Category Archives: Diet

7 Steps To a Flexible Diet

7 Steps To a Flexible DietSpring is a time of dietary dilemma.
Defrosting from winter’s hibernation, the groundhog steps out to see if he can see his shadow.
What’s the physique equivalent? Can you look down and see your wiener beneath your bulk belly?
Should you continue with the winter’s “mass” plan – pack in the calories, pack on the mass, scare women and children, go for new PR’s, and get your rocks off from locker room high-fives?
Or should you hit a deficit, slash some flab, get skinny (I mean shredded), maybe improve your health profile, join a boy band, rock a Borat-like dong thong, and try to get laid?
There’s no right answer. You can borrow Harvey Two Face’s coin, flick that SOB into the air, and let chance be your guide for all I care.
To that end, here are 7 simple tools you can use to seamlessly take your plan in whatever direction your fickle heart desires, but first, a few words from our sponsor (okay, not really from our sponsor, but nevertheless a few important points before I get into the 7 steps).

Extreme Shifts Versus Subtle Manipulations

Many go through extreme shifts between diet phases, which I don’t believe is necessary, nor efficient. You know what I’m talking about – massive calorie surpluses to starvation-like deficits; ADA-like carb recommendations to kicking it with the Atkins crew; and major overhauls to meal frequency and food distribution patterns.
I prefer more subtle approaches, probably because I’ve always looked at diet within the confines of a lifestyle approach, rather than an unending series of unsustainable quick fixes and subsequent yo-yo’s.
Yes, you’ll go through different phases with different physique goals, which will require some modifications, but you should have a sustainable base structure you can ride year-round.
The foundation and frame stays the same, but the decorations can change.

Diet Numbers Are #1 for Physique Goals

7 Steps To a Flexible DietWe can argue over optimum dietary approaches into eternity, but consistently hitting your target calorie and macronutrient numbers is by far the most important step to achieving any body composition goal, be it slashing fat or building muscle.
Some proclaim that as long as you eat the right foods, or cut a certain macronutrient to zero, you don’t need to track anything else. That may be fine to go from out of shape to decent shape, or for the genetically elite or drug enhanced to look awesome.
But the average, natural dude will not get ripped to shreds with such a free-spirited, instinctual approach.
Good food choices optimize the health aspects of a diet and can do things like improve satiety, which makes staying within those numbers a lot easier.
Diet structure can improve the practicality and sustainability of a plan. I promote the two meal-a-day hunt and Intermittent Feast structure a la Serge Nubret simply because I think it’s an effective, practical plan to follow. If you like the 18-meal a day Jay Cutler structure, have at it.
Anecdotal evidence proves either can work.
That’s because the numbers will always have the biggest affect on the physiological processes behind physique transformation, regardless of how you break it up.
It’s the best lesson I learned from bodybuilding nutrition. You can set, adjust, manipulate, and refine the numbers to achieve virtually any physique goal you desire.
So there’s some truth to the IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) approach, although if you care about the long-term metabolic, hormonal, digestive, and overall health aspects of a diet, good food choices leapfrog to #1 in the hierarchy.
Beyond theory, marketing material, and “study wars,” you can’t tell me that when you step back from it all and just use pure common sense that you think craploading every day can be good for your long-term health?
But I digress, and there’s no getting around the fact that numbers are the most important for physique goals. So let’s bust out our Texas Instruments and get this party started.

The 7 Steps

1. Set calories first.

7 Steps To a Flexible DietCalories are the most important number – not the only number as Jenny Craig believes – but the most important number to get right.
Regardless of macronutrient debates (high protein, low carb, low fat, low common sense), determining total calories is still the most important physique enhancement step.
Take fat loss for example.
The only way to force your body to burn off stored fat is to take in fewer calories than you expend, on average, over some time frame. You can cut carbs to zero, but if you end up in a calorie surplus by ingesting an unlimited amount of dietary fats, you won’t lose body fat. You’ll gain it.

And gaining muscle?
You have to maintain a slight calorie surplus over some kind of averaged time frame. You can eat massive amounts of protein, but if you’re in a calorie deficit and not eating enough of the protein-sparing energy nutrients, that protein will simply be burned as an alternative fuel source instead of being used for tissue construction.
Calorie Requirements for Fat Loss: 
Calorie Requirements for Maintenance/Recomposition: 
Calorie Requirements for Muscle Gain: 

2. Set protein intake.

So calories count, but other variables do, too. Both sides of that endless argument are right.
Amino acids are the building blocks of enzymes, hormones, skin, hair, and most importantly for us, lean muscle mass. They’re an essential nutrient that we must account for, and should never be cut in a diet.

3. Set baseline fats.

Essential fats and good fats are important for all kinds of cellular functions, and of course, for supporting natural hormone production.
If you’re emphasizing a mix of high quality animal foods to satisfy your protein requirements, you can get all the essential fatty acids and “good fats” you need from these foods.
Fifty percent of the fat in beef is monounsaturated fat. Saturated fat is important for a variety of functions including supporting natural Testosterone levels, and is not “The Devil.”
A bonus is that in the natural animal foods we evolved on, these fats come in the right amounts and ratios that Mother Nature intended. The same can’t be said for refined vegetable oils.

4. Account for micronutrients.

You’ve started to do that already with your animal protein foods, which are full of B-vitamins, zinc, selenium, iron, and other minerals, but you want the full spectrum.

I prefer juicy melons and trim seaweed. You may prefer long bananas and large grapefruits. Whatever flips your skirt.

5. Distinguish between essential nutrients and energy nutrients.

7 Steps To a Flexible DietRegardless of our goals, we always want to provide our body with the essential nutrients and micronutrients necessary for optimum health and normal functioning.
Beyond that, all other food intake is just a source of energy.
“Added fats” are an energy source, not an essential nutrient. This can be good or bad depending on your total calorie requirements and goals, and the composition of the rest of your diet.
Starchy carbohydrates are an energy source, not an essential nutrient. This can be good or bad depending on the type and amount of training you do.
There’s no mystery to fat loss. We need to reduce our energy intake enough to create a deficit and force our bodies to tap into an internal reserve fuel source – body fat. We can do that by reducing starchy carbohydrate intake, reducing added fat intake, or both.
Activity levels and the type of training you do should be a major consideration in determining which fuel source you prioritize and which fuel source you reduce.
And in terms of diet design, here’s one of my core philosophies – .
That way, you can adjust the energy nutrient you’re going to emphasize up or down based on feedback, progress, and goals.

6. Energy nutrients for fat bastards (>20% body fat).

Lower carb Paleo/caveman-style diets may be the best approach for improving body composition and biomarkers of health for obese, insulin resistant, and sedentary populations – low carb, but non-ketogenic.
Long-term ketogenic diets have many drawbacks. Although ketosis may be beneficial for certain disease states, it’s not necessary for targeted fat loss for healthy individuals. Research shows that ketogenic diets are no more effective than non-ketogenic, low carbohydrate diets for fat loss.
What’s the answer? Limit carbs to roughly 100 grams a day, primarily from micronutrient dense foods, an unlimited amount of non-starchy vegetables, and 1-2 pieces of whole fruit a day.
You may even get Vegas-like crazy and have a sweet potato with dinner. Whoa buddy, now you’re living dangerously.
This will give you just enough carbs to support liver glycogen stores and normal cognitive and CNS functioning. You certainly can cut them lower and be a dick to everyone around you if you want.
Fill in the rest of your calories with healthy fats – whole food fats like nuts, avocado, and coconut.
You obviously shouldn’t be trying to gain weight, so the dietary flexibility is simple here. If you’re not losing fat, you’re probably overshooting your calorie levels with added fats, so you need to start cutting down on them.
Remember – protein and baseline fats from that protein stays constant, and carbs are already at minimal levels, so the only place left to cut is the added fats.
For all the low-carbers who drink cream by the gallon, cook everything in butter, and pour oil on everything, and are still fat, now you have your answer.

On a side note, I emphasize mostly low-intensity activity (daily walking) with a few strength training sessions a week simply to improve muscle cell insulin sensitivity (not totally deplete the body and maintain a trainer’s “ass kicker” reputation).
Why? I don’t think low carb diets combined with consistent, frequent, high-intensity anaerobic training are a great match.
First lose some weight and get healthier, then increase high intensity training for higher level physique goals, and add back in some frickin’ carbs to support that anaerobic training.

7. Energy nutrients for skinny bitches.

I tend to lean more towards carbs than fats as the primary energy nutrient for those who perform high intensity activity three or more days a week – strength training, interval training, cross-training, intermittent sprint sports, tantric sex.
Anaerobic metabolism runs on glucose (it can’t use fatty acids or ketones); amino acids will be used as a reserve fuel in a glycogen depleted state combined with high intensity training (muscle loss); carbs support natural Testosterone levels specifically in response to high intensity activity (non-functioning wiener); prolonged low carb diets and overtraining can sabotage normal metabolic rate and thyroid levels (competitors who jack themselves up, yo-yo, and get fat on normal food and reasonable training levels); and carbs support the immune system in response to training (low immunity/getting sick all of the time).
For those who fear the carb during cutting phases, what’s lost in this whole damn low-carb era is total calories (see step #1).
If you strength train and maintain a relative calorie deficit, you can still include some starchy carbs in the diet while losing significant amounts of body fat.

What’s the Dietary Flexibility?

We already have an optimum level of protein intake to support the growth or maintenance of lean muscle mass. We have a baseline level of essential fats and good fats to support normal functioning and natural hormone production that we don’t want to go below.
So we simply manipulate carbs up or down based on the physique goals.
Want to gain mass? You need to increase carbs to get into that calorie surplus.
Want to go back to cutting fat? You need to decrease carbs to get into that calorie deficit.
Need a cyclical plan for recompositioning? I believe in calorie cycling. You can eat more calories by increasing carbs on training days, fewer calories by reducing carbs on off days.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to eat no carbs on off days, as some more extreme carb cycling plans deem is absolutely necessary. It can work, but it’s not necessary.
But, that’s a whole other conversation for the next time we chat!

Health Basics – What exactly is a raw food diet?

by S. D. Wells 

(NaturalNews) Most Americans have “hot meals” two out of every three sit downs per day, and usually that food itself has already been cooked, maybe at very high temperatures, and then processed, and finally loaded with preservatives and artificial ingredients. Even organic food which is cooked at over 118 degrees will most likely kill the nutrients, but there are some exceptions. 

When food is boiled, broiled, fried in oil, baked, roasted, charbroiled or toasted, it’s “dead.” When food is cooked out back on the grill, especially with the lid on, it’s dead, meaning the food simply loses the vitamins, enzymes, amino acids (proteins), antioxidants and all of the essential minerals that fuel every system in the human body and defend it against cancer. When infants are fed cooked food and cooked milk, they could be getting next to ZERO in the nutrition department, and that can get serious rather quickly.

Chemical agriculture and dead soil

On the contrary, when food is fresh and raw, it can still be rather dead, and that’s where a lot of people go wrong when they first “go raw.” Most soil in America is massively depleted of nutrients thanks to pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, pollution from factories, improper mass waste disposal from hospitals, and so on. 

That means that no matter HOW MUCH you eat (and drink) of your favorite fruits and vegetables, if they came from toxic, polluted, DEAD SOIL, then the plants did not absorb nutrients, and they can’t make them up themselves. It’s as simple as that.

The toxic waste spreads out from the huge urban and metropolitan cities to the suburbs and rural areas. The genocidal waste that the corrupt “Big 6” chemical agriculture monopolies Monsanto, Dow, Dupont, BASF, Bayer and Syngenta pour on the farmlands of America is like hospital waste times a thousand! Plus, now most non-organic vegetation in America is GMO. If you don’t know what GMO stands for, then you need to buy some cancer prevention books today and read them. (

 So where’s the good soil, what countries still have fruitful, nutrient rich soil? Here’s a glimpse: ( If you live in the United States, the best move you can make is to order organic soil and drop it in the back yard, and then compost. (,default,pg.html)

Going raw over night is difficult

For many, a hot meal is part of their daily ritual, and their well-trained taste buds and pallet won’t go for more than two or three days without caving and then going off the rails a bit. People just want their steaks, burgers, fries, rolls and buns, tacos and barbeque, spaghetti and pizza, and they’ll run you over in the road to get to it if they’re hungry enough. So then comes the question: “Is the raw foods diet effective to naturally detoxify the body?” Can you just stop on a dime and instantly transform the body from a toxic, poisoned mess to a high octane, highly functioning machine?

You can start and never look back, yes. Raw food; it’s not some “flash in the pan” diet, rather it is THE WAY to eat right for life. RAW is all about transformation. Raw food enthusiasts know it’s difficult to transition from cooked food over to 75, 90, and especially 100 percent raw, so you will hear advice on patiently molding yourself as you go.

Strategies: keeping RAW exciting and fresh

• Marinating – If you want attention-grabbing flavor, cut your portions thin to soak up your favorite oil/spices. Lime or lemon juice tenderizes veggies and helps them soak up flavors.
• Juicing and blending – Are you used to a standard “deluxe” breakfast at Denny’s or IHOP; a breakfast of pancakes with syrup, or biscuits, meat and eggs? If so, it’s slowing down your life. Never again! The trick to raw food juicing and blending is simply buying a quality juicer and blender, and then simply figuring out which combinations of vegetables are your favorite. 

• Dehydrating below 118 degrees – If you crave the texture of breads, cereals or chips, dehydration is a great option. Dehydration machines or the sun can safely dry out your foods so the nutritious enzymes remain intact. Make your own potato chips!
• Soaking and sprouting – Cold soaking grains or nuts makes the elements easier for our bodies to digest, and sprouting (germinating) seeds or nuts has the same effect.
• Fermenting or culturing – If you ferment fresh vegetables in an airtight container, the acidity level naturally increases, and sugar and starches in the food begin to break down and form lactic and acetic acids, which in turn keep the vegetables from spoiling. After that, the refrigerator will add extended life to those tasty treats. Bye-bye excess body fat!

Stimulating natural detoxification

• Raw nuts provide healthy fats that are essential to the body and lower the LDL “bad” cholesterol in the blood. Watch out though, cooked over 170 degrees, nuts do just the opposite and cause plaque in the blood.

• Raw garlic provides a DNA-protecting compound called allicin. One minute of cooking, though, completely inactivates this enzyme. Grow your own garlic! It’s one of the easiest perennials to grow.

• Raw juice – A fairly good juicer runs less than $150 now, so now juice is easy to make at home and isn’t cooked, pasteurized and then loaded with high fructose corn syrup and toxic artificial colors.

• Raw salts contain trace minerals essential to good health. Table salt is typically heated to high temperatures, treated with chemicals and then bleached. This kind of salt is toxic. Raw mineral salts such as Himalayan are crucial for proper mineral balance.

• Raw cacao is brain food and contains a wealth of essential vitamins and minerals that boost the body’s neurotransmitters and phyto-chemicals, thus activating mood-elevating emotions.

• Raw chia seeds – Four tablespoons supply as much calcium as three cups of milk, as much magnesium as 10 stalks of broccoli, and as much iron as one-half cup of red kidney beans.

• Fermenting foods – Fermented foods such as kimchi help support intestinal flora and provide probiotics (good bacteria) that fight off disease and boost our immune system. 

The reward of superfoods

Want the most energy possible, a super-powered immune system, and fuel for your wonderful brain? Load up your pantry and fridge with some or all of the following: Organic cacao powder, medicinal mushroom powders, green powders, red berry powders, spirulina, chlorella, dried super fruits, kale chips, and trail mix. By stocking up with superfoods, you’ll also be preparing your home for emergencies and/or travel. 

Last but not least, the crutch for most people is sweet tea or sweet coffee, so instead of using boiled coffee and cooked tea loaded with processed honey, white sugar, or agave, make the switch to cold brews with coconut nectar as your sweetener, and then your new “ritual” of COLD BREWED tea or coffee is sweet, organic, and feeding your transformation. You too can live past 110 years and love your healthy life. 

A New Way to Eat

A New Way to Eat

When you cook meat, it turns brown. It’s a process called the Maillard Reaction, which is simply the binding of sugars to protein.
It’s also virtually identical to what happens to your body when you habitually keep blood sugar levels above approximately 85 dl/mg. If blood sugar levels are kept high enough, long enough, you’re effectively slow-cooking yourself, leading to kidney disease, joint deterioration, stiffening of connective tissues, cataracts, and atherosclerosis.
I say, I say, can you pass the Heinz Barbecue Sauce?
Not only does having perpetual high blood sugar cause you to slow-cook yourself, it also leads to a host of metabolic problems, including, but not limited to, insulin resistance and its hefty partner-in arms, fat-assedness.
The logical question that follows is, what causes one to have perpetual high blood sugar? Well, aside from someone who just eats the typical American diet, the individual most prone to high blood sugar would be someone who ate large amounts several times a day and who never allowed himself to go hungry– who, perhaps deliberately, on the advice of hundreds of diet experts, kept his blood sugar levels “steady” – over a period of several years.
Sound like anybody you know? Geez, if I’m not mistaken, that sounds like how every bodybuilder or “physique athlete” on the planet has been eating.
I’m thinking that just maybe it’s time to adopt a new way of eating. It’s one that I wrote about briefly in a Live Training Spill, but I think it’s so important that it deserves a more-detailed look.

The Problem

A New Way to Eat
In normal, healthy individuals, glucose is taken up by the blood stream and moved into the interior of cells where it’s burned as fuel. The whole thing is mediated by insulin, which is produced and released by the pancreas after you eat a meal.
However, in diabetics, glucose builds up in the blood as cells are unable to utilize it properly, which leads to a condition known as insulin resistance. Over time, the pancreas peters out and can no longer produce sufficient amounts of insulin to successfully transport glucose into insulin-resistant cells. As the disease progresses, the pancreas produces inadequate or zero quantities of insulin, which leads to all those horrific health problems and physique problems I alluded to earlier.
Mind-blowingly, it’s estimated that between one in three and one in five Americans will reach the aforementioned disease state by mid-century.
A good number of those Americans, maybe you among them, are only in the insulin resistant state now, years away from approaching a state that’s virtually indistinguishable from Type I diabetes. Regardless, you’re probably already experiencing some of the negative side effects, and it could well be because of the presumed “healthy” way you’re eating, the cornerstone of which is your rigidly scheduled 6 meals a day.
The damnable thing is that all the steady eating has kept your insulin levels perpetually elevated for years.
While your cells were once as sensitive to insulin as a fat man in vinyl pants is sensitive to heat rash, they’ve gradually grown resistant because there’s an onslaught of sugar in your blood stream almost all the time. It’s quite possible your blood sugar levels are averaging well above 85 mg/dl, if not much higher, and you’re already insulin resistant, perhaps on the way to full-blown diabetes.

A Little Blood Sugar History

Between 1979 and 1997, the medical establishment said that one of the criteria of diabetes was a fasting glucose rate of 140 mg/dl.
In 1997, they reevaluated their numbers and moved the diabetic ceiling to 126 mg/dl, but added that anyone who had a level over 110 showed “impaired fasting.”
Scootch ahead to 2003 and they then asserted that no one should have a level over 100 mg/dl, which is where the bar rests today. Clearly, they’re freaked out by elevated blood sugar and its potential problems and they don’t know exactly where to erect the milligram-per-deciliter bulwark.
A hundred seems like a logical number, but there are a couple of problems with this number. For one thing, it seems that the glycation, or “cooking” that I mentioned in the opening paragraph, seems to rear up its charbroiled head at blood sugar levels over 85 mg/dl.
Furthermore, the whole “fasting glucose” number might be skewed, anyhow. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, fasting glucose refers to your blood sugar level derived from a sample of blood taken after a night of not eating.
The trouble with that is that not eating, especially for us meathead weightlifters, is kind of a rare situation. Most of us eat virtually all the time. Besides, even normal people eat during the day, and they experience chaotic blood sugar peaks and valleys, and to really get a decent idea of how your body handles food, you’d have to take several blood samples during the day and analyze the results.

It just doesn’t happen.

So we really don’t know our blood sugar levels. True, you could buy a glucometer and test it several times a day, but few of us are that dedicated or that anal. Instead, I prefer to use this rubric:
If you’re a “big” guy; if you eat several meals a day; if you eat carbohydrates indiscriminately; if the only veins showing on your body are on your pecker; if the existence of your abs is as dubious and apocryphal as the existence of the Loch Ness Monster, you’re probably at least a little glucose intolerant and insulin resistant and potentially on the way to full-blown diabetes.
And, perhaps more important to you, you vain, vain, bastard, you, is that getting lean is becoming more and more improbable with each carb-loaded, elevated blood-sugar day.

Do You Have Any Proof?

A New Way to Eat
Do I have any proof? Admittedly, not a whole heck of a lot. I do have logic, experiential evidence, and at least a study or two on my side, though.
Logic tells me that challenging your system with a perpetual flood of blood sugar, over time, desensitizes the cells to insulin. That’s just the way the body works.
I’ve also experienced it personally. I’d been doing the six-meals-a-day thing since the late 80’s, only to watch my fasting blood sugar readings inch up year-by-year until they reached a zenith of 117 mg/dl late in 2010. And no, I wasn’t eating crappy. I haven’t had a McDonald’s burger in over 20 years and I don’t even remember what doughnuts taste like.
Nor do I have an apparent genetic predisposition towards high blood sugar.
No, it seems my 6-meals-a-day thing was the culprit.
Lastly, there seems to be some experimental evidence to back me up. One study in particular seemed to corroborate my thoughts: “Effect of meal frequency on glucose and insulin excursions over the course of a day” (Holmstrup, et al, 2010).
Rather than puke up all the particulars of the study, suffice it to say that a group of normal-weight test subjects who ate 6 meals a day exhibited significantly higher blood sugar values than those who ate 3. Despite eating the same amount of calories, the fewer meals group had 30% lower blood sugar values than those who ate 6 meals.
Furthermore, while the insulin response was no different between the two groups, the higher meal frequency group had higher blood glucose levels over the course of the day. That means that insulin was able to lower blood sugar more efficiently when eating fewer meals.
Additionally, there are several studies out there that suggest that fasting, which is, after all, a term that translates to eating fewer meals, increased insulin sensitivity markedly.

What To Do, Oh, What To Do?

A New Way to Eat
The simplest way to remedy the insulin resistance problem is to change your eating habits. Do a dietary downshift from 6 meals to 4 or even 3. You don’t need to necessarily eat less, just less often.
In my mind (and in my experience), an ideal dietary regimen on non-workout days would include a large, conventional bodybuilding breakfast with the emphasis – of course – on protein, smart fats, and functional carbs.
I’d follow this up a few hours later with a lunch that had a similar macronutrient profile, followed a few hours later, by a protein “pulse” consisting of a dose of Biotest’s Mag-10® Anabolic Pulse or 5 grams or so of branched chain amino acids (BCAA Structured Peptides).
(And yes, yes, I know protein and/or amino acids are insulinogenic, but not nearly as much as carbs are, especially when we’re only talking a few grams.)
I’d then follow that up with a sizeable late dinner of protein, fats, and as a few carbs as possible.

Non-Workout Day Diet

On workout days, I do virtually the same thing, except that I either replace my lunch with my para-workout nutrition protocol, or I’d simply add my para-workout nutrition protocol on top of my normally scheduled meals.
On Saturdays, I do what I call a “fasting cheat day,” which seems unorthodox because it is unorthodox.
I have a large protein-based breakfast and then don’t eat anything (save my “pulse” in the afternoon), until a late dinner, when I eat pretty much anything and everything I want. Despite whatever dietary excesses I may indulge in during the evening, I’ve fasted throughout the day, which increases insulin sensitivity and theoretically, at least, allows my physique to weather the evening calorie storm.
I know that this eating plan is somewhat similar to Christian Thibaudeau’s Pulse Feast, only my plan is designed to be an eating plan for your entire lifetime. Also, my plan is specifically designed to bring your blood sugar down to healthful, non-cooking-your-meat levels and keep them that way. Fat loss and improved body comp is a side effect of my plan, while it’s the primary goal of CT’s plan.
Neither is my plan a “fasting” plan. I don’t preach jamming in multiple meals during an 8-hour period and the fasting the rest of the day. That type of thing might work for improving insulin sensitivity, but it’s my hypothesis that it invariably leads to loss of muscle – going 16 hours without eating forces your body to rob muscle of protein. Besides, this type of plan isn’t practical in real life. In other words, fasting for 12 hours is okay, 16 not so much.
That’s not to say there isn’t a problem with my plan. There’s a price to pay for eating three times a day: it’s harder to get a surplus of calories – enough to gain muscle – if you’re not eating as often.
The benefit of course is that you’ll get leaner and more efficient in handling carbs and you’ll likely feelelectric as opposed to lethargic.
This is exactly why Indigo-3G™ has become so hugely popular. It allows you to have your cake and eat it, too, literally and figuratively.
One of the things Indigo-3G™ does is improve how your body handles sugar, dramatically. One study of the active component of Indigo-3G™ showed a 22.2 percent increase in insulin sensitivity, plus or minus 5.8 percent (Stull, et al, 2010).
Furthermore, it also blocks elevation of leptin (along with improving leptin sensitivity), lowers LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, facilitates glucose absorption into muscle tissue, blocks body fat accumulation, and inhibits intestinal enzymes that break down starch for absorption (meaning that carbs can’t be absorbed and remain in the intestinal tract).
That’s why people using Indigo-3G™ can eat more, often lots more, and keep their insulin sensitivity extremely high while simultaneously getting leaner and more muscular.
It seemingly cures insulin sensitivity in affected people, while turning up sensitivity several notches in people with supposedly normal insulin sensitivity.
I was able, by first using this eating plan, and then taking Indigo-3G™ before it was released to the general public, to bring my fasting glucose level down to 77 mg/dl (from a pre-diet, pre-Indigo 3G reading of 117), where it remains, give or take a few random fluctuations, to this day.
Furthermore, when I test my blood sugar throughout the day (as I’ll occasionally do to make sure I’m on target), my blood sugar will rise modestly soon after a meal but then return to baseline within about an hour, which is exactly what one would hope for.
However, not everyone can afford Indigo-3G™. That’s why I feel it’s especially important that our little subculture start reevaluating our time-honored but horribly flawed 6-meals-a-day eating pattern.
You can absolutely improve insulin sensitivity by diet alone, but it won’t be as easy as it would be with Indigo-3G™, nor will you be able to divert extra carb-calories to lean tissue without it. Still, improved insulin sensitivity through diet alone is a worthy and necessary goal.
The multiple-meals eating plan may have originally been devised with the best health intentions, but that’s of little comfort to the legions of insulin-resistant, thick skinned, definition-challenged beefy bastards out there who can’t, for the life of them, figure out why food is often their greatest obstacle to creating a lean, muscular, energetic, fuel-burning machine.
Let the multiple meals thing go, man, let it go.


The Simple Diet

The Simple Diet to Get Lean
Science can make nutrition complicated. Measure the glycemic index of this, the glycemic load of that. How much omega-6’s in this? What about omega-3’s?
While a deeper level of nutrition knowledge can certainly be useful, what we often get through the media are little bits of information that’s never paired with an overall philosophy.
It becomes especially hard when faced with nutritional science that seems to contradict itself. Eggs are a great source of protein and healthy fats. No, eggs have too much cholesterol and “bad” saturated fat. What do we do?
Enough. Here’s my philosophy: 
This diet is particularly useful when you want to lean up a bit but still live a relatively normal lifestyle. If you hope to get unbelievably cut or prep for a bodybuilding show, this likely isn’t for you, but if you found that your holiday bingeing has extended into spring training, then this might be your answer.
This diet assumes you’re working out reasonably hard at least several days a week. If you’re not doing that, start. If you don’t plan on doing that, you’re on the wrong website.

Builders & Energy Providers

The Simple Diet to Get Lean
I think of food in terms of two categories: builders and energy providers. That’s how I teach the nutrition basics to my kids, who are all five and under. It’s simple, and it works. You can also add a third category: stuff that keeps you healthy.
This paradigm matches nicely with the primary functions of nutrients, which are to provide energy, build and repair tissue, and regulate metabolism.
Builders. The meathead’s favorite food group. The stuff that does this job is protein and fat. On this diet, you can eat as much natural, unprocessed protein and fat as you want.
Here are some examples:

  • Red meat
  • Eggs (whites or whole)
  • Chicken (with/without the skin)
  • Turkey (with/without the skin)
  • Fish (with/without the skin)
  • Butter
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil

You’ll notice that I’m pushing unprocessed foods. Slicing turkey meat from an actual turkey breast is better than opening a package of pressed mechanically separated turkey parts. You already know this, because that turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving tastes a hell of a lot better than that five-dollar foot long from Subway, it’s just less convenient. Get over it.
I’m a big fish fan. One of the rules of this diet is that you have to eat fish at least twice a week, and the more the merrier. However, fish from a can doesn’t count – it’s not off-limits, but it doesn’t count toward your twice-a-week total. Non-farmed fish is ideal, but work with what you have access to.
I’m not as excited about pork. Fish and lean red meat (and wild game if you have access to it) is number one. Pigs aren’t as good, in my opinion. Sneaking in some lean pork tenderloin is permitted, but no bacon or hot dogs. They’re processed junk.
Avoid things like mayonnaise, peanut butter, and sour cream. Mayo is too processed and peanut butter and sour cream, while natural, are better for weight gain, and this is a weight loss program. If you find yourself losing weight too fast and aren’t trying to get ultra lean, you can add those foods back in.
Energy providers. This is where carbs fall. This is not a low-carb diet – those diets can work but can be a pain to follow, not to mention they cause intense workouts to suck. This diet will have carbs, but they’ll be of the healthy sort.
Here’s what you can eat:

  • Potatoes (any version in its natural state)
  • Sweet potatoes (ideal)
  • Rice (any version)
  • Oatmeal (any version but steel cut preferred)
  • Any fruit
  • Any veggie

You may have unlimited amounts of any of the foods from either of the above categories. Yes, unlimited. Most people don’t crave natural foods, and there are far fewer reports of binging on chicken and rice than beer and wings. Natural foods are also enormously satisfying and contain more fiber, so they fill you up quicker.
Natural foods are also much harder to come by. You can get junk food at 2 AM just by hitting up the drive thru or vending machine. You’re much less likely to have a post-bar binge-fest if it requires grilling up chicken and digging out the rice cooker.
Finally, natural foods tend to spoil, so you usually don’t have unlimited quantities lying around, and they’re expensive – so even if your head or stomach doesn’t tell you to stop eating, your wallet will.
You still might find yourself a bit hungry or experiencing cravings while on this diet. That’s expected, but it won’t be cravings for these foods.


You will have veggies at every meal. Yes, every meal, including breakfast. You can have whatever veggies you want, but fresh or frozen is preferred over canned. Your veggies should be bright and colorful and actually have taste.
Peas, broccoli, shredded peppers, and mixed veggies are my personal favorites, but have whatever you want. This will help you feel full, give you some energy, and along with the good fats, help take care of the third category, keeping you healthy.
Avoid any processed carbs, junk food, desserts, sugar, soda, and fruit juice – all off limits. Pasta and bread are also on the avoid list.
Of course, you can eat that stuff if you must, just be aware that you’re cheating if you do. There are also no diet drinks allowed – no Diet Snapple, Pepsi One, Coke Zero, etc. They’re not natural things so they don’t qualify (hey, it’s my diet!).
Basic rule, if the food doesn’t look pretty close to what came out of the ground, you can’t have it.


The Simple Diet to Get Lean
Nuts. While healthy, nuts tend to slow down the weight loss process. If you’re losing weight too fast, or trying to gain a bit of muscle, then by all means include them. But for straight fat loss, go nut-free for a month and see what happens. You can then make a decision based on the results.
Coffee. I’m not a coffee drinker, but if you’re going to drink it in its relatively natural state (meaning your cup of joe doesn’t resemble a 30-ounce milkshake with caramel drizzle), then it’s likely okay. I also don’t think a person should be addicted to anything, so if you go into caffeine withdrawal without coffee, it’s time to get that under control.
Milk. I like milk and tend to include it in my diets. Start off with 16 ounces or less of whole milk (preferably organic) per day and see how you respond. If you’re losing weight too fast, start to add it back in, if not keep it out. The same holds true for most dairy products like yogurt and cottage cheese.
Alcohol. From a health and fitness point of view, wine is the best (although I don’t drink it, much to my wife’s chagrin). Try limiting wine to one or two times a week and see how you respond. I’d avoid beer or hard alcohol, although you can have them with your weekly cheat meal.
My rule of addiction holds true here, too, so if it’d be hard for you to go a month without booze, then now’s the time to stop and get it under control. One of my favorite quotes (from Epictetus) is, “No man is free who is not a master of himself.”
Supplements. While no diet “needs” supplements, a good peri-workout protocol would be one of the first things I’d put back into a diet, especially if you’re going for that “pretty lean but still big and powerful” look. Check out the Anaconda™ Protocol – the feedback is astounding.


What I like about this diet is that you can follow it long term. I should point out that to me, a diet doesn’t mean a plan you follow for a set time to accomplish a goal; it’s simply a word to describe one’s eating.
But denying yourself sucks, and we only have so much will power, so I want you to cheat on this plan. For one meal, once a week, every week, you can eat whatever you want, as much as you want. No limits.
Ideally, eat reasonably healthy for that meal; go out to a restaurant and order the fish and rice, but add that appetizer or dessert that you’ve been craving. In other words, it’s better to do “little cheats” instead of a big cheat.
So if you’re craving food not on the plan, eat a healthier choice like spaghetti with meat sauce instead of three Big Macs. Think of food as a continuum; just because you’re cheating doesn’t mean you have to go completely to the other side.
The leaner you are, the closer to where you want to be physique-wise, the more you can cheat. The heavier you are, the further away from your goals, the less you can cheat. You can rationalize this by saying heavier folks have already been cheating so now it’s time to pay up and be strict, while leaner people have earned a bit of freedom with their diet and can enjoy themselves accordingly.

Simple Summary

The Simple Diet to Get Lean

What to eat

  • Unlimited natural, unprocessed meat (chicken, turkey, red meat, wild game)
  • Unlimited animal skin
  • Unlimited natural fat
  • Fish (not from a can) twice per week minimum
  • Veggies with every meal, no exceptions
  • Unlimited fruit
  • Unlimited potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, and oatmeal
  • If you follow the above rules, one meal per week eat whatever you want, as much as you want.


A typical 200-pound male following this plan should lose 1-2 pounds a week of mainly fat. Use the stomach/waistline as a progress guide – over time it should get smaller and noticeably leaner.
Once you’ve reached your goal you may modify the program a bit. You might include another cheat meal, or simply try to eat another meal on top of what you’re normally consuming to prevent further weight loss. Adding in additional pre or post workout nutrients would be the best place to start. By this point you should have learned how your body responds to different foods and can make changes appropriately.

Get Simplified

What’s great about this diet – apart from its efficacy – is that you can follow it for a long time, it works pretty well with “real life,” and it still supplies enough energy to get through your T Nation approved workouts.
But it isn’t complicated – when it comes to nutrition, simpler is often better.

Fat Loss and T-Man Bullets

Fat Loss and T-Man Bullets

This information overload era we live in can be tricky for strength athletes, coaches, and even writers.
In trying to distinguish ourselves from the nonsense and scams that dominate the fitness industry and get good information out to good people, one’s content can start to err on the side of being overly scientific, flashy, or complicated.
You’ve all seen it. Writing becomes less about actual ideas and more about trying to sound smart, discredit others, stand out, impress clients or colleagues, and battle for coach/diet supremacy – basically, self-flagellation supersetted with furious dick swinging.
And it moves too far from what it’s supposed to be – a way to give people practical tools that they can apply to get real results in the real world.

Think In Bullet Points

A successful NFL defensive coordinator once said that most players forget the majority of what you say. Thus, one of the keys to being an effective coach, and getting people to absorb and apply the techniques you’re trying to teach, is to get them to think in bullet points.
I think this is one of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard, and a highly effective coaching strategy. And based on some of the emails I get, I need to implement it more often.
So for this article, let’s dispense with the nonsense. Lets take the ornaments off the tree, and get down to the fat loss roots. Bullet point sounds too formal for my tastes, so let’s call them bullets.
I’ve loaded up my guns, and am randomly firing off some rounds about fat loss, and life in general. Hopefully, a few hit their target. Let the bodies, or more appropriately body fat, hit the floor

Dropping fat is more about what you don’t eat than about what you do.

Fat Loss and T-Man Bullets

  • There’s a definite fat loss hierarchy, and food choices stand on top of the list. The commonality amongst the most effective diet plans is usually what’s not in them.

Why? It’s virtually impossible to stay in the calorie deficit necessary for sustainable fat loss while eating a highly refined food diet.
Until this is recognized, all the complicated calorie counting, macro-distribution patterns, and macro-cycling formulas in the world will only be mildly effective for long-term functionality and sustainability.

  • Yo-yo’ing continues to plague the average person and athlete alike, because discipline is finite. You may be able to suffer for a competition or for some photos, but you can’t suffer forever, thus the inevitable rebound.

It takes incredible discipline to stay in a targeted calorie deficit with poor food choices, but it’s not all that hard to do it when eating real, whole, natural, unprocessed foods. I’d rather take the easiest path to shredded success, but in all fairness, I’m a lazy bastard.
It’s like trying to stay faithful to someone like Adriana Lima versus a chick that maybe isn’t so hot. They both require a baseline level of discipline – because it’s our natural biological desire to spread our seed and indulge in life’s pleasures – but one commitment requires way more work than the other.

If 90% of the foods available aren’t that good for us, then what the hell are we supposed to eat?

Fat Loss and T-Man Bullets

  • For essential nutrients and micronutrients, emphasize lean animal proteins, vegetables, and whole fruit.
  • Energy nutrients: for low carb, healthy fat-based diets, eat whole food fats like fattier protein cuts, nuts, avocado, coconut, etc. For lower fat, carb-based diets, eat low fructose, low anti-nutrient, no gluten, natural starch foods like yams, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and rice.
  • A lower carbohydrate, 100% Paleo-style diet is a good template for sedentary, obese, insulin resistant/type II diabetic populations.
  • A carb-based, traditional Japanese-style diet (fish and rice, chicken and sweet potato, etc.) is a good template for active strength trainers/anaerobic athletes.

Calories are still the most important number to get right. While some macronutrient ratios can improve your chances of succeeding, no macronutrient ratio can make up for caloric excess.
Here are the numbers:
Fat Loss = Take in 10 kcal/lb (or lean body mass if you’re fat).
Maintenance = Take in 15kcal/lb.
Bulk = Take in 20kcal/lbs.
Protein = Take in 1-1.5g/lb
Essential Fats (as byproduct of your animal protein sources, along with Flameout™ if you don’t eat a lot fish) = Take in 0.25g/lb or 15-20% of calories.
The remaining calories can be distributed among added carbohydrates, or added fats, or both, depending on the circumstance.

  • Body types (fat loss types or bulkers) withstanding (which requires more individual assessment), carb intake should be directly tied to your high-intensity, glycogen burning activity levels. Fats should then be adjusted up or down accordingly to stay within your allotted calories.
  • If you’re sedentary, then you get the Starch Nazi: “No starch for you.”
  • If you do a lower volume of work (pure strength training), then starch intake should be more moderate = Protein:Carb ratio of 1:1.
  • If you do a higher volume of work (traditional hypertrophy/bodybuilding training), then starch intake may need to be higher = Protein:Carb ratio of 1:1 to 1:3.
  • If your training volume cycles, you should carb-cycle accordingly.

Still confused? What, are you stupid? Nah, just kidding. Think of it like the gas tank in your car. If your car sits in the garage every day, you don’t need gas. If you only cruise short distances around your hood to gawk at the high school girls, you only need a moderate amount of gas. If you commute long distances to work every day, you may need a lot of gas, and have to fill it up regularly. And if all you do is ride a bike, you probably look more like Pee Wee Herman than a T-man.

  • Yes, there are more complicated formulas, but they aren’t necessary. Everything has to be adjusted based on personal biofeedback and results anyway, so why make the starting point more complicated then it needs to be?

Besides, many need to stop reading about what to do and start applying what they already know (after they get done reading my article, of course).

If you control for food choices, calories, macro-ratios, etc., meal frequency doesn’t matter as much as people once thought (myself included). There’s no real metabolic advantage or significant difference in body composition change.

  • Traditional bodybuilding nutrition (5-6 meals a day), three-square meals a day, and intermittent fasting protocols (1-3 meals a day) can all work, and are all viable methods if the other fat loss variables have been accounted for.
  • Conversely, no meal frequency pattern can make up for a shitty diet, i.e. thinking fasting will finally allow you to eat pizza and KFC and get ripped. Even advanced athletes grasp for miracle cures.
  • The optimal meal frequency pattern for you, then, is whatever pattern helps you consistently stick to your diet. More so than physiology, it’s the psychological and social factors that must be considered when determining a successful long-term approach. This is one reason why intermittent fasting protocols are gaining in popularity – they’re helping break are obsessive, compulsive behaviors with food.
  • If you’re a high-level performance athlete, have a racehorse metabolism and/or are bulking, or just have high calorie demands, you may need to spread food intake out over 5-6 meals a day. Only Miyaki and Kobayashi can eat 10,000 calories in 10 minutes.
  • For most people – meaning those who have real jobs and real commitments, and are within more normal calorie ranges to drop fat – basing the diet on 2-3 meals a day, with some extra peri-workout nutrition on training days, is the most convenient, realistic, and sustainable approach.
  • While physiologically I get that most of our carbs should be eaten post-workout, psychologicallythe most functional and sustainable plans are the ones in which the majority of calories and starchy carbs are eaten at night.

This is our natural, evolutionary tendency. We were hunters and gatherers, working all day with little-to-no food (fat burning, energy production mode), and then finishing the day relaxing and eating a big meal of whatever we caught (muscle building, energy replenishment mode). Yes I have read the Warrior Diet, and yes I do give credit where credit is due.
Psychologically, this takes advantage of the sacrifice/reward patterns in the brain. Most people can sacrifice, cut calories, and eat lighter during the day if they know they can eat a complete dinner at night and go to bed satiated.
Not only that, big meals during the day often lead to rebound hypoglycemia, sleepiness, and lack of productivity. Trying to cut calories at night leads to late night cravings, cheating/binges, or carb depleted, serotonin inhibited-based insomnia.
So flip the script. Stay active and alert during the day, eat a complete satiating meal at night that you look forward to, and sleep soundly.

To sum up:

Fat Loss and T-Man Bullets

  • Eat a protein-only breakfast, no carbs. This is my preferred approach, but for intermittent fasting practitioners, I’m cool with skipping breakfast. The overall theme is to keep insulin low, and not jack it up with muffins and mocha’s.
  • Eat a Paleo/Caveman-style lunch. Protein + vegetables and/or whole fruit, no starchy carbs.
  • Eat a Japanese-style dinner. Protein + vegetables + starchy carbs, with the majority of calories and carbs here.
  • The exception is post-workout nutrition, which is non-negotiable. Regardless of the time of day, eat a good protein/carb (1:1 to 1:2 ratio) combo following every intense workout to refill glycogen stores and initiate muscle growth. This can replace one of the meals or be added as an extra one (like a Surge® Recovery recovery drink followed by a “normal” meal 30-60 min. later).

Maybe you consider the above bro-science. I consider it something that works. Which brings me to a bigger topic – whether you follow bro-science (meathead approved), ho-science (from guys who can quote study after study but have never actually stepped foot inside a gym), or real science, they’re all still just hypotheses that need to be tested in the real world.
In the end none of it really matters; the only thing that matters is what works , personally, given your unique situation. Use science and systems to give yourself an informed starting point, but don’t dogmatically cling to anything, regardless of the source.

Does anyone else think our industry has gotten out of control? Whatever happened to a man stating his opinions and being done with it? Online strength training and nutrition forums have gone from a place where like-minded enthusiasts could compare ideas and disagree respectfully over minor points, to virtual schoolyards run by overgrown teenaged girls who name call, bully, and cat fight over dogma like it was Team Edward versus Team Jacob.
I’ve got a few more shots in this pistol I’m packing.

  • Don’t let some dick huddled up over his keyboard in his parents’ basement dictate what you pursue, what nutrition philosophies you follow, or even worse, how you live your life. Anyone who’s that interested in putting down what you do probably doesn’t have that much going on for themselves.
  • Be who you are, say what you believe, and do what you want to do without worrying too much about the consequences. Make the choices that are right for you, not anyone else. If you’re just trying to project an image, fit in with the crowd, and care too much about what others think of you then, a) you’re a pussy, and b) your life isn’t going to be much fun, because you’re going to end up with one that you don’t really want.

The above bullets are just my thoughts. You can follow none, one, some, or all of them as you see fit. It’s really no sweat off my ‘sac either way. I’m too lazy to be a guru, and arguing with someone set in his/her ways is wasted effort.
But on a more positive note, I’ll be happy if my advice helps you somehow, and I mean that, so shoot me a Spill or a message or a tweet. I get quite a few, so I know I’m helping some people. That’s all that matters to me.
My guns are empty my friends. Now I can go back to being the laid-back, beach dude that I am. Peace.


Control Leptin and Control Your Leanness!

Leptin Insulin relationship

Leptin – you’ve probably heard someone mention it at one time, but aren’t really sure what it is. I remember when I first heard a bodybuilding coach mention it, saying that managing leptin was crucial to keeping the metabolism humming. I had no clue what he was talking about, but it did intrigue me.
Leptin wasn’t even discovered until 1994, but research into the mysterious hormone has been increasing. Scientists certainly don’t know everything about leptin yet, but let’s discuss what we do know.

What is Leptin?

First, it’s important to understand that fat isn’t simply just a storage tank for excess calories or “potential energy.” Fat is actually an endocrine organ, like a thyroid or adrenal gland, for example. This means that fat – in this case white adipose tissue – secretes hormones, and leptin is one of them.
Leptin is a polypeptide hormone produced by adipocytes (fat cells). The more fat the adipocytes contain, the more leptin is released. Think of leptin as a metabolism controller and a hunger regulator. It links changes in body fat stores to CNS control of energy homeostasis (1-4).
Here’s a simple example:
You eat above maintenance calories over a period of days or weeks.

  • As you eat more, fat cells fill with triglyceride, which increases the release of the hormone leptin into the bloodstream.
  • The hypothalamus in your brain has an intricate system of communication with fat cells which include leptin receptors. When leptin levels increase, leptin binds to leptin receptors in the hypothalamus, sending the message that you’re “fueled up.”
  • The hypothalamus then sends signals to the brain and the rest of the body, decreasing appetite and turning up your metabolic rate.

You eat below maintenance calories over a period of days or weeks.

  • Your fat cells shrink as you diet, not eat, etc., and fat cells release less leptin.
  • Your brain senses that leptin levels are low, and that you are no longer “fueled up.”
  • The hypothalamus senses the decrease in leptin levels, lowering metabolic rate and decreasing energy expenditure. It also sends a “hungry” signal, increasing appetite and encouraging you to eat.

Leptin action isn’t confined to just the hypothalamus. There are leptin receptors all over the body. This allows leptin to precisely coordinate appetite, metabolism, and energy expenditure.

Location Leptin mode of action
Pancreatic islets (-) Insulin production and secretion (5, 6)
Adipose tissue (+) Fatty acid oxidation (7)
(+) Lipolysis (7)
(-) Lipogenesis (8)
Liver (+) Lipolysis (7)
(-) Lipogenesis (8)
Skeletal muscle (+) Fatty acid oxidation (9)

This is nature at its finest. Your body is programmed to survive. On one hand, when food is available, leptin keeps you from adding too much fat mass, which would have been a liability back in the caveman days (or today, for that matter).
On the other hand, leptin responds to and defends against excessive body fat loss that might threaten survival or reproductive ability (10). Eat too much and metabolism speeds up to keep up. Don’t eat enough and it slows down to keep you alive.

What if the Hypothalamus Stops Receiving Messages?

Leptin Insulin relationship

Check out the picture below of the fat mouse. Let’s call him Jumbo. Jumbo is unique – he’s an ob/obmouse. This is a mouse that becomes a type II diabetic, can’t stop eating, and packs away body fat like crazy. No matter how much you feed him, he won’t stop.
Poor Jumbo has a mutation in the gene coding for leptin – he’s totally missing it! His fat cells can’t properly communicate with his hypothalamus because he has no leptin. If you inject Jumbo with leptin, he’ll stop eating and lose weight, but the solution isn’t so simple for us non-mutants.
Most obese people don’t have missing or mutated leptin genes – they can make plenty of it. The problem is that in spite of leptin still finding and binding its receptors all over the body, no downstream message is sent. The system that senses leptin is broken.

fat mice leptin

This is called , a condition in which the brain can’t determine when body fat is at an okay level. The fat cells are sending leptin out to the hypothalamus to signal that fat stores are full. Leptin binds the receptors, but no downstream messages are sent. It’s like knocking on the door when nobody is home. In spite of all the extra body fat mass, the brain perceives starvation and orders fat storage. The kicker is that you’re also very hungry, and continue to eat more and more.
If you know anyone who just can’t stop eating like Jumbo, as tempting as it may be to instantly judge them, it’s likely not entirely their fault. Many obese people have metabolic systems that are simply broken. You can’t outrun Mother Nature, and if the leptin signaling is messed up, you can only control yourself so much.
But it’s not just the clinically obese who must be concerned. You permabulkers, take note: as you continue to overeat, triglyceride stores increase, causing fat cells to produce more leptin. With so much leptin around, leptin receptors become desensitized. Eventually they just tune out, which has big consequences. You have plenty of fat but your brain doesn’t know it.

How Do We Become Leptin Resistant?

Reduced blood-brain barrier transport. The idea that leptin levels were higher in obese people was a surprise. When scientists tested the ability of various tissues from leptin resistant animals to respond to leptin in vitro, most of the time leptin receptors isolated from the hypothalamus were still somewhat sensitive.
This was a big puzzle until it was discovered that part of the body’s response to high leptin levels is to shut down leptin access to the brain. For leptin to travel from fat cells to the hypothalamus, it travels through the bloodstream but has to cross the blood-brain barrier to gain access.
The blood-brain barrier is extremely selective as far as what it lets through, and it was discovered that an early response to high leptin levels is to shut down transport across the blood-brain barrier. This allows the body to preserve leptin sensitivity in the hypothalamus as long as it can, holding out until leptin levels drop back to normal.
Reduced leptin receptor sensitivity. Like the insulin receptor, when leptin receptors are constantly bombarded with high amounts of leptin, they become resistant. The mechanism of reduced leptin receptor sensitivity was partly discovered by accident, when scientists were studying the role of a protein phosphatase calledprotein tyrosine phosphatase 1B (PTP1B) in the regulation of insulin receptor signaling.
It’s been known for some time that insulin receptor sensitivity is controlled by a number of kinases and phosphatases, and in this case, scientists hypothesized that PTP1B was limiting insulin sensitivity. This would be great news for diabetics.
To test this hypothesis, they created a group of knockout mice that lacked the PTP1B protein. As the researchers predicted, these mice became very sensitive to insulin when they were given a glucose test. The scientists also noticed something else. These mice got ripped, and lost considerable body fat.
The mice had incredibly fast and efficient metabolisms, the cause of which came as a big surprise – eliminating the PTP1B gene was also massively upregulating leptin sensitivity (11). It was later found that the PTP1B protein is a negative–feedback inhibitor to leptin receptor signaling. When the leptin receptor is stimulated with high amounts of leptin, PTP1B kicks in to reduce receptor sensitivity.
Another protein called suppressor of cytokine signaling 3 (SOCS3) is also a negative feedback inhibitor of leptin. When the leptin receptor is activated by large amounts of leptin, SOCS3 increases which reduces leptin receptor sensitivity (12, 13).
You might have noticed that insulin and leptin resistance appear to be inseparable. This isn’t a coincidence; like PTP1B, SOCS3 is also a negative regulator of insulin signaling, so insulin resistance and leptin resistance are linked at the molecular level.
Inflammation also activates PTP1B and SOCS3, which explains why it affects both insulin and leptin receptor sensitivity.

Dieting and Leptin Resistance

Leptin Insulin relationship

Let’s take a guy in perpetual bulk mode, we’ll call him “Beefcake.” First, Beefcake eats a ton of calories and puts on some body fat in his quest to get hyoooge. This causes an increase in leptin release. Leptin tells the hypothalamus that fuel stores are full, and the response is a reduction in appetite and increase in energy expenditure.
In this way, leptin restores the metabolism to homeostasis by matching appetite to food intake – but this came at a price! The continual pounding of food and garbage calories more than likely caused a degree of leptin resistance. This means he now has increased the amount of leptin needed to just maintain energy homeostasis.

The more leptin resistant you are, the more your metabolic set point will shift towards “fat” and away from “lean.” Have you ever dieted down and got lean, then after a Beefcake-inspired bulk up, had a really hard time leaning out again? Now you know why. This is one major reason why “bulk ups” aren’t recommended.
Let’s continue. In Beefcake’s leptin resistant state, when he decreases calories, his super-enlarged fat cells start to shrink, causing a reduction in leptin levels. The problem is, the leptin resistance caused a new “set point,” which prompts his screwed up metabolism to defend his increased fat stores, for survival purposes!
Think of it this way: under normal circumstances, the leaner you get, the harder it is to lose body fat without burning muscle. Your body eventually goes into “survival” mode – you become more tired, lethargic, and your appetite increases. When things are working correctly, this only happens when body fat levels are extremely low.
But when you start a diet in a leptin resistant state, you lose some weight at first but quickly get into the same survival mode, only now you’re nowhere close to being in shape as you were before.
This leads to no man’s land real quick. You’re eating less and less, feeling worse and worse, weak and stringy, but can’t lose weight. Your leptin receptors are resistant – at a higher set point – so even small decreases in leptin are perceived as starvation.
This is the ugly side of dieting for many, and the main reason why many popular diet books suggest that simple calorie restriction does not work long term. The reality is that .

Leptin and Insulin

Leptin Insulin relationship

Leptin and insulin signaling have a very close relationship. When insulin increases, so does leptin. It makes sense – you eat a big meal, your insulin levels go up, and then leptin goes up, signaling to the brain that you’re full and to keep the metabolism chugging.
The insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas also have leptin receptors, where leptin is a negative regulator of insulin release. So there’s a tight intertwined relationship between these two hormones.
Here’s how it looks:

  • You eat some wild salmon and a big sweet potato. The beta cells in your pancreas produce insulin in response to your blood glucose level.
  • Insulin stimulates leptin production in your fat cells.
  • Leptin levels go up, triggering the hypothalamus to decrease appetite.
  • High levels of leptin also tell your pancreas to stop making insulin.

But here’s how it looks when you have leptin resistance:

  • You eat some wild salmon and a big sweet potato with some pop tarts, as you’re in “permabulk” mode. The beta cells in your pancreas produce insulin in response to your blood glucose level.
  • Insulin stimulates leptin production in your fat cells, overwhelming your body.
  • Leptin levels go up but leptin resistance starts to set in.
  • High levels of leptin try to tell your pancreas to stop making insulin, but you’re leptin resistant so the pancreas doesn’t get the message to stop!
  • We now have chronically high levels of insulin, leading to insulin resistance.

Leptin and Inflammation

As mentioned in our inflammation article, the fatter you are, the more inflammation you probably have due to extra fat (30% of cells in white adipose tissue are immune cells) causing more immune signals to increase IL-6 and TNFa.

  • Hyperleptinemia is associated with an increased pro-inflammatory response (14).
  • Leptin is capable of increasing TNFalpha production and increasing macrophage activation (15).

It’s a good idea to try to calm inflammation as best as you can. You can greatly reduce inflammation and increase glucose utilization by replacing some of your fat and refined carb sources with essential fatty acids. Omega 3 and Omega 6 supplements are excellent in this regard.

Leptin and Your Thyroid

It’s common knowledge among meat heads that when you diet, your thyroid slows down the conversion of T-4 to T-3. What isn’t so commonly known is that leptin is a major player in keeping this conversion going.
When your brain senses correct levels of leptin, it tells your liver to convert the inactive T-4 to active T-3 (the active version of thyroid hormone). Your liver will stop this when your brain perceives starvation, which is exactly what happens when you have leptin resistance.

How Can We Fix Leptin Resistance and Perceived Starvation?

  • Insulin resistance and leptin resistance are inseparable, and driven by “metabolic inflammation.” Fixing insulin resistance improves leptin resistance and vice versa.
  • Reducing inflammation, improving liver health, adrenal health, etc., all help.
  • Recent research has revealed that this is intertwined at the molecular level, but science hasn’t evenscratched the surface. The research on leptin is still in its infant stages.

Do this!

Leptin Insulin relationship

Get and stay leaner. This is the obvious one. Don’t “bulk” up. Stay close to target weight, and minimize body fat gain during offseason. The harder you make your diet by “bulking up” excessively in the off-season, the more you’re going to make the leptin rebound a challenge down the road. You’ll likely have to resort to extremes that put your body into survival mode to get lean.
Add in periodic refeed/cheat meals. There have been some very good articles posted on T Nation about cheat meals. When you go sub-maintenance calorically and get into a depleted state, adding in a cheat meal or two can stop you from entering “perceived starvation.” This will help prevent leptin resistance. Some advocate a full day or weekend, but in our experience 1 to 2 large meals per week are sufficient for most.
Limit inflammation. Fat (white adipose tissue) doesn’t only produce leptin, it also houses extra immune cells that generate inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6 and TNFa. Reducing inflammation increases leptin and insulin receptor sensitivity by limiting the effects of PTP1B and SOCS3.
Don’t go carb-crazy. High insulin levels cause insulin resistance, which causes increased inflammation. Insulin and leptin resistance are so intertwined that fixing one helps the other. Since insulin increases leptin production (16), those in perpetual “bulk mode” are also generating metabolic inflammation.
Sleep. Chronic (17) and acute (18) sleep deprivation reduces serum leptin levels. In the acute sleep deprivation study, 11 males were subjected to sleep deprivation (4 hours of sleep) for six nights. Compared to the control group that slept for 8 hours, this reduced mean and maximum levels of leptin by 19% and 26% respectively.
In another study, those who habitually slept for 5 hours had 15.5% lower leptin levels than those who habitually slept for 8 hours (19). Sleep deprivation also increases inflammation, and has been linked to increased IL-6 secretion (20, 21). Even mild sleep loss (2 hours/night lost for 7 nights) results in a significant increase in TNFα levels in men (21). In some cases, dysfunctional sleep can also increase leptin levels, leading to leptin resistance.
Sleep apnea is associated with high leptin levels and leptin resistance (22). Leptin is a powerful stimulation of ventilation (23), so leptin levels can increase during sleep apnea. If you’re a hard-core snorer, talk to your doctor about getting a sleep study.

Diet/supplement intervention: Supplements to fight leptin resistance:

Dietary Ca2. Increased dietary calcium intake helps overcome leptin resistance. Although the mechanism is unknown, it was recently hypothesized that increased calcium intake may decrease the levels of calcitriol (1,25-dihyroxyvitamin D) in adipocytes. In a leptin-resistant state, fat cells seem to have more calcitriol, which has been linked to decreased fat burning and increased fat storage.
Increasing dietary calcium suppresses adipocyte calcitriol levels and puts leptin-resistant fat cells back into “fat-burning” mode. This reduces leptin resistance, resulting in increased weight and fat loss in leptin resistant people (24, 25).
Take Taurine. If you’re leptin resistant, supplementing with the amino acid taurine can help. Taurine reduces leptin resistance by reducing ER stress (26, 27). Possibly related to the effect of taurine on ER stress, it’s also been shown to be helpful for the prevention of several other metabolic disorders including obesity, insulin resistance, and atherosclerosis (28, 29).
ALCAR. While this hasn’t been established in human studies, animal studies suggest that supplementing with acetyl-L- carnitine (ALCAR) may also help overcome leptin resistance (30).
EFA’s. EFA’s hammer down inflammation! Enough said.

And We’re Out!

Whew! This article has been a workout! Post any questions or comments you may have in the LiveSpill.
Thanks everyone for reading!
Bill and John

Reference List

1. Myers MG, Jr., Munzberg H, Leinninger GM, Leshan RL. The geometry of leptin action in the brain more complicated than a simple ARC. Cell Metab 2009;9:117-23.
2. Schwartz MW, Woods SC, Porte D, Jr., Seeley RJ, Baskin DG. Central nervous system control of food intake. Nature 2000;404:661-71.
3. Rosenbaum M, Leibel RL. The role of leptin in human physiology. N Engl J Med 1999;341:913-5.
4. Ahima RS, Saper CB, Flier JS, Elmquist JK. Leptin regulation of neuroendocrine systems. Front Neuroendocrinol 2000;21:263-307.
5. Emilsson V, Liu YL, Cawthorne MA, Morton NM, Davenport M. Expression of the functional leptin receptor mRNA in pancreatic islets and direct inhibitory action of leptin on insulin secretion. Diabetes 1997;46:313-6.
6. Morioka T, Asilmaz E, Hu J, Dishinger JF, Kurpad AJ, Elias CF, et al. Disruption of leptin receptor expression in the pancreas directly affects beta cell growth and function in mice. J Clin Invest 2007;117:2860-8.
7. Wang MY, Lee Y, Unger RH. Novel form of lipolysis induced by leptin. J Biol Chem 1999;274:17541-4.
8. Jiang L, Wang Q, Yu Y, Zhao F, Huang P, Zeng R, et al. Leptin contributes to the adaptive responses of mice to high-fat diet intake through suppressing the lipogenic pathway. PLoS One 2009;4:e6884.
9. Minokoshi Y, Kim YB, Peroni OD, Fryer LG, Muller C, Carling D, et al. Leptin stimulates fatty-acid oxidation by activating AMP-activated protein kinase. Nature 2002;415:339-43.
10. Myers MG, Jr., Leibel RL, Seeley RJ, Schwartz MW. Obesity and leptin resistance: distinguishing cause from effect. Trends Endocrinol Metab 2010;21:643-51.
11. Zabolotny JM, Bence-Hanulec KK, Stricker-Krongrad A, Haj F, Wang Y, Minokoshi Y, et al. PTP1B regulates leptin signal transduction in vivo. Dev Cell 2002;2:489-95.
12. Bjorbak C, Lavery HJ, Bates SH, Olson RK, Davis SM, Flier JS, et al. SOCS3 mediates feedback inhibition of the leptin receptor via Tyr985. J Biol Chem 2000;275:40649-57.
13. Bjorbaek C, Elmquist JK, Frantz JD, Shoelson SE, Flier JS. Identification of SOCS-3 as a potential mediator of central leptin resistance. Mol Cell 1998;1:619-25.
14. Loffreda S, Yang SQ, Lin HZ, Karp CL, Brengman ML, Wang DJ, et al. Leptin regulates proinflammatory immune responses. FASEB J 1998;12:57-65.
15. Bjorbaek C, Kahn BB. Leptin signaling in the central nervous system and the periphery. Recent Prog Horm Res 2004;59:305-31.
16. Ahima RS, Flier JS. Adipose tissue as an endocrine organ. Trends Endocrinol Metab 2000;11:327-32.
17. Mullington JM, Chan JL, Van Dongen HP, Szuba MP, Samaras J, Price NJ, et al. Sleep loss reduces diurnal rhythm amplitude of leptin in healthy men. J Neuroendocrinol 2003;15:851-4.
18. Spiegel K, Leproult R, L’hermite-Baleriaux M, Copinschi G, Penev PD, Van CE. Leptin levels are dependent on sleep duration: relationships with sympathovagal balance, carbohydrate regulation, cortisol, and thyrotropin. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2004;89:5762-71.
19. Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS Med 2004;1:e62.
20. Vgontzas AN, Papanicolaou DA, Bixler EO, Lotsikas A, Zachman K, Kales A, et al. Circadian interleukin-6 secretion and quantity and depth of sleep. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1999;84:2603-7.
21. Vgontzas AN, Zoumakis E, Bixler EO, Lin HM, Follett H, Kales A, et al. Adverse effects of modest sleep restriction on sleepiness, performance, and inflammatory cytokines. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2004;89:2119-26.
22. Campo A, Fruhbeck G, Zulueta JJ, Iriarte J, Seijo LM, Alcaide AB, et al. Hyperleptinaemia, respiratory drive and hypercapnic response in obese patients. Eur Respir J 2007;30:223-31.
23. O’donnell CP, Schaub CD, Haines AS, Berkowitz DE, Tankersley CG, Schwartz AR, et al. Leptin prevents respiratory depression in obesity. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 1999;159:1477-84.
24. Nobre JL, Lisboa PC, Santos-Silva AP, Lima NS, Manhaes AC, Nogueira-Neto JF, et al. Calcium supplementation reverts central adiposity, leptin, and insulin resistance in adult offspring programed by neonatal nicotine exposure. J Endocrinol 2011;210:349-59.
25. Zemel MB. The role of dairy foods in weight management. J Am Coll Nutr 2005;24:537S-46S.
26. Nonaka H, Tsujino T, Watari Y, Emoto N, Yokoyama M. Taurine prevents the decrease in expression and secretion of extracellular superoxide dismutase induced by homocysteine: amelioration of homocysteine-induced endoplasmic reticulum stress by taurine. Circulation 2001;104:1165-70.
27. Gentile CL, Nivala AM, Gonzales JC, Pfaffenbach KT, Wang D, Wei Y, et al. Experimental evidence for therapeutic potential of taurine in the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol 2011;301:R1710-R1722.
28. Haber CA, Lam TK, Yu Z, Gupta N, Goh T, Bogdanovic E, et al. N-acetylcysteine and taurine prevent hyperglycemia-induced insulin resistance in vivo: possible role of oxidative stress. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 2003;285:E744-E753.
29. Petty MA, Kintz J, DiFrancesco GF. The effects of taurine on atherosclerosis development in cholesterol-fed rabbits. Eur J Pharmacol 1990;180:119-27.
30. Iossa S, Mollica MP, Lionetti L, Crescenzo R, Botta M, Barletta A, et al. Acetyl-L-carnitine supplementation differently influences nutrient partitioning, serum leptin concentration and skeletal muscle mitochondrial respiration in young and old rats. J Nutr 2002;132:636-42.

Nutrition and fitness resolutions for 2012 – The Washington Post

By ,

Jan. 1 is still a few days away, but it’s not too early to start thinking about ways to make 2012 your most healthful year yet. I touched base with some of the folks I interviewed for this column during 2011 to ask them about their plans for the coming year. Here are some of their resolutions for eating, drinking and being healthful through the holiday season and beyond.
Plant-based diet
“In 2012, I will be eating a mostly plant-based diet of root vegetables, lentils, garbanzo and black beans, unprocessed grains and my homegrown herbs and spices — and my own-grown papayas and pineapples — to target my entire detox system and for immune-strengthening benefits. My 2012 fitness goal: Bones willing, I am training to improve my marathon time, ride my bike more and maintain general fitness with yoga.”
Setting a good example
“God willing, I’ll go another year following my nutritionist’s plan for me, which proscribes not only refined sugar and refined grain but several other foods that I’ve proven I don’t eat moderately. I’ll continue to seek out whole foods grown sustainably, including in my two organic veggie gardens. My goal is not only to feed our family tasty, nutritious food but to show our 2-year-old, Joseph, that nutrition matters, and so does living our values. And I’ll keep spreading the science and experience of food addiction to all who will listen.”
Self-control strategy
“I find big resolutions are often broken. So I incorporate small steps along the way to long-term good health. For example, I’ve just begun an exercise in self-control that’s working. I start my lunch with an apple and a glass of water, and then I wait. Ten full minutes. Then I eat my actual lunch. The apple, the water and the food pause help me feel fuller, making my sandwich or salad more satisfying. In the new year, I’m going to try a similar exercise with dinner.”
— Duffy MacKay , vice president, Council for Responsible Nutrition
Treadmill trick
“Even though I’m a longtime vegan and eat healthfully, I’m a lazy exerciser. A few months ago, I set up a board on my treadmill so that I could place my laptop on it and walk slowly while working. Added to brisker outdoor walks, it’s amazing how easy it is to rack up 5 to 6 miles per day — sometimes more. In addition, I try to make each meal at least 50 percent raw. Between these two strategies, that stubborn weight creep around the middle has been melting away!”
— Nava Atlas , author of “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” and creator of the Web site VegKitchen
Greater grains
“The gluten-free diet can be high in empty carbohydrates, calories and fat. I write about and live the gluten-free lifestyle every day and even spent last year testing nearly 200 recipes for a gluten-free cookbook. You see where I’m going with this? I’ve got to lose five pounds. But I am not great about dieting to lose weight. After all, one diet is enough. So I am going to try to eat more legumes, vegetables and high-fiber gluten-free grains like quinoa, buckwheat groats, brown rice and amaranth. More grains and fewer cookies is my mantra for 2012.”
Nurturing others
“Staying healthy is not just for ourselves, nor even just for those we love, but for everyone our lives touch — even in the most indirect ways. Nurturing others often sets up a positive feedback loop, reducing our own stress, improving our health, giving us more to give. This holiday season, I’ll try to sing in harmony with my family, laugh with little kids and listen to my elders’ stories. As for food, health comes not just from what you eat, but how you eat (slowly enough to savor) and how you share — in peace. So that’s what I’ll try to pay attention to.”
How to incorporate veggie days
You may have noticed that a number of folks here mentioned making plant-based foods a bigger part of their diets. That’s a great idea. D.C.-based dietitian Jennifer K. Reilly advocates taking that effort a few steps further. Reilly, author of “Cooking With Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Skinny Dish!,” follows a mostly vegan diet and thinks many other people could benefit from eating less animal-based food.
Reilly knows that might be a daunting prospect for those who, like me, can’t imagine life without meat, cheese, milk or eggs. So she offers these ideas for easing into vegetable-oriented eating habits.
1 Workweek veggie days: “If you can’t move to a completely plant-powered diet, then a Monday-through-Friday or Monday-Wednesday-Friday plan is fantastic,” she says. “Enjoy beans and lentils for protein, and load half your plate with veggies to encourage satiety without breaking the bank on calories.”
2 Once-a-week vegan detox: Reilly says this is “a great way to keep your body running smoothly and keep your youthful looks and energy.” During the detox day, your diet should be free of gluten and refined sugars, and include 60 to 80 percent raw foods, lots of filtered water and herbal teas.
3 Sample vegan day: Green smoothie, raspberries, vegetables and hummus, brown rice and lentils, a large green salad with raw sunflower seeds and avocado, curried sweet potato soup, and raw vegetables dipped in tahini dressing. Says Reilly: “After 21 days of these new habits, they’ll be as solid as gold!”


Deep Meal-Frequency Thoughts

Meal Frequency Science

Like many T Nation readers, I grew up with bodybuilding nutrition. That’s right, I studied Championship Bodybuilding by Chris Aceto like it was the Bible, snuggled Arnold’s Encyclopedia every night, and waited anxiously every month to read my favorite bodybuilding magazines from cover to cover.
Bodybuilding-style nutrition (six small meals, specific macronutrient ratios and food distribution patterns, etc.) is one of the most effective ways to change a body, no doubt about it. Anyone who tells you it doesn’t has never done it, with any real consistency, dedication, or discipline.
But as I’ve worked with more people in the real world, and as my theories have evolved, I’ve begun to ask myself three major questions regarding this approach.

1. Is a traditional max fat loss/pre-contest plan sustainable?

The answer for the majority is no, even for the most hardcore of athletes. Many competitors can attest to this experience firsthand: post-contest bingeing, weight rebound, and the negative hormonal feedback loop associated with extreme training/nutrition approaches and/or drug protocols.
Anyone can eat a certain way when motivation is high, be it for a contest, a new photo on Facebook, or even just that summertime pool party where you know the hot bartender you’ve been eyeballing for months is going to be attending.
But what is the preparation for that one big day doing to your long term metabolic and hormonal health, and your ability to get lean the time around?
Is doing no carbs for weeks at a time, three hours of cardio a day, and having the personality of a snail and the libido of a corpse the only way to get in shape? No six-pack is worth that.
Some will justify bulking and cutting cycles as necessary, but for many it’s a simple yo-yo scenario, despite it being part of an athletic realm. That’s not sustainable, nor is it good for your long-term physique goals or overall health. I’ve seen former competitors yo-yo themselves right into obesity, type II diabetes, and a lifetime of health and body composition struggles.
If that route sounds appealing to you, then great, go for it man. To each their own. I’m more interested in finding a plan that’s sustainable for the rest of my life, and allows me to be in shape year-round.

2. Is it functional?

Meal Frequency Science

For years I had no problem getting to the grocery store every other day, cooking a crap-load of food twice a week, packing a man purse full of Tupperware every day, etc. Discipline and dedication are just part of my personality.
I falsely assumed the same was true for everyone when I started in this game. You want to get in shape? Then do what you f#!king gotta do to achieve that goal.
But as I’ve worked with more real people in the real world, I’ve come to realize that this isn’t as functional or realistic for most .
Have you ever consulted with a Silicon Valley entrepreneur whose industry moves at a thousand Tweets per second? Have you ever advised a doctor or a lawyer who can be in surgery or court for a half day at a time? Or a college kid who has a full load of classes, is working a part-time job to pay for tuition, and is trying to squeeze in just enough time to try to get laid?
No stopping off for tuna and broccoli every two hours for any of these demographics. Pro Tan and “pube trimming sessions” are the furthest things from their mind.
Is eating 6-8 small meals a day functional and sustainable for the next year, five years, or the rest of your life when priorities change and you’re chasing other career goals, yet still want to be in good shape?
If you are leaning towards “not really,” the next question is, is it absolutely necessary to achieve results, or is there another way?

3. Are there alternative meal frequency approaches for general fat loss and physique enhancement?

I’m not talking bodybuilding competition diets here, so I don’t need a bunch of angry bodybuilders throwing their soiled posing panties at me, unless you’re a woman, of course.
Getting stage-ready is something different. If that’s your pursuit, I hope you’re following an informed approach and not some outlandish protocol formulated from gym rats. If you’re in doubt, hook up with an expert coach. I’m a fan of the Mountain Dog myself – someone who combines education with practical “street” experience.
Furthermore, I’m not talking about bulking phases or guys eating strictly for improving athletic performance. If your calorie requirements are 5000+, you probably have no choice but the 5-6 meals a day route.
This article, however, and my writings in general, is geared towards the other 90% of the noncompetitive strength-training population that’s just looking for a sustainable approach to cutting up and being able to say, “I look good. I mean really good. Hey everyone, come and see how good I look.”

Anecdotal Evidence

Meal Frequency Science

Just as I ask that you not get caught up in ADA or Paleo dogma, I ask that you not get caught up in bodybuilding/fitness nutrition dogma. If you can maintain some objectivity, the reality is there are other methods and approaches to getting into great shape.
The late, great Serge Nubret used to eat two meals a day composed of pounds of horsemeat with rice and beans. I know what some of you are thinking – steroids – but that’s not just what worked for him. Many of his non-bodybuilding clients reported great body composition transformation results as well.
The three-square meals a day approach gets bashed in our industry and is often criticized as being counterproductive for fat loss and physique enhancement.
However, this is most likely because the typical Y2KAmerican Diet is used as the representative/control group of this approach – mocha and pastry for breakfast, sandwich and chips for lunch, pizza and cookies for dinner.
This is problematic for comparison because these are not the typical meals eaten by someone pursuing body composition transformation.
It’s more the suboptimal food choices that are the problem, not the meal frequency pattern itself. Three meals a day can work just fine for fat loss provided you’re making good food selections.
To contrast, the traditional Japanese diet (fish, lean meats, eggs, vegetables, rice, sweet potato, low refined foods, etc.) yields some of the lowest obesity and diabetes rates in the world. And don’t give me “genetics,” there are studies that show when native Japanese people switch to more westernized dietary patterns, biomarkers of health skydive and body fat skyrockets.
I’m not trying to get everyone to start feeling like they’re “turning Japanese,” but you can certainly learn a thing or two from their dietary approach, just like you can from any effective approach (Paleo, Mediterranean).
While I think a Paleo Diet is a good starting template for an overweight and sedentary office worker, I think the traditional Japanese diet is a good template for a strength-training athlete taking a healthy approach to physique enhancement by way of a carb-based approach.
Here’s a typical day. I’ve adjusted the totals to better fit a 180-pound dude as opposed to a 95-pound Geisha:
This supplies our 180-pound bodybuilder with a great base diet of roughly 180g of protein, 180g of carbs, and 40-50g of fat as byproduct of protein foods.
The next step is on training days to add the appropriate peri-workout nutrition protocol. For lean guys or those trying to gain as much mass as possible, the original Anaconda Protocol is the most effective (natural) method I’ve ever encountered.
However, heavier-set guys or those with weight class restrictions may be better suited with the Anaconda Protocol 2, which yields significant yet less dramatic gains in size and strength.

Meal Frequency Cliffs Notes

Meal Frequency Science

Back when I was in school, I always had to make up for spending too much time wet daydreaming about the handful of scintillatingly hot girls in my Organic Chemistry by cramming with Cliffs Notes. Here’s the Cliffs Notes version of just some of the science on meal frequency:
A study by Bellisle, et al. looked at the proposed benefit of frequent meals on the thermic effect of food (TEF). While the researchers found support that TEF was higher with frequent feedings, the results were neither unanimous nor significant, concluding that the intake side of the energy balance equation is still paramount.(1)
Another study by Burke et al. looked at equal 24-hour carbohydrate intakes divided into feedings every four-hours versus every hour. There was no significant difference in muscle glycogen storage between the two groups.(2)
Finally, a study by Norton found that while frequent “dosing” of amino acids is common practice, it’s unlikely that eating another meal 2-3 hours after the first would be sufficient to induce another rise in protein synthesis since amino acid/leucine levels are already elevated.
Norton concludes that it may, therefore, be more useful to consume larger amounts of protein at a meal and wait longer between protein doses than the 2-3 hours typically recommended in the bodybuilding community.(3)
Disregarding personal bias or tradition and looking at the objective science, clearly there’s no major difference between smaller, more frequent meals or larger meals spaced out further apart for fat loss, and metabolic factors related to fat loss (dietary induced thermogenesis, 24-hour energy expenditure, etc.).
Now, some will use this science to “hear what they want to hear” and bash bodybuilding nutrition. “I knew it. Three-meals a day is superior to the six-small-meals a day approach. Bodybuilders are obsessive, compulsive idiots.”
That’s what the research is saying. It’s saying they’re relatively . Translation? Both can be effective in a real-world protocol.
Remember the hierarchy of fat loss: Optimum food choices, total calories, and targeted macronutrient ratios based on individual factors are the most important steps in designing an effective fat loss diet. If these variables are controlled for, meal frequency doesn’t matter as much.
The optimum meal frequency pattern for you is whatever pattern helps you consistently stick to your diet the most. The most sustainable and functional approach in your world is the best approach for .
In other words, the physiology of meal frequency doesn’t matter so much. Both science and anecdotal evidence prove that. It’s the psychological and social factors that are the most crucial variables in your decision.
This, of course, requires some self-experimentation on your part. How does meal frequency fit into your daily schedule, career demands, lifestyle habits, and social patterns?
Some find that eating smaller, more frequent meals allows for better blood sugar control, makes them feel more energetic, and makes them less prone to bingeing and cheating. Although they’re eating smaller, calorie-controlled meals, psychologically they like the idea that another meal is always right around the corner. They like staying ahead of hunger, or that never hungry, never quite full feeling.
If they do go a long period without food and are hungry, they can’t make good food choices. They end up overeating junk. A traditional fitness/bodybuilding approach may work better for this group.
Many fitness athletes have a fear that if they ever go more than three hours without food, the body will start cannibalizing itself and they’ll lose all their hard-earned muscle tissue. These guys have a “feed the machine” mentality. Regardless of physiological truths, psychology is a key component of dietary success. Smaller, frequent meals may be the best approach for this demographic as well.
With busy career demands, and an unwillingness to pack foods and carry around Tupperware everyday, some find that eating 6-8 small meals a day is hyper-inconvenient and unrealistic for their lifestyle. They can’t consistently fit in six balanced and complete meals a day. What ends up happening is they have a few solid meals and then just eat snack foods – usually of the highly refined and processed “high carb plus high fat American” type.
Furthermore, when they eat, they like to eat full, complete, satiating meals. The small fitness-style meals don’t satisfy appetite and leave them constantly hungry and craving more. Psychologically, it makes them feel like they’re constantly depriving themselves or they’re always “on a diet.”
Finally, there are those whose career or lifestyle demands fit neatly around the traditional three-meals-a-day approach. After all, this is the pattern that society and civilization has set up as the normal structure in most cultures. We have our breakfast business meetings, our lunch breaks, and our social dinners.
Three-square meals may be the easiest approach to consistently follow for those working professionals who are not fitness professionals or athletes. Slaving away trying to fit into a fitness approach of eight small meals a day may be unrealistic and counterproductive.
Just remember, food choices are critical. Three square meals a day with good food choices will yield much different results than three square meals a day of junk foods, and average Y2K American food choices.

Food Distribution

So to bring closure to this piece and sum it all up in a short, sweet sound bite, three meals a day can work – if that works better for you.
Next up on the hierarchy is food distribution. In the Samurai Diet approach I talk about a modified bodybuilding-style approach to protein and fat intake, and an intermittent fasting-style approach to carbohydrate intake. Am I just confused or am I onto something? Noodle with that, and I’ll catch up with you soon.
You can check out Nate’s book The Samurai Diet: The Science & Strategy of Winning the Fat Loss War. You can find the ebook version here or, if you prefer a PDF version, here.


Bellisle et al. 1997. Meal frequency and energy balance. Br J Nutr Apr;77 Suppl 1:S57-70.
Burke, et al. 1996. Muscle glycogen storage after prolonged exercise: effect of the frequency of carbohydrate feedings. Am J Clin Nutr 64(1): 115-119.
Norton, L. 2008. Optimal protein intake and meal frequency to support maximal protein synthesis and muscle mass.

Waterbury Diet for Muscle Growth

In my first installment of the Waterbury Diet I covered the approach I recommend for fat loss and gut health. Basically, you’ll eat very little during the day, take supplements, and then eat the majority of your calories at night during a 4-hour period. This is essentially what the Ori Hofmekler’s Warrior Diet is, and that was the impetus for the Waterbury Diet.
If you haven’t read my first installment, please check it out because it contains the overview of this diet. Without that information, very little of the following will make sense. You can check out the first installment at this link.
The ultimate goal of the Waterbury Diet is simple: improve gut health so your body can use what you put into it. For years, naturopathic doctors and gastroenterologists have been telling us that it’s not what we put in our body that matters: what matters is what our body can assimilate. Proper digestion and absorption are absolutely critical for growth, repair and health.
You will never gain muscle or recover quickly if your gut is unhealthy. I guarantee that 99% of you fall under the category of an “unhealthy gut” or “a gut that’s not as healthy as it should be.” And I’m talking about myself here, too. I always considered myself healthy, but it wasn’t until I started eating this way that I realized just how messed up my GI health really was.
So this brings me to my approach for muscle growth on this diet. One of the primary reasons why most of us hard-training guys and gals have gut problems is because most of the supplements that promise muscle growth are destroying our GI tract. That’s why the system I use for muscle growth builds on the original Waterbury Diet for Fat Loss.
Waterbury Diet for Muscle Growth
There are two primary changes that should be made when fast muscle growth is your goal. First, consume an easily digestible protein source every 3 hours during the fasting phase three days per week to flood your body with muscle-building amino acids. Second, add carbs to your post-workout meal and Feeding Phase.
1. Consume more protein: you already know how important protein is for muscle growth, but you can’t cram crappy protein powders or supermarket beef into your body every few hours and expect your gut to respond well. Frequent meals and high assimilation rates don’t go hand-in-hand. However, our gut can cope with a few, high-quality protein sources.
Which protein sources to use:
1. Whey protein from cattle that were raised without hormones. I prefer Proventive’s Harmonized Protein powder.
2. Vegan protein powders for those who don’t tolerate whey. Sun Warrior’s Raw Vegan protein powder is outstanding. You can find it at this link.
3. Foods that contain milk proteins such as greek yogurt and cottage cheese. I’m only mentioning these because some people get tired of protein powders. However, if you have abdominal distention, or experience any allergy symptoms after consuming milk proteins, remove them from your diet because they’re doing more harm than good.
When to use the protein:
You’ll consume around 20 grams of protein from any of the above sources every three hours, three days per week. Why not every day? Because stuffing protein in your body every day will reduce your assimilation rate and it won’t give your body the fasting phases it needs throughout the week to keep your gut health in check.
Ideally, you’ll consume the protein feedings on the days you lift weights. So if you lift on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, those should be the days you take in extra protein. Just make sure you don’t have the protein feedings two days in a row, even if you lift weights two days in a row.
2. Consume more carbs: it’s extremely difficult to add muscle without a healthy dose of carbs because they release insulin, an important muscle building hormone. This is especially true immediately after your workouts when your muscles are starving for glycogen replenishment. The amount of carbs you need post-workout depends on how much muscle you have. A 250-pound powerlifter needs more carbs than a 150-pound woman.
However, you don’t need a lot of carbs post-workout – just enough to generate an insulin response so the carbs will be shuttled into your muscles. These carbs should be consumed with around 20 grams of protein powder. Here are the recommendations based on your body weight.
150 pounds: 30-35 grams of carbs with 20 grams protein post-workout
200 pounds: 45-55 grams of carbs with 20 grams protein post-workout
250 pounds: 55-65 grams of carbs with 20 grams protein post-workout
Which carb sources to use post-workout:
1. Organic cherry juice. Research by the British Journal of Sports Medicine shows that consuming cherry juice post workout reduces soreness. As an added bonus, cherry juice contains a healthy dose of melatonin so you’ll sleep better.
2. Organic raisins. Raisins are an alkaline food so they help offset acidification from training. Also, they have a high glycemic load so the carbs can be quickly shuttled into your muscles.
3. Fresh pineapple. Pineapple is great post-workout because it contains bromelain, an enzyme that helps your body assimilate protein and reduce inflammation.
To gain muscle, I also recommend that you get plenty of carbs during the Feeding Phase. Your muscles can take a lot more carbs than you gave them post-workout because they haven’t had any for almost a day.
The ideal sources for carbs in your first meal of the Feeding Phase are: rice, potatoes or pasta. Each as much of those carbs as you want, with protein, until you’re completely satisfied. If you get hungry a few hours after dinner, and if it’s still within the 4-hour Feeding Phase, eat again. At this time mixed nuts, natural cheese or almond butter are good options.
Overview of the Waterbury Diet
As mentioned, there are differences between eating for fat loss and eating for muscle growth. You should read both installments to understand the whole plan. However, the following gives a brief description that shows the difference between the two.
For fat loss: eat very little during the day, consume protein post-workout on the days you lift weights, eat until you’re satisfied during the 4-hour Feeding Phase at night.
For muscle growth (3 days per week): consume protein every 3 hours during the “fasting” phase, consume protein with carbs post-workout, eat until you’re satisfied and include plenty of carbs during first part of the 4-hour Feeding Phase at night.
For muscle growth (4 days per week): eat very little during the day, consume protein with carbs post-workout on the days you lift weights, eat until you’re satisfied during the 4-hour Feeding Phase at night.
Stay Focused,

Waterbury Diet for Fat Loss

Waterbury Diet for Fat Loss

In the spring of 2010 I started experimenting with the Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler and it forever changed the way I approach nutrition. Without that diet, and my subsequent experiments with different versions of it, my clients and I wouldn’t be as lean and healthy as we are today. I won’t delve into why I initially tried the Warrior Diet since I covered most of that in this blog.
This installment covers the nutritional strategies I currently recommend for fat loss and gastrointestinal (GI) health. I’ll tell you upfront that I’m not going to explain why the Waterbury Diet ended up the way it did, or else I’d have to write a book. But I don’t want to do that. Why? There are a few reasons.
First, this version of the Waterbury Diet is similar enough to the original Warrior Diet that I don’t feel right charging people money for it. However, my approach is different enough to justify its own version or else I’d tell you to just follow the Warrior Diet. (Although, reading the Warrior Diet is highly recommended.) Second, since there’s not a lot of research on intermittent fasting (IF) – the key component to this diet – it’s unlikely I’ll be able to reference any new studies you haven’t seen from other experts. Third, it was time I outlined what I’ve been doing since I’m late to the game. My buddy Jason Ferruggia has his Renegade Diet and Dr. John Berardi wrote an excellent piece on this style of eating. Yep, there are many others out there that have their own versions so I thought it was time to outline the approach I use for myself and my clients.
Finally, I must mention that it’s essential for you to consult your physician before embarking on this, or any other, nutrition plan. Now let’s get started.
Gut Health and Intermittent Fasting
In the early part of the 20th century, Dr. Eli Metchnikoff coined the phrase “Death begins in the gut.” That’s probably the most accurate and important statement you’ll ever hear. Indeed, in 1908 he won a Nobel Prize for his work studying gut bacterial flora. In order to get leaner, stronger, more muscular or healthier, you must improve gut health. This is where intermittent fasting (IF) becomes essential.
In the Warrior Diet, Ori Hofmekler outlines two distinct phases of eating each day. The first phase is the aptly titled “undereating phase” where you consume very few calories. (He also refers to this stage as “controlled fasting.”) The undereating phase lasts 16-20 hours. That’s followed by the “overeating phase” at night where he recommends a specific sequence of foods to get the most benefit. During this 4-8 hour window you’ll consume most of your daily calories.
The effectiveness of this diet stems from the intermittent fasting (IF) stage. When you get it right you’ll burn fat, boost energy and improve overall health by reducing inflammation. Importantly, the terms controlled fasting, undereating phase, and intermittent fasting all refer to the same thing. I’ll be using the term “fasting” to describe this phase.
Waterbury Diet for Fat Loss – Fasting Phase (20 hours)
From the time you wake up, until four hours before bed, consume 0.5 ounce of liquid per pound of lean body mass. Your lean body mass is your body weight minus your fat weight. So if you weigh 200 pounds and have 20% body fat, you have 40 pounds of fat. That leaves you with 160 pounds of lean body mass. You need at least 80 ounces of liquid during the fasting phase, mostly from water. You can have up to 16 ounces of tea (green and white tea are best) as part of this liquid requirement. Coffee addicts are allowed up to 8 ounces of black coffee, although it’s not recommended.
The fasting phase is the toughest part of this whole diet, especially during the first few days. You’ll be hungry, cranky, and your energy will be lower than ever. I recommend starting this diet on a weekend when you don’t have work demands or when you don’t need to be a social butterfly. It’s never fun to go through detox, and that’s exactly what the fasting phase is. However, after a few days your physiology will shift, the hunger pangs will go away, your skin will start to clear up, and your energy levels will be higher than ever.
What can you eat during the fasting phase? This is where I differ from the original Warrior Diet that says you can have any fruits, fruit juices, an egg or two, or some yogurt. I’ve found the best results are achieved with the least amount of food possible. Look, anyone can go without eating much during the day, especially when you know you can eat until you’re completely satisfied at night.
Fasting Phase Rule #1: Don’t eat unless you’re really hungry.
At first you’ll be hungry within a few hours after you wake up, maybe even as soon as you wake up if you’re like I was. After a week or so you might not be hungry until 2pm. In any case, wait until the hunger pangs are too tough to withstand before eating anything.
Fasting Phase Rule #2: When you do eat, eat as little as possible.
Consume calories during the fasting phase from only five sources:
1. A handful of fresh berries. Any berries will work, but many people favor raspberries since the high fiber content controls hunger.
2. One-half of an organic apple. If it’s a relatively small apple, eat the whole thing.
3. A glass of vegetable juice made from any fresh veggies. V-8 is not recommended since it’s not fresh, but there are worse things to drink.
4. Mix 4 ounces of organic cranberry juice with 8 ounces of water. This adds toward your daily liquid requirement. Thanks to John Meadows for turning me on to cranberry juice – it’s excellent to support liver health and stave off hunger.
5. Drink 8 ounces of fresh coconut water. Because of the carb content in coconut water, don’t drink more than one serving per day. You can add a pinch of salt to the coconut water, thus making it “nature’s Gatorade.”
So whenever hunger takes over during the fasting phase, choose one of the five options above. You can have any of the above choices up to three times during the 20-hour fasting phase, but mix up your choices each day and spread them out as much as possible.
Fasting Phase Rule #3: Take supplements during the 20-hour phase.
Certain supplements will make the fasting phase much easier to deal with. The following supplements support your metabolism, immune system, and reduce inflammation. I always hesitate to mention supplements because there are so many. It’s inevitable that I’ll get hundreds of questions asking if “supplement x” is ok to take, too. What you see below is what I recommend, but you might want to add other things to the mix. Keep in mind that some supplements should be taken with food so they might not fit in the fasting phase.
1. Multi-vitamin/mineral – my two favorites are the “one daily” versions by MegaFood and Biotest’s Superfood. Take either when you wake up.
2. Curcumin/Turmeric – take 500mg of curcumin when you wake up. I use Biotest’s version.
3. Resveratrol – take a 600mg dose when you wake up. Again, I use Biotest’s Rez-v.
4. Probiotics – I recommend one capsule of MegaFlora by Mega Food when you wake up.
5. Iodine/herbs for thyroid support – each afternoon around 2pm, when I’m hours into the fasting phase, I take one Thyroid Complex by MediHerb. This supplement isn’t easy to find, and I’m sure there are many acceptable substitutes but I recommend a supplement like this to support thyroid health. The MediHerb version contains 600mcg of iodine and a mixture of herbs.
Waterbury Diet for Fat Loss – Feeding Phase (4 hours)
The feeding phase is where the real fun begins. Hofmekler recommends that you eat your foods in a certain sequence during his “overeating phase” at night. Even though I like his approach, I don’t think it’s necessary. Your body has been without any sufficient calories for 20 hours so it’s ready to assimilate what you give it. This is where dieting dogma goes out the window: you can eat the majority of your calories at night, even with carbs, and still lose fat. I’ve seen it countless times over the last few years with clients that range from 24 to 70 years old.
What can you eat during the feeding phase? Whatever you want that’s not processed or crap. Honestly, we all know what good foods are, so I don’t want to rehash them here. No, you can’t eat a bag of Doritos, but you can have a baked potato with dinner.
The key point is to get a big, healthy serving of protein with dinner. You haven’t had any protein yet so your body is craving it. That protein can come from chicken, fish, beef, turkey, eggs, shellfish, or any other complete protein source.
How much can you eat? As much as you want until you’re completely satisfied. But don’t gorge yourself with food, try to eat at a normal pace in order to give your gut time to tell your brain that it has had enough. Drink as much liquid as you feel you need.
You can have spaghetti with meatballs and a side of asparagus. You can have fish with rice and a side of broccoli. You can have chicken with a baked potato and a spinach salad. Again, there are countless options, just eat a complete meal with whatever good foods sound best to you. Dessert is fine, too. A square or two of dark chocolate or a bowl of fruit are great choices. Half a carrot cake isn’t smart.
I recommend three supplements with dinner, and two of them again later in the evening:
1. Digestive enzyme and/or HCl – my clients and I take 1 capsule of Digest Gold by Enzymedica at the beginning of dinner. During dinner some of them take 200-600mg of HCl in addition to the Digest Gold. Importantly, don’t take HCl if you’re having any alcohol with dinner. HCl is a tricky supplement, and beyond what I want to cover here, so consult with your doctor before taking it.
2. Fish oil – during dinner take two teaspoons (not tablespoons) of Carlson’s liquid fish oil or two Flameout pills from Biotest or two Krill oil pills from Pro/Grade that can be found at this link.
3. Astaxanthin – this powerful anti-inflammatory supplement is probably going to be the next big thing. Take one 4 or 5mg tablet with dinner.
That covers your first meal during the feeding phase. It’s likely that you’ll have a little hunger by the end of it. What should you do? Eat! Again, you can eat whatever sounds good that wouldn’t be categorized as junk. Maybe you want some leftover dinner, or a handful of mixed nuts, or another piece of fruit.
When you eat again at the end of the feeding phase take another serving of fish oil and astaxanthin like you did during dinner along with another 500mg of curcumin.
Before bed, preferably a few hours after your last food intake, I highly recommend that you take a full spectrum mineral supplement. It’s not easy for your gut to assimilate minerals so they should be chelated. Two versions I like are Biotest’s ElitePro Mineral Support and Mega Multi-Mineral by Solaray.
Training During the Waterbury Diet for Fat Loss
It’s best to train right before your feeding phase. That way, all those calories will shuttle into your muscles for growth and repair. However, some of you might train in the morning or earlier in the afternoon. Regardless of when you train (morning, afternoon, evening) take one scoop of protein powder immediately after your workout. Proventive’s Harmonized Protein is an excellent whey from New Zealand. If your stomach doesn’t like whey, Sun Warrior makes an outstanding vegan protein that can be found at this link.
This diet can be used in conjunction with any training program of mine. However, if muscle growth is your primary goal and if you’re on one of my more demanding HFT programs, my next installment might better fit your needs.
Final Words
This version of the Waterbury Diet is for those who need to lose a lot of fat or improve their overall health. I want to be clear that I’m not against a more traditional style of eating with multiple meals per day. This diet isn’t for everyone, especially those who want to have breakfast with their family or power lunches at noon. But if you can make this plan work for at least 6 weeks, I think you’ll look and feel better than ever.
You might think this plan is heavy on the supplements, but honestly, it needs to be. During the fasting phase your body is getting very few calories so the nutrients need to come from somewhere. And during the feeding phase your gut is ready to assimilate whatever you put in it, so make the most of that opportunity with the recommended supplements.
In my next installment I’ll cover the changes I make to this plan for muscle growth with fat loss.
Stay Focused,
References (thanks to Mike T. Nelson)
Gjedsted J, et al. (2007) Effects of a 3-day fast on regional lipid and glucose metabolism in human skeletal muscle and adipose tissue. Acta Physiol 191: 205-216.
Johnstone AM. (2007) Fasting – the ultimate diet? Obesity Reviews 8: 211-222.
Aksungar FB, et al. (2007) Interleukin-6, C-Reactive Protein and Biochemical Parameters during Prolonged Intermittent Fasting. Ann Nutr Metab 51: 88-95.


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