Opinions on Nutrition

The following  was written to address the most common questions I receive from readers and personal training and phone clients.

Calories versus Macronutrients

Whether you’re trying to lose fat, gain muscle, or maintain your current weight and body composition both are important.

Calorie intake is important for a change in fat or lean mass, if you don’t have a deficit you’re not going to lose much fat, if you don’t have a surplus you’re not likely to gain much muscle. Macronutrient ratios are important because they influence what you lose or gain.

Keep in mind, the goal isn’t indiscriminate weight loss or gain, but improved body composition. You want less fat, more muscle, or both, not just a change in weight.

Also, overall health should be a high priority and both the amount and what you eat influence this. If you eat the appropriate amount of calories but most of it is polluted, nutrient-deficient crap you’re going to look and feel bad. If you eat nothing but healthy, whole foods, but you regularly eat too much or too little, you will be healthier but you will still be underweight or overweight.

Eat the appropriate amount of the appropriate types of foods for your body and your goals.

Calorie Intake

For most people who have a healthy body composition or are within a few pounds of it, just eating the appropriate types of foods will result in your appetite being a reliable indicator of need. As long as you eat until you’re not hungry, rather than until you’re full, you don’t need to worry too much about tracking calorie intake.

For those trying to achieve very low levels of bodyfat without sacrificing muscle, or trying to build as much muscle as possible with minimal fat gain, keeping track of everything becomes more important. If you fall in this category, as a rough starting point I recommend using the Katch-McArdle formula and activity multipliers below to estimate daily calorie expenditure.

Katch-McArdle formula:

  • For men and women (metric): 370 + (21.6 x lean mass in kg)
  • For men and women (standard): 370 + (9.82 x lean mass in lbs)

Activity multipliers:

  • 1.2 – Sedentary: Little or no physical activity.
  • 1.375 – Lightly Active: Light physical activity 1-3 days per week.
  • 1.55 – Moderately Active: Moderate physical activity 3-5 days per week.
  • 1.725 – Very Active: Hard physical activity 6-7 days per week.
  • 1.9 – Extremely Active: Hard daily physical activity and hard physical work

Keep in mind this just gives you an estimated starting point. No formula will give you accurate measurement and even indirect calorimetry is only an estimate at best. Ultimately, whether you’re eating to lose fat or gain muscle, you will have to adjust your intake of everything based on how your body responds.

Macronutrient Ratios

There is no best macronutrient ratio. What proportion of macronutrients is optimum depends on the individual, their goal, and other factors. When eating to lose fat you may reduce calories while maintaining the same or higher protein and fat intake, resulting in a very different macronutrient ratio than when you eat primarily to gain muscle mass. The amount of carbohydrate an individual will perform or look best on can vary significantly due to genetics and activity levels.

Like most things, what is optimal varies between individuals and requires some experimentation to fine tune.

Protein

If you’re consistently doing the kind of heavy, high intensity training recommended on this web site I recommend consuming between 1 and 1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass per day, or at least around a gram of protein per pound of body weight assuming you are moderately lean.

This is particularly important when dieting. If you cut calories, don’t cut everything proportionally.  If anything, aim a little higher with protein when trying to lose fat. It provides greater satiety than fat or carbohydrate and although the effect is very slight, results in a little greater thermic response.

There is no need to go nuts with it either. More probably won’t hurt, but eating more than 1.5 grams per pound of lean body mass probably daily won’t improve your gains either.

Fat

Get plenty of saturated fat, preferably animal fat and coconut oil. Contrary to misinformed mainstream opinion it is not going to cause you to die of a heart attack and is actually beneficial to the cardiovascular system, bones, liver and other organs as well as immune system function and is important for maintaining healthy levels of various hormones including testosterone.

Strictly limit or eliminate intake of trans, partially hydrogenated and high polyunsaturated fats, things like canola, corn and soybean oils and margarine and vegetable shortening.

Carbohydrate

Carbohydrates in general are not going to make you fat or kill you if you’re not overeating and if you’re getting adequate amounts of protein and healthy fats. The appropriate amount depends on your goals and your individual response. Some people seem to have a difficult time losing fat if they don’t reduce carbs significantly while others can lose fat with even higher carb intakes as long as their overall calorie intake is restricted.

Keep track of what you’re eating and how your body responds and and adjust accordingly.

Although it is possible to gain muscle mass on a zero carb diet, at least moderate carbohydrate intakes seem to help and testosterone levels may also be reduced if carbohydrate intake is too low, along with cortisol levels increasing. Additionally, muscle glycogen levels appear to be maintained better on at least moderate carb intakes and post workout carbohydrate intake helps with recovery.

The majority of your carbohydrate should come from leafy and cruciferous vegetables, berries, and lower-fructose fruits (cantaloupe, oranges, kiwi, etc.). Starch and other fruit intake would depend on total energy requirements and how your body responds to the additional carbohydrate intake. Strictly limit or eliminate foods with a lot of added sugar (sucrose) or high fructose corn syrup and…

Grains and Legumes

Unless you have celiac disease eating small to moderate amounts of grains and legumes is not going to kill you or make you fat, assuming total calorie intake is appropriate. That being said, they do have negative effects on leptin sensitivity, mineral absorption, intestinal health and immune system function and are considerably more calorie dense and less nutritious than most vegetables and fruit.

I recommend getting most of your carbohydrate intake from vegetables, and smaller amounts from fruits. What types of vegetables and the proportion of starchy to non-starchy depends on your overall calorie intake and goals. If you’re eating to lose fat I recommend going nuts on leafy or non-starchy vegetables as you can consume a massive quantity while still consuming very few calories, unlike grains and pastas which are very easy to load up on.

Dairy

Unless you have lactose or casein intolerance dairy products aren’t going to make you fat or kill you either. If you’re eating to lose fat I don’t recommend drinking your calories, although a little milk or heavy cream in coffee isn’t going to kill you. If you’re eating to gain muscle whole milk and heavy cream are a good way to get plenty of calories.

Like I mentioned with regards to carbs, keep track of what you’re eating and how your body responds and and adjust accordingly.

Alcohol

While light, occasional social drinking isn’t going to kill you or make you fat I don’t recommend regular, heavy drinking. If you must drink, stick to spirits and dry wine with diet soda. If you’re eating to lose fat minimize your alcohol intake.

Artificial Sweeteners

In the amounts typically used artificial sweeteners are safe. Despite some research suggesting non-caloric sweeteners stimulate insulin secretion I haven’t noticed any significant effect on body fat levels or any difference between periods of time when I drink only water or when I drink a lot of Diet Mt. Dew

Supplements

Most fat loss and bodybuilding supplements are a complete waste of money, although some people may benefit from supplementing with certain vitamins and minerals. I will address individual supplements separately in future posts.

Meal Timing and Frequency

It is not necessary to eat every 2 to 3 hours to maintain an elevated metabolic rate (thermic effect of food), control appetite or keep blood sugar levels even. It is also not necessary to limit yourself to eating only once or twice per day.

When and how often you eat depends on how much you’re eating and what is practical for you. Someone eating to lose fat might find it more satiating and more convenient to eat 2 or 3 moderate sized meals than to eat 6 to 8 tiny snacks throughout the day, while someone eating to gain muscle might find it easier to eat a higher number of moderate sized meals than to force down a few huge meals per day.

Break your total food intake into comfortable sized meals and snacks that fit into your schedule.

Keeping Track

Weighing, measuring and counting calories is a huge pain in the ass. If you are overweight and trying to lose fat or underweight and trying to put on muscle it isn’t necessary to be super strict as long as you are at least somewhat conscious of portion sizes and eating in a manner appropriate to your goals. Clients following the guidelines below have had good results with fat loss and muscle gain without having to track calorie intake:

Minimize or Eliminate:

  • Sugary foods and beverages like fruit juices, sodas and sports drinks.
  • Anything made with flour (bread, pasta, pastries, etc.).
  • Gluten grains (wheat, oats, barley, rye, etc.) and corn.
  • Cooking oils made from grain and seeds. Cook with butter, animal fat, coconut oil or ghee instead.
  • Legumes (soy and other beans) and products made from them.
  • Trans and partially hydrogenated fats.

Plenty of:

  • Meat, fish, fowl and eggs, preferably grass-fed or wild-caught and favoring ruminants like beef, lamb, venison, goat, etc.
  • Leafy, cruciferous and “colorful” vegetables, like spinach, kale, broccoli and peppers.
  • Water or other non-caloric beverages (coffee, tea).

Moderate Amounts of:

  • Healthy animal fats and/or coconut fat.
  • Berries like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and lower-fructose fruits like cantaloupe, oranges, apricots and kiwi.
  • Nuts (except peanuts, which are technically legumes), seeds and nut butters (except peanut butter).*
  • Dairy.*
  • Starchy tuber vegetables like yams.*
  • Wild rice.*

*Minimize or eliminate these if you are trying to lose fat.

If, however, you already have a very low body fat and are trying to get down to a mid to low single digit bodyfat percent while maintaining lean body mass or you’re trying to maximize lean body mass while minimizing fat gain you’ll need to be a bit more precise, which requires weighing or measuring and recording food intake as well as keeping track of changes in weight, body composition and measurements.

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65 Responses to Opinions on Nutrition

  1. PTB November 10, 2010 at 7:07 pm #

    Thanks for the info.

    The protein intake is definatley higher than those prescriptions by other HIT gurus like Darden (who’s HIT program I’m following), and Mentzers.

    Question: How would you rate high intensity exercise in terms of the Activity Multipliers? I perform 2-3 total body workouts per week, but I don’t think I’d fall into the “Lightly Active”, but at the same time, I know I’m not “Extremely Active” either. Which activity level would you suggest I use?

    • Drew Baye November 10, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

      If you’re not sure, start in the middle and adjust up or down based on changes in weight and measurements. I wouldn’t factor HIT workouts into it too much – even at a high level of intensity a relatively brief strength training workout isn’t going to burn more than a few hundred extra calories. These have more to do with your average activity over the course of a week. For example, if someone sits behind a desk all day then goes home and sits on the couch all night I’d still consider them sedentary if they were doing once or twice weekly HIT workouts.

  2. Katelyn November 11, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    I love this article, Drew!

    –Katelyn (from Facebook)

  3. Dave K November 11, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    Another great article, Drew; I just tweeted it out to my followers.

    What would you recommend for a quick, easy source of protein? I just calculated out my meals and it seems I’m about 50 g of protein short of what I should be. As always, thanks!

    • Drew Baye November 11, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

      Dave,

      If I’m on the run and want something quick I’ll grab some deli meat like turkey or roast beef and eat that.

  4. Shane November 15, 2010 at 10:58 am #

    Drew, good post…just found your blog and will bookmark it and be back. I couldn’t agree more with having clients simply cut back or elminate grains and legumes. I’ve found a “paleo” type diet to be the most effective means for effortless weight loss although you don’t have to be super strict. At the end of the day it comes down to substrate intake (carbs, protein, fat) and the amount of each. Bump up the protein and bring down the carbs and good things happen.

  5. Mike November 20, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    Great article! Thanks Drew.

  6. Ramy November 21, 2010 at 1:30 am #

    Great post Drew. Since you are a supporter of Mike Mentzer I’d like to ask how you’d rationalize the higher protein requirements that you mentioned as opposed to lower amounts as described in “Heavy Duty Nutrition”.

    Also, were you including “whole grain” versions of oats/bread in your list to avoid? I always understood whole grain choices to be preferable for optimal carbohydrate/nutritional needs.

    • Drew Baye November 21, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

      Ramy,

      There is a lot of research showing higher protein requirements for those doing regular, hard training and consuming below maintenance calorie levels. While the requirements aren’t nearly as high as many protein supplement manufacturers and the bodybuilding magazines they advertise in recommend, they are certainly higher than the RDA of 0.36 grams per pound. If you’re interested in the research, Lyle McDonald’s Protein Book is the most comprehensive and up-to-date reference I know of.

      Grains are poor choice of carbohydrate from a nutritional standpoint for a variety of reasons; they reduce leptin sensitivity, irritate and damage the intestines leading to various auto-immune problems, prevent absorption of minerals, etc. The best source of carbohydrates are vegetables and fruits. How much and which depend on your goals.

  7. Al Coleman November 21, 2010 at 2:55 am #

    Good post Drew. Great point regarding artifical sweetners. I have found that when dieting, drinking an ass ton of Diet Coke only helps. Yeah, I’m addicted to the stuff and water would probably be the better choice, but I find I wind up drinking twice the amount of fluid when drinking diet pop. Despite what some say, the dieuretic effect from the caffiene seems negligible. Diet Coke has a relatively small amount of caffine. Calorie free fluid consumption seems to be key for me.

    • Drew Baye November 21, 2010 at 1:59 pm #

      Al,

      While the diuretic effects tend to be overstated, a larger concern with soda intake is hypokalemia – low potassium – which negatively effects strength. I have a similar relationship with Diet Mountain Dew but have found I tend to do better during workouts when I’m limiting my intake. Those who drink diet soda for the caffeine might want to opt for coffee or tea instead.

  8. Mike December 1, 2010 at 9:53 pm #

    Hi Drew,

    You’re right about the grains, I got rid of my ibd, by eliminating them, but now I take a few oats for the GLA, and some brown rice for convenience.
    I appreciate the wake-up call cause convenience was becoming an excuse for increased consumption.

    I have a question on carb cycling in the context of 1-2 HIT workouts per week (Static Contraction on Monday / High REP/ low weight multiset /big pump workout on Tuesday) I cover 1/4 body with each type of training per week – so full body over 2 weeks)

    The soreness lasts well into fri sat (depending on sleep)

    I started carb cycling and intermittent fasting (11pm-1pm trying to increase the fasting window) but am wondering if I am doing the optimum high – med – low split on my workout schedule since most carb cycling templates are for 3 or more workouts per week?

    Currently 2 high days (MOn TUES) and 5 low days is a bit of a stretch for me on the low carb phase. Do I have too many low carb days in a row for gaining mass?

    I’d like a break from the low carb days around thursday and Saturday without having to introduce any more training sessions. Would inserting 1 or more moderate zone diet days fit the bill do you think?

    What would you suggest?

    Many Thanks

    Mike

    • Drew Baye December 2, 2010 at 9:43 am #

      Mike,

      Don’t perform your workouts on consecutive days, and to drop the multiset “pump” workout entirely. Alternate between two HIT workouts on nonconsecutive days, putting the second weekly workout on Thurs or Fri so you have a few days in between, and you can eat more carbs then.

  9. Luke December 11, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    Hi Drew,
    I’ve been following high fat high protein diet for few weeks now, but I feel like i still dont know much about it, i want to gain muscle. I am 150pounds and I try to eat about 2500cals a day. My calories comes mostly from full fat meat (chicken legs, wings etc., cottage cheese with flax oil mixed in, almonds, and sometimes I also drink olive oil when the meal had not enough fat (I dont know if its okay??). I eat about 120grams of carbs a day from fruits and salads. I have few questions:
    1)is eating that much fat from meat and sometimes cooking on butter gonna affect my cholesterol level ??
    2)it seems i cant put on weight should i increase my calories intake( im already eating above maintance?)
    3)is drinking raw eggs okay? i do that in the morning when i dont have time
    Waiting for your suggestions
    Many thanks
    Luke

    • Drew Baye December 11, 2010 at 4:09 pm #

      Luke,

      1. Eating the way you are will improve your ratio of HDL to LDL, which is more important.

      2. Assuming you’re training correctly if you’re not gaining weight you’re not eating enough. Increase calories gradually and pay attention to both weight and your waist measurement or skinfold. If you’re not gaining weight you need to increase calories slightly. If you’re gaining fat you need to decrease calories slightly.

      3. Raw eggs are fine as long as the’re fresh. The chances of getting salmonella from raw eggs are extremely low. Various sources put it at about 1 in 30,000, so even if you ate several dozen raw eggs daily the chances of getting it are slim. I’ve mixed them with milk and protein powder and I know people who drink raw eggs plain and we’ve never had any problems.

  10. Mike December 15, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    Hi Luke,

    Thanks for the tip. I’ll give that a go this week.
    I was thinking that putting the 2 workouts together was ok since I often only do 2 body parts a day. not really enough to get the systemic anabolic response of a full body or half body workout. SO I thought putting them close and having a week(or more off)would have more of a systemic effect. I guess I was hoping in the overall scheme it would be close enough to training all in a day.

  11. Mike December 18, 2010 at 11:05 am #

    Hi Drew,

    I get a bit confused with the activity modifiers. If one is training 2 days a week, how do you choose one? Do I dial in my training day or my rest day or some average of the two. I’m sedentary most of the other days. with just a bit of walking to commute from home to city.

    That’s always got me stuck when I see this formula here and in other articles.

    Hope you can clarify.

    Cheers,

    Mike

    • Drew Baye December 18, 2010 at 11:47 am #

      Mike,

      The modifiers are written as they typically appear in nutrition texts. The average activity over total waking hours is a much bigger factor than workouts, since exercise does not burn a huge number of calories. For example, an office worker who spends most of the time sitting is not going to burn the same number of calories over the course of a day as someone who spends most of their day performing hard manual labor regardless of whether they go to the gym a few nights a week.

      If you’re fatter than you’d like to be, estimate low. If you’re already lean and trying to gain muscle, estimate high. Then adjust your intake up or down based on how your body responds. This assumes the quality of the diet is high, though. Keep in mind calories are only one small part of the equation.

  12. Mike December 18, 2010 at 11:15 pm #

    Hi Drew,

    Thanks for the clarification. what I missed was that it’s really just a starting point, that needs to be adjusted as you go. I had the get it perfect and set in stone mentality.

    I do think a separate factor should be used for daily activity and workout activity with mass gain as the objective. I suppose I was thinking about the calorie demand that growth requires as a result of intense training. When I train legs, or traps or deadlift, I feel it for a week afterwards, so I reason there should be a calorie requirement that persists beyond the workout day to fuel growth.

    • Drew Baye December 19, 2010 at 10:06 am #

      Mike,

      You’re welcome.

      Everything should be considered a starting point. While the general principles are the same for everybody individuals vary in their exact requirements and how their bodies respond. It is important to pay attention to and keep track of how your body responds to your diet, your workouts, and any changes in them, and to adjust accordingly.

      If a person wants to gain muscle I recommend starting with the formula above then gradually increasing calorie intake over a period of weeks – I use around 200 calorie increments – while paying close attention to their weight and waist measurement or abdominal skinfold. You want to eat enough to support as much muscle growth as you are capable of without adding a significant amount of fat in the process. Or, if you’re already very lean, multiply body weight by 20 and go up from there.

  13. Mike December 22, 2010 at 1:01 am #

    Hi Drew,

    Thanks for your replies, your help has locked in a few things that were not in their proper place. I’m curious about the two formulas you’ve given.

    Using the formula in your article, (70kg at 15%bf = LBM 59.5kg) I get
    (370 + (21.6 * 59.5) )* 1.6 = 2658 calories

    Using the formula in your comment (assuming you meant body weight in pounds) I get:

    20*154=3080

    Questions:

    1. do I add the activity modifier to this last one?

    2. There’s quite a difference (around 400 calories) or almost 2 lots of 200calorie ‘tweaking increments” already between them so how do I choose which one to go with, you say use the second formula for ‘very lean’ athletes, what %bf do you mean by that?

    3. I’ve recently upped my calorie intake from under 2000 to over 3000 and started a version of the leangains protocol (which I notice you have a link to on your blog). This puts a lot of pressure to eat a lot of calories in a short period of time. I’m starting classes in a short while and wonder if you have any suggestions on how to slip in some serious calories in the afternoon sessions without ‘looking like your having a 3 course meal” Any tips on highly portable meals (that don’t need a kitchen, reheating, or an ice pack to keep them fresh))that don’t need much fussing about at the time of eating. canned tuna is cool, but it’s a mess to open and drain off the liquid. The only thing I can think of is protein bars which are not available here.

    Thanks!

    • Drew Baye December 23, 2010 at 12:50 pm #

      Mike,

      The first formula is for estimating daily expenditure, multiplying bodyweight by 20 is for estimating your starting daily calorie intake for muscle gain, which will be higher.

      By “lean” I mean someone who is around 12% bodyfat or lower. The higher the body fat percent, the greater the difference between the estimated daily calorie expenditure using the Katch-McArdle formula and activity factors and the estimated starting calorie intake for muscle gain, and someone who’s fatter should err on the lower side rather than the higher side with the calories. If someone’s bodyfat percentage is above the low teens I would recommend focusing primarily on fat loss first, since a reduction in fat would improve their appearance more at first than an increase in muscle mass.

      As for portable high calorie meals, I recommend getting a small cooler or insulated bag to carry your meals in, because most of what I recommend for higher calories should be kept cool (meat, eggs, cream, coconut milk, etc.). If this is a problem you might want to consider loading up at home before and after classes.

  14. Burhan January 5, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    Hello Drew,

    I have been researching fitness and nutrition for some time, and I thought Legumes(beans) are the best type of carb since they are Low GI, High Fiber. Fruits, especially the ones high in fructose are not that healthy. Protein and veggies consist %70 of my current diet. The rest is beans, fruits, and a little bit of nuts. My goal is a lean, health body.

    • Drew Baye January 5, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

      Burhan,

      Beans are definitely not the best carbohydrate source. I recommend minimizing or eliminating legume intake due to the reasons mentioned above, especially soy due to phytoestrogens. If you want to consume more carbohydrates but have a hard time eating enough leafy and cruciferous vegetables you’d be better off adding yams or potatoes or some other starchy vegetable than consuming legumes.

  15. Tauno April 27, 2011 at 6:45 am #

    What would you suggest for pre- and post-workout meals? What is your own experience with it? I don’t need to lose fat, my goal is to gain muscle.

    Pre-workout meal:

    Many suggest for pre-workout nutrition about one serving of complex carbohydrates in order to have more energy for a workout. Others suggest to work out on an empty stomach because of higher adrenaline and burning more fat.

    Would you recommend to eat an hour or two before workout? If yes, what would be good to eat and drink (caffeine?) without using special fitness powders? How much?

    How important would be to eat proteins before workout? Fast or slow proteins? How much?

    Post-workout meal:

    Many suggest to eat a post-workout meal within one hour after workout, “the golden hour”. Others suggest to wait at least one hour before eating after workout.

    Almost everybody suggests for post-workout protein a whey protein for fast absorption and the only option for that seems to be a whey powder. How critical is eating fast proteins right after workout? Would it be all right to eat just slow proteins from natural food? If fast proteins would be better for recovery, is it possible to get these from natural food?

    How much is necessary to avoid fats right after workout? Is there any minimum amount of fat that could be eaten that would not yet hinder all the necessary recovery processes in the body?

    Is it preferable to get post-workout food in liquid form for quicker absorption? For example, would the following shake be enough for a post-workout meal in order to get all the needed carbohydrates (at least 60 grams?) and protein (at least 30 grams?)? Or would it have too much fat?
    – 2 big or 3 small bananas
    – 6 raw eggs
    – 2-3 cups of milk
    – grape sugar according to taste
    – sometimes also 200-300 grams of Ricotta cottage cheese (containing 6-8 g of fats per 100 g)

    Are there any limits to the amount of a post-workout meal? Could eating too much have a negative impact for recovery? If yes, where could be an approximate limit in terms of grams of proteins, carbohydrates and fat?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Drew Baye April 27, 2011 at 10:29 am #

      Tauno,

      I recommend eating a meal about 2 to 3 hours before your workout and within an hour after which includes a good amount of protein and higher glycemic index vegetables like carrots, yams and potatoes and/or fruits with a high glucose to fructose ratio like bananas, apricots and pineapple. A rough guideline for protein and carb intake pre and post workout is around a 0.25 grams per pound of lean body mass. So if you weigh 180 pounds at 10% body fat, you’d have 162 pounds of lean body mass, and take in about 40 grams of each. No need to avoid fats, but limit it to an amount appropriate to your overall daily needs. Some will do better with more, some with less. Like most things, it depends on your goals and a little self-experimentation is required.

      Whey protein powder is fine but you’re better off getting as much of your protein as possible from “real” food like meat, eggs, fish, etc.

      If you need more specific help with your diet in general or pre and post workout nutrition I’m available for phone consultations.

  16. Matt May 17, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    Hey Drew,

    What are you thoughts on creatine? I have read that taking 5g a day is optimal. My question is should it be taken daily if one were to do a once a week HIT workout and does it need to be cycled?

    • Drew Baye May 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

      Matt,

      Five grams of creatine per day is as much as anyone needs. More than five grams won’t make much of a difference with average sized males. Creatine is not a drug or hormone and does not need to be cycled.

  17. Steve May 19, 2011 at 12:09 am #

    Thanks for a great summary on nutrition. I would appreciate if you could elaborate on why legumes are discarded from good foods. Beans happen to be the core ingredient of slow carb diet as advocated by Tim Ferris, author of NY bestseller The Four Hour Body and so far I have had good results.

    • Drew Baye May 19, 2011 at 1:39 am #

      Steve,

      I do not recommend legumes mainly because of anti-nutrients like lectins which can damage the intestines and lead to auto-immune problems, but also because of the relatively high carbohydrate content. If a person wants to consume more carbohydrates than what they can practically get from leafy vegetables, berries and lower fructose fruits, they’d be better off consuming root vegetables than legumes.

  18. bry July 3, 2011 at 3:49 pm #

    I take abour 90 grams of protein daily. I dont take supps or shakes. Also I dont really eat meat every day. Im five six and weigh 123. Is this good enough for HIT training? I also get a lot of carbs and about 3 500 calories daily.

    • Drew Baye July 3, 2011 at 4:50 pm #

      Bry,

      If you are doing high intensity training on a regular basis I recommend consuming a little more protein, at least a gram per pound of lean body mass daily. Without knowing your body composition and your specific goals I can’t comment on the rest except that I do not recommend getting a lot of your calories from carbs.

  19. Bry July 3, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    First, thanks for the response. The program recommends a carb-based instead of protein-based diet. It also recommends lots of water. Frequency of workouts are 3 times a week for a maximum time of 45 mins. My goal is to build muscle and I’m 14.

    • Drew Baye July 3, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

      Bry,

      You’re welcome. I don’t recommend taking in more than a gram of carb per pound of lean body mass daily. While adequate hydration is important, it can be overdone as well, so don’t go overboard with your water intake.

  20. Tauno July 6, 2011 at 6:31 am #

    Hey Drew,

    Thank you for assuring that raw eggs are safe to eat. I have read that the absorption rate of raw eggs is about 50%, so that only half of protein will be absorbed. Do you confirm it? When would you suggest eating raw eggs compared to cooked eggs? Is it just a matter of preference and convenience? Thank you!

    • Drew Baye July 6, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

      Tauno,

      Cooking results in a higher rate of protein absorption, and although the risk of salmonella is very low (about 1 in 30,000) and probably not a problem for someone with a healthy immune system, it’s a safer way to eat them. I drink raw eggs mixed with milk on occasion, but this is mainly for convenience.

  21. Luke July 16, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    Hi Drew,
    So I’ve been eating low-carb style for about 3months. I live in Poland and here we have plenty of choices when it comes to fat so basically i eat pleny of seasoned- lard, fat back, goose and duck fat, butter and other mostly satureted fat. The thing I am concerned about is my omega 6 EFA I realize that these foods contain a lot of them comparing to omega 3(its not likely that these are grass fed products). And usually i end up eating about 200-300grams of fat daily. I try to supplement with omega3 supplements but sometimes it is hard to get a ratio 1:1 or 4:1. So is there really any downside of eating that much of omega6 ?
    I also experienced lately the thing that is called “induction/low-carb flu” meaning that its hard sometimes hard to think straight and I often feel sleepy. is it normal to feel that way after few months of the diet, any remedies/solution to that problem ??

    Kind regards
    Luke

    • Drew Baye July 16, 2011 at 10:55 am #

      Luke,

      Without knowing your size, lean body mass, activity levels, etc. I’m not sure if your fat intake is excessive for your energy demands but it sounds pretty high. The flu-like feeling is also often a symptom of overtraining, so depending on what your training program looks like and the intensity, duration and frequency of other activities these may be a factor.

  22. Mariana July 29, 2011 at 6:55 am #

    Hey Drew,

    great stuff you´ve wroten here!
    I am a Female with more or less 4 Years training behind me. Probably Ive been speding too much time in the Gymn and far toooo much cardio. I am 30 years old, 171 cm tall and about 130 Pounds. My Bodyfat should be around 18% even if my bodyfat scale tells me I am 24% :-/

    I was doing weight training in the “classical” way (3-4 Sets of 5-10 reps) 5 Times a week (slpit in 3 push/pull and legs) + probably 6 hours or more low intensity cardio per week (!!!).

    I basically want to put on Muscle, obviously lean, so I really want to start with the HIT training as suggested here. I wanted to do it 3x a week but you say one should stick to 2x/week… 3 times is too much? What can/should I do the other days to help on muscle gain or maybe to reduce bodyfat?

    Perhaps I am already an “sport addicted”, but I dont want to keep spending my time with workouts which dont work and wont bring me further.

    I would love to hear from you.
    Greetings from a brasilian girl living in Germany :-)

    Mariana

    • Drew Baye July 29, 2011 at 11:33 am #

      Marianna,

      Five workouts a week plus six hours of cardio is way more exercise than anyone needs or would benefit from. My total weekly training time is only around forty minutes and most of my clients only train once or twice weekly for around twenty to thirty minutes.

      The first thing I recommend is taking a few weeks off of training, as you are probably overtrained and would benefit more from the rest than from jumping right into another program. After a few weeks of rest you can try training three times weekly starting out, but if you are not progressing you may need to cut back. Some light activity in between workouts isn’t going to hurt, but it doesn’t do much for fat loss. The best thing you can do during your off days for muscle gain and fat loss would be to take it easy. If you do any activity at all, do something because it’s fun. If you’re doing something for the sake of burning calories you’re wasting your time. The biggest improvements in fat loss will come from dietary changes rather than exercise, and proper eating makes a huge difference for muscle gains as well.

  23. Mariana July 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    Hi Drew,

    I really aprecciate your answer! Wow, a few weeks off training? I must be sincere I am really afraid of putting on fat if I dont exercise for such a long time.

    1. If I really make a break for 1 or 2 weeks, will I have less hunger? Because right now its like I am starving all the time, even if I eat a lot… cos if I keep eating as much as I do now but without exersise, I will be most likely putting on fat.

    2. as “light activity” between workouts: riding the bike to work shouldnt be a problem, right? As I ride pretty slow with no hurry.

    3. I was thinking about going to the sauna 2 or 3 days/week instead of doing cardio (which I am banning after reading your articles). Do you thing sauna can affect regeneration in a positive way and perhaps help on putting on muscles?

    4. Last question concerning proper eating: I am primary interested on muscle gain, later on on fat loss. But concerning both of them, what is yout oppinion about the “binge” day of the week which Tim Ferris suggests on his book? Do you recommend it to your clients/do you have knowledge on how it works for muscle gain and fat loss?

    So, I think I will stop bombing you. I really, really apreciate your articles and answers. And I already set a RSS Feed for my Mobile phone :-)

    Thanks a lot, Mariana

    • Drew Baye July 29, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

      Mariana,

      Yes, at least two weeks. Often when someone has been overtraining for a while they require a few weeks layoff to recover. As long as you are eating properly you will not put on fat during this time. Exercise has very little to do with fat gain or loss. It’s almost entirely a matter of diet.

      A reduction in training volume will result in reduced appetite, but so will eating properly.

      Bike riding and similar low intensity activity isn’t going to hurt recovery much and would be fine on your off days. The sauna won’t do anything for fat loss. You’d be better off with cold water submersion than heat for recovery.

      I don’t recommend binging as Tim suggests in The Four Hour Body, however there are instances where “refeeds” or “free” meals or days can be helpful.

  24. Mariana July 31, 2011 at 4:32 am #

    Hi Drew,

    Thanks a lot again for your answer.
    Two weeks will be a hard time for me but I will try. I was just wondering if I am not loosing lean mass without training? What can I do to prevent it?

    Even eating properly. Actually I always ate quite properly, means lots of Protein and some so called good Fats (which seem to be not that good as u say) – but I am now just dropping the cabs I used to eat (whole bread, oats etc…).

    Do you have a page where we can see some suggestions what to eat? Breakfast, snacks and so… it would be great!

    Generally I had much of my prots from milk stuff, as “quark” (14g prots, 4g carbs and 0g fat pro 100g) or “harzer cheese” (13g prots, 0g carbs and 0g fat pro 100g)… Is it OK if I still keep then on my diet? I uset to eat ca. 500g from this quark, and 100g from this cheesen. As far as I know I have no problems with Lactose….

    And when I start the HIT Workoout and see that I am not progressing on muscle gain, shall I put some more carbs on my diet or rather fat/prots? Even if I am already eating the 1.5g/pound lean mass.

    Thanks again in advance, I hope I can stop bothering you now :)

    Mariana

    • Drew Baye July 31, 2011 at 10:19 am #

      Mariana,

      As long as calorie and protein intake is adequate a person will not lose muscle mass if they do not train for several weeks. I do not have any pages here with specific food or meal suggestions, but there are several books I recommend which do, including Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint and Robb Wolf’s Paleo Solution.

      Some people do better with a little more carbs on workout days, so you might want to experiment with that, but if you are not progressing also consider you may require a reduction in training volume or more recovery time.

  25. Lance August 5, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    Drew,

    Have you read Mike Brown’s book on Biblical eating? That book is the source on what foods to eat and which ones to avoid based on the principles and passages in the Bible. I believe that the Bible way of eating is sensible and more in tuned with God’s way rather than all of these other faddish diets that come and go over the years only to reappear 20 years later. How can one argue with a 2000 year old book, the Bible?

    Lance

    • Drew Baye August 5, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

      Lance,

      Biblical passages may provide some insight into dietary practices at the times and in the parts of the world they were written but they are not reliable sources of nutritional information.

      The idea that a book or belief is correct because it is old is a logical fallacy called argument from antiquity. The age of the Bible has no bearing on the soundness of any nutritional advice it may contain, or anything else written in it for that matter. How can you argue with the Bible? Like this.

  26. PTB August 6, 2011 at 11:36 pm #

    No disresspect Lance, but I’m a Christian myself, and I find no issues with Drew’s approaches, nor do I find an Old Testament pattern of eating of any bearing on my dietary habits. Perhaps you should refer to Jesus’ teachings on food (Mark 7:18-20), or Peter’s experience (Acts 10:14-16).

    Sorry Drew, not trying to turn this into a religious thread, but I find no mandate in the Bible that anyone suscribe to ancient dietary restrictions. Just because it is “Biblical”, doesn’t mean it’s “Applicable”.

    • Drew Baye August 7, 2011 at 11:39 am #

      Hey PTB,

      Thanks for the clarification. I’m not going to allow any more comments on religion after yours to prevent the discussion from getting ugly, though. Lets keep the questions and comments on the subject of nutritional science.

  27. Mariana August 9, 2011 at 7:48 am #

    Hey Drew, its me again!

    After almost 2 weeks off the gym, I will be starting to workout again on Thursday… But I was just wondering if you could tell me about your experience with female clients?

    What an average girl with no “super gens” could reach concerning muscle gain and/or fat loss if following the HIT workouts + having proper diet?

    As for myself, I am pretty sure I will be working out to the limit, as I always used to train till failure before, just with the problem that it was too much/too often.

    Diet guidelines are being followed as well, and even without sport I was able to loose weight, even thou most of it will be probably just water (from dropping the carbs).

    It would be great to hear from you again.

    Thanks in advance, Mariana

    • Drew Baye August 9, 2011 at 11:57 am #

      Maria,

      Results vary between individuals due to differences in genetics and other factors but the women I train lose and keep off fat better than those following traditional, “cardio” focused regimens and fads like Pilates. This is mostly due to the diet, however.

      While some of your weight loss may be from water, the lower carb intake will also produce a hormonal response which promotes fat loss. Follow the eating guidelines in the article, train hard once or twice a week, and you’ll become leaner and more fit as quickly and safely as possible.

    • JLMA November 1, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

      Mariana,

      It has been almost a yr an a half now and, in reading this thread just now, I was wondering how things had gone for you with your new nutritional and exercise approaches.

      Please, fill us in!

      Thanks!

  28. PTB August 11, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

    Hey Drew,

    What are your thoughts on sundried raisins and dates as snack foods with nuts? Could such foods be good post workout to quickly replace glycogen stores?

    • Drew Baye August 11, 2011 at 10:33 pm #

      PTB,

      A small amount with nuts other than peanuts would be fine. I wouldn’t eat them as a regular snack, however, as it’s an easy way to quickly load up on sugar.

  29. Patrick October 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    Hi Drew,
    Since I try to get to single bodyfat. How do I cycle calories if I train once a week? Also I will use now a protocol from The Stubborn Fat Solution (Lyle McDonald) doing fasted cardio with 100g caffeine? Whats your take on fasted cardio (since you and Doug say there is no cardio) with caffeine and how do I reduce the side effects?

    Hope I didnt overwhelm you with questions I tried to look already everywhere up, but did not find any answers. Hopefully you can answer them. Thanks I lost already so much weight. :)

    • Drew Baye October 5, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

      Patrick,

      What people call “cardio” is highly overrated for fat loss and makes so little contribution to energy deficit compared to calorie restriction it’s not worth your time to do it for that reason. If you want to be active find something physical you enjoy and do it for fun, but not for the sake of burning calories.

      If you’re only strength training once weekly and want to cycle calories I recommend increasing calories on the days of and after your workout.

  30. Spitfire July 3, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    Hi Drew,
    I’ve researched nutrition and exercise a lot in the last 5-6 months – been through tons of bodybuilding articles/diets etc and find that your exercise and nutrition recommendations make the most sense, combined with Mark Sisson’s “Primal blueprint”.
    I’m 5’ 11 inches and weigh only 128 pounds! My goal is to gain weight/muscle mass. And atleast get up to 160 pounds or more. I started gym a month back on the HIT protocol.
    However, I haven’t been able to find diets in the (high animal fats, high protein, carbs from veggies/fruits realm) that are specifically aimed at gaining weight and muscle. A lot of recommendations like having a lot of fat or green vegetables are aimed at fat loss!!
    The traditional bodybuilding advice of bulking up on carbs and leaning down really makes no sense – so I’ve started incorporating this stuff but haven’t gained any mass yet.
    I’m already having loads of chicken and lamb cooked in ghee … Also fruits like bananas, strawberries and whole milk – Really don’t like the taste of vegetables as much so this area’s been lacking so far. Have also been having some crushed almond on the side but very little of it. I haven’t totally cut down on grains as its convenient to add up the calories but have drastically reduced their consumption. I find that just eating primal/paleo doesn’t allow for 3000 calories that I’d need on a daily basis. I’m still averaging on around 2000 calories per day which just isn’t enough.
    What would you recommend to be the optimum nutrition strategy to gain muscle mass/weight?

    • Drew Baye July 6, 2012 at 8:19 am #

      If you want to gain as much muscle mass as possible I recommend following Mark Sisson’s guidelines but with a higher volume of food. It just takes some effort. Depending on the cut you can get over 1,500 calories in a single pound of beef, lamb, or pork and it is easy to increase calories by adding butter, lard, etc. when cooking.

      Assuming you are training correctly and you have the genetics to put on a good amount of muscle mass eating this way will allow you to do it.

  31. Mike Chambers November 19, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Hi Drew,

    Great advice her on your site! I want to understand, are you saying oatmeal should be elimated on this diet? What about all the health benefits of oatmeal?

    • Drew Baye November 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      Mike,

      Oatmeal is a very poor food choice. It provides nothing the body requires that can not be obtained in greater amounts from meat and vegetables and contains plenty of things you don’t want in your body, like lectins, phytates, and gluten.

      • Mike Chambers November 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

        Really? Wow, thanks Drew. So would it be better to go with eggs and fruit in the morning? By the way, are we talking egg whites or whole eggs?

        • Drew Baye November 19, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

          Mike,

          Yes, you’d be much better off eating whole eggs and fruit for breakfast than oatmeal, cereals, or typical grain-based breakfast fare like pancakes and waffles.

  32. Mike Chambers November 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Drew, you information is really invaluable! I was wondering is there a detailed meal plan out there that you have that I can follow? Also, is a cheat meal allowed on your program every now and then? Thanks again!

    • Drew Baye November 21, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

      Mike,

      I don’t have any pre-written meal plans as nutritional requirements, food preferences, and restrictions can vary considerably between individuals and depends on their goals. I do individualized meal plans for my personal training and phone consultation clients but these are specific to them. I may include meal plan templates in a future book, but this would still be something that each individual would have to customize for themselves.

      Like exercise, the general principles are the same for everybody but the application of those principles has to take individual differences into account, so there is no one-size-fits-all meal plan that would work best for everybody and all goals.

  33. Zidan July 7, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

    Are prawns okay to eat? A lot of people tell me they’re not because they feed off a lot of junk in the oceans.

    • Drew Baye July 7, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

      Zidan,

      Prawns and shrimp are fine, but avoid the stuff farmed and caught around Asia and South America.

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