I’ve had a few people asking what my diet and training is like since I started putting up pics from Lightning in a Bottle. You’ll be surprised how simple it is. A lot of this is about what I DON’T do.
First, I’m going to lay it out for you, so you can see how surprisingly simple it is. Then, I’ll expand on each of the points further down.
- I get at least 80g of protein per day, usually close to 100g.
- I don’t worry about other macros.
- I don’t count calories.
- When I’m bulking, I eat as much as I can until I’m very full, but not until I’m stuffed.
- When I’m cutting, I eat as little as I can until I’m a bit hungry, but not until I’m starved.
- I have milk and a big meal after my workouts. Otherwise, I don’t follow a meal timing or frequency plan. I eat when I wanna.
- I take 3 supplements: Vitamin D, Creatine, and ZMA. I’m mindful of Omega-3, but I eat fish and eggs rather than supplements.
- I use a modified version of Wendler 5/3/1, a barbell program.
- Each workout consists of only one or two exercises. Deadlifts. Bench press and chin-ups. Front squats. Overhead press and hollow pull-ups.
- Each workout is only 9 sets when bulking, and 7 sets when cutting (incl. warmup).
- Each workout is only 48 minutes when bulking, and 36 minutes when cutting (excl. stretching and foam rolling).
- I workout every other day, so that’s 3 or 4 workouts per week.
- Every 4th week is a lightweight “deload” week, where I focus on form and allow my body to recover.
- I try to do more reps and add more weight, but safety and recovery are more important.
- I don’t do any cardio. I dance, but I do that to build the skill, and not to burn calories.
“What should I do?”
“Well, what do you want?”
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of my diet and training, every discussion about diet and training should start with goals. For myself, I want…
- to look good year-round
- to look great at festivals
- to make progress
- to know and accept that progress isn’t linear, setbacks happen, and that’s okay =)
- to avoid injury
- to enjoy my training
- to not stress about my diet
Let me also share what are NOT goals of mine.
- I’m not trying to enter and win any competitions here (Except for your heart, baby girl).
- Strength and conditioning come along for the ride, but they are not a priority at this point in my life.
- I enjoy what I eat, but it’s more important that I don’t stress about what I eat. If I’m hungry now and nothing’s cooked, I’ll eat something as simple as canned salmon with a drizzle of teriyaki.
And now, the Why behind everything I do (and don’t do).
1. I get at least 80g of protein per day, usually close to 100g.
This is way less than what you see recommended elsewhere (FYI I’m 5’5″ and about 130 lbs). I read an e-book called How Much Protein? by Brad Pilon. In 112 pages, Pilon explains how protein-related studies are conducted, reviews some of those studies, and concludes that 70-120g of protein is enough for most people, including geared bodybuilders.
Now, you do need some protein. Protein doesn’t just supply the building blocks for muscle growth. When you’re cutting, it also mitigates muscle loss and helps you feel full. So that’s why I have a minimum of 80g. How did I get this number? Based on my weight compared to the general population, it seems reasonable within his 70-120g range. It’s also the amount of protein in one pound of raw 80% lean ground beef. In other words, it’s arbitrary, lol.
2. I don’t worry about other macros.
When you’re bulking, the biggest dietary driver of muscle growth will be a caloric surplus (eating more than you need for maintenance). And when you’re cutting, the biggest dietary driver of fat loss will be will be a caloric deficit (eating less than you need for maintenance).
You need fat, not only for the fat-soluble vitamins, but the fat itself is necessary in metabolic processes. It’s arguable whether you need carbs or not, but some really great foods with lots of other nutrients often have carbs. Carbs aren’t the devil. Meals tend to taste best when you have carbs AND fat. Given all the above, I just let taste dictate my macronutrient composition.
3. I don’t count calories.
See 4 and 5 below.
4. When I’m bulking, I eat as much as I can until I’m very full, but not until I’m stuffed.
It’s very difficult to focus on anything when you’re stuffed silly all the damn time. Eating as much as I can without feeling stuffed is the most I’m willing to do with my bulk, so that I’m not taking away from my other goals in life.
On the other hand, I’ve never lost my abs during a bulk. If you find yourself getting too fat during a bulk, you might want to count your calories for a week or so until you get a handle on that.
5. When I’m cutting, I eat as little as I can until I’m a bit hungry, but not until I’m starved.
It’s also difficult to focus on anything when you’re starving all the damn time. So eating as little as I can without feeling starved is the most I’m willing to do with my cut, so that I’m not taking away from my other goals in life.
That said, if you’re not getting any leaner during a cut, you might want to count your calories for a week or so until you get a handle on that.
6. I have milk and a big meal after my workouts. Otherwise, I don’t follow a meal timing. I eat when I wanna.
After a workout, your muscle cells are primed to absorb nutrients, so it’s recommended you put as much of your nutrition after the workout as possible. But, this isn’t nearly as important as the lifting itself, getting enough protein on a daily basis, and caloric intake.
7. I take 3 supplements: Vitamin D, Creatine, and ZMA. Instead of Omega-3 pills, I eat fish and eggs.
Creatine, despite its somewhat scary name, is actually produced by our bodies. Creatine is legal and is probably the most researched athletic supplement of all time. Very safe, with a ton of other benefits beyond looking swole, such as better training capacity, recovery, and even cognitive function.
ZMA helps with sleep, recovery, and testosterone.
Omega-3’s are awesome for pretty much every organ system in your body. I like the foods that they come in, namely fish and eggs, and these foods are an absolute rave of nutrients.
1. I use a modified version of Wendler 5/3/1, a barbell program.
I love the barbell. You can load anywhere from 45 to 1,000 lbs. on them. They can be used for so many different exercises. That’s why it’s the centerpiece of my office gym.
I love Wendler 5/3/1. Your entire workout is based on percentages of your 1 Rep Max. Every 4 weeks, I take a look at how much I’ve been lifting, plug in some numbers, and in less than 4 minutes of planning, I know exactly what to do for the next 4 weeks. This is my favorite thing about 5/3/1. No decision fatigue here!
I like how you work with different poundages in 5/3/1. With straight-set programs like 5×5, the first few weeks feel easy AF, and the last few weeks leave me #rekt.
5/3/1 is also very easy to customize to your goals. During a bulk, I add 2 drop-sets after the core workout. During a cut, I just do the core workout.
2. Each workout consists of only one or two exercises. Deadlifts. Bench press and chin-ups. Front squats. Overhead press and hollow pull-ups.
Beauty in simplicity.
3. Each workout is only 9 sets when bulking, and 7 sets when cutting (incl. warmup).
4. Each workout is only 48 minutes when bulking, and 36 minutes when cutting (excl. stretching and foam rolling).
I take rather long rests between sets, during which I read, listen to podcasts, or chat with my workout buddies. I stretch and foam roll everyday, and that is not counted in the time above.
5. I workout every other day, so that’s 3 or 4 workouts per week.
I found this to be the best for me, in terms of recovery. It does make it a bit hard to train with me since my workout days shift: Mon Wed Fri Sun one week, Tue Thu Sat another week, then back to Mon Wed Fri Sun.
6. Every 4th week is a lightweight “deload” week, where I focus on form and allow my body to recover.
This is part of the Wendler 5/3/1 program. This means that 1 out of 4 of my workouts wouldn’t even be considered workouts by people who need to feel destroyed by their workouts.
7. I try to do more reps and add more weight, but safety and recovery are more important.
Progressive overload, which means adding more reps and/or more weight to your training, is the most important thing for muscle growth. But you can’t perform progressive overload if you’re injured or not recovered.
8. I don’t do any cardio. I dance a little, but I do that to build the skill, and not to burn calories.
Cardio is a terribly time investment. It takes roughly 6 hours of cardio to burn an extra pound of fat. It can also slow down, or even take away from, your strength and muscle gains. For more on why cardio is not only unnecessary but detrimental if applied incorrectly, click here.
I dance a little, but I do that to build the skill, and not to burn calories. When you get better at a skill, you end up burning fewer and fewer calories anyways.
If you have a cardio activity that you love, by all means, keep it up. Just know that you may need to cut back a bit to make room for recovery
Timing the Cut
I always time my cuts so that I’m at peak shredz for a big festival. Last year it was EDC, and this year it was LIB. Since I know when these events are, I keep an eye on how my body looks as the event gets closer.
In 2015, I did a 4 week cut, then 1 week eating “normal”. This year, I stayed leaner through my bulk, so I only did a 2 week cut, then 1 week eating “normal”. Both times, I asked my friend Henry around 2 months out when he thinks I should start cutting. He gave me a good estimate both times. Thanks bro.
Patience and Consistence
The last thing I want to say is that I’ve been patient and consistent. I’ve been using this diet and training protocol more or less since late 2013. The input or “work” is very manageable. I designed it that way. The output or “results” aren’t dramatic, but still positive, and predictable. I’ve had to skip training sometimes due to sickness or travel, but I get right back into it. Actually, I should say I ease back into it, with slightly lighter weights or fewer reps for that first workout. Because again, safety and recovery are most important. And I make sure I stay pretty lean year-round. I never have to cut for very long, and I never feel deprived.
Thanks for reading! Hopefully this will help you not only get better results, but also save time and stress less about it all =) See you next year at LIB! We’ll take a flex photo together haha.