A variety of spicy foods in your bodybuilding diet
can help you out in a number of ways.
The first and most important aspect is satisfaction. As we grow more mature (yeah OK, older..) our taste buds lose their keen senses to a considerable extent, with a diminishing return even from "tasty" foods.
The result is that we can be tempted to replace quality with quantity, both eating more food in general, including snacking and nibbling, just to get something that tastes nice, and also by ramping up the ingredients list for the flavorful stuff - such as sugar.
You can see how that immediately places you at a disadvantage when practising calorie and nutrition control!
It's all too easy to pop open some colorful package of over-processed, over-caloried and flavor-boosted junk and, as the jingle goes, "..you can't stop..."
Good News - Salt
The good news is that our sense of taste regarding salt usually stays pretty strong - in fact it is not so much our taste buds as our olfactory nerves that weaken, as a high percentage of taste actually comes from our sense of smell. This is why a bunged-up nose renders our favorite food "tasteless".
This means you do NOT have to increase your salt intake, which is handy because salt is linked to high blood pressure if you over-do it.
Instead of fighting the craving for tasty junk we can instead add extra kick and taste to more wholesome and healthy food. It's a simple concept but it works!
Even if you're munching some damn-awful "TV dinner" from a packet don't go thinking you're restricted to whatever flavors the company has used (and much of it will indeed be artificial flavoring). If for example you find that you end up eating TWO such dinners because they are too small to satisfy, or perhaps end up having something else to nibble as well, consider the idea of adding some spicy oomph to your main meal.
This can be anything from just adding some barbeque sauce to exotic spices during the "cooking" process.
One of the greatest pleasures I have obtained from this whole bodybuilding nutrition thing is re-discovering the pleasures of home cooking. No, it is not always convenient but you DO know exactly what is in it, can calculate your food groups and calories while avoiding the chemical cocktails and stale junk found in most processed "food".
I also make my own muesli.
By cooking for yourself you can plan meals in advance, even cook and freeze them in advance. It's much easier to avoid the temptations of junk when you already have something cooked and ready - and that should include lots of small and tasty stuff as well as main meals.
Rather than scratching your head trying to figure out what you can cook or nibble that is tasty, look again at the things you know you SHOULD be eating, lean proteins, complex carbs and general REAL food, but spice it up!
When I returned to the UK last year I picked up a lovely spice rack for just one UK pound in a charity shop and it was well worth the weight and careful packing to bring it back here (see big wooden round thing below). I rarely use the egg timer but will often give the thing a good spin to see what spice my chicken breasts will be enhanced with today...
These flavors, such as found in chilli peppers, work directly on the nervous system rather than taste or smell.
Peppers of all kinds (containing piperine), horseradish, ginger, cinnamon, to some extent garlic, various curry powders, more exotic stuff such as habanero, jalapeno and so on are surprisingly easy to get hold of today.
For me, living here in Borneo, it's easy to find the very freshest samples but really it doesn't matter. This is one occasion where I skip the "no colorful packaging" rule, though much of my spice comes from little green bottles, exactly the same as you buy in the UK or US.
Personally I'm not too keen on things that burn my mouth, though it's hard to avoid such foods when eating out here! There's a huge variety of other spices that can transform a bland plate into a tantalizing dish though.
A well-stocked spice rack makes following a random recipe much easier - and don't be shy about adding your own spicy enhancements.
Chicken, and chicken, and chicken...
By adding extra taste and zest to "boring" food it quits being boring, meaning you don't need as much of it to feel you've had a satisfying meal or nibble. This helps with calorie control but not only with calorie reduction. If you're a "hard gainer" and struggling to eat enough calories, some extra taste can make that mountain of chicken a lot more appetizing! You'll notice in just this one article, about spices, I've mentioned chicken at least twice. It's one of the wonder-foods of bodybuilding being such a readily available lean protein but it is true that it's rather bland at times. By experimenting and having fun with spices however it can be a whole different meal each time, or often enough to take away the boredom anyway.
Nuts and snacks
Again don't be shy of adding spices to things you might not expect to be spicy. Experimentation is key but almost anything can be spiced up - and NOT by sprinkiling sugar or salt on it! Try some oregano or nutmeg or pretty much anything of that nature. Sure, sometimes you'll screw up your nose and it'll be quite disgusting but often it's just different enough to make boring a thing of the past.
Same can be said of salads, forget the hi-fat dressings for awhile and try sprinkling something with more flavor and kick to it instead. Few things in life are more boring to me than veggies, but when they're the tastiest thing on the plate even I'll eat them!
You may have already noticed that many fast "food" establishments and packaged meals are becoming more spicey, even chocolate bars are becoming available in spiced-up flavors. Much of this is nothing to do with some cosmopolitan palate but more to do with aging! The "baby boomers" as a generation are steadily losing their sense of taste and manufactures are fighting back with increasingly more spicey offerings.
Fight back yourself by adding spices to good natural food! In short, good food can be tasty, very tasty, but spicey junk is still junk and to be avoided.
Sugar is hard to replicate (though stevia is wonderful if you can get hold of it). I certainly DO NOT recommend the chemical "sugar-free" replacements. Instead try alternative tastes to sweetness and remember, when you cut down on excessive carbohydrates you'll find your ability to detect sweetness rapidly recovers. If I've been cycling on low-carb for a few days I can even taste the sugar in French fries or other such stuff you wouldn't expect to be sweet. Adding sugar to give some extra taste to food is just about the worst thing you can do when you're after a ripped BIGGLY body.