Paleo For Lifters Q&A

cover-mediumOriginally I wanted to invite folks who purchased Paleo for Lifters to a chat room Q&A, but it’s been hard to commit to a date and time. Instead, we’ll do the Q&A here in the comments and on the 70’s Big Facebook Fan Page.

For those who have purchased the book: ask any questions you thought of while reading it as well as questions that may be specific to your training situation.

For those who have not purchased the book: ask questions about the book or about general philosophy. Obviously there are over 26,000 words and 60 pages of information on the topic in the book, so if your question is covered there then I’ll answer quickly and default to the book.

I’ll answer questions throughout the week.

Click here to buy the book.

63 thoughts on “Paleo For Lifters Q&A

  1. I’m in the middle. Not overweight, not a skinny hard gainer. I’m around 12-13% body fat. 5’7″, 175 lbs. I want to get to and maintain under 10%. Do I follow the meal plans with white or sweet potatoes? Any other adjustments for my goal?

    • 12 to 13% is still pretty low, but fair enough on wanting to be below 10%. Typically getting that low requires an extra effort compared to the low teens.

      As for potatoes, I’d recommend sweet potatoes.

      It’s hard to give you adjustments for your goal since I don’t know anything about you other than your height, weight, and body fat. Remember that I’m not going to give exact recommendations — that’s not my expertise. I’m not like the nutrition people who give exact plans for people who do figure comps. I give you a strategy and teach you how to adjust from there.

      My philosophy would also say that your training can dictate body fat — typically referring to high intensity conditioning (the book explains how it will change carb requirements).

      My general recommendation to you is that if you haven’t had any change in body fat, then you need to do something different. Look at your macros and when you eat them, especially the carbs. Go from there.

      • Thanks. I’m on the shelf now, so I’m trying to figure out a plan for the future. In a span of 6 weeks, I had surgery for a herniated disk, and for a labrum tear in my shoulder. Before all that, I was mostly doing a wendler strength program, with crossfit for conditioning after the lifts (typically no more than 15 minutes). Like others, I found it hard to stay lean while getting stronger. Before I put an emphasis on my squat and press, I was leaner, around 8-9% body fat. Before the surgeries I got up to 1RMs of 195lb press, 365lb squat, 455lb deadlift.

  2. Typical training day: lets says you lift around 4:30. Would you have a higher fat lunch at 1:00, or want to take in a decent amount of carbs here for the training session? Then how long after the post workout carb/protein mix do you fat it up again. Ribeye for dinner? Or lean filet?

    • My standard answer for this: get your proper macros during the day and don’t meddle in the affairs of timing them for training. Sounds like heresy, right? Well, if you don’t get the proper daily allowance, then your fucked anyway.

      Let’s say you’re doing that, then my next standard recommendation is to prep the best way possible for that training session. If you haven’t had a lot of carbs by that lunch meal, then yeah get your carbs in during that session. I’d rather you get carbs several hours out than trying to pound them immediately before the workout (which you can still do, depending on your goals in training or body fat).

      • And as far as post-workout — I think this is a pretty overblown topic. Remember, I’m trying to teach good habitual eating that will cater to the lifter. If dinner is your post-workout meal, then crush your dinner and don’t worry about it. But yeah, I don’t have an issue with fatty meals post-workout. This isn’t body building, this is caloric replenishment for real training. If you already do it this way and are unhappy with your body fat, then check the daily macros and the timing, and then start playing with the timing.

  3. The book is money. Lost about 5 kilos of straight romance killer since starting it and numbers seem to be on rise consistently.
    Even though I probably fall into skinny fat category I ignored the advice to not eat rice. I stole that from Kentucky Strong article about loading with rice/carbs the night before lifting.
    Question – with The Winter coming and Bulking Season about to begin….would you advise all out carnage or the same Paleo principles but just more of certain macros – im thinking carbs specifically. Increasing fat doesnt do anything for me other than giving me the walking farts.

    • I didn’t say to not eat rice. I just said to not do it if you were fat. I just prefer potatoes to rice.

      If you are going to “bulk” or gain mass during the winter, then yeah, you should be upping everything. Eat more fatty meat (beef/pork), increase your carb consumption (just like the book says, use potatoes). You won’t shit yourself as much with spreading the fat intake throughout the day and eating more carbs.

  4. What’s your opinion on focusing on leaning out vs. recomping for an intermediate lifter that’s still overweight? I got through SS and have decent strength numbers but am probably around 22-23% BF and would like to get under 15% at least since my understanding is in the long term nutrient partitioning and hormones make it easier to gain muscle without fat if you get lean first. What kind of adjustments would you make to diet? Would Texas Method still be an appropriate intermediate level program or should I pick something less taxing like 5/3/1 or a Reverse Pyramid Scheme?

    • I’m in your boat, even a higher BF% at this point. I’ve been doing keto with a Saturday carbout to replenish glycogen. Steadily have lost about 20lbs over 2 months. Basically its paleo-keto, with no carbs but green veggies. No fruit, little dairy. Not even sweet potato. Saturday anything goes, for ONE meal.

      I still lift heavy, but SS is too brutish I think. Back when I did SS I was funneling food. I’m no expert though.
      I only max out once a month, my daily lifts are stuff like 5×5 @75-90%. My lifts have been going up. I’m at the low end of intermediate. I also don’t do cardio right now. Just long miles walking with the dog.

      I feel awesome on this diet, lbs are shedding off, and I am lifting heavier. YMMV.

      • It’s not what I would recommend but you’re making the progress you want. I just don’t like people going keto and I don’t like fluctuation diets that starve then replenish on varying days throughout the week. But that’s just me and my methodology. I’d rather teach consistent habits that can be sustained for decades, just altering them slightly.

        • Hmm, I was planning on sticking to keto during fat loss, then going to a more regular paleo style diet once i’m down and in my new weight class. I have tried losing before (crossfit + texas method + paleo) and it worked, but every lb lost was much harder than what I’m doing now. However you’re probably right about keto long term. I’ll try to check out your book soon. Spent to much money in the Steam sale last week.

    • Have you read the book? Because the nutritional strategy is in there. I’d have you clean your diet up.

      As far as a training program, it depends on your goals. Wanting to maintain/increase strength while dropping body fat? Then you could run a less serious TM (without trying to bust your balls on the volume days) on the split template (in the Texas Method: Advanced e-book). 5/3/1 would be a pretty good program template to use as you could add in conditioning 2 or 3 times a week for it. How the conditioning is programmed will be key.

      The point is that I’d always do full body compound strength training, clean the diet up, and then consider a programming template shift.

      • I have read the book. Re-reading my question, I realized I did a crap job of asking the question.
        My long term goal is to be generally lean and strong. I am neither.
        Should I tweak my training/diet to focus on one over the other at any given time or try and run the middle ground of making slight improvements to both at the same time?

        I’m 6’3 195ish so in the long run, I don’t really want to lose a lot of weight, but my body composition could obviously improve.

        I realize this is a psychology question as much as anything, but curious on what your opinion is.

  5. You talk about carbs in the book and how a majority of them should come from vegetables (forgive me if I misquote). I’ve always just kind of ignored that portion of it and gotten my carbs in from sweet/white potatoes. I still eat veg but probably not nearly enough to make up the difference from only eating one moderately sized sweet potato a day (we’d be looking at bags of spinach consumed to make up the difference). Do you agree with this approach? is it detrimental to aesthetics/fat loss?

    • My dear burn, if you got most of your carbs from vegetables you’d turn into a critter — you’d have to eat a fuck load of greens to garner any relevant carbs.

      My primary message — to clear up your misunderstanding — is to use potatoes. Meat and potatoes is the basis for the book.

      Veggies are good, yes, but my emphasis on their inclusion will depend on your goals. I see them as something that bring nutrients and make pooping less difficult — NOT as a primary source of carbohydrates.

  6. Hey Justin, I would say I fall under the “lean, and want to maintain” category you talk about in the book. I think I have a similar body type to you (not as jacked though), and I hover between 225 and 230lbs. I’d like to stay around this weight, as I compete in martial arts and want to keep my conditioning on the higher end. I’m currently training four days a week, with two sessions of high intensity conditioning and one lighter session, and martial arts is usually an hour a day.

    I currently eat 5 eggs a day, with some veggies mixed in. I was surprised to see you recommend 6 to 7 and some kind of potato. Considering my activity level and weight/aesthetic goals, should I still up the eggs and increase carbs?

    Thanks very much, the book was tremendously helpful.

    • The book talks about needing to eat enough carbs to facilitate your activity levels. The more intense the activity, the more carbs you should be consuming. My guess is if you’re doing two high intensity conditioning days, 1 lighter day, martial arts, AND lifting…you’ll want to probably have more like two moderately sized sweet/white potatoes daily to match your output. I’d defer to Justin’s opinion though.

    • Hello. Let’s back up. My “lots of eggs and potato” recommendation will depend on you and your training and body. Right now you are accustomed to not having carbs in your breakfast (as I understand it). As of now, I consider this to be an adaptation thing. Me? I eat carbs at breakfast. You? You do something else but are happy with how you look. Either way, I think if we shifted to the opposite, there would be a series of systemic/hormonal changes that are difficult to gauge for either of us.

      Anyway, aside from the above rhetoric, I’d be curious to know what you eat during the rest of the day. If you’re training in the gym and also doing martial arts, and you pack your carbs around those sessions, then that is what I would deem necessary to perform.

      I give some examples in the book, but these are not requirements, just merely examples of how to approach eating in a day. I don’t like the idea of not eating certain macronutrients at certain times during the day because it usually isn’t best for PERFORMANCE, though it can be good for aesthetics.

      My book, or “methodology” of nutrition is to aid performance in the best way possible while eating quality foods to achieve aesthetic goals. Right now you are accomplishing that, so you shouldn’t have to adjust anything, right?

  7. I really got a lot out of Paleo For Lifters, read it twice, will probably read it again at least one more time, but I always wondered about meal timing. Does it matter? My primary goal is to lose some serious amount of fat while I continue to lift heavy 2x/wk. Also, I do the crossfit 3-4 a week. Is there an optimal meal/macro timing in regards to fat loss?

    • Look at some of the answers above — I kind of touch on meal timing. Bottom line — daily macros are more important than meal timing. For example, if a dude can’t consistently get 200g of protein each day, then why should we waste time worrying about when to eat it?

      How has your progress been thus far? Timing the macros throughout the day is used by bodybuilders — and they are very successful at it — but it’s not always optimal for performance. The book has some general strategies that I hope you didn’t miss — e.g. get most of your carbs at breakfast and around the training session. Some people have played around with carb backloading (carbs primarily in the evening) though last I saw Lyle McDonald thought it was bullshit. If performance is a concern of yours, I’d always eat your minimum of protein, eat fat to recover, and mostly tweak the carbs for fat loss (fat can be tweaked too, but it’s pretty important for performance).

      • Progress in regards to fat loss, has slowed down to a crawl. I started eating paleo 3 month ago, when I was 290 lbs at 5’10.
        I’m now 270 but obviously still fat. Strength gains have been consistent and significant, most notably my squat pr jump from 415 to 445.

        I’m wondering now after some of the other questions and thinking back to the book, if the free day and maybe eating too low carb during the week could be hindering fat loss?

  8. Hey Justin, should smaller bodied women aim for the same amount of carbs per day as described in the book? Or should they maybe dial it back a bit?

    • That question is kind of vague. As I said, the 100g minimum carbs is kind of the same for everyone to prevent them from going into any kinds of ketosis. I also cite Lyle McDonald’s articles on this — they are very interesting. I do not like ketosis when performance is a concern, so I wouldn’t want the carbs to drop much below 75g/day.

      To be socratic, why are you wanting to toe this line? Are you lifting? Doing high intensity conditioning? Does your diet only consist of high quality food? These things will effect body comp in a more productive way than being borderline ketogenic.

  9. This book is money. I’ve been doing it (mostly) for about 4 weeks now. I had blood work done before and a week ago and all of the indicators of inflammation have dropped to the lower end of the normal range (10%-20% change in most indicators). I also feel better. My one complaint is that It hasn’t helped me be able to grow a mustache yet.

    1) Anyone have any tips on stopping your housemates from eating the food you prepare? They are throwing me money back (when I ask), but it’s hard to stay on the diet when my meals for the next day mysteriously disappears from the shared fridge when I go to grab it in the morning. I’ve already tried spicing the meal up and talking to my housemates. I’d prefer to not buy a minifridge as my room is small, but I may have to.

    2) I believe I fall in the skinny fat category – (6’2″, 178 lbs, ~16%bf). I can do most lifts (except the press) over my bodyweight, but that’s not really impressive when one weighs the same as a damp paper bag. I get that I can’t talk about being fat and that I should shut up and lift. What would excessive fat gain be to you for someone with my stats just so I don’t freak out that I’m only gaining fat and not muscle as I’ve never really attempted to “bulk up” before.

    • 1) You’re going to have to label things. Sad but true. It won’t come off as douchie as long as you let them know you’re doing it because weight training is a top priority in your life. When living with roommates I always labeled my stuff as much to keep track of what was mine as anything else.

      • Cool on the labels. I’ll give that a shot first, but I’ll probably have to go the minifridge route. We currently have a “your own shelf system” but maybe the labels will add more force it if I put “lunch” and “dinner” on them.

    • When I was an RA in college, I ran into this a ton; you’re not alone.

      If you have housemates who don’t respect your boundaries enough to not eat your food without your permission, you have to simply not give them the option. You can do one of three things. 1-Remove your food from the communal space, and get a small mini fridge/freezer, and keep it in your locked room. 2-Or, if your room doesn’t lock, get a padlock and chains and chain your fridge shut. 3-If you don’t have space in your room for a mini fridge, get a box you can put a padlock through, and put that in the communal fridge. You’re looking for something like this (take out the foam inserts, though): http://www.thepelicanstore.com/Pelican-1550-Case-1017.aspx

      Or commit battery against the next person who eats your food.

    • Question 2 — How much is too much fat for a 6’2″, 178 lbs, ~16%bf guy.

      If you eat quality foods most of the time, you should primarily gain lean mass. 2 pounds of meat with potatoes and quality fats? Train your whole body 3x/week, squat at least 2x/week, eat like that for 8 weeks and tell me what happens. I’d be surprised if you gained significant amounts of fat.

    • 1. All the comments offer wise advice. Kudos to everyone who chimed in. However, if you want something that will absolutely work and is free, simply sprinkle a couple pubic hairs on your food. You will only need to do this once. Swear that it was an accident. Enjoy your food forever with no more moochers!

  10. You talked about fat intake a bit in the book, but I’m curious about how to make it work with a ketogenic diet. I find if I stick with the really fat-heavy ketogenic diet my endocrinologist wants me on, I can’t both eat enough protein to meet the 1.5g per pound recommendation and stay under the 1400 cals/day limit. If I eat enough protein *and* all the fat I’m supposed to, my weight stays stable — which would be awesome if I were not still overweight. Then I am eating a mastodon and half an avocado tree daily (an exaggeration, but only slightly). If I eat less than 1400 cals/day, my training falls apart. If I increase my training load with lifting and CrossFit to burn more calories, then I augur myself into the ground. I get that losing body fat isn’t easy, especially after the inital rush of success, but holy crap. This feels like I’ve been sentenced to hard labor in the gulag.

    • Whatever worked to help you lose 120 pounds isn’t going to be what helps you lose the next 10, 20, or whatever.

      This is a little out of my bailiwick as I’m not a biochemist and get uncomfortable with specific macro recommendations. And if you’re eating a certain way to garner a hormonal effect, especially as prescribed by an endocrinologist, then they may be trying to repair metabolic damage you may have caused when you were severely overweight. In which case, the thing that helps might be sustained time on a ketogenic diet — I don’t know.

      What I do know is that is not a lot of food and that lifting and high intensity conditioning like CrossFit are going to create large systemic stresses that will have a different caloric requirement compared to being sedentary. Does your endocrinologist take this into consideration? The fact that you are engaging in systemically stressful training and are not solely relying on his nutritional recommendations to lose weight and/or body fat? That’s what I would explore first.

      • Cool, thanks for the reply.

        I suspect you’re right and that he’s not taking my activity level into account with that calorie recommendation. He looked quite skeptical when I told him I lifted and did CrossFit, even when I brought in the last 14 months’ worth of training logs. Because we all know women only lift pink vinyl dumbbells, and that fat women don’t exercise at all, right? Sigh.

  11. I have been thinking about getting a copy of your book for a while but I live in the UK where food isn’t as available or cheap as it is in the US – we’ve only just got sweet pots in supermarkets. do you think the programs would work over here? I imagine the ideas should work anywhere but just wondered if you’d trained over here or had experienced the great lack of training or knowledge that abounds in grim England

    • I will visit England in the distant future, but as of now I haven’t visited. I know that in Australia things are available, but they are more expensive. So it goes.

      There are still other “paleo friendly” carb sources like potatoes (don’t the Irish have them?) and rice. Your problem is more likely the price of meat, in which case I don’t know what to tell you. You may have to rely on eggs and maybe a bit more protein powder. Three scoops of powder would be almost 75g of protein, 8 eggs a day would be about 48g, and half a kilo of meat would be about 56g — that total puts you around 175 depending on the products. Depending on how big (or not) you are, that might give you some ideas.

  12. Which backwoods part of the UK are you living in, sweet potatoes have been around for years?! Or just get regular spuds, they’re about as cheap a food as you can find anywhere.

  13. Justin,

    First off wanted to say that I really enjoy the book. I’ve been following the recommendations outlined therein, when I’ve been conscientious about them it’s made a significant positive effect on my training.

    My question might be more philosophical in nature, but I’d appreciate your thoughts. I’ve found that it has been easier for me to gain strength while eating at more of a surplus. However, I’m also cognizant of the fact that I don’t want to get above a certain weight, at least for the time being (I’m currently around 208-212 at 5’11”, would eventually like to get back to around 198-202, in my last meet I totaled 1165). In your experience, what tends to work better a) focusing on the getting the total up first and then losing weight once strength has been increased b) going through cycles of training on a caloric surplus and then being stricter about intake to diet back down?

  14. Thanks for the response. Yeah, I probably should have been a little more specific there. I don’t currently eat any carbs with breakfast; I asked about adding them in there because I usually go lift/condition right after that meal.

    As for the rest of the day, lunch is my “post-workout” meal, so I have some kind of meat with either vegetables or a potato. Due to my current schedule, I’m going to martial arts in the early evening and eating dinner afterwards, so beforehand I’ll have some sort of snack, something like nuts and fruit. Dinner is again meat and veggies or potato combination. I’ll also eat some dark chocolate and peanut butter after that.

    I guess I’m really still just trying to figure out how much of what and when works best for me, as I’ve only recently hit my weight goals and need to see what works to maintain. Thanks again, Justin.

  15. I’m in the “lean but needs to gain” category, and the advice from the book is straightforward and easy to follow.

    The only problem I have is eating enough meat. I eat three square meals per day, with eggs in the morning and meat based meals for lunch and dinner.

    On the weekends, I eat another meat based meal at 4 PM that allows me to cover my daily nutrition requirements. However on workdays, I can’t eat solid food in the afternoon, so I use shakes at the moment.

    Any recommendations for shakes or alternatively meals that I could take to work that don’t need any refrigeration and that I could eat before my training session in the evening?

  16. I’m planning on doing a 30 day paleo challenge but for future reference I’m curious where you would rank the following dairy items from best to worst:
    plain greek yogurt
    cottage cheese
    whey protein
    cheese

    Thank you in advance for your response.

  17. I picked up the book around the time of this Q/A post. I got back from a vacation and started a 90 day commitment to clean eating a la Paleo for Lifters on Monday. My goal is to drop body fat while maintaining strength and performance in the gym.

    Previously I’d been hammering down what I affectionately refer to as “The Breakfast of Champions” each morning. The BOC is a shake consisting of six raw eggs, a cup of water, a scoop of protein powder, 2 tbsp of peanut butter and a frozen banana and a few frozen strawberries.

    I’m pressed for time in the morning so being able to eat and clean up a nutritionally dense breakfast in about 8 minutes is a big deal for me. I’ve gotten the BOC compressed down to eight eggs, about a cup of frozen strawberries, a tablespoon of coco powder and a half teaspoon of vanilla. I tried without the strawberries, but it was completely unbearable.

    Two questions:
    First, you mention (in the book) that liquid calories have a negative effect on insulin sensitivity. Would the BOC fall in this category or is it exempt because it’s actually food that’s been pulverized into liquid form?

    Second, the message in the book was pretty clear that you should avoid fruits completely if your goal is to drop body fat. Can you suggest anything else that would blend well with eggs to mask the flavor?

    Thanks!

  18. I’m reading Paleo for Lifters right now. Best line in the book, “Also note that farting a lot throughout the day, while awesome, is no supposed to happen…” I’m laughing so hard I’m crying! Well done, Justin. Well done.