Interview with Lyle McDonald and Jamie Hale Part #1

JH: Is there any significant figures that have influenced your work? Any nutritional books you would recommend for our readers?

LM: :: Dan Duchaine :: really deserves credit for any status I have in the field. He more so than just about anybody probably influenced me (for good or for bad). If not for his Bodyopus diet, I wouldn’t have gotten interesting in low-carb dieting (or had to learn nutritional biochemistry) or have written my first or subsequent books. Beyond that, I read pretty much everything I can from as many different people as I can. Even if I don’t agree with them about much, if I can get one useful idea from them (and everybody usually has at least one good idea), I consider them a useful source.

For nutritional stuff, Dan’s :: Bodyopus ::  is still right up there. Colgan’s “Optimum sports nutrition” is actually a pretty good primer on sports nutrition, you just have to ignore most of the supplement stuff. It’s also a few years out of date. Will Brink’s Priming the Anabolic Environment is good. So is Chris Aceto’s. Unfortunately, most sports nutrition books deal primarily with endurance athletes and it’s not far from a joke that most sports nutritionists are registered dietitians who run. This is a problem because they don’t seem to understand the differences in nutritional needs between an endurance athlete and a strength athlete or bodybuilder.

JH: Could you briefly explain the effects high levels of saturated foot have on insulin sensitivity? With a very low carb diet such as the anabolic diet does this seem to be a problem?

LM: Saturated fat can impact on insulin sensitivity through at least two different mechanisms.

One is purely short term, due to the presence of saturated fats in the bloodstream after a meal. The second is longer term, saturated fats eventually become incorporated into the cell membrane structure, decreasing cell membrane fluidity. This occurs over many months and can be reversed by increasing monounsaturated/polyunsaturated fat intake. Regular aerobic exercise also appears to improve the cell membrane fluidity, especially in conjunction with dietary modifications.

The second part of your question is interesting. In the absence of a high glycemic load (a technical way of saying you’re on a low-carb diet) it’s fairly questionable whether insulin resistance is any big deal. Quite in fact, the insulin resistance that develops on a low-carb diet appears to be adaptive/beneficial. By limiting the muscle’s use of glucose (in lieu of using fatty acids), what glucose is available is spared for the brain. Basically, insulin resistance during low-carbs is a very different animal that insulin resistance as occurs on a high-carb diet (due to chronically high insulin levels).

Of course, one question is what happens during an anabolic diet/bodyopus type of carb-load (or even the carb-load of my Ultimate Diet 2.0; note that the low-carb phase of my UD2 is also low-fat). Folks are insulin resistant going into the carb-load and lots of people get badly fluctuation energy levels/blood glucose from the combination of hyperinsulinemia/ insulin resistance. Is this a problem in the short or even long-term? Hard to say. But this is part of why I like to see full body workouts prior to carb-loads, it improves whole body muscular insulin sensitivity (via glycogen depletion and muscular contraction), which helps to limit the problems.

JH: In general what are your percentage ratios in regards to protein, fats, and carbs for general weight loss? How about bodybuilders.

LM: well, I generally don’t like percentages since they tend to lead to some really badly set up diets. The problem is that percentages are only really relevant when you consider the total calorie content of the diet. So 30% protein on 1000 calories (300 calories or just under 80 grams) may be far too little protein while 30% on 5000 calories (1500 calories or 375 grams) may be way too much, even if both are the same 30%. Rather, I like to see set up macronutrients based on bodyweight (i.e. g nutrient/lb bodyweight or what have you).

For fat loss, protein should be set at a bare minimum of 1-1.5 g/lb lean body mass (some fatter individuals can get by with slightly less, especially if they are inactive, maybe as low as .75 g per pound of lean body mass). In some cases, such as the diet described in my Rapid Fat Loss Handbook, protein may have to go to 2 g/lb. What percentage of the diet that makes up will depend on the total calorie level. For a typical fat loss diet (10-12 cal/lb) protein usually ends up being 25-35% or so. For the Rapid Fat Loss diet, it ends up being nearly 100% (since calories are much lower).

Unfortunately, fat intakes are harder to pin down. A general guideline might be about ½ g/lb or although this can be highly variable, and depend on how many calories you have to play with. The Rapid Fat Loss diet is almost no fat, with only fish oils as an w-3 source because you have to cut it all out to get calories low enough. The low-carb portion of the UD2 is fairly low fat although you typically get 30-40 grams. For a more moderate diet, 1/2 g/lb ends up being about 25-35% or so. I feel that this is important for fullness and long-term adherence as well as maintaining optimal hormonal levels (testosterone primarily).

Carbs end up making up the rest of the diet (basically I set up the diet by setting calories, setting protein, setting fat, and carbs make up the rest). So it can vary from basically none (in extreme cases) to 40-50% or so depending on where protein/fat falls.

Of course, also realize that the specifics will depend on the situation. Someone who is very overeat and severely insulin resistant will probably do better cutting carbs and either increasing protein or fat. Someone with good insulin sensitivity or who is very active may need to cut fat back and increase carbs to support training (or use some type of cyclical ketogenic diet). Basically, what I’m going to recommend will depend on the individual and their needs. But my sort of baseline fat loss diet would be in the realm of 10-12 cal/lb, 25-35% protein, 25-35% fat, 40-50% carbs, with modifications made based on individual requirements.

A super lean bodybuilder looking to go sub 10% bodyfat might get some minor adjustments, same goes for folks with stubborn bodyfat (who tend to do better lowering carbs). In general, the more sedentary the person, the less carbs I’m generally going to recommend; a more active bodybuilder or athlete has to worry about maintaining training performance so carbs usually have to be worked in. Either daily carbs are increased or, if for whatever reason a ketogenic diet is preferred, you do carbs around training (Targeted Ketogenic Diet) or a weekend carb-load (Cyclical Ketogenic Diet of which my Ultimate Diet 2.0 is, of course, the best. yeah, right).

JH: If a person came to you that was male, 168lbs, 5’7, 5.5% bdft, trained 1-2 times per day And was attempting to gain quality mass what would his diet generally consist of ? The athlete is a competitive NHB fighter.

LM: It would be quite similar to the above but with a slight caloric surplus instead of a deficit. The main adjustment would probably be to the quantity of carbs (people forget in this protein obsessed subculture that increasing carbs increases nitrogen retention). So instead of 10-12 cal/lb, he’d probably start at 16-18 cal/lb (a 10-20% surplus over maintenance or so) with the same basic protein and fat intake and just increase carbs, especially around training (pre/during/post). I’d take body composition measurements every 2-3 weeks and see what was really happening to make adjustments.. A weight gain of 1-2 lbs/month should be mostly lean body mass and that’s what I’d shoot for.

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