The Spartan Warrior

The truth about fitness and nutrition.

Alberto Nunez Eric Helms Martin Berkhan Kane Sumabat Layne Norton Josh Hyaduck Jeff Alberts Manu

Followers of and believers in a diet comprised of moderation that features a majority of whole, nutrient-dense foods but also includes their favorite “dirty” foods that are enjoyed in small amounts on infrequent occasions.

  • Alberto Nunez
  • Eric Helms
  • Martin Berkhan
  • Kane Sumabat
  • Layne Norton
  • Josh Hyaduck
  • Jeff Alberts
  • Manu

These guys eat things that they enjoy like Ben & Jerry’s, cheesecakes, pringles, pizza, doughnuts, poptarts, etc. as long as it is in moderation. Small amounts on infrequent occasions. Well, that’s speaking for most.. some even smash a pint of Ben & Jerry’s daily.

Outside of those pictures I have posted there are countless other natural professional bodybuilders, athletes, nutritionists, bloggers, powerlifters and normal people that follow a moderate diet, are completely healthy and have great physiques coupled with great results.

You can eat things that you enjoy in moderation and be as healthy as anyone else. In fact, I would go ahead and say you are healthier due to the reason that you are mentally in a better place for having a good relationship with food. You understand how to make it work for you and enjoy it instead of making it the enemy.

Read the explanation of IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) for more details on that dieting philosophy.

Read The Dirt on Clean Eating by Alan Aragon for further explanation of a moderate diet.

Some people rely heavily on cardio in order to maintain their leanness. This allows them to be somewhat more lenient with their diet. I am however no fan of cardio and don’t use it to stay lean. In my view cardio as a strategy to maintain a low body fat percentage is not only time-consuming, but also a sure-fire way to hamper muscle and strength gains. If nor time or muscle gain is a concern then by all means continue your cardio regimen. But considering my priorities and those of my clients, I focus on the macrocomposition of the diet to maintain the lean state.

Martin Berkhan

Never attempt to train yourself into a caloric deficit. Don’t spend hours on the treadmill. Diet comes first, cardio second. The dumbest fat loss strategy ever devised is used by people that wake up early in the morning before going to work to do cardio and follow that up with a “recovery shake.” Congratulations, you just wasted two hours of your life. Cardio is good for cardiovascular health, but most people use cardio as a fat loss tool - and force themselves through regimens that aren’t very conducive to their daily routine (or mental sanity). Next time, skip the shake and the cardio. Sleep two hours longer, but skip breakfast and fast until lunch time. This way you can create the same caloric deficit with the added bonus of feeling more rested and having saved more time. You’ll be much better off.

Martin Berkhan

How To Deal With Water Retention: Part Two

By Martin Berkhan (via)

In part one of this article series I covered the basics of water retention. 

This time I’ll list a few effective tricks that will help you deal with it when and if it occurs. Don’t worry, you won’t be sweating it out in a sauna and sucking on ice cubes. I’ll offer simple and non-intimidating strategies that don’t require a whole lot of thinking. They can be used in isolation or in combination.

Reduce sodium

The most common reason people hold water is due to shifts in sodium balance. Going from a low baseline intake of sodium to sudden and high intakes can have dramatic effects on your visual appearance (which any bodybuilding-competitor can attest to). Conversely, reducing sodium can have the opposite effect and cause water loss. This is all about relative and not absolute numbers; it’s not high sodium per se that cause water retention/water loss, but deviations from the habitual intake. The solution therefore is to reduce sodium to a level below baseline. So for a day or two…

* Ditch all canned or pre-packaged foods since they tend to contain a lot of sodium. A paleo approach to food choices is a pretty good model to use for your diet during these days since it’s relatively low in sodium.

* Reduce spices and table salt - make a conscious effort to use less than you’re used to. An easy way to reduce sodium without feeling deprived is to use a salt substitute, which contains only half of the sodium chloride found in regular salt.

* Drink a ton of water. Aim for 6-8 liters. You should be pissing like a race horse.

* It’s claimed that some foods have a diuretic effect and they’re often referenced as natural remedies to combat water retention - asparagus, celery, cucumber and watermelon, for example. I’ve yet to find some scientific backing for these claims, so take it for what it’s worth. I suspect that the proposed diuretic properties of these foods is related to their high water content rather than some other magical mechanism.

Get cortisol back to normal

Elevated levels of cortisol can cause water retention, potentially due to interfering with aldosteron (a hormone that regulates fluid balance). Excessive cardio, particularly of the more intense variety (HIIT), and low calorie intakes increases cortisol.

* Only do low intensity steady state cardio, such as walking or similar activities with a low perceived rate of effort.

* Increase calorie intake to a level that is no less than 500 kcal below maintenance (i.e if your maintenance intake is 2700 kcal, you should eat no less than 2200 kcal these days).

Have a drink

Alcohol has a quite profound diuretic effect, so drink a a large glass of wine (7 ounces/2 dl) or a large shot of vodka (2 ounces/6 cl) shortly before going to sleep. Caffeine-rich beverages are often said to have a diuretic effect as well, but this is actually a myth. Studies show that the fluids ingested with the caffeine more than makes up for the diuretic effect of caffeine itself. In order for caffeine to have a diuretic effect, take caffeine pills.

Look over your fiber intake

In my experience, both high and low fiber intake can cause water retention and a feeling of bloatedness. Look over your diet and it should be clear what the problem is.

Do a refeed

Do a carb-refeed, preferably after having depleted muscle glycogen. A full-body session consisting of 2-4 sets of 12-15 reps per body part will get the job done. Carb choices should consist primarily of starches such as potatoes, rice, pasta and bread. Keep fiber low, potassium high. The exact amount of carbs to be ingested depends on several factors, but I suggest playing it safe and not going overboard.

* 4-6 g of carbs per kilo lean body mass is a good starting point, preferably on the low end of that if you’re inexperienced with carb-refeeds and how you react to them.

* If you do it right, this will have the effect of pulling water outside the muscle cell into the muscle cell. Along with increased muscle glycogen, this will give you a lean and full appearance the next day - ideally also causing a “whoosh” over night.

How To Deal With Water Retention: Part One

By Martin Berkhan (via)

In an ideal world, weight loss would be perfectly linear.

You’d lose weight in a predictable manner, seeing small but consistent changes each passing day. But this is rarely the case, which my experience has proven me many times over.

If you’ve ever been on a diet and tracked your progress with the scale or the mirror, you’re probably familiar with water retention and long weight loss plateaus. Even though your diet is on point, nothing seems to be happening.

Stalling at the same scale weight for weeks is not unheard of - I’ve experienced it myself. Fortunately, these phases are followed by rapid weight loss seemingly over night. This delayed weight loss is often referred to as the “whoosh”-effect. Nothing for weeks…and then whoosh, 2-4 lbs lost over night. What triggers a whoosh? No one knows, but Lyle McDonald offered a hypothesis based on something his old exercise physiology professor said.

So what’s the big deal here? The issue with water retention is the frustration it brings while waiting for the whoosh.

Waking up every morning to see no progress on the scale can have profound effects on your motivation to maintain your diet and training regimen. Why put in all this effort when nothing is happening? Doubt creeps up. Maybe you’re eating too much? Maybe you’re not doing enough cardio, maybe your carb intake is too high? So you cut calories and increase cardio in the hopes that it will get the scale moving down again. If we’re talking water retention (and not an actual stall), this has the potential to actually worsen the situation. Dumbfounded you watch as your weight creeps up even higher despite your ambitious attempts to set things right.

So at times like these, it’s no wonder that people are likely to say “screw this shit” and go off their diet for a day. Or two. Or a week. In the worst case it triggers a binge that sets them back several days or weeks. Not good.

Given the negative impact of water retention on your morale, knowing the causes for water retention, and how to deal with it, can be very useful when you find yourself in this situation.

Water retention - what is it?

Water retention (or edema which is the term used by the medical establishment) is a common, concrete phenomenon that occurs during calorie restriction. It’s not just some trivial vanity issue unique to the fitness crowd.

The magnitude of water retention varies; most often it’s mild, but enough to obscure your fat loss results on a short-term basis. Sometimes it’s more prominent, giving you the impression that nothing is happening for weeks. More severe types of water retention are a common characteristic of malnutrition and life-threatening starvation; it can be so extreme that people will appear to lose no weight at all, as greater amounts of fluids accumulate under the skin. Jewish doctors often observed this phenomenon in the Warsaw ghettos during World War 2.

Water retention can take many forms, such as swollen watery tissue or as an accumulation of fluids in the stomach, chest, lower body and in between joints. You might notice it in the form of fat that feels “squishy” or in the form of red stretch marks when waking up in the morning. You can also notice it on your ankles when taking your socks off in the evening; the pressure from the socks leaves an indentation, which might be barely noticeable (no water retention) or big enough to fit half of your thumb in (an extreme example as told to me by a competitor after three days of post-competition binging and gaining 35 lbs). The latter is called pitting edema.

During starvation, inadequate nutrition depresses the pumping mechanisms within the cell that keeps excess salt and water out. The cell deteriorates and the distinction between in and out is lost. However, for the average Joe out there, water retention is more often related to daily shifts in water and salt intake.

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The Intermittent Fasting Rebuttal

There are a lot of people out there that don’t understand intermittent fasting or that want to disagree with something they don’t understand for no apparent reason. Most of those people have been sucked into the vortex that is misinformation from being misled by fitness/health magazines, websites, broscience or TV shows.

Don’t just listen to what is said and don’t just believe everything that is written. Ask why. Discover the facts for yourself and increase your knowledge on a subject if you feel skeptical.

Part of intermittent fasting is skipping breakfast. You might be thinking, "Hold the phone. I thought you had to eat breakfast to lose fat and be in better shape." Not true and skipping breakfast is not a bad thing. Breakfast is neither inherently good OR bad. It just is what it is. Breakfast. The point at which you break your (overnight) fast.

Seeing as I have to explain intermittent fasting to a lot of people when they ask, I find no better source to quote other than Martin Berkhan, creator of Leangains. He’s not just the creator and writer of but also a nutrition consultant, magazine writer, fitness model, personal trainer and soon to be published author. The guy knows the ins and outs of the fitness world and backs everything he states by research.

The following is one of my favorite rebuttals directed to anyone that approaches me negatively after hearing that I am a proponent and participant of intermittent fasting.

The belief that a few hours without food will cause muscle catabolism is absurd.

Metabolic rate does not slow down during short-term fasting. It actually increases slightly. That’s probably the complete opposite from what you’ve heard, but this is an undisputed fact. It takes more than three days without food before metabolic rate is negatively affected via down-regulation of thyroid activity. That skipping breakfast or missing a meal affects metabolic rate, a myth still propagated in the fitness and health community, is ludicrous.

What about those studies showing breakfast is healthy and people that eat breakfast weigh less than breakfast-skippers? Those are all correlational studies. Skipping breakfast is connected to a certain dysregulated eating behavior that predisposes people to weigh more. The Average Joe or Jane breakfast-skipper is the personality type to grab a donut on the way to work, eat junk food for lunch and finish the day off with a big dinner and snack in front of the TV. Those studies have no relevance to the conscious dieter that skips breakfast as a fat loss strategy.