Everywhere you turn there is a new diet. Some let you eat cheesecake, some make you fast, and some apparently make you look like a superhero. Regardless, they all share some common things. They have you in a routine, calories are generally controlled, meal timing is generally consistent, and there’s some good application of research; however, none of these diets are perfect for everyone. Yet, as long as you believe in a diet and you are following it (assuming), you should see results. I don’t care what anyone says, the best diet will always be the one that you can be the most consistent with. Here are some basic tips to help you stay the course.
1. Stop worrying about minor bullshit
For example, “so and so internet guru said I need 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight, but this other dude said 1.2 grams… so I’m confused.” Yeah, we are all confused on what the hell you are worrying about.
I’ve read some of the recent studies done on how much protein is “necessary” or “sufficient,” and I didn’t find much value in it. No one person responds the same way, whether it’s to stress (training) or to macronutrients. Only you know how you are responding to the amount of calories or protein you are having. If you start to gain weight or excess fat, then you’d eat less (or more “clean”) or do more work. Pretty simple. Most people just want to look good, not necessarily get down to four-percent body fat like a bodybuilder. And bodybuilding is fine—they diet how they need to in order to achieve a certain look. Yet, some people think you can only get lean or look really good by using a competition diet and weighing out your almonds and pieces of rice like a lunatic. Trust me, there are plenty of other ways.
Protein intake is obviously important. As avid lifters, you know the benefits, and you can “handle” or “digest” (or whatever stupid term people use) more than 30 grams of protein per meal. I’ve probably heard that said hundreds of times in the gym. There’s a pretty recent study that again contradicts this theory. The study, “Is There a Maximal Anabolic Response to Protein Intake with a Meal”, concluded that “there is no practical upper limit to the anabolic response to protein or amino acids in the context of a meal.”  Meaning, you won’t max out protein synthesis at 30 grams of protein. There are a couple things at play here. Insulin and amino acids, together, will cause an increase in whole-body protein synthesis, in part because of insulin’s ability to inhibit protein degradation. So as protein intake increases, and with the presence of insulin, so will anabolism. Carbohydrates aren’t the only things that spike insulin, as I’ve mentioned before. Certain aminos (leucine) and whey can cause quite large insulin spikes. This doesn’t mean that you should get carried away and have 200 grams of protein per meal. There is still only so much you truly need to recover and build tissue. However, this can be done whether you are eating your protein in three meals or spread amongst six. The point being is that you can do either successfully. The main issue is still maintaining an optimal net muscle protein balance by consuming adequate protein intake. Still, I believe your post-workout protein consumption should be ample.
2. Insulin can be your best friend or worst enemy
Many of the popular diets today are based on insulin sensitivity and timing of meals.
So you eat a large fry and double cheeseburger from Five Guys, your blood glucose is higher than Amy Winehouse (too soon?), and insulin is released. Insulin will then increase glucose uptake into both muscle AND fat cells in order to remove glucose from the blood stream. It does this via a glucose Transporter (not Jason Statham) called GLUT-4. This helps “shuttle,” if you will, glucose into the cell. Insulin also does a lot of other things like increase fatty acid synthesis, decrease lipolysis, etc. The increase in insulin sensitivity after the workout is due to translocation of more GLUT-4 at the cell surface.  This is why those of us who lift can, and should, eat more carbohydrates than those who are sedentary. However, this doesn’t mean you specifically “need” carbs post-workout (read my previous Post-Workout article that discusses this). But just because a hormone is released, that doesn’t mean that it will produce the intended effect. And just because a hormone binds to a receptor, that does not mean that it will always produce the same effect. This is why we see certain diseases or conditions like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, etc. Unfortunately, really investigating insulin, its effects, GLUT-4, etc., is beyond the scope of this particular article. Yet, there still are some very simple things you can do to help you recomp or change your body.
Unless you’re an endurance athlete or someone who is trying to gain weight (and this can still be applicable), then why do you NEED carbohydrates in every single meal? Well, you don’t. If you are truly interested in how you respond to carbohydrates, then buy yourself a glucometer and treat yourself like a lab rat. But I’ll save you the time. What you will most likely find is that the less meals with carbohydrates that you have, the better your overall blood glucose number will be (and the better you’ll feel and look). Every person that comes to me for a diet says the same thing, “I eat really healthy, actually.” Well, actually, if you ate healthy, you probably wouldn’t need a diet. Right? But when they write what they eat, all five to eight meals per day include a shit-ton of carbohydrates. Be honest with yourself—you probably sit 20 or more hours a day, do you really need that many carbs? “Oh, well, I need it to get bigger and recover…” But INSULIN is needed to initiate protein synthesis, and everyone equates insulin solely with carbs. I first played around with this after seeing a study where the blood glucose levels were measured between two separate groups—one that ate three meals a day and another that ate six meals (calories and macros were the same). Basically, the study goes on to conclude that fewer meals seem to keep blood glucose levels lower than the more frequent feeding group. Do I think this is true? Yes, somewhat. I understand the physiology and rationale behind it, but let’s be honest—a big reason this works is because your fat ass cuts your meals in half. If you tell someone to eat six meals and someone to eat three, the person eating six will probably consume more calories. I, for one, do not believe a calorie is a calorie, but that is for another time…
The same thing goes for carbohydrates. If you’re eating them in every single meal and I change you to once or twice a day, you’ll probably eat less carbs and you’ll definitely improve your sensitivity to insulin. You also build yourself a safety net in your diet by doing this. Unless you’re getting ready for a show, you are bound to have slip-ups—that’s life. So, what’s better: having five meals all containing carbs and then breaking down at night on meal six and stuffing your face, OR having fewer carbohydrate meals throughout the day so that slip-up doesn’t throw you off track as much? Whether you eat your carbs solely pre-workout, post-workout, or just at night. It will help to have some protein and fat ONLY meals for a host of reasons (satiety, for one, and to not feel sluggish).
My advice: If you constantly eat carbs, give your body a break and try to restore some insulin sensitivity. You’ll be surprised by how much more energy you have once you become more metabolically flexible. A couple popular options are to have your carbs: 1) only pre- and post-workout, 2) only at night, 3) only pre-workout, 4) only post-workout, or 5) pre-workout (in the morning) and then in your last meal of the day. All are viable options.
3. Build your diet around your life; NOT your life around your diet
This is the Number One reason why people can’t stick to a diet. Everyone thinks that there’s only one magical way to diet, and it has to be done in a specific way. When I start the process of writing someone’s diet, I ask him/her several basic questions to see how to best fit the diet into his/her life. If he/she has a family, he/she generally prefers eating carbs at night for dinner. Some people hate breakfast while some insist they need it, and some only have time for two meals a day… you get the point. Yet, I’m able to produce an effective diet for all of these people by using vastly different methods and ideologies.
Here is a great example: I had one client who, no matter what he was eating during the day, always had some sweet tooth or craving at night for carbs (or just extra calories). He also hated cardio and pretty much refused to do it. So here’s what I did: On heavy training days (legs, or going for strength depending on the block), he had a large protein/fat meal pre-workout and some carbs. He had no carbs post-workout until dinner with his family. On light/restorative lifting days, he either fasted or had black coffee and some coconut oil. He also did some fasting on off days. We stayed mainly carb-less the rest of the day (excluding green veggies). At night, he would start dinner with a salad and then his protein source, and then I let him eat whatever carbs he wanted (in reason). We still kept a weekly cheat meal, and he was able to lose 20 pounds and maintain strength over three months. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had a guy who did not have much time to eat at night. In his case, we really hammered the pre- and post-workout window with nutrients. He only ate three (large) meals a day and was able to actually add six pounds while dropping two percent body fat.
Take home point: Live your life and work with your body and your schedule, not against it. If you go crazy and cheat one day, go carbless or do some fasting the day after. Let’s say you had 600 grams of carbs in that cheat. If you go carbless that next day, your average over those two days is 300 grams, instead of adding to the unnecessary 600 grams you had.
4. Try these two recipes and thank me later
A good majority of people want to eat clean, but they get bored, don’t feel satiated, and their food is bland. Therefore, they lose discipline and eat cheese steaks and ice cream until they can’t unbutton their pants. Because of this, I always give clients recipes and tips on how to make their food not taste like dog shit. Here are two of the most popular ones:
Turkey Stuffed Peppers (High protein, Low carb)
- 3 Bell Peppers
- 1 Onion (minced)
- 1 Tablespoon Garlic (minced)
- Handful of Fresh Parsley (chopped)
- 1 Pound Ground Turkey
- 3 Tablespoon ketchup/steak sauce
- 1 Egg
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Slice off the tops of the peppers and discard them. Clean out seeds. Cut them in half and place on a cookie sheet or in a casserole dish.
- Place the ground turkey in a bowl; stir in garlic, parsley, and egg.
- Fill pepper halves with ground meat mix. Add a tablespoon of either ketchup or steak sauce on top of each stuffed pepper.
- Cook at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.
The Best Protein Snack You’ve Ever Had:
- 3/4 – 1 cup of oatmeal
- 8 eggs whites (2-3 yolk, but not necessary)
- 1/2 cup – 1 cup of raspberries
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate
- 1 banana
- 1 scoop of protein powder
- Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl.
- Place mixture in muffin tray (preferably lined with muffin/cupcake paper cups).
- Bake at 375 degrees for 27-30 minutes.
 Deutz, Nicholas. “Is There a Maximal Anabolic Response to Protein Intake with a Meal?” Clinical Nutrition, 27 Nov. 2012. Web. <http://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614%2812%2900266-X/fulltext#back-bib11>.
 Hanson, Polly, May Chen, and Lorraine Nolte. “Increased GLUT-4 Translocation Mediates Enhanced Insulin Sensitivity of Muscle Glucose Transport after Exercise.” Journal of Applied Physiology, 19 Mar. 1998. Web. <http://jap.physiology.org/content/85/4/1218.full?sid=6d12b525-e76f-4de0-9063-92da9337b924>.