - just the same as pasta - and it's done. There are many different types of rice and they all cook the same when you do it this way. I just discovered sushi rice cooked this way is awesome. Firm and chewy. I like it Mixed with light soy sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, wasabi powder and two cans of tuna.
Potatoes are a slam dunk. I usually nuke six or eight at a time. Just wash and dry them, leave the skins on. Use a knife and prick each potato a few times in various places, and put them on a couple of paper towels in the microwave. Set the oven for 10 minutes and come back when the bell rings. Check them with a knife; if the knife goes in easily, they are done. You might need to nuke them a few more minutes. let them cool and then you can store them in a covered container in the refrigerator for several days.
Yams are different. You have to cook them in the regular oven the old fashioned way. They come out so good. You can still nuke them, but at least try this way once. Wash and dry six to eight fist-sized yams (the ones with the purplish skin and very orange on the inside. The other yellow ones are sweet potatoes. They are starchier and not as sweet as yams). Prick them several times with the tip of a knife and arrange them on a baking sheet with as much room as possible between each one. Bake the yams at 350 degrees for at least an hour. They should be really soft to the touch and oozing caramelized yam sugar. Let them cool and then refrigerate over night. They will keep for 4 -5 days. You'll love these cold; it's like desert. Peel the skin off whatever quantity your diet allows, then mash it up with a couple of packets of Equal or Splenda and some cinnamon using the back of a fork. Add a dollop of Cool Whip light (at virtually no calories) and you'll think it's Thanks Giving.
Number four - chicken breasts - the back bone of the American bodybuilder's diet. I know one big time bodybuilder who eats no less than 20 breasts a day while he diets for the Mr. Olympia. There are a zillion ways to cook these things and all of them are good if they don't add much in the way of fat or extra bad calories. I do mine with just salt, pepper, garlic powder in a non-stick pan with cooking spray. Simple. Regardless of what recipe you use, too many people over cook chicken breasts and kill them. The reason we eat them is because they are nearly devoid of fat. This is also what makes them dry out so bad when you cook the shit out of them. Contrary to popular myth, you don't have to overcook chicken for it to be safe to eat.
Overcooking chicken to kill poultry born pathogens is passé. Today, poultry production in the US is so automated and scientifically enhanced that you can practically eat chicken tar tar, although I wouldn't recommend it. Especially not here in Mexico; the chickens still come with their heads and feet! Sometimes they are detached and inserted into the chicken's body cavity before it's wrapped in plastic. For the uninitiated, this can be startling the first time you unwrap a Mexican chicken and pull its head out of it's ass. It freaked me out. Nevertheless, brand name
American chickens bought in the US are pretty safe. You only need to cook them just to the point when all the meat turns white. The best method I've found is to butterfly each side of the breast making a big flat steak of uniform thickness all around. Season it however you like, and cook it on one side until it is white around the edges and then flip it over. Cut one piece open at the thickest part and see if it's done. Just as soon as there is no pink meat left, they are done. On the grill, in a frying pan, it's all the same. Don't over cook them. You can cook enough at one time to make several meals. They will stay good in the refrigerator in a plastic container for three or four days and come back to life - still juicy - in 30 seconds in the microwave.
Number five - tuna fish - if there was ever a food that exemplified the vastness in difference between fresh and canned, tuna is it. Tuna sashimi melts in your mouth, while tuna packed in water (drained) feels like sawdust in your mouth. If you can get fresh Ahi tuna - the red one - there is no reason to cook it. it has to be high end sashimi quality. The next time you're at the sushi bar ask the chef where they buy their tuna. You might have to wake up really early, but fish markets are generally open to the public. Every now and then it's worth the effort. Buying fresh fish is always an effort because the fish you find at the grocery store is many days old. You have to go to a real fish market, and if you are not going to eat it sashimi, then you are going to have to cook it. like chicken, people tend to overcook fish. Most fish should be eaten rare, if cooked at all. Cooking it is not much more of a pain in the ass to cook than chicken, but if you are not going to grill it outside , or poach it, you stand a good chance of stinking up the kitchen. Hence, we have tuna in the can.
Some evenings I remark at the huge pile of empty tuna cans in the trash that my wife and I accumulated during the day. There was like nine in there the other day and I still had another meal left! Some days I get really lazy and just do tuna and rice all day. Some guys make shakes from tuna and drink them. The only thing I would find more revolting is drinking six raw eggs like Stalone did in Rocky. You have to draw the line somewhere. But, if you keep portioned out rice or pasta in the fridge along with some low fat marinara sauce, you are never more than three minutes from a meal when all you have to do is open the tuna, drain it, throw it in the container with the rice or the pasta, a couple of table spoons full of sauce, nuke it for 90 seconds and you're done.

A word about fat.
Most diets will include some fat, and so they should. We tend to nearly eliminate as much animal fats as possible from our diet and get our fats from good unsaturated fats. Extra virgin olive oil is by far the best as far as taste goes, and ranks pretty high up there among the "good fats." The strong flavor of extra virgin oil goes a long way too. One Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp. Lime juice, a little salt and pepper makes a killer dressing for broccoli, or even salad if you buy the one in the bag (washing and drying lettuce is a pain in the ass). It goes good on tuna and rice too. Almost anything does.

Bodybuilding is hard work and it is consuming work. However, the less it consumes of us the better. But, we have to eat. Since most of us are not availed to a full time cook, we try to make quick work of getting fed and keep the menu simple. The trick is making those same five things taste damn good since you are going to eat them five or six or seven times a day, maybe more, the majority of the time. If you are getting ready for a show, you are going to eat nothing else. And, if you are going no-carb, that only leaves you with the same three things. But, just like McDonald's, if you do one thing you do it right. There is no good reason why every one of your chicken breasts shouldn't be tender, juicy and a pleasure to eat.

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