Dietary Flexibility: Adjusting the Numbers Based on the Physique Goals

Summary: I’m going to show you how simple it is to adjust the details of the Intermittent Feast diet to match your current physique goals.  For better or worse, New Year’s is a time of transition, and regardless of what new (or old) goals you’ve decided to pursue, this diet can be modified to help you accomplish them.  The overall structure of the diet stays the same (hunt & feast), but the numbers change.

calculator

First off, I want to start off by saying I know you don’t really give a sh*t about me or my pursuits, you just want to know how my experience as an athlete and coach can help you reach your goals.  I get it.

But I’m going to use myself as an example in this one, because I think recent changes I had to make in my own plans are a good example of how flexible this dietary approach can be.  I truly believe it is a year-round lifestyle plan that can be used regardless of the goal — gaining muscle, slashing fat, or maintenance/recompositioning.

And of course, it can help you seamlessly transition amongst those goals at a moment’s notice.

I also think it will help answer a lot of common questions I’ve been getting through various channels.  And on a side note, I’m NOT ignoring any of you, its just been hard to keep up with Da Inbox while having an offline life.

How do you specifically adjust Da Feast for this or that?  Well I was in maintenance mode, mapped out and was about to go into bulking mode, and for an upcoming opportunity, had to completely switch gears and go into full on shredding mode.

WHERE I WAS AT

So for the past few months I’ve been in maintenance mode.  Basically, I wasn’t training or dieting for anything specific, just maintaining good condition.  I don’t yo-yo up or down drastically because I want to look decent all year round for my personal (mirror) reflection time, not just for photo shoots.

Mid-December Maintenance

Mid-December Maintenance

Mid-December Maintenance

Mid-December Maintenance

At 165lbs, the diet basically looked like this.  Since I engage in consistent, anaerobic activity, it is a carb-based diet (if you are sedentary, you should follow a lower-carb version of a Paleo Diet):

15 calories/lb: 2500 calories
1.5-2.0g pro/kg or slightly less than 1g/lb: 150g
15-25% calories from dietary fats, mostly by-product of a mix of lean and not-so-lean animal proteins: I was around 45g
Remaining calories from carbs: roughly 375g

How was I achieving this?  Although sources varied, basically the summary is:

20 oz of animal protein
unlimited non-starchy vegetables
1-2 pieces of fruit around da workouts
all starch at dinner from rice or potatoes (which means on most nights I was eating around 300g of carbs or roughly 6 cups of rice).

Low-carbers, I do have a defibrillator near by.

WHERE I WAS GOING TO GO

My initial plan was to shift into a muscle gaining/bulking mode for the first part of the year.  I hoped to compete in some natural bodybuilding contests at the end of the year, and planned to gain some size and move up a weight class.  The adjustments were to be simple:

Calories go up through carbs

Protein is already at optimal levels = stays the same.  Fat comes primarily as by-product of protein = stays the same.  Carbs are increased to get into that surplus necessary for gaining muscle.  New totals:

18 calories/lb = 3000 cals
Protein: 150g
Fat: 45g
Remaining calories from carbs = 500g

Food choices stay the same, just the starch portions go up, so that’s like 9 cups of rice at dinner.  One question I get is, “what if I just can’t eat the recommended food amounts in one meal at dinner?”  Well first, doesn’t that just sound like a funner challenge than, “how do I stop myself from gnawing off my significant others’ arm as a result of dietary-induced starvation?”

But yeah, when food amounts start to get this high, I basically suggest breaking up that feast into 2 dinners: one early (4-5pm), one later (7-8pm). So more along the lines of a traditional fitness spread, but not so extreme that you are back to an impractical plan of 18 meals a day every hour.

Basically, a protein and veggies lunch, and then two starch-loaded meals toward the end of the day.  1-2 pieces of whole fruit around the workout.

*Note: I personally increase carbs in bulking phases until I reach about 5-7g/kg of bodyweight, which is right about what Sports Nutrition research recommends for strength training athletes.  After this, liver and muscle glycogen stores are probably nearing saturation.  At this point, that’s when I would start including “added” fats as a means to increase calories.

And if you have some degree of insulin resistance and shouldn’t be eating high amounts of carbs, then personally I don’t think you should be bulking either.  You should be losing weight, improving insulin sensitivity, and taking care of your overall health first.  Then you can worry about bulking.  That may not be considered “hardcore” bodybuilding, but I save my “hardcoreness” for the bedroom, not with regards to my overall health.

WHERE I’M GOING

Over the Holidays, a potential big new opportunity was pitched to me.  Legally, I’ve been told I can’t talk about the details, but basically it is a video-based fitness project with a major international distribution partner (vague enough legal team?).  Not only has my training had to change a little bit (from pure bodybuilding back to a hybrid plan that incorporates more of my martial arts background), but my diet as well.

Basically, they want the ripped Miyaki.  I’m shooting for John Rambo 3-style shredded.

Rambo IIICarolco Pictures

Rambo III
Carolco Pictures

So the next day, I shifted the diet towards fat-slashing mode.  And again the transition was simple — calories go down through carbs

Again, protein is already at optimal levels = stays the same, fat is primarily by-product of protein so it stays the same, carbs are decreased to get into the deficit necessary for fat loss (although note, they are not cut out completely. If you are in a calorie deficit, you can keep some carbs in the diet to support anaerobic training, lean muscle mass, and natural hormone production).  New totals:

12 calories/lb = 2000 cals
Protein: 150g
Fat: 45g
Remaining calories from carbs = 250g

Food choices stay the same, just the portions are adjusted.  And I’ll tell you a few days after eating 9 cups of rice at dinner, 4 cups of rice seems like a disturbingly unsatisfying snack.  But its much better than the old diet days of trying to pretend a piece of protein and a few lettuce leaves was a real dinner.

THE TRANSITION SUMMARY

1. Diet structure stays the same regardless of goal (but maybe splitting up the feast into two dinners during high calorie bulking phases).

2. Protein and dietary fat (as by-product of protein) stays the same = optimum levels to support lean muscle and natural hormone production.

3. Calories go up or down based on physique goals, primarily via carbohydrate changes.

THE MESSAGE

In studying philosophy, I’ve come to the realization that the messenger is irrelevant, its the message that matters.  The same thing is true in fitness.  So don’t just copy my plan because this might not be exactly what you need to do with the exact numbers, given your unique situation and goals.  But I think it does give you a good idea of how to transition between different dietary phases.

You can start by plugging in your numbers based on your bodyweight and goals to get a good ballpark starting point.  But from there, you’ll need to take some personal accountability and then test, assess, and refine in the real world to find what works best for you.

 

Posted on January 2, 2013, in Nutrition. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Hey Martin, English is good mi hermano. No I don’t think working out fasted will be a problem for your goals. You will have plenty of energy reserves stored from your previous nights dinner to train in the morning. What I might do is have 1-2 pieces of fruit immediately following your workout to prevent catabolic activity.

  2. I gotta be honest, I never really measure body fat %. When I can see veins in my abs, then I’ll be happy, hahaha

  3. It’s beautiful that something can be so simple, yet effective. It is a shame that there is so much nonsense on nutrition out there. People for get the basics. Respek.

  4. Hey Nate!!

    I have one question.
    actually i’m bulking (the goals is 5 lb in 2 months, i know is not thaaat bulk, but i want to go a little bigger.)

    actually i’m 162 lb,and 6′. and getting almost daily 3200 cal. I workout 4 times a week in a gymnastic strength training approach (tue, thur, sat and sun), and also include some light mobility on “rest” days, i usually have to workout early in the morning (8 am), so getting a breakfast sometimes is not an attractive idea. do you think that workoing out in a night-fast state would perjudic my gains? if you think yes, What might be a good idea for morning workouts? as i usually get around 300-350 gr of ch trough the day.

    Thanks for answering, and hope my english be good enough, i’m from Mexico,

    Greetings from here!

  5. Nate,

    Looking forward to hearing how you progress with your fat loss. I’m in “cutting” mode now as well and have dropped about 4lbs in 5 days while eating 3ish cups of rice per night, and I’m right around 9-10& bf. I have a hard time believing all that weight is water since I’m still eating a lot of carbs, but there’s no way I’ve lost 4lbs of fat. Enough about me though, how low are you trying to get for this new “gig?”

  6. Cheers Sensei, I was wondering how you felt your approach works for people who perform anaerobic activity but are more focused on performance (Strength/explosiveness/conditioning – i.e. Strongman competitor) than aesthetics. I train strength 4x a week and do some form of conditioning 3-5x per week. Basically I have 4 intense days, 2 fairly light and one off day. Would you change anything about your recommendations/approach or can it work with the basic template? I am ofcourse concerned with avoiding overtraining and also, nobody wants to be a “functional” skinny/fat dude.

    And in an unrelated note, do you have any experience with fixing a lagging metabolism asa result of prolonged undereating/overtraining?

    Thanks in advance, all the best and love yer stuff!

    Slainte!

  7. @Mladen Pavlecic hey dude, legally I can’t answer questions about specific medical conditions. It sucks but its the law. Cholesterol issues are not my area of expertise anyway, as if there is an underlying genetic component you need more specific advice. But in terms of health populations, there can be acute (short-term) rises in any compounds in response to a meal, but the key is what is going on chronically. A good example is insulin. It can rise in response to a high-carb meal, but that’s not always a bad thing = anti-catabolic/anabolic. Chronic elevation of insulin, however, IS problematic. So in terms of cholesterol, its not what the response is to a single meal (again unless with a specific medical condition), its what your overall diet is doing to it. But definitely work with someone on your specific issue

  8. hi Nate. One question concerning your article . In your opinion, is it possible that eating lots of carbs in one meal (200 or 300 g) for longer period of time can elevate cholesterol in blood? and is it wise to take bcaa`s with high carb meal?? thnx for replying. btw I have been incorporating IF for a longer period and I did eat lot of carbs in one meal. after doing my blood test my cholesterol was up, I mostly had medium and high carb days, where my average carb intake was around 180 and 360 g/day. I had three meals a day. thnx for your reply and time

  9. I think that can work, but I prefer more carbs for anaerobic athletes. If you are using a non-ketogenic approach (which I think you should be), the liver itself can use something like 100-150g of carbs a day just to regulate normal blood sugar levels and fuel the brain and CNS. That’s usually my cut-off point for carbs on off days.

  10. thanks brother, hope all is well

  11. Thanks Jonathan for the support. Well, first, before anything, if it works it works. You don’t need my or anyone else’s approval. But personally, I lean towards animal proteins and am not a huge fan of protein powders. Physiologically, whey can spike insulin levels, whether or not this has any detrimental effects on the fasting period is debatable. But like I said if it is giving you good results, stick with it. I love Hofmekler’s work, but you also have to keep in mind he is now selling whey protein (that’s not knocking him or that at all, but you do have to keep that in mind if YOU are going to make an objective decision).

  12. I get the theory of calorie cycling, and the physiology and so forth, but I don’t think it makes as big a difference in the real world as people think. Basically, if you are training 3-4 days a week, you are in a recovery mode all week. And I also look at the feast on off days as the next days “pre-workout” meal.

  13. I think either can work, just depends on the situation. Me personally, I think its much easier to eat relatively the same every day, so I stick with the 2500 calories 6 days, and then of course I usually have a cheat day on Saturday.

  14. I’ve been using your methods in the past 2 months and I love it.
    This post is so useful, it answers a lot of questions. One more that I have: do you suggest cycling carbs/calories at all? For maintainance, in your case, would you go 2500 cals * 7 days a week, or 3000 on training days + 2000 on rest days?
    Thank you, you rock.

  15. Hello, Nate!
    First of all I want say that I impressed with all interviews of yours I´ve been reading on the internet. Simplicity and efficiency is everything in this field!
    I live in Brazil and on morning IF for some time now – people still don´t believe how crazy I am… But I have a doubt that I hope you can help me.
    Recently, I began to include a dose of whey protein (about 30g of protein or less) sometime in the morning. I do not necessarily workout in the morning, but it seems to have accelerated my fat loss. I take this information off an article by Ori Hofmekler:

    http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/09/14/intermittent-fasting-benefits.aspx

    Below “Foods That Can Be Safely Consumed During Fasting.” Not worried about Ori’s whole defense off one meal a day over other types of fasting, but that part is interesting.
    It is possible that Ori has a point to say that whey enhances the effects of fasting?
    I also include routinely in the fast a lemonade made with a whole lemon, to help detox the liver. Can this disrupt the fast in some way?

    Thank you, I appreciate your help very much!

  16. I do enjoy my nut butters once in a while. I cut carbs down to 50 g a day and bump fat up to 100 g on off days. Calories stay the same at 12 per. Any issues with this approach?