Muslce & Fitness: You favor a paleo-type diet for sedentary people, but how should athletes and lifters eat?
Nate Miyaki: Carb-controlled, caveman-style diets may be the best approach for improving body composition and biomarkers of health in sedentary and insulin-resistant populations. However, anaerobic exercise—strength training, intervals, etc.—changes the game. If you exercise intensely three or more days a week, then your body is in post-workout recovery or pre-workout preparation mode almost 100% of the time. I suggest that athletes start with the Paleo foundation of animal proteins, vegetables, and whole fruit and add in starchy carbohydrates around workouts.
So you prefer potatoes and white rice as carb sources for gaining size, but they’re pretty bland. Any tips on how we can choke down more of these?
For sweet potatoes, add a little cinnamon. On regular potatoes, I add sea salt, natural salsa, roasted red peppers, or pico de gallo. With rice, you can mix in an animal protein source like ground beef and vegetables or make a stir-fry. Try this one: Stir-fry a pound of thinly sliced flank steak, half a white onion, a few green onions, and sea salt together, then serve over rice.
What do you say to those who want to go low-carb?
I look at carbs as an essential nutrient. If you train like a wimp, you should skimp. If you train like a beast, you should feast. Anaerobic metabolism runs on glucose. It can’t use fatty acids or ketones like it can at rest or during lowintensity, aerobic-based exercise. So in response to high intensity training, carbs can help you refill depleted liver and muscle glycogen stores, prevent catabolic activity, support the immune system, and support normal thyroid levels and metabolic rate. Carbs also boost total and free testosterone levels and help you sleep. As long as you’re in a caloric deficit, you can keep some carbs in your diet to fuel training and prevent muscle loss. You’ll still lose significant amounts of body fat.
What are your starting macros for fat loss and for muscle gain?
For fat loss, one gram of protein per pound. Carbs are 1 to 1.5 grams per pound, and fat is 0.25 to 0.3 grams per pound. To gain muscle, I stick to one gram of protein per pound, keep the fat about the same, and just increase the carbs to 2 to 2.5 grams per pound. If you’re still not gaining mass with these numbers, add some healthy fats to increase calories even more. Remember that these are just starting numbers and you need to adjust as your diet progresses.
When someone is already very lean, less than 10% body fat, what changes do you make to get even leaner?
You have to realize that when you’re getting toward low single-digit body fat, you are working against what is natural for the human body. At this point, you need to be more disciplined and detailed with your diet than the average joe. I’ll cut out added fats at this stage to reduce calories. You can still get all of the essential fats you need as a by-product of your animal protein foods. So keep a few whole eggs, beef, and fatty fish in your diet to support normal functioning.
There is so much confusion about nutrition. What will always be true?
That consistent application is more important than complex programming. With the Internet, it’s easy to get caught up in information overload. You think that if you mix enough different advice and research abstracts, you’ll have a fivestar recipe for six-pack soup. But you end up with mush. Most elite athletes could tell you their approach in minutes, even if they don’t understand the full complexity of it. The difference is they know what they are fighting for, set goals, and never waver.