T Nation

What Next? 23 Y/O Trying to Optimize Youth


23 year old that just finished the V-diet. I'm happy with my leanness, as I can see abs and faint veins in that region. However, I don't really know which direction to take my diet. I'm fairly good at eating healthy, but there are just too many options. I really like the concept of IF, but beyond that, I am lost in terms of ratios, overall calorie count, etc.

Some stats: I'm 6'1, 175 lbs.
Bench: 260
Squat: Haven't gone heavy since December (injured hip), but could do 275x 3 just fine.

Goals: Looking to add strength, with a little mass. I think my ideal weight is about 190 at this level of leanness, but I realize I'm a long time from that. I'd just like to take advantage of my metabolism and natural T at this age, as I plan on always being natural. Any advice/ideas are greatly appreciated!

Also, I just started Eric Cressey's High Performance Handbook. It's a 16 week program aimed at strength, but the way it's written clearly shows that it's about correcting imbalances as well. I'm excited about the program. I'm lifting 4x/week, and plan on doing some sprints on 1 of the off days if the hip is good.


I’d suggest not, at this time, locking into any precise plan for exact ratios, etc. The fact that you’re already fairly good at eating healthy, had the motivation and discipline to do the V-Diet and now have the effect of that working for you, means to me that I’d rather see strategy towards even better lifestyle eating and getting thaty going rather than aiming for exact ratios and numbers.

What you’re saying about too many options applies actually to many aspects about lifestyle better diet.

Part of the reason I think why there are so many plans, and success with so many plans, is that pretty much all plans share a key quality: they restrict choice. They disallow certain mistakes, or many mistakes. Not having the option to do various wrong things easily prevents doing them, whereas leaving everything open and asking to apply judgment and restraint tends to result in a lot of problems.

For example, if living alone and having a rule to, say, not buy potato chips at all or not more than once per month or per week, or if there are other people buying them having a rule to not eat them at all or not more than once per month or per week, or having a rule to not eat anything with added “vegetable oil” and potato chips of course fall into this category, it becomes essentially automatic that potato chips will not contribute towards making you fat.

Whereas, having more options available, such as “Potato chips themselves are okay, the problem is excess calories, excess carbs, or excess fat, so have potato chips but keep consumption within the rules” in practice usually doesn’t work so well.

Better to have had less options during the day. Potato chips not an option, etc. Better.

Another example would be John Berardi’s program where meals are generally either lowfat P+C, or lowcarb P+F. Aside from its own benefits, this program automatically takes out a lot of bad options. It’s very easy for caloric intake to stay moderate, instead of having to deliberately decide to leave food behind, etc, which is harder to do.

A lot of advantages result from reduced options, but the question is, what reduction of options will work best for you? That’s individual. But some things carry over very well for a lot of people and are just generally really useful methods. Here are some:

If you make your carb intake more principally foods such as brown rice, rye berries, quinoa, barley, buckwheat, or slow-cooked oatmeal (plus for workouts, your workout nutrition) then it’s actually going to be somewhat difficult for you to go too far wrong on carbs, if at all. A cup of brown rice or oatmeal for example is only about 30-40 g carbs. You want your daily intake to be at least 100 g/day, quite likely more like 200 g/day, or if you are very active perhaps 300 g. This is likely to self-regulate well if choosing foods such as this and having some basic idea of carb content, rather than strict counting.

(For example, having the basic idea, you’d know that one or two cups of the above foods per day for example should not be your sole carb source on an ongoing basis: too low!)

On fruits, strongly favor the fruits themselves over juices, and avoid going overboard on fruits. Chronically high fructose intake has adverse metabolic consequences, while for example (there is no precise yes/no number) 25 g/day, which will come from about 50 g carbs from fruit, is okay. This amount is provided from for example two apples, two bananas, or four oranges per day, or one cup of berries.

Also avoid added sugar. Dried fruits are perfectly okay if keeping account of carb content, but the thing is, what seems like and is experienced like a fairly trivial amount of food, is actually a huge amount of sugar with dried fruits. They’re very deceptive and so real care should be taken.

On vegetable oils, for the most part I really suggest being strict. There’s an enormous amount to be said for just saying no to products containing “vegetable oil,” soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, peanut oil, or canola oil. If adding oil to foods yourself for cooking, best choices are macadamia, coconut, and olive (extra virgin if not cooking to high temperature, extra light for high temperature.)

Don’t fear beef fat or dairy fat, so long as amounts are reasonable. Reasonable means about 30-40% of daily calories from fat.

Chicken fat or pork fat would be healthful if the animals were not soy-fed, but almost all of them are, even when sold as “free-range” or “pastured.”

The entire balance of caloric intake is, necessarily, protein. (If not carbs or fat, that’s all that’s left.)

Lastly, I really recommend ending eating within 12 or at most 14 hours after arising. One of the reasons this can make a major difference, aside from adding some natural caloric restriction, is that actually there is not just one circadian cycle in the body, but “clocks” in each of the organs, which can become desynchronized or entirely disrupted, which is associated with development of metabolic disorder, diabetes, and obesity. Dividing food intake into active period and rest period is effective in helping to maintain integerated circadian rhythm throughout the body; failing to do so is disruptive to it.


Thank you for your thorough reply. As mentioned in my original post, I like the idea of IF. Part of the reasoning is just due to my class schedule and it’s really convenient to skip eating in the a.m. and drink coffee all morning. I then work out fasted (sipping on carbs and BCAAs).

Your analysis of the various diets makes good sense. I’ve decided to track my diet on myFitPal and see what changes, if any, I notice. Here is today’s menu. Do you think this is adequate in terms of protein?

PWO shake: 3/4 cup oatmeal, 3 oz of blackberries, 1/2 a banana, and 2 scoops of protein.

Meal: 5 cage-free eggs, broccoli.

Meal: 8 oz 93% beef (don’t care to buy this, but it happened to be on sale), and an avocado.

Snack: Nuts

Just with the shake, I hit 130 g of carbs, which I feel will be sufficient for me after the V-Diet. I’ll hit incidental carbs throughout the day. Might throw an occasional quinoa serving or sweet potato in with the late meal of the day. Is this going to be adequate to put on strength and possibly some muscle, or do I need to force down some more food?


In addition, which I maybe should have mentioned earlier, as it may have altered your response: I was a nutrition major in undergrad and will be going to medical school next year. I don’t mind being meticulous about my diet at all. It’s my fun hobby that gets my mind off of school (sometimes too much, to the point of obsession). I will also be moving close to home with access to an abundance of beef from my parents, most likely free. With that being said, my nutrition major was a joke. I took a lot of community nutrition classes, and they always advised against supplements. I actually partly chose the major because of my browsing on T-Nation as a young high schooler.


Does the shake come to 130 g carbs? I get 22 g between the half banana and the 3 oz of blackberries combined, and I wouldn’t think 3/4 cup oatmeal could provide 108 g carbs. Even if you added it dry, 3/4 cup should be only about 48 g carbs, and cooked, half that or less.

Is the protein powder loaded with carbs?

Your goal numbers are fine.

The mentioned foods don’t look close to reaching the goal. Hopefully nuts would not be a major contributor. The fatty acid profile of most of them is quite bad, and over time your body adopts (largely) the fatty acid profile of what you eat. If the diet is say 30% linoleic acid, then the body becomes that… if the diet is 3% linoleic acid, the body becomes that, etc. A slow process, it takes years, but the flip side is, having gotten to a bad state, it takes years to correct as well. So best not to make high-linoleic foods a major percentage of fat intake, which could readily be the case when relying on nuts as a major caloric source.

The reason for having a strategy that doesn’t rely on counting and constant willpower/decisions to match numbers is that something is wrong when this is necessary. How many people throughout history (let’s exclude the last few decades, and include only those with ample food supply as it’s not reasonable to count those lacking food) had no trouble staying lean without ever counting a calorie or gram? When the body is functioning properly and the available foods are good, there should be no need for that, at least not for good longterm condition as opposed to peaking for an event perhaps. If there becomes a need for it, and physical activity is good, except in rare cases that’s a product (in my opinion) of either unfavorable selection of foods or metabolic impairment, which can be a consequence of past eating or exercise history but generally can resolve.

The more you can get a method going where there is less and less need for micromanagement of grams and calories, the better. That management can serve extremely well during a corrective phase such as the V-Diet, but on a lifelong basis, preferably doesn’t have to be relied on.


Btw, to be clear, “metabolic impairment” while certainly a term that’s been used, does not appear to have a precise agreed meaning.

I use it because there is as yet no term that’s universally agreed to mean what I intend to say, and it’s the closest.

I’ll expand on the subject in future articles, but briefly, when in research various treatment are used to induce models of diabetes, obesity, or metabolic syndrome, various changes in gene expression are seen. That is to say, changes in the amounts of products of these genes. A person can have a given gene, but how much work it does can be very variable according not only to the immediate moment but also from the history of what the exposure has been.

These are not “light switch” changes going immediately from good to bad, but variable along a spectrum.

Also when, outside of research but simply what happens with people, we see progression towards one of these states, or sometimes, away from. Usually their gene expression is not studied, but where it is the same things are seen.

Terms such as metabolic syndrome, metabolic disorder, Syndrome X, “the death quartet” (I’m not making that one up), etc. have broad to exact meanings but represent really yes/no determinations, diagnostic criteria, on whether a given evaluation point has been reached yet or not.

By metabolic impairment, I mean adverse progression in change of gene expression towards these conditions, which results in greater tendency towards adiposity and reduced insulin sensitivity and more and more need to exert willpower and decisions to control bodyfat rather than enjoying this happening naturally.

Two key aspects of this are adipose inflammation, measurable by several markers, with resulting adipokine-mediated adverse effects on the rest of the body. Another is unhealthy microbiome in the GI tract, which also contributes towards the first.

Anyway, what I’m saying in the previous post is that in the absence of metabolic impairment, the presence of good physical activity, and a method of eating that rules out (or allows only minimally) the bad mistakes in eating, calorie and gram counting should become unnecessary, though to optimize physique, having general broad ideas of what one is aiming for is an excellent thing. Micromanagement though should not be necessary. And having come off the V-Diet, having the dedication, interest, and knowledge that you do, and your age, you’re in a great position to move towards an effective lifestyle approach rather than a micromanagement-requiring approach. Or at least that would be my suggestion.


[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:

The more you can get a method going where there is less and less need for micromanagement of grams and calories, the better. That management can serve extremely well during a corrective phase such as the V-Diet, but on a lifelong basis, preferably doesn’t have to be relied on.


that’s something I begin to adopt and advise arount me, but it’s easier said than managed IMO, especially with people with 0 experience that really have 99% wrong habits. I deleted Myfitnespal a few days ago and see how it goes for a few weeks, because I really spent too much time planning this and that with the app, and I think it’s a common mistake.

The way I do it might not be good for physiologic reasons that I don’t know though, so I’m asking what if I have a (bulking) diet balanced over a longer span than one day?
Say 2 days and a half are no-brainers (whey throughout the day, lunch is veggies, 4 or 5 fruits around workout, dinner salad vinaigrette), big quantities of greens so that I’m not starving, focusing on micro nutrition, lowish insulin, but low calories… so on the third day a huge caloric dinner feast that compensates and makes for an allover caloric surplus.
I know that can be up to 4,000 in a dinner but I don’t count, it’s like, piling brown rice with coconut milk and meat until I’m done.

I also feel like craving a bit seems more natural than always being full.
Also, eating nearly vegan 90% of the time makes my taste completely reject junk/processed foods (save KFC hot wings, for some reason)


I’m really not the best or anything like it to advise on IF, because I’ve neither ever used it in advising anyone, or used it myself other than a 5/2 plan (which I think is very good), or a random occasional-days, nor studied the literature on it. Very likely you’ll get answers from those more knowledgeable of IF.

On another aspect, being nearly vegan 90% of the time may result in rather or very low intake of leucine, taurine, carnitine, carnosine, creatine, vaccenic acid, arachidonic acid, saturated fats, and likely total fat and cis-palmitoleic acid intake unless getting excessive linoleic acid.

Not scientifically: If a person wants to look like a vegan, eating like a vegan is the only known way to accomplish it. (At least to my eye, which is a non-scientific measurement.)

However you did say you were likely going to have plenty of beef available, so that should take care of that.



Thanks again. I must have calculated my carbohydrate intake after adding a few others foods into myFitPal. I calculated the drink again with the same numbers you came up with, plus 7 grams from the 2 scoops of protein. The added oatmeal was raw, but that’s 40 g CHO. I forgot to mention that I have 22g of a CHO drink during my working. So in total, I was getting about 93 g. Somehow myFitPal is getting 115 out of that drink, but I’m not sure where that’s coming from, even after analyzing how I put everything in. I guess there’s another reason to not stress over exact amounts daily.

I actually made yesterday’s post before consuming any nuts, and had just recently read your article on linoleic acid. I have decided to greatly reduce my consumption, although normally I don’t rely on peanuts as a source anyway. I do have PB powder, because I love the taste, but I would assume that since most of what is pressed out is the fat, it’s losing a lot of the LA content as well? Most of my fat came from the eggs, beef, and avocado. I don’t cook with many oils, just a spray as sparingly as possible to get the job done. Knowing what I know about inflammation, keeping it as low as possible through diet is a major goal for me.

As far as IF goes, from what I’ve read, and John Berardi’s article on T-Nation that I read yesterday (I believe it was from '11), there’s maybe no major benefits, except that it does help with lifestyle from time to time, and there’s a little less planning. The 16/8 window is the one I’m currently implementing (eating 11-7) each day, which allows me to quit eating within 13 hours of waking as you recommended.

I wasn’t the one who made the vegan comment-- I don’t know how I would ever get enough protein, or feel full, without my meat. I am not against a vegan lifestyle, but it’s just not for me. Thanks again for your great feedback and expanding my knowledge! As always, this is a fun learning process.


I’m sorry, my mistake on the vegan comment! No wonder it totally didn’t fit in, either content or writing style, with all the other information you gave!! :slight_smile:

Apologies also to tontongg, the real author. Hopefully the reply was still of value.

I’m pretty sure it was Dani Shugart from whom I recently learned in an article about peanut flour, which sounds like a great idea. I’d think that any fairly dry powder would also have the linoleic acid mostly pressed out.

Sounds like your program is going to go very well!


It was Dani’s most recent article that inspired the purchase of the PB powder. I get most of my cooking ideas from either her or Chris, after preparing for the V-diet! Not sure if any of the T-Nation authors here have kids, but they’re going to be some well functioning machines someday. Beware.


Bill Roberts : about your comment on fruits, not going too high with fructose. Is it true for fruits which are raw sources, i mean i dont get why consuming like 10 fruits a day would be a bad thing. We are not talking about HCFS here so…?


Not saying that this is your reasoning, but in general I think there’s a strong tendency to feel “fruits are natural, they’re so nice, so how can more be anything but good?”

However all kinds of natural things are good up to a point and then after that, more is worse rather than better.

I’ll do an article on it at some point, but briefly, human metabolism is set up for high conversion of fructose to bodyfat, for high oxidative stress from fructose, and with high fructose intake, changes of gene expression in the direction of metabolic disorder, diabetes, and obesity (related to the fat storage function.)

Humans also are extremely rare among mammals with regard to fructose metabolism in that all of us have defective genes for the metabolism of uric acid, which is increased from fructose metabolism. The result is, we tend to relatively high uric acid levels, which can be increased by fructose intake, with higher uric acid levels also tending to shift metabolism towards obesity.

Why might this be? Ultimately it’s speculation as to why our metabolisms are the way they are, but it makes sense that in most of the world for most of the time man’s been around, fruits are available for short periods rather than consistently available 365 days a year or anything like that. When fruits are freely available at a given moment or for a few weeks or a couple of months, but the food supply might be poor for some time after that, there could be survival advantage to the body shifting metabolism to fat storage on high fructose intake.

As well as practical experience, it’s been extensively studied: at the biochemical level high fructose intake does shift body function towards the obese/diabetic direction of metabolism. Other factors might well prevent a person from having a problem, but that’s the direction that fructose works.

On a given day, having more than this will not be a problem.

On an ongoing basis, from the practical standpoint, a big fruit eater generally sees improvement from cutting it down in favor of complex carbs and/or protein.

Muscle does not burn fructose or replenish its stores with it. The liver does use fructose as fuel or to build its glycogen or to produce fat, including development of fatty liver: but for few people is increasing the feeding of the liver a real need. I’d rather that nutrient partitioning be towards muscle.

The 50 g/day amount still allows a quite reasonable amount of fruit; as mentioned, it allows two apples, two bananas, or four oranges per day, or one cup of berries.

Based on what nature provides in most places, it’s probably not been the norm in man’s history, most parts of the world, for the diet to regularly have much if any more fruit than this. It works well to do this, and at least as opinion it doesn’t seem an abnormally low limit at least when taken as meaning what’s done most of the time, rather than necessarily a rule to never have five oranges in a day, or three apples, etc. That’s not the point, occasional higher intake is not a problem. I might have been unclear on that above.


Thanks a lot for this, I’ll re read a couple of times eheh

That “10 bananas a day” was not my reasoning indeed since I kinda limit my number of fruits per day to around 5, but I’m very low bf. This question comes from a debate with a friend who is super lean and jacked and does a fruit/fructose propaganda. He does all sorts of sports all year long though. Bet this explains that.

My opinion is that fructose is ok periworkout, like all natural sugars, but certainly not all day long


[quote]tontongg wrote:
My opinion is that fructose is ok periworkout, like all natural sugars, but certainly not all day long[/quote]
It only has to do with timing to the extent that timing affects your liver’s supply level. When you workout, your body burns sugar, so yeah depending on intensity some fructose is perfectly fine around the workout, but not 100 grams or anything like that. Besides intensity one factor affecting your body’s sugar usage is the level of “carb depletion” experienced (how close to ketogenesis (primarily your muscles, but also your liver, and blood, store sugar).