Recently on my radio show I did a segment on how the ideal muscle-building, fat-burning meal has evolved throughout each decade since the 70s.
As a teenage wannabe bodybuilder in the 70s, I was left to figure things out on my own, listening to the gym owner or biggest dude in the gym. I spent many nights up until 2 or 3 a.m. reading muscle magazines. Lean wasn’t a word I was familiar with. Big, huge and ripped were the common vernacular. My protein choices were solely based on affordability: eggs, canned chicken and tuna, milk, the nastiest protein powder you could ever imagine and cheap ground beef. Fat was avoided and carb choices were heavily influenced by the popularity of endurance sports (i.e. pasta, breads and cereals). Veggies, if eaten, were canned. The movie Rocky had me eating raw eggs – something we highly advise against today. A 70s fitness meal might look like a can of tuna, baked potato in a microwave with picante sauce.
In the 80s things started to advance but not quickly enough. In the movie When Harry Met Sally there is a famous scene where they are in a restaurant and Sally special orders her food. This scene stereotyped trying to eat healthy when eating out. Healthy eating was void of flavor. The typical fit meal might be grilled chicken, white rice and frozen veggies. All fat was avoided like the plague. People did get lean but would quit this style of eating due to the bland and boring meal plans. However, I stayed the course.
By the 90s food science helped change things permanently. There was a slight shift. Unfortunately, much of the science was highly edited by the time the media got hold of it. The get-lean meal and the principles behind it were rather similar: protein, carbs and veggies. A proliferation of fat-free garbage hit the market from chips, cookies and other processed junk. The typical meal was grilled chicken or lean meat, brown rice and fresh veggies or a salad. The fat-free craze set up the high-fat, low-carb diet like a gift from heaven. A gift it wasn’t. However we did learn a few things.
In the early 2000s the Atkins Diet became a worldwide craze! What most people were unaware of is it was a best seller back in the 70s. The formula was high fat and no carbs, but those in the know already knew there was a better way of getting lean and staying that way. Then the Zone Diet followed and was essentially a healthy version of Atkins. The get-lean meal was starting to evolve: Lean meat, good carbs, lots of fibrous veggies and healthy fats such as olive oil or canola oil.
Fast forward to 2015. There are thousands of articles of scientific research, yet there is still confusion and debate. Clean eating, paleo and the proliferation of grocery stores like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Natural Grocers and Green Grocer are mainstream. However, the ideal muscle-building, get-lean meal hasn’t changed all that much. Protein, carb, veggie and fat. The debate continues on how much of each, but I think the experts should stop splitting hairs. There are many variables like age, gender, genetics, activity levels and goals.
Today’s meal has evolved some from the mid 70s. It’s hormone- and antibiotic-free grass fed protein, ½ cup sweet potato, organic or locally grown veggies, and fats such as coconut oil, avocado or high-grade olive and macadamia nut oil. The ideal meal for a female might look like 3 to 4 oz. of high-quality protein, ½ cup of good carbs, a cup of veggie and a tablespoon of good fat. If you’re on a budget, together we can help you navigate your way to better choices. There you have it.
Truthfully, not much has changed. What’s changed the most is it’s easier to get started and stay focused.