6 questions for Dr. Berardi

6 questions for Dr. Berardi

By Ryan Andrews, M.S., RD


Face it, we all have them. What’s that you ask? Questions for Dr. Berardi, of course.

While he’s busy writing another book, teaching another course, or working with another pro or Olympic athlete, we’re all left in the dust – freeloading for nutrition and exercise answers.

But no longer. I caught up with JB and tried to get him to answer 20 questions. We compromised at 6.

RA: What are the top 3 things you see people do to mess up their nutrition?

JB: I only get to pick 3, eh? Ok, I’d say these are the three biggies:

1) First, I see people worrying too much about calorie intake and not enough about calorie expenditure.

If you’re one of these folks, you barely get the minimum amount of exercise while trying to accomplish your fat loss and body composition goals with nutrition alone. And the truth is – if you’re not genetically gifted – this is an almost impossible proposition.

I hate to beat the idea of G-Flux to death but the reality is that humans seem to have a body weight regulation switch that kicks on only when we do enough exercise. If we don’t do enough exercise, that switch stays off. And no matter how hard we try to keep calories in check, the body still finds ways to outsmart our efforts.

2) Next, I see too many people taking an overly simplistic view of food. They separate food into “good” and “bad” categories and avoid the “bad” foods while eating only “good” ones.

This view of nutrition is much too simplistic and, in my seminars, I call this “third grade nutrition.” In essence, this is a grade school view of nutrition. If you want to develop a better body, sure, it’s important to choose the best foods.

However, it’s also important to make sure that you’re eating these good foods in the right amounts for your goals. It’s just as easy to get fat overeating “good” foods as it as is to get fat overeating “bad” foods. The trick lies in the amount of food that you’re eating!

3) Finally, I see people, even the health conscious, eating too much like the typical North American – cereal for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and processed snacks in between.

The problem with this type of eating is that it makes it very difficult to get enough fruits, veggies, proteins, and healthy fats each day.

Indeed, only about 5% of the population gets at least 3-5 servings of fruits and veggies.

Also, the average intake of EPA and DHA is only about 300mg/day when it should be 900mg – at minimum.

Finally, the average male gets 100-120g of protein per day while the average woman gets 80-100g of protein per day. (I recommend that active men and women get about 1g per pound of body weight per day).

So why are most folks so far off the mark? Well, I think it’s because most people eat foods that are too carb-rich for breakfast, lunch, and for their snacks, leaving the rest of the healthy nutrients to appear at one meal only – dinner. And it’s just too tough to get enough protein, fruits and veggies, and good fats in one single meal.

RA: How has your perspective on nutrition and exercise changed since going from nationally competitive bodybuilder to a well-educated and respected entrepreneur?

JB: The biggest change in my perspective has to do with WHY I exercise and eat well.

When I was younger and my focus was physique competition, my #1 priority was being big, strong and ripped. And I did a pretty good job of that, weighing in at about 225 in the off-season and coming into contests at about 195lbs.

My approach at the time was simple. As I had a screaming fast metabolism, I ate a lot – as much as I could of the following foods:

  • lean beaf
  • chicken
  • fish
  • eggs and egg whites
  • protein powder
  • natural peanut butter
  • oats
  • whole grain bread
  • whole grain pasta and rice
  • frozen veggies
  • occasional fruit

In addition, I trained about 6 days per week with fairly high volume (about 1.5-2 hours of training) and slept at least 8 hours every night. If I wasn’t growing doing this, I’d add in additional high calorie foods like home-made pizza, home-made potato chips, and more. And if I wasn’t getting leaner come contest-time, I’d cut calories and add cardio systematically until the body fat would come off.

However, once I put my bodybuilding days behind me, my focus changed. My goal was no longer exclusively aesthetics. And as I had other priorities in life (school – later work, new hobbies, relationships, etc) I needed to find a new balance.

Now, if you’re an “older” guy (or girl) reading this, you’re probably nodding in agreement. And if you’re a “younger” guy (or girl) reading this, you will be nodding in a few years – trust me! Everyone I know that’s been in this game for more than 15 years has experienced pretty much the same shift.

Now, I’m not going to lie. I’m still very interested in looking good. And that’s definitely a priority for me. However, before size and cuts comes health and function.

The all-out pursuit of being bigger and stronger – which had great rewards but was costly as I always had to be near a fridge and was always wiped out from training – has been replaced by having fun in and out of the gym and by trying to find the balance between my hobbies, my occupation, my training, and my relationships. And this balance requires that I don’t sacrifice all at the altar of my training and eating.

Yet, I believe that the base I built back in my competitive days has made it easier to continue to look good, train hard, and enjoy my time training. In fact, nowadays, I walk around at 180lbs at about 8% body fat or so.

Of course, this new attitude has led to some changes in my approach.

As my metabolism isn’t quite what it used to be, nor is my training volume, my training program has to offer a bigger bang for my buck. To this end, I mix up the high intensity intervals and weight training to keep my metabolism as fast as I can get it. Also, I pay closer attention nowadays to my food amount, my food choices, and food timing. If I eat like I used to, the abs disappear in short order!

In many ways, the Precision Nutrition way of eating is the natural transition for folks once they’ve realized the metabolism isn’t what it used to be, that they no longer can eat what they want without getting fat, and that they need to find the balance between exercise, nutrition, and life. It’s been that for me, for sure!

RA: What is your favorite quote?

JB: I’ve got a lot of favorite quotes…depending on the situation I’m in. When it comes to exercise and nutrition this is one that I think is essential:

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.”

I think too many people think there’s some perfect program out there that they have to mimic to be doing things “correctly” or “optimally.” And it’s this focus on the “beautiful strategy” that leads to frustration for many. The most important thing with exercise and nutrition is the result. Are you leaner? Are you more fit? Are you healthier? Are you performing better? If so, keep up what you’re doing. If not, make the change.

RA: What’s your single best exercise tip?

JB: It depends on if you’re a beginner or if you’re advanced.

If you’re a beginner, my advice is this. Find someone who’s bigger, stronger, and more fit than you are. And ask them if you can work out with them. No, you don’t have to pay them so that they can be your trainer or anything. Rather, become their friend and ask if you can train with them.

But don’t be a dork. Show up for all of your workouts. Don’t flake out. Be sure you go above and beyond as this person will likely be doing you a favor by working out with your sorry butt. 😉

By following along with their program for a few months, I guarantee you’ll make progress.

But make sure they’re significantly better than you! This is called stretching and it works because it forces you to work harder and do more than you’d naturally be inclined to do. And whenever we’re stretched – mentally, physically, etc. – we get better.

If you’re advanced, my best advice is this. Follow proper progression.

The only way to make progress is to design your program to get harder over time. You can do this by increasing your volume, increasing your intensity, decreasing your rest, and more. However, make sure that you design every program to contain some element of progression. If you don’t you’ll likely only maintain what you’ve now got. And that’s fine if you’re in maintenance mode. If not, frustration is inevitable.

And there’s nothing like asking Dr. B to finish the sentence on some current topics.

RA: McDonald’s is…

JB: …for people who don’t love their bodies.

Funny enough, I usually don’t say things like “you have to love yourself” without the comment having some sarcastic prurient connotations. But just a few weeks back, I stayed up all night working on a house I’m renovating and was ravenous at about 5:30am.

Of course, nothing is open at that time but a few fast food drive thrus. So I picked up some McDonalds. I had a breakfast burrito and a yogurt cup (with “fruit”). And, when eating that breakfast, the phrase above actually popped into my head. I know it sounds touchy-feely. But I also feel like there’s some truth to it.

It seems to me that fast food isn’t really “food” at all – not any more. It’s processed to the point where you’re basically eating little sponges saturated with fat, salt, and or sugar. My burrito was a salt and fat soaked sponge. And my yogurt was a sugar filled sponge.

People who eat that stuff and then go back for more must be masochists. If I end up back at McDonalds by choice – it’s official. I hate myself.

RA: Being it’s the Christmas holiday…mistletoe make me…

JB: …love myself 😉

(Thanks for the chance to get back to my prurient roots)

Bonus: Dr. B, what is your single favorite supplement?

JB: Far and away, it’s the super shake – specifically the Berry Blast recipe in PN.

This combination of iced green tea, tasty protein, a good tasting green food product, some vanilla flavored fish oil, mixed berries, and mixed nuts tastes amazing, especially if you use a little less tea and make it so thick that you can eat it with a spoon. And not only does it taste great, it’s absolutely the healthiest meal on the planet that you can make in less than 2 minutes.

I drink one of these every day!

Eat, move, and live… better.

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