T-Nation readers don’t want to be average. They don’t want to just “make progress.” They want to build the ultimate physique and enjoy the life that goes along with having it. John Romaniello understands that.
In fact, this was his answer when I asked him what he does for a living: “I train people to look f’ing awesome.”
Can’t get more blunt than that.
Since the 20 Training Tips with Roman went over so well, we decided to bring him back for a nutrition round.
What follows are the “gold nuggets” of our conversation, 15 topics that will help you build a bigger, leaner, healthier body and live a better life.
1. All calorie formulas are a crapshoot.
They’re standardized numbers we come up with that give us a starting point. But once you work with several hundred people you develop a series of norms and start to develop confidence in the numbers. Still, it’s tough to give exact guidelines and say “eat this much.” But what the hell. Let’s do it. First you gotta figure out your maintenance caloric intake. Here’s the rough guide I use:
- Current Body Fat Caloric Intake
- 6%-12% 17 calories per pound of LBM (Lean Body Mass)
- 12%-15% 16 calories per pound of LBM
- 15.1%-19% 15 calories per pound of LBM
- 19.1%-22% 14 calories per pound of LBM
- 22.1% or above 13 calories per pound of LBM
So you find out your body fat percentage and then multiple your weight by that percent. Subtract that number from your weight to find out your lean mass, and then use that number and your body fat percentage to determine your calories.
Here’s an example. Let’s say we have a guy named Dave who is 185 pounds at 15 percent body fat. First, we figure out how much fat he has on his body: 185 x .15 = 27.75. We subtract that from his weight (185 – 27.75) and arrive at 157.25 pounds. That’s Dave’s lean body mass.
Because he started at 15 percent body fat, we’ll multiply his lean body mass (LBM) by 16 (as determined by the chart) and arrive at 2,516 calories to maintain his body weight.
Now, to lose weight, I’d just suggest keeping the calories at the maintenance level on training days and drop it down by 200-300 calories on non-workout days.
To gain size, take your maintenance level and add 600 calories on workout days but keep it around the workout window. Two servings of Surge® Recovery should do the trick. On your non-workout days, just add an extra 200-300 calories. That should help you gain muscle without a lot of fat.
2. When I have a guy who’s bulking, I like to have him start clean and get messy as needed.
With nutrition I always measure efficacy versus compliance. Eating clean will be better for him in the long haul–he’ll gain a solid amount of muscle, adopt great eating habits, and not have a body that’s been pumped full of nitrates and other shit. Still, if his gains slow down or he’s the kind of guy who needs to see the numbers on the scale go up quickly, it may be better for him to eat at Wendy’s a couple times per week.
3. “If I’m not chewing I’m not growing.”
I remember reading that quote from John Berardi a few years back. Every morning he’d take a dozen cinnamon raisin bagels and put peanut butter on them. Then he’d take a gallon of whole milk and add six scoops of protein to it. He’d eat and drink all of that between his regular meals. That’s insane bulking and very motivating. And probably something he doesn’t ever want to do again.
4. If you want to look good naked…
…the main things you need to do are drink more water more frequently, eat fewer calories and fewer carbs, and put the carbs near the workout. That’s basically it.
5. Here’s a foolproof way to stay lean.
Every single time you’re about to eat something in your house, put on a pair of tight jeans and a belt, take your shirt off, sit down at the table and look at that fat roll on your stomach. Then decide what your meal will look like. I guarantee you’ll get leaner.
6. Successful dieters are the ones who know what works for them instead of what “should” work.
And they fall into one of two camps: freedom dieters and rule dieters. With the freedom dieters all you need to do is tell them “eat low carbs” and they’ll have no problem automatically eating more protein, avoiding bread, and getting their fats in. As soon as you try to restrict them and put them on some sort of schedule it all falls to shit.
Rules dieters need restrictions. They need to eat certain things at certain times with no deviance, except for maybe a cheat day every now and then. These guys are usually the ones who do better at bodybuilding.
But you can’t take a guy with a “freedom” personality and make him be a rule dieter. It won’t work. As soon as you figure out what kind of person you are, you know what kind of dieter you are.
7. No matter what kind of dieter you are, there’s a time where you need to go from one extreme to the other.
My diet throughout my entire college career was eggs, cottage cheese, protein powder, beef jerky, nuts, tuna, oils, yogurt, fruit, vegetables, and grilled chicken. I never cheated. Never. Being able to live like that for a three-year period was a huge learning experience. Now I know how my body responds to different foods. I know I can have the motivation and determination to stick with anything. It’s trial by fire. And I think it’s helpful for all guys to go through that in the beginning. Makes them enjoy the misery; it makes them part of the club.
8. I take half a dose of Metamucil before bed every night.
I feel better when I’m clean in the morning, you know? Gotta start the day off right. I mix it quickly and take it like a shot. It’s hardcore if you shoot it. Totally not a grandpa thing.
9. I put Superfood everything.
And I mean everything. I’ve put it on oatmeal, sprinkled it on chicken, and even mixed it in jelly for my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You know what else is good? Couscous with Superfood. Seriously.
10. I don’t take a hard-line approach to anything.
So I’m amused when people get on forums and argue about whether or not humans were “meant to eat” nuts and seeds. People get weird about nuts. That’s a really weird way to spend your time. If you don’t want to eat it, that’s fine. Some people tolerate them well, others don’t. It’s up to you to figure out what works in your stomach. And speaking of good sources of fat, I like to cook with coconut oil and put pumpkin seed oil in my salads. Oh, and you can forgo all the added fats if you want to take 25-30 grams of fish oil like Flameout® per day. I just like the variety.
11. Here are two of my favorite protein shakes:
- Fat Kid Bulking Shake
- 6 oz. Skim Milk Plus (skim milk with extra protein)
- 6 oz. of almond milk
- 1 scoop of Haagen Dazs Vanilla Bean ice cream
- 2 scoops of chocolate Metabolic Drive®
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- Crushed ice
- Fruity Lean Shake
- 6 oz. water
- 6 oz. almond milk
- 1 cup of strawberry fat free Greek yogurt
- 1 scoop vanilla Metabolic Drive®
- 1 serving Superfood
- 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
- Crushed ice
12. Be aware of research but see how things work for you.
A few fitness bloggers have been recommending skipping breakfast and doing intermittent fasting. They say it keeps GH levels elevated and is superior for fat loss. And they make some great points. It’s possible that skipping breakfast and having your first meal four hours after you wake up will help you lose fat faster.
Again, I go with efficacy versus compliance. While it could possibly make sense in the exactitudes of science, I’m not going to recommend it. Why? Because you’ll probably eat a shitty meal later in the day ’cause you’ll be in binge mode.
That’s the difference between theory and practice.
In theory you may be able to lose fat faster by skipping breakfast, but in practice those people are probably a lot more likely to fuck their diet up because they’re hungry. What allows you to follow successful habits in the long haul?
13. Super-berries like goji berries and acai berries are great.
If you had to pick between grapes or whatever and super-berries, then I say go with the super-berries. The ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) factor is off the charts. They taste good and are very refreshing. Still, that doesn’t mean that if you drink the concentrated version of the drink you’ll see God on the seventh day at midnight. They’re not that special.
14. I try to eat mostly organic meats, but don’t really care about the fruits or vegetables.
I have an organic apple per day, but that’s about all the fruit I take in. And I buy my vegetables conventional because I’m sautéing them in a pan anyway. I’m not willing to believe I’m going to be damaged by non-organic veggies when I’m damaging them like that.
15. Here’s my number one fat-loss and “feel good” tip: You have to experiment with cheat and fast days.
For this to work well you have to be very strict throughout the week with your diet. No missed meals and no shitty food.
Anyway, pick one day to be a “cheat” day. I usually recommend doing it on Saturday or Sunday. Since you’re dieting, you’re going to be in a caloric deficit the entire week. Now when you’re in a caloric deficit, your leptin levels drop. Leptin, by the way, is called the “anti-starvation” hormone. When your leptin levels drop, your rate of fat loss slows way down. So in order to bump the leptin levels back up, you need to have a periodic overfeed to facilitate faster fat loss, which is just a bunch of science talk that says you get to eat whatever the hell you want.
Seriously. Go nuts. Your leptin levels will get boosted, you’ll have a nice mental break from your diet, and you’ll get better fat loss.
Now, you know the feeling when you get drunk, have a hamburger and fries, and then go to bed? You feel like hell the next morning, right? Well, you’re going to get that same hung-over feeling after a cheat day.
So the day after your cheat day, you’re going to fast. I’m talking absolutely no food–just water, green tea, and maybe a scoop of protein in water to sip if you start getting light-headed.
First of all it’s mentally freeing. If you don’t have to eat, you have the entire day to do whatever the hell you want. Also, I believe it facilitates faster fat loss since your leptin levels are now elevated and you’re in an extreme caloric deficit.
I take some Metamucil, so the only thing going through my digestive track that day is fiber. It cleans you out, man.
Also, I recommend training during that day but keep it light and keep it in the morning. The longer you wait to workout the less likely you are to do it. Oh, and drink lots of water.
Give that a try and let me know how it works for you. But don’t be a little bitch–you cheat and fast like a man. Eat tons of food then buckle down and stay strong.