Now he's going to fill your belly and mind with 14 nutritional nuggets and give some concrete advice on how to accomplish almost any physique goal you might have.

Why-o-why didn't we have something like this when we were first starting out?

— The Editors

Nutrition Nuggets

Here are some additional nutritional guidelines that will apply under most circumstances. These simple things will allow you to get a better grasp of this dieting thing, and attain optimal physique transformation results.

1 – Measure and write down everything, at least in the beginning.

A proper nutrition program is about quality andquantity. You should eat a certain amount of good food to meet your needs and build that great body. If you drastically undereat, you risk losing muscle and strength; overeat and you'll pile on more fat than muscle.

If your goal is to build muscle, you must eat enough to stimulate maximum growth, but not so much that you become fat. If you prefer to get ripped you'll need to have a big enough caloric deficit that you'll tap into your fat stores for energy, but not so great that you end up eating away your muscle.

In both cases there's a constant: you have to ingest an amount of calories within a certain range to get the results you want. How can you do this if you don't even know how many calories and grams of protein, carbs, and fat you're getting each day? You might think you're getting 3000 calories per day, when really you're getting only 2000 or less (or you could do the opposite and drastically underestimate your intake).

If you don't have at least a good idea of where you're at, how can you tell you're where you need to be? That's why you need to record the food you eat on a daily basis and calculate your nutritional intake. You can buy the FitDay software to help you record and calculate this.

In an ideal world, you would always calculate your food intake to know exactly what you're getting. By doing so, it's fairly easy to make adjustments rapidly. I can understand if you don't want to do this year round, it gets tedious after a while, and there are only so many hours in the day. However, do it for at least the first month of your "body composition eating" phase. At the very least, you'll get a pretty accurate idea of how many calories and nutrients your favorite foods contain.

2 – Use the 10-20 rule.

If you're in a fat loss phase, you should consume between 10 and 20% fewer calories than your DEE (a greater deficit than that will lead to muscle loss). If you're in a mass gaining phase, consume between 10 and 20% more calories than your DEE (you don't need more than that to grow optimally, and more will lead to more fat than muscle gain). So if your DEE is 3000 calories, you should consume between 2400 and 2700 calories per day if you're trying to lose fat, and 3300 to 3600 if you're trying to add muscle mass.

3 – The less body fat you carry, the more carbs you can eat without gaining fat.

Leaner individuals have better insulin sensitivity, so they don't tend to store carbs as fat as easily as fatter individuals. Carb intake should thus remain on the low end unless you're at less than 10% body fat. Now, this doesn't mean that you should consume no carbs at all (although for fat loss purposes this is a very effective way to eat), but at least minimize carb intake.

If you decide to keep carbs in your diet, be sure to consume only "good carbs" (veggies and some fruits, especially berries. Post-workout carbs in the form of a shake like Mag-10® are also acceptable). Be sure also that you eat them at the appropriate times. As mentioned earlier, the "safest" times to eat carbs are at breakfast and right after a workout: at these times your muscles are naturally more insulin sensitive and are more likely to store those carbs in the muscle as glycogen rather than as fat.

4 – Think whole food.

The closer a food is to its natural state, the better it is for you. This holds true for both health and body composition purposes. Under most circumstances, if it comes in a box or a can, don't eat it.

5 – Cheat Meal

When you start to eat a muscle-friendly diet, wait 14 to 21 days before having a "cheat meal." It takes at least this long to get used to any new pattern of eating. If you cheat too often, you'll stick with your old habits. Eating a good diet will always seem like a chore, requiring forced discipline and the feeling of sacrifice, instead of becoming a way of life that is enjoyable.

6 – Reloading/Cheating

>Once you're well set in your good eating habits, you should have a "reloading/cheating" period lasting anywhere from one meal to one full day every 5-14 days depending on your degree of leanness. If you're fat (by body comp standards) at 15% body fat or more, you should limit yourself to 1-3 cheat meals (half a day) every 10-14 days. If you're between 10 and 15% you can have that half day cheat every 7 days, and if you're under 10% you can have a full cheat day every 7 days or half a cheat day every 5 days.

7 – Do not make up for an unplanned binge by skipping meals.

A lot of people will eat an unplanned crappy meal, feel guilty about it, and then either not eat for the rest of the day, or become extra drastic the next day. Even worse, they might feel like eating junk later in the day, so they don't eat anything at all before that (basically fasting for almost the whole day) thinking that this will prevent fat gain.

This is just stupid. In fact, these two mistakes are worse than the binge itself.

Not eating for a while (starving yourself for 10 hours) before eating a junk meal will put your body in fat storage mode, and you're actually more likely to store the junk in your trunk than if you had not starved yourself. Furthermore, starving yourself is likely to make you eat even more crap because you'll be more hungry than if you had eaten your normal meals.

Skipping meals after an unplanned binge is no better, especially if you decide to starve yourself the day after a binge to "make up for it." This will create a vicious cycle: by starving yourself you'll actually increase the feeling of hunger and you'll have huge junk food cravings. You then might give in to those cravings by bingeing; this will make you feel guilty so you'll once again starve yourself, etc.

After an unplanned cheat, go back to your regular diet immediately. Accept your mistake, live with it, and do your best not to let it happen again. Don't compound a mistake by trying to counter it with another mistake.

8 – Poliquin's Axiom

A while ago I had the opportunity to listen to Coach Poliquin give a presentation in which he talked about diet. He once again explained his basic diet principle: "If it doesn't fly, swim or run, or if it's not a green vegetable, you don't eat it." One poor dummy asked, "What about bagels, Coach? Are bagels okay?" I thought that coach P would rupture a blood vessel, but he merely asked, "Do bagels fly? Do they run or swim? Are they green? No? Well, then don't eat them!"

9 – It's important to eat a wide variety of foods.

If you over-consume one specific food, for example if you eat chicken 4 times a day, every day, you'll eventually develop an allergy or intolerance to it.

A few years ago, I was coaching a weightlifting team at the Quebec Games. It was held in a remote part of the province and we were confined to the competition site and our dormitory for a week. They gave us 5 food item tickets for every cafeteria meal (3 per day). Each ticket gave us one of every food item available. For most people that would be one drink, a main course (normally pasta), side dishes (veggies, gravy), a desert and a piece of fruit.

Hardly any of the food items had any protein, so for a week I would ask for five milk cartons, three times a day, to get my protein. By the end of the week I had become severely lactose intolerant!

You might not develop a full blown food allergy, but even a mild one (that you might not even feel) can have negative impacts on your body. When you're intolerant to a food, even mildly, eating it represents a stress on the body. So when you eat that food it will raise cortisol levels. As you may recall, cortisol can lead to catabolism (muscle breakdown and loss), and it can also facilitate the storage of fat on your abdomen. Double ungood.

Grilled elk steak with green salad and sauteed eggplant. Chicken just can't compete.

So rotate your food choices. This is especially important for protein sources, since various foods have different amino acid profiles. Don't limit yourself to dry broiled chicken breasts: eat beef, pork, salmon, venison, buffalo, ostrich, kangaroo... you get the idea.

10 – Small and frequent feedings are better than large, infrequent ones.

I really thought that most people these days knew this already, but when I speak to new clients I'm always baffled that many of them don't.

It's quite simple, really. Your body can better absorb nutrients when you ingest them in small but frequent doses, and it facilitates a positive nutrient-partitioning effect (more nutrients stored in the muscle and less in the fat cells).

Eating smaller, more frequent meals prevents energy swings and big crashes by maintaining a more stable blood sugar level (no big ups or downs), keeps you from getting bloated from stuffing yourself, and staves off those hunger pangs that hit you when you haven't eaten for a while. The bottom line is that for body composition purposes and your health, smaller but more frequent feedings (5 to 8 meals a day) are the way to go.

11 – Eat protein at every feeding.

Protein is the building block of muscle. The more you can absorb and use, the more muscle you'll build. Frequent protein feedings allow for optimal protein absorption. They also optimize muscle building by allowing you to have a constant supply of amino acids available. When no protein is available, the muscle-building process comes to a halt. To maximize growth, make sure you eat at least some protein every time you eat.

12 – Eat breakfast.

When it comes to body composition purposes, breakfast is the most important meal of the day (yeah, I know you've heard it before. Shut up, because you're going to hear it again). First of all, it's necessary to break the nightly fast: when you wake up, depending on the time of your last meal, you've been without food for 8-12 hours, or even more. This leads to a catabolic (muscle wasting) state, or at the very least, it stops muscle growth in its tracks.

To maximize muscle-building, you need to break that fast as soon as possible. This requires eating a good breakfast. Failure to do so will keep the muscle growth process halted and it might even lead to muscle loss due to an elevation of the stress hormone cortisol (starvation is yet another form of stress). Chronically elevated cortisol levels make it all but impossible to build muscle, and also causes abdominal fat gain. Bad news.

When it comes to losing fat, skipping breakfast has another downside: it has been shown that those who skip breakfast tend to have a much greater daily caloric intake. In other words, skipping breakfast stimulates your hunger during the rest of the day, leading to overeating. On the other hand, having a good-sized breakfast drastically reduces hunger and food intake during the rest of the day.

The bottom line: if you want to be lean and muscular, don't skip breakfast!

13 – Don't neglect the post-workout window of opportunity.

The second most important meal in your muscle-building day is the one right after you train. Simply put, muscle growth cannot occur before the recovery process starts. To speed up the onset of that process you must bring nutrients to the muscle ASAP.

The faster the necessary nutrients are delivered to the muscle, the faster you'll recover and the more muscle you'll build. So right after your workout you want to send protein and carbs (more or fewer carbs depending on your dieting phase) to your muscles by special delivery, so they can get growing immediately.

While a solid food is better than nothing right after your workout, it's not what your muscles need. Solid food needs to be digested, so it may take 2 or more hours before the nutrients are shipped to the muscle tissue. Fast-absorbed nutrients in the form of a post-workout shake (Mag-10® for example, which will be discussed more in depth in the supplement part of the series) can be available for muscle-building within 15-30 minutes. After a workout we have a 45 to 60 minute window of opportunity for enhanced muscle-building. Don't miss it.

Remember: real food is better than powder most of the time, except right after you train. Have a post-workout shake.

Best Diets for Losing Fat

There are three major dieting strategies for fat loss: carb-dominant diets where fat is minimized, fat-dominant diets where carbs are minimized, and balanced diets where both fat and carbs provide a similar amount of energy. As a rule of thumb, fatter individuals and natural endomorphs ("husky people") will respond better to the low-carb approach, whereas leaner individuals and natural ectomorphs ("skinny people") will do better on a higher carb intake. Mesomorphs, people who are naturally lean and muscular, do well on all kinds of diets, but seem to respond best to a balanced approach.

Each type of diet can look something like this:

Low-Carb

  • Caloric intake is set at 10 to 20% under maintenance (DEE)
  • Protein is set at around 1.25 to 1.5 per pound of body weight
  • Fat comprise 90 to 100% of the energetic nutrients
  • Carbs comprise 10% or less of the energetic nutrients

If somebody is 200 pounds and has a DEE of 3000 calories, it gives him:

  • A caloric intake of 2400 to 2700 calories
  • 250 to 300g of protein (200 pounds x 1.25 to 1.5) for 1000 to 1200 calories
  • He now has 1200 to 1500 calories to "spend" in energetic nutrients (caloric intake minus protein calories)
  • Fat would be set at 1100 to 1400 calories (122 to 155 grams)
  • Carbs would be under 30 grams

Low-Fat

  • Caloric intake is set at 10 to 20% under maintenance (DEE)
  • Protein is set at around 1.25 to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight
  • Fat comprise around 10 to 20% of energetic nutrients
  • Carbs comprise 80 to 90% of energetic nutrients

If somebody is 200 pounds and has a DEE of 3000 calories it gives him:

  • A caloric intake of 2400 to 2700 calories
  • 250 to 300 grams of protein (200 pounds x 1.25 to 1.5) for 1000 to 1200 calories
  • He now has 1200 to 1500 calories to "spend" in energetic nutrients (caloric intake minus protein calories)
  • Carbs would be set at around 1000 to 1350 calories (250 to 335 grams)
  • Fat would be set at 200 to 400 calories (around 40 to 50 grams)

Balanced

  • Caloric intake is set at 10 to 20% under maintenance (DEE)
  • Protein is set at around 1.25 to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight
  • Fat and carbs are both providing around 50% of the energetic nutrients
  • Fat and carbs should never be mixed in a single meal (only have protein + carbs or protein + fat meals, normally three of each)

If somebody is 200 pounds and has a DEE of 3000 calories it gives him:

  • A caloric intake of 2400 to 2700 calories
  • 250 to 300 grams of protein (200 pounds x 1.25 to 1.5) for 1000 to 1200 calories
  • He now has 1200 to 1500 calories to "spend" in energetic nutrients (caloric intake minus protein calories)
  • Carbs would be set at around 600 to 750 calories or 150 to 185 grams
  • Fat would be set at around 600 to 750 calories or 65 to 85 grams

Muscle Gain Advice

In my expert opinion, the best gains are achieved when one is eating clean year round. I find it idiotic when people resort to eating junk food just for the sake of "bulking up." When attempting to build muscle, an individual should eat the same way as if he were trying to lose fat, but with an increased caloric intake (10-20% above DEE).

So let's take the same example as above (200 pounds, DEE of 3000 calories):

Low-Carb

  • Caloric intake is set at 10 to 20% above maintenance (DEE)
  • Protein is set at around 1.25 to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight
  • Fat comprise 90 to 100% of the energetic nutrients
  • Carbs comprise 10% or less of the energetic nutrients

If somebody is 200 pounds and has a DEE of 3000 calories it gives him:

  • A caloric intake of 3300 to 3600 calories
  • 250 to 300 grams of protein (200 pounds x 1.25 to 1.5) for 1000 to 1200 calories
  • 2000 to 2600 calories to "spend" in energetic nutrients (caloric intake minus protein calories)
  • Fat would be set at 1800 to 2600 calories (200 to 290 grams)
  • Carbs would be under 30 grams

Low-Fat

  • Caloric intake is set at 10 to 20% above maintenance (DEE)
  • Protein is set at around 1.25 to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight
  • Fat comprise around 10 to 20% of energetic nutrients
  • Carbs comprise 80 to 90% of energetic nutrients

If somebody is 200 pounds and has a DEE of 3000 calories it gives him:

  • A daily caloric intake of 3300 to 3600 calories
  • 250 to 300 grams of protein (200 pounds x 1.25 to 1.5) for 1000 to 1200 calories
  • 2000 to 2600 calories to "spend" in energetic nutrients (caloric intake minus protein calories)
  • Carbs would be set at around 1600 to 2300 calories (400 to 575 grams)
  • Fat would be set at 500 to 600 calories (around 60 to 70 grams)

Balanced

  • Caloric intake is set at 10 to 20% above maintenance (DEE)
  • Protein is set at around 1.25 to 1.5 grams per pound of body weight
  • Fat and carbs are provide around 50% of the energetic nutrients
  • Fat and carbs should never be mixed in a meal (only have protein + carbs or protein + fat meals, normally three of each)

If somebody is 200 pounds and has a DEE of 3000 calories it gives him:

  • A caloric intake of 2400 to 2700 calories
  • 250 to 300 grams of protein (200 pounds x 1.25 to 1.5) for 1000 to 1200 calories
  • He now has 2000 to 2600 calories to "spend" in energetic nutrients (caloric intake minus protein calories)
  • Carbs would be set at around 1000 to 1300 calories (250 to 325 grams)
  • Fat would be set at around 1000 to 1300 calories (110 to 145 grams)

Conclusion

Training is easy for us, because it's our passion. But what separates those who are serious about changing their body and those who aren't is the quality of their nutrition program. Training requires 3-5 hours of effort per week, while dieting transforms the whole process into a full-time job. But it's this amount of dedication that really shows us who the successful people will be.

Will you be one of them?