Iron Intelligence: Nutrition and Supplements

If you want to pack on monstrous muscle, you need a nutritional plan every bit as serious as your training. Learn Evan's kitchen secrets that earned him the nickname "Ox!"

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What happens in the gym is just the start. Without a consistent nutritional approach to back it up, even the best muscle-gaining training protocol can end up being a fat-loss program, a fat-gain program, or just a "look exactly the same" program. You really don't know!

That's one reason why Evan Centopani says that as a professional bodybuilder, he is also a "professional eater." He takes this stuff very seriously. If you want to get the most out of his groundbreaking program Iron Intelligence, learning what you can from his nutritional approach is a must. Before you lift a single weight, do yourself a favor and watch this nutritional day in the life of one of the world's top bodybuilders.

No, you don't have to eat as much as a 275-pound bodybuilder does to be successful with this program—although we've provided that info if you want to try. But you'll probably have to eat more than you're accustomed to, both in terms of protein and vegetables. If you watched Evan's video "How an IFBB Pro Really Eats," you know the man can put away serious amounts of kale.

This won't be easy. But will it be worth it? Well, I'll let you decide once you start struggling to find a pair of pants that fit over your quads.

How Much to Eat

Calories are necessary to drive growth, but not at the expense of throwing nutrient quality and your health out the window. Evan insists that food quality is crucial. "If you're constantly eating like crap, you're going to train like crap," he says.

That's not a recipe for growth. Rather than focusing purely on protein, carbohydrates, and fat, he adds a fourth mandatory "macro"—vegetables—and he encourages you to do the same.

Here are the macros he recommends for anyone following Iron Intelligence:

  • Protein: 1.5 grams per pound of body weight per day
  • Carbohydrates: 1.5 grams per pound of body weight per day
  • Healthy Fats: 0.65 grams per pound of body weight per day
  • Vegetables: 2 grams per pound of body weight per day

Remember that the numbers above serve as a starting point, not a set-in-stone prescription. Begin by figuring out how many calories you need per day by using Bodybuilding.com's calorie calculator. Make sure you select "weight gain" and choose either "moderately" or "very" active, depending on your job and lifestyle outside of the gym.



Next, set your protein intake at 1.5 grams per pound of body weight. Then, fill in your remaining calories with carbohydrates and fat as closely as you can to the suggestions above. But here's the catch: Don't count the carbohydrates in your vegetable sources against either your carb or calorie numbers. But definitely hit your vegetable minimum each day.

Don't worry if you don't hit these marks right away. They're ambitious, and besides, gaining weight too fast will lead to fat gain along with muscle gain. Your goal should be to gain 0.5-1.0 percent of your body weight per week. Once you have your starting calories and macronutrients, begin tracking your weight a few days per week. Then, adjust your food intake by tweaking your carbohydrate and fat numbers to progress at the appropriate pace.

Sample Macros

  • 150-pound lifter: 3128 calories, 225 g protein, 338 g carbs, 98 g fat, 300 g vegetables
  • 200-pound lifter: 4170 calories, 300 g protein, 450 g carbs, 130 g fat, 400 g vegetables

What to Eat

I know it'd be easier to hit your lofty calorie goals by befriending the owner of your local fast-food joint, but that won't optimize your training, recovery, or health, and it's counterproductive to your goals. There will be a time for an off-the-charts meal, but the majority of the time, you should be sticking with the following types of nutrient-dense foods.

  • Protein Sources: Chicken and turkey breast, chicken liver, lean red meat (90/10 ground, flank steak, sirloin, filet), white fish (cod, fluke, flounder, sole), eggs, whey protein
  • Carbohydrate Sources: Rice (white, brown, jasmine), sweet or white potatoes, oats, fruit, oat flour, brown rice syrup
  • Fats: Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts), seeds (pumpkin, flax, sunflower), avocado, olive oil, canola oil
  • Vegetables: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, bell peppers, carrots, rutabaga, turnips, squash

When to Eat

In a word: often. Have a solid protein-rich meal or shake every 2-3 hours if possible.

Eating multiple meals throughout the day is advantageous for a number of reasons, including that eating three huge meals can be mentally and physically overwhelming. You won't feel good, you won't train right, and you won't be able to keep it up for long.

Think about it: If you need to eat 4,000 calories per day, are you more likely to be able to accomplish it day in and day out by distributing that over six 667-calorie meals or three 1,333-calorie meals?

Evan recommends eating a minimum of four meals per day and incorporating an additional shake or two as needed to hit your calorie goals.

How to Cheat

To further support growth and recovery, Evan recommend including a cheat meal twice per week. He has two rules when it comes to implementing your cheat meals to maximize their effectiveness:

  1. Make sure it's food you don't typically eat during the week. This will provide you with a psychological break from the rigors of regimented meal prep and supply you with even more fuel than usual to reinforce your training and goals.
  2. Have these cheat meals on a training day, preferably after a session targeting one of your weak points. This will help further facilitate growth and recovery for that area.


Evan's favorite go-to cheat meals:

  • Two hamburgers, fries, and a Coke
  • Steak, eggs, home fries, and a side of French toast and maple syrup

Of course, your cheat meal can be whatever sounds good to you.

Water: The Fifth Macro

Taking in ample fluids throughout the day is important for your overall health, your performance in the gym, and your growth outside of it. Remember, your muscles are made up of over 70 percent water, which means contraction and muscle protein synthesis thrive in underwater conditions. A dehydrated muscle won't perform well, nor will it grow.

Several studies have shown that not only does dehydration inhibit muscle protein synthesis during training, it also increases the rate of muscle protein breakdown.1-3 It's speculated that this carries over to the post-workout period too, further hindering rates of muscle building.3

Evan drinks a minimum of 5 liters of water a day, or about a gallon and a quarter, broken up into a liter between each meal. Why pace the water intake? Given how much food you'll be taking in, doing anything more than sipping with meals will just get in the way.

Iron Intelligence Supplement Stack

Evan is just as systematic about his supplementation as he is about his meals. If there's one time in your life when you should consistently take a stack, it's when you're pushing yourself to the limit during a 12-week program like Iron Intelligence. Here's what Evan recommends you take.

Core Stack

Animal Fury: If you're just going through the motions in the gym, a pre-workout won't help much. But if you've committed to an ambitious program where every set means something important, the combination of caffeine, vasodilators, and fatigue-inhibiting ingredients in Animal's new flagship pre-workout can definitely help. Doing more quality work in the gym—that's what this is all about.

Dosage: 1 serving, pre-workout.

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Animal Whey: As a self-proclaimed "professional eater," Evan has no problem meeting his ambitious daily protein goals with food alone. But few of us could do the same while preserving our appetite, budget, and sanity.

Dosage: 1-2 shakes a day, post-workout and as a meal replacement or before morning cardio.

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Animal Pak and Animal Omega: This one-two nutritional punch is a non-negotiable part of Evan's morning ritual. Why? World-class bodybuilding training is fundamentally depleting unless you've got a broad and deep nutritional foundation to turn it into growth. Even though Evan eats plenty of fish, he still takes omegas daily to help support optimal levels of a broad range of health, mood, and performance markers.

Dosage: 1 pack of each with first meal of the day, and omegas post-workout.

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Optional Stack

Universal Carbo Plus: High-level bodybuilders swear by their supplemental carbs, putting them right up there with protein. Why? Recovery. Bodybuilding training plows through carbs when it's done right, and a high-quality carb supplement provides an inexpensive, predictable source of glycogen. Taken intra-workout, it can mean better, longer, more productive workouts. Post-workout, it kick-starts the recovery process and gets you on the road to growth.

Dosage: 2-3 scoops pre-, intra-, or post-workout.

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Universal Creatine: Plenty of pre-workouts contain a dusting of creatine these days, but if you're relying on that for any type of performance boost, you're engaging in some serious wishful thinking. Yes, creatine has been shown in numerous studies to provide both strength and muscle gains, but there's a catch. It needs to be taken nearly daily, ideally after a loading period. Give this proven performance enhancer its best chance to succeed, and you won't regret it.

Dosage: 5g daily.

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Sample Meal Plan and Supplement Schedule

Sample Day: 275-pound individual

Upon Waking, Pre-cardio

Water 1 liter


Grapefruit 1/2


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 30
Fat0 g
Carbs8 g
Protein1 g
Meal 1

Eggs, large 7


Oats 1 cup


Fresh strawberries 1/2 cup


Brown rice syrup 1 tbsp


Cinnamon 1 tsp


Animal Pak 1 pack


Animal Omega 1 pack


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 893
Fat41 g
Carbs78 g
Protein53 g
Meal 2: 2-3 hours later

Chicken breast 10 oz., measured cooked


White rice 2 oz., measured raw


Olive oil 1 tbsp


Kale 5 oz., steamed, measured cooked


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 788
Fat26 g
Carbs69 g
Protein67 g
Meal 3: 2-3 hours later

Chicken breast 10 oz., measured cooked


White rice 2 oz., measured raw


Olive oil 1 tbsp


Kale 5 oz., steamed, measured cooked


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 788
Fat26 g
Carbs69 g
Protein67 g
Meal 4: 2-3 hours later

Cod 10 oz., measured cooked


White rice 2 oz., measured raw


Olive oil 1 tbsp


Broccoli 5 oz., steamed, measured cooked


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 731
Fat23 g
Carbs58 g
Protein73 g
Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 204
Fat0 g
Carbs51 g
Protein0 g
Meal 5: Within 60 minutes of finishing last set

Lean strip steak 10 oz., measured cooked


Garden salad 3 cups


Olive oil 1 tbsp


Apple cider vinegar 3 tbsp


Baked white potato 4 oz.


Animal Omega 1 pack


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 664
Fat27 g
Carbs51 g
Protein68 g
Meal 6: "Cheat" meal

Porterhouse steak 10 oz., measured cooked


Bell pepper 1 grilled


Clams 3 oz.


Spaghetti 1-1/2 cups, measured cooked


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 910
Fat30 g
Carbs88 g
Protein72 g
Daily Total
  • Calories: 4,573
  • Fat: 161 g (0.59 grams per pound of body weight)
  • Carbohydrates: 414 g (1.51 grams per pound of body weight)
  • Protein: 390 g (1.42 grams per pound of body weight)

Note: Carbs from veggies are not factored in.

Sample Day: 180-pound individual

Meal 1

Eggs, large 4


Oats 1 cup


Fresh strawberries 1/2 cup


Brown rice syrup 1 tbsp


Cinnamon 1 tsp


Animal Pak 1 pack


Animal Omega 1 pack


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 685
Fat25 g
Carbs80 g
Protein35 g
Meal 2: 2-3 hours later

Chicken breast 7 oz., measured cooked


White rice 1 oz., measured raw


Olive oil 1/2 tbsp


Kale 3 oz., steamed, measured cooked


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 414
Fat14 g
Carbs30 g
Protein32 g
Meal 3: 2-3 hours later

Chicken breast 7 oz., measured cooked


White rice 1 oz., measured raw


Olive oil 1/2 tbsp


Kale 3 oz., steamed, measured cooked


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 414
Fat14 g
Carbs30 g
Protein32 g
Meal 4: 2-3 hours later

Cod 7 oz., measured cooked


White rice 1 oz., measured raw


Olive oil 1 tbsp


Broccoli 3 oz., steamed, measured cooked


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 467
Fat19 g
Carbs29 g
Protein45 g
Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 136
Fat0 g
Carbs34 g
Protein0 g
Meal 5: Within 60 minutes of finishing last set

Lean strip steak 7 oz., measured cooked


Garden salad 2 cups


Olive oil 1/2 tbsp


Apple cider vinegar 3 tbsp


Baked white potato 3 oz.


Animal Omega 1 pack


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 468
Fat12 g
Carbs39 g
Protein51 g
Meal 6: "Cheat" meal

Porterhouse steak 5 oz., measured cooked


Bell pepper 1 grilled


Clams 3 oz.


Spaghetti 1 cup, measured cooked


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 584
Fat20 g
Carbs43 g
Protein58 g
Daily Total
  • Calories: 3,168
  • Fat: 104 g (0.59 grams per pound of body weight)
  • Carbohydrates: 285 g (1.63 grams per pound of body weight)
  • Protein: 273 g (1.56 grams per pound of body weight)

Note: Carbs from veggies are not factored in.


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References
  1. Ritz P, Salle A, Simard G, Dumas JF, Foussard F, & Malthiery Y (2003). Effects of changes in water compartments on physiology and metabolism. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 57 (Suppl 2), S2-5.
  2. Schliess F, & Häussinger D. Cell volume and insulin signaling (2003). International Review of Cytology, 225, 187-228.
  3. Häussinger D, Roth E, Lang F, & Gerok W (1993). Cellular hydration state: an important determinant of protein catabolism in health and disease (1993). Lancet, 341(8856), 1330-32.

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