For Men's Health Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S, it wasn't always easy to create the perfect meal plan.
"I've been doing weight training since I was in school, but for a long time I had no control over my diet and didn't know what I was doing," he says. "When I learned that about five or six years ago, I was able to achieve really good strength and size gains that I wanted."
Samuel adheres to a strict eating schedule and takes care to refuel every 2½ hours from the moment he wakes up. He also keeps track of how much he eats all day. His preferred daily amounts are approximately 1
"As long as I am awake, I will eat. I want to be sure that I have some form of nutrition in my system so that my muscles can be supplied with nutrients again and again," he says.
Samuel's day usually starts at 7:30 a.m. when he reaches for a shake. He likes to mix 1½ scoops of whey protein, 1 tablespoon of almond butter, a green supplement to get some antioxidants, and water to get his first food source of the day.
There is a catch: "It is not necessarily the best-tasting drink," says Samuel. "But it also doesn't taste as bad as you might think." At 10:00 a.m., Samuel is ready for another shake to carry him through the morning meetings.
When midday comes, Samuel switches to natural sources of protein. A typical lunch for him includes six ounces of salmon, three ounces of brown rice, and two to three ounces of broccoli. This way, he gets a good green vegetable, a slow-burning carbohydrate that keeps him going the rest of the day, and a great source of protein. He repeats this meal around 2:30 p.m. "I don't need many options in my diet," he says, "as long as it gives me the fuel I need."
At 17:00 it is training mode. Before training, Samuel tries to have another meal. Because he wants to include a variety of natural protein sources in his diet, he likes five to six ounces of protein (either chicken, beef, or pork), four ounces of potatoes, and one side of peppers and onions.
If he feels he needs to put some fat in his dinner, he eats a spoonful of almond butter straight from the glass. He will repeat this again around 7:30 p.m. and at 10 p.m. he has his last refueling by eating some salmon and broccoli.
As far as hydration is concerned, Samuel's goal is to consume one gallon of water a day. Although it may seem daunting (especially at work), he makes it easier by carrying a large bottle of water with him everywhere, especially in meetings where he doesn't always have to speak.
"I don't have to speak for every minute of every meeting," he says. "Meetings are a great opportunity to sit back when someone else is speaking and drinking as much water as possible."
Although Samuel's diet looks regulated, he likes to have a cheat day on Saturdays. However, he has some limitations: he respects his water intake, eating intervals and protein intake. But don't think he only eats salmon and broccoli – he loves a few peanut butter cups and a slice or two of cheesecake.
So what does Samuel advise someone who wants to create their own eating structure? Find something that will work with you in the long run and provide you with the nutrients necessary for health and muscle building. "Find a way that works for you. Don't fall into the trap of accessing a restricted system. Build a system that you can maintain. “