Remember the Food pyramid? It was posted by the lunch line in your school cafeteria and taught to you in nutrition classes. The government’s official position on how you should eat to be fit and healthy included recommendations to consume up to 11 servings of pasta, bread, and crackers per day, limit meat and eggs to three servings only, and count potatoes as a vegetable. Yeah…don’t eat like that.

The Food Pyramid was so misleading and inaccurate that eight years ago it was replaced with MyPlate, an improved but still flawed approach to fighting obesity. To be fair, the government’s nutrition advice was aimed at the average American who only desires to be in average shape. As an M&Fer who wants to be big and ripped, you need an entirely different approach.

To that end, we’ve created the M&F Food Pyramid (above), an easy visual guide to eating for physique enhancement and performance. See below for info on how we designed it, and tips on how to use it.

Macros, Not Servings

As a physique-conscious eater, you need to think more in terms of exact macronutrients and overall calories than general serving sizes. Every food you eat gets counted toward a total target number of grams of protein, carbs, and fat, which you can determine by multiplying the numbers we give you below by your own body weight in pounds. Hit these numbers, and you’ll hit your goals.

Fat Loss Nutrient Breakdown

Nutrient breakdowns if you want to lose fat

Calories – 10-12
Carbs – 1 gram
Protein – 1-1.5 grams
Fat – 0.4 grams

Per kg of body weight

Muscle Gain Nutrient Breakdown

Nutrient breakdowns if you want to gain muscle

Calories – 14-18
Carbs – 2 grams
Protein – 1-1.5 grams
Fat – 0.4 grams

Per kg of body weight

Adjust as Necessary

The macronutrient and calorie numbers here are just a starting point. Every lifter needs to find the proper amounts for his own body. You can experiment with increasing protein and fat intake slightly during diet phases, or bumping up carbs if you find you aren’t gaining weight. if you can’t lose weight, reduce carbs gradually. Try each formulation for at least a week before making changes.

Fat

The old Food Pyramid regarded fat as a uniformly dangerous substance. Our pyramid doesn’t place the same importance on fat as on protein and carbs, but doesn’t dismiss it, either. “We want to provide a baseline level of good fats for hormone production,” says Nate Miyaki, C.S.S.N., a nutrition consultant and bodybuilder in San Francisco. Contrary to popular opinion, when dieting, you don’t need to drop fat intake much, if at all.

Fat loss comes fastest when carbs are reduced, and fat is satiating as well as a good source of energy. Most of your fats will come from your protein foods, but avocados, nuts, seeds, and a small amount of oils may also contribute. Aim for 0.4 grams per pound of your body weight daily.

Protein

Protein is the main component of muscle tissue, so no matter what your goal, protein intake must remain high. To make size gains, you need at least one gram of protein per pound of your body weight to support growth. When dieting, you must create a caloric deficit—but that can cause muscle loss if the foods you cut out are short in protein.

That’s why we decrease intake of starchy carbs and increase protein intake—sometimes to as high as 1.5 grams per pound of body weight. The best protein sources: chicken, fish, lean beef, turkey, eggs, and protein powder.

Carbs

The effect of carbohydrates on insulin makes carbs—particularly the starchy kind—the most important factor in determining your ability to gain muscle or get lean. The more starches you eat, the more insulin you release. Carbs, the body’s most anabolic hormone, encourage muscle growth, but can also cause unwanted fat gain.

That’s why getting lean requires fewer starchy carbs, to keep insulin levels lower. Carbs include potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, oats, fruits, and vegetables. Fruits should be consumed in their whole-food form and limited to two to three pieces daily (excess fructose is stored as fat). Green veggies can be eaten steadily regardless of the goal. Eat one gram of carbs per pound of body weight during diet phases, and two grams for gaining muscle.

Workout Nutrition

Sports nutrition research is beginning to suggest that food eaten before, during, and after workouts may impact progress more than food consumed at any other time. “If someone is in fat-loss mode,” says John Meadows, C.I.S.S.N., a national-level competitive bodybuilder and nutrition coach, “I like to limit carbs to pre-, intra-, and post-workout meals, when they’ll go where you want them”—that is, to muscle tissue. For muscle gain, Meadows prefers to add carbs (shakes included) to meals around training time first, before adding them to other meals.

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