I was always a picky eater. Growing up, if we went to McDonald’s, I wouldn’t even eat a burger with mustard. Instead, I would surgically open it up and wipe the mustard off with a napkin before daring to eat it. No, mustard was “too spicy”.
It’s funny because we always hear about how rigid and limiting a bodybuilding or fitness diet can be, but turning to bodybuilding actually got me to expand my food choices. I started experimenting and eating things I never would have otherwise eaten—tuna, sardines, sushi; bell peppers, kale, seaweed salad; berries and other assorted types of fruit. Any and all animal-fare became free game, as I tried to expand my horizons with protein intake. And even my dreaded mustard became a staple of my food intake—while doing a ketogenic diet in 2008, the only real no-carb condiment I could slather my chicken with, was yellow mustard, so I simply got used to drowning my bland diet food in French’s. And to this day, you can tell when I’m dieting when I’m carrying around this giant yellow bottle of taste-bud killer.
If you’ve hung out with physique competitors for any stretch of time, you’ll notice that we often have some pretty eccentric eating habits, the little tricks and efficiency tips we have that allow us to stick to a plan and get through the day. Some of my favorite eccentric dieting choices:
1) Drinking egg whites: easily the most common for me is drinking egg whites. Two reasons. Number one, it’s fast and simple. And number two, after a decade of eating bland and boring egg whites, I have gotten to the point where I would rather starve to death than chew on some rubbery whites sans any and all flavor. SO, what do we do? Pour 2c liquid egg whites into a large cup, along with some calorie-free, sugar-free Walden Farms maple syrup, and drink my maple-syrup egg whites. Simple and efficient, even if not the most glamorous meal you’ll ever eat.
2) Raw coconut oil: for those who have never experienced this delicacy, raw coconut oil, while incredibly healthy for you, is essentially like eating candle wax off of a spoon. No real taste to speak of, no real texture, just a blob of hardened white goo. Yummy for sure.
3) Hot sauce: growing up, I could never eat anything remotely spicy. Well, as it turns out, once you’re on the cusp of cannibalizing your own stomach tissue due to constant hunger pangs, drowning your food in super-spicy Cholulah hot sauce can numb your body to the fact of how hungry it really is.
4) Cereal with water: For those times when my carb intake has to be very high, I will often use cereal to hit my macros, whether a sugary kid’s cereal, or something a bit more refined like Kashi. That said, my meal plan doesn’t permit for milk. SO, what do we do? Why, we use water for our cereal. And of course, get stared at like the Antichrist. Is it strange? A bit, I guess. Is it horrible? No, it really doesn’t taste much different than regular cereal. Once you get used to it, it’s not bad at all. And, if your macros call for it, instead of using water you can use egg whites as “milk” for the added protein.
5) Drinking oats/grits/any other semi-whole food that you don’t have time to properly chew: Yeah, there are several foods in my arsenal that I don’t really “eat”, so much as “swallow whole”. Oatmeal tends to be on that list—shaker cup, few scoops of whey, and a cup of oats. Add water, mix, swallow. Same happens with instant grits and cream of rice. Much easier on average to just get it all down the tank at once, no prep or fancy crap involved.
6) Pie filling by the jar: So when I really need to crank those carbs up high, what do I do? Why, I carry around a jar of pie filling and eat it straight from the jar, of course! Whether blueberry pie filling, apple pie filling, or heck, even cherry, devouring a huge heaping serving of pie filling is great not only for glycogen storage, it’s also good for the soul.
7) Giant heads of Romaine lettuce: you know you are scraping the bottom of the barrel—just plain-ol hangry—when you resort to eating plain heads of Romaine lettuce from Costco. Get a bottle of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray, and hit each leaf with a mist of fake butter before crunching it up in your mouth, mmmm mmmm goodness. If you are considering doing this, that means you have officially hit the point of dieting where your life just sucks, and you’ll do anything to feel temporarily sane for all of thirty seconds.
8) A spoonful of preworkout just for the taste: Yeah, not much more needs to be said here. If you are dumping raw powder into your mouth not for the sake of energy, but just because you need to remember what it feels like to taste something again, well, your life sucks. But then, you already knew that.
I’ve seen numerous others that can be added to this list. If one of my female competitors wrote it, I’m sure we’d see all kinds of wackiness that I can’t even begin to fathom—the innumerable ways you can combine protein powder, Walden Farms products, and cinnamon, to create basically anything under the sun. I’ve seen a competitor make mock-meringue using egg whites and different flavors of BCAAs. I’ve seen every woman I’ve ever prepped for a show come up with some variation of protein pancakes, protein cookies, egg-white muffins, you name it. The recipes are out there, for those interested in doing the reading.
Me, I’ll stick with boring and simple, and then just get creative insofar as I’m about to gnaw off my own arm. Drink your egg whites, eat your coconut oil plain off the spoon, and find a way to dump your nutrients down your throat. Sexy? Absolutely not. But effective? You betcha. And in bodybuilding, effective is the name of the game.
-David A. Johnston
David Johnston is the founder and lead trainer of TEAM Warrior Within. You can also listen to him weekely on the GEARD Up podcast. ( GEARDUp.com ) David works with clients ranging from the everyday person just trying to lose weight and get healthy, local and national bodybuilding and physique competitors, to IFBB professional athletes.
David lives and breathes all things related to physique transformation, and has devoted nearly half of his life to passionately studying and educating himself to be the absolute best at what he does. His intensity in the gym is matched only by the passion he gives to his clients.