Jason Sweetnam, CPT, CES, PES, is a Life Time personal trainer and nutrition coach in St. Paul, Minn. Once prediabetic and unhappy, he is now his fittest ever — claiming United Powerlifting Association records in the Squat, Bench, Dead-lift, and Total categories. Here’s how he fuels for fitness. (For more on his health and fitness transformation, visit “Jason Sweetnam’s Success Story”.)
Experience Life | Describe your training and nutrition goals.
Jason Sweetnam | I am trying to get as strong as possible and build an impressive aerobic engine. This involves eating as much nutrient-rich food as I can. I allow myself to eat almost anything that is a whole food, and I try to avoid processed, packaged foods.
I strive to eat at least six servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit each day. I have a modest serving of protein at every meal, and I try to eat a serving and a half of starchy carbohydrates in each meal, especially around training. This gives me energy to fuel my workouts and enough food to recover.
EL | How has your food regimen changed over time?
JS | I have tried almost every diet out there. My girlfriend and I like to treat these as experiments, where we go all in on one nutritional regimen for three months. We see how we feel, what changes, and what we can learn. We keep what we enjoyed about each nutrition program and leave what we don’t.
This has been fun because our diet is always changing, and viewing our nutrition as an experiment on our body, health, and performance makes the process more exciting and less monotonous.
EL | Describe a day in your life.
JS | I work the early shift as a personal trainer, so each day starts with breakfast and a standard routine that allows me to get ready for the day and fully wake up so I can be “on” for my first client. I will train somewhere between four and seven clients depending on the day, and then start my exercise routine. Each training session begins with 30 minutes of mobility, stretching, and focused movement based on what I am doing that day. Three days a week I do strength work for powerlifting (squat day, bench day, deadlift day) with the goal being to get as strong as possible. Three days a week I do metabolic conditioning. I keep detailed training logs of both to make sure I am consistently making progress. I take one day completely off to rest, but stretch and mobilize every day.
My nutrition stays the same for either type of training day. A typical breakfast is three eggs with a cup of rice and spinach. An apple as a snack. Lunch might be 6 ounces of pork loin, 6 ounces of sweet potato, and chopped veggies like celery, carrots, and peppers. Before I work out in the afternoon, I’ll have a banana and a protein shake. I typically have a second lunch, usually the same as my first one, and snack on a pear.
I split my dinner into two parts, just like my lunch. Dinner No. 1 might be 6 ounces of beef taco meat with 4 ounces of rice over a salad, and Dinner No. 2 might be 6 ounces of ground turkey over 6 ounces of noodles with shaved cabbage, Brussels sprouts, or other greens. I do not add any extra fat like sauce, cheese, or nuts, which is how I can eat so much food while getting enough protein and starches to keep my performance high.
EL | Do you use tests to inform your food and fitness choices?
JS | I consistently keep track of my metabolic rate. I accompany that with regular measurements of my muscle mass and fat mass. The science geek in me has always kept regular records about my standard bloodwork, and I find that I am a bit healthier on a higher-fat, lower-carbohydrate diet, but I perform much better in strength training and metabolic conditioning on a higher-carbohydrate, lower-fat diet.
This article originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of Experience Life, Life Time’s whole-life health and fitness magazine.