What it really takes to get bodybuilding-style lean | Precision Nutrition

What it really takes to get bodybuilding-style lean

By John Berardi, Ph.D.


Here’s a sample diet plan from Christian Thibaudeau, a top strength coach whose methods have heavily influenced our style of training around here (although we do differ from time to time) and who is a high level competitive bodybuilder in Canada.  If you’re trying to get super-lean, you’ve got to learn to progressively drop your calories.  And Christian’s plan illustrates that perfectly.

Couple of things to note:

  1. Christian is over 200lbs and is an advanced trainee, weight training 5 days a week for 70 minutes each session and at a very high intensity.
  2. Christian bulks up by about 20-30lbs in the off-season and then uses a diet like this below for short periods (12-16 weeks) to get ripped.
  3. Christian has a fairly slow metabolic rate (endomorphic body type by nature) and therefore has always eaten less that I would as my metabolism is faster.
  4. Christian is in the final phases of a competition diet where he’s got to drop fat no matter what. And to do so, he’s going extremely low in the calorie dept.

In my opinion, the take home lesson from these notes and the diet posted below is that if you’re really trying to get super-lean, you will have to progressively drop your calories – and drop them pretty damn low if you want to look like a fitness model/bodybuilder/competitor.

I think many people have misinterpreted my comments on eating more to increase metabolism as a way to justify overeating during fat loss phases. If you’re chronically undereating, you need to boost calories so that you can start at a new, higher metabolic balance.

However, if you’re looking to get really lean, advanced lean, you’ll eventually have to drop those calories again. And sometimes, they’ll have to drop pretty low.

Check out Christian’s diet to see how low.



A) Swiss brand digestive enzymes

  • Protease 29 700 Activity units
  • Lipase 2376 AU
  • Amylase 29 700 AU
  • Amyloglucosidade 106.2mg
  • Cellulase 59.3mg
  • Hemicellulase 12.5mg
  • Lactase 25mg

B) Bio Sante digestive enzymes

  • Papaya
  • Pepsin
  • Bromelain
  • Lipase
  • Pancrealipase
  • Lactase
  • Cellulase
  • Gluco-amylase
  • Invertase
  • Alpha amylase

C) Jamieson brand acidophilus

D) Nicar laboratory brand probiotics


A) HOT ROX, 3 capsules twice a day

B) The old Biotest T2 formula twice a day

C) Carbolin-19 (while it’s sold as a muscle-building supplement, several research indicate that coleus is a powerful weapon in the fat burning war)


A) Alpha-male 3 times per day


A) ZMA before bed
B) Potassium after training sessions
C) Compelete anti-oxydant formula
D) B complex vitamin

My diet is as follows:


150ml 35% whipping cream (60g fat, 0g protein, 0g carbs)
3-6 whole eggs – raw – (15-30g fat, 18-36g protein, 2-4g carbs)
Low-carb metabolic drive powder – 1 scoop (2g fat, 20g protein, 3g carbs)
TOTAL: 77-107g fat, 38-58g protein, 5-7g carbs


Lean turkey 175g (1g fat, 30g protein, 0g carbs)
Flameout 6 caps (6g fat, 0g protein, 0g carbs)
TOTAL: 7g fat, 30g protein, 0g carbs


Chicken 175g (6g fat, 25g protein, 0g carbs)
Flameout 6 caps (6g fat, 0g protein, 0g carbs)
TOTAL: 12g fat, 25g protein, 0g carbs


4 scoops whey isolate (0g fat, 108g protein, 0g carbs)
30g BCAA powder (0g fat, 30g protein, 0g carbs)
TOTAL: 0g fat, 138g protein, 0g carbs


GLA 6 caps (6g fat, 0g protein, 0g carbs)
Whey isolate – 1 scoop (0g fat, 27g protein, 0g carbs)
TOTAL: 6g fat, 27g protein, 0g carbs



14 rice cakes post-workout (3g fat, 14g protein, 114g carbs)
Oatmeal 2 cups during breakfast (2g fat, 4g protein, 50g carbs)


Now, I’m not using this as the model for perfect “get lean” nutrition. I’d like to see more micros and fiber in there and I’d make a few other small changes – but again, he’s only doing this for a short period of time to reach a specific goal – and it’s working. So more power to him.

In the end, simply, this should serve as an illustration of how low your calories might have to go (taking into account your relative size to Christian’s) when trying to get lean.

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