How to set up an effective diet to cut or bulk [Podcast]

In this interview on Swole Radio we talk about how to set up your diet for fat loss or muscle growth. We go into detail on all the macros, the optimal energy intake and more. The time stamps below give an overview of the topics. Enjoy!



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Time stamps

  • 0:35 Planning a fat loss phase
  • 2:35 Calories, rate of loss
  • 8:21 Macros: overall set-up
  • 9:18 Should protein be increased in a cut?
  • 20:17 Carb intake
  • 25:36 Fat intake
  • 34:25 Cholesterol and saturated fat
  • 37:53 Fiber
  • 40:09 Food choices for weight loss



This is an automatically generated transcript of the podcast.

Dr.Swole 0:00

Yo, what’s up Dr. Swole here MD Pro physique athlete today I’m joined again by Menno Henselmans. It’s thanks for being on the show Menno. A pleasure as always, say we’re going to be talking about fat loss. So we’re going to start from the ground up. We’re going to be talking about calories, macros, and we’ll see how far we get and really get into the science of losing fat and maintaining or continuing to build muscle. So yeah, no, I think it’s been a while since we’ve ever talked about fat loss actually together, but this will be a good one. I think for people. I think just starting out as a broad overview, someone’s trying to plan a fat loss phase, say they have a substantial amount of fat to lose, how should they kind of set up this fat loss phase like the length of the phase, how much they should try and lose?

Menno 0:51

The most important thing is simply how much do you want to lose? So you can you can kind of do the math and if you know your body fat percentage, or you have a pretty good idea, and you know to which body fat percentage you want to go. And then depending on what happens to your lean body mass, like if you assume it’s constant, the math is relatively easy to do and then you can calculate net metabolizable energy, which is I think it’s 1260 calories per kilo of adipose tissue roughly that you need to lose. And that’s, and then you can see how long it’s going to take you at a given energy deficit, to to get there but I think for most people, it’s more important to just simply get into to target energy deficits with their current body fat percentage warrants with higher body fat percentages warranting higher energy deficits, or at least allowing for higher energy deficits, and then just taking it from there. I think for a lot of people, it’s much more important to get into a good routine now. Rather than to plan you know, the fat loss phase, it’s gonna last eight weeks or it’s I’m going to lose X percent body fat or x kilos of muscle or fat. I think for most people is much more important to focus on the process and the journey, especially in terms of short term goal setting rather than aiming for the endpoints because in particular, because very often you see that when you kind of get into a good groove, and things are going well, people want to get a lot leaner than they think they do in the first place. As a you know, as a competitor, you know, the difference between just lean and being shredded is actually still massive.


Dr.Swole 2:22

Yeah, yeah. No, I actually like that kind of having that open ended, kind of fat loss phase approach, like when you’re especially if someone had doesn’t have a lot of experience with fat loss phases. So yeah, I guess the the next main question would be in terms of setting up calories, how should people go about that?


Menno 2:45

recommend going by energy deficit. So what I do with my clients and what I teach my students at my PT courses is to estimate all the individual factors and then like your BMR, your affirming foods, your physical activity level, your strength, training, energy expenditure, just adding it all up together, which is not too difficult when you have a set method and then selecting an energy deficit based on how high sort of percentages and how advanced they are. So if someone is really advanced, and they’re very lean, then you probably only want to be in a 5% deficit or show like some some of my clients are just having a 2.5% deficit like you really want to take it slow. If you’re going from five to 4% body fat as a guy and you want to cling on to every bit of muscle and you have time then slow is the way to go. But if you have say an obese client or if you’re obese and you just want to get to a healthy body fat level, then you really don’t need to worry at all about muscle loss. Most researchers found that for obese individuals, the rate of weight loss and lean body mass losses are almost been related. So there’s so much fat to lose for the body that the it’s very easy for the body to prioritize fat loss, because the problem occurs when you’re sufficiently lean that the body now has to weigh Okay, are we going to burn fat or are we going to burn muscle? And what energy deficit does is creates a stress it creates a stress for the body to metabolize some tissues to free up energy, like the body needs that energy to fuel your heart, your lungs, tissues movements, and you’re not consuming as much energy so your negative energy balance you’re not consuming as much energy as you’re expending. So the body has to catabolism its own tissues to make up the deficits. And if you have a lot of muscle mass and very little fat mass, then the priorities for your body because while we have a lot of muscle mass, and it’s very energetically dense tissue, it’s energetically inefficient to maintain the muscle mass because it also takes a lot of energy to maintain the muscle mass, whereas the fat mass, we don’t have a lot of it. And it’s very easy to keep it doesn’t require a lot of maintenance to keep fat around. So the leaner and more muscular you get, the bigger the stress for the body to start metabolizing muscle instead of fat and that’s what you don’t want. So you want to keep the stress low enough and then all the other factors also come into play for you know sleep, stress management, optimal protein intake, nutrient timing, all of these things matter just like the matter for muscle growth, and the more optimized your diet is in general, the harder you can push the energy deficit because the body’s still willing to metabolize muscle mass.


Dr.Swole 5:25

Yeah, yeah, it’s kind of continuum, as you say, you know, as you become more advanced and when you’re getting into those more extreme sort of ranges of body composition, say we’re talking about someone who is you know, relatively lean, maybe like as a guide 10 to 15% body fat, like what are kind of ranges of deficits that people should aim for.


Menno 5:50

Probably in that type of clientele, assuming most things are normal, I would recommend like a 10 to 30% deficit. So and then again, depending on how optimized everything is personal preferences, how hard you’re going to push within that range will determine exactly what default mean something you can always go slower as well, of course, but I think there’s not much need to stick with only 5% deficit if you want to get the fat loss. Going now, then. I think 10% is generally a good minimum 30% This as fast as I think you can push it realistically in most cases without sacrificing muscle in the process.


Dr.Swole 6:29

Yeah, good point. Yeah, I think as the deficits and more I mean less aggressive like if you if someone tries to take it really slow, especially if they’re not very experienced, they can start running to the issues like tracking track ability as as well as just kind of opportunity costs of the time you’re spending in deficit the way I see it. Yeah, it’s


Menno 6:51

mean like long term. Because this is something studies often don’t look at also with diet breaks and the like. You also have to weigh in, like you said, the cost of time saved and the time could have been spent bulking. So yeah, it’s great if you’re, you’re taking it super slow, because that’s also one approach and I know that some people advocate this just go super slow, like the minimum viable deficit is always the best. That’s basically their approach. The problem with that is yeah, you’re not gonna lose any muscle. Maybe you can even gain some during the dieting phase, but it’s not going to be a lot of muscle growth, typically, especially not in an advanced trainee. And then you’re taking forever to get the fat off. And you’ll probably be better off maybe even sacrificing a little bit of muscle or at least just just, you know, cling on to as much as you can, and then having a lot of time left to bulk where you can relatively easily rebuild that muscle due to muscle memory and then getting back to or getting to a new peak level of muscle mass. Then the overall time balances better. And actually, it’s certainly research now, that balance when you factor in not just what happens during the cutting phase, but also like long term where you’re best off with the bulking phase factored in. We actually don’t have great research on that. So you have to just kind of guesstimate it’s based on our experience.


Dr.Swole 8:08

Yeah, yeah, that’s really interesting question. I feel like it’d be difficult to look at it in the research just because you’d have to track people for so long and and meaning people adhering. Going on to Macros I think this would be the next juicy topic to get into with relate as it relates to fat loss. So yeah, how do you like to approach setting up macros?


Menno 8:34

Very similar to when bulking over the difference mainly arises out of necessity. When your calories go below the level where you ideally want your protein, fat and carbs. So for for most people, there is a certain amount of fats that you would want them to have for optimal remodel functioning. Fats also have some anabolic effects on the dry side of essential fatty acids, like a phrase and but depending on the diet, you also learned a decent amount of carbs, maybe that’s actually questionable, like my latest systematic review on this suggests that you can go even keto without loss without sacrificing performance in the long run. And then, there’s protein which of course you want enough. Protein. I think most people or many people. Now it’s very controversial. Well, we’ll say one more thing, and then there’s the deficit. And my approach is actually that there’s no difference. And there is it’s a fact that there is no research directly showing there is a difference. And we actually have a lot of research in untrained individuals at least directly showing there is no difference in protein requirements in energy deficit versus at maintenance. So my approach is generally similar proportional macros. Just when you get to the level where you have to sacrifice on one of them. So you want to underground carbs 80 gram fat and only 50 gram protein and you don’t have to calories for that. Then you have to start weighing. Okay, where am I going to compromise?


Dr.Swole 10:00

Yeah, the protein thing is interesting. I think it’s something that people talked a lot about, where people tell you that you need to jack up your protein when you’re trying to lose fat. What’s kind of Yeah, like the argument or, you know, for and against that?


Menno 10:15

Yeah. So the history of that goes back to mostly to a paper by Eric Helms. So he did is thesis I think it was for his PhD on protein requirements. And he wrote an extremely, extremely popular paper, arguing that protein requirements increase in energy deficit. And then we had a great theory to support it, which I mean, it’s mostly intuitive, you there’s greater protein breakdown and greater risk of muscle loss, so maybe more protein can help ward off that muscle loss. If you look at protein kinetics, like what happens to protein synthesis, protein breakdown, it’s actually not very logical that protein needs will increase, I would argue, because protein synthesis levels go down a lot and protein breakdown levels only increase when you get into quite severe energy deficits that few studies have found no difference in protein breakdown levels versus maintenance versus energy deficits. And some studies finds there is a bit of a an increase, but it’s mostly a decrease in synthesis. Now Logically, if there’s a decrease in synthesis and protein breakdown is not changing much, that will decrease protein requirements, because the body’s using less of it for synthesis, which makes perfect makes perfect sense, right? You’re not building much muscle and energy deficit compared to when you’re bulking. Now, Eric then conducted its own study on this, where as part of this thesis, it was pretty short and limited. So there were there were limitations. But the onus is on study actually didn’t find any difference in Are you found that? What was that 1.6 or 1.8 was still sufficient, even strength trainees and energy deficits. And then we argued yet because the study got a lot of invitations, I think the theory is still just three of us still warrants higher protein intakes and energy deficit, and that the paper began super super influential. So basically, everyone started referring referencing to that paper and for me, it never made a lot of sense, like the actual study in the paper didn’t support the arguments. And the theory, like logical theory of protein kinetics also doesn’t support the arguments in my view. Plus, we have multiple studies showing them in detail. Like I think Hoffman had a great study with people in energy deficit surplus versus maintenance in like three conditions and three different protein intakes for at least maintenance and energy deficit. And then seeing new protein requirements actually change when they go into energy deficits when they go into maintenance, and there’s no effect but then the argument is okay, there’s no affecting sanitary in bulk, but there is an effective strength for this and that effect, if you break it down, in certain scientific terms means you’re looking for a triple interaction effect. So there is an effect of strength training on protein requirements. And the effect of strength training or protein requirements itself differs for people that are either in maintenance or surplus or energy deficits. Now, just a priority you can as a scientist, you want to be pretty skeptical of an argument like that because a triple interaction effect in nature is exceedingly rare. It is exceedingly difficult to demonstrate any kind of triple interaction effect that’s like scientists generally are in Psych psychology, for example, they are super happy when they can demonstrate a real interaction effects for example, something differs in men and women. That is, that’s difficult to demonstrate a and also it’s not that common, like a lot of people think, or let me put it this way, the null hypothesis in nature actually quite often is correct. So often, there are no differences, when unless we have very good reason there is to believe there is a difference. Now, okay, that’s all theory. So if you just look at the data, there are no papers showing higher protein requirements and energy deficits. It’s there’s no single study that’s found greater protein requirements in even strength trainees and energy deficit than 1.6 grams per kilogram of body weight, which is the same as in maintenance or when bulking and but there are also no good studies. I will admit that compare the same trainees and deficit versus maintenance so the good part is we have an untrained individuals we don’t have those untrained individuals so there’s there’s no direct data on the topic the best we happens I think, last year or two years ago now, last year Glen at all and I’ll mistaken they did a study looks at the sodium requirements per meal. You know, the cap of the ID if you can only use 20 gram, high quality protein and a meal for politics emphasis. That’s a different argument.


Menno 14:59

And they compare that to research with factories doing the same kind of study which has been done multiple times in energy maintenance store surplus, and it found no difference. So the limited research we have the empirical evidence as well as theory does not support


Dr.Swole 15:20

actually bring out this. They’re like, recommend


Menno 15:34

not so much I mean, there’s no inherent harm in over consuming protein. I think health wise most of the effects are, if you’re healthy, you can consume as much protein as you can stomach pretty much the first effects are going to be just stomach upsets. So for most people, that’s the real issue. The main issue in industry definitely is that one protein is costly. That’s just a practical concern. And secondly, like it’s the Treasury like financially, most protein sources are much more expensive than for example, grains or potatoes or other data resources. And secondly, you’re spending calories that you get muscle, fat surgery slash carbs, which might be more beneficial if you’re doing very low calories, especially for most people. It’s not a big concern, but if you look at competitors, it actually becomes a concern. Otherwise, you’re simply definitely like the traditional approach has been to just cut out and that’s pretty much and then you set the price and you can fit in, but I think that was also a lot of football brothers, which, at least from natural trainees. They I think they were quicker when you’re going to zero fat diets compared to you still have at least 20% of fat taken in there.


Dr.Swole 16:55

Yeah, no, I think yeah, this is another kind of point where the opportunity consequences where people don’t talk so much about, you know, maybe you’re increasing protein, but then that means you’re


Menno 17:06



Dr.Swole 17:09

And especially when we’re talking about fat loss here, those start to become more important where you’re really hurting for energy and you really want to be maintaining your train performance. So yeah, it was one of those scenarios where in fall off my protein actually comes down a little bit. I think just because I am not so free with my macros, and I really want to be preserving training performance.


Menno 17:32

Yeah, we also often see that protein quality increases. So that’s another arguments against even if protein requirements which theoretically decrease, which I think makes sense. If they did, then might be offset by the increase in quality quality because they probably are involved you’re gonna get quite something through protein from rice or carb sources. If you don’t like our diet, at least. And if you’re an energy deficit and you’re cutting out grains and then you’re not going to use that protein from those sources, so the relative proportion of iron balls is always like, chicken, fish, dairy is going to increase in the diet.


Dr.Swole 18:11

Yeah, and then next to carbs and fats. You’ve already touched on this a little bit but you know, the high versus low carb debate is a big one.


Menno 18:21

Definitely. That’s, I think the first thing to clarify is that there’s no difference in fat loss results. Whether you go to high carb or low carb. There are some papers going to be very small differences but by and large, the vast majority of the empirical literature that is well controlled diets and looked at diets have the same energy content and the same protein intake found no differences in the rate of fat loss or even weight loss in many different populations. So, you know, as long as representing a given level of calories at a given level of protein, the carb to fat ratio is an issue where I think people devote a lot of attention to this issue, but it’s actually quite trivial. In terms of the fat loss results. And there is some argument to be made for training, performance, muscle growth and all these things, but fat loss data is quite clear any differences going to be marginal? Last year, I think last year, there was actually a paper that’s provided for a meta analysis even provided reasonable evidence, even though it’s relatively sketchy capital. Low Carb advocates that low carb diets do seem to the energy expenditure slightly unfair to low fat diets, low carb diets might result in higher energy expenditure, which must be erratically left if you over the long overdue extrapolate. It should include fat loss, but like I said, this isn’t the case recently. That’s usually asked 12 weeks max.


Dr.Swole 19:58

Yeah, I think that people should really be focusing on you know, the overall calorie intake is telling them what how much fat they’re gonna be. Losing. And, you know, with a lot of these diets, when you start getting, especially with more fat type diets, like people lose sight of the fact that it’s really the calorie deficit that’s doing it in terms of, you know, really optimizing muscle growth and training performance. Does the carpet take matter?


Menno 20:28

Think it’s going to have a very small effect. We’re actually currently in the process of systematic review provided requirements for muscle growth. But we already produced kind of a sneak peek of it. And our last systematic review on carbohydrate intake sport performance, where we looked at 14 studies and I think we have only a few extra in the new systematic review. We’re not done with the search. So maybe there are still a few but I doubt I missed any that’s the overall body of evidence shows in controlled trials, no difference in muscle growth, no difference in muscle hypertrophy between even ketogenic diets and high carb diets provided that they have the same protein intake in the same energy intake. Now, on a practical matter, what you do often see is that people have a hard time and particularly ketogenic conditions to book. And in particular, I think when your fat intake starts exceeding your protein intake, you’re getting into an impractical range of diets with ketogenic diets, you know, your you cannot just consume fatty meat anymore. You have to get because you’re out of carbs. You’re out of protein at that point, so and you need some more fats. And then what do you consume? You’re just going to have butter or olive oil. Yeah, exactly. So I mean, that’s not a great way to live in my, in my view, the first place and I think for for a lot of people, it just doesn’t work very well. Plus ketogenic diets have appetite suppressive effects in a lot of individuals, and it just becomes hard to get all the calories and especially when you’re already full and the prospect is you need some more calories and then you’re gonna have to download or something. I did it like at night my students go guys, no pain again. Get one. So what you often see those are just the boss. They’re just kind of doing keto versus fat, and then the other group gains momentum and I think there is a bit of a bias to the sphere where people show up with these findings as saying, Look, get it to the guys who don’t facilitate most hypertrophy without really scrutinizing that they weren’t skin energy, some bust properly to begin with. And that’s fine. You can make that argument but then you should also look at the studies and see ketogenic diets are superior for fat loss, right? You can’t have it both ways. They’re either are superior for fat loss, and not as good for muscle growth, or they’re the same. And it’s all about the energy intake, which I think is the case. I don’t think ketogenic diets are superior for fat loss either at least it’s going to be by traditional margins. So I think both bikes will be trimmed off. So yeah, that sounds I don’t think the carbon tag matters a lot. And I do think that even if you do a ketogenic diet, and this is also what we recommended in our review, review paper, you want at least 15 grams of carbs. Pre and typically post workout as well. So that’s that’s not a lot. It’s very easy. But for example, it rules out faster training. And it also rules out the like hardcore carnivore type diets and keto diets where you’re really focusing on just piling on the coconut oil, butter and bacon. And eggs and really foregoing the fats for the carbs, which I think is a very poor approach to ketogenic diets. I think you should rather try to maximize the carb intake that you can while reaching your level of desired level of ketosis rather than trying to minimize carb intake and the goal itself. That’s that’s another thing. So yeah, overall, I’d say to your copying things actually not that influential for muscle growth.


Dr.Swole 24:05

Yeah, I remember in Downing olive oil at some point as well. I guess it’s a rite of passage.


Menno 24:14

I had like 15 Other calories left and I was super full. So I was like, okay, olive oil, super healthy, you know, relatively easy way to get down 1500 calories. So I like 15 tablespoons of olive oil. And I can tell you there’s like certain points where you cross about 400 calories of olive oil. It gets really nasty. You can at that point, I just, I felt the ball of oil in my stomach. And I was so nauseous I had to lie down but as I was lying down, I could just feel the ball of oil like rolling around in my stomach. And whenever I moved you could literally just feel it was like they’re literally a ball of oil you know, that’s when you change positions. You can feel the oil just shift and it was it was so nasty. It took me like I think 90 minutes before I could get up out of the couch and just function again because I was like if I’m if I walk up now I’m just going to puke either because of the sound and the feeling of the oil or just the actual gastric upsets


Dr.Swole 25:18

recommended Yeah, I think, you know, looking at macros, I think it’s, it’s also it is important though to think about that in terms of you know what’s sustainable for you and personal preferences come into play, especially knowing that probably there isn’t no as big of a difference as people might say. And then how about fats?


Menno 25:39

I think fats are actually underrated. And this it actually follows quite logically. I think recently metapost That you’re like testosterone levels matter which is to some people heresy and to some people extremely obvious for for muscle growth. And there is quite clear data showing that especially with testosterone replacement therapy, and the like someone’s testosterone level influences like if you increase their testosterone level to gain muscle mass, which is, I mean, fairly obvious if you put it this way. But as people ask this argument that within the reference range, it doesn’t matter. Like there’s studies magical limits the reference range, and then there’s no effect there. And then below it, there is a big effect and above it is an effect and in between, nothing happens. And it just doesn’t make any sense. That’s again, one of those things you don’t see that the nature you don’t see like a curve, which goes up and then it’s completely flatlines for certain periods and then goes off again, that is almost unheard of in nature. Anyways. That aside, the research is quite clear that your testosterone level does in fact matter. Smaller differences, of course have smaller effects. So I think typically, if you look at the data, it’s like one file per hundreds in the reference range that goes from like 300 to 1300s. So theoretically, if you were to gain you would go from like the super low and you’re not clinically hypochondria, but you go from the super low end to like the super top end, which is not very realistic. But let’s say that would happen. Then you could gain about 1000 on the range. I always forget the units I think it’s nanograms per deciliter. Yeah, there’s like multiple ranges in use. And, but it’s the range that goes from like 300 to 1400. So that’s 1000 and it will be like 10 pounds. Again, Like 10 pounds of fat free mass, and that’s without training. So with trading, you would probably increase that more. Now, if you gain say 50% extra muscle mass, then it would probably be your lifetime it would be 15 pounds extra fat free mass potential. So that would be very substantial. Not like not doing like but very potentially big. Most people don’t don’t get nearly that effect. Typically on higher fat diets, you get maybe a 20% increase your testosterone level. And if you’re, say at 700, and you add seven which is quite good, you’ve got 20% of that, which is again, good. Then you have on 50 So you’re gonna gain like 9.5 pounds, you would gain maybe two pounds combined with strength training over the course of your life. Yeah, that’s not a big effect anymore, right. But it does quite logically follow. We know that high fat diets increase testosterone levels, and we know that higher testosterone levels increase muscle mass. They’re small effects. But I think it’s quite hard to argue against the logical continuation of these facts, that therefore higher fat diets should increase muscle growth. Not much, but a little bit and I think it becomes more significant when you get to contest prep and the like, because a lot of people in contest prep are actually gonna, like they literally their testosterone levels, both men and women, they tank below the reference range. So some bodybuilders on stage are some literally castrate level testosterone. levels, because of the super high stress you are, you’re basically 1% away from death in terms of body fat, and like it’s an extreme sport, and you get an extreme look, and, but for your body, it’s, you know, it’s very intense. So I think if you can keep that up a little, at least a little bit, then the effects are typically larger than one pounds per 100 100 range. And so, you know, for a bodybuilding competitor might. It might make some difference, especially to an advanced competitor. Again, we’re talking maybe a few pounds over super long term, but that can be worthwhile for your competitors.


Dr.Swole 29:27

Yeah, so what would you say is like a minimum that people should be sticking to for fat intake?


Menno 29:32

Yeah, that’s hard to say. There’s not a lot of research on this, but I would go based on the hormonal data with about 20% of energy intake and ideally, you would like to base this on body weight or something just like protein requirements, but we simply don’t have those data. So I’m, and there’s also the point where you can say, look, I want a one gram per kilo of body weight or fat, and that’s great. Okay, you want that but then if you get you just have to push your calories to the level where you don’t have those calories you want. It’s like, okay, you want to train. So, yeah, I think 20% of energy intake is very practical in that sense, because, well, unless you want to go keto, you also need some carbs. And typically, I recommend that you’re not going keto, you want to keep the carbs above 100 on the net, and preferably closer to 200. Because if you fall into that range, where you’re you’re not ketogenic, but your carbs are below 100. I find a lot of people they feel really poorly. And I think that’s also significant part of the bad reputation is low carb diets have in some populations, they they don’t really go ketogenic and they don’t keto adapt. So you’re kind of in this range where you don’t have carbs to fuel performance, but you’re also not keto adapted. And you probably are dipping in and out of ketosis. Sometimes, like in the morning, you may actually be dipping into ketosis, but you’re not keto adapted. So you got the Keto flu. Yeah, you’re kind of spending your life in that limbo. And, yeah, most people just feel horrible butter that actually impacts your physique directly. It may not but it’s certainly going to impact your adherence.


Dr.Swole 31:23

And then so that 20% Like basically like even a say, let’s say contest prep client for yourself, then you know, when things get really extreme, that’s kind of like your you know, hardline that you don’t, you don’t sacrifice fats for carbs.


Menno 31:30

Yeah, again, it’s, I would like to draw a line in the sand based on the hormonal data, both especially short term and if you are, say, two weeks out in two weeks, you’re not going to take hormone levels, or even if you do, it’s going to take the effects are mostly genomic. So they take typically a month for more to manifest. So you have kind of some leeway there the last month or so, before you could you could basically tank your testosterone levels and it won’t yet impact your physique. Now, if you’re gonna stay at that body fat level, or if you know that your next show is say, two months later, and you have to be just as shredded, then you have to, you probably want to keep the fat in as a natural competitor. Because otherwise you’re going to you’re going to feel the effects of that. But some sometimes, like I said, even with if you if you’re using 20% of energy intake if someone just gets really hungry and their calories have to get really low, for example, your female bikini competitor, and they’re like the ones with the sucky genetics and they have to go to like 1100 calories and training guys and Yeah, that sucks. So and then you want to get your protein in and then maybe the 20% fat is already is pushing it. Like you, you maybe you have the calories theoretically, but you really don’t want to waste any calories on fats for satiety typically, me typically I tell them like try to go for olives and avocado that’s like associating as guests for fat sources. But then, during contest prep, also, there’s the issue of FODMAPs with avocado, so you don’t want to be bloated on stage. And yeah, some people don’t like avocado or it’s extremely expensive. So yeah, then if you have to go with other fat sources, it’s you really hate to spend some of your calories on a fatty leaf, because it doesn’t provide a lot of satiety at least not short term. So yeah, sometimes I’m like, Okay, we’re just gonna make sure you’re not completely starving and we’re going to compromise on fats, preferably temporarily.


Dr.Swole 33:22

Yeah, I think that’s a tidy is a big player when it comes into choosing macros and especially like, I think, you know, for different people, some people will respond better than others like some. For some people. Thoughts are very satiating, and for some people, not and, you know, ultimately, consistency is going to be key with your fat loss and you really got to find something that allows you to live.


Menno 33:40

Yes, and there’s some research on women in general have greater satiating effects of fats than men. And I find that my clients that’s also generally true all sorts of hormonal literature, I would say is stronger in women than in men for the effects of not just testosterone but also growth hormone levels, estrogen levels, which estrogen is also anti catabolic. So there’s more more to be gained in women I feel from keeping fat intake up compared to men were especially short term and can sacrifices with fewer immediate costs.


Dr.Swole 34:25

And this is another question kind of had, which people don’t really talk so much about but you know, comes into play when you get to the more extreme levels of macros for fat loss. What’s the role of cholesterol and saturated fat for you know, muscle growth?


Menno 34:44

Yes, saturated fat has a quite a direct and ultimate effect on testosterone production of the free fatty acids. Free types of fats with monounsaturated polyunsaturated saturated saturated seems to have the strongest direct link also mechanistically as well as cholesterol with testosterone production, because all basically all steroid hormones are produced from the from cholesterol and you can produce cholesterol with saturated fats. So there is that link, but most research finds the total fat intake is most important. And then maybe saturated fat is you know, a bit relatively more important than the others. But if you’re just getting a lot of old fats, you’re probably going to be okay with decent mix. I don’t feel you have to go out of your way to make sure you’re maximizing saturated fat. Also health wise, might not be okay for all people. And then cholesterol is interesting. I wrote an article which I called cholesterol The Forgotten anabolic where I argued basically that we actually have quite some research indicating cholesterol, both mechanistically via for example, lipid raft formation and anabolic signaling and via improving hormone production can aid muscle growth and increase protein synthesis even acutely, which is probably due to the lipid raft formation and potentiating anabolic signaling and research directly in strength phonies has been quite mixed on this. I think one study did not see a recent study. The last one on this did not see a difference in muscle growth for strength development, but they found greater fat loss and consuming higher cholesterol intake, which would suggest that they bring greater energy deficit and still getting the same muscle growth and strength development, thereby potentially meaning if they were in the same energy balance, they could have been more So research is not crystal clear on this but there are quite some hints that cholesterol has anabolic effects in muscle tissue. And it therefore good to have maybe 400 300 to 400 Minimum milligram cholesterol. And for those super worried about cholesterol oh my god is gonna clog my arteries and kill me. That’s probably not the case. I think even the official guidelines for Americans have dropped cholesterol and European guidelines as well as as being something that well as the media portrays it as like it’s going to something you consume the clogs up your arteries and kills you. In fact, most dietary cholesterol intakes have no or minimal effects on blood cholesterol levels to begin with. Like your body regulates that quite well. So I feel it’s quite safe and potentially beneficial. So I typically recommend that athletes especially those in contest prep and super serious, they pay attention to consuming some cholesterol as well. If you have a few eggs in your diet. That’s it. You’re done. So it’s not that aren’t either.


Dr. Swole 37:42

Yeah, I think that’s kind of an interesting point where it comes more into play when your macros get extreme, where like when people are trying to read their diet have any kind of fat approach and then not really a backhoe but how do you approach fiber when it comes to fat loss?


Menno 38:03

Fiber I think it’s super important for practical reasons. And it’s me it also has some physiological effects it’s going to increase thermic effect of food and decrease the energy ultimately diets. But most studies that look at this, you’re talking about a few percent at most. So directly given the same calorie intake fibers not going to have huge effects on fat loss. But it’s going to make the process a lot more enjoyable. Because you’re going to be more satiated. You’re going to be healthier, you’re gonna overall feel better typically, if your digestion doesn’t get issues, but that’s usually not due to fiber intake, but moreso to specific types of fiber called Wallpops. So fermentable types of fiber, some people don’t react well to basically the higher the fiber, the easier to buy adherence. I think the last meta analysis on this found that increasing your fiber by left stretch my memory I think it was every 10% increase or every 10 grams increase in fiber is results in a five to 10% Decrease in unlimited energy intake, which is huge. It means that if you are debt free rapidly if you extrapolate those findings would mean that if you go up your from your fiber to like 20 to 60 grams per day, which is I think very realistic for for most men, obstructionists then you basically effortlessly go into energy deficits, you wouldn’t even have to tell them to track their macros. And that’s certainly my experience if you take someone with a low fiber diet, and you’re just going to change the food choices around to make sure that they get a lot of fiber, and then also grains but like, actually good fiber sources like fiber high fiber calorie content, like vegetables, fruits, certain types of beans, even potatoes can be not a basket. Vegetables typically are king for sure. Then yeah, it’s they typically end up in energy deficit just because it’s so satiating and you’re up so much food volume in a diet. That’s you can’t eat more calories.


Menno 40:00

Yeah, exactly. Vegetables are like my best friend in the contest prep. And then yeah, I wanted to circle back and talk a little bit about specific food choices. When it comes to say protein does it matter in terms of what type of protein you ingest?


Menno 40:23

Definitely, for example, I mean, there’s this idea that more protein is more satiating, and even many researchers have espouse this belief, but it’s simply not in line with the data we published. A paper where we directly compare protein intakes of 1.8 versus 2.7 grams per kilogram per day instruction is in energy deficits. And we are across food difference experiments. In multiple measures. We basically found no effect of protein being more satiating. Than just in our case, particularly carbs. So I think practically, this is also blatantly evidence if you consume a whey protein shake, like tell me how satiated you are. Yeah, it’s not the fact I typically get hungry from whey protein shakes. If I’m in the morning, and I haven’t yet and I got some away shake. It’s like my hunger is like, Ah, that’s right food. So and suddenly I’m hungry. I don’t know if it’s the effect of the insulin spike or just the fact that it’s sweet taste and like No, no substance. There’s no chewing on mastication. That’s fine back to satiety. So yeah, the protein source is super important, just like with anything. In fact, I will go so far as to say that most people in fitness tend to overvalue macros and undervalue food choices and for practical purposes, because like we said, like the carbohydrate intake is probably not that important fat intake and we were also talking about fine tuning. protein intake. Yeah, you need enough but most research finds even 1.6 I typically ask 1.8 grams per kilogram per day is enough. And yeah, so you have actually quite some leeway with the macros, and it’s mostly fine tuning, but food choices are crucial for practical diet adherence is starving all the time. Like nobody sustains a diet like that. So high fiber foods, low calorie, low energy density foods and foods that are very hard and chewy, and don’t don’t have a lot of calories compared to how much volume they have. Those are great. So in terms of protein sources, you wouldn’t be talking about a way shake, but do we be talking about like the super thick kind of Greek yogurt, or Quark or cottage cheese, you know, the kind you can, you can open the lid and then hold it upside down and then it doesn’t fall out. Then, you know, that’s the that’s the good stuff, I think. As Wi Fi is very important, very popular in a lot of countries. And it’s I just had it this morning. It’s like it’s so thick. It’s not the best in terms of taste, but it’s really satiating because it’s like you’re eating cement. And it has a much bigger effect on a much more filling effect. Then we shake for example.


Dr.Swole 43:11

And then how about the rates at you know, that protein digests that different sources?


Menno 43:20

Yeah, it’s correlated with our stationing and is typically like fast absorption and all these things are mostly hyped by supplement companies, but reality is a slower kind of absorption, digestion is better for satiety and sometimes the differences are quite peculiar. For example, there is research that goat milk is more satiating than cow’s milk, even though the macros are nearly identical, and it’s like

Yeah, why that is? remains a mystery. But some of these things a lot of these things are also just mental. Like there are huge, huge psychological effects of what you eat and how it influences your satiety. And if you really believe like, adamant believer that you need like high carb, high protein, for example, and you eat that then that in itself plays a big part in your success, for example.


Dr.Swole 44:19

And then, how about the specific carb sources? In terms of the I guess, people talk about complex versus simple carbs?


Menno 44.25

Yeah, complex versus simple carbs is quite an arbitrary distinction. Basically, looking at the, the carbon chain and just an arbitrary cut off in terms of how many sugars that are really doesn’t have any physiological significance, and the GI and glycemic load glycemic index, even insulin index have also a bit of fun to have be almost uncorrelated with our satiating carbs, or I think what I actually often do is I often recommend just fiber like forget about carbs altogether. Just make sure you consume in a fiber and then I know your carbs are going to be fine anyway. They get you’re going to have enough unless you are you know it mixed strength endurance athletes, you play soccer, those kinds of things. If you’re just doing strength training, then probably that’s, you know, that’s enough for to relieve carbohydrate requirements. And yeah, then you’re you’re focused on the good things because a lot of people also, you know, I know people that are like in a diet and they, they have some calories left and they feel like they need some carbs, either pre workout or at another time. And then they’re literally eating things like candy, because they, they need the carbs. And if you’re like your primary goal is fat loss. You’re eating candy because you feel like you need the carbs. Yeah, I don’t think that’s right, prioritizing the right goals. You’d be so much better off eating an apple, for example, in terms of society and not to mention health and like


Dr.Swole 46:10


Yeah, I think this is one of those things about food choices that you mentioned that, you know, people sometimes get misled in the fitness industry where say like with the protein thing, people kind of cobbled together their macros, they’re like, oh, I need some protein. Well, let’s have a protein shake. You know, our people are like, Oh, I gotta have some some sugar, like Perry workout.


Menno 46:22

Exactly. And I think even I think one of the biggest effects, that’s one of the things that makes the most impact in my clients is that I tell them to think recipe first, and then tweak the recipe to fit your macros rather than fake macros first, because a lot of people they make their diet macros first. And you get diets like, oh, I have 20 gram protein, so whey shake, and then I have five grams of fats. So I get a handful of nuts or something. And oh, if 40 grams carbs, so as good of oatmeal, and then I guess you’re gonna consume that with water, because you don’t have any calories anymore. So you have to like, hold me with water, a few nuts and away shake. And it’s like, that’s not a meal. That’s not an enjoyable way to go for life. You know, eating these these little handfuls of different items that happen to fill your macros. It’s much better to think okay, what do I like is the recipe. Maybe I want to eat pasta or something and then tweak it if you don’t have the carbs for example, replace it with food that you noodles, or, you know, replace rice with potatoes or pasta with potatoes and, you know, or just zoodles if you don’t have to fat then switch to low fat beef or more fat switch to full fat, dairy free cheese or whatever. But you can tweak the recipe so that you still have an enjoyable meal that actually feels like a meal that’s enjoyable and satiating. And that also fits your macros, rather than random combination of ingredients that happens to fit some largely arbitrary configured configuration of  Macros.


Dr.Swole 47:39

Yeah, I think there’s kind of a funny consequence that has come out of the, If It Fits Your Macros generation where, you know, we walk into a grocery store, we’re like, okay, these are my target Macros. But things together like a lego…


Menno 48:08

What choices choices they you know you talk about like carbs and I mean carbs can be sugar, or it can be oatmeal, or it can be broccoli, and those are completely different foods. The eating experience how much you can eat them. how likely it is, you’re going to under or over eight. So yeah, I don’t think I don’t think it’s very valuable in most cases to think in terms of these macro categories. First and foremost, rather than picking food choices


Dr.Swole 48:42

and then for yourself know what are your favorite, you know, low calorie density foods when things get really lean.


Menno 48:45

It depends on where, like there are a lot of tropical fruits for example that are great, like star foods and hot plumbs, but you don’t typically find those in in like bummed tropical countries. I like berries a lot. Berries are super the most satiating and super nutritious for us about quorum size, or yeah, just in general. Yeah, protein sources like protein source pretty standard like whitespace or shellfish, shellfish. is actually super underrated, because like most people know fish and poultry and meat and dairy. But shellfish is on a league of its own, because it’s like whitefish except it has only half the protein contents. And then most people are like that it has only has half the protein. But the beauty is that you have the same volume of food, which is half the protein so you can eat twice as much food to get your protein. So, which we often buyers, for example, frozen, you have these bags with mollusks and all these other types of shellfish and they’re not expensive. They’re satiating, and they’re actually really good. Not difficult to make, you can just boil them and add some mustard or something. And you can do a lot more of those than whitespace because whitespace just goes down to easily essentially for for satiety and taglines are also extremely underrated because just like with the shellfish, egg whites have basically nothing but protein and water, which makes them uniquely low in energy density, you’re gonna have a lot, a lot of egg whites and they are super satiating because they also you have the effects that I have where it’s kind of you can beat it, so it adds a volume so I like to eat a lot of wraps and fangs with that. If I think like pancake, I think like how many egg whites kind of stuff in here. Like it’s not about how you know how do I if like one or two actually need them for the the texture I’m like, how many acolytes could it possibly stuff in here without learning? And that’s like the base, right? And then you can add some other stuff and then maybe you need some grades to make sure it doesn’t become like a Aggie mess. It’s actually still has like the rap texture or something. But it’s super, super satiating. And in terms of fats, I also already alluded I think actually the least chosen options almost for fats are actually the most satiating avocado and olive, avocado and olives. Arcane. Olives in general are super underrated, because many people like olives. And I mean there there can be expensive. That’s that’s the thing, of course, but many people like olives, and they have excellent macros and the next tremely good track record for health. colors aren’t. Everyone knows how healthy extra virgin olive oil is. Now, that’s the processed version of olives. So you add fiber to that, and phytochemicals and the like and all the good stuff that you find in bands and then you have olives. So olives are, I think one of the most hidden or neglected superfoods, if you will, at least in bodybuilding circles, because, you know, they’re a staple of Mediterranean diet. And yeah, like I said, Africa was great, because it’s a great source of fats, lots of fiber, lots of nutrients. And you can make great things with it. Other than that, yeah, most of us aren’t that satiating other than just having the facts but the facts they don’t provide a lot of acute because they don’t have a lot of volume. Most of the veggies and doodles you’re talking noodles, like a miracle noodles, they’re great if you’re if you tolerate them and like I said fibrous foods, sort of like think that non non good stuff


Unknown 25:27

Yeah, I love it. Gonna be going to the grocery store after this. So yeah, wrap it up here. I think this has been really productive conversation. Gets a fun question. Do you have a most funny fat loss story?


Menno 53:39

Most funny, fat loss story. Well, I had one couple as clients for a long time. And I guess it’s kind of tangent to what we talked about. They the girl especially at some point basically stopped losing fat or fat loss was really slow. And add on 1200 calories. And typically, when a woman has like 1200 calories and training days, I’m like, either something’s wrong. Or we should check like your you know bloodwork because we might actually be talking about something like hypothyroidism or something like some women have to go lower than that. But it’s not the norm. And typically, there are other indications you can see it in there kind of genetics and stuff. But this this that not yet none of the indications and or boyfriends might also clients was also doing okay, but not like I felt like the numbers were lower than they should have been I was like, Okay, maybe they stole metabolism that allows checks on unusual checks. You know, I have systemic I’ve kind of questions actually, that are inspired by how police catch liars. That’s how you that’s simply the scientific kind of approach to detect non adherence. With diets, you have to ask very specific questions. Like many people just ask, like, are you adherence with the diet and then everyone’s like, they just feel like saying yes, even though they know maybe that they’re not. And often they also don’t realize that they’re not because you don’t know what you’re forgetting. So you have to be like, Are you tracking this are you tracking your foods raw instead of when cooked? Or are you using the label? Are you maybe using the wrong database and my fitness pal to track are you not forgetting your stuff you put in your coffee? Are you you know in the last seven days, what was your protein intake? What was this can you produce your macros Do you have a meal plan? Yada, yada, yada? Everything turned out? Well, the first I checked it once at some point, I was like, Okay, I’m just gonna do the entire checklist again. And then the guy was like everything. seven out of seven days. Everything was good. It was good. It was good. And the girl was like, six out of seven, six out of seven, six out of seven. And I was like, what’s that last day? Because we didn’t. I’ve never heard anything about this. Everything so far has been great. And she’s like, Yeah, that’s our weekly chocolate day. Like your weekly chocolate day. She’s like, Yeah, so once a week. We this is like something we’ve always done, and we really love it once a week. We just have as much chocolate as we want. Like all the chocolate we want. We’ve been doing this the entire coaching is like Yes. Like, yeah, that’s, that’s a problem. That’s a lot of calories. I mean, if you really insist on cheat day or something, maybe we can you know, tailor something, but chocolate is extremely caloric. So if you have an all you can eat chocolate day, you have to suffer a lot to make up for that. And that’s what is happening now. You’re suffering a lot six days a week to have to fit in that one chocolate day. And they’re like, Oh my God, we are showing disappointed. You are like the seventh Coast Coast. We fired it and they all say the same thing. We really thought you would make a difference. And like, okay, I can work with this. So yeah, I’m not sure if they still have trucker day. But yeah, moral of the story is calories counts. And if once a week you feel like screw it. Sorry, but you know, calories counts, they rack up. And then yeah, there is a limit to how much you can compensate for that, especially when it’s something like chocolate.


Dr. Swole 56:27

Try to resist the all you can eat chocolate this Yeah. That’s awesome. And anything new on your end tomato research or course


Menno 56:41

Yep, you gotta be not gonna be out for a while, but it’s gonna be about kind of evidence based lifestyle design. Like all the big choices people make in their life. I’m gonna dig into all the research or I have dug into all the research and now compiling all my notes and actually turning it into a book. And there is also an app most likely coming which has now been over a decade in the making, cybernetic fitness, which is a workout and nutrition app. So it’s not just a nutrition, it’s not just tracker. It’s actually a cybernetic coach like it’s it is AI with algorithms that creates your entire meal plan, your program, your diet, even your meal plan, like it will tell you exact recipes and the like. And I think it’s going to be pretty sweet but it’s so much work because we want to do it much better than most apps or just if then logic and simple templates. And our app actually has algorithms and AI. So it’s, it was almost too difficult to pack it into an app to begin with. We needed actual software engineers that produced like video games for good companies, you know, rather than web designers, and I think early 2020 Free hopefully, that will be sweet.



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About the author

Menno Henselmans

Formerly a business consultant, I've traded my company car to follow my passion in strength training. I'm now an online physique coach, scientist and international public speaker with the mission to help serious trainees master their physique.

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