T Nation

The Darden Diet?

Hi Dr. Darden,

Are you still recommending the same dietary approach in The Body Fat Breakthrough? Any thoughts on any of the new ‘concepts’ – eg Intermittent Fasting, etc.?

Also, we met years ago when you were in Dallas. And I worked with Ken Howell from your 32 Days to a 32 Inch Waist book.

1 Like


If you look closely at my last book, Men’s Health Killing Fat, you’ll see that the dietary basics are still the same as my program, 32 Days to a 32-Inch Waist. But also you see that I’ve expanded my menus and added a chapter on the cook-at-home eating option. There are 22 tasty recipes that are easy to manage. Plus, there’s a complete meal-plan table that covers daily listings for 14 days.

I have tried intermittent fasting with some of my dieters, but the overall results – while exciting at first for a couple of weeks – never produced the results that my tried-and-tested 30-year-old programs had.

On page 22 in Killing Fat, I have a graphic labelled “Thermodynamic Synergy.” In the description of it, I point out that my fat-loss program consistently produces 3.5 to 4 times the results of any other plan that has been studied and accurately reported.

If this is true, and it is, why would I want to change any of my basic guidelines?

I have an archive of before-and-after measurements and photographs to support my recommendations.

It’s unfortunate that most people respond best to something NEW. That’s the nature of modern marketing. But, at least in the world of fat loss, the OLD science still has tremendous merit.

You remember well the type of results we got in Dallas in the late 1980s. Ken and Claude Howell were superb examples. I’m still getting those types of results – and better – today.


I do remember the results from Dallas! Didn’t know Claude, but, Ken was a ‘lab rat’ due to the nature of his job and I saw him infrequently because of the nature of his job. May have shared this in the past, but, he showed up at my office one day and I honestly didn’t recognize him at first, his appearance had changed so drastically in a short period of time.

BTW, Ronnie Ray trained at our local high school gym (as did his sons) – he was doing SS in preparation for a bench press competition. Geeze…over 300lbs with a SS workout. Didn’t seem to affect his performance as he won the competition that year as I recall.

Dr. Darden,

With the calories, is there any particular advantage to a one-size-fits-all approach such as yours? Obviously just about any overfat man will lose fat on 1400-1600 calories a day and a heavier man will lose more quickly, but for someone who is well about 200 pounds, and above 250 for that matter, is there a way to eat a little more and still stay in a deficit, obviously losing more slowly, and how would you recommend adding whatever additional calories (more carbs, protein or fats)?

I’m just asking because I’m looking for a sustainable way to lose fat, not necessarily a faster way (I’m 265 now). I know discipline is important, but I’m wary of losing and putting it back on again.

BTW, how did Angel Rodriguez tolerate that calorie range?

1 Like

Yes, a big man – weighing more than 250 pounds – can tolerate a diet of 1400-1600 calories a day for several months. But – and I know the next detail sounds a bit hokey – to be successful you’ve got to get an extra 60-90 minutes of sleep each night. Most dieters do not realize that the majority of the fat-loss process occurs while they are asleep. Plus, the vast majority of the muscle building happens at night, too.

In other words, you’ll lose fat and build muscle more effectively if – rather than be more active – you stress more inactivity. And the best inactivity is sleep.

Once you get the hang of this process, you’ll be snoozing to lose.


In the Darden diet book that I have (Bodyfat Breakthrough), he has a chapter on how to maintain weight once you reach a fat level that you are happy with. Basically, advises that you experiment on yourself: pick a higher calorie target and see what your weight does, then adjust that target accordingly.

So if you are a bigger guy, and find that his recommended calorie targets produce a bigger calorie deficit than you are comfortable with, you could apply that maintenance strategy. Just adjust the calorie targets upward by 200 calories, and see how it goes.

I’ve been tracking calories for years now, and while the numbers are probably imprecise on a day to day basis, I suspect the errors either cancel out or become systematic. In either case, if I need my weight to fall, I reduce my target intake. And if I consistently meet that reduced intake level, my weight generally responds. It is the lack of consistency which is always my downfall.

As Dan John would say: simple, but not easy.

Hey Dr. Darden,

Since, the beginning of the year I have lost about 20 plus lbs. I started around 175 & now I’m about 152 or 154. I count my calories which is 1,400 per day as well as a gallon of ice cold water a day as you recommended in your book. However, I’m not able to drop below 151 lbs which makes me think I have hit a plateau since I have been hovering around that weight for about a month or two. I workout pretty consistently and have been keeping my muscle if not gaining some despite loosing weight, but again I can’t drop past 151. The only exception to this was when I purchased Rich Piana’s supplement that contains 10 different types of creatine & Chromium which made me loose 4 lbs from one day to the other when I first started taking it. Since I’m 28 & about 5’8 I’m not sure if I should decrease my calorie intake a bit more since 1,400 per day seems pretty low already. Please let me know what you recommend.

It sounds to me that at 5’8" tall and 154 pounds, you are where you need to be. To be sure, I’d like to see a photo and a waist measurement.

1 Like

Given your age and size, 1400 calories per day is pretty low to be maintaining weight. The tables I find on the internet suggest that a moderately active 154 LB male your age typically requires about 2600 calories per day of food. Something seems off here… maybe you are eating more than you think?

It was mentioned earlier that good sleep is very important for losing weight and gaining muscle. I typically have been able to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night but in the last several months of stress caused by the virus on job and household and the worry associated with where this country is going I find I go to bed at 11 and wake up at 4 and can’t get back to sleep. I wake up thinking about to much. I’m not getting anywhere near 8 or 10 hours of sleep. I fall asleep like a log but wake up to early. Some days I’m just dragging, some days I’m fine. Any suggestions of what to or not to eat before bed to help get 8–10 hours sleep. Even after a hard day and hard workout where I’m tired I fall to sleep in a wink but keep getting up to early . I keep trying to just lay there but don’t know if that helps in the muscle rebuilding department?

For 20 years I’ve been taking three capsules of BioTest’s ZMA before bed each night.

I’m not kidding. It helps me get to sleep and stay asleep.

1 Like

Thanks I’ll give it a try!

I’m 31 at the waist.

1 Like


The photo is not bad, not bad at all. You look to be at a nice level of leanness. See if you can’t add 5 or 6 pounds of solid muscle.

Gotcha. 5 or 6 lbs in how long of a time frame? A month or 2?

Approximately 2 months. If you can’t built it in 2 months, you can’t do it.

Hello Dr. Darden,

I read your article on growth explosion with the teenage boys including your son. Phenomenal work! I am interested in trying this. I am a 32 year old female. I read you suggested 20 calories x body weight. Would I also follow this caloric guideline for muscle gains? Thank you!

I’d have to know more about you and your training history. What’s your height, weight, hair color, and eye color?

I’m 5’6, I go between 168-170. Brown hair, brown eyes, primarily Hispanic. I am not sure where my body fat is right now. At 180, I was 36% body fat

I’d say take your calories per day down to 1400. The level should get you on the leaner road, and still allow to build some muscle.