First things first: Is there ONE eating regime that is best for lifters? Or does it vary based on the individual?
Not exactly. There are some things every lifter needs but depending on their goals and natural build, there is some variability. To be successful, food for weight lifters needs contain lots of protein, but their intake of other nutrients and overall calories can vary, again, depending on their goals.
Why is eating enough calories so important for someone who is lifting and lifting heavy? What are the consequences of NOT eating enough calories for someone lifting?
Your body can use fats, carbs and protein for energy. When your calorie intake is too low, it thinks it is starving and starts burning more muscle and storing more fat. It turns out, the fat guy will last longer without food than the muscly guy. Not good when this is the opposite of your objective!
The biggest thing is to consume at least one gram of protein per pound of goal bodyweight. That means if you are 180lbs and trying to get to 200lbs, you need at least 200 grams of protein daily. Animal protein is the most practical way to get this. That doesn’t mean you should skimp on your fruits and veggies though.
Do you have a certain macronutrient breakdown that you recommend for someone lifting weights? What are some of the other factors that will impact this breakdown?
Again, 1g or protein per pound of bodyweight is a must-have food for weight lifters. Overall calories (from protein, fats and carbs) will vary but to get an idea, a ‘short’ or ‘thin’ individual should look to eat about 3000+ calories per day, while someone taller should look to as much as 10,000 (this is roughly how much Strong Man competitors consume). This is a large range and will depend on how much fat a lifter is willing to put on. The fact is, if you are eating like a cow, you WILL build muscle a little faster, but you also WILL add plenty of fat along with that muscle. Thus, if you want to look good, 10000 calories is way too much for anyone, but if it is ONLY about building muscle, 10000 calories may be perfect. You can always diet later once you have built substantial muscle mass.
At what point should someone think about nutrient timing?? How important is it for a casual lifter? What about a more experienced one?
For a casual lifter, timing will make little difference. They should still eat about every 4-5 hours (4-6 times per day). Plus, they should also eat within 30 minutes or so of a workout. For an elite lifter, timing will also make little difference, BUT even a little difference is worth the effort when every bit counts. Thus, an elite lifter should be eating every 2-3 hours and consuming a protein shake following their workout.