Editor's note: Check out Part I of this article in Testosterone Issue 69.
An epiphany in aisle 8
It didn't hit me until that first week in the grocery store. There I was with a shopping cart full of eggs, hamburger, sausage, huge blocks of cheese, and an entire cow. The hooves kept hitting little old ladies in the ass as I walked by. I was feverishly reading labels and scanning the macros when my wife brought me the bacon that I had asked her to get. My response was swift:
"Lowfat turkey bacon! What are trying to do, totally sabotage my diet? I'm trying to get ripped here!"
That's when it hit me. Actually, two things. First, three pounds of turkey bacon hit me squarely in the back of the head (thanks, honey.) Then a thought hit me. I had more fat in my cart than Lee Priest has in his pants in the off-season! Why? To get lean, of course! Cue the "Twilight Zone" theme music.
I don't like to write about things that I haven't had firsthand experience with, so I had decided to try the Anabolic diet as I was writing Part I of "Eat Like a Man." (Come to think of it, it's a good thing that TC didn't send me to do that RealDoll article — could've been ugly.) With all due respect to Dr. DiPasquale, I was skeptical. In fact, I was scared to death of a high-fat diet.
Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away...
Back in college, I was fat. Really fat. Two hundred and twenty-three pounds of blubber. My sophomore year, I finally shed my ego defense mechanisms, went on a low-fat diet, and lost 63 pounds. Actually, I cut my overall calories much too severely and lost muscle along with the fat. Then one day, my mom, of all people, told me the shocking truth — I looked sick. In her words:
"You look like you have AIDS."
Oh, great, I thought, I do all this dieting to look better and now I look like I have a fucking disease! That's when I started digging into the bodybuilding magazines and books, and the rest is history. I educated myself, joined a gym, and went from a feeble 159 to a strong 180. In fact, my bodyfat percentage was much lower at 180 than when I weighed 21 pounds less. That was all several years ago, but I've never stopped learning about bodybuilding. But a high-fat diet? Fat? Hey, I had done fat and I wasn't about to go back to that pathetic state! Still, the Anabolic diet made sense....
Episode I: Ah, screw it — I'll give it a shot!
Here's a quick and dirty recap of the Anabolic diet. Weekdays, eat a lot of fat and protein, but only about 30 grams of carbs per day. That looks like 60% fat, 35% protein, and only 5% carbs. It'll take about a week to go through the "metabolic shift." This is when your body goes from being a sugar-burning, fat-storing machine to a fat-burning, muscle-building machine. On the weekend, reverse things and eat 30% fat, 10% protein, and 60% carbs.
As I mentioned before, I scheduled a "break-in" week. That week, I reread DiPasquale's book, along with a lot of labels, and began to reduce my carb intake. Nothing drastic — I dropped the morning bagel and cut back on other breads. I also bought myself a countertop grill for all of the mammal flesh that I was about to consume. By Monday, I was as nervous as a Backstreet Boy at a Korn concert, but I was ready to go.
To get a feel for each phase of the diet, I spent two weeks on the maintenance phase, two weeks on the cutting phase, and one week on the bulking phase. This is not how you'd normally go about the program, but I didn't think that you guys would want to wait several months for the follow-up, either. Here's what happened:
Maintenance or "start-up" phase
During this phase, which typically lasts three to four weeks, DiPasquale says that you can lose some fat and gain some muscle. Simply eat around 18 times your bodyweight in calories using the macronutrient guidelines mentioned. This week is supposed to be the toughest, according to DiPasquale, so I was expecting the worst: cravings, mental fogginess, bowel irregularities, fatigue, etc. The book even warns against running heavy equipment and says that you may feel like you're getting the flu!
After this hell week, the body will begin its "metabolic shift" and you'll feel even better than before you started. Still, I felt trepidation. I woke up Monday morning and cooked up a huge plate of whole eggs, sausage, and bacon. Before, I would have an MRP, a bagel, and maybe a little oatmeal, so all of this fat was a little hard to stomach at first. A typical maintenance menu for me looked like this:
• Four eggs
• Six slices of bacon
• Two ounces of cheese
• Hamburger steak
• Sugar-free Jell-O with whipped cream
• String cheese
• Two-scoop serving of Grow!
• Sirloin steak or fish (sometimes both)
• Fish-oil capsules
• Multivitamin with extra antioxidants
• Caffeine tablets
• Cereal and nonfat milk or pancakes
• Pasta with shrimp
• Fruit or bagels
• Cheap slut, if available
• Power Drive (to combat the mental effects of the sudden carb intake)
DiPasquale recommends taking in most of your carbs in the evening so that the ensuing insulin response won't kick you in the ass at work. I chose to take a two-scoop serving of Grow! after my workout, which is usually in the evening anyway. That means I was getting half of my daily allowance of carbs in one shot. The other 15 grams were spread out over the rest of the day. Granted, I could've had more freedom by skipping the Grow!, but I'm still a pretty firm believer in post-workout nutrition. Plus, when you eat meat and eggs all day, Grow! is like a creamy dessert! However, the sudden intake of carbs threw me for a loop. Within 30 minutes, I felt tired and thickheaded. It's easy to see why the doctor recommends saving most of your carbs until evening.
The results of the first week? By Friday, I lost two pounds. I was honestly shocked. The next week, I lost two more. Now, remember, this is the "maintenance" phase! Part of the reason I dropped weight was that I fell short of my scheduled 3,240 calories (and I'm sure that a pound or two was water.) Now, not getting enough calories wasn't a problem that I expected to have! I'm a former fatboy, remember? Still, it was tough to eat that much. I think it's because the food that I was eating was so filling. Before, I was eating six or seven equal meals a day and craving every one of them. Now, I was forgetting to eat dinner! In two weeks, the cravings that I had fought all of my life were gone! I had gotten fat back in college partly from out-of-control eating. I ate when I was stressed out with school. With the Anabolic diet, I felt like I was in full control. I have a buddy whose mantra is:
"Food is fuel for the body."
For the first time, I can adopt that principle. Food is fuel — nothing more, nothing less. Shovel some down and get on with life.
Now, you may be thinking that it's easy to consume 3,000 or 4,000 calories a day. Sure, on a high-carb diet. For example, my old breakfast might've been oatmeal, a bagel with reduced-fat peanut butter, and an MRP. That can easily add up to 800 calories of "healthy" food. An Anabolic breakfast of three eggs and four slices of bacon is under 500 calories. Also, Anabolic food is much more satisfying and stays with you longer than high-carb meals.
Luckily, my hell week wasn't bad. My sweet cravings were minimal (the Jell-O and Grow! helped) and I didn't feel a big drop in energy. I noticed that I was easily irritated and short-tempered that week. Was it the diet? Maybe. The second week, my cravings were completely gone, my energy level was high and constant, and mentally I had no problems — or, at least, no more than usual.
Dr. DiPasquale was right, however, about the bowel irregularities. I had to break out the Metamucil early on. One serving at night usually helped. The only problem is that Metamucil and other psyllium supplements have carbs. I hated wasting five grams of carbs on a fiber supplement. DiPasquale doesn't recommend tablets like Fibercon, either, because the fiber content is actually very low. I tried them anyway, and he was right again. Still, I threw in a couple with every meal for the heck of it and was able, at least, to reduce my Metamucil intake. Supposedly, the body will adjust in this area, too.
The cutting phase
Here's where I did the diet a little ass-backward. I tried the cutting phase before the mass phase — just to see what I was getting into — but you'd normally do the mass phase first.
Anyhow, macronutrient ratios stay the same in the cutting phase, as do the weekend carb-up ratios — you simply lower your daily caloric intake. One thing I like about this diet is that you can easily customize it to fit your needs and metabolism. With the cutting phase, DiPasquale recommends that you drop the calories by 500-1,000 every week until you're losing 1.5-2 pounds per week. If, however, you lose more than two pounds a week, you risk losing too much muscle. So add 500 or so calories back in until you reach the two-pounds-per-week maximum.
The book contains several sample menus of every phase. The cutting phase menus are set at 1,500 calories per day, although DiPasquale points out that some guys can cut up on 3,000 a day or more. I knew that 1,500 was too low for me, so I consumed between 1,800 and 2,000 calories per day. My menu looked the same, I just used less food. Once again, I experienced no craving or hunger. Several times, I looked at the clock and thought, "Damn, time to eat again!" and I'd stomp off to the kitchen to grill a steak. By the end of the week, I had lost four pounds, way over the limit! I ate plenty of pizza on the weekend and tweaked my diet the next week and lost the maximal two pounds. This was too easy.
The mass phase
This is the only time I found the diet to be a little complicated. First, you decide what's your ideal weight. Obviously, if you weigh a buck-forty and decide that your "ideal weight" is 260, you may have some serious body image issues, indeed.
DiPasquale uses the example of a 200-pound competitive bodybuilder. His ideal weight might be 215 pounds. Now, take this ideal weight and add 15% to it. This is the weight that you'll shoot for while bulking. Our 200-pounder should overshoot his ideal weight by 15%, which would put him close to 250 pounds. To do this, he should consume 20-25 calories per pound of desired bodyweight everyday. That would put our guy eating 5,000-6,250 calories daily. If he's gaining about two pounds a week, he shouldn't be adding too much fat.
Now, here's the really tricky part. You keep eating this way until a) you reach your goal of ideal weight plus 15%, or b) you reach 10% bodyfat. You're already over 10%? Then you don't need to be bulking, chubby! Seriously, you have to keep in mind that the Anabolic diet was originally designed for natural, competitive bodybuilders. Drug monkeys might be able to balloon up to Pillsbury Doughboy size during their off-seasons, but the natural guys just can't get away with it. So, when you reach 10% bodyfat or your goal weight, stop and either get on the maintenance phase or go right into the cutting phase. If you've done everything right, you should weigh three or four pounds heavier in your next contest. Go through this program several times a year, and you could add 10-15 pounds a year of lean muscle. That may not sound like much but, to a natural competitor who's been about the same bodyweight for several years, it's damned near a miracle.
I really didn't want to go on the mass phase. I liked the increased definition in my abs that I got from the cutting phase. However, I decided to try it for a week just for the experience. You know what? I flunked out. Yep, I just couldn't consistently reach the required number of calories. I fell short by at least a thousand calories every day. By Friday, I should've gained at least two pounds. In reality, my weight remained the same. However, if I should decide to bulk up again, I think I have the bugs worked out.
But wait, let's examine what happened here. I ate like a pig — tons of yummy, fatty food — experienced zero cravings, had tons of energy, ate what I wanted on the weekend, and became more defined while getting stronger! In the words of a certain groovy British spy, "Yeah, baby!" Now, five weeks isn't long enough to see vast improvements in muscular size, but I did have several people say that my arms and chest looked bigger. Also, during the five weeks, my max dumbbell bench press and max curl went up a few pounds.
Questions and answers
Since posting Part I of this article, we've received tons of feedback. I'll try to cover some common questions here. But if you're serious about giving this diet a shot, you still need to pick up the book by calling OTS at 1-800-582-2083.
Will it work for everyone? No, of course not. Not even steroids work for everyone. (In fact, we think the guy's name is Roger and he lives in Bumlicker, Georgia.) I recently had an interesting talk with Dr. Ken Kinakin, founder of the Society of Weight-Training Injuries Specialists and all-around smart guy when it comes to weight training. He told a story about his brother (a competitive natural bodybuilder) who used the Anabolic diet. He had previously tried the high-carb approach and the Zone diet but, because of his hypersensitivity to carbs, the Anabolic approach worked wonders for him. His girlfriend also competes, and when she tried the high-fat diet, it made her sick. She simply couldn't oxidize the fats. The moral of the story: Just as in training, there's no "best way" to eat. Personally, I think that most people would benefit from the Anabolic diet, but you just have to try it for yourself.
Do I have to carb up for two days? The length of your carb-up period is up to you. Two days is probably best for most people, but you're welcome to tweak this a bit. DiPasquale says that some people can take three days to carb up without "laying on" too much fat. Others may only need one day. Personally, I tried both, and the standard two-day recommendation is best for me. Start there.
Does DiPasquale recommend a specific type of training, like BodyOpus does? No, although the book assumes that you'll be weight training.
How long is the cutting phase? The cutting phase doesn't have specific guidelines regarding the length of the phase. The diet was originally proposed for competitive bodybuilders, so Mauro assumes that they know what they're doing. However, the book goes into detail about contest prep and gives you a weekly "countdown" to prejudging. He says that if you're at 8% body fat, you can get in contest shape in two to three weeks; however, he recommends a 16-week "pre-contest" phase of diet and training. Once again, it's not important unless you compete. So basically, cut until you reach your goal.
Isn't all of this cooking very time-consuming? What about the cost of food? Yes, I had to adjust my schedule to fit in all the cooking. The grill sped things up, but only a little. I also bought a special tray that allows me to cook bacon and eggs in the microwave. I expected my grocery bill to go down. I mean, I wasn't buying any protein bars, cereals, milk, egg substitute, etc. However, my bill went up a bit because of the fish and meats. Not bad, really. I've spent more on worthless supplements, as I'm sure we all have — Neurogain comes to mind!
Does the diet really mimic the effect of steroids? Yes and no. No, you're not going to explode Lee Priest-like in a matter of weeks. (Besides, everybody knows that Metabolic Thyrolean makes him look like that, right?) Yes, by manipulating your diet, you can maximize production and utilization of growth hormone, testosterone, and insulin. Basically, the diet can stimulate the body's production of anabolic hormones to help you "be all that you can be" naturally, but it's not going to take you out beyond your genetic limitations like drugs.
Every day, I hear people say, "I'm just so tired today," as they drag around in a confused, lethargic state. They'll usually suck down a few more cups of coffee to fix the problem. These same people are usually overweight and have tried and failed just about every program out there. I'd venture to guess that it's the carbohydrates in their diets affecting their energy levels and hampering their weight loss. (DiPasquale even notes that high-carb diets can decrease T levels!) The funny thing is that these people would never try the Anabolic diet. They've been so brainwashed that they continue to eat high-carb/low-fat diets despite the fact that they're making no progress in the gym! My wife keeps herself in great shape, but even she is reluctant to try it. I'm not sure that I want her to, really. It might boost her strength and increase her bacon-throwing power!
When you change your diet, you have to ask yourself:
"Could I eat this way forever?"
Think of all the "miracle" diets out there, basically telling you that you can never eat certain foods again. So you end up getting on the program temporarily, with temporary results. When I asked myself that question, I thought, yeah, I could stick with the diet for years, if I wanted. I mean, I'm getting leaner, building muscle, eating plenty of steak, and having portabello fajitas and Dos XX on the weekend. Why would I stop now? And remember when I hinted in Part I that I'd probably try steroids one day when I'm sure that I've reached my natural limits? I might still, but the Anabolic diet has pushed that day back. And the learning continues....