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Changing the Rules of Good Nutrition
by Dr John M Berardi, CSCS

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What are the rules of good nutrition? What types of things must you absolutely do to succeed - and what types of things must you avoid?

Seriously, take a moment and think about it.

What rules do you think you'll need to follow if you want to eat in a healthy way -; way that will improve the way your body looks and the way it feels.

Come up with that list in your mind right now.

Now that you've considered these rules, I want you to take a second and think about your list. Specifically, think about where you learned these rules.

Certainly your rules have been influenced by how you were raised, no? Certainly they've been influenced by your experiences dining with friends and relatives -\ comfort foods, right? Of course, no set of nutrition rules is immune to media influences. Your rules have probably also been influenced by what you've heard others say - heck, every 3rd episode of Dr. Phil is about food and dieting. And, no doubt, your nutrition rules have probably been influenced by your own past attempts at changing your body - whether you've been successful or unsuccessful.

I could sit here all day and list potential nutritional influences. But I'll stop here since there are probably hundreds of 'em and to enumerate them all would bore your socks off.

At this junction, I'd just like to go ahead and make my point. And the point is this - very few of your "Good Nutrition Rules" have been influenced by those who know anything about good nutrition - let alone about long-term success and about what it really means to eat in a healthy way! And worse yet, most of those rules have been hammered home without you even knowing it!

It's time to change the rules.

The Triple S Criterion

Now I'll admit it. Changing the rules - just like changing your habits - is difficult. Not only does it take a desire to change - "want to" - but it takes a strategy for change - "how to".

The "want to" is all your own. But the "how to" is what I do best. I've committed my career to helping people do just this - to change their rules and change their habits - and have gotten pretty good at it. In changing these rules and habits, everything changes - the way clients eat, the way they sleep, they way they look, the way they feel when they wake up in the morning, and they way they perform in day-to-day activities or during athletic events.

Today, I'm going to teach you a good part of that system - a system based on my Triple S Criterion.

What's the Triple S Criterion? Well, it represents a three step way of evaluating a strategy for its usefulness.

Step 1 - Simplicity:
Are the rules easy to follow?
Step 2 - Science
Are the rules based on sound scientific principles?
Step 3 - Success
Have the rules produced success in past clients?

Using this criterion, the systems developed for my clients always produce a positive result.

Think again about your nutritional rules - rules that you might be quite attached to. Which criterion did you use when determining your rules? Are your rules based on Simplicity, Science, and Success? Have your rules produced the desired effect - a lean, healthy body that you're able to maintain?

If not, perhaps they could use a re-evaluation.

Dr. Berardi's Good Nutrition Rules

Below, I'd like to present my 10 Good Nutrition Rules, rules based on the Triple S Criterion above. In doing so, I hope to accomplish 2 goals.

  • First, I want to help you rethink your whole nutrition approach - providing you with a new set of nutrition rules and habits - a set that swiftly moves you in the direction of your goals.
  • Secondly, I want to show specifically how the recipes, cooking tips, and strategies can integrate together to represent a complete success system, fully integrated into the basic habits of good nutrition.

So here are the 10 rules:

  1. Eat every 2-3 hours - no matter what.
    Are you doing this - no matter what? Now, you don't need to eat a full meal every 2-3 hours but you do need to eat 6-8 meals and snacks that conform to the other rules below.
  2. Ingest complete, lean protein each time you eat.
    Are you eating something this is an animal or comes from an animal - every time you feed yourself? If not, make the change. Note: If you're a vegetarian, this rule still applies - you need complete protein and need to find non-animal sources.
  3. Ingest vegetables every time you eat.
    That's right, every time you eat (every 2-3 hours, right), in addition to a complete, lean protein source, you need to eat some vegetables. You can toss in a piece of fruit here and there as well. But don't skip the veggies.
  4. If want to eat a carbohydrate that's not a fruit or a vegetable (this includes things like things rice, pasta, potatoes, etc), you can - but you'll need to save it until after you've exercised.
    Although these often heavily processed grains are dietary staples, heart disease, diabetes and cancer are medical staples - there's a relationship between the two! To stop heading down the heart disease highway, reward yourself for a good workout with a good carbohydrate meal right after (your body best tolerates these carbohydrates after exercise). For the rest of the day, eat your lean protein and a delicious selection of fruits and veggies.
  5. A good percentage of your diet must come from fat. Just be sure it's the right kind.
    There are 3 types of fat - saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Eating all three kinds in a healthy balance can dramatically improve your health and even help you lose fat.

    Your saturated fat should come from your animal products and you can even toss in some butter or coconut oil for cooking. Your monounsaturated fat should come from mixed nuts, olives, and olive oil. And your polyunsaturated fat should from flaxseed oil, fish oil, and mixed nuts.

  6. Ditch the calorie containing drinks (including fruit juice).
    In fact, all of your drinks should come from non-calorie containing beverages. Fruit juice, alcoholic drinks, and sodas - these are all to be removed from your daily fare. Your absolute best choices are water and green tea.
  7. Focus on whole foods.
    Most of your dietary intake should come from whole foods. There are a few times where supplement drinks and shakes are useful. But most of the time, you'll do best with whole, largely unprocessed foods.
  8. Have 10% foods.
    I know you cringed at a few of the rules above - perhaps #6 in particular. But here's a bit of a reprieve. 10% foods are foods that don't necessarily follow the rules above - but foods you're still allowed to eat (or drink) 10% of the time.

    100% nutritional discipline is never required for optimal progress. The difference, in results, between 90% adherence to your nutrition program and 100% adherence is negligible.

    Just make sure you do the math and determine what 10% of the time really means. For example, if you're eating 6 meals per day for 7 days of the week - that's 42 meals. 10% of 42 is about 4. Therefore you're allowed to "break the rules" 4 meals each week.

  9. Develop food preparation strategies.
    The hardest part about eating well is making sure you can follow the 8 rules above consistently. And this is where preparation comes in. You might know what to eat, but if isn't available, you'll blow it when it's time for a meal.
  10. Balance daily food choices with healthy variety.
    Let's face it; during the week - when you're busy - you're not going to be spending a ton of time whipping up gourmet meals. During these times you're going to need a set of tasty, easy to make foods that you can eat day in and day out. However, once every day or a few times a week - you need to eat something different - something unique.

So, what about calories, or macronutrient ratios, or any number of other things that I've covered in many other articles on my own web site and elsewhere? The short answer is that if you aren't already practicing the above-mentioned habits, and by practicing them I mean putting them to use over 90% of the time (i.e., no more than 4 meals out of an average 42 meals per week violate any of those rules), everything else is pretty pointless.

Moreover, many people can achieve the health and the body composition they desire using the habits alone. No kidding! In fact, with some of my paying clients I spend the first few months just supervising their adherence to these rules - an effective but costly way to learn them.

If you've reached the 90% threshold, you may need a bit more individualization beyond the habits. If so, visit my web site. Many of these little tricks can be found in my many articles published there. But before looking for them, before assuming you're ready for individualization; make sure you've truly mastered the habits. Then, while keeping the habits as the consistent foundation, tweak away.

For more great training and nutrition wisdom, check out our complete system, Precision Nutrition. Containing system manuals, gourmet cookbook, digital audio/video library, online membership, and more, Precision Nutrition will teach you everything you need to know -- guaranteed.

And what's more, your online access allows you to talk exercise and nutrition 24/7 with thousands of fellow members and the Precision Nutrition coaches. Find out more about Precision Nutrition.

Precision Nutrition

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Great advice and thanks John / David ... the podcast is very helpful too ... supports my belief that I'm on the right track ... Smiling

Andrew, Glad to hear it. Are you following the rules or do you have your own version?

[...] you know Dr. John Berardi’s 10 rules you already know what is coming. The important points for cricketers who want strength without bulk [...]

Do you have to avoid carbs till post/pre workout meals even if you are under weight?

PN plan vs. SL5x5 diet9plan0: which is best for optimum performance?

There are some weird ideas among those 10, that I have never heard before and are certainly not in my coach's manual. If nothing else, eating every 2-3 hours is a heck of a lot of food in a 16 hour day.

2-3 hours is a good one I think because it encourages people to get in lots of lean protein and vegetables (see the other rules). This will help them get stronger and healthier. There is no physiological reason to eat so often, and you don't need a full 3 course meal, just some protein and vegetables and healthy fats. It's what Dr. Berardi has used successful with hundreds of people with all kinds of goals from weight loss to sport performance (Olympic level too).

So really the average day would be breakfast(7am), snack(10am), lunch(1pm), snack(4pm), dinner(7pm) and another snack if you go to bed after 10pm. 3 meals and 3 snacks is not so much.

My problem with tradition manuals of healthy eating is they tend to repeat rules that have become established with fragile basis in science and no basis in reality. The classic one is "carb up" before a game. It's a total myth yet it persists. It's even written down in basic nutrition guides. But if you look at the studies you won't find support for team games.

I feel too sick before a game to eat anything anyway! Just about manage to force a snickers bar down.

Hm a snickers isn't the best choice. A protein shake might be palatable though.

Excellent post. I'm experiencing a few of these issues as well..