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The number one downfall for anyone who isn't achieving their fitness goals is nutrition. It doesn't matter how hard you train in the gym. If your nutrition plan isn't on par with that, you're not going to get the best results.
A lot of people respond to that truth by turning everything into a math problem, or choking down meal after meal of food they can't stand. Not me. I won't force myself to eat foods that just help me get ripped or shed pounds. I have to enjoy eating them, too.
There are tons of foods out there you can work with to achieve your goal of fat loss or muscle gain. So there is no reason for you to just get stuck on the same boring dishes over and over again.
The FreakMode nutrition plan has worked for me for 10 years. Not weeks—years. To make that work, I've had to keep everything simple and consistent. It's all based on four simple rules that anyone can follow.
PharmaFreak #FREAKMODE Trainer Nutrition Overview
Watch the video - 10:58
Rule 1 Eat Carbs and Protein After Training
The most important time of day, nutritionally speaking, is post-workout. I want you to make the most of it.
Of course, there are a few different philosophies about how to enhance muscle recovery for growth after training, I've long been a fan of using high-glycemic carbs alongside protein, and recent research supports that idea.
For instance, a study done at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario demonstrated that carbs work to increase insulin response and replenish depleted glycogen stores in muscle and the liver.1 Meanwhile, the stimulated insulin response works to shuttle amino acids to damaged muscles for more efficient repair, consequently increasing muscle growth.
Rule 2 Include Protein With Every Meal
Protein intake supports fat-loss in a number of ways. One is what's known as the "thermic effect"—the increase in energy expenditure above the normal metabolic rate due to the cost of digesting food—of digesting protein, which is much greater than that of carbohydrates and fats.
In several research studies, subjects who included more protein in their diets burned more fat and more calories throughout the day than subjects who included less protein in their diets.2,3 Having protein with every meal also helps with satiety, or feeling full and satisfied. This will allow for longer periods of time without feeling hungry. Studies show that protein intake actually causes the brain to receive lower levels of appetite-stimulating hormones, thus helping with craving control.4,5
Wondering how much to take? You can't go wrong with 30-40 grams for muscle gain, and 20-30 grams for fat loss.
There are countless protein sources out there to choose from. Lean meats like chicken and steak, lean ground beef, and fish are ideal. So are eggs and yogurt. I start almost every day with eggs scrambled with veggies, for instance, and I finish almost every day with a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with some berries or nuts.
Rule 3 Choose Fibrous Carbs Over Simple, Starchy Carbs
Carbohydrates have gotten a bad rap because so many weight-loss programs these days promote ketogenic (carb-free or very low-carb) diets. But not all carbohydrates have a negative impact on body-fat composition.
The reality is that fibrous carbohydrates are more useful when it comes to promoting fat loss than simple sugars and starchy carbohydrates. The science behind this principle is actually quite, well, simple. Fibrous carbohydrates do not cause a sudden spike in insulin levels, compared to simple sugars and starchy carbohydrates. As such, the body is able to utilize the energy from fibrous carbohydrates for much longer periods of time before they might become stored in the body as fat.
Simple sugars and starchy carbs, on the other hand, cause immediate and often extreme boosts in insulin. If these carbs are not used quickly by engaging in physical activity, they are stored as fat. That's why I recommend eating them only after your intense workout, when that insulin spike can be put to good use, as I discussed in Rule 1.
In FreakMode, you'll focus mostly on fibrous carbs, allowing the body to use them as energy throughout the day as needed and not having to worry about them turning into fat. Studies demonstrate that people who follow diets that include mainly fibrous carbohydrates tend to have higher energy levels and metabolic rates, and lower body-fat levels. Good sources of fibrous carbs include, among many other items, vegetables (especially green leafy ones), oats, and sweet potatoes or yams.
Rule 4 Increase Your Essential Fatty-Acid Intake
It is common to see "fat-free" advertised on many products, as though fat is some sort of enemy. In reality, fat—particularly omega 3, 6, and 9 essential fatty acids—is critical for muscle growth. Research shows that dietary fat is essential for optimal protein synthesis and testosterone production in the body, both of which have a major impact on body composition and performance. Omega-3 fatty acids also provide anti-inflammatory benefits, and there is much evidence to suggest they play a positive role in supporting heart health, among other major health benefits.
Essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are also extremely important for supporting fat loss through a variety of pathways. One of the major ones involves the ability of EFAs to increase insulin sensitivity. In fact, they help to mimic the activity of some diabetic drugs and can reduce the amount of circulating glucose in the bloodstream. This helps to decrease the amount of glucose that ends up being stored as fat in the body.
In addition to this, EFAs also help to normalize blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Both of these functions help with proper blood flow, thus facilitating the transfer of nutrients and oxygen to working muscles while training.
You may think I'm just going to tell you to take some fish oil here, but honestly, that's just the icing on the cake. You need adequate EFAs in your diet, not just in your supplement stack. You can find them in abundance in nuts, fish and eggs, particularly omega-3-enhanced eggs. Get your fill!
FreakMode The Plan
During my early bodybuilding-competition days, I calculating my base caloric intake and macros in order to transform my body for the stage. Today, I don't count calories anymore, because I have learned my body and how to adjust my food intake in order to get the results I want. I eat quality foods, control my portions, and pay special attention to how my body looks, feels, and performs based on the foods I eat.
But make no mistake: It took years of following the numbers to get to the point where I didn't need them anymore. And if you've been struggling to find a sustainable approach to nutrition, calorie and macronutrient numbers are your best guide.
Enter your stats in the calculator below to get your starting daily calorie targets and your macronutrient breakdown for each phase of the FreakMode 12-week Fitness Trainer.
* Mifflin-St. Jeor Equation
To see how this plays out, let's use me as an example. My weight in kilograms is 77, or 169 in pounds. My height in centimeters is 175. According to the standard Mifflin St. Jeor equation, my basal metabolic rate, or the amount of calories my body requires to keep functioning, is 1683. At my activity level, that equates to 2904 calories to maintain my weight. If I want to add muscle, I'll boost those calories by 500, to 3400. If I want to lose fat, I'll cut them by my calories by 20 percent.
No matter what your caloric intake looks like, the macronutrient breakdown is the same: 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fats. The calculator will tell you everything you need.
A Day in Your Nutritional Life
Your calories and macros will no doubt look different than mine. So rather than digging deep into specific portion sizes, let's just talk about how to build your day nutritionally. This is what I follow, and what I recommend, for muscle gain.
- Breakfast: Eggs and vegetables, oatmeal
- Late morning: Protein shake
- Lunch: Chicken with brown rice
- Afternoon: Protein shake
- Dinner: Steak and sweet-potato fries or salad
- Optional snack: Yogurt topped with nuts or berries
The setup of a day on the fat-loss plan is a little different, however; you can time the meals however you want to:
- Meal 1: Eggs and vegetables, oatmeal
- Meal 2: Protein shake
- Meal 3: Chicken with brown rice
- Meal 4: Protein shake
- Meal 5: Steak and sweet potato fries or salad
Why is the timing optional on the fat-loss plan? Because I'm also giving you the option of doing intermittent fasting. You'll do an 8-hour feed followed by a 16-hour fast, every day of the week Select a time of day that works best for you and your lifestyle to do your 16-hour fast. Then, when that's done, you're going to continue your 8-hour feed.
Your calories and macros are the same on this plan as if you weren't fasting. All that changes is when you consume them. So a critical component of this intermittent fasting is how to time your workouts around it. The way to do that is to do your workouts in a fasted state and start your 8-hour feed with your post-workout shake.
On the fence about whether to fast? That's understandable. Here's my recommendation: Do Phase 1 with the intermittent fasting, and see how your body responds to it and how you feel on it. If you like it, continue with it. I've done it for stretches of 4-12 weeks. After 12 weeks, I recommend that you stop and go back to your normal eating schedule. Then you can come back and reintroduce it any time you like.
I've included sample meal plans here showing what my day of eating would look for both muscle gain and fat loss.
To make it even easier for you, I've created a page containing 12 of my favorite healthy recipes that I use in my daily nutrition plan. They can either kick-start your progress, or just add some variety into what you're already eating. There is also a grocery list on the main trainer page.
Can I still eat out?
Of course! I don't want you to spend all day at home crying in your chicken and broccoli. I don't buy that you can't go out with your friends and family to a nice restaurant, or just go out to a local pub and get a nice, solid, nutritious meal. There are always good options around you that fall within the nutrition guidelines of the plan.
At almost any restaurant, you can get steak and salad, or something equivalent. Or maybe there's chicken breast and vegetables, veggie omelets, or sweet-potato fries. Maybe there are brown-rice options. Keep your eyes peeled for the options you have, rather than fixating on what you're not eating. Be real, and make this a lifestyle change.
And if you don't see something at first glance, you still have options. There's no crime in asking a server if you can sub something out or change things up. They'll almost always do it for you. Why not ask and find out?
Nutrition to sustain you for years, not just weeks
You're going to be adjusting your caloric intake and your macros for each phase as your weight changes. So come back to the calorie counter on this page at the start of each phase and enter your information so you can get your new calorie target and macronutrient breakdown for that specific phase.
Of course, your training changes every four weeks, too. It's just like you're coming to see me at my gym for a new workout routine and nutrition tune-up. As such, I want you to take and post progress pics every four weeks.
Now it's time to hit the grocery store and get all the foods you need for the week so you're ready to go. Next, watch my supplement video so you know exactly what to take to enhance your results and achieve the best possible transformation over the next three months.
Main | Program Overview | Nutrition Overview | Supplementation Overview | Recipes | Get Started
- Howarth, K. R., Phillips, S. M., MacDonald, M. J., Richards, D., Moreau, N. A., & Gibala, M. J. (2010). Effect of glycogen availability on human skeletal muscle protein turnover during exercise and recovery. Journal of Applied Physiology, 109(2), 431-438.
- Weigle, D. S., Breen, P. A., Matthys, C. C., Callahan, H. S., Meeuws, K. E., Burden, V. R., & Purnell, J. Q. (2005). A high-protein diet induces sustained reductions in appetite, ad libitum caloric intake, and body weight despite compensatory changes in diurnal plasma leptin and ghrelin concentrations. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 82(1), 41-48.
- Stiegler, P., & Cunliffe, A. (2006). The role of diet and exercise for the maintenance of fat-free mass and resting metabolic rate during weight loss. Sports Medicine, 36(3), 239-262.
- Blom, W. A., Lluch, A., Stafleu, A., Vinoy, S., Holst, J. J., Schaafsma, G., & Hendriks, H. F. (2006). Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 83(2), 211-220.
- Leidy, H. J., Mattes, R. D., & Campbell, W. W. (2007). Effects of acute and chronic protein intake on metabolism, appetite, and ghrelin during weight loss. Obesity, 15(5), 1215-1225.