Want to make good on that resolution?

Great article from strengthcoach.com site I subscribe to. These recommendations are solid and encompass a lot of what much of the  literature I have been reading has shown to work and what I have seen. Not only because it’s scientifically sound  but also easier to adhere to and make a lifestyle . It’s a little long for an article but enough to change your life for the better. Any questions, let me know.

The Fundamentals of Nutrition and Fat Loss

Nick Tumminello
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I love to talk training! If you have read any of my past articles, like “How Not to Warm Up”, “Making Gains with Pain”, and “Stick Your Neck Out”, you know that I always try to deliver the smartest, most innovative and most effective strength and conditioning concepts that I can.

Trust me when I tell you that there is plenty more where that came from.

With that said, I’m going to take a break from talking training and share with you my Performance U approach to nutrition.

Let’s face it, what you eat and how you eat it can really make or break the effectiveness of your program, regardless of how good it is.

It is for that reason that all of my clients and athletes receive an orientation class that lays the foundation for fundamental nutrition concepts in relation to performance and fat loss. This is a concept that I adopted from Phil Kaplan.

The class is always a big hit with everyone who takes it and I have seen drastic changes in how fast my folks excel during training since starting the class some years ago.

I cannot tell you that the method I use is the best and only way to do things. There are plenty of effective methods out there.

However, I will tell you that the Performance U method is simple, practical and most importantly, it works!

If it didn’t, I wouldn’t be in business.

Goal Specific Eating

When it’s all said and done, there are really only two types of training goals:

To build up (gain strength, size, speed, etc.)


To tear down (reduce body fat, cut weight, etc.)

These two goals are very different, but when it comes to nutrition, there are only minor differences, which I will be addressing in this article.

I wanted to kick things off by talking about diets.


When it comes to getting healthy or starting to train harder for an upcoming competition, sporting event or beach appearance, most folks go on some sort of diet.

There are essentially three different types of diets:

Diets that cut calories
Diets that cut out fat
Diets that cut out carbs

For the most part, I don’t recommend any of them. Here’s why:

Calorie Restrictive Diets

Everyone knows the word “calorie”. Many folks even know how many calories they are consuming per day.However, I’m shocked at the amount of athletes who still have no idea what a calorie actually is.
What is a calorie?

Do you know?

If not, you may not know as much about nutrition as you thought.

A calorie is a unit of heat.

Your body is essentially a heat machine. Hence the term “burn” calories.Now, I will admit that there is some merit to the relationship of how many calories you consume a day to the amount you burn per day. However, the way I recommend my clients and athletes to eat, they end up taking in less calories and burning more, which I will explain later.

In my opinion, unless you are an advanced athlete or a physique competitor in the later stages of a fat loss phase, I don’t recommend counting calories for the simple fact that not all calories are created equal.

Here’s an example of why not it’s not just about how many calories you consume:

Let’s say that we take two guys of fairly equal size and fitness level. We put both guys on the same training program and allow each man to eat 3,000 calories per day.

Guy A – can only get his calories from lean meats /fish, fresh fruits and vegetables and sweet potatoes and brown rice

Guy B — can only get his calories from candy, ice cream and fast food

After 8 weeks or so, who do you think is going to look better and perform better?

Obviously Guy A.

So even though both men trained the same way and ate the same amount of calories, they will most definitely end up with very different results.

This is why when it comes to calories, it’s not the quantity that’s most important, it’s the quality.

Why not just cut the fat?

It’s no secret that too much fat in a diet is not a good thing. But simply cutting out all fat is not a good idea either.Keep in mind that1 gram of fat equals 9 calories, while 1 gram of protein and/or carbs equals only 4 calories.So, if your current diet consists of 30% fat (or more) and you decide to simply just to cut it all out, you have eliminated a significant portion of your calorie intake. If you drop your calories too low, you will drastically slow down your metabolism and your body will start to feed off of muscle tissue. Not good!

Additionally, we all know how bad it feels when we don’t eat enough and become malnourished. You have a hard time concentrating on a simple conversation, much less hitting it hard in the gym or engaging in sporting competitions.

Low Carb Diets

In the later stages of a fat loss phase, I will do some carb manipulation/cycling. However, that is very individualized and beyond the scope of this article.

Manipulating carb consumption and cutting carbs all together are two very different things.

Here are some basic facts on carbs:

– The human body is fueled by glucose. All foods must be converted into glucose before they can be used as fuel.
– Carbohydrates are more easily converted into glucose than protein or fat, and are considered to be the body’s “preferred” source of energy and the brain’s essential source of energy.
– Glucose is stored in blood, muscles and the liver as glycogen
– 1 gram of glycogen holds 2.4 grams of water

Since glycogen holds over double its weight in water, it’s no wonder why people who cut carbs lose so much weight so fast. It’s more likely that they lost mostly water weight.

This is why just using the scale to gauge your progress is a bad idea.

You burn glycogen throughout the day, and eating carbs simply refuels your tank. If all of a sudden you stop refilling the tank, your body still needs a source of fuel for the brain. So your body will make its own glycogen by breaking down muscle tissue. Again, not good!

Finally, cutting carbs will cause you to go into a state of Ketosis, which is when you have an abnormal amount of ketone bodies in the blood. Ketone bodies help feed the brain.

Most medical resources regard ketosis as a physiological state associated with chronic starvation.

Ketosis is regarded as a crisis reaction of the body due to a lack of carbohydrates in the diet. Ketosis would thus be a dangerous (potentially life-threatening) state which unnecessarily stresses the liver and causes destruction of muscle tissues.

The other issue with cutting carbs is that when you do finally eat carbs, your body has no idea how to process them and will immediately turn them into triglycerides, which is a fatty acid. Put simply, your body forgets how to use carbs and will immediately store them as fat.

The Solution

When it’s all said and done, the long term solution is not to simply cut things out, but to replace what you’re currently eating with better and more thermic foods that your body can use. This is what I call Complimentary Eating.

A complimentary meal consists of:

-Lean protein (eggs, chicken, fish, bison, beef, low fat dairy, etc.)
-Fibrous carbohydrate (fruits and vegetables)
-Starchy carbohydrate (sweet potatoes, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)

I call it Complimentary Eating because each aspect compliments the other. Protein is the building block of muscle, starchy carbs are for energy and fibrous carbs are used to move it all through the body.

Additional Complimentary Eating notes:

– Emphasize organic fruits and veggies, free-range meats /eggs, hormone-free meats and non-farm raised fish
– Avoid processed foods, simple sugars, saturated fats and hydrogenated oils
– Instead of eating three large meals (breakfast, lunch dinner), cut those in half and eat 5-6 smaller meals

How much do I eat?

The first question that I always get is, “How big should my meals be?” The answer is that it differs for every person and should be based on how you feel and how much fuel your body requires that day.

I recommend eating visually equal portions of each protein, fibrous and starchy carb.

If you are left feeling hungry within an hour or so after finishing your meal, you probably didn’t eat enough.

On the flip side, if upon finishing you feel full for hours, you probably ate too much.

It really comes down to intuition and simply listening to your body.

The Thermic Effect of Food

The term “thermic effect of food”, or TEF, is used to describe the energy expended by our bodies in order to consume (bite, chew and swallow) and process (digest, transport, metabolize and store) food. In other words, certain foods require us to burn more calories than others simply by eating them.

Here is the general breakdown:

FAT — is very simple to digest. Your body simply keeps breaking down the fat molecules smaller and smaller, so it does not require much work to digest.

Ratio of 100:5 -For every 100 calories of fat you ingest you will burn approximately 5 calories in the digestive process

COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES — take more effort to digest because of the glucose molecules.

Ratio of 100:10 -for every 100 calories from complex carbs that you ingest you will burn about 10 during digestion

PROTEIN — requires the most work to digest because it is made up of 22 amino acids

Ratio of 100:25 -for every 100 calories you eat from protein, you will burn approximately 25 calories just to digest it.

– 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories
– 1 gram of carbohydrate/protein equals only 4 calories

Based on TEF, if you eat all of your meals in the manner as I described above, you end up consuming less calories and burning more. That is a good thing!

Negative calorie foods

A negative calorie food is a food that requires more energy to digest than it provides.

There are free lists of these foods floating around the Internet, but a few examples of negative calorie foods are celery, spinach and lettuce.

I mention this because many people fail to consider this fact when they practicing limited calorie diets. In most cases, they are actually eating fewer calories than they think. Not good if your calories are already very low.


Above I discussed TEF and its effect on metabolism. Put simply, your metabolism is the speed at which your body burns through the food you consume.

There are just as many folks that want to lose fat and blame their failure on a slow metabolism as there are folks who want to gain size and blame it on an overly fast metabolism.

Although we are stuck with our genetic makeup, we do have some control over the speed of your metabolism.

There are three factors that regulate metabolic rate. No particular order:

1. Meal timing and meal frequency
This is how often you feed and when you feed. We recommend eating about every 2 ½ -3 ½ hours.

2. Thyroid function
The thyroid regulates body temperature. As I mentioned earlier, your body is a heat machine, so your thyroid function is very important. If your thyroid does not function well, there is medication that can be prescribed by your doctor to improve its function.

3. Body Composition
This is basically what all of your body weight is made up of — muscle, fat, water, etc. We obviously want more muscle and less fat.

Lean Muscle

Muscle is considered metabolically active tissue. In other words, muscle is the place where fat is burned. More muscle requires more energy. So the more muscle you have, the more calories/fat you burn over a 24 hour period of time.

Essentially, you want to be opposite of your car. You want to become gas in-efficient.

So do your weight training, lift heavy and lift hard.


You may have noticed that while describing Complimentary Eating, I mentioned to avoid simple sugars.

Put simply, if you are not worried about losing body fat, feel free to eat sugary foods. However, if you are interested in seeing those abs, sugar is your worst enemy.

To help you better understand sugar, you need to understand the pancreas.

The pancreas produces two hormones: insulin and glucagon.

Insulin can be considered a storage hormone, while glucagon can be considered a release hormone.

Anytime you consume something that is high in sugar, your pancreas will release more insulin to pull the sugar out of your blood stream and store it in the muscles and liver. In doing so, it cuts way back on glucagon production.

Here’s the problem- glucagon is the hormone that allows you to release stored body fat.

So in other words, when you eat sugar, you lock in stored body fat.

Fat Loss Made Simple

What people fail to understand is that fat loss is more than just diet and exercise.

Fat loss is really a two-step process:

Step 1 — Body fat must be released from the adipose tissue in which it is stored. Eating high sugar foods prevents this, as I just mentioned.

Step 2 — Fat is then sent into the muscle to be burned. This is why strength training and establishing a foundation of muscle mass is crucial for fat loss.

I have developed a wide variety of Strength Training protocols that we have battle tested to be extremely effective at fat loss. These protocols are covered in great detail in my DVD Strength Training for Fat Loss & Conditioning .

The protocols we use to get people strong and lean are the very same ones that we use to improve work capacity and outlast the competition. The only difference between the two goals is the diet.

A word on Fruit

Keeping in mind what I just taught you about sugar, if fat loss is the goal, fruit consumption must be limited to no more than one piece per day, preferably in the morning.

Many folks say that fruit is okay because it’s a “natural” sugar. That argument makes no sense because table sugar comes from sugar cane, which is very natural. Regardless of where it comes from, sugar is sugar and it’s a fat loss killer.

The Glycemic Index

Most of us are familiar with the glycemic index. The glycemic index was designed as a quick and convenient way to find out how fast your blood-glucose levels rise after you eat different carbohydrate-containing foods.

We have always been told to eat foods lower on the glycemic chart.

What you may not have been told is that the glycemic index only applies when the food is consumed by itself.

In other words, if you eat blueberries alone, you will get an insulin spike. However, if you eat the blueberries with some cottage cheese, you don’t get much increase in insulin production because of the protein in the cottage cheese.

So, if you are going to eat fruit, eat it with some protein.

Starchy carbs will also cause an insulin spike when consumed alone. This is why it’s so important to eat complimentary meals together as a described earlier in this article.


One thing that I think people get a distorted view of is supplements. Put simply, supplements are an addition to something to increase its size or to make up for a deficiency. They are in addition to something and not the thing itself.

In other words, don’t worry about which creatine is best when your dinner comes from the drive-thru. Don’t worry about taking protein powder to gain muscle when you’re not even lifting weights.

It sounds ridiculous, but this is what people are doing.

That said, once we do get folks in order with a clean diet and comprehensive training program, there are a few supplements that I recommend.

A good Protein supplement

For folks looking for muscle size and/or strength gains, we use both a pre and post workout shake.

The pre/during workout shake is sipped on 30 minutes before and during training. Based on recent nutrient timing research, this shake should contain .4 grams of carbs and .1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which is a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein.

For example, a 200 lb man should consume 36 grams of carbs and 9 grams of protein.

The post workout shake is consumed immediately after training is finished. Also based on recent nutrient timing research, the post workout shake consists of .4 grams of carbs and .4 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, which is a 1:1 ratio of carbs to protein.

The 200 lb man should consume 36 grams of carbs and 36 grams of protein post workout.

These shakes are normally a mix of Gatorade and protein powder.

Now, if the goal is fat loss, we don’t consume a pre workout shake. For post workout, we will have a shake with only protein and zero carbs.

Other Performance U Approved / Recommended Supplements:
Fish Oil


Bio-individuality is a term used to describe specific characteristics that are unique to you and that can affect minor variables within your training program. It’s what makes you different from the next guy.

Some Variables:

– Metabolism
– Genetics
– Lifestyle
– Stress levels
– Profession (active/sedentary)
– Food Preferences (what you like to eat)
– Workout preferences

Even though we all are slightly different, we are made of the same material and our bodies operate in much the same way.

That said, the concepts laid out in this article will generally work for everyone. Some of the minor specifics explained under bio-individuality always get worked out as you go along.


In closing, I wanted to talk about failure and success.

It’s been my experience that there are four reasons why people fail to reach their goals:

-Bad training program
-Poor nutrition
-Lack of Belief
-Lack of follow-through

I mention this because if you understand what causes you to fail, it becomes obvious what it takes to succeed:

-A good training program
-Optimal nutrition
-Genuine belief in what you’re doing
-Follow through

If you read my articles and articles from the other talented coaches here on T-Nation, you will most definitely have a good training program.

In this article, I have provided you with a simple, user-friendly approach to optimal nutrition.

Belief comes from knowledge. I have provided you with a solid rationale of not just what to do but why to do it. I want you to have a clear understanding that this stuff is good not just because Coach Nick says so, but because it’s the way the human body works.

As far as follow-through goes, that’s on you.

About The Author

. Nick Tumminello, the director of Performance U in Baltimore MD, is Human Performance Coach and Educator who is nationally recognized for his smarter, innovative training concepts. Go to Nick’s new Blog Website to get your free “Smarter and Stronger in 7” video course.

Visit Nick’s Website at http://nicktumminello.com/


About MaxOut Performance Fitness
Sergio Maldonado is a Sports Performance and Fitness Coach in the San Francisco Bay Area. He strives to be the best at what he does through training, professional development courses, and practice. The purpose of this blog is to get out some of the knowledge that he obtains to better help others in their pursuits towards fitness and a better life.

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