The Anabolic Diet

As you flick through those glossy magazine pages or scroll through the endless information available on the net, all you see are toned bodies, glistening with that “just finished working out” sweat; their faces elated with their achievements – almost mockingly so. You would be elated too, if only you could get your body to look like that.

But many of us are in the same predicament: we train hard, lift heavy, eat healthy and yet still don’t get the results we want to see. Surely, after all of the effort we put in, shouldn’t we be happy with what we’ve gotten out?

No Results? No Results? Try an Anabolic Diet!

Judging from the fact you’re reading this article, you’re not quite there yet.

Maybe you feel like you’ve tried everything you possibly could to shed that last bit of fat, gain more mass and bust through the plateau. And, like many, you’re probably at your wits end.

But if you haven’t tried this yet, there’s still hope…

A Diet That Trumps All Other Diets for Fat Burning And Muscle Building

Would you believe it if someone told you there was a way to eat meat, cheese and eggs every day to get the body you want?

Well, according to ex-bodybuilder and physician Mauro Di Pasquale, there is. What’s more, is that you can even eat pancakes, pasta, and bread and still change how your body burns fuel!

Anabolic Diet by Mauro Di PasqualeDr Di Pasquale was following this diet way back in the early 70s when he was a champion powerlifter, and in the early 90s started coaching others to use the same diet after he witnessed so many others in the health and fitness industry turn to steroidal drugs to bulk up [1].

Steroids have long been used as a way to quickly increase strength and muscle mass, and to enhance performance as well as appearance [2].

Steroid use is basically a process of forcing a synthetic form of the hormone testosterone into your body and, as you may well know, higher testosterone levels are a good thing when it comes to being lean and mean [3]. But, these benefits come at a price, and it’s definitely not a widely accepted means of getting ripped and strong.

There’s really no reason to use something as dangerous as steroids, though.

Dr Di Pasquale, with his knowledge of the bodybuilding industry and the way the human body worked, had something far better for those who came to him for help: the Anabolic Diet.

His diet gained a lot of traction, not only because he used it himself, but because it actually worked in many others. It’s why bodybuilders and athletes alike still use it today.

To understand why what you eat can be just as successful to bulk up and lean down as drugs like steroids, you need to know a little about how the body uses fuel – both as a form of energy and to provide strength and tone.

Eating High-Carb, Low-Fat

Typically, your body will use sugars you get from eating carbohydrates for energy.

According to the Mayo Clinic, It’s the easiest form of energy to give your cells, as it involves simple processes to break down the carbohydrates into consumable forms of sugar [4].

That which your cells don’t immediately use doesn’t go to waste; your body tries to do you a favor, and stores it as fuel that’s available for later use when you most need it – but it’s in a form that becomes that pesky stuff you’re so desperately trying to get rid of: fat.

There’s another problem we see when we use carbs as our main source of fuel.

If you’re working out and burning a lot of energy, the sugars you have available are used up quickly. You may think that your body will then begin using the stored form – fat – but that’s tough to break down.

The next best thing is protein; and where do you have the most protein? In your muscle cells, of course. So, not only are you storing more fat with a higher carb diet, you’re losing precious muscle when you push yourself more and more in the gym!

It’s no wonder you’re frustrated and aren’t seeing the results you’d expect.

Now, here’s the question you need to ask: Are carbohydrates the only way we can get energy to fuel our cells?

No!

 

 

While carbs do have a place in a healthy diet, they are only one of the three groups of macronutrients you’ll get from your food, with the other two being protein and fat [5].

Believe it or not, these other macros are two of the most important food compounds you need when you want your muscles to grow and your fat to shed.

Right now, you may not trust in adding large amounts of fat into your meals, especially if you’ve been on a high-carb training diet. But, before you protest the changes being proposed, listen to the method behind the madness: carbs are not your only source of fuel; and eating fat will not make you fat [6].

Actually, the opposite will happen. And that’s the principle of the Anabolic Diet.

Di Pasquale writes in his book,

…there is an alternative (to a carbohydrate heavy diet) that can pack on muscle while keeping body fat at a minimum. It’s called the Anabolic Diet and, while it flies in the face of what most bodybuilders have been led to believe, it could be the answer to your prayers.

Let’s get into how it works…

Results You’ll Be Able to See, Just by Changing Your Diet

This Anabolic Diet is focussed on three phases:

1. Maintenance
You don’t want to lose the precious muscle you’ve already worked so hard to build; ever.

2. Bulk
You want to see your muscles grow with the effort you put in. You don’t have time for plateaus!

3. Cut
That extra fat you’re carrying has to go.

It all comes down to being able to train your body to stop relying solely on carbohydrates for energy.

You want to get it to start using all of that unnecessary fat it has put away and instead use it to feed your muscles, all the while making you leaner and stronger.

So, what’s the first step? Dramatically reduce your intake of carbs.

The Stuff Magazine Cover Models Are Made Of

Anabolic 4 WeeksDi Pasquale recommends starting with an introductory phase of the diet, which you can do for 1-4 weeks.

Anabolic 12 DaysMost of the literature about this introductory phase says 12 days is best to deplete your current sugar stores and to force your body to begin using fat.

During this phase you’ll eat mostly fats, a moderate amount of protein and a very small portion of carbs.

Fat will become your main supply of nutrition.

Now, fat as a compound is made up of many different molecules joined together. When compared to carbs, these fat molecules are more complex, and they break down during digestion at a far slower rate. It may mean you feel more lethargic and irritable while the body is ‘learning’ to use fats but, once it does, the difference you feel will be dramatic. The complexity of fats and its slower rate of digestion allows it to supply energy for a far lengthier period of time than those quickly broken down carbohydrates you’re used to. After the introductory phase, you’ll experience more energy, so you’ll be able to push harder, and so obtain higher gains; it’s really worth sticking to for these first 12 or so days.

Keep in mind, there are some things to be aware of during these first few days…

What to Expect When You First Start the Anabolic Diet

Some of the side effects you’ll experience when you begin aren’t great but, while they’re not harmful, it’s good to know what they are; and that they will only last a short while until fat becomes your main source of fuel.

Cravings…

The truth is that the body really does love getting its energy from carbs and, when you take that away, it can leave you feeling like a kid who has just had his toy taken away: cranky, irritable and moody.

But, this tends to last only a couple of days as your body starts adapting to making use of the additional fats in your diet.

The important thing here is that you realise that these mood changes have to do with carb cravings and, if you give in, you’ll just have to start again. Each day you manage with minimal carbs, the more you will adapt and the closer you’ll be to getting your body into the shape you’ve been trying to get into all along.

Loose or hardened stools

Diarrhea is common when you dramatically change your diet to include far more fat as it softens the stool.

To add more bulk and reduce this effect, add plenty of green, leafy, fibrous vegetables to your diet – they’ll be the carb portion you have. A cup of cooked spinach and broccoli, for example, only has around 6-7g of carbs; so, you can have three servings a day to add up to 20g.

These green veggies have a double-punch against digestive woes in that they can also protect from constipation because of their fibre content.

Energy dips

You might feel like you have the flu for a few days where you’re sleepier, you have low energy and you feel weak. It’s just the transition phase; if you’re not able to push as much during your workouts, drop the intensity until you’re using those fats – the energy boost will come!

But again, this shouldn’t last more than 1-2 weeks, and these ‘side-effects’ should be completely gone by the end of week 4 when you can start feeling and seeing the results [7].

Plus, you can look forward to the next part of the diet.

Alternating Low-Carb Days with Carb-Loading Days

Once you’ve gotten through the first couple of weeks, you can look forward to carb-loading on weekends!

It’s not going to be restrictive forever; a total bonus you’ll come to love while following the Anabolic Diet.

This phase of the diet is called carb cycling. You now move on to the bulking phase and follow a plan where you eat minimal carbs for 5 days, and then load up on them for the next two.

Most people follow a low-carb high-fat diet on week days and then generously eat carbs on the weekend.

For example, the breakdown of macronutrients on weekdays will be:

Anabolic Weekday Percentage

Then, on a weekend, it’ll be the opposite, and you’ll eat:

Anabolic Weekend Percentage

So, why does it work?

The Anabolic Diet and Hormone Boosts

Remember the boost of the synthetic form of testosterone in anabolic steroids competitors often use mentioned earlier? This is what Dr Pasquale figured was happening in the body naturally, when following a high fat, low carb diet.

Unlike the high carb diet that can work against the body’s system of growth producing hormones, the Anabolic Diet maximizes the production and utilization of the Big 3 growth producers — testosterone, growth hormone and insulin — and does it naturally

writes Di Pasquale.

Normally, higher insulin levels decrease growth hormone levels and vice versa [8] but, with the anabolic diet and, when you eat the right anabolic foods, you can get insulin and growth hormone to work together. At the same time, eating higher portions of dietary fat increases your testosterone production [9]; and, ladies – this is a bonus for you, too!

Women Need Testosterone Too

Now, let’s get into what you can eat.

The Basics of An Anabolic Diet Meal Plan

During the week, you can eat:

Weekday Anabolic Foods

  • Animal products and meats – particularly fatty cuts of meats
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna is also important for those healthy omega 3s [10]
  • Eggs, including the yolk
  • Cheese, cream, butter and other full-fat dairy products
  • Healthy oils like olive oil, coconut oil, peanut oil and flax oil
  • Nuts and seeds (Di Pasquale recommends walnuts and sunflower seeds) and nut butters
  • You can also add mayonnaise and vinegar instead of other dressings
  • To make up the carb component, green, leafy vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, spinach, kale and celery or other non-starchy vegetables are great options

Remember, you don’t want any sugar, highly processed or refined foods in here; it’s natural all the way. If you do struggle with a sweet tooth, and you just can’t control cravings in the first couple of weeks, Di Pasquale says sweeteners are O.K; go for natural varieties like xylitol and stevia, though.

To keep those initial cravings under control and really make this diet effective, you need to plan and be prepared.

In between meals, be sure to have enough additional food to snack on.

Have boiled eggs on-hand, carry portions of nuts in your bag, have individual packets of cheese you can snack on and, in an emergency, you can even delve into a tub of nut butter for a quick energy fix.

On a weekend, look forward to:

Weekend Anabolic Foods

  • Pasta
  • Pancakes
  • Bread
  • Waffles
  • Bagels
  • Oatmeal
  • Fruit juice

Anything high carb, but lower in fat is great, but be careful of double cheese, extra meat pizzas, for example – you don’t want high fat and high carb – it’ll see you putting on far more weight than you want to.

Also, it’s important to remember here is that a weekend is Saturday and Sunday; going carb-heavy for more than the maximum of 2 days is too long, and your goals will suffer for it.

What About Protein?

When it comes to protein, you’re going to take in moderate amounts during the week and lower amounts on a weekend.

Protein and it’s amino acid building blocks are an important part of muscle building. Research shows that these increase both muscle mass and strength when associated with resistance-type exercises [11].

While some studies have come to the conclusion that a higher protein diet isn’t necessary, Di Pasquale stresses that it is in those trying to gain muscle and lean out.

He explains

protein drinks taken after training may increase insulin and growth hormone, thus having a strong anabolic effect.

But you don’t have to throw back the protein shakes to get what you need; the eggs, meat and dairy products you’re consuming should provide you with sufficient amounts if you’re doing things right.

The Last Note…

One other thing you need to think about when it comes to nutrition and exercise is supplementation.

In an effort to ensure your body has everything it needs to maintain function while you’re placing stress on it during training, you’re likely to need additional support from supplements. According to Di Pasquale, a good B vitamin complex, vitamin C, D, E and a range of minerals in the form of a multi-nutrient can suffice.

NOW Adam MultiNOW Eve Multi

 

 

 

 

 

Now that you know all about the food aspects of the Anabolic Diet, let’s get into the lifestyle side, real quick.

If you don’t focus on managing your stress levels, you’re not sleeping correctly and you have a large amount of toxins (like from alcohol or smoking, for example), you’re also more likely to struggle to reach your weight, strength, and fitness goals and hit that dreaded plateau.

Stress can cause fat retention [12], particularly around the middle, as can sleep deficiencies and toxin build-up adding stress onto your liver.

Sleep is also essential to promote growth and repair, and sleep is a function in which the body increases the release of growth hormone [13].

Those who follow the Anabolic Diet believe it’s a lifestyle you can follow with minor changes depending on which stage you are in or want to get into.

Take a holistic approach to eating anabolic foods and living a lifestyle that promotes the optimal functioning of your body and you’re going to see those changes you’ve been wanting all along. But don’t forget, it’s about treating your body well along the way to reaching your goals.

With the decades of evidence for increased muscle mass, strength and endurance in those using the Anabolic Diet, will you give it a go?


References:

  1. Di Pasquale, M. The Anabolic Diet. 1995. Optimum Training Systems.
  2. Sepehri, G Fard, M  and Sepehri, E. Frequency of Anabolic Steroids Abuse in Bodybuilder Athletes in Kerman City. Addiction and Health. 2009. 1(1): 25–29.
  3. Vorona E and Nieschlag E. Adverse effects of doping with anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) in competitive athletics, recreational sports and bodybuilding. Minerva Endocrinologica. 2018.
  4. Duyff, RL. USDA food patterns: Healthy U.S.-style eating pattern. American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. 2012. 4th ed. John Wiley & Sons.
  5. Lupton, JR, et al. Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids. Institute of Medicine (U.S.). Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. 2006. The National Academies Press.
  6. Veech, RL, et al. Ketone bodies mimic the life span extending properties of caloric restriction. 2017. IUBMB Journals. 69(5):305-314.
  7. Bueno, NB, et al. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: A meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. 2013. British Journal of Nutrition. 110(07):1178-1187.
  8. Junnila, RK, et al. Pitfalls of Insulin-like Growth Factor-I and Growth Hormone Assays. 2015. Endocrinology & Metabolism Clinics. 44(1):27–34.
  9. Mínguez-Alarcón, L, et al. Fatty acid intake in relation to reproductive hormones and testicular volume among young healthy men. 2017. Asian Journal of Andrology. 19(2):184–190.
  10. Nwachukwu, ID, et al. The role of omega‐3 fatty acids in skeletal muscle anabolism, strength, and function in healthy and diseased states. 2017. Journal of Food Biochemistry. 41(6):e12435
  11. Snijders, T, et al. Protein Ingestion before Sleep Increases Muscle Mass and Strength Gains during Prolonged Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Healthy Young Men. 2015. The Journal of Nutrition. 6(1)”1178-1184.
  12. Jackson, SE, Kirschbaum, C, Steptoe, A. Hair cortisol and adiposity in a population‐based sample of 2,527 men and women aged 54 to 87 years. 2017. Obesity. 25(3):539-544.
  13. Garcia-Garcia, F, et al. Ghrelin and its interactions with growth hormone, leptin and orexins: Implications for the sleep–wake cycle and metabolism. 2014. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 18(1):89-97.

Published by Anita Tee

Anita Tee is a published nutritional scientist carrying a Master of Science in Personalized Nutrition and a Bachelor of Science focused in Genetic & Molecular Biology. She is the founder & CEO of www.factvsfitness.com and www.biolifecontent.com, two evidence-based websites devoted to research for improving health naturally. Find out more about Anita by following her on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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