Meat and veggies: it's what most effective diets have in common. Here's how to make it work for you.
Have you ever heard the saying, "Don't look at what the successful people are doing differently, but focus on what they have in common?" It's a bite-sized chunk of reasonably accurate and practical advice, and really, it can be applied to all levels of bodybuilding.
Case in point: There's one nutrition plan so simple and effective that several top Testosterone Magazine contributors, including Alwyn Cosgrove, Charles Poliquin, and Christian Thibaudeau, have used it as a key part of many clients' fat loss plans.
With summer in full swing, you're probably close to beach-ready or you're at least panicked enough to realize that it's finally the time of year when tank tops, shorts, and beach trips will show everyone how "great" your gym progress has been over the last 10 months.
Take the next four weeks to buckle down and use the Green Faces Diet to streamline your nutrition and your obliques. If it's a go-to plan for several coaches and trainers, it's definitely a strategy that can improve your own bodybuilding goals.
So Easy, A Caveman Could Do It
The Green Faces Diet relies on a relatively-barebones menu that forces you to choose only the most efficient foods that will preserve lean muscle while encouraging maximum fat burning.
However, this isn't some kind of 800-calorie starvation plan – you'll be eating plenty of real food – but it's the particular kinds of foods that will have the biggest impact. The core concepts that determine your food choices can be a little complicated, so grab a pen and paper:
- If it's a green vegetable, you can eat it.
- If it had a face, or would've grown up to have a face, you can eat it.
- If it's not green and didn't have a face, don't eat it.
Um... yeah, that's pretty much it. If you can follow those embarrassingly simple rules, you'll see your bodyfat drop faster than high school cheerleader panties at a Justin Bieber concert.
Performance and fat loss specialist Alwyn Cosgrove explains the benefits of such simplicity. "I first heard of this type of plan from Charles Poliquin, who said, 'If it grows out the ground or if it swims, flies, or runs, you can eat it.' For all intents and purposes, it's a form of an 'elimination diet.'
We eliminate all potential or common allergens such as wheat and dairy, and then it's like Dr. Bryan Walsh has said, symptoms you didn't even know you had will disappear. People will often drop several pounds of "bloat" when they're on this plan; not just because of the low carbs, but also because of food sensitivities they weren't aware they had."
Food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies are commonly undiagnosed and can cause a host of subtle symptoms, ranging from inefficient nutrient absorption and acne to gas and chronic bloating. Elimination diets are a popular and effective way of removing potential allergens or body system stressors (lactose, gluten, caffeine, etc.) from the diet to alleviate any negative reactions.
Elimination diets allow the digestive and immune systems a chance to recover from constantly attempting to process foods that it may not actually be designed to process, and they often have the "accidental" effect of weight loss and reduced bodyfat.
If elimination diets sound too much like new age-y, hippie chick, mumbo jumbo, take comfort in knowing that the Green Faces Diet is also, not coincidentally, the same type of high protein, reduced carb diet that's helped bodybuilders get ripped for decades.
One standard plan for bodybuilders looking for maximum definition has been to drastically reduce carbs and bump up the meat and vegetable intake. One of the most notable advocates of this type of diet was the original bodybuilding guru Vince Gironda, who frequently removed carb sources and made meat and eggs the focus of his clients' diet.
The heart of the uber-popular Anabolic Diet is also based on reduced carbs and increased meat and vegetables. While the Anabolic Diet does include frequent "carb-ups," the Green Faces Diet doesn't require them, and we'll learn why later on.
First, let's clarify each step of the Green Faces Diet to avoid any confusion.
It's a Green Vegetable
The key word here is green. There's nothing inherently "wrong" with yellow peppers, cauliflower, or tomatoes during a fat loss phase, but what we're looking for is simplicity – just do this and this, and then this will happen. The more leeway you allow and the more rules you try to bend, especially when dieting, the greater chance you have of screwing something up.
Do the veggies literally have to be green? Not usually, but for our purposes here on this diet, under these circumstances... yes, they do. Of course there's nothing about carrots or eggplant that could seriously compromise your fat loss efforts, but for the sake of consistency and minimal complication, stick to the plan. It's just four weeks. You can gorge on yellow zucchini or red onions afterwards.
If you've ever failed on a fat loss diet before, you might also be aware of the sneaky little snowball of compromise. "It's just a low-carb wrap, but it's fine because it's high fiber," turns into, "It's just some milk and sugar in my coffee, but it's fine because I only drink it at work," which turns into, "It's one jelly donut, but it's fine because I'm still sore from yesterday's heavy leg training and can put the calories to use."
A huge reason for having a plan is to stick to the plan. Don't be like an '89 Wrangler with bald tires; the more corners you try to cut, the sooner you'll rollover and crash.
It Had a Face
It pains me just a little to say, but vegetarians are not welcome here. The primary protein source of the Green Faces Diet is an assortment of good ol' animal flesh. If it had adorable eyes, a cute button nose, and a pair of equally-cuddly parents... it's what's for dinner (and breakfast, and lunch, and snack time).
By focusing on a variety of meats as the primary protein source, the default macronutrient profile will be high protein, moderate-to-high fat, and low carb. That's an ideal scenario for fat loss. On the off-chance that the bountiful, relatively high-fiber vegetables don't fill you up, you'll find satiety in the daily feedings of steak, chicken, and fish.
Don't forget about the eggs, which are allowed by the "if it would've grown up to have a face" clause. As myriad nutritional coaches have advised for decades, eggs are perfect bodybuilding food. And we're talking about whole eggs because, as Charles Poliquin once infamously said, egg whites are for dorks. Especially on this plan, you'll benefit from the added protein, fat, and other nutrients found in the yolk.
You're going to end up getting the majority of your daily calories from protein and fats with a sizeable amount of daily fiber from the vegetables and "roughage." This potent combo should have you feeling comfortably full after each meal while stoking your metabolism and preserving lean muscle.
It's Not Green and Doesn't Have a Face
So you've learned what you can eat, but what about the stuff you can't? Diet soda or coffee? Not if you can absolutely help it. Actually, ditching all caffeine sources for the month is another great type of system detox, and very common on elimination diets.
Fruit juices are, from a macronutrient standpoint, no different than regular soda, so those are definitely out of the fridge. While you're at it, toss the milk, too. We want to eat stuff that was an animal, not something that's squeezed out of one.
Even Ezekiel bread, one of the most bodybuilder-friendly bread options, will be a no-go on this plan because they're too carb-dense for our purposes. Essentially, as you might've guessed, anything that isn't a green vegetable and didn't have a face attached will not be going down your hungry gullet. You will, however, be allowed to eat some whole fruits... under certain circumstances.
If you're already relatively lean, or at least not super-obese and brand new to cutting, you can have one or two pieces of whole fruit with breakfast and one or two pieces with the first meal that immediately follows your weight training session.
This will let you include more nutritional variety, while also delivering more carbs when your body can use them most effectively without inhibiting fat loss. No, the fruit doesn't have to be green, just keep it whole and keep it to one or two servings at a time.
Exception to The Rule: Peri-Workout Nutrition
So far, I've been busting chops about how you only need to follow the three basic rules about what you can and can't eat. However, like with all sets of rules, there is an exception... your peri-workout plan, or what you'll be eating/drinking while you train.
You've most likely heard of the Third Law of Muscle – explaining how you can make or break your results in the gym based on what you provide your body at training time – and with that in mind, the Plazma™ makes a perfect complement to the Green Face Diet.
The combination of strategic, fast-acting carbs and anabolic nutrients like casein hydrolysate and leucine will make sure your training sessions not only don't suffer from low daily carbs, but they'll help you build strength and encourage the building of lean muscle without compromising fat loss at all.
The other benefit to smart peri-workout planning with the Protocol, is that you'll be getting a strong dose of carbs that will be put right to work, getting you through intense lifting sessions without suffering the lethargy or "flat" feeling that typically comes with low carb diets.
This is why you don't need to schedule specific "carb-up" days along the lines of the Anabolic Diet. You're getting sufficient carbs on the days you train, without hindering the overall goal.
What About Macros?
You might have noticed the obvious lack of a recommended macronutrient breakdown, or even a comment about portion sizes. That's because, even though we're eating for fat loss, the structure of the plan itself dictates a flexible but effective macronutrient breakdown.
Cosgrove explains, "When you follow the Green Faces principles, the macros and calories tend to fall into place, and it's much easier for clients to follow.
Obviously when a client is getting into bodybuilding competition-shape, we need to monitor portions and macronutrients more closely, but that's more advanced stuff. It's not the norm."
Because the majority of beginner lifters, and even some more experienced bodybuilders don't always prioritize the kitchen like they prioritize the weightroom, Cosgrove reminds us to walk before we run, nutritionally-speaking. "Most of our new clients aren't following any type of dietary recommendation or any type of meal frequency when they come in.
We start them with a few of these basic principles, and often, we don't need to go any further as that takes care of a lot of it for them. I've talked about the idea before, that going from having all your meals out of cardboard boxes or not eating breakfast directly to weighing all your vegetables and counting daily protein grams can be overwhelming and unnecessary."
Even if you thought your current nutrition plan was spot-on, consider the Green Faces Diet as a strategic fat loss assault that's different enough from your current daily plan that you'll be able to drop some stubborn bodyfat and still benefit from the detox/elimination aspects.
Check Out the Menu
To give you an even better idea of the food choices, here's a brief list that should help to avoid any boring repetition, so you don't fall into "chicken and broccoli for lunch, broccoli and chicken for dinner"-syndrome.
Should you be worried about possibly overdoing it with nutrient-dense proteins or getting a surplus of vitamins and minerals because you're eating more veggies in a day than you ate all of last October, Cosgrove brings us back to reality.
"I can't think of a situation where more vegetables, fruits, and a return to natural food can ever be a bad thing. Regardless of goals, a diet abundant in that type of food should probably make up the bulk of what we all eat, right?"
- Chicken breast/leg/thigh
- Ground beef
- Pork chop/loin
- Steak (any cut)
- ... to name just a few
The Green Vegetables
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Green peas
- Green peppers
- Lettuce (any variety)
- Snap peas
- ... to name just a few.
What You'll Probably Eat Next Thursday
If you're still trying to figure out the "One from Column A, one from Column B" method of menu building, here's what a typical day of good eats might look like:
- Breakfast: Big-ass omelet (whole eggs, green pepper, broccoli)
- Mid-morning snack: Canned tuna, celery
- Lunch: Big-ass salad (spinach, Romaine lettuce, Boston lettuce, cucumber, green peas), grilled chicken
- Pre and Peri-Workout: Plazma™
- Dinner: Plenty of steak, grilled zucchini, grilled asparagus
- Before bed snack: Hard-boiled eggs, snap peas
Whether it's your first dedicated attempt at dropping bodyfat or just a temporary break in your year-long bulk, the Green Faces Diet can be a great way to bring you back to a presentable shape and preserve lean muscle without a drastic overhaul.
To boot, you'll have given your GI and digestive systems a much-needed break from some of the common dietary allergens that could be prevalent in your standard diet, so afterwards, be sure to gradually reintroduce some of the more common allergens (such as dairy and wheat-based products) and be on the lookout for any symptom flare-ups.
Just remember to stick to the gameplan, and the diet will nearly take care of itself. It doesn't matter if you "know" that you can get ripped while having oatmeal twice a day or if a cup of cottage cheese before bed helps you think you're not burning muscle for fuel during those oh-so-strenuous dreams.
If you can't stick to these straightforward rules for four weeks, I have a strong feeling that Tugg Speedman will be portraying you in the film adaptation of the story of your simple life spent growing up on a farm.