Thursday, February 02, 2006

#4 in the Plan For Success series


“I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin… Where you go from here, is a choice I leave to you.”

Four Important Fat Loss Concepts
Rather than delving into physiology, endocrinology, metabolism and nutrition, I think it’s important to discuss four major concepts you’ll need to understand and master if you hope to change your own body composition.

Important Fat Loss Concept #1: A three-tiered, integrated approach to fat loss is always warranted yet rarely found.

Magazine articles often cover only one piece of the fat loss puzzle. One article will discuss supplements for fat loss, another will discuss nutrition for fat loss, and yet another will discuss exercise for fat loss. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not dissin’ the mags. After all, the very nature of the article format is to be brief and cover one topic per article. Yet all this disjointed information can, at best, produce sub-optimal results.

For example, if you were to try to get lean by just popping a few pills, your results would be suboptimal, especially since many supplement approaches increase fat mobilization, but don’t improve fat oxidation. In other words, you can pop those fatty acids out of your adipose cells all day long, but if that fat isn’t oxidized (via an appropriate exercise plan coupled with a hypocaloric diet), those fatty acids will just be recycled and sent right back to those fat cells from whence they came. In plain english this means that even if the pills you are taking do what they are supposed to, you won’t necessarily lose any fat if you are not eating and exercising properly.

Here’s another example of what I’m talking about. If you try to get lean by nutrition manipulation only, you’re bound to see larger decreases in muscle mass than if you'd exercised appropriately. With losses in muscle mass come losses in basal metabolic rate (BMR), decreased exercise and non-exercise energy expenditure, and decreased exercise performance. Not exactly the recipe for long term leanness, eh?

Finally, since most exercise programs don’t have enough volume to produce fat loss, in the absence of some sort of energy manipulation (nutritional changes) your body composition won’t budge much at all. If you don’t have time (or the recovery resources) to train for a few hours a day, good luck getting lean while still eating Krispy Kreme!

So in the end, it’s only in the integration of nutrition, training and supplements that the most effective fat loss can occur.

Important Fat Loss Concept #2: The body is an integrated unit, so a comprehensive approach is necessary.

The body is an integrated unit; no system acts independent of the others. As a result, attempting to get lean by micromanaging one body system almost always leads to overcompensation of other body systems and sometimes even metabolic crisis (like health problems and rebound fat gain).
For example, the use of adrenergic supplements (ephedrine, caffeine) can increase cortisol, reduce glucose tolerance/insulin sensitivity, and decrease leptin. In the short term, you’ll still lose fat because adrenergic stimulation is pretty powerful. However, in the long term, there's rebound fat gain once energy restriction, increased energy expenditure, or adrenergic supplementation is removed.

Why doesn’t your body better cooperate? Well, your body likes homeostasis (staying the same) more than it likes visible abs. When you try to manipulate one system to outsmart it, another system kicks in to negate the effects of your first manipulation, or at least it waits in the wings, silently, ready to later correct what you’ve done. Riding up and down on that fat loss roller coaster sure does make it hard to remain lean in the long term.

So let’s talk integration. Here’s a diagram showing just how integrated many of the systems of the body really are:

*This slide is adapted from a slide presented by Dr. Rob Rakowski in 2004.

As you can see, this slide shows us that almost all of the hormonal systems of the body are interrelated in some way. Check out how just one hormone (cortisol) can impact the sex hormone systems, thyroid hormone action, insulin and glucose tolerance, and several other endpoints related to physiological and psychological well-being. Since hormones are the messengers communicating with the cells of the body, orchestrating fat loss or fat gain, it’s no wonder they’ve become the target of many drug and supplement strategies.

But it’s important not to get too bogged down with hormonal manipulations. Like I said, the body doesn’t like when we mess around with a single system or two. Besides, in the end, when we’re talking fat loss, the hormones don’t matter as much as their net results do. After all, hormones themselves don’t make us fat or lean; it’s the effects of these hormones that make the difference. So let’s talk effects.

When on a hypocaloric (lower calorie) diet the following three endpoints are likely.
Endpoint 1 — Reductions in energy expenditure (exercise and non-exercise)
Endpoint 2 — Reductions in muscle mass
Endpoint 3 — Increases in appetite

Since these three things are hormonally mediated, we can either try to mess with the hormones (not always a good idea, as addressed above) or we can try to improve the endpoints by attempting to maintain daily energy expenditure, maintain muscle mass, and avoid increases in energy intake.
Therefore, next time you start a new nutrition program, ask yourself — does my fat loss program…
1) Maintain pre-diet energy expenditure?
This is accomplished via increased exercise metabolic activity (more cardio, ugh), increased non-exercise metabolic activity (walk instead of drive, pace when talking on the phone rather than sit, chew gum, drink cold water, etc.), and increased cost of exercise and non-exercise activity (i.e. wearing a weighted vest while doing cardio, walking, or doing chores).

2) Incorporate exercise designed to preserve muscle?
This is accomplished via more intense, heavier training sessions with lots of muscle specific and CNS specific recovery in between sessions.

3) Manipulate energy intake, food timing, and food type to retain a high-energy expenditure and preserve muscle mass?
This is accomplished via optimizing energy intake, periodic re-feeds, carbohydrates during and immediately after exercise, increased protein intake, healthy fat balance, etc.

4) Help organize my lifestyle such that I can easily support an energy restriction in the face of increasing hunger?
This is accomplished via smart shopping, eliminating tempting, tasty morsels from your home, planning for the unplanned so you’re not missing meals and getting ravenously hungry, eating frequently and drinking more water.
Be conscious of these questions. In doing so you’ll be better able to plan for the metabolic mayhem ahead.

Important Fat Loss Concept #3: Focus on optimal health, body composition and exercise performance, plus formation of lasting habits.

Good nutrition programs achieve the intersection of optimal health, optimal body composition, and optimal exercise performance. What do I mean by "the intersection?" Well, check out this diagram below:

Stick around long enough and you’ll see all sorts of nutrition programs. You’ll find programs that help you improve your health, yet these very same programs will do nothing to improve body composition and/or exercise performance (these plans would be located in the "A" domain above). In addition, you’ll find programs that improve body composition yet don’t optimize health and/or exercise performance (the "B" domain above). Finally, you’ll find programs that help with exercise performance yet don’t optimize health and/or body composition (the "C" domain).

Regardless of which of the three programs you select, none of them are going to be optimal. When looking for the zone of optimization ("D"), you’ve gotta find a plan that intersects the three goals. A proper nutritional plan will get you there (more on that below.)

Important Fat Loss Concept #4: Ultimate success has little to do with the plan itself but rather its application. In most cases, it’s not about the food.

Later we’ll talk about how the limiting factor in most peoples progress is their inability to plan for the unplanned — their inability to continue to follow their well-thought out plan in the face of unexpected daily challenges at home and on the road. I’ll describe how you can take lessons from superhero Lance Armstrong in order to win your own nutritional Tour de France. The point is this: there’s more to physique progress beyond your original meal plan itself.

Fat Metabolism
The next stop on our road to leanness is a brief explanation of fat storage, transport and metabolism. Since this book isn’t designed to present an in-depth analysis of fat metabolism, I’m not going to make your eyes go cross with detailed biochemical explanations. Instead, I’m simply going to give you a quick glimpse into this area with a few neat pictures.

In this first image, I’d like to draw your attention to the two major sites of fat storage we’re interested in: adipocytes (fat cells) and skeletal muscle.

It’s important to note that these two sites represent two major sources of fat for oxidization or "burning."

The other major source of fat for oxidation is dietary fat.
Dietary fat is "burnt" when dietary triacylglycerols are broken down into fatty acids and these fatty acids are transported (bound to a blood carrier protein called albumin) to the muscle cells. Once there, they enter into an organelle called the mitochondrion and undergo a process called beta oxidation. Beta oxidation is what we call "fat burning."

In addition to dietary fat, skeletal muscle triacylglycerols can also be broken down into fatty acids. These fatty acids simply work their way through the muscle to undergo that same process of beta oxidation described above.

Finally, adipocytes or fat cells, can release fatty acids which travel through the bloodstream (again, bound to albumin) and, similar to dietary fat, enter the muscle cells, enter the mitochondrion, and are incinerated via beta oxidation. Since it’s the fat in our adipocytes that we want to burn in order to get leaner, let’s quickly review how that process happens:

Notice above that certain hormonal signals affect different parts of the fat breakdown process, telling the fat cell to accelerate the breakdown of triacylglycerols into fatty acids or to slow down this process.
Regardless of these hormonal signals, once these fatty acids are broken down they can travel into the bloodstream. This process of removing fatty acids from adipocytes, pictured above, is what we call fat mobilization.

As discussed, the fatty acids released during fat mobilization enter the bloodstream, and their fate depends on a number of factors, including activity level and a number of other hormonal influences. Some fat is burned at the muscle level via beta oxidation while other fat can be recycled back into adipose cells.

Hopefully now you’ll understand what I mean when I say that some interventions can mobilize fat (like adrenergic supplements and drugs), but don’t necessarily improve fat oxidation. Maximal oxidation is contingent upon both maximal mobilization and maximal metabolic activity (exercise) to oxidize those mobilized fats.

Energy Balance
One major factor involved in improving fat mobilization from fat cells and the eventual oxidation of that fat, is achieving a negative energy balance. In other words, you need to decrease your energy intake and increase your exercise expenditure. That'll allow your body to draw on your stored fat as an energy source.

While this process seems like a no-brainer, just eat less than you’re eating now or work out more than you are now and you’ll drop fat. I’ve seen case study after case study illustrating that if someone is at a body fat stalemate (especially when this stalemate is at a low energy intake), a reduction in energy intake is sometimes the wrong approach!

Sometimes an increase in energy intake (coupled with a change in food choices and nutrient timing) can lead to rapid fat loss.

Take for example, an elite female athlete. Check out her before and after stats:

*Case Study:
National Level Cross Country Skier; Female - 20y
Net result — 12 weeks:
25lbs lost
-23lb fat
-2lbs lean September 2002:
5’6" ; 160lb ; 22% fat
(125lb lean, 35lbs fat)

Exercise Expenditure:
Energy Intake:
15% protein
65% carbohydrate
20% fat December 2002:
5’6" ; 135lb ; 9% fat
(123lb lean, 12lbs fat)

Exercise Expenditure:
Energy Intake:
35% protein
40% carbohydrate
25% fat

That’s right, in the face of a 1500 kcal increase in energy intake (along with some big shifts in food type and timing), she dropped 23 pounds of fat in 12 weeks! But be careful, it’s not always true that an increase in energy intake will lead to fat loss. This will only work when a person is under-eating relative to their actual metabolic requirement (based on activity levels, muscle mass, etc).

In the end, while it’s easy to tell those trying to lose fat to simply eat less or exercise more, the story is much more complex than that. The traditional picture of energy balance is missing one essential facet: the fact that energy intake and expenditure are tightly inter-related. Without understanding this relationship, dieters and nutritionists regularly draw some erroneous conclusions; conclusions that prevent improved body composition. Now that we’ve discussed all the theory, let’s discuss how we apply that theory.

How Much, What, and When To Eat
Understanding that energy restriction sometimes increases metabolic efficiency (this is bad for fat loss) and decreases both exercise and non-exercise energy expenditure (again, not good), it’s important to find ways to get the metabolic rate back up again.

Certainly, increasing your exercise expenditure is one way. Another is to properly choose your energy intake, your food selections, and the times you eat. In doing so, you’ll be better able to "uncouple" the energy intake and expenditure sides of the energy balance equation in order to improve your fat loss profile.

So how much do you need to eat? In order to determine this, you need to first figure out how much you’re currently eating. The best way to do this is to record everything you eat (types of foods and weights/volumes of the foods) for three representative days of the week. For example, if your Mondays,

Wednesdays, and Fridays have a specific schedule, your Tuesdays and Thursdays have a specific schedule, and your Saturdays and Sundays have a specific schedule, pick a Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday to record. (If all days are the same, just record any three days.) After you have this information I’ll show you how to calculate your caloric needs.

So what about food type and timing? Well, both things will be addressed in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Nutritional Programs section of this chapter. In this section I lay out seven feeding strategies that, if followed consistently, produce the intersection of optimal health, body composition and exercise performance. If you follow these seven suggestions, most of your food selection and nutrient timing needs will be taken care of.

Now, just to clarify one thing: some of you may criticize my approaches as too technical and complex. This assertion belies a fundamental misunderstanding of my system. Yes, I do demand some adherence to the scientific method. I won’t apologize for that. Yet, at the same time, once you progress beyond the beginner stages of understanding, you’ll see that a mastery of calorie calculations and macronutrient proportions and ratios takes no time at all.

Someone observing a beginner following my plan would think I’ve made the system too complex. However, someone observing an advanced participant in my system would think they’re not even following it.
The reason? Outcome based measurement and decision making, meal planning and nutrient timing, once internalized, are easy to adhere to and can be calculated almost at the subconscious level once you understand the system. Eventually you’ll easily be able to add a bit of food or subtract a bit based on how your body is changing. In some cases, all you’ll need to do is look in the mirror to note these changes.

Essential Supplements For Fat Loss
Once the dietary guidelines above are met, I consider the next four supplements essential for fat loss.

1) Fish oil — Data from the University of Western Ontario shows that fish oil supplementation increases lean body mass (during non-dieting conditions), increases BMR (by up to 400kcal/day), decreases inflammation, and improves the ratio of fat/carb oxidized (sparing carbs, burning fat). Recommended dose: start with 6-10g per day of total fish oil (assuming 30% EPA and DHA).

2) Creatine — While creatine is usually considered a muscle building supplement, it does a good job of maintaining cellular energy status. This may help preserve muscle mass. It also will preserve/increase exercise performance. Recommended dose: a few grams per day (3-5g) go a long way.

3) Recovery Nutrition — Supplements (or even whole food) containing carbohydrate and protein and given during and/or after exercise can improve carbohydrate status (muscle glycogen storage), improve protein status (keep protein synthetic rates high), suppress cortisol concentrations, preserve immune function, and help preserve exercise performance. However, you have to be careful here. Many products in this category, while touted as healthy, are nothing but sugar and carbs with some low grade protein thrown in for good measure. I recommend Biotest Surge.

Some of you may notice the conspicuous absence of fat burners. The main reason for excluding them is the fact that I believe that they're most useful at the lower extremes of body fat, when intelligent nutrition and exercise are failing to produce a consistent loss of fat. At this time, the conservative and short-term use of something like Maximum Strength HOT-ROX and a green tea extract can help.

It’s Not About The Food. Remember, it’s not necessarily the lack of a good plan or the absence of some special physiological secret that keeps most people fat; it’s failing to plan for the unplanned. Do you have a plan for when you wake up late or have to work late? Do you have a plan for unexpected obligations and deadlines; for unplanned dinner parties or lunch dates; for emergencies of any type? If you don’t, that’s probably why you’re not as lean as you’d like to be! In this chapter I’ll cover a few strategies that can help you ensure that good foods will be available when you need them.

In the end, successful fat loss programs are based on having a good understanding of the body, making good physiological choices based on that understanding, and having the right systems in place to sustain those choices. Individual articles on specific supplements, specific nutrition plans, or specific workouts are interesting, no doubt, but integrate the three to truly optimize your body composition.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Nutritional Programs
Take a look around the nutrition world. Confusing, isn’t it?
Conflicting advice is everywhere, and you’re stuck in the middle. You wonder whether anyone out there even knows what they’re talking about, or whether the experts will ever reach a consensus on anything. You start to wonder whether you’ll need a degree in nutritional biochemistry before you can lose that stubborn abdominal fat.

So what’s the deal? Why so much confusion? Why does one expert suggest that high protein is best for everyone, while another expert suggests high carb and yet another expert suggests high fat? Besides, what exactly do high protein, high carb, and high fat really mean? And why are other experts telling us that food choices should be based on our "metabolic type," our "blood type," or our "ancestry"?
One expert says to eat like a Neanderthal and another says eat like a Visigoth, or perhaps a Viking. But while searching for nutritional Valhalla, most people just get lost and eat like a Modern American—and end up looking more Sumo than Samurai.

These days, we have a cacophony of expertise: lots of confusing noise from the experts drowning out the signal of truth.

On the surface, it appears as if today’s nutrition technology is quite advanced. After all, we have at our disposal more nutrition information than ever before. More money is being spent on nutrition research than in any time in history. Every day, impressive strides are being made in the field. Dozens of nutrition experts are rising to prominence. Yet simultaneously we’re witnessing a steadily increasing rate of obesity, an increase in nutrition-related illness (Diabetes, CVD, and Syndrome X), and an increase in nutrition-related mortality due in no small part to product marketing, the media, and ultimately the greed of those behind them.

Part of the problem is that much of the information hasn’t reached the people who need it. Part of the problem is that even when it does reach those people, they often don’t use it or know how to. And certainly, the problem is multifactorial. There are probably many more reasons than I can list here.

How much more information do we need?
The curious thing is that many people try to solve the problem by seeking out more information. They know it all and still want more. If there’s one thing of which I am absolutely convinced, it’s that a lack of good nutrition information isn’t what prevents us from reaching our goals. We already know everything we need to know. Sometimes the real problem isn’t too little information but too much.

All the fundamental principles you need to achieve good health and optimal body composition are out there already, and have been for years. Unfortunately, with 500 experts for every fundamental principle, and very little money to be made from repeating other people’s ideas, experts must continually emphasize the small (and relatively unimportant) differences between their diet/eating plans and the diet/eating plans of all the other experts out there.

In the world of advertising and marketing, this is called "differentiation." By highlighting the small distinctions and dimming out the large similarities between their program and all the others, they’re jostling for your next nutritional dollar.

Now, and let me be clear on this, I’m not accusing all nutrition experts of quackery.
Yes, some programs are utter crap. Those are generally quite easy to pick out and don’t merit discussion here. But most experts do know what they are talking about, can get results, and wholeheartedly believe in what they’re doing. Many of the differences between them are theoretical and not practical, and on the fundamentals they generally agree completely.

It’s all good
In fact, many of the mainstream programs out there, if not most of them, will work. To what extent they work, and for how long, varies. As long as a program is internally consistent, follows a few basic nutritional tenets, and as long as you adhere to it consistently, without hesitation, and without mixing principles haphazardly taken from other programs, you’ll get some results. It’s that simple, and that hard (as you can see, results depend as much on psychology as on biochemistry).

But if you’re like most people, you’ll first survey all the most often discussed programs before deciding which to follow. And in this appraisal, you’ll get confused, lost, and then do the inevitable. That’s right, you’ll revert back to your old, ineffectual nutrition habits.

Instead of parsing out the similarities between all the successful plans out there, the common principles that affect positive, long-term change, you get thrown off the trail by the stench of the steaming piles of detail.

The Atkins program works for all patients under the direct care of the Atkins team—as long as patients follow it. The Zone program works for all patients under the direct care of the Sears team —as long as they follow it. The Pritkin Diet works for all patients under the care of the Pritkin team— as long as they follow it.

Yet, not all three plans are identical. How then, can they all get impressive improvements in health and body composition? Well, either each team somehow magically draws the specific patient subpopulations most in need of their plan (doubtful) or each system possesses some basic fundamental principles that are more important than the ratios of protein to carbs to fats.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Nutritional Programs
Here’s my take on it. I call these principles, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Nutritional Programs," a shameless and possibly illegal play on Steven Covey’s book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People." (Great book, by the way—you should read it sometime.)

These aren’t the newest techniques from the latest cutting-edge plan. Rather, they are simple, time-tested, no nonsense habits that you need to get into when designing a good eating program.
1. Eat every 2-3 hours, no matter what. You should eat between 5-8 meals per day.
2. Eat complete (containing all the essential amino acids), lean protein with each meal.
3. Eat fruits and/or vegetables with each food meal.
4. Ensure that your carbohydrate intake comes from fruits and vegetables. Exception: workout and post-workout drinks and meals.
5. Ensure that 25-35% of your energy intake comes from fat, with your fat intake split equally between saturates (e.g. animal fat), monounsaturates (e.g., olive oil), and polyunsaturates (e.g. flax oil, salmon oil).
6. Drink only non-calorie containing beverages, the best choices being water and green tea.
7. Eat mostly whole foods (except workout and post-workout drinks).

So what about calories, or macronutrient ratios, or any number of other things? The short answer is that if you aren’t already practicing the above-mentioned habits, everything else is pretty pointless. By practicing them I mean putting them to use over 90% of the time (i.e., no more than 4 meals out of an average 42 meals per week violate any of those rules.)

Moreover, many people can achieve the health and the body composition they desire using the 7 habits alone. No kidding! Of course if you have reached the 90% threshold you may need a bit more individualization beyond the seven habits. Before assuming you are ready for individualization, make sure you have truly mastered the seven habits. Then, while keeping the seven habits as the consistent foundation, tweak away using the info found in the rest of this chapter. However, I can’t stress enough the importance of the 7 habits to successful nutritional programs. If the general public just understood and adhered to these 7 basic principles of nutrition, the obesity rate of this country would fall considerably. We would be a healthier and happier nation. That’s not to mention the ridicule of other nations. How many times in the resent past have you heard the phrase “Fat Americans?” Too often for my taste so lets do something about it, adopt the seven rules, and get into shape.

Moral of the story: Stop being deceived by the popular media. Stop haphazardly “dieting.” Stop restricting calorie intake while making poor food selections. Stop blaming erroneous factors for your condition. Start taking responsibility for yourself. Start taking action now. Start adopting the seven habits. Start making healthy choices. Start changing habits and start training yourself to live a healthy lifestyle.

After you’ve mastered the seven habits there are further steps which can be taken to advance your fat loss endeavors. These techniques, however, should only be employed after you have mastered the seven habits. They will only complicate things if the habits aren’t truly habits and second nature to you. Once they are second nature, you can use the rest of the information in this chapter while keeping the 7 habits as the consistent foundation. Remember you want to position yourself for success not set yourself up for failure. Don’t try to do too much too soon. Also, remember it’s a systematical process and anything you are doing better than you have been is an improvement. Now, having said that, lets move on to the next factor in the equation.

Choosing the right foods
Nutrition Errors

The next step in evaluating a fat loss strategy is to examine the nutritional intake. People somehow believe that if someone could just tell them exactly how many calories to eat, they'll start dropping pounds quickly. However, I do the opposite of what they expect I'll do. Instead of counting calories, I evaluate their food choices. Again, there seems to be a common theme in those who fail to get in great shape.
They focus on the wrong variables and make these three common mistakes:
1. They count calories but eat poor-quality food.
2. They misunderstand what makes up good-quality food.
3. They fail to realize that lean individuals live lean year-round; they don't just try to get lean once in a while.

The purpose of this section is to provide a scientific basis for making good food selections, the real "secret" behind getting and staying lean. More specifically, I'll discuss the following:
1. Why a calorie is not a calorie
2. Why a carbohydrate is not a carbohydrate
3. Why a fat is not a fat
4. How to choose your food wisely
Okay, let's dive in:

A Calorie Is Not Just A Calorie
While the gurus and pundits of the past believed that all calories were created equal, and while much of the current dietetics herd still believes it, I'm here to tell you why it just ain't true.
To do so, I'll focus on three main arguments:
1) The Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF)
2) Cross-cultural studies
3) The effects of isoenergetic diets using different foods

The TEF represents the additional caloric expenditure (above resting metabolism) that it takes to digest, absorb, and process the food you eat. Studies on the thermic effect of different foods have been important in describing the different effects of the macronutrients on metabolism. The TEF lasts from between one to four hours after eating a meal. When adding up the thermic effects from each of your meals, this extra metabolism represents between 5% and 15% of your total daily energy expenditure. Therefore, if your daily energy expenditure is 3,000kcal, about 150 to 450kcal of that comes from the TEF. Interestingly, different macronutrients tend to have different effects on metabolism.

Welle et al. (1981) and Robinson et al (1990) demonstrated that during a normal six hour period of rest and fasting (basal metabolism), subjects burn about 270kcal. When eating a single 400kcal meal of carbs alone (100g) or fat alone (44g), the energy burned during this six hour period reached 290kcal (an additional 20kcal). Interestingly, when eating 400kcal of protein alone (100g) the subjects burned 310kcal during this six hour period (an additional 40kcal). Therefore, protein alone had double the thermogenic power vs. fat or carbs alone!

Swaminathan et al (1985) demonstrated that during a normal fasted 90-minute period, both lean and obese subjects burned about 110 calories. When consuming a 400kcal, fat only meal (44g), the lean subjects burned 125kcal (+15kcal) while the obese subjects only burned 110kcal (+0Kcal).
This indicates that while the lean can up-regulate metabolism when eating fat, the obese may, in fact, have a defect in their thermogenic response mechanisms for fat. When fed a 400kcal mixed meal (protein, carbs, and fat), the lean subjects burned 130kcal (+20kcal) during the 90-minutes while the obese burned 125kcal (+25kcal) during the 90-minutes. These data demonstrate that mixed meals are more thermogenic than fat only meals and that lean people have a better TEF response than the obese.

So now that you understand that different macronutrients (at the same energy intake) can alter calorie balance within a single meal, here's another interesting argument for the fact that all calories were not created equal. In a study by Campbell et al (1991), 6,500 rural and urban Chinese were compared to the US population norms for energy intake, macronutrient breakdown, and health. This is an important comparison due to the fact that obesity and cardiovascular diseases have reached epidemic proportions in North America while the prevalence is much lower in China.

Check out this data on average nutrient intake:
Energy — 30.6kcal/kg
Carbohydrate — 42% (224g)
Fat Intake — 36% (85.86g)
Protein — 15% (80g)
Alcohol — 7%
Fiber — 11g/day
% Protein from Animal — 70% (56g)
BMI (wt/ht*ht) — 25.8

Energy — 40.6kcal/kg
Carbohydrate — 71% (504g)
Fat Intake — 14% (44g)
Protein — 10% (71g)
Alcohol — 5%
Fiber — 33g/day
% Protein from Animal — 11% (7g)
BMI (wt/ht*ht) — 20.5

It's interesting to note that while the Chinese have a much lower body mass index (as represented by weight in kg/height squared in meters) and a much lower prevalence of obesity and cardiovascular disease, they eat about 25 to 35% more food than we do! Now, the Chinese tend to be more active than we are, but when the numbers were corrected for activity levels, the differences remain!

Looking at the macronutrient breakdowns, the Chinese are on a high-carb diet, no doubt. But they're not fat. And while their protein intake, by percentage, is lower, they do get nearly as much total protein, by gram amount, as we do. Perhaps we could take a lesson from the Chinese. Clearly not all calories are created equal because if they were, the Chinese would be fatter than we are! But instead, the average 100kg Chinese person gets to enjoy a 4060kcal diet while keeping his lean physique.

I know, I know, that study is only epidemiological and therefore lacks some explanatory power, but stay tuned as I present two final studies to demonstrate that all calories were not created equal.
In a study by Demling et al (2000), the researchers demonstrated that food choice and timing could be more important than total calorie intake. Before the study began, overweight police officers, eating about 2100 to 2300kcal per day, tipped the scales at 216lbs with 56lbs of fat mass (25% fat) and 158lbs of lean mass. They were eating about 74g protein, 380g carbs, and 56g fat. Since this is clearly a hypocaloric diet, they should've been losing weight. But they weren't.

Unfortunately for these poor guys, they were eating only 10% of their calories at breakfast and a whopping 50% of their calories right before bed. In addition, 50% of their carb intake was sugar! After diet counseling, these guys still ate the same diet in terms of macronutrients, but they ate 70% of their calories during the active parts of their day and 80% of their carb intake was complex and low on the GI scale. At the end of twelve weeks these guys lost 3lbs of weight and 5lbs of fat while gaining 2lbs of lean mass. And this was without changing exercise habits! While these changes weren't huge, it's clear that food choices and timing make a difference.

In another study by Doug Kalman et al (2001), Doug showed that a 1200kcal, high-protein (47%P, 36.5%C, 16.5%F) diet was more effective than a 1200kcal, moderate-protein (24.5%P, 48.3%C, 27.2%F) diet for fat loss. Subjects in the high-protein group lost 6.3lbs of body weight, 5.3lbs of fat weight, and only 1lb of lean weight. The moderate protein group lost 3.1lbs of body weight, no fat weight, and 4.5 whopping pounds of lean weight. Try telling these subjects that a calorie is a calorie!

In the end, there clearly are ways to burn more calories and lose more weight while eating diets differing in macronutrient content but similar in energy intake. In addition, if you can believe it, there may even be ways to eat more food while staying leaner. Just ask the Chinese.

So far we’ve seen that:
• With all the media hype out there, the key to staying lean and mean is still nutrition, specifically, good food choices.
• A calorie is not a calorie because the macronutrient content of each meal affects the body's response to the feeding. That basically means you could change your body composition by eating the same amount of calories each day, but making different food choices. Meal timing also plays an important role.

Now that we’ve discussed how all calories aren't all equal, despite the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution, lets carry the argument further…

A Carbohydrate Is Not Just A Carbohydrate
In this section, I'd like to demonstrate that not all carbohydrates were created equal. Specifically, I'll briefly discuss:
1. The insulin index (II) vs. the glycemic index (GI)
2. The superiority of low-GI and II diets

While older carbohydrate classification schemes were centered on the notion of simple vs. complex carbohydrates (a structural classification), newer schemes focus more appropriately on the absorption profiles (glycemic index) and physiological effects (insulin index) of these carbohydrates (a functional classification).

The Glycemic Index (GI) is a classification scheme based on the blood glucose rise after consuming a carbohydrate food. This measure is based on the absorption profile of the food and was originally considered an indirect, but adequate measure of the insulin response to food. The assumption was that the insulin rise would be proportional to the glucose rise. However, recent research has demonstrated a dissociation of the glycemic response and the insulin response to the food. Therefore the insulin index was created.

The Insulin Index (II) is an index of the magnitude of insulin secretion as a result of food ingestion. Of course, this is the direct measure that the glycemic index could only approximate. Since insulin is a tricky hormone to manage, it's best to know exactly what's happening with this guy, especially if you have poor insulin sensitivity or poor carbohydrate tolerance.

Studies by Holt et al (1996) and Ostman et al (2001) highlighted some of these differences between glycemia and insulinemia. Interestingly, while the glycemic and insulin indices of many foods were similar, some foods caused unpredicted responses. As shown in the following graph, foods like yogurt and milk had relatively low-glycemic indices, but very high insulin indices. White and brown rice, on the other hand, had high-glycemic indices, but low insulin indices. The point here is that if you want to effectively manage body composition, you should choose your carbohydrates based on both the glycemic and insulin indices. Unfortunately, there are only limited insulin data out there, leading us to continue to rely in some cases only on the glycemic index.

More complete glycemic and insulin indices can be easily located by doing an Internet search on these two terms. So the next appropriate question would be, "What does the literature say about low GI and II diets vs. higher GI diets?"

Well, here's a summary:
Ludwig et al (2000) described the following list of benefits for eating a low GI diet:
• Better nutrition (better micronutrient profile and more fiber)
• Increased satiety
• Decreased hunger
• Lower subsequent energy intake (second meal effect)
• Fat loss
• Better fasted insulin and glucose

In a study by Agus et al (2000), it was demonstrated that during a short, 6 day, low-calorie diet, a low-GI carb intake preserved metabolism and enhanced fat loss vs. a high-GI diet. The low GI group saw a 5% decline in metabolic rate and a 7.7lb weight loss while the high-GI group saw an 11% decline in metabolic rate and a 6.6lb weight loss. In these subjects, fasted glucose and insulin values were lower in the low-GI group, indicating better glucose and insulin sensitivity.

Spieth et al (2000) and Ludwig et al (2000) showed that 4 months of low-GI eating was superior to 4 months of high-GI eating in overweight teens. The low-GI group lost 1.5 points on the BMI scale and 2.2 lbs while the high-GI group gained 2.88lbs and increased their BMI. In addition, these studies showed that a low GI meal reduced food intake during subsequent meals (second meal effect) while the high GI meal lead to overeating.

Finally, Pawlak et al (2001) showed that in rats, a low-GI diet led to decreased fasting insulin and glucose values, decreased fat mass, and decreased insulin and glucose values during a glucose tolerance test. Therefore, body comp as well as glucose and insulin sensitivity improved.
The bottom line here is that when all else is equal, a diet containing mostly low-GI carbohydrates is superior to a high-GI diet for losing fat, preserving metabolic rate, and maintaining healthy insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.

A Fat Is Not Just A Fat
In this section, I'd like to demonstrate that not all fats were created equal. Specifically, I'll briefly discuss:
1. Fat Structure — Fatty Acid Chains and TGs
2. MCTs — Medium Chain Triglycerides
3. Olive Oil — Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
4. CLA — Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
5. Fish Oil — Omega 3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

There are three different types of fatty acids; saturated (coming from animal fats), mono-unsaturated (coming from olive oil and avocados), and poly-unsaturated (coming from flax oil, hemp oil, fish oil, canola oil, safflower oil, etc). Dietary fat, rather than simply floating around as free fatty acids, typically is packaged up in the form of a triglyceride. Basically, a triglyceride consists of 3 fatty acids (usually all of the same type) bound together by a glycerol backbone. Essentially, the glycerol backbone has 3 carbons and a fatty acid is attached (via a dehydration/synthesis reaction) to each of the 3 carbons.

Based on this structural phenomenon, scientists have recently begun exploring an interesting development in fat science. They've begun making "structured lipids." In essence what they're doing is making diacylglyerols (2 of the carbons have fatty acids attached while 1 does not) and special triacylglycerols (where there are fats of different lengths and properties attached to each carbon).

In clinical studies, these structured lipids have been shown to increase protein synthesis in patients suffering from wasting. In addition, these fats are easily oxidized (like the long chain fatty acids in fish oil) which leads to a thermogenic response rather than a storage response. As a result these structured lipids are now being heavily studied. While they're not on shelves yet, I wouldn't be surprised if these structured lipids become food additives in the near future.

MCT's and CLA, probably due to their early introduction to the weightlifting scene and the huge media hype associated with this introduction, have gotten a bad reputation. These fats may, in fact, assist in weight loss.

MCT's, due to their medium chain length, are easily oxidized by skeletal muscle. This is due to the fact that MCT's are quickly and easily transported to the fat furnace, the mitochondrion. As a result, research (Hill et al 1989) has demonstrated that TEF (thermogenic effect) with MCTs is double that of other fats, making it comparable to protein in this regard.

CLA has remained a relative mystery to the research community. This is probably due to the various forms (isomers) of CLA. Regardless, some research (Blankson et al 2000) has shown that 12 weeks of CLA supplementation (at doses above 3.4g/day) can increase LBM and decrease fat mass vs. olive oil. While the olive oil group gained 1.5 lbs of fat and no lean body mass, the CLA group lost 4.5 lbs of fat and gained 3 lbs of LBM.

Speaking of olive oil, even this "good fat" is better than saturated fat for body composition. In a study comparing safflower oil, beef fat, palm fat, and olive oil, it was shown that olive oil leads to a 14% higher oxygen consumption rate than the other fats.

Delarue et al (1996) showed that fish oil supplementation (6g/day added to the diet) dramatically changed the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.

During an OGTT (oral glucose tolerance test — drinking a big 75g whack of liquid sugar and measuring the subjects for 2 hours afterward), the fish oil group burned 27g of fat vs. 20g in the placebo group. The fish oil group also burned 28g of carbs while storing 36g and the placebo group burned 51g of carbs while storing only 14g.

In addition, baseline insulin was 30% lower in fish oil group and insulin responses to OGTT were 50% lower in the fish oil group. What this tells us is that fish oil allows the body to burn more fat and store more muscle glycogen, repartitioning fuel away from fat cells toward muscle cells.

Since fish oils are polyunsaturated fats, it's important to not only increase fish-oil intake, it's important to shift the ratio of polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat (P/S). Van Marken, Lichtenbelt et al (1997) showed that the polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat ratio is important to metabolic rate. A higher ratio of P/S leads to metabolic increases (22% increase in TEF and 3% increase in daily RMR).

So, if there's one thing you need to take from this discussion, I think it should be that, all else being equal, the fat composition (not just total intake) of your diet is very important to your body composition. Saturated fats, while necessary to a small extent, should only make up a small part of your diet while other fats like olive oil, fish oil, flax oil, MCTs, and CLA all have a place on your plate. This way you can get the same amount of daily energy from fats while gaining lean mass and without gaining body fat.

Choosing Your Food Wisely
So, with all the research out of the way, I hope that I've made a good argument for the fact that while total energy intake is important to energy balance, smart macronutrient choices go a very long way in shifting the energy balance equation in your favor. But to drive the point home, I'd like to give a living example of this fact.

An acquaintance of mine was convinced that his body simply couldn't get lean. The problem was that he got fat by using the calorie counting method. In fact, he used the very method outlined here. He exercised regularly, training with weights 4x per week and doing daily cardio (mixing up interval exercise with endurance type exercise). In addition, he always ate about 500 calories below what his maintenance should have been. Yet he got fat anyway and was walking around at 25% body fat. He thought he was destined to be chubby forever.

So, was it true? Was he really fat loss resistant? Had this plan failed? I was perplexed so I had him write down everything he ate for a week. When sitting down with him a week later, the answer to his dieting woes was obvious. He was eating all the wrong foods. His diet was full of the media promoted fat free/super sugared/over processed/synthetic/bleached supermarket foods.

He believed that the foods he was choosing were good for him, but in fact, he was eating a diet designed for fat storage. When calculating the numbers, it worked out to be about 2,300 kcal at 30% protein, 50% carbs, and 20% fat. But the foods he used to make up these numbers were atrocious. He was eating way too much saturated fat, and was consuming too much sugar and processed, high-GI carbohydrate. There was very little natural fiber in his diet and he rarely ate vegetables or fruit. No wonder he couldn't lose weight!

Now, how on earth could he have believed that his diet was good? Well, although this data is a little old, I wanted to share it with you anyway because it's very telling about the power of marketing. In 1992 the National Cancer Institute spent $400,000 on an ad campaign to encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables. That same year Kellogg’s spent 32 million advertising Frosted Flakes alone! No wonder people don't know what foods are good for them!
So, back to my acquaintance. Well, it turns out that he had been down this road before. When he first started gaining weight, he decided to go on a diet program. He followed a ridiculous, muscle wasting, low calorie diet full of sweeteners and terrible tasting foods. And he lost some weight. But the minute he went back to eating what he thought was healthy and sensible (as described above); he gained all the fat back and then some!

So what’s the solution?

First I taught him where the produce aisle is. I gave him a list of the foods he could choose from. In addition, I taught him to combine his meals such that he was eating lean protein, good fats, and lots of fruits and veggies. We didn't count calories or pre-plan meals; we just made sure he had enough protein in the diet (200g). And guess what? Months later, he's still dropping fat. He's eating far more calories than he ever had before and enjoying meals more than he ever had before. In addition, he has a better health profile (blood chems) than before.

The bottom line is that nutrition isn't that hard. When you feed the body wholesome foods, the appetite regulates itself and you don't have to monitor very much. However, by harnessing the powers of good food selection, weight loss comes easy!

Here are some more basic rules to improve your eating habits:
1. Get used to the taste of food without dressings, sweeteners, etc. Ultimately you'll grow to like the natural taste of foods you once though tasted bland (i.e. stop with the ranch dressing on everything.)
2. Try to eat more like a true vegetarian (i.e. the bulk of the diet should come from fruits, veggies, unprocessed and unbleached food). But don't get me wrong; I don't want you swearing off meat.
3. "Supplement" your unprocessed vegetarian-like diet with the high-protein foods discussed above.
4. Add unheated healthy oils to your foods (olive oil, flax oil, etc…)
5. Drink only calorie-free beverages (green tea, water, etc.).
6. Unfortunately the worst foods usually are the most convenient and the most processed foods. Avoid eating for convenience alone.
7. Avoid any easy-to-prepare breakfast foods (waffles, french toast, etc) as they're loaded with fattening trans-fatty acids.
8. Avoid products containing the ingredients or words "partially hydrogenated" or "high fructose corn syrup."
9. Avoid fast/fried food.
10. Avoid foods or meals that are high in both fat and carbohydrate.

In addition to these rules, here's the list of food choices that I gave my acquaintance. These foods should make up about 80% of your daily diet and you should be eating many of these foods each day, not simply picking one or two selections to eat all the time.

Fish: Salmon, Tuna, Cod
Chicken/Turkey breasts
Cottage cheese
Lean Red Meat
Flax oil
Olive oil
Mixed nuts (no peanuts)
Fish oil
Mixed beans
Low-GI fruits
Oatmeal/Oat bran
Mixed-grain bread
Small amounts of protein-enriched pasta

As you can see, food selection is one of the more important determinants of your body composition. Using this information and these rules, you can make your fat loss quest much easier than you ever imagined.

Making Specific Food Selections
With all this in mind, I put together a list of the best and worst “healthy” foods, plus a few that fall somewhere in the middle.

The Good Stuff

Water —
It's a myth that drinking a lot of water during meals will impair digestion. It's quite the opposite.
You always hear experts recommending that you drink more water but how many of you actually do it? In addition, how much is enough? Well, considering that the average person loses about 2.5L of water daily and can lose up to 6.5L per day when exercising in warm weather climates, it should be clear that quite a bit of water is lost per day, and therefore quite a bit will need to be replaced. Since most people can get only about 1.5L of water from their food intake and their own metabolic water production, even sedentary individuals need to drink at least 2L (or about 8 cups) of water per day to remain hydrated.

Athletes in mild weather climates will need to drink at least 3L (or about 12 cups) of water per day and athletes in hot weather climates will need to drink at least 4L (or about 16 cups) of water per day. How do you ensure that you’re getting enough? Well, the easiest and most effective strategy is to buy one or two large refillable water bottles (I like the type made by Nalgene) and fill them with the exact amount you’re to drink that day. Bring them with you wherever you go, to work, to school, etc. Finish the bottles by the end of the day, and you’ve done the job. This may sound simple, but I’ve found that most don’t do this, and when they do, they’re surprised by how much water they really need.

Old Fashioned Oatmeal —Make no mistake about it; oatmeal is the carb of choice. Even if you’re on a reduced carb diet, there’s nothing wrong with a serving of oatmeal (27g of carbs) to go along with your morning protein. Your body has been deprived of food all night, so some slow-acting carbs to replenish stores, plus some protein, make for a great healthy breakfast.

Oatmeal has about three grams of natural unsaturated fats, five grams of protein, and two grams each of soluble and insoluble fibers. The fiber not only helps keep your pooper working properly, the soluble variety can help improve cholesterol levels, thus earning the American Heart Association’s "heart healthy" seal of approval.

Only buy oatmeal that lists "100% natural rolled oats" in the ingredients. That’s it! Oats should be the one and only ingredient. Do NOT purchase those individually packaged, flavored oatmeal products! (More on that in the "Bad Stuff" section.) Also, don’t screw up a good thing by adding milk and sugar. Eat your oatmeal like a man (or woman). And by the way, old-fashioned oats cook up just fine in the microwave, no need to boil the water in a pot. Oatmeal rocks. Make it a staple of your diet.

Fat Free Cottage Cheese —
I hate the taste and texture of cottage cheese. I also eat at least five pounds of those chunky curds a week. My secret for making this stuff palatable? I blend it with protein powders and make puddings and thick shakes out of it. Why do I go through all that trouble? Easy, cottage cheese is a great source of casein, one of the best proteins.

Casein gets props because of its slow digestion and absorption rates. A snack involving cottage cheese will provide a steady, slow paced release of amino acids into the bloodstream. Cottage cheese is also low in carbs. Combine that with its slow digesting protein and it makes an ideal bedtime snack to help prevent any possible nighttime catabolism (muscle wasting caused by an eight hour fast.)

You’ll want to stick to the fat free kind and avoid the creamed varieties because of their "bad" fat content. Sure, the fat free kind is a little bitter, but if you use it as a base for other foods like I do, then that doesn’t matter much.

Tuna and Other Fish —
If oatmeal is a staple carb source, then tuna is a staple protein source. It’s cheap, low in fat, carb-free, and packs 13 grams of protein into just two ounces.

You can get it in cans or those new waterless "no-drain" packages, which are even more convenient (though a little more expensive.) You can also buy it packed in water or oil, the latter being very handy for those that require a lot of protein plus fat meals. Albacore tuna has 450 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per two-ounce serving, even more if you’re lucky enough to get some of that yummy dolphin meat as a bonus!

Beef and Poultry —Let’s hear it for dead animal flesh, nature’s protein with feet! (Vegans love me. can’t ya tell?) This category includes beef, chicken, and turkey, although anything you can catch counts too. Strength training coach John Davies even recommends large quantities of buffalo and ostrich to his athletes.

First, let’s hunker down on some juicy steak. Red meat got a bad rap back in the "ass-backwards 80’s" but things have started to swing in the other direction. The beef antagonists were usually fat-free fanatics and animal rights activists who thought that eating bagels and soybeans all day was the enlightened path to health and leanness. They were wrong. Beef is chocked full of protein and nutrients; it’s even been dubbed "nature’s multi-vitamin" by some. Sure, it has some fat, but fat isn’t bad in the right amounts. In fact, a very low fat diet can lead to low testosterone levels. A proper amount of fat in your diet, even some saturated fat, is necessary and healthy.

Always go for steaks that have the words "round" or "loin" in the name. These are the leanest cuts. Avoid the fatty meats with the word "rib" in the name. That simply means ordering sirloin instead of prime rib. At the grocery store, choose cuts that are over 90% lean and trim any excess fat.
Beef jerky is good when you’re on the run, but avoid those processed and chemical-laden deli meats, along with bologna and franks. White meat chicken and turkey are great too. Since they’re high in protein and carb-free, chicken breasts are one of the most versatile foods. Eat ‘em up!

Eggs —A large egg has seven grams of protein, 80 calories, and a great BV (biological value).

Again, you may be wondering about the fat and cholesterol, and again I can tell you that the media has over-hyped the issues. Fact: cholesterol is the basic structure for all anabolic hormones. Without it, your body can't produce testosterone. If you’re following a good diet and working out, a few whole eggs aren’t going to hurt you. Even the very conservative American Heart Association says it’s okay to have four whole eggs per week.

Fruits and Veggies —There are about a hundred reasons that fruit can be a healthy part of your diet. Bottom line: Fruit provides you with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, certain flavones, and fiber and may even have some protein-sparing effects. Eat some fruit, but avoid most fruit juices. (More on that below.) As for veggies, what can I say? Mom said to eat them and mom was right. There are some things out there that only nature can provide, and many of those goodies are packed into fruits and vegetables.

The Okay Stuff

This category includes foods that are generally considered pretty good, but may not be perfect for everyone. Just play around with these foods and see how they work for you. I think most of these choices below lean toward the "good" side anyway.

Nuts and Natural Peanut Butter —Nuts make the "okay" list (instead of the "good" list) for one specific reason: they’re very calorically dense. For that reason, they’re often recommended to those supposed "hard gainers" out there. One ounce of peanuts (about 32 nuts to be precise) has 160 calories, eight grams of protein and five grams of carbs. Nuts are high in fat, but only a small part of that is saturated (two out of fourteen grams for peanuts.)

Now, since nuts are so calorically dense, you have to be careful. Just snacking on a can of party peanuts can quickly add a thousand calories to your daily intake. But overall, nuts make a good high fat, low carb food. (Cashews have the highest amount of carbs, about eight grams per serving, so be careful there.) Go ahead and throw some mixed nuts into your daily protein intake, just be careful of the peanut consumption. They’re filling, portable and can be a healthy part of any diet.

I’m also a big fan of natural peanut butter, and yes, it has to be natural! Regular peanut butter is full of nasty stuff like corn syrup solids, hydrogenated oils, and sugar. The ingredients should read "peanuts and salt," period. And don’t be fooled by those reduced fat varieties. These are still full of unhealthy ingredients with the added benefit of soy protein!

Rice, Pasta, Potatoes, Yams, and Whole Grain Bread —I admit it. I put all these foods into the same category because of their carb content. These are good eats, but you carb sensitive types have to be careful with them.

Judging these foods strictly by their glycemic index, choose sweet potatoes (yams) over white Russet potatoes; whole wheat pasta over white pasta; and long grain brown rice over short grain or white rice (the stickier the rice, the higher the GI.) As for bread, avoid the highly processed white breads and go for multigrain dark bread. If it looks like it has wood chips baked into it, it’s good to go. My personal favorite is called Health-nut, a grainy bread filled with nuts and seeds. Others prefer flax bread.

These foods are cool, just watch those carbs if you’re sensitive and be careful with toppings, especially with pasta and potatoes. Adding a fatty topping to a "carby" food is a recipe for rapid fat gain.

Milk and Yogurt —Milk is a two-faced monster. To some, it’s a cheap source of protein and the ultimate "weight gainer" for bony teenagers. Much of the fat in whole milk falls in the "bad" category. Saturated fat mixed with a high sugar; high-carb food does not a healthy body make.

Also, somewhere around 10 to 20 percent of the population are lactose intolerant, meaning they can’t digest milk sugar. (There are even a few studies that show that non-whites, particularly Asians and blacks, have a much higher rate of lactose intolerance.) Using lactose-free milk and digestive aids can help this some. On the other hand, if you have no problems with lactose, skim milk can be a good source of protein. Still, unless you’re an extremely active teenager with the metabolism of a humming bird on ephedrine, I’d limit milk intake.

Yogurt is a better option in my opinion. It has many of the benefits of milk without most of the drawbacks. One of the really cool things about yogurt is the live active cultures it contains. Yep, I’m talking about bacteria, nice friendly bacteria that keep your digestion system running properly. (That’s why yogurt can help with both constipation and diarrhea.)

Sauces and Spices —Sauces and spices make the "okay" list because some are good and some are bad. On the good side you have a plethora of calorie-free pepper sauces, Worcestershire sauce, and just about every herb and spice on the shelf. Many of those fancy mustards fall into this category too; but read the labels just in case. My suggestions: Horseradish mustard, Louisiana hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and McCormick rotisserie chicken seasoning.

On the bad side is anything made with high fructose corn syrup. BBQ sauce, ketchup, mayo, and most creamy salad dressings. Stick to something like fat free Miracle Whip if you must use mayo and if you just have to have some barbecue sauce on your chicken breasts, measure out one serving and spread thinly. If you simply can’t exist with out your ranch dressing, have it on the side and dip just your fork in it before you take your bite. Otherwise, it’s best to use a light oil such as olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The Bad Stuff
We all visit the Dark Side on occasion, but if you want to be toned or ripped, you’d better stay on the side of the Jedi Counsel 95% of the time. Here’s a list of foods that you’d better avoid if you want to go to a public beach again.

High Fat/High Carb Foods —The prototypical Western diet consists of foods that are both high in bad fats and high in carbs. In America, that diet has lead to a climbing rate of obesity and obesity-related diseases.
(It’s also lead to fat girls who insist on showing off their bellybutton rings by wearing cropped shirts, thus exposing blubbery parts of their bodies best left covered by ample amounts of clothing. The madness must be stopped!)

Now, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, fat and carb meals. Meals with a high carbohydrate content in combination with high-fat meals can actually promote a synergistic insulin release when compared to the two alone. High fat with high-carb meals represents the worst possible case scenario. You’ll promote high blood levels of fats, carbs, and insulin.

What foods are the real bad boys here? Unfortunately, most of the really tasty ones! Except for a rare treat, it’s best to avoid fried foods, pizza, lasagna, pancakes, whole milk, ice cream, cookies, hamburgers, most Mexican food, most Chinese food, and a bunch of other delicious stuff. But you already knew that. Right? The "Most Evil Food Known to Man" award goes to the lowly glazed donut, who just barely beats out French fries and Fettuccini Alfredo.

Flavored Oatmeal —Go to your pantry right now and get out your oatmeal. If you took out a colorful box full of little kiddy packets of peaches ‘n cream oatmeal do yourself a favor and throw it away right now! As stated above, I think oatmeal is one the best carb sources but the flavored, prepackaged variety sucks.

Look at the ingredients, which are listed in order of quantity. Sugar is usually the second ingredient in these girly oatmeal packets. Then you have other crap like hydrogenated vegetable oils, maltodextrin, and partially hydrogenated soybean oil.

To top it off, the oats used in flavored oatmeal are usually more finely ground than healthy, old-fashioned oatmeal. This means the GI could be higher based on the extra processing. The list of ugly ingredients goes on and varies a little with flavoring, but the lesson is simple: don’t eat this stuff if you want to look good nekid.

White Bread, Bagels and Rice Cakes —It’s hard to believe, but back in the 80s and early 90s, diet "experts" told people to eat as much of this stuff as they wanted. Since rice cakes are fat free, you can’t get fat, right? Wrong! Now the country is full of overweight diabetics. Coincidence? I don’t think so! One representative of the Glycemic Research Institute even stated that eating a plain rice cake stimulated fat storage like ten bowls of sugar. Bagels aren’t quite as bad but are best avoided. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re eating healthy by consuming these things.

Most Breakfast Cereals —To me, cold breakfast cereals, even many of the brands touted as "healthy," are pure physique killers. Cereal is breakfast candy, nothing more, nothing less. In fact, corn flakes have a GI rating even worse than white bread! And how about these cereals that give you "energy” like Grape Nuts? Yep, at 47 carbs per teeny tiny serving (and who would eat one serving anyway?), most people would be in an insulin-induced coma by lunch.

Here’s a piece of trivia for you: John Harvey Kellogg, the founder of Kellogg’s cereal, invented Corn Flakes to reduce sexual desire and curb the "epidemic" of masturbation. Besides "castrating" people with shitty, high-carb breakfast foods, Kellogg also recommended that small boys (not infants) be circumcised without anesthetic so they would forever associate the penis with pain. He also thought that women should have their clitorises treated with carbolic acid to prevent what he called "abnormal excitement.” As a side note, Sylvester Graham invented the Graham Cracker believing it would also diminish male sexual desire. Now tell me, do you really want to eat a food designed to make you a Testosterone-free eunuch?

All that said, there are a couple of good cereals out there, but not many. All Bran and Fiber One make decent oatmeal replacements, just eat some protein with them. All Bran Extra Fiber only has 50 calories a serving and 13 grams of fiber, almost four times as much as oatmeal!

Some "Fat Free" Snacks —Food manufacturers discovered a great trick back in the 80’s to fool people into buying their junk food. Since all fat was dubbed evil, food makers started abusing the "fat free" label. Basically, they took out the fat, added whopping amounts of sugar and called their products "healthy.” Makers of snack foods are the worst culprits, with some even trying to sell fat free cookies, chocolate syrup, and solid sugar hard candies as health food simply because they have little or no fat. News flash: Sugar is the real enemy, not fat!

Candy —Oh, come on! You know you’re not supposed to be eating candy, right?

Fruit Juice—Repeat after me: fruit good, fruit juice bad. Processed fruit juice is worthless. In addition, with whole fruit, you get so much more: more fiber, more phytochemicals (way more), more nutrients, etc. Moreover, whole fruit is more filling. Fruit juice is an easy way to over-consume calories and increase body fat. Now remember, I'm talking about fruit juice concentrate. The processing is what reduces the amount of these special phytochemicals and other compounds. If you're going to consume juice, then you should make it yourself.

Alcohol —
I hate to see this one make the bad list. Nevertheless, let’s face the music, alcohol has a lot of empty calories, can inhibit fat loss, and booze is one of the best testosterone suppressors known to man!

It is a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant and it has the lowest effective dose: lethal dose ratio. This means that there is very little difference in the amount of alcohol that will get you drunk and the amount that will kill you. The reason more don't die from alcohol is because the stomach begins to reject it by vomiting (yum!).

Acute alcohol intoxication results in tremor, anxiety and irritability, nausea, decreased mental function, and vertigo (all of which makes you so attractive to the opposite sex). Chronic alcohol use leads to internal destruction of the liver, heart, brain, muscle and cancer in any or all of them. Research has shown that small amounts of alcohol may benefit the body. This means 12 oz of beer or a small glass of red wine per day.

When it comes to your workouts or athletic competition, alcohol impairs balance and coordination since it affects that CNS. Strength and power are also affected since it dehydrates the body, making muscle and other tissue unable to work optimally.
The biggest kick about alcohol for guys is it lowers testosterone levels! Testosterone is what helps us build muscle. That’s not all, it raises estrogen levels! My god guys, that means it's turning us into women, no kidding. Changes in body fat storage all throughout the body are possible! Including fat deposition in the chest region. This is insane, and people do this to their bodies for pleasure? Testosterone levels appear below average even up to a week later. Therefore, if you are going out and getting drunk every weekend, your testosterone levels may not have been normal for quite some time.

Unlike most drugs, ethanol is nutritive -- and densely so. It contains 7 calories per gram -- almost twice that of carbohydrates and protein. Moreover, unlike the other nutrients, it does not appear to cause a significant amount of satiety. In other words, it typically does not replace calories, it adds to them.

Considering one drink (1 beer, 1 shot, and 1 glass of wine) has about 12g of ethanol, this can add up in a hurry. I would not consider it unusual for a 180lb person to put down 20 drinks on a good Friday night -- this is about 1600 calories just from the alcohol. That should put to rest the notion that beer makes you fat but hard liquor doesn't (though, the carbohydrates in beer would provide another 500-1000 calories depending on if it were light or not, so that’s a total of 2100-2600 calories). This is pretty much the entire day's calorie allowance. I don't think I even have to mention that we often follow this up with a 2 a.m. trip to McDonalds’s, Big Burrito, or Campus Kitchen where we might get a couple thousand more calories.

Studies show that even small amounts of alcohol have a large impact on fat metabolism.
The reason alcohol has a dramatic effect on fat metabolism has to do with the way alcohol is handled in the body. When alcohol is consumed, it readily passes from the stomach and intestines into the blood and goes to the liver. In the liver, an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase mediates the conversion of alcohol to acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is rapidly converted to acetate by other enzymes. So rather than getting stored as fat, the main fate of alcohol is conversion into acetate, the amount of acetate formed is dose dependant on the amount of alcohol consumed.

The type of fuel your body uses is dictated to some extent by availability. Unfortunately when acetate levels rise, your body burns the acetate preferentially, since acetate is basically the same product of beta oxidation of fatty acids and glycolysis (glucose to pyruvate to acetate), but it doesn't' require the metabolic work to produce. Therefore, the body simply burns the acetate first, and with the rapid rise seen with alcohol intake, basically pushes fat oxidation out of the metabolic equation.

Alcohol is a carbohydrate, but doesn't convert to glucose like most carbs do, but is converted into a fatty acid (acetate) and is consequently more likely to store as fat. Because acetate is readily formed from alcohol it can be worse than taking in carbs as far as affecting fat metabolism. That's because glucose has to be sequentially metabolized through various steps to form acetate while acetate is formed from alcohol in just a few steps. In addition, alcohol has more calories than carbs. That's why even the low carb beers contain under 100 calories even though they only have about 2.5 grams of carbs and .5 grams of protein. While the carbs and protein only make up 12 calories, the 12 grams of alcohol make up the remaining 80 or so calories. Therefore, if you drink alcohol and exercise, it puts fat metabolism on "hold.”

Ethanol has been found to both directly, and indirectly, increase cortisol production. 1.75g/kg alcohol increased levels by 152% at 4 hours and was still significantly higher than control (before ethanol consumption) at 24 hours in adult males. In addition, consumption of ethanol along with exercise resulted in a 61% increase in cortisol over alcohol alone. A study of adolescents admitted to the hospital with acute alcohol intoxication showed cortisol levels 1.6 times that of controls in females, and 1.4 times as high in males.

However, a general stress response must be considered as a possibility in these circumstances as well. Thus, some researchers have concluded that any increases in cortisol are due to a stress response from nausea rather than a direct effect of ethanol. And, indeed, in one study, a subject that vomited displayed cortisol levels 5 times as high as his baseline value.

It should be clear, then, that the regular consumption of significant quantities of alcohol is absolutely detrimental to one's efforts to improve body composition. To recap: alcohol decreases muscle protein synthesis, causes insulin-resistance, decreases free testosterone levels for up to a week, decreases fat metabolism, promotes aromatization of testosterone to estradiol (possibly giving you man-breasts), raises cortisol levels, impairs ability to achieve REM phase sleep cycles, dehydrates you, and likely gives you a hang-over. However, we all know its consumption is woven into the very fabric of our society, so most of us are not going to do away with it completely. We will have to be content with merely minimizing the negative consequences of its consumption.

When you're spending hours exercising, conditioning and improving body composition, don't piss it all out the window because you want to party with some friends. Identify your goal and do all things that will help you achieve that goal. If your goal is to get trashed, well, go for it! I recommend Killian’s Irish Red. But don't misconstrue my message. This is not a crusade against alcohol consumption. In fact, an occasional glass of red wine has been shown to possess healthful qualities. However, if you're serious about making gains in strength, muscle tone, and/or body composition, then maybe you should abstain from alcohol, especially immediately before bed and after exercise. In any case, moderation is always the best policy. Oh yeah, and DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE!

Soy protein —As many of you know, soy contains "healthy" amounts of compounds known as phytoestrogens, which are simply plant chemicals that mimic the action of animal estrogen. (For the purposes of this bulletin, the term "estrogen" is intended as a generic term for any substance that exerts biological effects characteristic of estrogenic hormones such as estradiol.)

Now, phytoestrogens can affect mammalian cells in two ways. They can either bind to high-affinity, highly specific receptors in the cell nucleus which, in turn, attach to DNA regions of genes that lead to protein transcription, in effect acting as a real estrogen, or they can simply bind to these receptor sites and sit there, preventing real estrogen from getting its parking space and initiating transcription.

Unfortunately, soy protein contains two rather significant "unfriendly" phytoestrogens, both of which appear to have estrogenic activity. They are called genistein and diadzein.

I maintain that male athletes—or, for that matter, virtually all males—should avoid taking in large amounts of soy protein on a regular basis. This holds true for school-age kids, too. What will be the results of this "soy mania?"

Unfortunately, the two soy isoflavones that I mentioned previously can have numerous adverse effects on everything ranging from testosterone production, thyroid production, muscle growth, and even health.
Let's consider soy's affects on testosterone production first. The ability of soy protein to decrease testosterone levels has been well demonstrated. One study displayed a 76% reduction of testosterone production in men, after ingestion of soy protein over a brief period of time. In yet another study, an inverse association was found between soy protein intake and testosterone levels in Japanese men.

Finally, in yet another study, using healthy adult males, a diet containing soy was compared to a diet that consisted of meat protein in terms of sex hormone concentrations. Well, after evaluation, testosterone levels were significantly lower in the soy diet. Not only this, but the estimated amount of free Testosterone was 7% lower after the soy diet as well.

It's fairly clear that soy protein lowers testosterone levels. How does it affect estrogen and progesterone levels? You'd figure that genistein would at least reduce the activity of estrogen to some extent, since it binds at the same receptor site, right? Well, apparently not. It turns out that genistein does not inhibit the effects of estradiol and in fact has been demonstrated to exert an additive effect when combined with estradiol.

Basically, what it all boils down to is if you regularly consume soy products you may be in danger of lowered free testosterone levels and increased estrogen levels. The implications for which vary depending on your age, gender, and physical activity level and goals. It also may lower “good” HDL cholesterol levels and increase the “bad” LDL cholesterol in your system. Couple that with possible increases in bodyfat, gynecomastia (man-breasts), and maybe even benign or malignant prostatic hypertrophy, or BPH and I think you have a pretty compelling impetus to lay off the soy.

Salt-Many foods like cheese and meat, as well as salt flavored condiments such as table salt and monosodium glutamate (MSG), generally contain large amounts of sodium. Sodium is one of the body's major minerals. It is found primarily in the body's extracellular compartment and in the fluids within the vascular compartments. The rest is stored within the genes. Along with potassium, the primary intracellular mineral, sodium helps to regulate the cell's water balance. Water tends to accumulate in areas where sodium collects. Thus, an overabundance of sodium in relationship to the body's potassium levels can lead to edema, bloating, and even some cases of high blood pressure.

During the active reproductive years, ingesting too much salt can worsen premenstrual bloating, fluid retention, and breast tenderness during the week or two prior to the onset of menstruation. It can also worsen the dull aching pain that can accompany menstrual cramps at the beginning of the menstrual period. With the onset of menopause, excess sodium intake is a risk factor for many other health problems like cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Women at high risk for developing these problems should certainly curtail their sodium intake.

Besides regular table salt, MSG, another sodium containing flavor enhancer, has been implicated in health problems. MSG is often used in food preparation in Chinese restaurants. It is also a common ingredient in many commercial seasonings, meats, condiments, and oven baked goods. Besides causing headaches and anxiety episodes, this chemical seems to worsen food cravings and food addictions.

Unfortunately, avoiding salt and MSG in the American diet, like sugar, takes some work because it is so prevalent. In fact, salt and sugar are often found together in large amounts in frozen, canned, cured, and processed foods. Many of us eat so much salt (far beyond the recommended 2000 mg or one teaspoon per day) that our palates have become jaded. Many people feel that food tastes too bland without the addition of salt. Fast foods such as hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, pizza, and tacos are loaded with salt and saturated fats. Common processed foods such as soups, potato chips, cheese, olives, pickles, salad dressings, and catsup (to name only a few) are also heavily laden with salt. One frozen food entree can contribute as much as one half teaspoon of salt to your daily intake. And if this was not bad enough, many people use the salt shaker liberally in their own cooking and seasoning.

Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners-Sugar is primarily used as a sweetening agent in the form of sucrose, which most of us know as white, granular "table sugar.” It is one of the most overused foods in the Western world. Refined white sugar and brown sugar are the primary ingredients of cookies, cakes, soft drinks, candies, ice cream, cereals, and other sweet foods. In addition, foods such as pasta and bread made out of white flour with the bran, essential fatty acids, and nutrients removed act as simple sugars and also make up a significant part of the diet of many people in Western societies. Many convenience foods (salad dressings, catsup, and relish, to name a few) also contain high levels of both sugar and salt.

Some prepackaged desserts and even main courses sold in natural food stores are highly sugared, too, although they are sweetened with fructose, maple syrup, and honey. With sugar so predominant in many foods, it is no wonder sugar addiction is so common in our society among people of all ages. Many people eat sweets as a way to cope with their frustrations and upsets. Statistically, the average American eats more than 120 pounds of sugar per year. This dietary sugar is eventually metabolized to its simplest form in the body, glucose. Glucose is essential for all cellular processes, since it is the major source of fuel that our cells use to generate energy.

However, when we flood our body with too much sugar, it is overwhelmed and cannot process the sugar effectively. This excessive intake can be a major trigger for blood sugar imbalances, food cravings, PMS symptoms, and anxiety symptoms. It happens like this: unlike simple carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, and peas, which digest and release sugar slowly, food based on sugar and white flour break down quickly in the digestive tract. Glucose is released rapidly into the blood, and from there is absorbed by the cells of the body to satisfy their energy needs. To handle this overload, the pancreas must release large amounts of insulin. This is the hormone that helps drive glucose into the cells where it can be used as energy. Often the pancreas releases a flood of insulin, more than the body requires.

As a result, the blood sugar level goes from too high to too low, resulting in the "roller coaster" of energy you typically see in hypoglycemia or PMS. You initially feel "high" after eating sugar, followed by a rapid crash. (Excessive amounts of stress also use up glucose rapidly and can cause similar symptoms.) When your blood sugar level falls too low, you begin to feel anxious, jittery, "spacey," and confused because your brain is deprived of its necessary fuel. To remedy this situation, the adrenal glands release hormones which cause your liver to pump stored sugar into your blood stream. While the adrenal hormones boost the blood sugar level, they unfortunately also increase arousal symptoms and anxiety. Thus, both the initial brain deprivation of glucose and the adrenal gland's response to restore the glucose levels can intensify symptoms of anxiety and panic in those susceptible.

Several studies have shown the relationship between the overindulgence of simple sugars and resulting PMS symptoms. One study published in the Journal of Applied Nutrition found that women with PMS symptoms had a 50 percent higher sugar intake than normal volunteers. Another study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that women with PMS were more likely than others to crave sweets and experience emotional symptoms premenstrually. With continued overuse of sugar, the pancreas eventually wears out and is no longer able to clear sugar from the blood efficiently. The blood sugar level rises and diabetes mellitus is the result. This tendency towards diabetes or high blood sugar levels increases dramatically after menopause. Studies show that more than 50 percent of Americans have blood sugar imbalances by the age of sixty-five.

Negative Effects of Sugar:
Anxiety and panic episodes
Chronic fatigue
Diabetes mellitus (type I and II)
Food addiction
Loss of B vitamins and minerals
Tooth decay and gum disease
Common Food Sources of Sugar:
Beverages: soft drinks, juices
Convenience foods: salad dressing, catsup, relish
Desserts: cookies, candies, cakes, pies, ice cream
White flour products: pasta, bread, crackers, pastries

Food Combinations
The single biggest problem with just about every diet is that you almost always lose just as much muscle as you do fat while following the diet. This is not a good scenario no matter who you are, or what your goals. It is, in fact, a self defeating mechanism inherent in almost every diet out there, this is also why you need to stop dieting and start getting healthy with a sound nutritional program.

This problem is solved, remarkably effectively, with the nutrition plan out lined in this book. The secret behind this nutrition plan revolves around how you combine macronutrients (proteins, fats, and carbs) in each meal. Apart from the proportions of macro-nutrients consumed, I believe the combination of those macro-nutrients within each meal has an impact on body composition as well. No, this isn’t one of those goofy food-combining fads that were popular in the 90’s; you know, don’t mix soft fruits with beans or your head will explode. These are recommendations based on hard science and real world results.

In this section I plan to demonstrate that you can eat more food and still shed fat through precise food combination techniques. More specifically I’ll discuss why you should:
1. Eat protein in every meal and eat about six meals a day.
2. Not eat meals high in carbs alone.
3. Not eat fat and carbs together in substantial amounts.
4. In some meals, eat protein with carbs, but very little fat (less than 5 grams).
5. In other meals, eat protein with fat, but very little carbs (less than 10 grams).

What is the purpose of all this? Basically, you are controlling your natural hormonal levels, including insulin. Insulin is a two-faced beast. It's needed at the right times to shuttle nutrients into cells, but chronic insulin elevation will cause insulin resistance. Then adipose (fat) tissue takes over and you end up with the belly of a woman nine months pregnant with Shaq's twins. Not pretty.

By separating carbs and fats in meals, you are not allowing simultaneous high blood levels of carbs, fat and insulin. And although there are certainly other systems of the body that contribute to gaining body fat, it is this area that most Americans in today's Fast Food Nation need to work on.

What exactly will eating this way do? Well, for one, you will be able to eat more than you think and still reach your goal, whether it is muscle tone or fat loss. Most people are shocked when they see the daily calorie recommendations. Besides a whole lot of chewing, the plan is relatively painless and quite healthy. You are not deprived of any macronutrient so you will not be having many cravings.

Eating for fat loss is a juggling act between three important concepts, as stated above. Energy balance is only one. In focusing only on energy balance, individuals are ignoring the acute effects of eating on hormones, metabolism, and energy storage. So someone who argues that calorie balance is the only determinant in changing body composition is making the situation too simplistic.

One of the goals should be to minimize the muscle loss to fat loss ratio. Basically you want to lose the most fat with the least amount of muscle loss. To do this you need to understand which meal combos to pursue and which to avoid. The foundations of my recommendations in this area are based on the avoidance of a nasty scenario. The worst case scenario for someone trying to lose fat while minimizing muscle loss is to have high blood levels of carbs, fat, and insulin at the same time.

This is nasty because chronic elevation of insulin can increase the rate of transport of fats and carbs into fat cells. Although initially insulin shuttles nutrients into muscle cells, chronic insulin elevation will cause the muscles to become insulin resistant and refuse to take up nutrients. The adipose tissues, however, are greedy little pieces of cellular machinery and continue to take up nutrients at a rapid rate. So if you always have high levels of blood fats and carbs in the presence of insulin (the kind your body makes, not the kind that comes in a syringe), your muscles will slow their uptake of nutrients and all that fat and carbs will feed the fat cells. Can you say Shamu?

You need insulin, but you need to control it. And when you eat to promote insulin surges, you've got to be sure that you have the ideal profile of macronutrients in your blood to ensure that this insulin surge leads to fat loss not gain. This is where meal combinations come into play.
Let's start with some meal combinations to avoid.

Avoid meals containing fats and carbs
Unfortunately, this is the typical meal of the Western diet. As a result, it's no wonder that obesity is an epidemic. Meals with a high carbohydrate content in combination with high-fat can actually promote a synergistic insulin release when compared to the two alone. High fat with high-carb meals represent the worst possible case scenario.

Now, some people have argued that fat lowers the glycemic index of foods and should therefore be included in carb meals. But remember the glycemic index only gives a measure of glucose response to a meal, not insulin response. And sometimes the glucose responses to a meal and the insulin responses to a meal aren't well correlated. So although you might be slowing the rate of glucose absorption into the blood by adding fat to your meals, you'll promote high blood levels of fats, carbs, and insulin. And that's a no-no!

Avoid meals high in carbs alone
Ironically, since the liver converts excess carbohydrates into fats, a very high carbohydrate meal can actually lead to a blood profile that looks like you just ate a high carb and high-fat meal! That's why high-carb diets don't work any better than ones rich in fats and carbs. High carb meals easily promote high blood levels of fats, carbs, and insulin, too.

Okay, so now that we know which meal combinations are evil; let's be proactive and talk about what meal combinations to concentrate on.

Eat meals containing protein and carbs (with minimal fat)
It's well known in the research world that eating carbs and protein together also creates a synergistic insulin release (much like the fat and carb meals above). But in this scenario, that insulin release is just what we want. By having a few meals per day that cause high blood levels of insulin, carbs, and amino acids, the body tends to become very anabolic, taking up all those carbs and amino acids into the muscle cells for protein and glycogen synthesis. And since there's no excess fat for the fat cells, fat gain is minimized.

Obviously this combination is beneficial during the post-workout period and as long as you aren't elevating insulin all day long, you won't become insulin resistant.

At this point some may argue that although this scenario might not promote fat gain, those high insulin levels will prevent fat breakdown (lipolysis). And they're completely correct! But you have to understand that most meals will elevate insulin levels to the point that lipolysis is prevented. So you can't escape that unless you eat a ketogenic diet with only specific types of low insulin releasing proteins. But since there are all sorts of problems associated with them, I think they should be avoided.

Eat meals containing protein and fat (with minimal carbs)
Although it's desirable to eat some meals each day that release lots of insulin, upregulate protein synthesis, and fill up carb stores, it's advisable to avoid too many such meals. I discussed the reasons for this above (reduced insulin sensitivity and prevention of fat burning), but also, since we all know that essential fatty acids are so important to health and favorable body composition, eating protein and carb meals all day will prevent the ingestion of healthy fats. And that's no good.

In an attempt to balance out your two or three carb plus protein (minimal fat) meals each day, you should be eating an additional two to three meals consisting of protein and fat with minimal carbs. Taking in 30% of each major class of fatty acids (polyunsaturates, monounsaturates, saturates) is a good tip when thinking about which fats to consume.

Taking a step back, the purpose of protein plus fat meals is to provide energy and amino acids without causing large, lipolysis-preventing insulin spikes. In addition, after fatty meals that contain no carbs, the body oxidizes less carbs and burns more fat for energy. So basically you'll be burning fat for energy and storing carbs in the muscle after such meals.

I hope that it's clear now that by properly combining meals, you can use the acute effects of food on hormones to your advantage. Eat protein plus fat during some meals and you may be burning fat during certain portions of the day. Eat protein plus carbs for some meals and you may be promoting lean mass during other portions of the day.

In summery I’ve presented a feeding strategy centered on the idea of eating protein with every meal. With protein as the staple of each feeding, meals should be rounded out with either carbohydrate or fat, but not large amounts of both.

In other words, I suggest eating a few meals per day that contain protein and carbohydrate (P+C) and a few meals that contain protein and fat (P+F). While I never suggest entirely eliminating F from P+C meals and C from P+F meals, I note that this plan is designed to minimize the occasions you combine lots of C and lots of F in the same meal.

There are two premises behind this strategy. The first is fat burning. High protein meals increase the thermic effect of feeding, increase fat oxidation, and reduce carbohydrate oxidation when compared to high carb meals. This effect persists during chronic high protein diets. Therefore, by eating a higher protein diet, even with an appreciable amount of carbohydrate, you’ll end up burning more total fat while sparing muscle glycogen and providing amino acids for recovery. Sound like a good strategy for fat loss? You bet it is!

The second premise behind the combinations discussed above is insulin management. Since insulin is both a storage hormone and an anti-breakdown hormone, a chronic elevation of blood insulin; especially in the presence of carbohydrate and fat; will probably sabotage your attempts to improve both your health and body composition. So by eating protein with every meal and avoiding high concentrations of insulin, glucose, and fat in the blood, it appears that body composition can be managed more easily.

Breaking the "Rules.”
At this point, it’s time to add a few caveats to the plan; upgrades, if you will. I suggest minimizing C intake during P+F meals and minimizing F intake with P+C meals as an easy way to avoid the dreaded high glucose, insulin, and fat cocktail. However, this isn’t the only way to avoid this combo. Here are a couple "rule breakers" which allow you to eat some types of C with your P+F meals:

1) Veggies, despite being carbohydrate, won't destroy your well-planned P+F meals. Vegetables are very low on the glycemic scale and won't promote a large insulin response. In fact, rather than just being "okay" during P+F meals, I suggest that they're essential as they're rich in micronutrients and can balance out the net acidity inherent in a high protein meal. For this reason, veggies should be ingested at every meal.

2) Very low glycemic carbohydrates also can be ingested during P+F meals. Some low GI foods actually provoke a big insulin response, so not all low GI foods are acceptable when combined with P+F meals. As a result, I typically reserve veggies, fruits, and beans as “approved foods” during P+F meals.
However, even with these foods, don’t go overboard. The insulin response to a meal is dependent on both the type and the amount of total carbohydrate. Therefore some veggies and one piece of fruit might be occasionally okay during a P+F meal, but lots of veggies and three apples? Not so okay.

Nutrient Timing
The next step is increasing your awareness of the concept of nutrient timing. Up until this point, you’ve been made aware of the Seven Habits, making good food selections, and avoiding meals high in C+P+F.
However, none of this information tells you when to eat your P+C and P+F meals. By staggering these meals appropriately, you can take advantage of what we know about how the body metabolizes and stores nutrients during specific times of the day, especially the post-exercise period.

For starters, the immediate post-exercise period is marked by a dramatic increase in insulin sensitivity, glucose tolerance, and glycogenic activity; this means that muscle glycogen re-synthesis rates are dramatically elevated during the immediate post-exercise period. If nutrition is delayed however, glycogen re-synthesis rates are reduced. Therefore, carbs during the immediate post-exercise period are a must.

The addition of protein during the post-workout period shouldn’t be a shocker either. Increases in post-exercise protein intake can provide amino acids for increased protein synthesis, muscle repair, and muscle recovery. Also, since protein ingestion increases metabolic rate (with most of this increase coming from fat oxidation), the addition of protein to the post-workout meals may lead to losses in fat mass.

That’s right, even in the face of a high post-exercise carbohydrate intake, the combination of protein and carbohydrate may promote increases in glycogen and protein synthesis while, at the same time, promoting fat loss. Since carbs are most likely to be stored and fat most likely to be oxidized after exercise anyway, the ingestion of a few P+C meals during this time can even further accelerate the fat burning process.

From this discussion it should be pretty clear that a couple of P+C meals should be ingested during the few hours after your training session (whenever that might be). Not only will you get a superior anabolic response, but you’ll probably continue losing fat as well. According to new data, it may even be possible to promote full muscle glycogen recovery during the six hours after exercise. Therefore I recommend eating most of your daily carbs when your body’s carbohydrate storage capacity is highest — during the few hours (4-6 hours) post-exercise.

That’s post-exercise. During the remainder of the day, when insulin and glucose tolerance are lower and more carbohydrates are likely to be converted to lipids in the liver, sent to adipose tissue, or promote a larger (lipolysis decreasing) insulin response, P+F meals should be ingested. This further assists in the management of insulin and body composition while continuing to spare carbohydrate.

With your daily P+F meals, a good balance of fats should be ingested, with each type of dietary fat making up about one-third of your total daily intake (33% saturated fats, 33% monounsaturated fats, 33% polyunsaturated fats with 50% omega 3's and 50% omega 6's).

Using nutrient timing in this way will provide you a unique and effective strategy for consuming an abundant amount of micronutrient dense, glycogen-replenishing carbohydrates; metabolism altering, hormone-stimulating fats; and muscle building, amino acid rich proteins, while simultaneously preventing excessive hyperinsulinemia and excessive fat gain.

Now, don't make the mistake of thinking that calories aren't important. I'm simply suggesting that you can eat more while still losing weight if you choose the right foods, food combinations, and timing. Anyhow, by eating more, you'll be sparing your metabolic rate, your lean mass, and your athletic and day-to-day performance.

Now That I know What To Eat, How Much Is Too Much?
According to exercise physiologists William McArdle and Frank Katch in their excellent textbook, Exercise Physiology, the average Total Daily Energy Expenditure for women in the United States is 2000-2100 calories per day and the average TDEE for men is 2700-2900 per day.
With the errors of food selection addressed, here's how you should go about determining your caloric intake or Total Daily Energy Expenditure.

[RMR (Resting metabolic rate) X Activity Factor] + Thermic Effect of Food = Maintenance Calorie Intake
{[22 x (LBM in kg) + 500] X Activity Factor} + (TEF)
Where RMR = 22 x (LBM in kg) + 500
And Activity Factors =
1.2-1.3 for Very Light (bed rest)
1.5-1.6 for Light (office work/watching TV)
1.6-1.7 for Moderate (some activity during day)
1.9-2.1 for Heavy (labor type work)
TEF (thermic effect of food)= 10-15% X RMR
Once you get your maintenance intake, you'll multiply it by 0.85 to get your fat loss intake.

Here's an example of the calculations for a 135 lb person at 22% body fat.
First you’ll need to convert your weight from pounds to Kilograms. Simply divide your body weight in pounds by 2.2. This will be your bodyweight in kg. Note: round to the nearest whole number

Note: Keep in mind, at this point, that anything at or below 8%BF for men and 10% BF for women is approaching unhealthy for most sedentary to mildly active people to maintain. Also the average BF% for men is 15-18% and for women it is 22-25%. An obese male is classified as that with a BF% 25%+ and for women 35%+.

For our example total body mass would be 61kg.
To determine RMR we multiply this number (61kg) by the percent of body fat.
Note: remember percents are really decimals, so 10% would be .10 and 22% would be .22
Fat Mass= 61x.22=13.42kgFM (round to 14kg)

Next, subtract this fat mass number (14 kg) from the total body mass (61kg):
LBM = 61kg – 14kg = 47kg
47kg is the Lean Body Mass, or how much you would weigh if you had 0% Body Fat.

From that, you can determine RMR. The formula for RMR is as follows:
Resting Metabolic Rate (in calories per day) = 500 + 22 x Lean Body Mass (in kilograms).
RMR= (47x22)+500=1534
So 1534 is the RMR for our example person.

Note: Most health clubs offer body composition testing. In addition, you can purchase skinfold calipers. I recommend Fat Track II digital calipers, they come with instructions and are very user friendly. You can pick up a pair for $25 at This is the most accepted and widely used method. Just remember that which ever method you choose to use, be consistent. Always use the same method and at about the same time of day.

Next we add activity factor to the equation.
The activity factor for this individual will be 1.55 (light work).
Now we multiply our RMR by the activity factor number.

In the next step we add the Thermic Effect of Food.
Multiply your original RMR number by 10% for a moderate protein diet and 15% for a high protein diet. We’ll use 10% for our example.
Note: remember percents are really decimals, so 10% would be .10 and 15% would be .15

Now we take the total from the activity factor equation and the total from the Thermic Effect of Food equation and add them together for the total “Maintenance” Intake.
Our example looks like this:
2378+153.4= 2531.4
We’ll just round that to 2530
So our Maintenance level Intake is 2530 Calories per day.
To get our Fat Loss level Intake we multiply this number by 85%.
2530 x .85 = 2150

To recap, here’s what the equations look like:
1. Determine body fat percentage.
2. Determine weight in kilograms.
3. Determine fat mass in kg.
4. Determine lean body mass in kg.
5. Multiply lean body mass in kg by 22.
6. Next add 500 to this number and this gives the resting metabolic rate.
7. Next, multiply this number (RMR) by an activity factor (somewhere between 1.2-2.1).
8. Now take the resting metabolic rate and multiply by 0.10 or 0.15.
9. Add this last number (step 4) to the number you got when you multiplied your resting metabolic rate by your activity factor (step 3) in order to determine daily maintenance calorie level.
10. Finally multiply your daily maintenance calorie level by .85 to determine your fat loss intake level.

1. Body fat percentage = 22
2. 135lbs x 2.2 = 61kg
3. 61kg x .22 = 14kg
4. 61kg – 14kg = 47kg
5. 47 x 22 = 1034
6. 1034 + 500 = 1534
7. 1534 x 1.55 = 2378
8. 1534 x 0.10 = 153.4
9. 2378 + 153.4 = 2530
10. 2530 x .85 = 2150
Maintenance Intake - {[(22 x 47kg) + 500] X 1.55} + (10-15% X 1534) = 2530
Fat Loss Intake - Maintenance x 85% = 2530 x 0.85 = 2150

Since these calculations haven't factored in the cost of the exercise you're doing, many people find that eating at the "Maintenance Intake" every day still produces fat loss when exercising as prescribed (discussed later). Therefore my suggestion is to start at the "Maintenance Intake" and eat at this level each day. Then, if fat loss is too slow, drop calories down to the fat loss intake level and adjust as needed to stabilize.

One important message here that I can’t stress enough is that you MUST continually recalculate your numbers as you lose weight.

Far too many dieters write up a diet based on their current body weight and body fat and decide that they’ll stick to it, “no matter what,” for an arbitrary amount of weeks. Well, guess what? This inflexibility has its cost. After 6 weeks into the program, they likely will have lost 6-10 lbs. As such, they’ll actually have much lower calorie needs at this time. No wonder fat loss slows in most dieters! If they haven’t adjusted their calories after 6 weeks, what was once a hypocaloric diet (low-calorie) could now be an isocaloric or hypercaloric diet (high-calorie)! So continually, recalculate as you lose weight and the rate of loss should be steady. Remember that this is an outcome based system (more on that to follow) so every two weeks you should be monitoring and controlling the plan. (e.g. check your weight and fat percentage and recalculate your caloric needs.)

Customized Nutrition
From Nutrition Basics To Individualization

You need to tailor your nutritional plan to your own precise and individual specs. You need more than a diet copped off a website or out of a magazine. Or at the very least, you need to know exactly how to modify those diets to suit your needs and help you reach your goals. You do have goals, don't you?

The purpose of this section is to teach you how to do just that: to make your own nutrition more Versace than JC Penny. To do that, you'll need to modify your expectations right now: this isn't a diet, but rather what I'd call a process.

You won't find tips and tricks here. You won't find recipes and meal plans. You won't find biochemistry. What you'll find is the method behind nutritional optimization and individualization; that is, the method you'll need to find the perfect nutrition plan for you. This is where you learn how to use all the information I’ve given you so far.

A warning: This method is simple to use, but very demanding in terms of discipline. Most of you will never use it in its entirety. But those of you who do will get as close to perfect nutrition as you can possibly get on your own. My suggestion is that you read over the entire process, and try it as a complete system before you begin to pick and choose what parts of it you will and won't use.

Again, this isn't for everyone. Most will never have a perfectly tailored nutrition plan, just as very few will ever own a tailored suit. But then again, those who do will look damn good.
As long as this is understood, we can proceed.

Where's Your Template?
Nutritional perfection, just like the sartorial variety, is an iterative process. That is, it requires many iterations or repetitions of the design process to arrive at the final destination. The master tailor doesn't expect to turn out a perfect suit by reading his customers palms or by some sort of divine revelation.

Instead, he calls his customer into his shop for a fitting, measuring and modifying the suit for a better fit. Then he does it again and again. He brings the customer back as often as necessary, fitting and modifying until he has created the perfect suit.

With nutrition, you must do the same. You must take a simple, basic nutritional template and test it out, modifying it according to the results you got from it. Only by doing so can you arrive at the destination, the perfect plan.

As it stands now, there's no magic test, no "eat right for your DNA" kind of prescriptive aid. Currently, the best we can do is employ a procedure that mixes informed trial-and-error with the scientific method. We begin with a hypothesis (i.e., a basic nutritional plan) based on the best information we have (latest research, anecdotal evidence, prior experience), we test it (eat according to the plan for a set period of time), and we modify the hypothesis on the basis of the results of our test (muscle gained, fat lost, etc.).
In other words, getting to the perfect plan will take time, effort, discipline, and attention to detail. But first you need a point of origin from which to depart a basic template that you can start with, test out, and modify as necessary.

I'll show you how to build just such a template. Then I'll show you the individualization process, provide some example cases, and direct you to some great tools and resources that will aid the process.

Initially, Everyone Has The Same Needs
So let's discuss this template, the meal plan you'll begin with. While it's true that you'll eventually need a special plan designed to meet your individual needs (both physiological and logistical), you don't need one just yet. In the beginning of your nutritional journey, your individual needs are likely the same as everyone else in your position.

You need: A simple nutritional plan that you can implement immediately, complete with correct food choices and correct habits.

You must be able to put the plan into action today. Not tomorrow, not next week, not next year. It has to be so easy and so complete that you can begin it with your very next meal, and continue it with every meal thereafter until the habits that will sustain your progress are in place.

Complex formulas, supplements, macronutrient ratios, micronutrient content, or even (gasp!) calories are all things that you needn't concern yourself with initially. Don't get me wrong; you'll eventually concern yourself with all of those things. They'll become the variables that you can modify later. For now, however, it's best if you accept that the rules I'm about to give you are the best place to start.

Start With 7 Simple Rules
You'll start out with a plan based on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Nutritional Programs. If you've forgotten the rules, here's a summary:
Habit 1: Eat every 2-3 hours.
Habit 2: Eat complete, lean protein with each feeding opportunity.
Habit 3: Eat vegetables with each feeding opportunity.
Habit 4: Eat veggies/fruits with any meal. Eat "other carbs" only after exercise.
Habit 5: Eat healthy fats daily.
Habit 6: Don't drink beverages (soda, beer, etc.) with more than 0 calories.
Habit 7: Eat whole foods whenever possible.

I want you to get a piece of paper, right now, and create six meals based on these principles. Don't worry about portion size or calories or macronutrient ratios; we'll determine that later. For now, just create six meals that you could eat every day. If you can't eat the same six meals each day, create eight or ten or twenty. It doesn't matter, as long as for the next four to eight weeks, 90% of the meals you eat are on that piece of paper in front of you, and all of them conform to those seven rules.

Let's be really clear here, though. Like a tailor’s first steps in making a suit, the program begins with a one-size-fits-all plan. Well, two sizes – we've got men's and women's portion sizes to account for. However, men and women don't need to be told to eat more or less based on their gender – they already typically do that. Each one-size-fits-all plan, in the beginning, is equally well-suited to the 150 pound, 7% body fat "hardgainer," and the 250 pound, 22% heavyweight.

So here's my advice to you. If you're currently dissatisfied with your body composition, your health, your energy levels, or your levels of daily and/or athletic performance, regardless of how novice or advanced you are (we'll determine that in a minute), start with the 7 Habits above. Build a meal plan that's based exclusively on the 7 Habits and follow the template that you build. Follow that template, without modification, for about four to eight weeks.

Details... And So Forth
People tend to worry too much about calories, macronutrient ratios, and other details in the beginning, which in my opinion is just misplaced mental energy. Worrying about caloric intake or macronutrient ratios while missing meals and making gross errors in food selection and timing is just straightening the deck chairs on the Titanic.

In the short term, in this case the four to eight weeks that I want you to follow a one-size-fits-all plan, nearly any sane caloric intake will at worst have negligible negative impact on body composition, as long as the food selections are excellent. If you follow the seven rules above, they will be. Simply put, at this stage, food selection, immediate application, and consistency are critical; caloric intake is not.

Of course, such a plan may promote some great physical changes right up front. However, it may not. Your body may not change at all during the first few weeks. Since I'm assuming that physical change is exactly what most people are looking for from their nutrition programs (a leaner and/or more muscular physique), I'll share a basic principle with you here:
To improve body composition in the long term, you must forget about body composition in the short term.

Remember, what I'm proposing here is a long-term procedure for nutritional optimization, and in turn, optimal body composition, health, and performance. To make it work, you'll have to adopt the mindset of the long-term thinker, who understands that success in any endeavor comes not from fads and schemes, but from the continuous application of simple, correct principles.

So, unless you're following the seven habits above 90% of the time or more, put away the scales, calipers, and calorie-counting software for the time being. Get out your pen and paper and come up with those six meals. If you don't have the food for those meals, make a grocery list and go shopping.
Oh, but I can hear the cries now... I'm Advanced Dammit!

Up until now, I've talked about what's useful and necessary in the "initial phase" or the "initial stage," without really defining what I mean by "initial." It's simple, really. If your goal is to improve your body composition and physical appearance, I have a simple test to determine where you are in your nutritional career, so to speak. You're in the initial phase of your nutritional career if you answer "no" to the following two questions:

Question #1: When you look in the mirror, are you satisfied with your level of leanness? That is, have you reached your body composition goals?

Question #2: If no, have you followed a nutritional plan conforming to the 7 Habits, day in and day out for at least eight weeks, with no more than 10% of your meals falling outside of those criteria? Think about that before you answer. At an average of six meals per day, or 42 meals per week, that means no more than four meals were missed or broke the rules each week for eight weeks.

The first question is an example of outcome-based decision making. If you're to succeed in any endeavor, you must be able to measure your progress and the outcome of your efforts. In this case, you subjectively assessed your appearance. If you so desired, you could also objectively measure your weight, lean body mass, and fat mass.

The bottom line is that if you aren't measuring results, you're wasting time. And if you are measuring results, but don't like what the measurements are telling you. Say, that despite your current training and nutritional programs, you aren't as lean as you'd like, you need to change something.
The second question examines your efforts (or lack thereof). If you want to improve your body comp but aren't consistently following a nutritional program conforming to the 7 Habits, either start immediately or learn to accept your physical shortcomings, because they'll be yours for a long time. Hey, maybe some chicks dig pudgy midsections and chicken legs. Hope that works out for you.

Most people, if they're honest, will answer "no" to those questions. What we'll call "nutritional age," begins on your nutritional birth date: the day you complete your four to eight weeks, 90% 7 Habits compliant, one-size-fits-all nutrition program. Until then, you, my friend, are a nutritional novice.

If you answered "no" to the first question (i.e., you still haven't reached your body comp goals) but answered "yes" to the second question (i.e., you've truly passed the novice stage), then you're on your way. This section is for you.

Now, if you answered "yes" to the first question, God bless. You've done whatever you needed to do to get to your goal, and far be it for me to criticize your methods. They worked for you, and that's what counts. I'm not here to teach Picasso how to paint.

For the rest, go over the following checklist and make sure you've done everything you need to do before proceeding.

1. Use outcome-based decision making. If you've reached your goals, great. If not, examine and change your methods. It never ceases to amaze me when over-fat people say "But I already eat great." Uh, are you sure about that?
2. Determine your nutritional age. If you've been following a 90% 7 Habits compliant nutrition plan for at least four to eight weeks without fail, you've passed the initial phase and may proceed.
3. Construct a nutrition plan. Write down six, ten, twenty or more meals based on the 7 Habits and two workout beverages. Ignore concerns about calories, macronutrients, micronutrients, antinutrients, and everything else. Just make sure that all your meals conform to the rules.
4. Print out your meal plan and post it in visible places.
5. Commit to eating according to the plan for at least four weeks. After the four weeks, you may change meals as long as they still satisfy the criteria. From that meal plan, build a grocery list and purchase all the food you'll need for one week.
6. Prepare as many of the meals in advance as possible. Don't miss meals because of inadequate preparation and planning.
7. Eat every meal.
8. Count your misses (misses = meals that break the rules, or missed meals). Better yet, plan your misses at least a day in advance and turn them into cheat meals. You get four misses per week.
9. Proceed. When you've followed your plan consistently (i.e., no more than four misses per week) for at least four to eight consecutive weeks, proceed.

The Wrong Approach
Most trainees never reach their goals because they're waiting for the magic bullet, the one tip or trick that will finally get them the body they've been looking for.

People want to make simple, tiny, easy additions or subtractions to their current "plans," knowing full well that negligible modifications will probably yield negligible results. Adding a "super-food," magic soup, supplement, or drug won't compensate for gross misunderstanding and misapplication of key principles. Subtracting a single food or removing all carbs from your diet won't remove the real stumbling block.

Often people just want to be validated for what they're currently doing. They want to read an article on nutrition or training and say, "Well, I do some of that, so I'm probably okay," despite the fact that doing only "some of that" has left them far short of the body they could have, and want to have. Well, I'm not here to validate you. I'm not going to sugarcoat this, or dumb it down, or tell you what you want to hear. I'm here to tell you the truth, to the extent that I've ascertained it.
Here's that truth:
1. If you want a drastically better body than the one you have now, you need to make a wholesale change to your nutrition plan. Period.
2. The magnitude of that change will seem daunting and possibly intimidating. You'll question whether all this is truly necessary, and you'll be tempted to make do with less. Much less. It IS necessary.
3. The process will require a significant dose of that forgotten ingredient: discipline. Discipline is a by-product of purpose and desire, so you'll need those too. You'll need to remind yourself why you're eating this way (how lean you'll eventually be, for instance) and how much you want to reach your goals (or how it'll feel to fail yet again). Discipline. Purpose. Desire.

The system works. If you do it in its entirety, you'll reach your goals. Though perhaps overwhelming at first, with practice it'll quickly become simple and effortless. So what is this system, this right method? Well, so far, you designed a starter plan on which to build, just like the tailor builds a pattern or template for his custom suits. Now it's time to learn the art of fitting, bringing that starter plan ever closer to the perfect plan for you.

You've Got To Measure Something
Many people have no idea what they're eating. They may try to eat more protein, or have certain meals that they eat regularly, and they may even have a vague idea of how many calories they consume on a good day. If you're getting the results you want, this isn't a problem. If you aren't, however, it is. Vague ideas are of no use in the process of optimization. You need to manipulate your nutrition plan and all the variables contained in it – and you can't manipulate something you've never measured!

In The Beginning, Keep A Food Log
So the first step is to know and quantify what you're eating. Commonly, this is done by keeping a food log. A food log is analytical; that is, it's a tool used to analyze what you've done after you've done it. It has its place, and that's prior to beginning a solid nutritional program. I want you to do a three-day nutrition record in which you choose three typical days representative of your general eating habits (one work day, one training day, and one weekend day, for example) and on those days record everything you eat. I’m having you do this for one reason. I want you to see how bad your nutrition is. Even if you don't record your nutritional intake accurately, you'll have to make a conscious choice to fudge or omit, which is an admission to yourself that your nutrition is poor.

Of course, some are simply lazy and forget to record their nutrition, while still others are so deep in denial that they'll lie outright and feel nothing doing so. For both types, sticking to a good nutrition program will be either extremely difficult or impossible and dealing with these types is beyond the scope of this book. These are the types that truly need personal one-on-one face-to-face nutrition counseling.

For most people, however, nutrition records and food logs are excellent motivational tools and will help them commit to the new nutritional plan and the changes it necessitates.

So before you begin to manipulate your nutrition in earnest, do a nutrition record. Record everything you eat for three days, and eat as you normally would. If for some reason on one of the recording days you have to eat abnormally, scrap that day. Record again until you have three days of food records that represent your typical diet. Compare these records to the "7 Habits" outlined above and see how well you're really doing.

Beyond Food Logs
While food logs do allow you to know what you're eating, they don't directly help you to manipulate your diet to accommodate change. As food logs only analyze what we've eaten, they're not helpful in dietary manipulation.

Would you enter the gym without a plan and just write down what lifts you felt like doing that day, complete with your sets, reps, and loads? And then, the next day, enter the gym in a similar manner, continuing to record useless, system-less information? Probably not.

That's why I don't recommend food logs as a way to monitor your intake. What are you going to do with that information once you've got it? Just vow to do better next time? You don't need to measure your food intake; you need to control it. Control the input.

In scientific terms, your nutritional intake is the main independent variable in your body composition experiment. You don't measure independent variables; you need to control them, and measure results instead. Monitor the outcome.

So rather than recording what you did, you should be planning what to do, and sticking to it. You don't need to analyze what you've done; you need to synthesize what to do. After that three day nutrition record, you no longer need a food log. You need a meal plan.

Scientifically speaking, to make progress you've got to fix your independent variables (what you eat) and measure your dependent variables (weight, lean body mass, fat mass. In other words, your body composition). When it comes to nutrition, fix this variable by making a plan and making sure you do it. Then measure your dependent variables: your body comp results. Remember, monitor and control is the name of the game.

Eat The Same Things Every Day?
As I've recommended "fixing" your nutritional intake above, I know many of you will get confused and think I'm suggesting that you have to eat the same things every single day. I'm not.

Remember, in the previous section, I recommended coming up with a variety of meals built around the 7 Habits. You can build 30 meals with similar calorie and macronutrient profiles. You can build 50. Just be sure that you've got as many meals as you need to pick from to be comfortable with your variety.
However, keep this one thing in mind before you get carried away. Most of the people with the absolute best physiques tend to eat very similar things day in and day out. So don't lose sight of this fact in your quest for unlimited variety and a great body too.

Nutritional Planning
You know now that you have to plan in advance and that you have to hold that plan constant. But how? And why?
As I’ve said, optimizing nutrition requires a mix of informed trial and error and the scientific method. Let me explain what I mean by that. Informed trial and error means:

1. Your trials should be informed. You need to gather the best information you can about nutrition and use it to make your nutritional choices. That's why you're here, that's why you're reading this, that's why we built a plan based on the 7 Habits. To replace random manipulation with informed choices based on the best nutritional knowledge we have available to us. The nutritional plan you start with, and every subsequent change you make to that plan, must be based on the best possible nutritional info you can get a hold of.

2. You should be performing trials. You must not only implement what you learn about nutrition into your daily life, but implement it such that you can judge whether or not it's working for you. Don't just try things, try them and evaluate the results! This requires that your trials be performed in a certain way, and I'll describe that way in detail in the remainder of this section.

3. You should be prepared to err, and you should have a plan to deal with errors when they're made. You must anticipate that not all of the nutritional changes and manipulations you make will work for you. Even some of the ones that work for your friends and even some that worked for your grandparents back when they lived in the old country.

The whole point of this exercise is to determine what works for you, so be prepared to find that you may be different from those around you. You may add or subtract 400 calories to your daily nutritioin and see no increase in body comp in two weeks; I may do it and gain or lose two pounds over that same period. What do you plan to do at that point? Shake your fist at the heavens and abandon the plan? Or have another change waiting to be made just in case?

And what is this talk of the "scientific method?" Well, it's just a fancy way of saying that you need to control your diet and measure the results that the diet brings you. You understand the principle of informed trial and error, but how exactly should your trials be performed? And how can you differentiate between success and error?

The Scientific Method
That's where the scientific method comes in. Here's what it is, and how it applies to nutrition:
1. Observe the phenomena: Gather all the information about nutrition you can. Think about your ultimate goals, in terms of body composition, health, and performance. Do you want to get leaner or more muscular? Ameliorate digestive problems? Still be able to run the floor in the fourth quarter of a basketball game?

2. Form a hypothesis: Build a diet plan that will get the results you want and bring you closer to your goals. If you don't feel confident that you can do this, have someone in-the-know build the plan for you.

3. Predict outcomes on the basis of that hypothesis: Set a goal for the results of your nutrition plan. You should work in two week blocks, so if you wanted to lose fat you might set a goal of losing two pounds of fat in two weeks.

4. Test the prediction using a controlled experiment: With a nutrition plan in hand, follow it with at least 90% accuracy for the predetermined period of time. That means controlling all the nutrition variables, you must eat exactly as you have planned.

5. Record results and compare to hypothesis: Measure the results of the past two weeks of planned eating (i.e., the controlled experiment). Using the fat loss example, after two weeks of eating according to your plan, you'd weigh yourself and do a body fat measurement with skinfold calipers. If your measurement showed that you lost two or more pounds of body fat, you'd consider your hypothesis validated. Eating according to your plan allowed you to lose the body fat you wanted to lose. If you wanted to lose more body fat, you'd continue with the plan until it no longer worked.

6. If results don't match the hypothesis, modify or elaborate on your hypothesis: If ,on the other hand, you lost only one pound of body fat, lost no body fat at all, or God forbid, actually gained body fat, then you need a better hypothesis and/or a better experiment. Here are the possibilities:

a) Hypothesis was insufficient – Often the plan you came up with will be too low or too high in calories, protein, carbs, fat, etc. to get the results you wanted. You'll need to use your best, most informed guess to make a change; the general principles of your plan, however, will remain intact.

b) Hypothesis is false – The nutritional plan you came up with didn't work because it was just plain wrong, either for you or in general. If you started with a good plan based on good information and proven results with others, you should assume that this isn't the case until you have no other choice.
That is, don't abandon a good plan entirely unless you're positive that it's useless for you; more often than not you just need to modify it. If you started with a plan you had little confidence in and was completely unproven, then you can consider scrapping it entirely.

c) Hypothesis was true, but experiment was faulty – Your ability to come up with a great nutritional plan is one thing; your ability to execute that plan by adhering to it consistently is quite another. If you didn't get results, but only ate 60% of your meals according to plan, you'd better work on your adherence before you change the plan itself. There's no sense in changing a plan you won't bother to execute anyway.

7. Repeat steps 2 to 6 until your experiments yield the expected results: You must continue to adjust your plan on the basis of the results you're getting from it. You make changes, try them out (holding your diet constant for two week blocks), measure the results, and amend the plan as necessary.

Practical Application?
These aren't just abstract principles I want you to understand. They drive at a very specific method you need to use if you want to tailor your nutrition to your own individual needs.

In nutritional practice, using the principle of informed trial and error and the scientific method means doing things a little differently than most. Instead of having you eat randomly, or telling you simply to "eat better," or giving you vague nutritional principles to act on (then figuring out whether you did or not by doing a post-mortem on your food log), I have you follow very specific plans.

Two Weeks at a Time
These plans cover two-week periods. Why two weeks? Well, it's just a number I've found to work best. It's difficult to plan for longer periods (say, one month), and such plans become either unwieldy or oversimplified. Shorter periods (say, one week) require you to plan more often and aren't quite long enough to give any changes you make a fair evaluation. Two weeks, I've found, is just right.

To prepare for those two weeks, you need to come up with the exact meals, grocery lists, and food preparation instructions you'll need in order to execute your hypothetical plan. Make sure that the plan conforms exactly to the nutritional variables you've set. It'll have the exact caloric content, macronutrient ratios, micronutrient content, etc. As long as the plan is followed consistently, you can perform precisely the type of controlled experiment necessary to determine whether your hypothesis was correct.

In building the plan, take into consideration your goals, your current status relative to those goals, your logistical obstacles (work or school commitments, travel, appointments, etc.) and anything else you think is relevant. All the potential problems are worked out in advance. All the client has to do is eat at least 90% of the meals. There's no need for food logs – all you need to know is whether the plan was followed or not, which requires nothing more than a few checkmarks on a page. Day 1, Meal 1 . . . check. That's it.

Most plans have people trying to measure the variables; they count calories, grams of carbs, etc. – all of which is largely a waste of time. Rather, you should set the variables in advances (meal plan) hold the variables constant (execution), and instead measure the results!

The First Measurement Standard
It never ceases to amaze me how few people regularly measure the results of the choices they make. Optimization requires constant monitoring. Nutritionally, if you hope to get great results and keep them coming, you must continually measure the outcome of your efforts.

So what exactly should you measure? Well, it depends on your goal. For each type of goal, there are specific metrics you can choose to look at. I consider there to be three categories of nutrition goals: performance goals, health goals, and body composition goals.

However, before measuring results, it's important to measure adherence. Make no mistake, eating six or seven well-designed and well-planned meals a day for three weeks with 90% adherence is a serious, discipline-requiring endeavor. It's oh-so-easy to fool yourself into thinking you're doing a great job while demonstrating only 65% adherence.

So, step one, before measuring anything else, is measuring adherence. Below is an example adherence chart. Here's how it works:
1) Each time you eat a meal designated for that time slot, you get to put an "x" in the box.
2) Each time you miss a meal, you put a 0 in the box.
3) Each time you eat a non-compliant meal, you put a * in the box.

Week 1 Adherence Meal 1 Meal 2 Meal 3 Meal 4 Meal 5 Meal 6 (Workout Drink)
Day 1
Training Day X X X X * X X
Day 2
Non-Training Day X 0 X 0 X X N/A
Day 3
Training Day X X X X X X X
Day 4
Non-Training Day X X X 0 X X N/A
Day 5
Training Day X X X X X X X
Day 6
Training Day X X X 0 X * X
Day 7
Non-Training Day * X X X X X N/A

To evaluate your success, simply tally up the total meals scheduled for the week (46) and subtract the boxes that are either blank or contain a star (7). As this example shows, four meals were missed and there were three “cheat” meals. That’s about 85% (39/46) adherence. That's not bad. It's better than most folks would do. But it ain't good enough. We're looking for 90% adherence.

So, try this exercise out yourself. Print off two weeks of adherence sheets and monitor how well you're adhering to your plan. If, at the end of two weeks, you don't find at least 90% of those boxes with an x in them, there's absolutely no point in measuring anything else.

If you can't control the independent variable of this experiment, the meal plan and the food you're eating, why would you measure the results like body comp, body weight, etc.? The experiment is blown. At that point, you're not optimizing. You're praying. Think I'm joking? Well let's say you try out a new nutritional plan and only adhere to it 75% of the time. And let's say you gained body fat after the first month. What do you do now? Was it the plan itself that did you in? Was it your missed meals? You have no idea. Well, surely you'll have to try a new nutritional plan, right? Maybe you need to eat a low carb diet instead? At least you have to cut calories, right?

Well, are you going to do that either? How many calories did you eat this week? How many carbs? How many will you eat next week? You don't know because you're not adhering to the plan – to any plan. Your variable isn't controlled, so you have no way of isolating the problem. You didn't control last week, and unless you get your house in order, you'll be spinning the wheel of fortune again next week too. If you haven't mastered the basic skill of following a plan, that is your problem!

If that's the problem, forget changing your nutrition plan. You either need to suck it up and learn some discipline, learn some food preparation strategies, or attack the fundamental belief system that's keeping you from even following a basic plan for a mere two weeks. Or give up, I guess, because there are no other alternatives.

The Next Metrics
As mentioned above, there are three categories of nutrition goals:
1. Performance Goals
Mainly relevant to athletes, these might include faster 40 yard dash times, increased powerlifting totals, faster time trials for cyclists, etc. Generally, nutrition for human performance has three parts: pre-event nutrition, post-event recovery nutrition, and long-term general preparation nutrition.

Metrics for performance goals are determined by the event itself. For individual sports, ultimately the success of the program as a whole is judged by the performance in the event: for sprinters and cyclists, their times; for powerlifters, their totals; and so on.

However, often it's difficult or impossible to separate the causes for both failure and success. For instance, if a powerlifter misses a lift or a sprinter performs poorly, do you blame the nutrition program, the training program, or something else entirely? It's often hard to say.

The problem is compounded in team sports where the player may perform well without any objective impact on team performance. For instance, a hockey player may be in great shape and following a great nutrition program, but be on a poorly performing team or be unlucky not to score more goals. Do you have him abandon the chicken salads for Big Macs?

Performance nutrition, therefore, is often geared toward:
a) Supporting recovery from the type of training the athlete will need to do to achieve success.
b) Getting the athlete the body composition that correlates most highly with success in his sport.

In other words, while ideally you want to see a direct improvement in performance from your improved nutrition (and you should certainly measure that performance), you may have to settle on improved body composition. Now that doesn't mean that you should train or eat like a bodybuilder; rather, you should train and eat first until you have the same body composition as the best athletes in your sport, then train and eat until you perform like they do. In short, if you're trying to increase performance, measure both the performance itself (times, scores, etc.) and your body composition (see below).

2. Health Goals
While everyone touts general health, few have it as an explicit goal, even fewer follow programs that'll improve it, and fewer still measure their progress toward it. This is a huge mistake. Part of the problem is that health is both difficult to subjectively assess, even more difficult to quantify objectively, and almost impossible to sell as an important goal to those who are in a position to learn to maintain it for life, namely the young.

Try telling an 18 year old kid that he should worry about heart disease. If you're lucky you'll get a blank stare in return. Tell him that with good nutrition he could put on 20 pounds of lean body mass and get down to 7% body fat, however, and he'll have dreams of all the ladies he'll be able to score dancing through his head. Hey, whatever works, but at some point in everyone's life, health becomes a critical issue – and the time to build the required nutritional habits for good health is early on.

But there are both plenty of reasons to measure the impact of nutrition on your health and plenty of ways to do it. For example, you could measure any or all of the following:
• Skin condition: Good nutrition can often have a marked impact on your skin. Is your skin dry and scaly? Acne or blemish ridden? You could record this and track it over time.
• Gastrointestinal health and quality of bowel movement: Some may need to work through GI issues, and though the process is often long and involved, for some people it's absolutely necessary. Measurements can range from simple recording of maldigestion issues to motility timing to, that's right, bowel movement measurement.
• Blood values: Another way to track general health is to have regular blood work done, tracking the values over time. Your doctor can help you to choose the right metrics, but things to consider are:
Cholesterol (HDL, LDL, and HDL:LDL ratio)
Hormonal tests: Testosterone, cortisol
Liver enzymes
Fasted glucose and insulin
Oral glucose tolerance test

3. Body Composition Goals
This is the big one for most people. You either want to lose fat or gain muscle, or both. Or more to the point, you want to look better naked. So what should you measure? There are a number of possibilities:
• Body weight: This should be obvious. Every two weeks, step on a scale and write your body weight down. There are a few things to note, however.
One, body weight scales tell you just that, your body weight. They give you no information as to your initial body composition (i.e., how much of that weight is lean body mass, how much is fat mass, and what your body fat percentage is), and they're no help in determining how much of the weight you gain or lose is fat mass or muscle mass.

Suffice it to say those are important things to know, particularly when fine-tuning an already advanced nutrition plan. Furthermore, not all scales are created equal. Most bathroom scales available on the market today are of decent quality and will probably do; your mom's pink scale from her Weight Watchers days in the 70's should probably be replaced. Better yet, use a calibrated beam scale, the type found in good gyms and in your doctor's office.

Weigh yourself at the same time and on the same day if possible, just to be consistent – but don't be too anal about this.

• Body Fat Percentage: Measuring body weight is the first part of determining body composition; measuring body fat is the second part. Once body fat percentage is determined, you can find out your fat mass and lean body mass using a few simple equations. I won't go into the various techniques, but I'll outline the three ways in which this is normally done.

a) Skinfold calipers: Measures the thickness of skinfolds at various locations. I use this method not because it's the most accurate at measuring body fat percentage, but because it allows me to measure subcutaneous fat (fat below the skin) and track the fat distribution at the various specific locations.

Most people plug the thickness measurements, usually in millimeters, into equations to find body fat. Often I'll just track the thickness itself. I'm not always interested in body fat percentage – often I just want to know that I'm losing body fat over my abs, and even a one-site skinfold measurement can tell me that, and quantify the change. However, the calculations can be made simple using the Accumeasure Fat Track II calipers. This digital caliper is extremely easy to use and automatically figures the percentages.

b) Bioelectrical Impedance: Measures the speed of a small current as it goes through the body, and uses the differences in electrical resistance of various tissue types to determine body fat percentage.
While this method is very popular, it's not very useful. Depending on your hydration levels, you can get very different results even when your body composition hasn't actually changed. Even with controlled hydration, these devices aren't all that accurate.

c) Underwater Weighing or BodPod: Measures body fat by placing the subject in either a water tank or an air-pressure controlled chamber and uses displacement formulas to determine body fat percentage.
These methods are considered accurate enough to be used in research studies , but they're not without their drawbacks. They're expensive to use and difficult to find, so unless you have easy access to one, you should probably use another method.

• Girth: Using a tape measure to take girth measurements of your arms, chest, waist, etc. can be a great way to track progress, though again, it gives you no direct information about body composition change.

A two inch increase in the circumference of your upper legs could be equally a result of muscle gain or fat gain, or some combination of the two. If you want to get an idea of how much of it is fat, take a skinfold measurement at the same site. These measurements can be very helpful and informative.
You could do a comprehensive girth measurement every two weeks, or even select a single trouble area (waist, for instance) and monitor that alone. Again here Accumeasure’s Myotape is an easy to use body tape measure device which gives repeatable accuracy.

• Appearance: It stands to reason that if you're training to look better, or if you're a bodybuilder or fitness competitor, your perceived physical appearance itself is a valid "measurement" or indicator of progress. Subjectivity, however, is often a major problem here: people look at themselves in the mirror and are either too critical or not critical enough. Or worse, they're one way today and the other way tomorrow.

Consistent and honest appraisal is difficult for some, and unbearable for others. Some people are better off working with the previous three objective measurements (body weight, body fat percentage, and girth). Others benefit from having a friend do the assessment, or having digital photos taken (although lens type, subject-to-camera distance, and lighting conditions can affect one's appearance in photos, so consistency is an issue here as well). In other words it may pay off to take a high resolution digital photo every two weeks to help in objectively determining appearance.

However, you need to hold certain values constant in every picture. Those being, as stated above, lens type, lighting, and subject-to-camera distance. If you use this resource, you need to stage a set.
a) Use the exact same camera for every photo.
b) Set the camera in the exact same spot for every photo. (e.g. distance from floor etc.)
c) Stand in the exact same spot, at the exact same distance, angle, and pose, for every photo.
d) Use the exact same lighting for every photo. (e.g. over head light, lamp, and/or flash)
By holding these variables constant these photos can be objective and very useful and helpful.

If all you do is weigh yourself on a bathroom scale and look at yourself in the mirror, then at least do so with a purpose. Weigh yourself on the same scale at the same time every two weeks, and when looking in the mirror, try to notice subtle changes in your physique. For the first few months, you should write it all down.

If you can commit to recording more, do so. With just a few bucks, a set of Accumeasure calipers, Accumeasure Myotape, and a decent knowledge of body composition, you can do more. If you've got a digital camera, use that as stated above. But unless you're a hot chick, sending me photos of you in a skimpy bathing suit will force me to alert the proper authorities.

Whatever your goals are, be they performance, health, or body composition related, select your initial nutrition plan, make sure to keep an adherence chart, select your own relevant metrics, and start tracking your progress right away.

Over time, your nutrition program should yield tangible, objective results that show up in these measurements. If it doesn't, you need to change it, according to the ideas laid out in the following section/s.

Now, I'll continue where I left off, moving from the discussion of methodology to the actual adjustments you may need to tailor-make your own nutrition plan.

Specific Solutions
With your full nutritional plan in hand and a selection of relevant metrics to track, you set out to eat at 90% adherence for two weeks. After those two weeks, you measure your progress. Run a 40, get some blood work done, or step on the scale, depending on your goals. If you like what you see, continue with the plan unchanged. If you don't, you need to examine why and change your plan accordingly.

So, there are two possible outcomes:
1. You got the results you wanted. Your 40 yard times improved, your blood lipid profile improved, and you dropped two pounds of fat mass over the two weeks.
2. You didn't get the results you wanted. Your measurements show less than expected, negligible, or no results.

If your controlled experiment (i.e., your nutritional plan) yielded the first outcome, the desired results, congratulations! If you wish to maintain or improve any of those results, you can simply continue the plan as is until it stops working.

If your plan yielded the second outcome, less than expected results, then you must change something immediately. There are three possible explanations for less than expected results:
1. The results you wanted were unrealistic.
2. The results you wanted were realistic, but your execution wasn't up to the task.
3. The results you wanted were realistic, and your execution was up to the task, but your plan was inadequate.
Each of these explanations has its own cause, and its own solution. Let's look at each separately.

Unrealistic Expectations
Most people would readily admit that expecting to lose ten pounds of fat or gain ten pounds of muscle, correct serious blood lipid issues, or cut their 40 yard time from 5.5 to 4.4 in two weeks is unrealistic. Yet oddly, on the subconscious level, many want to believe that these results are not only possible, they're likely!

Blame "seven minute abs" commercials, blame the cabbage diet, blame whomever you want. But once you stop blaming, start accepting reality. Often things are less difficult than we think they'll be but take much longer than we think they'll take. That's the reality. Accept it.

However, remember this: not achieving things you couldn't possibly have achieved, no matter how good your nutrition, tells you nothing about how to optimize your plan. If your nutrition plan has produced less than your expected results, take a look and see if your goals were realistic first.

How? You need to determine two things about your goals:
a) Upper limit of achievement. How much can you truly hope to achieve, assuming you do everything right and do it consistently for as long as it takes? Will you be able to run a 4.4? Do you have all the other resources in place to do so, like a great running coach, a great training program, etc.? Or with respect to body composition, can you really be 225 pounds at 5% body fat, and if so, are you willing to do everything it takes to get there? Does your lifestyle afford you the ability to achieve the upper limit? If not, are you willing to change it? What, realistically, do you hope to achieve?

b) Rate of achievement. How long should it take to reach your upper limit of achievement? Will you improve at a consistent rate, or will improvement come faster at some times than at others? If consistent, how much improvement should you expect every two weeks? If variable, how little improvement should you be willing to accept during periods of slow returns, and how long should you expect those periods to last?

These aren't simple questions to answer, and in some cases you'll simply not have the expertise to answer them. But if you want to have a standard by which to judge your progress, you need those answers. So how do you go about getting them?

For specific goals, consult an expert or someone who's achieved what you want to achieve. Consult as many people like this as you can find, and take an average of their responses. Find people who have direct experience achieving the goals you seek. Generally, knowledgeable coaches will help you out with this for free or for a low cost.

But if you're at a complete loss, you can do what I do. Ever heard of the Kaizen Principle? It's a Japanese concept (or at least, a Japanese word for a universal concept) that was popularized in North America by Dr. Edwards Deming, and later touted by Anthony Robbins, Charles Poliquin, and a number of others.

The basic premise is that you should make continual progress, even if only in very small increments, and that by doing so you can achieve goals thought beyond your reach. So for instance, Tony Robbins used the principle to convince people to make small strides towards personal development goals, and Poliquin used it to support or explain the concept of "microloading" – using load increases of as little as half a pound to ensure continual strength gains. I'll let you judge the merits of all that yourself.

For our purposes, we'll use it to give us a guideline by which to measure our progress. When you can't settle on an expected result for your two week measurement, choose the smallest increment you can measure and make sure that you improve by that increment every two weeks.

Here's an example. Let's say you're trying to put on muscle mass, but all you have at your disposal to measure your progress is a bathroom scale. A simple but effective tactic is to simply make sure that every time you step on the scale, your measured weight increases by at least the smallest measurable increment, probably one or two pounds. Every two weeks, your goal is to see that needle move one notch to the right. That's it.

Certainly, you could do a much more detailed measurement than that, but if that's all you do, you're already ahead of the game. In essence, you simply measure in order to ensure that you're progressing in the right direction. The magnitude of that change (i.e., how much actual progress you make) is important, but secondary.

Bottom line? Make sure you:
1. Choose a goal.
2. Select a weight so that you can track your progress toward that goal.
3. Set your expectations, in terms of both upper limit and rate of achievement.
4. If you can't determine a realistic rate of achievement for your goal, try to progress by the minimum measurable increment every two weeks.
Once you've done all that, you can get back to executing the plan.

Inadequate Execution
If your expectations are realistic, but you were unable to meet them, take a look at your execution. Did you adhere to the plan itself? Did you violate the 90% rule?

Ninety percent adherence is the standard for execution. What this means is that you must eat at least 90% of the meals on your plan, and that no more than 10% of your meals may be unplanned, missed, or cheat meals. I want to be very clear that this isn't some vague or arbitrary number. Rather, it's specific and well-chosen.

It's specific in that it leaves no room for error. It gives us a simple way to measure adherence. Count up the total number of meals you're supposed to eat each week and multiply by 0.1 to give you the total number of unplanned, missed, or cheat meals allowed each week. So an average plan that indicates six meals per day, multiplied by seven days, gives me a total of 42 meals per week; 42 multiplied by 0.1 gives me 4.2 unplanned, missed, or cheat meals per week. Round down to give you the magic number 4, the number of times you can violate your plan each week.

It's well-chosen, in that 90% adherence is just right for long term success. Certainly, 100% adherence would be best, but we're dealing with human beings here. In all but the most extreme cases (for example, bodybuilding contest preparation), 100% is neither feasible nor necessary.

We want to account for spontaneity, the inevitable missed meal, and my desire to get my weekly pizza fix. Ninety percent adherence allows for all that. You can eat your favorite foods guilt-free, you can miss a meal, you can eat in a restaurant – just not more than 10% of the time. So take your four chances per week and make the best of them.

But keep in mind that 90% is 90%. It's a real, objective number. It's not 80% or 67% or 50% or 15%. It's high, and it requires discipline. Yes, it's true that you may still be able to see some results by adhering only 80% of the time, assuming that you have a great plan. However, it's a slippery slope.
Most of the time, 80% adherence will get you less than 80% of the results you could've had, and 50% adherence will get you far less, possibly even nothing. I have no data on this; it's just my own experience, so take it for what it's worth.

Another problem with adhering less than 90% is that you start to lose control over the nutritional variables. Remember, the whole point of this is to teach you how to manipulate and optimize your plan, how to tailor your nutrition. That requires tight control of what you're eating, at the very least. Poor execution means that:
• You no longer have accurate data on your nutritional intake. When you start eating too many unplanned, missed, or cheat meals, the nutritional analysis you have of the plan itself no longer correlates well with your actual intake. To get that info, you'd have to keep a food log again, and we've already discussed the drawbacks of doing that.
• You no longer have control over the variables. Too much variation from the plan can mean that you're getting too many calories, too little, too much, or too little of a macronutrient, etc. Whatever the case may be, consistency is no longer assured, and the controlled experiment you sought to perform on yourself is compromised.
• You can no longer manipulate the variables with any degree of accuracy. Say you want to increase calories, cut carbs, or implement some new cutting edge strategy. Without control over these variables, how do you plan to make those changes?
• You can no longer accurately correlate the minute changes you make with the results you're getting (or not getting). Say you did tweak your plan slightly in the hopes of optimizing your results, and then went out and followed the plan only 70% of the time. You measure your results and see that, surprise, there are none. Was the tweak unsuccessful?

I have no idea, and neither do you, because you never tried it! Unless you come reasonably close to isolating the change you made, that is, making sure that it's the only change, and that the rest of your nutrition was largely held constant, you can have no idea whether it would've worked or not. It comes down to this: you need to meet the 90% adherence rule, week in, week out. I can't make you do it, but I can help you track it. I gave you a chart for doing so.

Now, that's not to say that if you didn't hit the 90% adherence mark, you should make no changes to the plan itself. But the changes I want you to make at this point are logistical changes, that is, changes that help you work the plan into your daily life. If you missed meals, prepare more in advance, or have a backup plan. If you don't like the taste of certain meals, spice them up or replace them with meals of equal nutritional value. Do whatever you have to do in order to reach 90% adherence. There's always a way.

Inadequate Plan
So, you measured your results, and they're sub-optimal. Once you're certain that your expectations are reasonable and that your execution was excellent, you're justified in looking at the plan itself.
Remember, though, that you're not starting with just any old plan. If you walked through the process with me, you built a plan based on the 7 Habits, and for good reason. Those rules are derived from scientific study, I'm very confident that they work. Nevertheless, if nothing positive is happening, something has to change. This principle is the foundation of outcome-based decision making.

We're not, however, going to abandon the plan entirely. Rather, we're going to assume that the plan is largely sound, and that it'll serve as the foundation for our future plans. That assumption is valid in this case, because I said so. You don't need to believe me, but believing me will save you a great deal of time and energy. If you do wish to abandon the plan as I've laid it out, I bid you Godspeed. For the rest, let's tweak what we've got.

Before I move on to describe what to change and in what order (which will reveal my nutritional biases), let me state that this process can be used equally well with nutritional advice other than my own. Want to tweak your Atkins or Zone diet? You can do that.

Changing Your Intake – When and How Much?
So how do you change your diet on the basis of the measurements you've taken, and when? This is the big question. The quick answer is, when what you're doing works, keep doing it. Keep doing it until it doesn't work. You'll know when something isn't working. You'll have the data. When the change from week to week is non-existent or even negative, it's not working.

If the change is obviously negative, something is taking you in the wrong direction. What? Well, here's the checklist:

Step 1: Double-check your adherence.
As you should've gathered by now, I believe the number one problem for most individuals not getting great results through a basic eating plan based on the 7 Habits isn't some secret macronutrient mix they don't know about. It's adherence. So make sure you're actually following the plan, and this isn't merely a discipline, motivation, or belief system problem. Those can be addressed by a good coach, but not through nutritional intervention.

Step 2: Check your training.
If you started with good baseline nutrition, known to work for people with your body type for your chosen goal, and if you followed that nutrition closely enough to earn your adherence X's, then the next step is to look at your training.

Don't overlook the importance of exercise: type, volume, and intensity are all important. For example, independent research studies conducted at the Universities of Pittsburgh and Wyoming demonstrated that, for most people, exercising at least five hours a week is necessary to improve body composition.

If you're doing at least five hours of purposeful exercise, with a large portion of that exercising being of high intensity, you're probably on the right track. If not, don't blame your diet just yet; blame your exercise program. More on that later.

Step 3: Adjust Your Dietary Intake.
If you've picked good baseline nutrition, followed it to 90% compliance, and optimized your training program, yet still aren't getting the results you're after, it's time to adjust your intake based on your body type and physiological responses to nutrition.

Should you increase or decrease the size of your meals. Cut calories? Cut carbs? Increase protein? Increase healthy fats? You could make any of these changes, and many more. The beauty of this system (creating a specific plan first, then following it exactly for two weeks) means that you know the exact caloric intake, macronutrient content, etc. of your plan.

You don't need to piss around with food logs every day, or record the content of your meals as little "notes to self" in your iPod. No one but the OCD among you will do this sort of thing anyway. By planning in advance, you'll know exactly what you ate, because you either followed the plan or you didn't, and if you didn't, that's the problem. If you did, then you've got a great baseline of food choices that you can tweak to force progress.

Nutritional Adjustments
Earlier I told you that I won't sugarcoat things. So it's important that I state the following: I won't pretend that this book could give you everything you need to prescribe, monitor, and adjust your nutritional plan for a perfect body. It can't; it's just a book. However, I will cover some of the major categories of adjustments and some simple rules of thumb that'll take you further than the vast majority of your peers.

Of course, each of these adjustments and rules of thumb assumes that you passed checks one (you're following the plan) and two (you're training correctly for your body type and goal).

Adjusting Carbohydrate Intake
Carbohydrate intake is the first thing I look to when individualizing someone's nutrition plan. This is largely a function of two beliefs. The first is that it's very easy to eat the wrong types of carbohydrates. Proteins and fats are easy to get right. Carbs, on the other hand, are a virtual nutritional minefield.
Secondly, I believe that carbohydrate tolerance varies widely and that nutrient partitioning is closely related to the body's ability to tolerate carbohydrates. I find that by matching carbohydrate intake to an individual's physiological carbohydrate tolerance, nutrient partitioning and body composition can quickly be improved.

Therefore, to individualize someone's carbohydrate intake, I first separate them into three carbohydrate tolerance groups – poor carbohydrate tolerance, moderate carbohydrate tolerance, and excellent carbohydrate tolerance.

1) Excellent Carbohydrate Tolerance
Those individuals with excellent carbohydrate tolerance are typically very lean and athletic and can remain so with a fairly high carbohydrate diet. In fact, these individuals usually need a higher carbohydrate diet to function well. Deprive them of their carbs and replace those carbs with more protein and fat and they're sluggish, perform more poorly, and actually carry a worse body composition.

So, for these individuals, I focus on helping them choose clean carbohydrates with each meal, typically a mixture of starchy and fibrous carbs. Of course, the remainder of the 7 Habits still must be followed.
For those of you who absolutely have to see the macronutrient split I might prescribe for someone with excellent carbohydrate tolerance, it's usually around 55% carbohydrate, 25% protein, and 20% fat. Just keep in mind that I don't encourage anyone to be obsessive about each percentage point of each macronutrient. Rather, in this group, I suggest simply following the 7 Habits and "supplementing" each 7 Habits meal with some clean, starchy carbohydrates.
It's interesting to note that I believe that as individuals age they typically lose some ability to tolerate carbohydrate, so you should take this into account with the passing years and adjust as necessary.

2) Poor Carbohydrate Tolerance
Those individuals with poor carbohydrate tolerance are typically fatter, more endomorphic, and require more physical activity to get lean. These individuals do better on diets higher in protein and fats with a lower carbohydrate intake. Therefore, for these individuals, I require strict adherence to the 7 Habits.
For them, there are very few or no starchy carbohydrates outside of the workout and post-workout phases of the nutrient timing day. Their carbohydrate intake outside of these phases, even on off days, should come from veggies, with a small amount of fruit as well.

The macronutrient split I might prescribe for someone with poor carbohydrate tolerance is usually around 30% carbohydrate, 35% protein, and 35% fat. Again, I don't encourage anyone to be obsessive about each percentage point of each macronutrient. Just follow the 7 Habits uncompromisingly and your body comp will come in line.

3) Moderate Carbohydrate Tolerance
Those individuals with moderate carbohydrate tolerance typically fall between the other two extremes. These individuals do best when eating their starchy carbohydrates only during certain times of the day. For them, they should follow the 7 Habits, eating non-veggie and non-fruit carbohydrates only during and immediately after exercise, but they can also add a small amount of starchy carbohydrates during breakfast meals.

The macronutrient split here might be 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, and 30% fat. Just follow the 7 Habits and supplement breakfast with starchy carbs and your body comp will come in line.

At this point you're probably wondering whether these suggestions should be followed during periods of mass gain or fat loss. They should be followed regardless of your specific goals, assuming your goals don't include becoming a big, fat bastard. For weight gain or weight loss progress, once you're eating according to sound nutrient timing principles and making good food selections, calorie intake is the most important factor.

Adjusting Protein Intake
Adjusting protein intake is a fairly easy process. There are two things that I consider when tailoring protein intake to the individual.

1) The first is to make sure that the individual is eating enough total protein to prevent a negative nitrogen balance. Pretty simple, and most weight trainers and athletes have already got this one covered if they're approaching 1g/lb (one gram per pound of body weight).

2) The second is to increase the protein intake from this point based on the individual's body type and carbohydrate tolerance. If the individual is lean and has great carbohydrate tolerance, then carb intake is higher (as discussed above) while protein (still above the 1g/lb mark) and fat intakes are lower.

If the individual has poor carbohydrate tolerance and is fatter, the opposite is true. For this type of individual, carbohydrate intake is lower (as discussed above) while protein and fat intakes are higher. This dietary shift helps increase metabolic rate and manage insulin concentrations.

In the end, with respect to protein intake, I find that the best advice is to follow the 7 Habits (eating lean, complete protein with each meal, every two or three hours) and to adjust that protein intake based on what you're doing with your carbohydrate intake.

Adjusting Fat Intake
Fat intake is the most easily manipulated and should scale, in amount, in an inverse relationship to carbohydrate intake. However, one important note should be made with respect to fat intake. As discussed in the 7 Habits, it's important to eat healthy fats daily.

Another way of saying this is: supplement your normal intake with healthy fats. Add olive oil, flax oil, fish oil, mixed nuts, flax seeds, etc. to your daily intake and the fats you're normally getting from your complete protein sources will end up fairly balanced.

Adjusting Calorie Intake
Food selection and nutrient timing are critical to nutrient partitioning and body composition, but calorie intake dictates weight gain or weight loss. Therefore, if you're interested in gaining or losing weight, the formula should be pretty simple: eat more to gain weight, eat less to lose weight. Unfortunately, it's not always this simple.

1) Muscle Gain
If you're after muscle gain, it usually is pretty simple: increase food intake. I typically recommend increasing daily food intake by 250kcal every two weeks (of course, using outcome-based decision making along the way). But remember, there are some conditions that must be met before you can expect to see mostly lean gains with this increase in food intake.
a) You must be adhering to a specific energy intake in order to know how many calories to increase your energy intake by. Sure, blasting a ton of additional energy into your system will cause weight gain, but likely more fat gain than you'll be comfortable with. So we're back to the adherence thing. Make sure your adherence is good and only then will your 250 calorie bump have any utility.
b) You must be training appropriately for your muscle-building goals.
c) You must be eating for your body type (carbohydrate tolerance). Selecting good food choices and appropriate nutrient timing is paramount.

2) Fat Loss
Optimal fat loss, on the other hand, isn't quite as simple since many individuals who habitually under-eat tend to have depressed metabolic rates. Increasing exercise volume to five hours per week, with a high percentage of this exercise coming from high intensity exercise, will help improve metabolic rate. Also, increasing protein intake will help increase metabolic rate.

However, with most people who are habitual under-eaters, the first step is to adjust their food type and timing, while increasing calorie intake. This increase is situational and depends on how far off their current eating is relative to what they should be eating. Your food type and timing, however, should be in line by the time you are at or near the end of the four to eight week starting period of the 7 habits.

When I increase calorie intake in this manner, there's typically no change in body weight during the first few weeks, but lean body mass goes up while fat mass goes down. With this new tendency toward good nutrient partitioning and increased metabolic power, I now begin to decrease calories by about 250 every two weeks.

Of course, for this to work, the same rules apply as with muscle gain. Adherence has to be there, as does an appropriate exercise program and good nutrient timing. For all calorie adjustments, keep this in mind: with respect to calorie intake, when you make these changes, make sure you keep everything else the same. Your meals will look more or less the same, just larger or smaller. The changes will be spread evenly across the entire meal too.

Don't reduce the size of your chicken salad by taking out 50% of the spinach; take 10% out of the spinach, 10% off the chicken breast, etc. Spread the change evenly across the meals.

Extreme Body Composition Alterations
The adjustments discussed above with respect to carbohydrate, protein, fat, and calorie adjustments work fantastically for timely, sane alterations in body composition.

However, when individuals are looking for something more extreme, such as dropping to below 5% body fat in 12 weeks, dropping body fat ridiculously fast on a time schedule, or gaining lean mass very quickly on a time schedule, these suggestions above need a bit of tweaking. These extreme body composition techniques are beyond the scope of this book.

The Resistance
I understand that this system may seem a bit complicated and difficult. However, rest assured; it's only difficult at first. Eventually, it's very, very easy. But there are three types of individuals to whom this article series may not apply:
1) Type 1: The Gym Rat
The gym rat is the individual who spends all his free time at the gym. This guy spends lots of hours working out, performing lots of sets, lots of reps, etc. This individual will argue that my advice is "too complicated because all you've gotta do to get into great shape is eat clean and train."
However, keep in mind, this person trains... and trains... and trains. High volumes of exercise can mask sub-optimal eating patterns, and often do. So make sure you ignore this person's advice unless you're willing to spend all your free time at the gym. Or you're willing to risk potential nutrient deficiencies. Or, most commonly, you're willing to see a serious loss of body composition control when you can't exercise as much as you once did. (i.e. “creeping obesity”)

2) Type 2: The Genetic Adonis
The genetic Adonis is the guy who can eat pretty much whatever he wants without much thought or planning and remain in great shape largely due to his superior genetic make-up. This individual got dealt the genetic wild card so his advice is largely meaningless to you unless you've got his genetics.

3) Type 3: The Veteran
The veteran is the individual who's gotten in great shape without endless hours in the gym and without superior genetics. This is the individual you'll most often turn to for advice. His advice will usually be well-intentioned and sympathetic.

However, unless this person is a damn good coach, you should always be careful of the veteran's advice. It'll usually be good advice, but sometimes, things that the veteran has learned over time are internalized so deeply that they don't get their due credit.

This is particularly true when it comes to the system laid out here. In years past, I'd never have been able to assemble the ideas in this book. In fact, I would've scoffed at something so detailed and told you that "getting in great shape doesn't have to be so difficult." But after seeing that terse phrase fail so miserably, and seeing that most people need to see the process broken down into much greater detail before understanding it, putting it into practice, and truly benefiting from it. I've learned my lesson.

The reality is that I'd forgotten my early learning curve. In the beginning I needed a written plan, regular measurement, adherence accountability, and systematic alterations. It's easy to forget the early struggles and habit-building when you've long-since internalized the process.

So take well-meaning advice about how easy it is with a grain of salt, and understand that your body is always conspiring to stay exactly the way it is now. Without a specific plan, rigorous adherence, and optimization over time, the fat will stay fat and the skinny will stay skinny. The upshot is that if you stick with the process I’ve described, it'll become just as easy for you as it is for the veterans – and sooner than you think.


Plan For Success represents a systematic way of tailoring your nutritional intake, a way of creating the perfect nutritional fit. I hope this book helps you to learn the principles to become a master nutritional tailor in your own right.

The Greatest Nutritional Complaint
"Are you kidding? You expect me to eat this stuff? Where’s the taste? Where’s the variety!?"
This is by far the nutritional complaint I hear most often. I’ve been bombarded with this complaint. And over the past years I’ve repeatedly received this complaint, basically saying the exact same thing:
"This stuff is boring and tastes freakin' terrible! Give me better food choices!"
To be honest, for the longest time I just dismissed the variety of complaints about variety. Sounded like a bunch of nonsense to me for two reasons:

1) The "no variety" complaint sounds like just another weak excuse for giving up.
People stopped eating well and needed someone to blame. Of course it’s not their fault they’re overweight. It’s their genes. It’s their job. They can’t be expected to eat (gasp!) at work! Of course it’s not their fault they’ve got high blood glucose and high blood pressure. It’s that damn boring eating plan!

2) There's no reason why great nutrition must necessarily mean boring, repetitive meals and bad tasting food.

But despite all this, people still complain about variety. Quite frankly, it started to annoy me. So in an effort to squash this complaint once and for all (yeah, right), or at least buy myself a brief reprieve from the anti-boredom coalition’s email campaign, I started to investigate the problem a little more seriously.

I know one thing for sure: I’ve been doing this for years, day in and day out, and somehow I’ve managed both to stay large, lean and healthy year round and stave off the "variety" demon. So after being bombarded with my one millionth email castigating me to the depths of nutritional hell, I decided to start paying attention to what I was actually doing with my own diet. Specifically, I began leafing through my own nutritional programs, going back almost two years. I noticed four things:
1) The main food choices remained roughly the same over that entire period.
In other words, I’m consistently eating beef, eggs, beans, nuts, fruits and veggies. I’m not out hunting exotic animals on the plains of the Serengeti and dragging them home for barbeque. For the most part, I eat stuff you can find on the perimeter of your local grocery store.
2) Although the choices stay the same, the way I prepare those foods rarely stays the same for longer than a few weeks at a time. In terms of which foods are combined and which seasonings and sauces are used, my meals are always changing. For a few weeks I might eat 8oz of lean meat and a spinach, carrot, apple and mixed nut salad (with flax oil and balsamic vinegar on top) for lunch. However, after those few weeks, I might make chili out of those 8oz by including a packet of chili mix, carrots, green and red peppers, onions, cashews and one can of diced tomatoes. With different sauces, seasonings and cooking methods, I can come up with infinite variations of the same staples — as simple or as fancy as I like.
3) The meals that did stay the same for longer than a few weeks were the "magic bullet meals." Magic bullet meals are those meals that both fit into the nutrition plan and taste so good that I could probably eat them six times a day without growing tired of them. Everyone has a few of these. One meal that’s stood the test of time for me is my morning omelet. Every day, for the two year analysis period, I’ve eaten twelve egg whites, one yolk, one slice of cheese, spinach and one or two other omelet ingredients. Next to my omelet is a nice bowl of fresh fruit. I sometimes even eat this meal twice per day.
4) When I want to eat food that’s not on my plan, I save it for my "cheat ritual." Almost every Sunday night, I get together with a bunch of the guys and eat whatever the hell I want: pizza, ice cream, beer, whatever. As you might imagine, these are serious events, attended only by like-minded individuals.

For instance, here's what my buddy ate last weekend: one extra-large pepperoni pizza, two Oreo ice cream cookies, one-third of a rather large chocolate cake, one package of Clodhoppers, a pint of Guinness and a spinach salad (just to keep it clean). But by Monday morning, we’re all back in business.
So what does this mean? To really account for how I’ve been able to do this, I’ve parsed out four basic rules, one from each of the observations above.

The Rules
Rule 1: Stick to the Staples
The reality is that you’re going to have to eat certain foods; there's no way to get around it. But who cares? They’re easy to get accustomed to, especially if you prepare them right. Keep in mind that your sense of taste can and will change over time, as long as you practice the right habits and stick to the staples.
So what are the staples? Here’s the short version:
• Lean Protein Sources: beef, chicken, turkey, fish, etc.
• Fruits: berries, apples, pineapple, pears, peaches, plums, etc.
• Vegetables: spinach, broccoli, asparagus, sweet peppers, carrots, onions, etc.
• Essential Fatty Acids: olive oil, flaxseed oil, fish oil.
• Supplemental Carbohydrate: oatmeal, sweet potatoes, whole grain bread.
You’ll also have to eliminate the "never-haves," or at least relegate them to cheat meals.

Rule 2: Keep the Staples Constant, Change the Meals Often
To succeed in the long term, you’ll have to keep the staples constant. The foods mentioned in Rule 1 will always be a part of your diet. How then do you keep from being bored?
Answer: Learn to cook!

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that you should enroll in a culinary school or waste your days watching Emeril or, god forbid, Martha! I do mean to suggest that you need to know a little about flavoring and preparing food. Not a lot, mind you, just enough to prevent stagnation and keep your taste buds from withering away.

I’m honestly amazed by what bad cooks most people are. Basic cooking is just that — basic — and would take you no longer than a few hours to learn. More importantly, it'll make all the difference between nutritional success and failure.

Think about it. For most people, much of the food they eat is cooked for them: fast food, prepackaged or preflavored. How else can we account for the 157 pounds of sugar the average American eats per year? That’s about half a pound a day, folks! They’re not shoveling down teaspoon after teaspoon of sugar — this sugar is being systematically hidden in the foods they’re eating!

We need better solutions.
Here are a few:
• Read the Cooking 101 section contained here below. Great introduction to the topic, and it's free.
• Get some cooking tips from someone who knows, i.e., your mother. If you have one of those modern mothers who knows even less than you do, go a little further up the family tree and ask your grandmother. Take what info you can apply to your own nutrition program and discard the rest. You’d be surprised that a spice here and there can change the meal completely.
• Go to your local bookstore and grab a few basic cookbooks. Most meals can be modified to fit the plan by removing or substituting ingredients, and knowing the difference between rosemary and thyme will help you decide which to add. The goal is to build up a mental database of good meals you can make at any time, and to get some inspiration when the meals start getting a little tiresome.
• Stop by the newsstand and pick up a food magazine or, better yet, pick up a subscription. (And if buying girlie cooking magazines is embarrassing for you, you can send your girlfriend. It’s okay.) The regular arrival of new ideas will remind you that boredom isn't a valid excuse.

With these resources at your disposal, there's no excuse for "variety complaints." Get out there and start cooking. Stock your kitchen with the right foods, then mix and match to keep things lively.

Rule 3: Find Some "Magic Bullet Meals" and Keep Eating Them
Sometimes it’s not lack of variety that causes people to bail on good nutrition. In fact, often it’s the very idea that variety is necessary that causes the problem. While I agree that you need to have all your nutritional bases covered, I want to dispel the myth that good nutrition requires you to come up with a completely new meal every time you eat.

Here’s the strategy: find one or two "magic bullet meals" — meals that fit into your plan and taste so good you could eat them every day — and eat them every day! Eat them twice a day if you have to. Don’t miss a meal or break your plan when you could simply double up on the best meal of the day.
As for the rest of the meals, you’ll need to constantly change them to stave off the dreaded boredom, according to Rule 2. Remember, keep the staples constant, but continually experiment with combinations, cooking, and flavoring.

Rule 4: Get a Cheating Ritual
No, this isn't some adultery ceremony. This is the preferred method for eating never-have foods without blowing the plan. Now, my general rule on cheating is this: make sure that no more than 10% of your meals are missed or cheat meals. So if you’re eating six meals a day, seven days a week (for a total of 42 meals per week) then no more than four of those meals should be misses or cheats. If you can achieve 90% adherence — and anyone can, it doesn’t require "Spartan" discipline — you can get the results you want.

The catch, however, is that the 10% rule allows you to eat unplanned cheat meals. You know how that goes: "Well, that pizza does look good, but I should stick to the plan and eat the chicken salad . . . oh what the hell, gimme the pizza! I’ll just consider it a cheat meal."

Now, this isn't necessarily a problem. If you have the discipline to keep your cheat meals to under about four per week, you can have them whenever you want. The problem arises when you allow a spontaneous, unplanned cheat meal to set off a chain of events (first pizza, then dessert, then fast food, etc.) that ends up in a nutritional derailment. Unfortunately, this happens more often than people care to admit, particularly in the early stages of a new plan.

It's better to plan your cheat meals. And even better would be to plan them around a social event (like a weekly get-together with the crew, a weekly restaurant night with your significant other, etc.), and ideally with social support (i.e., like-minded people to whom this event means as much as it does to you).
For the same reason you have training partners in the gym, you should find nutrition partners who can keep you going down the right path. Then, schedule a weekly get-together where you eat whatever you want — understanding that what you’re eating is the exception, not the rule.

Incidentally, I think people immediately identify with the concept of "refeeding" (weekly breaks from otherwise strict diets) for this very reason. The psychological advantage of planning cheat meals is significant and is perhaps the primary reason for the popularity of the various refeeding diets.

I'll add, though, that turning a cheat meal into an entire "cheat weekend," as is sometimes advocated, will almost certainly slow your progress. Unless there are other issues, I’ll usually keep it to a half-day or less, so as to stay within the 10% zone. I’ve found that this is pretty close to an optimal balance between progress and psychological willingness to keep eating well.

Cooking 101
Physique athletes consume the blandest, most boring foods on the planet. Their core diet seems dominated by cans of plain tuna and cottage cheese consumed by people who don't even like the stuff and boiled chicken breasts limply tossed into some Tupperware and choked down several times a day.

Sure, athletes might attain their goal of bursting the seams of their Men's Wearhouse blue pinstripes with this diet, but something is missing. Good food is universally considered one of the great pleasures of life. While this great pleasure may also be the dirty secret of America's obesity epidemic, there are limitless ways to have your skinless chicken breasts and enjoy them too. The truth is, you can build the body you want without having to gag down foods that don't taste very good. And besides, if your food tastes good, then you'll be more likely to stick to your eating plan and avoid going on an all-out buffet binge!

So how can we eat great tasting meals, build mass, and maintain that ripped physique? The easiest method by far would be to hire me as an in-house chef and nutritional consultant. My salary would be a reasonable $45,000 per annum, plus transportation and living expenses (so I can deliver to your work or gym), and lodging (I'd even pull a Kato Kaelin and live in your pool cabana). What, no takers? Well, okay, I tried. Here are some simple rules for quick cooking that will make the dullest meal a delight for the senses.

The Marinade: Women Will Love to Eat Your Meat!
News flash for those whose only exposure to “healthy” nutrition was the last "Arnold Spectacular" edition of Muscle & Fitness — the core of our diet is protein, generally meat. But meat comes with two factors that most of us need to control — fat and cost. For both of these reasons, muscular would-be cooks, after ironing their signature Lee Labrada kitchen aprons, tend to purchase meats which are innately lacking in flavor. Extra-lean beef, skinless white-meat chicken and turkey, the occasional pork tenderloin, and, most frequently due to budget constraints, canned or otherwise less appetizing types of fish. Sound familiar?

For this application, I'll skip the canned tuna and 99¢ pink salmon, and focus on plain ol' animal flesh. With a few simple steps, soaking that slab of meat in some juices and spices will transform the tolerable into the tasty. The password is marinade. The base of almost every marinade is something acidic, usually mixed with a little bit of oil.

Now for those of you freaking out about the uncontrolled fat (and carbs, as some marinades involve one form of complex carbohydrate or simple sugar), don't worry. After you soak your meat (pun not intended), almost all the marinade is drained off and the caloric increase is negligible; generally no more than a gram or so of any given macronutrient. Once you add these ingredients, everything else — salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, paprika, etc. — is an essentially non-caloric flavor bonus.

Immediately I hear innumerable men and women screaming, "What about quantity? How many cups and tablespoons of everything do I put in?” The answer is simple — don't sweat it. The great thing about a marinade is that it's very difficult to screw up, even for those of us that consider opening one of those new-fangled aluminum tuna packets a skill test worthy of MacGyver.

The first thing you do is start with some form of container. My favorites are the freezer-grade zip-lock bags, Tupperware containers or similar, and for those of you with a bit more money, a jar that fits to a vacuum sealing device (available at many department stores and especially useful because it allows you to marinade in a fraction of the time). But if you're in a rush, any container will do, preferably one with some sort of top, like an old used jar and lid (washed first, please), or even a bowl with plastic wrap or foil over the top. The idea is to create an environment where the flavors can mix with the food.

In terms of price and versatility, watertight freezer zip-locks are great for this job. Not only can you throw a bunch of ingredients into one bag, but you can also freeze them, allowing you to marinade some meat and thaw them for a meal a month later! But don't forget, avoid heating your food in the plastic itself, as carcinogens and estrogen-like chemicals may leech into your dinner and cause you to purchase a CD by Celine Dion. That would be tragic.
Below is a list of some sample ingredients for a marinade. I've divided them into three tiers, from essentials to "advanced" options.

Tier One: Stuff You Gotta Have
• Salt
• Pepper
• Vinegar — Apple cider, red wine, rice, and balsamic are all potentials, each with their own flavor. Stick with a more neutral apple cider or plain rice vinegar (careful, some "season" with sugar) if you're not certain what you like. If you're especially concerned with simple sugar intake, use less balsamic or sugar-seasoned rice vinegar and stick with malt and apple cider varieties.
• Wine — Dry cherry, chianti, vermouth, and a dry chardonay are some of my favorites, but it's a matter of taste. If you like a sweet background flavor or you're marinating something like carne asada which often has a hint of sweetness, go for something like sherry or zinfandel.
Just stay cheap; you don't need to buy a collector's bottle of 1992 Merlot to soak some round steak. For these purposes, there's generally nothing wrong with any of the "wino" wines, or wines-in-a-box, if you're on a budget. Remember when you had to bring a bottle of wine to that party hosted by those people you really didn't like? That kind of cheap wine will do fine. Just don't get some Boone's Farm with extra flavoring — you want the wine to flavor the food, not turn it into raspberry syrup.
• Citrus — Lemon, lime, and oranges all have their place in marinades. If I were to pick only one, I'd say lime, but that's just a personal choice. Lime is more versatile in that it tastes good with all meats, while lemon enhances the flavor of poultry and fish especially well. Orange, again, is for when you're going for something to satisfy a sweet tooth. Lemon and lime juice can be purchased inexpensively. Any citrus juice will suffice, but no, Gatorade doesn't count.
• Oil — Virgin olive oil is my personal favorite, simply because it has more flavor than most other oils, as well as a good essential fat profile. Other nice choices are sesame oil and rice bran oil, but they tend to be more expensive.
• Southeast Asian-style fish sauce — Available in the Asian or ethnic food aisles in most grocery stores.

Tier Two: Spice it Up!
While a mixture of some or all of the above will get you started, herbs and spices are critical for variety. Here are the most commonly used — pick as many as you like. They can all be purchased dry:
• Garlic (fresh, chopped in a jar, or dry)
• Onion (fresh or dehydrated)
• Chili powder, including the mixes with black and red pepper, cumin, paprika and the stand-alone varieties like the "fire flakes" people add to pizzas. Not that we eat pizza. No sir, not us.
• Thai or Vietnamese style fish sauce
• Paprika
• Honey (great addition for grilling, mixes well with lemon)
• Italian Seasoning (a mixture usually of rosemary, oregano, basil, thyme, and/or other herbs, often inexpensive and available in bulk)

Tier Three: Extra Goodies
All the above ingredients can be mixed according to taste to improve any meat. But when you're ready to expand your spice cabinet or you want to try your hand at something more exotic, here's a little guideline on more advanced flavorings. The first two recipes are for 1/3 lb. of meat, which is approximately one average hamburger patty, small round steak, or breast of chicken, while the third is for a pound of chicken.

Mexican marinade:
To a base of citrus juice (one or two fruits or 2-4 tablespoons if you're using juice), add about half a teaspoon each of coriander (or a few sprigs of fresh cilantro), oregano, cumin, and one teaspoon of basic chili powder. Plus hot peppers (fresh, dried, or powdered) to taste. In regards to spiciness, you can skip the last ingredient if that's not your style (sissy!).
If you think you like spicy flavors, but aren't experienced with cooking, start small with just one or two jalapeños or a pinch of cayenne or similar powdered hot red pepper. You can always add hot spice later in the cooking, but it's rather difficult to take it away.

Lemon or lime juice mixed with two tablespoons each of olive oil and dry wine or vermouth. Again, there's little need to be precise, so don't worry about using too much or too little. Add a few shakes of black pepper, a pinch of turmeric, a pinch of garlic powder or teaspoon of chopped garlic (two or three cloves), and a teaspoon or two of dry oregano or Italian spice mixture. Other variations on this theme include adding all or any one of the following: cumin, onion (fresh chopped or powder), paprika, and bay leaves (around one to two teaspoons each).

Tandoori is one of my favorite forms of cooking and is much easier than the high prices in Indian restaurants would indicate. In many big cities, ordinary grocery stores will have pre-mixed Tandoori seasoning, which I've found to be not only adequate but generally quite delicious and reasonably priced. However, if you can't find anything pre-made, here's a basic recipe that's not only healthy and delicious, but exotic enough to impress your significant other when you invite her over for dinner.
For about one pound of chicken, add:
3 Tbs. plain yogurt
2 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. oil (optional, it doesn't affect the flavor that much either way)
1 tsp masala (in the spice section of the supermarket; if you can't find it, curry powder is an adequate substitute)
1 tsp. crushed ginger or half tsp. ginger powder
1 tsp crushed garlic, or about two or three chopped or crushed garlic cloves, or half tsp garlic powder

Toss it all together in your covered bowl or sealed container/zip-lock bag, and refrigerate for at least four hours, preferably overnight, or freeze and thaw whenever you're ready to cook. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees, or fire up your BBQ or grill pan, and cook for approximately 30 to 40 minutes. Flip them over once halfway through the cooking time. To be sure they're cooked, take the biggest piece of chicken and cut into its thickest area. If it looks like you'd want to eat it, great. If it's still squishy or pinkish, give it another few minutes, testing again if needed.

As you can see, none of these recipes are very precise. Sure, some books will tell you to pre-mix certain ingredients, using a blender or food processor. Of course you can do this, but I've found it to be, for the most part, unnecessary. I say toss everything together, seal it, shake it like crazy, and throw it in the refrigerator.

One final tip
Since you're going to be getting messy, make as much marinade in advance as you can. Divide meal portions into separate containers (zip-lock bags, Tupperware, or whatever you have available), and refrigerate or freeze as you see fit. If you're going to eat what you marinade within three days, just refrigerate. Otherwise freeze. Thaw by placing the portion you're going to eat in the refrigerator the night before, placing it in a glass bowl in the microwave on low power for a few minutes, or running the frozen food under hot tap water. You can also keep it in your shorts on squat day, but this isn't recommended unless you like that "gamey" flavor.

Let's Eat!
You've made a perfect marinade, you're hungry, now what do you do? Since we're trying to keep things simple, here are the basic rules for the three most common methods of “healthy” cooking: bake, stir-fry, and stew.

Baking —
This is going to be so easy you'll start getting suspicious. Get a cookie or baking sheet. Build a raging fire in your backyard or preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Drain the excess marinade and arrange the meat in a single layer on the baking sheet. Put the baking sheet in the oven. Bake 15 minutes for fish, 20 minutes for boneless chicken and veal, and 15 to 40 minutes for red meat (depending on if you like it rare, medium, or well-done). Halfway through the expected cooking time, open the oven and flip the meat over. Around the expected finish time, slice open the thickest piece of meat about mid-way and if it looks hot and cooked, eat it. Well, take it out of the oven first, then eat it, otherwise you'll catch your hair on fire and people will point and stare.
Stir-fry —
Stir-frying is such a fantastic and simple method of cooking that I think every household should have a pan by law. Then again, I'm kinda geeky about these things. There are plenty of options for kitchenware, just buy a non-stick stir-fry pan, which will allow you to fry without any extra mil.

To cook your marinade, take the pan and give it a light layer of oil. The best way to do this is with a pre-packaged oil spray like Pam. Turn on the burner, medium-high is often the best, and let the pan heat up. Test it by taking a tiny piece of meat and dropping it in the pan — if it starts immediately sizzling, you're ready to cook.
Drain the excess marinade, and slice the meat into thin strips or cubes no wider than your thumb. Toss the meat in the pan, give it about a minute to cook, then with a wooden spoon stir it around the pan until every side is browned. Once the meat is evenly browned, you can add whatever vegetables you like.

Stir regularly (but not obsessively) for two to three minutes, until the vegetables look nearly cooked, then add any extra flavorings you want. One of my favorite tricks is to add a tablespoon or two of the leftover marinade, which makes a simple pre-made sauce. Let it heat to the point of sizzling, don't overcook the vegetables, and serve hot.

Stew —
Ah, the one pot slow-cooked wonder, and another no-brainer. Give a light coating of oil to the pot or pan and heat, as above. Add the drained meat first, brown on all sides, then add some liquid — water or a can of broth, just enough to cover your ingredients. As with stir-frying, a small amount of the marinade can add a lot of extra flavor.

Bring it to a boil, then drop the stove temperature down to low. If you like something soupier or you aren't using that much liquid, keep covered; if you like it thicker, leave uncovered. Feel free to experiment and you'll probably end up doing something in between, like starting it off covered and then uncovering for the remaining time.

If you're adding something thick like potatoes, throw those in as soon as the meat is browned. Add in uncooked rice or grains about 15 to 20 minutes before you plan on serving the food, with no more than one cup of grain per two cups of liquid, otherwise you'll get a solid mass of rice with some meat suspended within. For green vegetables, add no more than six minutes before serving time, depending on thickness.

Here's an easy way to cook vegetables in stew: when everything else is cooked, raise the temperature to medium, throw in the vegetables and stir constantly until the mixture starts to boil, which is a good indication that everything is uniformly hot. Cut open or taste any vegetables or pieces of potato that you suspect might be undercooked.

Assume about 30 minutes for chicken and 30 to 60 minutes for red meats, depending on their thickness. You'll know it's done when you can pull apart the meat easily with a fork. Seafood is a bit trickier. Fish, even thicker pieces, and large scallops should be cooked for no more than 20 minutes and taken off the heat when the meat flakes under your fork. Thin seafood, like small scallops, calamari rings, and shrimp, take even less time, sometimes no more than 5 to 10 minutes. You'll know they're done when the scallops and calamari are solid (no longer translucent) in appearance, and the shrimp is thoroughly pink and starts curling.

Oil and heat
Since there are several good books that discuss the impact of different fats on health and body composition and since I've discussed fats often here, I'll avoid a detailed discussion of fats in general and focus simply on giving you a quick overview of what heating does to fats.

Heating, under both normal high-temperature household conditions (pan frying) as well as more extreme conditions (repeated deep frying and extreme laboratory conditions), affects both the characteristics and composition of dietary fat.

Heating changes the chemical structure of the fat and leads to oxidation as well as the loss of some nutrients like antioxidants and essential fatty acids. These changes are relatively universal and only vary in degree (pun intended) and duration of heating.

All oils will oxidize in a big way if repeatedly heated to high temperatures for long periods of time. But even normal household frying temperatures and durations can cause partial oxidation. Some fats, however, do better than others. Saturated fats like butter and tropical fats like coconut and palm oil are the most resistant to oxidation since they're more heat stables.

Olive oil (due to its phenolic content and monounsaturated structure) is next in terms of resistance to oxidation and heat stability. Olive oil can be made more stable by the addition of antioxidants to the oil (for example, Vitamin E). And polyunsaturated fats bring up the rear as the most easily oxidized fats and the least stable.

Therefore we now have an order of "cooking safety,” showing that the saturated fats were the best while olive oil and polyunsaturated fats are the worst. This means that the physio-chemical properties of the good, "healthful" oils are the worst with cooking. Therefore the picture emerging is that the "good fats" need to be unprocessed and unheated in order to stay "good."

Although I hate to do this to you, there's more bad news for us to contend with. While there are big increases in lipid oxidation products with heated oils like olive and safflower, there are also measurable physiological effects as a result. Cooking with these oils also leads to increases in plasma triglycerides and LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and decreases in HDL cholesterol (the good kind) when compared to non-heated oils (which actually do the opposite). So not only does heating affect the fat, but it affects how the body handles the fat. Strike two!

Finally, I'll give you the last piece of bad news. It's well known that pan-frying/grilling meat will typically produce mutagenic (cancer-causing) agents. However, newer data are showing that cooking with most oil actually increases the heat transfer from the pan to the meat, increasing the mutagenic activity of the food. Strike three!

So, with all of this bad news, what's a health conscious person to do? Well, I'm about to make some recommendations. Keep in mind that some of them may go against conventional thought and/or practice. But this section is not here to appease the masses. The following recommendations will optimize your use of fats for both health and physique enhancement.
Never use additional fats when pan-frying/grilling meat! If pan-frying/grilling meat use a non-stick surface or coat the pan with a minimal amount of some sort of cooking sprays. This will prevent large increases in the amount of mutagenic chemicals formed.

Never use mono- or poly-unsaturated fats when pan-frying! When pan-frying non-meat dishes use a non-stick surface or coat the pan with a minimal amount of cooking spray. If some sort of oil must be used for this type of cooking, use a saturated fat source like butter since these types of fats are most stable. Just be careful with how often you do this since excess saturated fat intake presents a whole other host of health problems.

When baking, use saturated fats and/or olive oil only! These are best to use for oil stability reasons (but see above for saturated fat warning).

Never heat flax oil or fish oil! Oil supplements like flax oil and fish oil need to be consumed without any further processing or else their EFA (essential fatty acids) content will be destroyed. Exposure to heat and light should be prevented. In addition, olive oil is best when the extra virgin type is consumed and it's consumed unheated. Corn, canola, safflower, flax, etc. oils are the least heat stable of the oils, will become highly oxidized, and will lose their EFA content with cooking.
Never, ever deep fry foods!
Never, ever cook with polyunsaturated fats!

So there you have it, a basic start to any amateur cooking career. Just remember that most food is ruined when the chef tries too hard. Keep it simple, taste your food as you're cooking, don't be afraid to experiment, and soon you'll be improvising healthy recipes that taste great and keep you looking good naked.

It’s Not About The Food
Nutritional Back-Up Strategies For The Daily Grind

"I had learned what it means to ride the Tour de France. It's not about the bike. It's a metaphor for life...During our lives we're faced with so many different elements as well, we experience so many setbacks, and fight such a hand-to-hand battle with failure, head down in the rain, just trying to stay upright and to have a little hope...It is a test." If you’re a fan of Lance Armstrong, you’ve probably seen this before. If not, you might need a little introduction.

You see, Lance Armstrong was a good cyclist, competing in the Tour de France and placing reasonably well yet never emerging as a dominant force in the sport; certainly never developing as a threat for an overall victory in the world’s biggest cycling event. Then Lance got cancer.

And after battling back from almost certain death, Lance changed. Now, six Tour de France overall victories later, Lance has cemented his place among the greatest cyclists in history. And the sport of cycling has changed.

Ask Lance why he went from an above average professional cyclist to perhaps the greatest the sport has ever seen and he doesn’t hesitate to offer a response:
"If you ever get a second chance in life for something, you’ve got to go all the way."

By self admission, Lance realized that his sport is about something more than the carbohydrate drinks, the hours spent on the bike, and the tights. It’s about perseverance in the midst of unknowns. The Tour "poses every conceivable element to the rider, and more: cold, heat, mountains, plains, ruts, flat tires, high winds, unspeakably bad luck, unthinkable beauty, yawning senselessness, and above all a great, deep self-questioning."

And, in my humble opinion, amid the many unknowns faced and the many lessons learned, this one lesson emerges as one of the most important — Lance wins tours because he, better than anyone else, has learned how to display adaptability.

Lance now knows how to practice for adverse conditions and how adapt to these varied conditions rather than letting them become setbacks. It’s raining — no problem, he’s ridden this course before in the rain. Heck, he’s probably even ridden it in the snow. The other riders see the rain as a huge disadvantage; not Lance. Lance owns both the sunshine and the rain.

Perhaps cancer taught him how important this combination of preparation and adaptability is to success. Who knows? But, if we’re smart, we’ll stand on Lance’s shoulders so that we can reach even loftier heights. Whether we’re trying to win the Tour de France, whether we’re trying to advance in our careers, or whether we’re just trying to improve our health through better nutritional habits, preparation and adaptability are the keys.

In this section, I’ll show you how to apply the lessons of preparation and adaptability in order to win your own nutritional Tour de France. From the lessons contained herein, you’ll learn that sometimes, good nutrition has very little to do with "the food." It has more to do with how you go about preparing for the nutritional struggles you’ll face and adapting in the face of them.

It’s Not About The Food
Ok, so let’s assume someone has come up with the ultimate DNA test to determine exactly how many calories, what food choices, and what supplements you’ll need to prevent disease, improve health, gain muscle, lose fat and become a better athlete. In other words, what if we could easily give every man, woman and child in the world the "perfect nutritional plan"? They wouldn’t follow it.

Don’t believe me? Think about this — how often have you seen people diagnosed with heart disease and/or cancer yet fail to take the necessary steps to improve their lifestyles. They say they want to "eat better.” They see doctors and nutritionists who tell them how to "eat better" (which foods to eat). Yet they end up feeling guilty for not "eating better.”

Why is it so hard for them to make the change?
Well, unless they really don’t want to change, the two biggest impediments to their success are:
1.Their habits — or their ingrained set of day to day food and activity related actions — remain poor because they don’t have a conscious, logical plan for changing them.
2.They aren’t ready for the tough times. Things might be getting better; then the tough times hit. They "get busy". Eating well becomes inconvenient. No one else supports their decision to make a change. When these inevitable circumstances come up, they bail.

Habits are more powerful than momentary desire. Habits are more powerful than information. Habits are more powerful than guilt. And only a concerted, conscious effort to override habits will lead to success.
So, in some respects, better nutrition is more about altering lifestyle habits and less about the food. Sure, you’ve gotta know which foods are good to eat and plan to eat them. But, as GI Joe once said, knowing is half the battle. Even if you know what’s good and expect to eat good foods, if the good foods aren’t around when it’s time to eat, you’re doomed. In other words, preparation is the other half.

Food Preparation Strategies
The first step in making sure you’re prepared for your nutritional Tour de France is having a good meal plan tailored to your own personal goals. The ideas in this section will help you adhere to that plan.

Once you’ve got your plan, it’s important to understand that the plan itself will be about as life-changing as a blank sheet of paper — should you not follow it with honesty and consistency. It’s of absolutely no use if it sits, unused, stuck to your fridge with one of those magnetic poetry sets or a Simpson’s commemorative magnet collection. So, beyond program design, you’ve next gotta find ways to ensure that you can consistently eat all the meals on your plan.

Ever wake up late for work and have to rush off without even a shower, not to mention eating breakfast? Ever have to work through lunch and skip hitting the local restaurant at which you get your daily chicken salads? Ever get invited to lunch by your boss and consider it rude to skip the invitation in favor of
microwaved lean ground beef and quinoa?

Each of these unexpected scenarios presents a unique nutritional challenge. How you respond to this challenge will determine how your body responds to your exercise. How you respond to the challenge will either support your quest for optimal health and body composition or throw up a big roadblock.

So my advice to you is this—plan for the unplanned. That’s a mind bender, eh? But it need not be. One way of planning for the unplanned is to always have meals with you that conform to your meal plan — just in case. This way, although you might have planned on eating the Atkins Approved Fire Roasted Salmon dish at TGI Fridays for lunch, if your jackass boss calls an emergency meeting during your lunch hour, you can produce a 7 Habits conforming meal while your office mates go hungry.

Alright, I admit that this may take a bit more planning that you’re accustomed to. But most people overvalue the necessity for a plan and undervalue their adherence to the plan. So it’s time to buckle down, honestly appraise where you’re falling short (the plan or the adherence) and make the necessary improvements. Using the following 3 strategies, the adherence part will be easier than you think.

Strategy #1 — The Sunday Ritual
No, no, this ritual doesn’t include lamb’s blood or any special Kool Aid. The Sunday Ritual is performed by setting aside 3 hours or so every Sunday (any day of the week will do but Sunday is easiest for most) to write out your menu for the week, shop for the week, and prepare your meals for the week.

First, on your Ritual day, sit down and come up with your meal plan for the week. Next, once the meal plan is laid out, add up exactly how much of each food you’ll need over the 7 days and go pick those foods up at the grocery store. As previously covered, this need not be a huge project. Finally, once you’ve got all those groceries home, it’s time to start cooking for the week. Some people choose to prepare all their meals for the week on Sundays. Others prefer to figure out which meals will be easy to cook just prior to meal time and save them for later, preparing only the meals that will need to be eaten during work hours or during busy times of the day when food prep becomes difficult.

For example, some people can easily prepare breakfast meals and dinner meals on demand by setting aside a few minutes each day for meal preparation. Others have a significant other who can prepare these meals for them. Either way, these meals can probably wait until they are needed. However the lunches, 2-3 daytime snacks, and workout shakes usually present a problem for the unprepared so they should be made in advance. Sunday is a good time for most to do this preparation.

So, if it suits your lifestyle, use the Sunday ritual to get these meals ready for the week. Cook all the meat, chop all the vegetables, measure out all the yogurt and/or cottage cheese, and distribute all the powders. Have them ready and set aside so that you can grab them in the morning and bring them with you regardless of what your day or your boss holds in store for you.

Strategy #2 — The Breakfast Ritual
Rather than preparing all their food for the week on a single day, some people prefer to do a little food preparation each day. That’s what the Breakfast Ritual is for.

Using the Breakfast Ritual, simply perform all your cooking for the day each morning. Since you’ve gotta prepare breakfast anyway, make sure you’ve got a couple of meals going while breakfast is being prepared. Again, this need not be a huge production.

Of course, as with the Sunday ritual, think about what your day will hold under both the best conditions (i.e. home from work early and a relaxing evening ahead) and the worst (i.e. unexpected deadline, all nighter at work, long day at work, and soccer practice for the kids) and act like a boy scout — be prepared.

One great strategy for being prepared is to bring both the meals you expect to eat as well as some "back-up" options, just in case. So, as discussed earlier, even if you expect to grab lunch at TGI Fridays and have dinner at home, bring with you both a lunch alternative and a dinner alternative, just in case something else comes up. If you don’t need the meals, that’s fine — just eat them another day. But if you do need them, you can chow down without skipping a meal or choosing a poor alternative.

Here’s another idea for you. If you don’t want to bring several full meals that you’re unlikely to eat, another great option is to bring some homemade snacks with you. Here are some great recipes that are a fantastic alternative to the mostly crappy, store bought, sugar laden, artificial ingredient containin’, protein bars.

Granola Bars
2 cups raw oat bran
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup egg whites
1 cup nonfat milk
2 cups chocolate Low-Carb Grow! (or generic whey protein powder )
1/2 cup granulated Splenda
5-6 scoops maltodextrin (180 grams)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tablespoons oil (canola or olive)
Mix it all together in a big bowl, then spread it out on a large nonstick cooking tray. Add some cooking spray, or wipe a little olive oil on the pan with a paper towel. Bake for 25-30 minutes @ 350 degrees. Cut into 10 pieces. (If you use Low-Carb Grow!, your bars will have a more natural flavor but keep in mind that you’ll need to use a little more liquid as Grow! tends to thicken up the recipe.)
Macronutrient Profile (each bar):
K/cal: 344
Fat: 5 g (1s, 2.5m, 1.5p)
Carbs: 54 g (Fiber: 7 g)
Protein: 28 g

Blueberry Bran Muffins
1 cup oat bran
1/2 cup flax meal
4 scoops Low-Carb Grow!, flavor of your choice (I like chocolate with this recipe).
2/3 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup granulated Splenda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 jumbo egg whites
1 teaspoon maple extract
2/3 cup water
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the egg whites, extract and water. Stir until mixed well. Scoop into a muffin pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Makes 6 large muffins.
Macronutrient Profile (each muffin):
K/cal: 176
Fat: 4 g (1s, 1m, 2p)
Carbs: 20g (fiber: 4g)
Protein: 21 g

Peanut Butter Fudge Bars
2 scoops Low-Carb Grow! chocolate protein powder
2 scoops flax meal (ground flax seeds)
4 tablespoons chunky natural peanut butter
Mix these together in a bowl, adding _ cup water (or less if you can manage) and Splenda, to taste. At first, it will seem like it’s not enough water, but keep stirring, and it will eventually become a moldable blob of dough that looks like what you would imagine it will look like on the way out of your body. Divide the mixture in half, and put it into separate pieces of plastic wrap, shaping into a bar within the wrap. It’s easier to shape them by laying plastic wrap in one side of a small casserole dish, pressing the dough into the natural shape of the dish. Put the bars into the fridge, or store them in the freezer. You can eat them chilled, or even frozen, or you can eat it right out of the bowl with a spoon if you’re feeling impatient.
Macronutrient Profile (each bar):
K/cal: 380
Fat: 23 g (5s, 11m, 7p)
Carbs: 15 g (fiber: 6g)
Protein: 33 g

Almond-Coconut Bars
1/2 cup flax seed meal
5 tablespoons lowfat cream cheese
1/2 cup sliced almonds (blanched and raw)
5 scoops Low-Carb Grow! (or chocolate whey protein powder)
1/2 cup granulated Splenda
1/4 cup water
1/2 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
Nuke the cream cheese just until it’s soft enough to mix. Combine all dry ingredients in bowl, and then mix in the rest, until it becomes a big glob. Resist the temptation to add more water; just keep stirring and it will mix. Press into 8x8 brownie pan, sprayed with Pam. Chill and cut into 5 pieces. Put each piece in plastic wrap and store in fridge or freezer. Like the other bars, these melt very easily; so don’t keep them in your back pocket. Makes 5 bars.
Macronutrient Profile (each bar):
K/cal: 270
Fat: 14 g (4 s, 5m, 5p)
Carbs: 12 g (fiber: 3g)
Protein: 27 g

Banana Flax Loaf
4 scoops vanilla or chocolate Low-Carb Grow! (or generic protein powder)
1/2 cup flax meal
1/2 cup granulated Splenda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 oz chopped walnuts
1 jumbo whole egg + 1 egg white, beaten 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 _ teaspoons banana extract
1/2 cup water
Set the oven to 350 degrees. Stir all of the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then add the oil, water, eggs and banana extract and mix well. Coat a 4X8-inch casserole dish with cooking spray, and pour-in the mixture. Sprinkle some whole flax seeds over the top and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees. (Don’t over bake or it will become dry.) Makes 4 servings.
Macronutrient Profile (each serving):
K/cal: 350
Fat: 21 g (3s, 8.5m, 8.5p)
Carbs: 13 g (fiber: 4g)
Protein: 30g

Side Note - Food Support Systems
In order to make the Sunday Ritual and the Breakfast Ritual work, it’s important to pick up a few items — nutritional support systems, if you will. Here’s what I recommend picking up before you start using either of the two Rituals:

A good countertop grill. Since you’ll most likely need to cook relatively large batches of lean protein, it’s important to have a quick way of doing this. If you’ve got a great backyard grill that you can use year-round that’s great. If not, pick up a Cuisinart, Foreman, or Hamilton Beach grill and you’ll be all set.

A good cooler in which to store and carry your meals for the day. Coleman makes a few good ones. Before buying one, however, make sure there’s enough room to carry a few meals and a few shaker bottles (see below).

5 small Tupperware-type containers. These containers will be for storing and transporting your daily meals. Make sure they are small enough to fit into your cooler but large enough to accommodate a full meal. Your choice of glass or plastic is up to you.

5 large Tupperware-type containers. These containers are for storing larger quantities of food. For instance, if you chop your veggies for the week or cook all your chicken breasts for the week, store them in one of these. Again, your choice of glass or plastic is up to you.

3 Rubbermaid Chuggable drink containers — 1L size. These containers are for your liquid supplements. Be sure to choose the blue top variety as these are far and away the best drink containers out there. Most others leak.

When choosing to prep your own food and carry meals with you, it’s important to find the right food support systems to facilitate your success. This list will give you a good start. As you experiment with your own personal meal planning strategies, you’ll probably find others.

Strategy #3 — Have Others Cook For You
If you love the idea of having 5-6 ready made meals always available yet can’t see yourself using the Sunday or the Breakfast Rituals above or buying all the Tupperware, there are a number of options at your disposal.

First, you can hire commercial food preparation services to do all the cooking for you. If you’re anywhere near a metropolitan area, you’ll be able to find dozens to choose from. The two biggies nowadays are Atkins At Home (Atkins Diet) and Zone Nation (The Zone Diet). The Atkins At Home company delivers 3 meals and 1 snack to your door by 6 AM each morning. The cost of this is between $35 and $40 per day. Alternatively, the Zone Nation company delivers 3 meals and 2 snacks to your door by 6 AM each morning for the cost of $35-40 per day. I hear good things about both services. The first being good for your P+F meals and the later good for your P+C meals.

Now, if you’re not interested in supporting the Atkins or Zone programs, there are many smaller companies who can assist you with your meal preparation needs. For example, in Miami Beach there’s a local woman who provides this very service for $5 per meal. Every day for lunch she’ll bring you an 8oz chicken or turkey breast, a baked potato or serving of rice, and a large serving of steamed veggies.
Here’s another tip. Pick 4 restaurants in your immediate area (2 fast food places, 1 medium-priced restaurant, and 1 higher priced restaurant) that prepare meals in a way that conforms to your nutritional plan and have them prepare the food for you when necessary. Of course, you’ll have to do a little research on your potential eateries by collecting hard copies of their menus or visiting their web sites (if they’re online).If you’re looking for a few examples, here ya go. Dave Thomas’ Wendy’s makes a couple of tasty chicken salads and a chili that you can eat when on the go.

Choose healthier fast food meals that conform to your meal plan when you don’t have much time or much money for a meal and choose a medium-priced restaurant like TGI Fridays for a better quality menu to provide you with a solid daily lunch. TGI Fridays, for example, has a great list of Atkins-friendly selections.

Finally, choose higher priced restaurants if it’s time for a power lunch to impress colleagues. Since most people don’t really know where they want to go eat anyway, if you get roped into a business lunch, you can be the one to make the definitive decision as to where the group is going to eat. Your decisiveness will win you big points with colleagues and you’ll also be able to control your eating habits.

Finally, if you don’t have the resources to entertain strategy #3 and pay others to cook for you, consider the fact that if you use the first two strategies to effectively build a lean, muscular body, you might just be able to convince attractive members of the opposite sex to take over for you. However, getting them to drop them off at your place by 6 AM every morning is a trick I’ll teach you another time.

In the end, whether you choose to regularly prepare your own meals by using the Rituals described above or you regularly choose to have others prepare your meals for you, circumstances will arise in which you’ll have to "cross over" and use a different strategy than you usually use. It never ceases to amaze me how much time those interested in health and fitness spend seeking out "the perfect plan" and how little time they spend figuring out what they’ll do when life’s circumstances prevent them from following it. Follow the guidelines in this section and you’ll be able to display the adaptability necessary to move from nutritional novice to "seasoned" nutritional veteran.

Olympic Caliber Road Warriors
When I found out about the nutritional challenges Olympic (and Professional) athletes face during their competitive seasons, I couldn’t believe it. Get this—while half their year is spent training at home, the other half is spent traveling the world competing. Now, if all accommodations offered the same creature comforts of the Olympic village, there’d no problem. But the Olympic village is only available once every 4 years. For the remainder of the time (or most of it), these athletes are sleeping and eating in accommodations that can only be described as abysmal—considering their status as the athletic elite.
One day they’re in France sleeping on cots and waking up to strong European coffee and plain or chocolate filled croissants (no eggs, oats or fruit available at that hour in France). They spend the entire next day in a van driving to Germany, arriving to find pork dinner (and not lean pork either) with a side of kraut. And they repeat this over and over for 3-5 months at a time.

And how about living in a tent on a glacier? That’s right, one team is taken to a remote glacier in a helicopter, dropped off at a base camp of tents, and spends 2 weeks at a time sleeping, eating and training in this remote locale. It’s hard to hit a Subway for a low fat sandwich up there.
Think your nutritional challenges are too big to overcome? Think again.

Amateur Road Warriors
Compared to these Olympic caliber road warriors, most of us are just rank amateurs in the travel department. I can’t begin to imagine all the personal challenges that would arise from being on the road, parading through foreign countries for months at a time.

Now, Europe presents a series of interesting challenges to the health conscious eater. Not only do you have the usual challenges associated with travel but you’re also contending with cultural differences, language barriers and other unique situations. And these are just the challenges that a Tour de France spectator must face. Imagine what the athletes are going through. In fact, here’s a list of the food that one of the top cycling teams brings to the Tour with them:

2200 bottles
1500 litres (3300 lbs) water
18 kg (40 lbs) sports drink A (400-450 L)
36 kg (80 lbs) sports drink B (500-600L)
6 kg (13 lbs) maltodextrins
450 concentrated carbohydrate drinks (450 x 100 ml)
630 gels
7.5 kg (16.5 lbs) recovery drink (80 L)
1200 energy bars
1600 cans of soft drinks
100 packets of biscuits
40 boxes breakfast cereals
9 kg (20 lbs) wine gums
440 bread rolls
900 cakes
100 kg (220 lbs) fruit

And remember, in addition to these foods, the things like milk and meat are bought while on the road. That’s a heck of a lot of energy. And a heck of a lot of planning.

Strategy #1 — Location, Location, Location
If you’re planning to take to the road for sport or for business, your first item of business is this—ensure that everything you need is in close proximity to where you’ll be working or playing. Location is key. So let’s say you’re going to a week long conference at the Indiana Convention Center and RCA Dome. Well first, get on the internet and find all the hotels nearest the Convention Center.

Next, give these hotels a call to find out where the nearest grocery stores, restaurants and gyms are located. Pick the hotel with the best combination of nearby resources. This way, even if you don’t get a rental car, you can easily walk or cab to your fitness and nutritional havens. Skip this strategy and you’re giving yourself big excuses to skip workouts, miss meals, and make poor food selections while on the road.

Now, I can already hear some of you griping about how you don’t plan your own business travel—you either use a travel agent or a corporate travel coordinator. So what? Either give your travel coordinator your preferred specifications, tell them you’ll do the leg work yourself and then they can book it, or just book it yourself and get reimbursed later. Sure it might be a bigger hassle than you’re accustomed to, but what ever gave you the idea this process would be easy? To rise above the masses, you’ve gotta invest more of yourself than the masses do.

Strategy #2 — The Penthouse Suite?
While you don’t necessarily have to stay at a 5 star hotel or choose the penthouse suite, one great strategy for you road warriors is to choose a hotel chain that offers rooms/suites with kitchens or kitchenettes. If you know a nice kitchen set-up is waiting for you, you won’t have much difficulty sticking to your meal plan. Just have your cabbie drop you at the grocery store on your way from the airport. Once you get to your hotel room you can rest assured that you’ll be able to eat as well as when you’re at home.

Now, what about price objections? Well, although it’s more expensive to stay in one of these hotels, if you consider the fact that you’ll be saving money by eating in your room instead of eating all your meals at restaurants, it often balances out in the end. Use this argument to sell the idea to your boss since he/she might not see the logic of it immediately.

Now, if you absolutely can’t find or afford a hotel that has a kitchen or kitchenette, make sure that your hotel room has, at the very least, a refrigerator (most do). As long as you’ve got a refrigerator, you can stock your hotel room with good snacks. Pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, bottled water, cottage cheese, plain yogurt, regular cheese, natural peanut butter, whole grain breads and mixed nuts on your way into town and snack on these during your weeks on the road.

Strategy #3 — Can You Ship Egg Whites Next Day?
Here’s a great strategy. Instead of going shopping when you get to town, why not actually ship your food and supplements via UPS or Fed Ex. Get a medium sized cold shipping box, loadsit up with ice, protein powders, fruits and veggies, mixed nuts, legumes, meat, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, cooking pans, utensils, shaker bottles and non-stick cooking spray and ship it to your hotel before leaving home.
By doing this, you don’t need to worry about where grocery stores and restaurants are located. As soon as you arrive in town, you’re good to go—nutritionally, at least. All you need to find is a gym and you’re set.

Again, although the shipping option may seem a bit pricey, you’ll end up saving money on restaurants and the price may work out in the end.

Strategy #4 — The Big Cooler
Here’s another strategy that helps ya’ transport both luggage and groceries simultaneously for shorter trips that might last only a day or two. Pick up a big cooler with an extendible handle and wheels (much like the wheeled luggage so popular nowadays), put a little partition down the middle, and you’ve got a ready made combined cooler/suitcase that can act as a carry-on. Put your cottage cheese on one side and your drawers on the other!

Strategy #5 — What’s On The Menu?
If you decide to have others prepare your meals for you when on the road, make sure you use Strategy #1 above to find out where the restaurants nearest your hotel are located. Next, visit them on the web for downloadable menus. If they don’t have downloadable menus, call them and ask them to send a menu over to your hotel for when you arrive. By having the restaurant menus, you’ll know exactly what types of food you can have access to at all times. Also, when dining with a group, you’ll be able to suggest places that conform to your nutritional requirements.

Strategy #6 — You Don’t Have To Order From The Menu
Here’s a hot tip that most people fail to realize. Most restaurants can easily provide a meal custom to your specifications even if it’s not on the menu. So don’t become a slave to the menu offerings. Ordering a specific number from the menu is almost always a recipe for disaster unless the menu is designed for "healthy eating" or whatever the restaurant is calling it. Most normal dishes have too much fat and too many carbohydrates for most body-conscious individuals.

Instead of ordering an item directly from the menu, either ask for an item that you like prepared without the sauces or high carbohydrate portions or simply ask for a portion of protein and a few servings of vegetables and fruit on the side. Remember, you’re paying top dollar for your meal and you’re about to tip your waitress. So don’t feel bad asking them to meet your needs, uh, nutritionally, that is.

Strategy #7 —Protein and Energy Supplements
Using some combination of the strategies above, you should be able to ensure that good meal options are always around the corner. But sometimes when you’re on the road it’s impossible to slip back to your room or to get to a restaurant. For times like this, you’ll need to consider a few supplement options.
Typically, when at home I only use 1-2 scoops of protein powder (Low-Carb Grow!) per day, but when on the road, I may use up to 6 scoops if necessary. Protein choices are both hard to come by and more expensive than other options. So increasing your dietary energy with protein powders is a good fall-back option.

Strategy #8 — Powdered Veggies
Normally, at home, I get about 10 servings of fruits and veggies per day. But on the road that amount is usually reduced to somewhere around 2-4 servings unless I’m very conscious of my intake.
A great way to make up for this reduction in my micronutrient intake is to use a powdered vegetable supplement such as Vege Greens or a powdered fruit supplement such as Juice Plus+.

Now, I don’t use these products while at home since I prefer to get my micronutrients and fiber from fresh fruits. But if I’m on the road, these products help make up for the deficit I may be experiencing. An added bonus is that I seem to better digest my protein supplements when adding some Vege Greens to my protein shakes.

Strategy #9 — Homemade Bars
If you’re not into drinking numerous protein shakes per day, another great option is to bring some homemade snacks with you. As laid out earlier, this is a list of great recipes and they’re a fantastic alternative to the mostly crappy, store bought, sugar laden, artificial ingredient containin’, protein bars.

Strategy #10 — Sleep Pills
Jet lag, time zone changes, unfamiliar sleeping environments, poor nutrition, altered exercise habits, and the stress associated with big business meetings or competitions can all really impair your ability to get adequate rest when on the road.

Following the previous nine steps will help you take care of your nutritional intake. Making sure not to skip workouts will also help. So will the addition of a ZMA supplement. While research hasn’t provided direct evidence to support a relationship between zinc and/or magnesium status and sleep quality, most ZMA users find dramatically improved sleep quality when taking this supplement. Three capsules before bed should do the trick.

As discussed, if you’re going to be successful in maintaining a good nutritional plan, no matter what the circumstances, you’re going to have to plan for the unplanned and display adaptability to all circumstances. The guidelines included in this section should help get you thinking about how to become a successful road warrior. But I can’t forecast all of your unique challenges. You’ll have to adapt to them on your own or.

My Final Thoughts on Diet
Although things are looking up for the health-conscious who yearn to travel unencumbered through the world, it’s still tough to maintain a healthy way of life. It’s not safe to eat what many so innocently offer. Even the low-fat, natural, and “lite” products are highly suspect. (Read the labels and do the math.) The predators; oversized portions, undersized servings, sugar, “bad” fats, alcohol, and caffeine are coiled behind every rock waiting to yank you off course. Even mothers and grandmothers practice temptation, pushing greasy roasts, buttery potatoes, cakes, and pastries; taking all your protests as personal insults to their cooking.

Keeping a commitment to yourself without upsetting other people is quite a challenge. It threatens them by making them “wrong” for having their eating habits while holding you up as a superior human being; even though that isn’t your intention at all. Many people do not understand that eating this way is a choice, not a hard ship. They also fail to realize that you probably eat more total calories than they do. So, no you don’t eat like a bird!

Making a lifestyle choice often leaves others behind. As your body improves and your enthusiasm soars, be conscious of other’s feelings. It’s wise to practice discretion regarding your eating habits and be silent with your judgment of other’s, even when they’re vocal about yours. That may be hard especially if someone you love eats too much poor quality food, or diets to extremes. In such a case, try speaking your opinion quickly, firmly, and just once without begging. People are more inclined to follow your example if you don’t cram your opinions down their throats.

Here are a couple quick tips to help you with the struggle.
Cook food as much as possible and take it with you. Invest in some plastic containers and a cooler.
When eating in restaurants, order suspicious sauces on the side. Order grilled rather than fried, breaded, or sautéed entrées. Tell them to hold the cream, sour cream, and/or cheese.
On airplanes, call ahead and order the low-fat entrée.
Make room for occasional treats.
Eat a polite sized portion of a fat-laden meal at a friend’s house. It won’t kill you.

Check back soon for the next installment in the Plan For Success Series. Starting with the next installment we'll begin discussing Exercise and weight training so please refer to my Health and Exercise blog.