Clean Vs. Flexible Dieting

 Clean Vs. Flexible Dieting


Over the last 5-6 years there has been a big debate on whether flexible dieting or clean eating is the best way to diet fat off. On one side you have what most of us have been taught and thought as gospel over the years- only eating “clean” foods will lead to achieving the fat loss you want. On the other side a system has emerged allowing us to use non-traditional dieting foods to get fat off allow the foods we crave to be eaten. At first most people looked at flexible dieters like they were crazy eating things like ice cream while dieting, but now over the years it’s been proven to be a very effective way to diet down. So what we know is- BOTH systems work. What I want to do here is educate you on both, give the positives and negatives, and give you the information you need to take it and apply it to yourself and your clients if you are a trainer/coach.

Clean Eating Defined

Since there is really no way to define clean eating we can just recognize it as only eating foods from the ground, or from animals. These are the traditional foods most people think of when it’s time to diet. Protein’s such as eggs, cottage cheese, chicken, fish, etc. Carbs such as oats, sweet potato, brown rice, etc. Fats such as olive oil, almonds, peanut butter, egg yolks, fish oil, etc etc. Vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, salad, etc. Some clean eaters will take it so far that they will only eat organic foods, nothing processed whatsoever.

In the bodybuilding community prior to 2010 I would say that 95% of people who dieted used clean foods only, we thought that’s all that would work. I would also say that most clean eaters would stick to a “meal plan” that used clean food but didnt count the protein/carbs/fats in the plan. Sure measurements are used such as eating 1 cup of brown rice and an 8 oz chicken breast but most dieters wouldnt count the macros or calories they just eat the food.

Clean Eating Positives

There are definitely positives to clean eating. Foods are usually pretty high in the micronutrients and vitamins that we need. Most clean foods also provide a decent amount of fiber in them, and will digest slower making them low glycemic carbs. Also, clean foods usually have more size/volume to them so you feel fuller eating something such as 50 carbs from a sweet potato versus 50 carbs from low fat ice cream. And finally, clean foods are much easier to buy in bulk and just prepare to eat instead of trying to fit in flexible dieting foods and doing the math to see how many cals to have.


Clean Eating Negatives

There are a lot of negatives that come with clean eating, and some that impact people way more than they understand in the beginning. First, we didnt grow up eating “clean” so it’s something that’s not common to us and is extremely hard to do long term. It’s very common for people to be able to stick to it while dieting, but after the diets over….. LOOK OUT. Most reading this have experienced sticking to a clean diet for a period of time and then losing their minds afterward, unable to stay out of the cabinet at 2 a.m. Any kind of restriction of food choices will cause some sort of mental rebound, and cheating when the diet is over. And hell let’s just be honest, most people cheat on the diet when being so restrictive with food choices. Another negative is only sticking to one set of food choices and not letting the body eat different foods, usually causing some distress with digestion when “normal”food is eaten, or a cheat meal is taken. Finally, the mental component is so hard that clean eating usually leads to burnout and people to never stick to a diet because they just get tired of failing. Clean eating is not something most people can stick to 100% while dieting, let alone the rest of their lives.

Flexible Dieting Defined

Flexible dieting is simply counting your protein/carbs/fats that you take in daily and eating the foods you like to hit those macro’s. There’s really no such thing as a clean or dirty food, it’s just something that is turned into amino’s (protein), glucose (carbs), or lipids (fats). Common food choices are things like bacon, low fat ice cream, baked chips, bread, cereal, milk, fruit, and even clean foods can be eaten as long as the pro/carbs/fats are counted in them. The point of flexible dieting is to 1. count your macros and 2. use the foods you want to eat to hit macros.

Flexible Dieting Positives

There are a whole host of positives with flexible dieting. First, and probably the most important is the ability to adhere to a diet. Most people will be able to diet fat off easier by eating foods they want and crave, and it leads to less cheating. Another benefit is that after the diet is over, it’s easier to stick to this plan because it’s a lifestyle whereas clean eating isnt for most people. Counting macros/calories is also a positive because it’s much more accurate than trying to just eat a meal plan or trying to just eat clean without counting cals. And finally, another positive is that it’s easy to travel or be on the run and eat foods that are packaged or at a restaurant instead of trying to bring a big cooler full of chicken and rice for days. Just hit pro/carbs/fats and keep going.

Flexible Dieting Negatives

While flexible dieting sounds fun, there are some drawbacks and things to be aware of. First, most flexible dieting foods are low in fiber and processed, so make sure fiber intake is adequate while using this system. Another negative is that some people may not get the micronutrients and vitamins they need from processed foods, so taking a full multi-vitamin and making sure to eat plenty of vegetables is key. Also, people will abuse anything and take it to the extreme. Some people have made it a point to eat the most horrid shit food they can and still hit macros, giving it a bad distorted image. And finally, a lot of flexible dieting foods digest faster, or they dont have the volume that clean foods do so that feeling of being full or satisfied isnt there when someone eats either chicken and rice vs. a whey shake and cereal.

Above is a video of the PowerPoint presentation I give regularly on this topic


So Which System is Best?

Here’s what I recommend for my clients- use a middle of the road approach. I tell them to eat as “clean” and healthy as possible, but bake in some flexible foods that will help them stick to the diet and not cheat. The biggest key to any successful diet is ADHERENCE. I am very big on this, so I tell them make sure to eat foods that they like and can help them enjoy the diet. I have had zero problems over the last 5 years using a flexible dieting approach and getting my clients lean enough, and my clients love it. Most have thanked me because they used to have a hard time with clean eating and also rebounding afterward. And lets just be honest, clean eating DOES cause forms of disordered eating. Some of you know what I am talking about (ok a LOT of you know) because we have all been there.

I hope you enjoy the food you like and have fun with your diet, it shouldnt be miserable or cause any backlash after it’s over. This is the best way to make it a lifestyle when you are done.

– John Gorman, MA, CPT, is a well-respected diet coach and the owner of Team Gorman LLC. John is also the owner of PHAT Muscle Project apparel, a published author, public speaker, co-owner of The Physique Summit Conference, and proud member of the 1st Phorm Phamily as an Elite Trainer. His work centers on helping athletes achieve their maximum potential in various sports such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, crossfit, along with high school and college level athletics. You can follow him on Snapchat @teamgorman , Instagram @team_gorman , or contact him via email


Reverse Dieting- How to Come off the Diet and Stay Leaner

Reverse Dieting- How to Come off the

Diet and Stay Leaner

 Reverse diet pics val thompson

Note:  John has written a book on this topic titled “Metabolic Capacity and Reverse Dieting” and is now for sale on Amazon.  Click here to see the book.


Writing this article is something I have wanted to do for a long time as I see competitor after competitor blow up and gain way too much fat directly after a show.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been there myself a few times and know exactly what it feels like first hand.  The good news is that there IS a way to stay very lean in the offseason yet grow and put a good amount of muscle on and it’s called Reverse Dieting.


Reverse dieting is simply adding calories back in to your diet while also pulling back on the amount of cardio that was done to get into contest shape.  Sound easy? Then why is it so hard for people to do?  Honestly it’s because after being at a caloric deficit for so long not only is your body screaming “FEED ME!” your brain is also screaming the same thing.  Some have said that reverse dieting is the hardest thing they have ever done, and as a coach I can probably agree with that due to the reason being that as you increase your calories your metabolism really starts to speed up and hunger can get pretty intense at times.  Make no mistake this is a GOOD SIGN !!!  🙂  Don’t fear though, I am going to give you a full system to use, and while each person is different and may need some altering of this plan I’ll lay out, it will get you pretty close if you stick to it like glue.


What we usually see when someone finishes a show is they go out and have a nice cheat meal after the show with family and friends, which is fine and I actually encourage it.  Then Sunday comes and there’s breakfast and a few more meals off the plan, which is fine as well.  The problem people run into is they actually go WAY off the deep end and eat way past being comfortable full, and they also continue this eating into the week after the show.  Once you fill the muscles up after a few big meals you will quickly start to spill over into the fat cell.  I have seen people (myself included) put on 20 lbs in the week after the show, never to get it off.  Most have a metabolism that is slowed down from dieting and it cannot process that amount of calories that quickly so it stores a lot of the cals as fat at an alarming rate.  NOT FUN.


This is why Reverse Dieting works and works well. It’s important because it will 1. Restore a slowed metab, and restore the metabolic capacity to diet for a show again 2. Fill the muscles back out and after contest dieting making for a much more appealing physique (which mentally is a nice boost when you are not aiming for a show but you really like the way you are looking- lean and full) and 3. Keep you lean in the offseason so you don’t have to diet so long and hard next time.  It’s the situation all competitors should strive to be in- leaner in offseason (within 20 lbs of stage weight), metabolism fired up on higher calories to support the next prep, and a nice offseason of lean growth.


Here’s the nitty-gritty on what to add.  First thing to do after your show is this- go out, have a nice meal that night, and maybe breakfast and a meal on Sunday but dont eat yourself sick.  On Monday add in carbs to your diet (I recommend 20 carbs for men, about 10 carbs for women at first) and start doing your cardio again but pull your cardio back 10 mins on all sessions.


At the end of the first week I would introduce either a cheat meal OR a refeed.  For some who are very low calorie or had a harsh prep you will need to be careful here and not eat too much at once as the metabolic rate may not support it.  A nice meal off the diet will usually be fine as long as you dont eat until you are uncomfortable.  A good example is to replace a meal on a diet with some Chinese food once a week.  This will not only give you some sanity, but you should be re-depleted again for the most part which allows you to store carbs in the muscles without much fear of spilling into the fat cells.  I recommend putting your two weakest body parts around the cheat meal or refeed.  For example, if you are weak in the chest and legs, on a Sunday train your chest, then start refeeding PWO or have a cheat meal sometime that day after you train. On Monday, train your legs but get back on the diet.  This will help bring up your weaker body parts all offseason long and make a big difference in them when you step on stage next time at your show.  I recommend sticking to either 1 nice cheat meal a week in offseason or 1 refeed meal of higher carbs, anywhere from 100-200 extra that day should cover most people depending on the situation (and in my opinion just adding carbs in to your daily diet instead of a cheat meal is much better than a cheat as you can keep better count on what is going in your body that day).


Week 2 rolls around and I advise adding in calories again but ONLY if weight hasnt really went up much.  If weight has went up I still usually will advise to drop cardio back at least 5 mins on all sessions while holding diet the same for another week. When adding cals, carbs most of the time will be the key here and also pulling cardio back.  Sometimes if a competitor is real low fat I will have them do 5 grams of fat a week if needed instead of carbs.


This process goes on and on each week as cardio is eventually pulled back to about 5 mins a day maybe only a couple times a week, or some like to leave a few HIIT cardio intervals in once a week and do them around the workout as a way to keep the heart healthy and also allow them to get their food intake up.  But I dont recommend doing more than 2-3 cardio sessions a week if you plan on competing again the following season, getting cardio out or to very low levels will allow you to respond better to cardio once you start contest prep again.
Here is an example I will give of a competitor I recently helped reverse diet after they finished their prep on their own (our athletes don’t ever do this much cardio, but it’s quite common when people come to us for reverse dieting help) :

Week 1 scale weight 174- added 20 carbs, cardio pulled from 30 mins 2x a day to 20 mins 2x a day.

Week 2 scale weight 174.8- added 20 carbs, cardio moved to 30 mins once a day.

Week 3 scale weight 175.8- added 15 carbs and 5 fats, cardio moved to 20 mins once a day.

Week 4 scale weight 174.3 – added 20 carbs, cardio moved to 20 mins 6 days a week.

Week 5 scale weight 176.2- added 15 carbs, 5 fats, cardio moved to 20 mins 5 days a week.

Week 6 scale weight 177.1- added 15 carbs, cardio moved to 20 mins 4 days a week (where it currently stays)

Week 7 scale weight 177.5- added 15 carbs, 5 fats

Week 8 scale weight 178.8- added 15 carbs.


We got his carbs up from 200 a day to 335 and he still has abs.  His fats went from 45 a day up to 55.  His protein remained the same, about 220 grams a day.  So new macros are 220 protein, 335 carbs and 55 fats, up from 2085 cals to 2715 cals a day PLUS a refeed day where he’s hitting about 5000 cals.  (Note: Not everyone can add this much food each week- common amounts for a male to add are 10 carbs and 5 fats, OR, 15 carbs, etc etc it depends on which macros need to go up.  And, for women, I would simply add in 10 carbs or 5 grams of fat weekly and pull back cardio 5 mins and watch the mirror and scale as you go).


There are a few special situations, such as reversing out of a ketogenic diet so let’s tackle that.  For keto dieting I would 1. Make sure the refeed is added in the same as above if it wasn’t already in and 2. Start adding carbs but start doing it around the workout.  I like to first do this:

Pre-workout meal- used to be protein and fats- sub out the fats for carbs.  So if you had 15 fats for this meal that’s 135 cals, so use the same amount of carbs which would be about 35 carbs or 140 cals.  Keep protein the same.

Post-workout meal- do the same as above.  This will be the first change for week 1 post show, along with pulling cardio back.

Week 2 I would add in INTRA workout carbs in the form of dextrose, 20 carbs for guys 10 carbs for women.  I would keep adding here until you get about 20-40 carbs intra workout.  Then as the weeks go by start adding in carbs to the existing diet.  At some point depending on how high the fat is in the diet, you may have to add in carbs to a protein/fat meal but also pull back on fats a bit because you don’t want a diet to get high in fat and carbs, it doesn’t seem to work for most people and if you were dieting keto I’d hope that you are not someone with a fast metabolism anyway because keto is a death wish for these type of athletes- so long story short, you won’t need higher fats and carbs, you’ll want to sub in carbs as you go but also pull back slightly on fats depending on the situation.


When this is done correctly this will get your metabolism humming and in the right direction to set up your next prep and make it MUCH easier.  Everyone should strive to stay within 20 lbs of their stage weight, but also with a metabolism that is used to a good amount of calories, minimum I like to see 14x bodyweight or higher being ideal for a calorie level for offseason as a general rule of them while not going below 10x bodyweight during dieting is another rule of thumb (except of course in special situations).


As you get deeper into offseason after usually 8-12 weeks of reverse dieting you will have to slow the rate you add calories and really watch the mirror.  For most people deep into offseason I will add cals every 3 weeks or so if their weight doesn’t go up.


One last thing on reverse dieting is that you can actually use this approach during prep.  If you are ready early for your show and are lean enough you can do this exact protocol and actually fill out and look much better, it’s what most of us as prep coaches strive for.  Another thing you can do is to use this protocol if you have stalled out your metab, this will get it firing again and will usually help get fat loss occurring again from the food helping boost the metabolism of the competitor.


I hope this insight into reverse dieting has shed some light on how useful it is and how the top level athletes in our sport and prep coaches like to approach a prep.  The way you look at your next show will be determined in how you come off the diet of your LAST show.  Remember that and you’ll have a much different look next time you hit the stage.


– John Gorman, MA, CPT, is a well-respected diet coach and the owner of Team Gorman LLC. John is also a published author, public speaker, co-owner of The Physique Summit Conference, and proud member of the 1st Phorm Phamily as an Elite Trainer. His work centers on helping athletes achieve their maximum potential in various sports such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, crossfit, along with high school and college level athletics. You can follow him on Snapchat @teamgorman , Instagram @team_gorman , on Periscope @teamgorman , or .

Fasted or Not: How Should You Be Doing Your Cardio?

It is getting to that time of year where you must start considering how to undo the bad deeds you have performed in the order of the beverages and food you have consumed. The holidays are a challenge as cookies appear from nowhere, party invitations arrive and then you have the gatherings with family and food (…and more food). This is why for so many people at the turn on the year, resolutions are made and goals are set. A common New Year’s goal is to start exercising, to lost weight and get back in shape.

Whether you have made a New Year’s resolution or not, losing weight and burning fat is a common goal for both men and women. A common strategy that is employed by so many people is to perform more exercise, especially aerobic-style (aka, “cardio”) exercise. An extension of performing cardio, many people will perform their cardio first thing in the morning without eating anything. Completing cardio in a fasted state is thought to accelerate the loss of body fat. In theory, not eating before morning cardio results in a scenario where the body has not received any fuel in the past 8 – 10 hours, depending on how much sleep and how long it was since last ate. As a result, liver glycogen stores will be reduced along with blood levels of insulin which subsequently will shift the body towards burning more fat (versus carbohydrate) to produce the energy needed to complete the exercise.

The bottom line is simply, “Does this strategy work?” Several short-term studies demonstrated when exercise is completed in a fed state, the amount of fat that enters parts of the cell where it can be broken down in reduced (Ahlborg and Felig 1976, Horowitz, Mora-Rodriguez et al. 1997, Civitarese, Hesselink et al. 2005). Collectively, authors of this work indicate this happens due to a reduction in fat breakdown (due to higher insulin levels), an increase in the metabolism of carbohydrate and a decrease in the expression of genes involved in breaking down and transporting fat molecules throughout the cell (Coyle, Jeukendrup et al. 1997, Horowitz, Mora-Rodriguez et al. 1999, Civitarese, Hesselink et al. 2005). Additionally, another study required consistent exercise over a 6 week period while fasted and found that changes deep inside the muscle (at the molecular level) occur that are favorable to fat oxidation (De Bock, Derave et al. 2008).

Unfortunately, the majority of these studies were performed in laboratory animals and no study has been performed when the study subjects (animals or people) were also following a restricted caloric diet. To examine the combination of exercise while fasted or not and consuming a restricted calorie diet, a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2014 was completed (Schoenfeld, Aragon et al. 2014). The authors required 20 healthy young female (22.4 ± 2.8 years, 62.2 ± 6.5 kgs) to follow a prescribed diet and exercise program. Estimations of how many calories were needed were first completed and then this total figure was reduced by 500 calories. Protein intake was held constant at 1.8 g/kg/day. Each person was then randomized to complete a 3 day per week treadmill-based exercise program. Each exercise bout spanned 1 hour and consisted of a 5-minute warm-up at 50% maximum heart rate, 50 minutes at 70% maximum heart rate and a 5-minute cool-down at 50% maximum heart rate. All exercise was supervised by trained research assistants.

Several important messages came from the results of this study. First, consistency with your exercise program is king and trumps all other considerations when it comes to improving your fitness and losing fat. You have to put in the work and do so consistently. So don’t be a binge exerciser or an uninspired two to three day per week person and then mope around and say you have tried the exercise thing. These people exercised three days per week for an hour and each group, whether they fasted or not, lost significant amounts of body weight and body fat percentage. No difference in weight loss or fat loss was found between the groups, but again that doesn’t mean the strategy should not be employed. For starters, the study was only four weeks and that authors conceded this point. In just four weeks, the group that fasted did lose 2x the percentage of body fat as the group that was fed. In four weeks, the group that fasted lost 1.6 kilograms of weight while the fed group lost 1.0 kilogram.

As a result, if these results continued both groups would have lost impressive amounts of weight and fat and maybe the changes between both groups would be different, but maybe not. We only know for certain until someone does a longer study. The bottom line is simple: modest caloric restriction combined with three hours of exercise each week resulted in significant amount of weight loss and fat loss. If you like fasting before cardio, feel free to do so. It certainly won’t decrease the results you achieve, but if you think it is going to put you on a one-way track to being a magazine cover model that isn’t realistic either.


Ahlborg, G. and P. Felig (1976). “Influence of glucose ingestion on fuel-hormone response during prolonged exercise.” J Appl Physiol 41(5 Pt. 1): 683-688,

Civitarese, A. E., M. K. Hesselink, A. P. Russell, E. Ravussin and P. Schrauwen (2005). “Glucose ingestion during exercise blunts exercise-induced gene expression of skeletal muscle fat oxidative genes.” Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 289(6): E1023-1029,

Coyle, E. F., A. E. Jeukendrup, A. J. Wagenmakers and W. H. Saris (1997). “Fatty acid oxidation is directly regulated by carbohydrate metabolism during exercise.” Am J Physiol 273(2 Pt 1): E268-275,

De Bock, K., W. Derave, B. O. Eijnde, M. K. Hesselink, E. Koninckx, A. J. Rose, P. Schrauwen, A. Bonen, E. A. Richter and P. Hespel (2008). “Effect of training in the fasted state on metabolic responses during exercise with carbohydrate intake.” J Appl Physiol (1985) 104(4): 1045-1055,

Horowitz, J. F., R. Mora-Rodriguez, L. O. Byerley and E. F. Coyle (1997). “Lipolytic suppression following carbohydrate ingestion limits fat oxidation during exercise.” Am J Physiol 273(4 Pt 1): E768-775,

Horowitz, J. F., R. Mora-Rodriguez, L. O. Byerley and E. F. Coyle (1999). “Substrate metabolism when subjects are fed carbohydrate during exercise.” Am J Physiol 276(5 Pt 1): E828-835,

Schoenfeld, B. J., A. A. Aragon, C. D. Wilborn, J. W. Krieger and G. T. Sonmez (2014). “Body composition changes associated with fasted versus non-fasted aerobic exercise.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr 11(1): 54,

What Should My Protein Intake Be If I’m Trying to Lose Weight and Get Lean?

Great question! For starters and to be more specific, you likely mean that you are trying to lose fat, not necessarily weight. Losing weight means you just want the number on an bathroom scale to get lower which could be less fat but also less muscle (which is much more dense than other tissues), less water and even less bone (but this is unlikely). The basic tenets of weight loss state that the total amount of calories you consume in your diet must be less than the total amount of calories you burn across the entire day. Of course, other factors play into this simple relationship, but as has been discussed previously these two factors alone comprise the overwhelming majority of the responsibility surrounding how your body mass changes.

Thus the “easy” way to lose weight is to just not eat or drink any water, but this is absolutely not recommended for basic health reasons. Any individual who drastically cuts calories will likely see a rather immediate loss of weight and many times it is nothing more than water being lost first to a decrease in glycogen stores (glycogen carries 2-3x its weight in water) and second a loss of existing protein stores. This is where protein intake becomes so very important with dieting.

Keep in mind your body does not store protein like it stores carbohydrate or fat. If you reduce your caloric intake your body still has basic caloric demands that stem from its need to survive. Sure, it can tap into stored glycogen and stored fat (hopefully lots of it), but you have to appreciate all of the cells in your body still require proteins to repair, rebuild and regenerate. Again, life goes on! But when you drastically reduce your calories it is natural for your protein intake to decrease so now: 1) the amount of protein coming in through the diet is reduced but yet 2) your body still requires a certain amount of carbohydrate, fats and protein to allow for survival. Since your diet is likely not providing enough your body turns to its largest reservoir of amino acids and protein, your muscle. Thus catabolism or wasting away of your hard earned muscle begins. Even more, a recent study in a clinical weight loss environment has reported the reductions in lean or muscle mass that occur from intentional weight loss are not recovered with subsequent weight gain (Beavers, Lyles et al. 2011), thus once it is gone it takes a while to get it back.

When weight loss is attempted by competing athletes or someone who needs to perform at a maximal level the balance of all these factors becomes even more sensitive. An excellent review was written in the European Journal of Sport Science in July 2014 that discussed this important issue (Murphy, Hector et al. 2014). With someone who is competitive, drastic reductions in caloric intake (>500 kcals/day) are many times not compatible with high quality training, and any situation that reduces overall training quality will subsequent reduce the adaptations made by training or even worse an athlete will regress and get weaker, have less endurance and recovery less aptly. For this reason alone, the rate of weight reduction must be slower when compared to a non-competitive individual (Mettler, Mitchell et al. 2010) because an overall reduction in performance is not conducive to standing on top of the podium or having your arm raised.

So what recommendation did they provide? For starters, a large (and growing) body of evidence indicates that ingesting higher protein intakes that are 2-3x the RDA (1.6 – 2.4 grams/kg/day) during periods of restricted caloric intake can help to preserve fat-free mass. While the cellular mechanisms or reasons to explain this are still being fully explored, a competing or training athlete should consume a protein intake in the range of 1.8 – 2.7 grams protein/kg/day when combined with a modest reduction in caloric intake (approximately 500 calories per day) and include regular, modest doses of resistance training. These are general recommendations and on an individual basis, a number of others factors should be considered including their normal protein intake, overall training volume, body composition and other health factors. All protein sources should be high-quality and regular protein feedings (20-25 grams every 3-4 hours) are advised. To rapidly facilitate recovery and stimulating of muscle protein synthesis during recovery, athletes are advised to consume 25-30 grams of a high-quality protein sources with a high dose of leucine (6-10 grams of leucine total) with a rapid digestion kinetics (whey protein isolate with added essential amino acids is perfect): Phormula-1 + Anabolic Bridge! Finally, protein doses with a larger meal might need to be slightly higher as well as any protein dose taking shortly before going to sleep (Murphy, Hector et al. 2014).


Beavers, K. M., M. F. Lyles, C. C. Davis, X. Wang, D. P. Beavers and B. J. Nicklas (2011). “Is lost lean mass from intentional weight loss recovered during weight regain in postmenopausal women?” The American journal of clinical nutrition 94(3): 767-774.

Mettler, S., N. Mitchell and K. D. Tipton (2010). “Increased protein intake reduces lean body mass loss during weight loss in athletes.” Med Sci Sports Exerc 42(2): 326-337.

Murphy, C. H., A. J. Hector and S. M. Phillips (2014). “Considerations for protein intake in managing weight loss in athletes.” Eur J Sport Sci: 1-8.

3 Crucial Dieting Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Results

As a diet coach and trainer over the past decade I have seen a lot of things hold people back from achieving the results they want. Everything from cheating on the diet, not pushing hard enough in the gym, or excuse after excuse people will use. These next 3 mistakes I will list are in my opinion the most important mistakes to avoid doing but also mistakes that when addressed can easily be fixed so you can accomplish your physique goals.

1. Dieting without priming metabolism first

This is the biggest mistake I see people make when trying to lose body fat, period. To be able to lose fat the metabolism has to be in a good place to support extended fat loss. Let’s face it, fat loss is never an overnight thing it takes time, and to get from the beginning to end the metabolism dictates fat loss rate and also how much will be lost over the course of the diet. This is such an important topic and mistake to avoid that I wrote a whole book on the topic titled Metabolic Capacity and Reverse Dietingto help people understand the importance of how fat loss works and fat gain happens.

A great analogy to make is comparing metabolism to gas in a gas tank. Say you want to drive across the state of Missouri from Joplin to St Louis. To get there you will need to make sure you have enough gas in your gas tank or you will run out of gas and never get there. Metabolism is your gas in the tank, if you start off trying to diet with a slow metabolism it will stall out and fat loss will come to an abrupt halt.

Some of the reason’s metabolism might be slow are connected to calories being low, or even just coming off a dieting period recently. A lot of people are eating very low calories and they expect to start a deficit from those low calories, but they don’t have a lot of room to work with to create a deficit in calories that is needed for fat loss. If a female weighing 250 lbs is only eating 1300 calories and wants to try and lose 50 lbs she is most likely not going to make it very far due to her metabolism being used to 1300 calories and not having much room to create a deficit.

The right way to approach any diet is to work on getting calories UP before starting to diet. This will prime metabolic rate so it’s higher than it would be on low calories, and also gives the dieter room to create calorie deficits. That 250 lb female might work on getting calories up to 2000 a day THEN start a diet by dropping 200 calories and working fat off for a period of time until the body becomes used to those 1800 calories. This leaves room to drop another 100-200 calories to break that plateau. If she starts at 1300 calories she will eventually end up well under 1000 calories a day, not a healthy place to be in that wreaks havoc on hormone levels and sets the body up for a massive rebound in fat gain.

2. Not counting macros/calories

I have a lot of people that hire me to get them in the best shape of their lives who just can’t seem to get results and one of the first things I usually have to do is have them start counting their calories. Most report to me they are “eating clean” but when it comes to fat loss, or even muscle gain, it’s not so much about eating healthy as it is knowing how much you are eating.

Knowing total calories for the day isn’t the most important for serious gym goers, knowing the macronutrients (protein carbs and fats) that make up those calories IS. Protein yields 4 calories per gram that is ingested, carbs are also 4 calories per gram and fats are 9 calories per gram of fat eaten. So if a person is eating 200 grams of protein a day, that’s 800 calories. 300 carbs a day would be 1200 calories, and 50 fats would be 450 calories. Add that up and you have 2450 calories. If someone was just aimlessly eating 2450 calories they may end up low on protein, or too high on carbs or fats, etc etc.

By knowing the amount of each macronutrient taken in daily it’s easier to make adjustments to break plateaus, keep fat loss going, adjust up for muscle gain, etc. I like to give the example of going on vacation- if you are going to drive to Florida for vacation you wouldn’t get in the car and aimlessly drive trying to find Florida, you would have a mapping system and know every exit and stop along the way. Just “eating clean” is the exact same thing, eating aimlessly without knowing how much you are taking in. You could be eating too much, or too little.

3. Not weighing and measuring your food

A lot of people like to eyeball their food and not worry about weighing or measuring it out. I can assure you that this is a sure fire way to have no idea what to do when you are stalled out and need to make an adjustment to keep progress going. I am a big fan of measuring out foods on a food scale using grams, but I am not opposed to clients using cups and spoons if they are just learning and getting familiar with measuring food. Grams will be much more accurate, however, as long as you are using a system and sticking with it and knowing how many protein, carbs, and fats you are getting when you measure you food out that is fine.

Most people worry they are eating too much when they eyeball food, but in my experience I notice people actually under-eat when they eyeball food, especially protein levels. It takes a bit of work, but if you are serious about getting your physique goals accomplished weighing and measuring food will get you there faster than just guessing.

– John Gorman, MA, CPT, is a well-respected contest prep coach/nutritionist and the owner of Team Gorman LLC. John is also a published author, public speaker, co-owner of The Physique Summit Conference, and proud member of the 1st Phorm Phamily. His work centers on helping athletes achieve their maximum potential in various sports such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, crossfit, along with high school and college level athletics. You can follow him on Instagram @team_gorman , on Periscope @teamgorman , or .

What is Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load and Why Should I Care?

This is an interesting question and one that has relevance to most individuals. It’s especially interesting considering the overload of questions and discussion about protein relative to sports nutrition or supplementation. Upon considering the role of carbohydrate as a fuel source throughout any form of intense exercise, both endurance and resistance athletes should care about glycemic index and glycemic load. Even if you don’t consider yourself an athlete anymore, a good bit of data exists to suggest that glycemic index may impact an individual’s development or risk for heart disease or other types of health complications.

The glycemic index of a food relates to an assigned number that represents the extent to which ingestion of the food changes the amount of glucose in your blood [1]. The glycemic index scale in theory ranges from 0 to 100, with 100 being the score assigned to glucose or oftentimes white bread. Common food sources of carbohydrates (e.g., breads, bagels, pastas, grains, etc.) are ingested and the changes in blood glucose are recorded and compared to either glucose or white bread and a number is assigned. The higher the number, the more glucose levels in the blood increase and the lower the number, the less glucose levels change. In an effort to simplify things, foods with a glycemic index higher than 90 is considered ‘High’, 70 – 90 is considered ‘Moderate’ and <70 is considered ‘Low’ [2]. Initially, glycemic index was developed as a means to categorize carbohydrates, but its utility has been criticized as many factors can impact the glycemic index of a food. For example, how fast a food is ingested, its form (cooked vs. raw), content of other nutrients (fat, protein, fiber, etc.) and any other alterations made to the food before you stick it in your mouth can all impact its glycemic index [2].


Enter glycemic load… A major concept associated with glycemic index was its ability to predict and/or reflect the impact of consuming various carbohydrate sources. As it was investigated more and more, the term glycemic load was developed and continues to be popular today. Glycemic load takes into account how much carbohydrate is ingested in addition to the glycemic index of the food being consumed. Thus, glycemic load = (Glycemic index of a food) x (grams of carbohydrate found in the food consumed). As you can see, a food that has a glycemic index of 99 (that’s really high) may be perceived as having a tremendous impact on blood glucose levels, but if you only ingest one gram, its overall impact will be much lower than if you ingest 50 grams of it. Along the same lines, ingesting 50 grams of what is considered to be a low glycemic index food (a GI of 50) has a much higher glycemic load (50 x 50 = 2,500) than ingesting ten grams of a food with a high glycemic index rating of 90 (90 x 10 = 900).


I’ll admit glycemic index and glycemic load are terms often reserved for nutritionists, dietitians and clients who may struggle with their weight or have shown evidence of developing problems managing their blood glucose levels (i.e., diabetes). How does this relate to exercising people? Well actually a great bit. If you’re an endurance athlete, studies have shown that post-exercise ingestion of high-glycemic carbohydrates can speed up recovery and replacement of stored carbohydrate (glycogen) in your muscles. For example, in a excellent review by Jentjens and Jeukendrup [3]they discussed a study which (Keins et al.) compared the impact of ingesting high-glycemic index foods to low-glycemic index foods for their ability to facilitate recovery of muscle glycogen. After completing an exercise bout that depleted all of the glycogen stored in their muscles, participants ingested 70% of their daily calories in the form of either high glycemic or low glycemic carbohydrates. As expected, plasma insulin levels were almost 100% higher in the first six hours after consuming the high glycemic index foods. Insulin is secreted by the pancreas and transports glucose from our blood to inside tissues that need it (your exercising muscles). Increases in insulin are closely associated with increases in muscle glycogen, so ingesting a diet which increases insulin should increase the ability of your muscles to re-build the glycogen that was burned up during exercise. This is exactly what the researchers found as muscle glycogen synthesis rates were 61% higher after eating a high-glycemic index carbohydrate when compared to a low-glycemic index carbohydrate [3].


So who gives a hoot about carbs if your idea of a workout is slinging steel instead of pounding pavement? Protein is your friend, right? Protein is important, but you can’t overlook the importance of carbohydrates. To start, studies have shown that just six sets of leg extensions to muscular failure using 70% of a person’s maximum (your leg workouts are more than one exercise, right?) can decrease muscle glycogen in the exercising leg by 30% [4] and when higher intensities (70% vs. 35%) are used the rate at which glycogen is broken down for fuel is almost two times greater than at lower intensities [5]. The need to replace lost glycogen is important and ingesting a high-glycemic, carbohydrate source is a critical consideration. Our body needs glucose and insulin levels to be increased to start replacing glycogen and the greater both of these are increased, the faster glycogen is replaced [3]. While high glycemic index foods stimulates massive increases in glucose and insulin (a good thing for recovery of glycogen), small amounts of them minimize their effect. As an example, the glycemic load was found in a recent 2006 study to be the primary factor which influenced the magnitude at which glucose and insulin levels increased upon ingestion [6]. Whether you ingest a food source that stimulates a large insulin response (e.g., baked potato or white bread), some form of supplementation (e.g., Ignition) or a meal is up to you. Interestingly, research has shown that even when ingesting mixed meals of different amounts of carbohydrate, fats and protein that the glycemic index and the amount of carbohydrates ingested (or the glycemic load) was the primary factor which predicted changes in glucose and insulin [7-8], however practical considerations such as portability, optimal nutrient timing, cooking, etc. make supplementation the most sustainable practice to consider.


In conclusion, your body has a limited supply of carbohydrate stored inside it. During exercise, the glycogen found in your liver and muscle is used preferentially as a fuel source. For most individuals, significant amounts of glycogen can be lost after an hour of intense exercise and most studies agree that at moderate levels of exercise, your body will run out of glycogen after three hours of exercise [9]. As exercise progresses, the level of cortisol increases in the blood, which has a powerful ability to chemically rip apart muscle so it can be used as a fuel source or for repair (not exactly the best scenario). When exercise is halted, ingesting a healthy dose (50 – 75 grams) of high-glycemic carbohydrates which results in an overall high glycemic load is a critically important consideration for all types of athletes. Carbohydrate ingestion sharply increases glucose, which just as sharply increases insulin. An increase in insulin works doubly by rapidly decreasing cortisol inside the blood while the high amounts of glucose and insulin will rapidly stimulate the recovery of muscle and liver glycogen. The detrimental effects of exercise are a necessary evil, for sure, but using the glycemic index and glycemic load of foods to your advantage can help to facilitate your recovery and optimize how well your body can respond to training.



1. Foster-Powell, K., S.H. Holt, and J.C. Brand-Miller, International table of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2002. Am J Clin Nutr, 2002. 76(1): p. 5-56.

2. Shils, M.E., et al., eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 9th ed. 1999, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins: Baltimore, MD.

3. Jentjens, R. and A. Jeukendrup, Determinants of post-exercise glycogen synthesis during short-term recovery. Sports Med, 2003. 33(2): p. 117-44.

4. Pascoe, D.D., et al., Glycogen resynthesis in skeletal muscle following resistive exercise. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1993. 25(3): p. 349-54.

5. Robergs, R.A., et al., Muscle glycogenolysis during differing intensities of weight-resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol, 1991. 70(4): p. 1700-6.

6. Galgani, J., C. Aguirre, and E. Diaz, Acute effect of meal glycemic index and glycemic load on blood glucose and insulin responses in humans. Nutr J, 2006. 5: p. 22.

7. Wolever, T.M. and C. Bolognesi, Prediction of glucose and insulin responses of normal subjects after consuming mixed meals varying in energy, protein, fat, carbohydrate and glycemic index. J Nutr, 1996. 126(11): p. 2807-12.

8. Wolever, T.M. and C. Bolognesi, Source and amount of carbohydrate affect postprandial glucose and insulin in normal subjects. J Nutr, 1996. 126(11): p. 2798-806.

9. Romijn, J.A., et al., Substrate metabolism during different exercise intensities in endurance-trained women. J Appl Physiol, 2000. 88(5): p. 1707-14.