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Diet Tips and Tricks

Your goal should never be "to lose weight." Your goal should be to build a strong, lean body by feeding it what it needs.

The information contained in this article will help you build a lean, strong, healthy body. Most diets utterly fail on all three counts, but people try those diets out of desperation and ignorance. We will empower you to replace both of those motivators with results and knowledge.

You may also want to try our lean body recipes, and read our Diets Exposed series of articles. Now, let's cover some basic principles and get the facts right. We'll begin by looking at one of the unsung heroes of health: Mr. Jack LaLanne. 


Jack LaLanne, at almost 90, is stronger and more fit than the average college athlete.

Mr. LaLanne has had single digit bodyfat for longer than most people have been alive, but he has not done so at the cost of a strong body.

He's not stooped over and hardly able to breathe, as are most men his age.

Mr. LaLanne says, "If man makes it, I don't eat it."

He sticks with foods that are as close to natural as possible--that doesn't mean "organic," that means unprocessed. This dietary principle is more important than all the others. Follow it as closely as you can.

Though universal principles apply, universal specifics do not. there is no one magic diet that works for everyone. Nor is there a single diet that works best for one individual over time. The first step toward the right diet is to consider your genetics and your ethnic group's traditional foods.

If you are African, that does not mean overcooked vegetables or pork rinds. Such garbage came on the nutritional scene only recently, and is not a true ethnic food. The same is true for Italians who overdose on pepperoni pizza. There is much more to these diets than the recent introductions often associated with these cultural groups.

A note on eggs.

Eggs do not hurt you. Egg yolks do not hurt you. In fact, egg yolks from free-range chickens contain enough lecithin and Omega 3 to lower your cholesterol net. Note: the stressed-out, impro-
perly fed chickens in factory farms produce eggs that have little or no lecithin or Omega 3.

You should also know that cholesterol cannot survive the acid bath of the stomach. You could take cholesterol pills and not see your cholesterol go up. If you have high cholesterol, it's not from eating eggs.

When in my late teens, I ate a dozen eggs a day for a couple of years. I added 8 inches to my height between my 16th and 17th birthdays. During this time, I also ate considerable amounts of sugar-free peanut butter (5 lbs a week), steak (4 lean NY strips a week), milk (2 gallons of 2% a week), and cheese (10 pounds a month). I credit the eggs with keeping my total cholesterol low--it varied between 121 and 128 when I had it checked in my early 20s. 

Early into my 40s, I had my cholesterol checked again. This time, I got the breakdown:

  • LDL (bad cholesterol): 72 (it needs to be less than 150--many people are well above that)

  • HDL (good cholesterol): 46 (it needs to be above 40)

  • Cholesterol Ratio: 2.9 (it needs to be below 5.0, which is actually uncommon in the USA)

My other various metrics were also exceptional.

Except for Eskimos and a few other small ethnic groups, all diets must adhere to the same few macronutrient rules.

 For example, eliminate as many "simple" carbohydrates as possible. Don't eat anything substantial 2 hours before bedtime.


Balance your fat/carbos/protein in a roughly 30/40/30 ratio (this is a guideline, not a "law"--it doesn't work for everyone).  Eat at least 6 small meals a day (see sidebar at right).

Always eat a high-protein breakfast. Cut saturated fats, but eat unsaturated fats. Good sources are walnuts, cashews, peanuts, and oils that are liquid at room temperature (don't go overboard).

Did you know airline peanuts are less fattening than the fat-free pretzels? It's true. In general, avoid from fat-free foods--they make your insulin levels do a yo-yo, and that makes you put on fat. Worse, it sets the stage for adult-onset diabetes. Why the problem with fat-free foods?

Read the label--most of these are loaded with sugar, but some are not. Add your own fresh fruit (frozen blueberries work well), and you have a healthy fat-free snack (but, it's better to add a bit of flaxseed oil to it). Beware: nearly all "yogurts" mostly sugar!

Do NOT eat white flour, bleached flour, enriched flour, or any other kind of wheat flour that is not whole grain. The glycemic effects of such flours will work against you. Eat whole grain flours, and try to get a variety. Amaranth and soy are two good flours. Our free recipe page will show you some ways to use these excellent foods.

Eat oat groats instead of oatmeal. In short, get your grains in the least-processed form you can. This holds true for everyone, regardless of genetics (unless you have a malabsorption problem).

What also holds true for everyone: drink lots of water! Fill a gallon jug twice a day, and make sure you drink all of it.

Once you get as lean as you want to be, cut back to a single gallon if you want to.

What is a small meal?

Think of a meal as a limited amount of food prepared for a specific purpose. Think outside the standard fattening fare.

Consider my tuna sandwich. The sandwich fill consists of tuna mixed with mustard, basil, oregano, fat-free yogurt, and pepper, with a slice or two of tomato. The shell consists of bok choy leaves, red leaf lettuce, or kale. Or maybe whole grain bread that has no corn syrup in it (the right bread will have 60 to 90 calories per slice, depending on the brand)

That is one meal. I might wait an hour or two, then have another. Or I might have natural peanut butter slathered on a single slice of bread, with whole raspberries spread on top.

A handful of nuts can satisfy my hunger for quite some time. If I'm in a situation where it's hard to get meals--such as when traveling--I simply eat some raw nuts. For example, suppose I have a 2-egg omelet for breakfast at 0600, and must board a plane that will keep me "away from food" until 1200. That's six hours. I just throw a baggie of nuts and raw soybeans into my briefcase. When I get hungry, I eat a handful of these. 

At the office, I can't make tuna sandwiches or a vegetable medley every two hours. So, I make a 3/4 cup protein "smoothie" from protein powder.

A typical weekday for me:
0530: Amaranth pancake, with fat-free yogurt or some kind of whole fruit.
0900: Protein smoothie.
1130: Canned spinach or beans, and protein smoothie.
1430: Protein smoothie
1715: Beans and vegetables
1900: Fruit, grain, and some kind of protein

On a workout day, I often add an extra protein drink.


For added fat loss, drink chilled (but not super cold) water. Sodas do not count. Such beverages are extremely unhealthy, for reasons I won't cover here. However, I will say that if you want to get osteoporosis, soft drinks are for you. Soft drinks make for soft bones.

Learn about insulin management. Make a trip to your library and get a book on the glycemic index. Also, look for Ann Louise Gittleman's book,"Your Body Knows Best." She has other books that are good, too. If you can't find it at your library, you can order it via this hyperlink: Your Body Knows Best, $5.59. Be careful on these diet books: most of them are completely wrong.

There is no magic formula. Discipline is key. But, you do not need to torture yourself. Find foods you enjoy, but don't eat the same old stuff all the time. It's OK to splurge maybe once a week, but the more consistent you are, the better your results will be.


Food tips:

  1. Portion size counts: you can easily reach the point where it's impossible to burn off excess calories.
  2. You don't need to count calories. Just eat small portions. When you get hungry, eat again. But wait at least an hour before eating.
  3. Avoid eating a carbohydrate without a protein and/or fat. Why? Because eating these together blunts the insulin response of the carbohydrate. Many diet "gurus" make the exact opposite claim. Those folks do not know what they are talking about. See an endocrinologist for an explanation of the chemistry involved.
  4. The less refined a starch is, the better it is for you. Why? Insulin response!
  5. Fat is good for you. However, it is calorie dense--so don't go overboard. Also, damaged fats are really, really, bad. Don't eat them. Margarine and other foods contained hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats are not fit for human consumption. Limit saturated fat intake as much as practical. Make unsaturated (liquid at room temperature) fats a prominent part of your diet.
  6. Supplement intelligently. If you prefer the convenience of meal replacements to supplement your whole food choices, choose only the best.


Article Authorship

The articles on this site are authoritative, because:

  • Every contributor is an expert in his or her field.
  • The articles comply with the accepted principles of the bodybuilder literature.
  • The articles comply with the teachings of such luminaries as 8-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney.

 Where an article is not bylined with a specific author's name, it was written by Mark Lamendola (see photos on home page and elsewhere on this site). Mark is a 4th degree blackbelt, has not been sick since 1971, and has not missed a workout since 1977. Just an example of how Mark knows what he's talking about: In his early 50s, Mark demonstrated a biceps curl using half his body weight. That's a Jack LaLanne level stunt. Few people can even come close. If you want to know how to build a strong, beautiful body, read the articles here.

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