Our basic dietary philosophy can be summarized as the following rules:
- Eat “whole” foods as the primary source of impact. Whole grains, fresh meats, fresh fish, legumes, nuts, eggs, etc.
- Eat plenty of protein with every meal; it helps keep you sated, provides necessary fuel for muscle maintenance, and aid in fat loss (due to protein’s high thermic effect).
- Eat plenty of fat—saturated or unsaturated. Avoid processed trans fats, however.
- Eat sufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables; most sugar intake should be through eating fruit.
- Eat non-processed carbohydrates. Whole grains are beneficial, while refined carbohydrates and starches are empty calories that should be cut from the diet.
- Eat often. “Three square meals a day” is generally insufficient frequency; eating smaller portions more often keeps the metabolism higher and improves the body’s function both for activity and thinking.
This list should be taken as a general guideline. It is directly relevant to 99% of us. (note: 85% of statistics are made up on the spot). There are cases where this information does not directly apply, such as to Michael Phelps (link), who has a caloric intake of 12,000 calories per day. In the case where you burn through 12,000 calories per day, different rules apply. However, the vast majority of us need a caloric intake somewhere between 2,000-4,000 calories per day. The guidelines we set forth here will help us make the best use of the calories we have available to use on a moderate to rigorous exercise routine.
Rule 1 explained:
When going grocery shopping, stick to the outside isles. There’s little need to go down the middle isles, which contain processed foods laden with simple carbohydrates, frozen processed foods, and other processed foods which have an expiration date within 1-2 years after manufacture. Foods are meant to expire, and any food which doesn’t expire probably has had many important nutrients removed during processing. Additionally, processed foods are generally more easily digestible. Easily digestible foods, such as sugar and simple carbs create an insulin spike which leads to much of the food eaten being stored as fat unless followed by intense exercise. See Rule 5.
Rule 2 explained:
Ideally, when on a decent workout schedule, you should be eating 1-2 times your weight in grams of protein each day. This amount of protein will ensure you see the maximum gains possible from your routine. If you’re not eating enough protein, your body will not be able to repair and build muscle as quickly as it would otherwise be able to do.
If you eat more protein than you need, you’re doing great (we do not recommend you eat more than 2 times your body weight in grams of protein per day, due to the excessive stress you will put on your kidneys–keep it reasonable). Protein is which isn’t used for rebuilding muscle is converted to energy at 70% efficiency, which means that you will make your body work harder to process protein into energy than any other food type. This is to your advantage when trying to burn fat, because you’re using your metabolism to give you a 30% bump in fat burning potential!
Rule 3 explained:
There is conflicting information on what types of fat are healthy and what kinds are not. It is our conclusion, from the current research, that eating natural fats is healthy, be they saturated or unsaturated. From the research, we believe that eating artificially hydrogenated fats and maintaining body fat over a certain percentage is not healthy. It is a common misconception that fat eaten in the diet is directly stored as fat on the body. However, eating fat does not mean someone will gain body fat. The body processes fat through one metabolic pathway, and it processes carbohydrates through another metabolic pathway, both of which have the potential to put fat on an individual. The only way someone can gain weight is to eat more calories during the day than they use, irrespective on whether those calories come from fat or carbohydrates.
Within the last few years, the American Heart association reversed its opinion that unsaturated fats are bad. It also appears that the recent opinion of the American Medical Association is that there is no substantial evidence that eating saturated fats is unhealthy. This is the result of a slow shift in the scientific consensus which has been occurring over the last several decades, since the initial premise that fat is unhealthy (around the 1970s).
While it is opposite the conventional wisdom, eating a healthy dose of fat in place of carbohydrates will net you several benefits. First, it takes the body longer to process fat, meaning that you stay full longer, and need less calories throughout the day. This will help you burn fat. On the topic of saturated fats, there is current research which suggests that saturated fats increase “good” fats in the bloodstream more than “bad” fats in the bloodstream giving you a net health gain. This is in addition to the vitamins and minerals, which are generally more highly concentrated in saturated fats. Additionally, fat is processed in a different pathway than carbohydrates, which means that if you eat a relatively small amount carbohydrates and a relatively high amount of fat, you will force your body to “learn” to burn fat effectively because there is no other source to pull it from. This is a great means to teach your body to burn fat efficiently for endurance training.
It is our position, however, that trans-fats should be removed from the diet. These are artificially hydrogenated fats, and are not natural. The research points to these fats being unhealthy, and as a general matter of course, most things which aren’t natural (read: manufactured) tend to be unhealthy. Stay away from these fats.
Rule 4 explained:
Fruits are an excellent source of energy. The benefits of eating fruit come from it being a natural source, a source of vitamins, an excellent source of fiber, and a source of dietary water as well. Eating natural, unprocessed foods are generally beneficial, because they take the body longer to process, and so do not generally create a large insulin spike. The fiber and water naturally contained in fruits are beneficial because they increase the volume of the food, and cause your body to expend energy preparing for digestion, but are not actually processed by your body for energy. This means you feel full, but aren’t taking in excess calories.
We do NOT recommend fruit juice. Fruit juice is, unfortunately, not natural because much of the fiber and dietary water is removed during processing. Interestingly, orange juice has the same caloric breakdown as Coke, due to its extremely high sugar content. The only benefits fruit juice has over Coke is that there is no caffeine and no syrup (processed junk) for the body to expel from the system because it can’t use it. Fruit juice does, however, have a small amount of vitamins, but we feel that there are better means of obtaining vitamins (i.e. from fats and fruits).
Vegetables are most beneficial when trying to maintain or reduce your weight. The main benefit here is that per volume, vegetables have relatively few calories and you get vitamins and minerals to boot. Point in case: if you were to eat a diet of solely vegetables, you would practically need to force-feed yourself to get the calories you need to operate throughout the day (don’t do this–you’ll miss out on the necessary protein!). In fact, some vegetables, such as celery, have a small amount of negative calories. In essence, you can eat as much celery as you want, and you’ll actually wind up burning a small amount more calories during digestion than the energy your body is able to acquire from the celery. Use this knowledge to your advantage if your trying to not go over your allotted calories for the day.
Rule 5 explained:
Simple carbohydrates and processed carbohydrates have a high glycemic index. This creates an large insulin spike which which shuttles all the energy just eaten out of the bloodstream and into the body. This is fine if you’re about to use a large amount of energy during intense exercise. However, if you’re eating processed carbohydrates in a normal setting, the body takes all the extra energy you’ve just shuttled into it and stores it as fat. To add insult to injury, when the insulin spike removes all the sugar from the bloodstream, you wind up tired and hungry much sooner than you would have without the insulin spike. So the net effect of simple carbohydrates is that is that you store more energy as fat and get hungrier quicker. Stay away from these foods!
Whole carbohydrates, while still having a higher glycemic index than fat, have a lower glycemic index than processed carbohydrates. So, if the body is given foods which have a lower glycemic index, such as whole wheat, then the food is processed over a longer period of time. This keeps your insulin levels low, keeps you full, and also allows the body to use more of your food for energy and store less as fat. Unless you’re about to expend a lot of energy, keep the simple carbohydrates to a minimum, and eat whole carbohydrates.
We prefer to get the greater portion of our diets from protein and fat for the health benefits (namely for satiation and fat burning potential), but bear in mind that your body needs some carbohydrates. The provides the power source for the muscle fibers in the body. You need enough carbohydrates to refuel your muscles after exercise, even normal everyday activity, and it’s best to obtain your carbohydrates from natural, whole, unprocessed carbohydrates.
Rule 6 explained:
Shoot for eating 4-6 smaller meals a day, as your schedule allows. The essential premise behind this rule allows us to keep a tight leash on insulin levels. By giving your body a limited amount of food at a time, multiple times a day, you can keep your insulin levels low. This limits your body’s opportunity to store that energy as fat, because it’s constantly using meals for energy for everyday activities. By keeping insulin levels low (and avoiding an insulin spike), eating small, interspersed meals will also keep you full for longer than eating the same amount of food in fewer settings. This obviously doesn’t mean eat more food. It simply means eat the same amount of food as you normally would as often as possible throughout the day.
The second reason for this, is that eating more meals increases the amount of calories you burn naturally. Every time your body prepares to digest food, it expends energy. Thus, if you eat food 6 times per day, your body will expend more energy preparing for digestion than it would have if you had eaten 3 times per day.