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The Holy Grail
Body Transformation Program
How to Gain Muscle and
Lose Fat at the Same time
By Tom Venuto

Version 2.0.1
Copyright 2010, Holy Grail Body Transformation Dot Com
A Division of Fitness Renaissance, LLC

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This program is for educational and informative purposes only and is not intended as
medical or professional advice. Always consult your doctor before making any
changes to your diet or nutrition program. The use of diet and nutrition to control
metabolic disorders and disease is a very complicated science, and is not the purpose
of this program. The purpose of this program is to help healthy people reach their
cosmetic fitness goals (gaining muscle and losing fat) by educating them in proper
nutrition and exercise guidelines.

No health claims are made for this program. This nutrition and exercise program will
not help cure, heal, or correct any illness, metabolic disorder, or medical condition.
The author is not a medical doctor, registered dietitian, or clinical nutritionist; the
author is a fitness and nutrition consultant.

If you have diabetes, chronic hypertension, high blood cholesterol, cardiovascular

disease, or any other medical condition or metabolic disorder requiring special
nutritional considerations, we suggest you consult a health care professional with a
clinical nutrition background (MD, RD, or CCN) for your special nutrition program.

If you have been sedentary and are unaccustomed to vigorous exercise, and/or if you
have any orthopedic problems, you should obtain your physician’s clearance before
beginning an exercise program. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
recommends that apparently healthy individuals who are male and over 40 or female
and over 50 to have both a physical exam and a diagnostic exercise test prior to
starting a vigorous exercise program. A diagnostic exercise test and physical
examination is also recommended in individuals of any age who exhibit two or more of
the major coronary risk factors (smoking, family history of heart disease, elevated
blood cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, and diabetes). Any individual with a
known history of heart disease or other heart problems should be required to have a
medical evaluation including a graded exercise test before engaging in strenuous
physical activity.

The author and publisher shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or
entity with respect to any of the information contained in this manual. The user
assumes all risk for any injury, loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused,
directly or indirectly by using any information described in this course.

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Part 1: Theory and science

Part 2: The nutrition program: periodization and cyclical dieting

Part 3: Training guidelines

Part 4: Lifestyle factors

Part 5: Frequently asked questions



Appendix 1: Carb cycling menu plans

Appendix 2: How many calorie should I eat Cheat Sheet

Appendix 3: Burn the fat 2.0 food guide

Bonus: TNB workout

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Gain muscle and lose fat at the same time? Have I gone mad? Have I “sold out” and
joined the weight loss and muscle building opportunists who make wild claims to sell
diet and training courses? Aren’t I the guy who always said it’s impossible to gain
muscle and lose fat at the same time? Don’t worry, I haven’t gone crazy, I haven’t
sold out and you won’t hear any claims from me that can’t be backed up with

Let me start off by making one thing very clear: Gaining muscle and losing fat at the
“same time” is possible and I’ve said that for years. Let me quote myself from my
book Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, which was first published in 2002:

“It’s common to see a large decrease in body fat with a small increase in lean body
mass. It’s also common to see a large increase in lean body mass with a small
decrease in body fat.”

However, I tempered that statement by continuing as follows:

“One thing you will rarely see is a large increase in lean body mass and a large
decrease in body fat.”

You see, the nutritional methods necessary for gaining muscle and burning fat are
mostly antagonistic to one another, which make doing both simultaneously a difficult
proposition. Fortunately, difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Confused? Let me clarify
this further.

It may indeed be virtually impossible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, if
you define the same time as “right now” (as in, this very moment you are reading
this), or as a continuous process (as in, gaining muscle and losing fat simultaneously
24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

That temporal distinction is more important than it may appear. In fact, this entire
Holy Grail body transformation program is largely based on two maxims:

Timing is everything.
For everything there is a season.

Gaining a lot of muscle and losing a lot of fat at the same time is also most likely to
occur only under certain optimal conditions. That might pique your interest and make
you wonder what those mysterious conditions are. If you could duplicate and control
them, couldn’t you put the odds of achieving concurrent muscle gain and fat loss in
your favor? Bingo! That’s exactly why I created this program.

The somewhat depressing problem is that many of these conditions, notably your
genetics and the way your body is biologically hardwired, are not under your control.
Nevertheless, regardless of your age, experience or genetics, there are some factors
that you can influence, so rather than fret about your genetic lot, it’s best to focus on
the things you can change.

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Why I created this program

Because of these challenges and because muscle gain and fat loss are antagonistic
goals, I’ve always suggested that your best bet is to focus single-mindedly on one
goal at a time – either gaining muscle or burning fat. I still believe this today. But if
that’s true, then why bother writing about how to gain muscle and lose fat at the
same time? There are three reasons.

The first is because wild claims of muscle gain with fat loss are running rampant in
bodybuilding, fitness and weight loss product advertisements and they’re not going
anywhere anytime soon. This has created totally unrealistic expectations in many
trainees. Unrealistic goals lead to eventual frustration.

Even with the Federal Trade Commission clamping down recently, some well-heeled
companies are making illegal claims anyway and waiting for the slap on the wrist.
They say, “oops, sorry”, pay a fine, and start all over again with a new product.
Because many of the claims for muscle building, fat-burning programs and
supplements are based on best case scenario results or even fabrications, it pays to
be skeptical of advertising claims.

That’s why there’s a real need for a science-based guide on the subject to put
muscle gain and fat loss claims into their proper perspective. That’s also why I make
no specific claims about the results you’ll get. I will cite the scientific sources for any
numbers when sources are available. Any case studies I mention are anecdotal and
are no indication that you’ll get the same results. Although the results may not be
typical, and self-reported body composition results are subject to a large margin of
error, I do pledge that all case studies and testimonials are real and verifiable.

The second reason I’m writing this is because gaining muscle while losing fat is the
most desirable goal for all bodybuilders and physique athletes and for many people
interested in body composition improvements. It represents a best case scenario –
the ultimate prize, or as I call it, the Holy Grail of body transformation. Interest in
pursuing this Grail will never wane. Therefore, I thought it worth writing a short
manual on the subject to satisfy the insatiable thirst for knowledge on how to
achieve this most highly coveted goal, however difficult it may be.

Third, my own beliefs on the subject, while they have not changed fundamentally,
have expanded somewhat. After nearly a decade of seeing the results produced by
the diligent application of certain nutrition, training and lifestyle techniques, by
highly motivated individuals, I’ve seen enough proof. I’ve seen the results with my
own eyes too many times to deny that it’s possible to gain muscle and lose fat during
a training/nutrition cycle.

With advances made in the last decade in our understanding of nutrient timing,
cyclical dieting and lifestyle strategies, drug-free muscle gains with fat loss have
become a more frequent occurrence among highly dedicated, hard-working trainees.

One of the most impressive transformations we’ve seen so far came from 44-year
old Ben Brown. A competitor in our Summer body transformation contest, Ben
started at 153 pounds and finished the 98-day challenge at 154.8 pounds. If you
only focused on scale weight, that wouldn’t seem so impressive – it might appear as

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only 1.8 pounds of muscle gain. But body composition testing (and Ben’s before and
after photos) told a different story: his starting body fat was 19.3% and his ending
body fat percentage was 10.5%. 8.8% body fat loss in 14 weeks is exceptional by
itself, but after crunching the numbers, you can see that this translates to a 13.2
pound loss in body fat and a 15 pound gain in lean body mass. This result is not
typical, but it’s certainly encouraging, as Ben intentionally set out to use Holy Grail
techniques to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time and he succeeded in spades.

In other cases, body composition transformation happens “Accidentally.” Josh Ketter,

the men’s winner of our 1st annual Holiday (winter) body transformation contest is a
perfect example. In only 7 weeks, Josh gained 7 pounds of lean body mass and lost
8 pounds of body fat while his body weight only dropped by a pound. The catch is,
Josh’s goal was to lose body fat. He wasn’t trying to gain muscle – his results just
turned out that way. These results too, are quite remarkable and not necessarily

Large gains in muscle with large (or equal) losses in fat are usually the exception.
The good news is, it’s common for those following the Holy Grail techniques to lose
large amounts of body fat with modest but significant gains of muscle.

For example, in our most recent summer body transformation challenge, 42-year old
Jay Lemon lost 32.4 pounds of fat while gaining 5.4 pounds of lean body mass in 98
days (14 weeks). He intentionally set out to “lose 25 pounds of fat and gain as much
muscle as possible in the process.” He exceeded his goal.

Thirty-four year old Erica Perna Dropped 15 pounds of body weight while gaining 6
pounds of lean body mass. Remarkably, this was after she had already achieved a
previous 100 pound weight loss. “The best part of all” she said, “was that I have
even added visible muscle to my frame in the process. Unbelievable? Yes. But it’s

Ryan Wilson also competed in our summer body transformation challenge. He lost
28.2 pounds in 98 days – all of it fat – while gaining 3.2 pounds of very visible
muscle in the process. Ryan said that he already understood nutrition but “The Holy
Grail has revamped my thinking.”

36-year-old mom of three Anna Goldenberg made an impressive 98-day

transformation as well, cutting 16.1 pounds of total body weight, while adding 4
pounds of muscle. Her waist shrunk by 6.6 inches. She said, “The most important
thing that I learned is what should be done to reduce body fat AND gain muscles.”

These are the types of results that I can confidently say are attainable for most
people using the techniques you’ll learn inside this e-book. Whether you’ll achieve
more remarkable gains of muscle while you simultaneously burn fat, I can’t say. That
depends on many different factors, as you’ll discover shortly.

But certainly, the fact that many other people have achieved the Holy Grail of fitness
goals should be encouraging. The photos of these and many more success stories
can be seen on the Holy Grail Website at

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What can we learn from the success of other people? For starters, you can get
inspired and motivated. On a more practical level, by studying both the deliberate
and the accidental successes, tracing the effects back to their causes, I’ve discovered
some commonalities in methods among every person who has achieved the Holy

This has allowed me to fine tune this body transformation process to the point where
it is today. Here’s the best part: The Holy Grail system has always been based on
solid science. Now it is also thoroughly real-world tested.

This e-book is divided into five parts, plus the appendices and a special bonus

Part one discusses the theory and science. This section should not be skipped. It’s
very important to understand the physiological process by which you gain muscle
and lose fat because the nutrition program design is based entirely on manipulating
these mechanisms.

Part two gives you the specific techniques to make this happen – an eating program
based on nutrient timing and nutritional periodization. This cyclical nutrition plan is
the core of the Holy Grail transformation system.

Part three covers general weight training and cardio training guidelines. (A complete
training program is included in the bonus section at the back of the e-book).

Part four discusses the lifestyle factors, focusing on the “big two” which could
sabotage an otherwise near-perfect nutrition and training plan.

Part five contains the newest addition to the program – questions and answers. This
new section was made possible by the first wave of Holy Grail body transformation
students who sent me hundreds of emails as they pursued their quest for the Grail.
By compiling all of the most frequently asked questions, this has created an
immensely helpful new chapter to this 2nd edition of the program.

In the remainder of the e-book, you’ll find the appendices which include sample meal
plans, calorie calculators and the Burn the Fat 2.0 food data base. You’ll also find the
important bonus section with my complete “T.N.B.” workout program.

I’ve also included some selected references from the peer-reviewed journals for
readers who are scientifically-inclined.

Should you decide to pursue the Holy Grail, you are about to embark on a
challenging journey. The beauty of a traveling on a difficult path is that when the
destination is reached and the goal is captured, the achievement is all the more

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The Holy Grail

Body Transformation Program:
Part One – Theory and Science

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Gaining muscle and losing fat – the debate

Some bodybuilding experts call it "body recomposition.” Dan Duchaine was probably
the first, while Lyle McDonald deserves much credit for popularizing and keeping this
neat little phrase alive. In his 1996 book, Duchaine wrote:

“The dirty little aspect of weight loss that diets have to address is muscle loss.
Whenever you reduce calories to lose body fat, you also sacrifice muscle. Sometimes
it’s a significant amount; other times it can be measured in mere ounces or grams.
However, the status of your lean body mass directly affects both your metabolism
and your ultimate shape. Replace, maintain and increase muscle – recomposition –
accomplishes all three.”

Academic types call it concurrent hypertrophy and fat loss (hypertrophy means
muscle growth and concurrent means “at the same time”). Whatever you call it – I
use both phrases - gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time is clearly the "holy
grail" of body transformation goals.

However, there's been ongoing debate over whether this goal is even possible and if
so, whether it's a wise goal to pursue, or if a focused one-goal approach (aka
building or cutting) is more efficient.

The experts are divided: Some advise that it's impossible to gain muscle and lose fat
at the same time. Others claim that it's not only possible, but on their programs,
larger muscles and a ripped physique are both guaranteed. A third group says, you
can do it, but it takes a very systematic approach, it’s most likely to happen under
specific conditions, and there may be a compromise. You can count me in the third

But who should you believe? And why is there any confusion at all? Can’t this debate
be settled easily with science? Well, even after looking at the science, it’s still a
difficult question to answer. How the body partitions energy and nutrients is so
complicated, it can make your brain hurt if you start digging into the research.

Can you gain muscle and lose fat at the same time? Like so many areas that involve
the almost inconceivable complexity of the human body, the real answer is, "it
depends." There are so many “x factors” that affect whether muscle is gained or lost
and whether fat is burned or stored, it’s not a simple cut and dried issue.

The good news is, if you understand just a few of the key scientific principles that
govern concurrent muscle gain and fat loss, and if you pay attention to real world
results, these complex physiological processes can be codified into a very simple and
practical nutrition, training and lifestyle plan. That’s what this short course on
gaining muscle and burning fat is about.

The core of the Holy Grail body transformation program is a cyclical nutrition plan
and that’s where our primary focus will go.

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What science and the real world say

Personal reports and my own measurements on clients with 15-20 pounds of fat loss,
with a 2-5 pound gain of lean muscle over 12 weeks are not uncommon. On muscle
gaining programs, you might see an 8-12 pound muscle gain and a 2-3 pound loss of
body fat, and that is also not unusual.

Occasionally, although this is the exception, results on the order of 15-20 pounds of
fat loss with a concurrent 6-10 pound muscle gain in 12-14 weeks have been

In our recent 49-day (approx 7 weeks) Burn the Fat body transformation
challenge, two of our male contestants and (surprisingly) one of our female
contestants each dropped 7-8 pounds of fat and gained approximately 7 pounds of
muscle with little change in body weight. Body composition and weight were self
reported, but the before and after photographs were congruent with these results.

These types of results are not just anecdotal, either. In one study published in the
scientific journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, researchers from the
United States Sports Academy studied a group of overweight sedentary men who
followed a program of endurance and weight training exercise for 14 weeks. At the
end of the study, the subjects had gained an average of 9.5 pounds of muscle and
lost 16.3 pounds of fat.

That is remarkable progress. An advanced bodybuilder would be thrilled to gain 9.5

pounds of muscle with no drop in body fat in a year, let alone in 14 weeks with a
concurrent 16 pound fat loss. It might even make you wonder what kind of training
program these guys were on so you could copy their routines.

Well, don't bother looking up the study. The workout program was nothing unusual.
They did 3 days a week of steady state cardio - 30 minutes of cycling and 30
minutes of walking at 60-70% of heart rate reserve. The weight training consisted of
8 exercises, 4 sets per exercise, 8-12 reps per set. So much for needing one of those
super-high tech training programs you see advertised on the web.

A good resistance training program is a MUST to optimize your chances of gaining

muscle and losing fat, but the type of resistance training program is not the most
significant factor. What was significant in these unusual cases of exceptional body
recomposition was the fact that the men were beginners to training. It’s also
noteworthy that they were overweight. More on those “x factors” in a moment.

Defining "the same time"

With this kind of scientific and strong anecdotal evidence, I'm not sure how anyone
can still dispute that over an extended period of time - weeks or months - it's
possible to see an increase in muscle and a decrease in body fat. It can be done. It
has been done. Most of the controversy and confusion revolves around your
definition of "the same time."

The real question is, were these results really examples of gaining muscle and losing
fat at the "same time?" Well, yes, if your definition of "the same time" is 7 weeks or

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14 weeks. But in such scenarios, you do not gain muscle and lose fat 24 hours a day,
7 days a week for 14 weeks straight (which would be the "same time" literally
speaking). This is the key distinction of the Holy Grail Body Transformation program:
What really happens is you alternate between periods of caloric surplus (anabolism)
and periods of caloric deficit (catabolism).

Your body is in a constant state of flux: protein synthesis and protein breakdown;
lipolysis and lipogenesis. The net result of the sum of these processes over time
dictates the change in your body composition. Our goal is to purposely manage this
flux between surplus and deficit so that fat loss and muscle gain over an extended
time period are the end results. Our tools of the trade are strength training, cardio
training, complete recovery from training, optimal macro and micro-nutrition,
lifestyle strategies and the ideal hormonal environment.

This zig zagging of anabolism and catabolism happens to some degree whether you
do it intentionally or not. Keep in mind that on training days, you have a higher
calorie expenditure than on rest days, so even if your caloric intake remains the
same, if you are training, your state of energy balance still fluctuates.

Even though many people maintain approximately the same body weight and body
composition for years, to be in perfect energy balance all the time is somewhat of a
misnomer. If body composition stays the same, the perpetual see-saw of anabolism
and catabolism has balanced each other out over time.

Having ruled out muscle gain and fat loss at the same time literally, for the rest of
this ebook, when we say “same time” we will be referring to a multi-week or multi
month period.

Even when you define the same time as an extended period of weeks or months,
gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time is very difficult, as they are
incompatible goals for your body to pursue.

Usually when you lose weight, body fat and lean tissue compartments both go down
together. Your goal on a cut is to keep the loss of lean tissue in the form of skeletal
muscle to a minimum.

On a muscle building program, usually both body fat and lean tissue go up together.
Your goal on a muscle gaining program is to keep the accumulation of fat tissue to a
minimum as you gain lean body weight.

The problem is, keeping muscle loss and fat gains to a minimum on cutting or
building programs, respectively, is easier for some people than for others.

Most people who follow bodybuilding and anyone who has read my book Burn the
fat, Feed the Muscle, will be familiar with the concept of body types (somatotypes).
You have the genetically-gifted muscular mesomorph, the skinny and naturally lean
ectomorph and the round, fat-storing endomorph.

While lifestyle and nutrition strategies can facilitate lean gains and fat losses, much
of the equation is genetically governed, so to think that you can always be 100% in
control of the partitioning of fat and muscle is overly optimistic.

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The late Gilbert Forbes, a physician and renowned obesity researcher, performed
hundreds of studies on energy partitioning and body composition during growth,
starvation and refeeding since he began in the field in the 1950's. He was arguably
the pre-eminent expert on the subject.

Forbes helped us answer the question with this statement from one of his research
papers (underline my emphasis):

"For the most part, one is forced to the conclusion that the lean and fat components
of the body are in a sense companions, a change in one usually being accompanied
by a change in the other, and in the same direction. Energy balance provokes a
change in many body components, not just fat."

Translation: The body’s most natural tendency is to lose some lean body mass when
you lose weight and to gain some fat mass when you gain weight. To gain muscle
and lose fat together is to battle your biology. Perhaps that’s why people call it the
Holy Grail – because it is so elusive.

Concurrent muscle gain and fat loss: the exceptions (X factors)

When you look at how our bodies are genetically programmed, it’s remarkable and
wonderful from a survival of the species perspective, but depressing from a looking
good naked point of view. Sometimes it seems like our bodies don’t want to be lean
or muscular, let alone both at the same time.

Nevertheless, a small handful of people achieve it. We’ve seen the results in the real
world and in the research. How do they do it? That’s what this program is all about,
but it also depends a lot on the "ideal conditions" I mentioned earlier.

As a general rule, you are unlikely to gain muscle and lose fat concurrently in very
large amounts. However, there are exceptions to almost every rule, as in the case
studies I mentioned earlier. Several conditions allow some people to make larger
muscle gains and fat losses at the same time:

1. Beginners. Beginner's bodies are more responsive because they've never done
weight training before. They're a long way from their genetic potential so they have
more room for improvement. The longer you've been training (the higher the
“training age”), the harder it is to gain additional muscle.

2. Muscle Memory. Concurrent muscle gain with fat loss is often simply the
regaining of muscle that had been previously developed and lost after a layoff. It’s
easier to regain atrophied muscle than to build new muscle from scratch. Muscle
memory, as this regain is called, is not a bodybuilding urban legend – it’s a real
phenomenon with a scientific basis.

3. Genetics/Somatotype. Genetic superiors (mesomorph body types) are more

likely to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. They have many inherited
advantages, most importantly, advantages in muscle fiber type and number,
hormone levels, as well as nutrient partitioning (including something called the "P-

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ratio" which is the amount of protein deposited into tissues relative to the amount

4. Drugs. Anabolic drugs or fat burning drugs can increase the probability of losing
fat and gaining muscle at the same time, as well as the amount of muscle gained
and fat lost.

Looking at these four X factors, you can explain most cases of exceptional body
recomposition. Not surprisingly, these exceptions are the ones that often end up in
the before and after pictures for supplement ads.

If you haven’t watched the documentary Bigger, Stronger Faster, it’s quite
enlightening, if not shocking, the way it reveals the extent (and nonchalance) of drug
use in the bodybuilding and fitness industry.

In one scene, producer Chris Bell interviews fitness model and former supplement
spokesperson (“former” because he was fired after the interview), Christian Boeving
during a beachside photo shoot. Boeving’s shockingly honest confession speaks
volumes on point #4 above.

Christian Boeving: I saw Conan the Barbarian (the movie) and at that moment I
said, ‘that’s exactly what I want to do.’ So I started to study Arnold and his
achievements. I started training with weights when I was 14. I started taking
steroids when I was 16.

Chris Bell: So you’re advertising a supplement, and a guy like me goes and looks in
the magazine and I see Christian Boeving and I’m like, wow man, I want to look like
that guy. So I go and take Hydroxycut or I take some supplement because I think
I’m going to look like you but what I don’t know is that you were taking steroids. Do
you have any problem with that?

Christian: If someone looks at an ad which says, Christian Boeving takes

Hydroxycut, which I did and I do, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I don’t take
something else. If they choose to believe that’s the only thing I’m taking, then so be
it, they should be smarter than that.

Excellent training and nutrition programs help, of course, but training and nutrition
alone can't explain the extraordinary results some people experience. Some
supplements can be useful, but they don’t help enough to account for unusual gains
either. More often than you’d imagine, steroids and other physique-enhancing drugs
are the “mysterious” explanation.

And remember, most users don’t want you to know they’re “on the juice.” I know
some 40 and 50-something men who take growth hormone and testosterone. The
drugs were legally and legitimately prescribed by a doctor for hormone replacement
and “anti-aging” purposes. I doubt however, whether they are not enjoying the “side
effects” of better body composition, and yet some of them claim to be natural, or
simply don’t tell anyone.

Don’t underestimate how widespread drug use really is, not just among competitive
bodybuilders and fitness models, but among the recreational exercisers and average

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Joes you see in the gym. You can build a fantastic body drug-free, but it’s important
to know the truth about what goes on in the bodybuilding industry, so that the drug-
free trainee can set realistic expectations.

Training age is also a huge influence on your rate of muscle growth. The longer
you've been training, the slower your muscle gains occur. The closer you get to your
genetic ceiling, the smaller the remaining room for improvement and the slower your
gains become.

Even if the nutrition and training aren’t perfect, most people make the best progress
of their lives (particularly muscle gains) when they’re just starting out – the
infamous “newbie gains.”

If you're a beginner trying to gain muscle and you’re not getting results, it's likely
that you’re doing something very wrong with your nutrition, training and lifestyle
(that should be encouraging, not discouraging, by the way).

Concurrent muscle gain and fat loss: more variables (the X2 factors!)

Just to give you even more understanding of how NOT cut and dried this muscle gain
and fat loss process really is and how much "it depends" on multiple factors, there
are even more X factors to consider.

How easily you lose fat or gain muscle is influenced heavily by your current body
composition (lean or fat) and dieting status (dieted down or not dieted down). I call
these the “X2 factors” and they’ve been compiled based on the published research of
Dulloo, Forbes and Hall.

The Five X2 factors

1. Overweight people are less likely to lose muscle while in a calorie deficit
2. Overweight people are more likely to gain fat while in a calorie surplus
3. Lean people are more likely to lose muscle while in a calorie deficit
4. Lean people are more likely to gain muscle while in a calorie surplus
5. Lean people who starved or crash dieted are more likely to gain fat when initially
going into a calorie surplus (fat rebound/overshooting)

Keep in mind especially #3 on that list: the leaner you are, the more difficult it is
lose fat without losing lean tissue (let alone gaining any). For physique athletes like
bodybuilders or figure competitors, when heading into the home stretch of the
contest preparation period, holding on to lean muscle becomes a major concern and
high priority, especially if they’re drug-free.

The message is, forget about gaining much muscle when you’re extremely lean and
trying to get even leaner or during the final stages of contest prep. You will look
more muscular due to increasing muscle definition and separation, but it won’t be
from an increase in body mass (unless you’re some kind of genetic mutant – such
freaks of nature are known to exist).

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Why you don't gain muscle and lose fat at the same moment in time,
literally speaking

By now, the picture should be getting clearer: gaining muscle and losing fat
concurrently is best explained as a process of moving in and out of within-day and
within-week deficits and surpluses; bouncing back and forth between anabolic and
catabolic states. But one question still remains: why don't you gain muscle and lose
fat at the exact moment in time?

Some experts argue that you can be in a continuous caloric deficit for an extended
period, and use some of the energy from fat stores to build muscle. Theoretically, it
seems possible, especially in overweight individuals, because there’s an energy cost
for building muscle, and you have plenty of energy stored when you’re overweight.
You can even find a rare study if you want some evidence that muscle gain in a
severe calorie deficit is possible.

A 1993 study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
concluded that weight training can produce muscle hypertrophy on an 800-calorie
per day diet concurrent with large-scale (33 pound) weight loss!

At first, this seems to contradict the idea that concurrent muscle gain and fat loss is
difficult. It also seems to upturn the entire premise of very low calorie diets being
harmful and nutritionally inadequate. But when you read the full text of the paper,
you see that the subjects were obese and probably beginners.

There you have it again. It’s almost a given that one or more of the X1 and X2
factors are present in every unusual case of concurrent muscle gain and fat loss and
you can’t extrapolate these results to the rest of the population. It’s also worth
noting that in this study, the muscle hypertrophy was seen specifically in the thigh
muscles. Overall fat-free mass actually decreased!

Most people who quote this study don’t mention that. It’s an interesting finding,
nonetheless, demonstrating that you could lose muscle overall but gain it locally in
certain body parts that are resistance trained.

The theoretical possibility and rare research study notwithstanding, it’s just not likely
that you’ll use energy from fat to build muscle when you think about your body's
survival mechanisms. And remember the X2 factors - the leaner you get, and the
longer you’ve been dieting, the less likely it becomes.

When you're in a caloric deficit, especially an aggressive deficit for a prolonged

period, your body is far less likely to expend energy to build muscle tissue, even
when conditions seem otherwise optimal. When food intake is running short and
body fat reserves are getting low, the body's survival instinct is to do everything
possible to conserve energy.

Why would your body take energy from the sparse and shrinking supply of incoming
food or limited body fat reserves (energy needed to prolong survival during a food
shortage), and use it to build tissue (muscle) that is only going to cost more energy
to support? It makes no evolutionary sense.

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In an energy shortage, stored energy must be used to fuel activity and basal
metabolic needs as the top priorities. The more aggressive the deficit and the leaner
your body is, the less likely it is that any of this precious energy will be diverted to
help fuel the muscle building process. If muscle growth does take place when energy
is in short supply, it is surely not taking place at an optimal rate. There must be a

Gaining muscle at the maximum possible rate requires a caloric surplus. Losing fat at
the maximum rate requires a caloric deficit. You cannot be in a calorie surplus and a
calorie deficit at the same moment. Therefore, there are large differences in the
nutritional strategies necessary to gain muscle and lose fat with optimum efficiency.

If your goal is fat loss, the recommended deficit will fall somewhere between 15%
and 30% below your maintenance level. If you're a large, active male, your
maintenance level might be around 3000 calories per day, so a calorie target for fat
loss would be probably fall somewhere between 2100 and 2500 calories per day.

If a typical male wanted to gain lean body mass at the fastest possible rate, he
would probably aim for about 3300 to 3600 calories per day. That's a 1000-calorie
difference between an optimal caloric intake for fat loss and an optimal caloric intake
for muscle gain! The two programs are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Hormones and energy partitioning

Explaining fat loss and muscle gain by only discussing the calorie balance model
would be overly simplistic. A deficit doesn’t guarantee 100% fat loss. You can be in a
deficit and lose muscle, not just fat. A calorie surplus doesn’t guarantee 100%
muscle gain – as we all know too well, you can be in a surplus and gain fat, not just

The key is to partition as much of that surplus into lean tissue and have as much of
the energy deficit withdrawn from fat tissue as humanly possible. Anabolic and
catabolic hormones are primary players in the partitioning of energy and nutrients.

Simplified, energy partitioning means:

(1) When you are in a caloric deficit and you withdraw energy from the body, where
does the energy come from? Fat, glycogen, muscle tissue or other body proteins?

(2) When you have a caloric surplus, and you deposit energy in the body, where do
you store the excess energy? Fat, glycogen, muscle tissue or other body proteins?

Hormones are like traffic cops, directing energy and nutrients down one road into
cells or down another road out of cells, and these endocrine factors are influenced by
weight training as well as lifestyle, including sleep, stress, diet composition, state of
health and other factors.

The same concept applies to hormones and energy partitioning as with energy
balance: you have anabolic hormones, which are responsible for the depositing of
energy into tissues or the building of tissues, and you have catabolic hormones that

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are responsible for the mobilization of energy from tissues or the breakdown of

Because these hormones are antagonistic to one another, you don't release them at
the same time, so building processes and breakdown processes are not occurring

For example, glucagon is antagonistic to insulin. Cortisol is antagonistic to growth

hormone and testosterone (the testosterone to cortisol ratio is often used as a
measure of the anabolic status of your body.

Furthermore, while in an aggressive caloric deficit and a dieted-down state, you are
far more likely to be releasing predominantly catabolic hormones. So while muscle
gain and fat loss are clearly not dictated by calories alone, your body is simply not
set up to gain muscle in a deficit or to put on muscle and lose fat at the same
moment in time.

A new perspective on body transformation goals

It may seem like I’ve just spent pages and pages discouraging you from trying to
gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. In one sense, that’s true. This was
necessary to lead you into looking at body transformation from a new perspective.

You may have started reading this ebook thinking that there are three possible body
composition transformation goals (and hoping, no doubt for #3):

1) fat loss (cutting)

2) muscle gain (building)
3) gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time

Maintenance of your current body composition is another possibility, but we’re

assuming that you’re reading this because you want to make some kind of change or
improvement in your results. Many people are satisfied with their present body
weight, but few people just want to stand still and make no body improvements at

Rather than view body transformation as three possible goals, I suggest changing
the goal posts. I recommend choosing one primary goal – building muscle or burning
fat. However, during that program which has one main focus, you could choose to
pursue a secondary goal as well, if it’s appropriate to your situation.

In other words, set a primary goal of gaining lean body mass with a secondary goal
of losing a little bit of fat at the same time. That’s a welcome departure from the
traditional “bulking” approach where you gain a lot of fat along with the muscle.

Alternately, set a primary goal of fat loss and think of gaining a small amount of
muscle as a secondary goal. Unless certain x-factors are present, you probably won’t
see any huge muscle gains during your fat loss program. However, by using the Holy
Grail techniques, losing a lot of fat and gaining a little muscle at the same time is
entirely possible! That is also a welcome departure from the muscle loss problem so
many people experience while losing fat.

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These new body transformation goals could be categorized this way:

1) Focused fat loss (traditional cutting/maximum fat loss)

2) Focused muscle gain (traditional building/maximum muscle gain)
3) Fat loss first priority, concurrent muscle gain secondary goal
4) Muscle gain first priority, concurrent fat loss secondary goal

Essentially, we have gone from two possible goals to four possible goals, and we’ve
developed a new system for achieving goals #3 and #4 – the recomposition goals.

Selecting a goal is easy:

1) If you are significantly overweight, choose focused fat loss. Consider muscle
gain or recomposition goals later.
2) If you are skinny or underweight (ectomorph body type), choose focused
muscle gain.
3) If your body fat level is at least in the average (satisfactory) category or
better, take your pick out of the 4 goals listed above, based on your top
priority at the moment.

You can use the body fat rating scale below to help you decide if you’re lean enough
to pursue a “Holy Grail” body recomposition program or whether you should focus on
fat loss first.

Body fat rating scale Male Female

Competition shape (ripped) 3-6% 9-12%
Very lean (excellent) < 9% <15%
Lean (good) 10-14% 16-20%
Satisfactory (fair) 15-19% 21-25%
Improvement needed (poor) 20-25% 26-30%
Major improvement needed (very poor) 26-30%+ 31-40%+

When you have high body fat (approximately 20% or higher for men, 25% or higher
for women), it is best to single-mindedly focus on one goal – fat loss – and maximize
the fat loss without introducing any compromise or delay.

If focused fat loss is the right goal for you, I recommend referring to my complete fat
loss program Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle. Once you’ve got your body fat level
down into the fair to good category, then you can shift gears and start working on
ganing lean muscle.

In part two, I will explain the nutritional techniques that will increase your chances of
achieving these new “Holy Grail” body transformation goals #3 and #4.

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The Holy Grail

Body Transformation Program:
Part Two – Nutritional
Periodization and Cyclical Dieting

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From theory to practice

In part one, you learned about the theory and science behind gaining muscle and
losing fat at the same time. You learned all the reasons why concurrent muscle
growth and fat loss is a challenge and you heard about the "X factors" which create
ideal conditions for burning off fat and gaining muscle simultaneously. Some of those
factors are under your control, many of them are not.

You also learned the difference between energy balance and energy partitioning and
why there’s more to this than calories in versus calories out.

Now I'd like to show you how you can manipulate both energy balance and energy
partitioning in your favor, by including serious weight training, judiciously using
cardio, fine-tuning your nutrient timing, and cycling your calorie and macronutrient
(especially carbohydrate) levels.

This is where concurrent muscle gain and fat loss start to seem possible, at least
over a period of weeks and months.

Nutritional periodization and within-day energy balance

Traditionally, nutritionists and fitness professionals have only looked at energy

balance in terms of 24 hour periods. At midnight on any given day, you could add up
the calories consumed in the previous 24 hours, and compare that to the calories
expended. If you expended more than you consumed, you had a deficit for the day.

But it's entirely possible that you were not in a deficit for the entire 24 hours. You
might have been in a deficit for most of the day, but had a few hours when you were
in a surplus and a highly anabolic state. For example, what if you loaded a large
portion of your daily calories before and after your workout, while the rest of your
meals were smaller?

Considering calorie utilization hour-by-hour rather than day-by-day is known as

within-day energy balance. Some nutritionists, such as Dr. Dan Benardot, have
developed algorithms and software that can actually track within-day energy
balance. Calculating your calorie requirements in 24-hour time units is still the ideal
method for convenience and practicality reasons.

Although within-day energy balance is difficult to measure and track on a practical

level (and is not necessary for our purposes), it’s immensely useful to understand
this concept on an intellectual level. When you think of energy balance and nutrient
partitioning being perpetual processes rather than a once-a-day accounting process,
your perspective on gaining muscle and losing fat changes. So does your
perspective on how and when to provide fuel to your body.

With this new point of view, you realize that you can move into and out of surpluses
and deficits throughout the day and hormone levels fluctuate throughout the day.
With this perspective, you understand that if all the other conditions are in place
(weight training, recovery, sleep, optimal hormonal environment, etc), it's possible

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to gain muscle during a within-day surplus and then lose fat during the rest of the
day while in a deficit.

By the day, the change in body composition would not be noticeable. If it could be
measured, it would be in ounces or grams. But over a week, the net effect would be
a small but significant decrease in fat and increase in muscle. Over a few months, it
would appear as full-blown, fully-measurable fat loss with muscle gain.

In essence, we are making a case for the periodization of nutrition, the way athletes
periodize their training programs. Nutritional periodization is something that most
bodybuilders already do, by alternating cutting programs with building programs, but
traditionally, this has only been done on the “macro” level.

Multi-month fat loss or muscle gain phases are macrocycles – the traditional way.
But you can also manipulate your nutrition on a meso and micro level.

Within week (daily) changes in energy and macronutrient intake are mesocycles.
Within day (hourly) changes (post workout nutrition, daily nutrient timing, etc) are

Nutritional Periodization

Multi-month primary goal Macrocycle

Within-week carb/calorie cycling Mesocycle

Within-day nutrient timing Microcycle

When you consider how common it is to have an off-season and an in-season, to

focus on post-workout nutrition, and even to use calorie and carb cycling techniques,
you can see that many savvy bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts have already been
using nutritional periodization and didn’t even know it! (which explains some of those
“accidental successes” with body-recomposition).

Within-year (monthly) energy balance: the macrocycles

Bodybuilders have traditionally had bulking seasons for gaining muscle, typically
lasting 12-16 weeks to as long as 6-12 months (some bodybuilders even skip
competing for an entire year to focus on gaining size before they hit the stage
again). When they’re satisfied with the muscle they’ve gained, they shift into cutting
seasons to get leaner or prepare for competition.

The cutting phases usually last 8 to 16 weeks, but the duration depends on how lean
the bodybuilder is at the beginning of the cut phase. In nutritional periodization
lingo, these longer phases or seasons, usually multiple months in duration, are called

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Using long (multi-month) building (surplus) and cutting (deficit) phases is the classic
approach. Long building cycles with a consistent surplus are the fastest and most
efficient way to gain muscle.

The problem is that anyone other than a genetically favored (to be lean) ectomorph
or pure mesomorph may gain an unacceptable amount of fat along with the muscle.
Then during the cutting phase, you have to strip off all the newly accumulated fat,
and hopefully, most of the muscle they gained during the bulking phase is still there.

Clearly, there are some potential downsides to the traditional bulking approach to
gain muscle, which has led many bodybuilders to wonder if they could slowly add
muscle without adding any fat or even drop a little of fat while gaining muscle (goal

That leads us to cyclical dieting in shorter blocks of time – mesocycles and


Within-week carb/calorie cycling: the mesocycles

Getting lean presents its own set of problems. Prolonged periods of cutting and
caloric deficit make it difficult to hang on to lean muscle, not to mention it's no fun to
be hungry all the time. One solution is a cyclical (zig zag) approach to fat loss
nutrition instead of a traditional linear approach (straight line low calories all the

If your primary goal is fat loss, rather than staying in a calorie deficit all the time,
you raise calories and then drop them back down at regular intervals, preferably with
some strategic timing involved. Once again, these within-week changes in nutrition
are the mesocycles.

For example, on a fat loss program, you would take three days in a caloric deficit,
followed by one day at maintenance. This 3:1 method is an approach I’ve been
teaching for years.

While not designed as a muscle-building method per se, refeeding for one full day
can restore muscle glycogen, increase metabolism-regulating hormones such as
leptin, tip your body out of catabolism and provide psychological relief from
prolonged calorie deprivation. As such, this technique helps you stick with your diet
better, prevent plateaus and keep fat loss coming.

This approach does assume that you’re already lean or carrying only moderate
amounts of excess fat. If you recall the X2 factors, overweight people are less likely
to lose muscle in a calorie deficit than lean people and can handle a linear caloric
deficit safely for a longer period of time.

In general, anyone with high body fat levels should set a goal to get the fat off as
their first priority. Refer to my ebook, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle for a
complete A to Z fat loss program.

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As you get leaner, and your body fat reaches the average or lean categories, then I
recommend introducing refeeds with the 3:1 cycling method and your goal could
shift to recomposition rather than focused fat loss

3:1 Zig zag cycle for fat loss

There are many ways to approach cyclical dieting, but one of the most time-tested is
the 3:1 method. In a focused fat loss program, it looks like this:

Mesocycle Duration Calorie Level Energy Status

3 low calorie days 20-30% below TDEE Underfeeding/moderate to

aggressive deficit

1 high calorie day @ TDEE Refeeding/maintanence

* TDEE refers to total daily energy expenditure and it’s the same thing as your maintenance
level for caloric intake.
* Refer to the calorie guide in the appendix to determine your TDEE.

3:1 Zig zag cycle for fat loss with muscle gain

Although most people think of carb and calorie cycling as a cutting technique, you
can now see that it can be used in both directions.

If we wanted to increase our chances of gaining lean body mass during a fat loss
phase, we might follow the same 3:1 schedule, with one small new tweak: a high
calorie day that exceeds maintenance needs and goes into a surplus.

This is the core nutrition technique of the “Holy Grail” program when your primary
goal is fat loss and you want to gain a small amount of muscle as well:

Mesocycle Duration Calorie Level Energy Status

3 low calorie days 20-30% below TDEE Underfeeding/moderate to

aggressive deficit

1 high calorie day 15-20% above TDEE Overfeeding/surplus

* Endomorph body types will probably want to use the more aggressive deficit on the low days
(30% below TDEE) and the more conservative surplus on the high days (15% above TDEE).

Now let's look at what kind of results this might produce. If this 3:1 cyclical or zig
zagging pattern of raising calories up and down is carried out over 12 weeks, then
25% of your time is spent in a surplus and 75% of your time is spent in a deficit

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Isn't it logical that after three months of this, you would see a large fat loss and a
small muscle gain at the same time?

3:3 Zig zag cycle (lean muscle gain)

What if your primary goal is gaining muscle, but you don’t want to gain any fat or
you would like to actually drop a bit of fat while gaining muscle? Could you still use
the cycling technique by increasing the time spent in a surplus? Yes. It might look
like this:

Mesocycle Duration Calorie Level Energy Status

3 low calorie days 15-20% below TDEE Underfeeding/conservative


2-3 high calorie days 15-20% above TDEE Overfeeding/surplus

Here, up to 50% of your time is spent in a surplus and 50% in a deficit. With only
half your time in a deficit, your amount of fat loss over a 12 week program will be
significantly reduced, but that’s ok because your primary goal is not fat loss. When
the primary goal is gaining muscle, and you want to be sure the gain is lean, or even
lose some fat at the same time, this is a good way to do it.

This cycling technique is different than the fat loss cycle in that the number of
surplus days does not exceed the number of deficit days.

This is by design, because prolonged surpluses usually result in some fat gain along
with the muscle gain. It is very difficult to gain 100% fat-free tissue when you are in
a continuous surplus for a long time. The only people who seem to pull it off are
ectomorphs and the occasional ecto-mesomorph.

As you can see, this method of muscle gain is not a quick fix. To the contrary, it’s an
approach tailored to the patient person. If slower muscle gain in exchange for some
small fat loss with the muscle gain is a trade off you can live with, then give the 3:3
method a try.

Even if you don’t lose a significant amount of fat, this technique is actually very
helpful for gaining muscle while keeping the gains as fat-free as possible (especially
to the endomorph body types). While not as efficient as the straight-line surplus
method, people such as models and actors who want to gain weight, but need to
stay sharp, may find this technique appealing.

The Microcycle: Daily Nutrient Timing

To take advantage of the training-induced partitioning effect, you need to provide

ample amounts of fuel and nutrients when your body needs and is able to utilize
them the most.

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Ideally, this would mean consuming a significant breakfast, when your body is
metabolically primed to receive the nutrients (after an overnight fast) and one of
your larger meals after your strength training session, during the "window of
opportunity" where the potential for a positive partitioning effect is highest. The post
workout meal should contain protein and a significant serving of natural carbs.

Basically, when I speak of microcycles, I am simply remaking the argument for

nutrient timing, including proper post-workout nutrition and pre-workout nutrition.

Post workout nutrition and nutrient timing made ultra-simple

To a couch potato, nutrient timing isn't all that important. However, training changes
things. If you train like an athlete or bodybuilder, then it makes sense to eat like
one. The overall concept is simply to provide more fuel and building materials when
you need them the most and less when you need them the least.

It's important to have one of your meals immediately after strength training because
this is a critical time for muscle growth and recovery. Many experts have devised
formulas to calculate exact protein and carbohydrate amounts for your post-workout
meal. While not set in stone, the following is a common recommendation as a

0.5 grams of carbs per pound of lean bodyweight (1.1g/kg)

0.25 grams of protein per pound of lean bodyweight (.55g/kg)

For body composition improvement, this usually works out to about 30-50 grams of
protein and 60-100 grams of carbs for the post workout meal. (For endurance
athletes, or any athlete with extremely intense or glycogen depleting workouts,
these carb amounts are more like starting points, and can go much higher. For strict
fat loss programs, the carbs may be lower, depending on the degree of carb
restriction imposed).

Post workout nutrition doesn't have to be so formulaic, however. In fact, it can't be.
The optimal amounts of protein and carbs can vary depending on energy expenditure
during the workout, on total daily energy expenditure and whether the goal is fat
loss (hypocaloric), maintenance (isocaloric) or muscle gain (hypercaloric).

5 post workout nutrition strategies to improve muscle growth and enhance


Most people over-complicate the subject of post-workout nutrition. I suggest you

keep it as simple as possible – while not dismissing its importance. Essentially, the
post workout meal will be the same as your other meals, with a handful of minor
adjustments - "the 5 ultra simple guidelines of post workout nutrition."

First, eat soon after your workout. As John Ivy, PhD and Robert Portman, PhD,
explained in their book Nutrient Timing, "The 45 minutes immediately following
exercise is the metabolic window of opportunity. At no other time during the course
of your day can nutrition make such a major difference." Get your first postworkout
nutrition intake anytime between the end of your workout (still in the gym) and 30
minutes after your workout.

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Second, eat both protein and carbs in the post workout meal. At one time, carbs
alone were emphasized as a way to replenish glycogen after a workout, especially in
the endurance world. Other people insisted that post-workout protein was more
important to rebuild muscle, especially in the strength and bodybuilding world. The
science has now shown that glycogen synthesis and protein synthesis are achieved
faster when protein and carbs are consumed together.

Third, it's acceptable on your weight training days to make your post-workout
feeding one of your larger and higher carb meals. Carbs ingested immediately after
training rarely get stored in fat tissue; they are burned or partitioned into muscle
glycogen. Even if you're using a reduced carb diet, one of the best times to consume
your limited amount of carbs is after intense weight training. This is also a reason
why we do not have zero carb days anywhere in this program – if you have no carb
allowance at all, you cannot properly re-fuel after training. Carbs eaten after
workouts will replenish glycogen, restore blood sugar, and cause a beneficial insulin
spike, which will suppress the catabolic hormone cortisol, and drive amino acids into
the muscle cells.

Fourth, the post-workout period is a time when simple and high glycemic (quick
absorbing) carbs are acceptable. A whole food example is white potatoes, which are
quickly digested due to their high glycemic index. Most commercial post-workout
drinks use maltodextrin, dextrose, glucose or a combination of these quickly-
digesting carbohydrates. If you're eating frequently throughout the day, then
worrying about getting quick absorbing carbs immediately after training isn't as
important. However, if you're going to eat high glycemic index foods or rapidly
absorbed carbs, then right after intense and exhaustive workouts is a good time to
do it.

Fifth, you can drink your post workout meal if that's your preference. Liquids are
often recommended for post-workout nutrition because they're absorbed more
rapidly than whole foods. If you opt for a liquid "meal" after your workout, you can
use a commercial post-workout drink or make your own using cheaply obtained
individual ingredients such as whey protein powders and carbohydrate powders. Both
are available in bulk from supplement wholesalers and it pays to compare prices
between your own home-made postworkout drinks and commercial drinks as the
cost difference can be substantial.

You might be wondering if it's wise to eat any refined and simple carbs at all. The
fact is, many athletes do and get great results when the carbs are consumed mostly
in the post-workout period, they're accounted for in the daily calorie and
macronutrient budget and the majority of the daily food intake is high in nutrient

If your goal is fat loss and you have the endomorph body type or carb-intolerant
metabolic type, you may want to be more cautious about high sugar post-workout
drinks and stick with natural, whole food.

Whole food can provide micronutrients and fiber, not just calories and carbs, while
satisfying the appetite better, and those are decided advantages over liquids.

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What about pre-workout nutrition?

Some of the supplement and sports nutrition companies would love to have you take
a pre-workout drink, a during-workout drink and a post-workout drink. Serious
athletes and sophisticated dieters may want to keep their eyes on future research
regarding pre- and during-workout nutrition (which often comes in liquid form and
sometimes includes additional amino acids or other nutrients). However, for the vast
majority of everyday fat loss seekers, it's best to avoid over-thinking this subject.

Keep it simple: Eat at regularly scheduled meal times and have substantial pre- and
post-workout meals, which are basically the same as any other meal: natural
complex carbs and lean protein. It’s the amount of carbs that will vary the most.

Many physique athletes report great results with the bracketing technique: simply
surrounding their workouts with their two largest meals of the day. If the workout
falls on a lower calorie deficit day and therefore fewer carbs are available for the
day, then the carbs are mostly saved for the post-workout and pre-workout feeding
windows. The rest of the daily meals are mostly protein, healthy fats and fibrous
carbs (green veggies and salads, etc).

It's a common belief that a big high carb meal or even simple sugar is the ideal pre-
workout fuel for quick energy. However, don’t stray from the protein plus carb
combination. Carbs eaten by themselves could actually cause a hypoglycemic crash
in the middle of your workout and research has shown that pre-workout protein is
important to support muscle growth and maintenance.

If you get a nauseous feeling from working out with food in your stomach, then push
back your pre workout meal just enough to allow enough time for your food to
comfortably digest before training (so it's not sitting heavily or sloshing around in
your stomach).

This can vary a lot from person to person. For example, I can eat a large meal just
30 minutes before a workout and experience no stomach upset while training – in
fact, I prefer it that way. Many people say they need to wait 60 minutes after a full
meal to train.

To have the best chances of getting that small lean gain during a fat loss program,
your weight training should be done fed (don't lift on an empty stomach) and the
post workout meal should be one of your larger, higher carb meals of the day.

What time of day you train will dictate where you allocate the lion’s share of your
calories, and the extra calories in those higher-calorie meals will come in the form of
carbohydrates. Proteins and fats will be held steady at all meals. It’s the carbs you
will be manipulating with one of two microcyclic techniques: carb tapering and carb

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Carb tapering (morning training)

If you train in the morning and you're inactive at night, this means front-loading
your calories and starchy carbs early in the day. This is known as carb tapering.

Carb Tapering

Meal one (pre workout) lean protein, starchy carb

Meal two (post workout) lean protein, large portion starchy

carbs/simple carbs or post workout
Meal three lean protein, small portion starchy
carb, fibrous carb

Meal four lean protein, fibrous carb

Meal five lean protein, fibrous carb

Meal six: lean protein, fibrous carb (or just

lean protein ie shake)*

* Meal six optional for women and people with low energy expenditure
* Low or non-fat dairy products and fruit may be included along with starchy carb meals as
desired and as calorie requirements allow
* healthy fats are included throughout the meals as calorie and macronutrient needs dictate
* Refer to the burn the fat 2.0 food guide in the appendix for lists of lean protein, fibrous
carbs and starchy carbs

Carb targeting (late afternoon or evening training)

If you train later in the day, you’ll benefit by moving some of your carbs to later in
the day to accommodate that. This form of nutrient timing is known as "carb
targeting" and it's a way of manipulating within-day energy balance to provide post
workout nutrition when you only have a limited number of calories to spare.

Carb Targeting

Meal one lean protein, starchy carb

Meal two lean protein, fibrous carb

Meal three lean protein, fibrous carb

Meal four (pre workout) lean protein, starchy carb, fibrous

Meal five (post workout) lean protein, large portion starchy
carbs/simple carbs or post workout
Meal six lean protein, fibrous carb (or just
lean protein ie shake)

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*meal six optional for women and people with low energy expenditure
*low or non-fat dairy products and fruit may be included along with starchy carb meals as
desired and as calorie requirements allow
* healthy fats are included throughout the meals as calorie and macronutrient needs dictate
* refer to the burn the fat 2.0 food guide in the appendix for lists of lean protein, fibrous carbs
and starchy carbs

Protein and macronutrients

There are two very important rules about protein intake on this program. The first is
to eat a lean protein with every meal. This is not just a muscle growth
recommendation. Lean protein is the most thermogenic of the macronutrients and is
also a proven appetite suppressant (makes you feel fuller). That makes frequent
consumption of protein advantageous for fat loss as well.

Second, get a minimum of 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. The range of
protein intake could actually span anywhere between 1.0 to 1.5 grams per pound of
body weight. Competitive bodybuilders and those with extremely intense training
schedules may lean toward the higher end of the range.

Note: There’s always debate about whether you should prescribe protein by grams
per pound of body weight, per pound of lean body weight or per pound of target
bodyweight. For people who are overweight, the 1 gram per pound of total
bodyweight guideline may overestimate protein needs and the grams per pound of
lean bodyweight or target bodyweight may be more accurate.

There is a reason we are setting protein in grams and not as a percentage of total
calories. This is cyclical diet program where we are prescribing calories across
hypocaloric (deficit), isocaloric (maintenance) and hypercaloric (surplus) ranges. You
cannot prescribe one macronutrient ratio that covers all three. If we prescribe only
one percentage (ratio) of protein, then we would easily under- or over-prescribe
protein needs.

Once your protein is set, the rest of the calories will come from fat and carbs.
Dietary fat can vary but a good general guideline is 0.3 to 0.5 grams per pound of
body weight. It’s important to take in adequate fats to obtain your essential fatty
acid requirements.

The carbs are where you will have the most fluctuation, as you are not just calorie
cycling on this program, you are carb cycling. In other words, on the high calorie
days, you are not eating more of everything (protein, carbs and fat), the protein and
fat stay approximately the same while the added calories come entirely from carbs.

If this seems even remotely complicated, then you are overthinking it – nothing
could be simpler than carb cycling. On the higher calorie days, you simply eat more
carbs until you hit your calorie target for the day. Almost all the additional calories
come from carbs.

If you’ve read my previous e-book Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle, you’ll see that
this is essentially the same concept as my Phase III (competition) diet plan. The

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major difference is that in the Holy Grail program, we are crossing into periods of
caloric surplus when there is a muscle gain goal, and we are adding the carb
targeting technique for optimum post-workout nutrition, no matter what time of day
you train.

To see sample menu plans that show how the carb tapering and carb targeting look
in a real world situation, refer to the appendix in this e-book. For guidelines on
calculating your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE), also known as your daily
calorie maintenance level, refer to the “How many calories should I eat cheat sheet”
in the appendix in this ebook.

Other cyclical dieting variations

Formal cyclical dieting techniques have at least a three-decades-long history and I’ve
seen numerous variations produce success for different individuals, as long as the
overall principles were followed. Keep in mind, however, that some methods have
been proven to work better than others – sometimes due to practical considerations
as much as physiological ones.

One popular, but arguably ill-fated cycle dieting experiment was called the ABCDE
diet (anabolic burst cycling of diet and exercise). It was published in Muscle Media
magazine in the 1990's and created quite a stir.

Dieters alternated 2 week phases of cutting with 2 week phases of bulking.

Unfortunately, having been advised to stuff their faces for the 2 week bulking
phases, (not a clean or slow bulk), and follow that with 2 weeks of super strict
dieting, they began to accumulate fat along with the muscle during the bulk phases
and many fell off the wagon during the excessively strict cutting phases.

Although the intention was to achieve concurrent muscle gain and fat loss over each
4 week period, by dividing it into equal periods with 50% of the time in deficit and
50% of the time in surplus (they had the right idea), most dieters complained of the
same old problem that longer traditional bodybuilding bulking and cutting seasons
had always presented them with: fat gain during prolonged surplus, even during a
mere 2 weeks in a surplus.

Some variations on cyclical dieting have been around a long time. In the 1960's,
Vince Gironda recommended a huge one meal carb up (such as pasta) every 4th day
during a low carb ketogenic diet. Reading Gironda was where I originally got the idea
to carb up every 4th day.

I found however, that one meal didn’t cut it. With just one carb-up meal, my muscles
remained flat, I continued to feel the fatigue of multiple days on lower calories/carbs
and I craved more carbs. That led me to make the 4th day a full day of higher
calories/ carbs (a full reefed day), rather than a single carb up meal. That worked
wonders for me on many levels. I also found that cutting carbs virtually to zero was
unnecessary and more moderate carb restriction produced the same low carb
benefits without many of the low carb downsides.

In the late 1980's, and early 1990’s, Dr. Fred Hatfield popularized the “zig zag diet”
where calories were raised and lowered rather than held constant. Hatfield suggested

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the “down zag” last 3 to 5 days, and the “up zag” last only 1 or 2 days (even for
muscular weight gain). Out of all the cyclical dieting approaches ever produced in the
bodybuilding community, I still believe that Hatfield was closest to finding the
optimum method with his 3-5 day low cycles and briefer 1-2 day high cycles.

Later, there were cyclical ketogenic low carb diets that called for 5 days of caloric
deficit with almost zero carbs, followed by 2 days of overfeeding with high carbs on
the weekend. There are many variations on “cheating diets” where you eat "clean"
for 6 days and have a free-for-all cheat day on the 7th day (presumably in a
significant surplus, although many protocols don’t give specific calorie targets).

Cyclical dieting where you rotate low, medium and high days (instead of just low and
high days) has also become popular, the only possible downside being the added
complexity of additional meal plans.

Floating high carb days (aka targeted high carb days)

One technique worth experimenting with is the floating high carb day. This refers to
matching your high calorie and high carb days to your days with your weight training
days instead of using a pre-set cycle such as 3 low and 1 high. This technique is also
known within-week carb targeting, targeted refeeds or targeted high carb days. This
method falls right into our paradigm of providing more fuel when the body needs it
for training, recovery and restoration/rebuilding.

Of course, there is no perfect way to do this. A possible downside of using floating

high carb days is that you’re not on a pre-defined schedule, so it makes for a lot
more complexity in your nutrition program. If you have a high training frequency,
you may have too many high days and not enough low days to achieve significant fat
loss. In that case, you could save your high calorie/high carb days for your most
demanding, most intense resistance training days.

If your primary goal is muscle gain with secondary goal of concurrent fat loss, a
cyclical plan using targeted high carb days might look like this:

Training Schedule Calorie Level Energy Status

Upper body 15-20% above TDEE Overfeeding/surplus

Lower body/abs 15-20% above TDEE Overfeeding/surplus

off 15-20% below TDEE Underfeeding/conservative

Upper body 15-20% above TDEE Overfeeding/surplus

Lower body/abs 15-20% above TDEE Overfeeding/surplus

off 15-20% below TDEE Underfeeding/conservative

off 15-20% below TDEE Underfeeding/conservative

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In the example above, notice how the high calorie/high carb days are
matched/targeted to the training days.

If your primary goal is fat loss with a secondary goal of concurrent muscle gain, it’s
going to be necessary to take more days in a deficit and your low days may have a
more aggressive deficit. Some people even begin to divide up their carb cycling into
low, medium and high carb days, with the lowest calories and lowest carbs on the
rest days. Here’s an example:

Training Schedule Calorie Level Energy Status

Upper body 15-20% above TDEE Overfeeding/surplus

Lower body/abs 15% below TDEE Underfeeding/conservative
(medium) deficit
off 30% below TDEE Underfeeding/moderate to
(low) aggressive deficit
Upper body 15% below TDEE Underfeeding/conservative
(medium) deficit
Lower body/abs 15-20% above TDEE Overfeeding/surplus
off 30% below TDEE Underfeeding/moderate to
(low) aggressive deficit
off 30% below TDEE Underfeeding/moderate to
(low) aggressive deficit

It’s entirely possible that this kind of precision targeting might improve your results.
The downside is that depending on your training schedule, using floating high carb
days and matching them to your training creates a lot more complexity in the

If you train on bodybuilding body part split routines, it becomes even more
complicated, as the workouts for each body part place different energy and recovery
demands on your body. Typically, with a body part split program, you might match
the highest carb, highest calorie meals to the days with your most intense workouts.
For most people, that’s the legs and back workouts.

I have always opted for the 3:1 method or the 3:3 method for its sheer simplicity if
no other reason. Even on low calorie, low carb days, I know my workouts are
properly fueled and my post workout recovery is handled because I never go to
near-zero carbs and I use the bracketing technique of pre-and post-workout
nutrition. I find that this makes the floating high carb days optional. I don’t eat
many carbs on low days, but the carbs I do eat get placed before and after my

I also think it’s worth considering that your muscles are recovering and growing on
your days off, so you could argue that it’s not a bad idea to keep the nutrition
coming in on the non-training days for the muscle repair and construction process
even though your total energy needs are lower on non-training days. Nevertheless,

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floating high carb days are a technique worth trying and I predict this method will
continue to increase in popularity. It simply requires more planning and precision.

Which Cyclical Dieting Method is Best?

Why did I choose 3 low and 1-3 high? Why not 6 low and 1 high, or 10 low and 5
high or 1 week high and 1 week low or some other combination? There are pros and
cons of virtually every cyclical dieting variation, but there is definite logic, science
and strategy behind the cyclical dieting system I’ve suggested in this program.

Long, linear calorie deficits can produce the greatest amount of fat loss, but the
longer you stay in a deficit and the larger the deficit, the more you invoke the
starvation responses in the body. Even 6-7 days on very low carbs and or very low
calories is long enough that hunger starts to be a problem, glycogen becomes
depleted, hormones of body weight regulation decrease, metabolism can drop and
risk of muscle loss increases. This makes a strong case for the shorter mesocycles
(days long, not weeks long).

With longer cycles of caloric surplus, lasting for months, or even just weeks, you
have that problem with gaining too much fat along with the muscle. It’s on the
surplus side that you have to be especially careful. It’s very easy to gain fat
when you stay in a prolonged surplus – especially if you’re an endomorph
body type. Therefore, I’ve found that the ideal method for the leanest muscle gains
is to spend more time in a deficit with strategic spikes in calories. At the very most,
spend an equal amount of time in deficit and surplus (3 low 3 high) on muscle gain
priority programs.

Long cycles of surplus or deficit can also be psychologically draining. It’s tough to
stay in a deficit because you have to deal with hunger and deprivation. What’s often
surprising to those who haven’t yet pursued muscle gain the traditional way, is that
the surplus eating side of the game can be equally challenging. You often must eat
even when you don’t feel like eating. Zig zag dieting makes it easier on both sides.

I’ve chosen the 3 day deficit cycles and 1-3 day surplus cycles as the default method
of the Holy Grail body transformation system. If you wish to experiment with longer
cycles, I would not recommend making the deficit cycles more than 5 days.

While I am offering you a specific cyclical nutrition program structure, I would not
discourage you from taking the general principles presented here and experimenting
with cyclical dieting in different time periods.

I’ll be eager to hear about your successful and even your not so successful
experiments to help advance our Holy Grail program for future readers, keeping in
mind that failure is merely feedback and an important lesson that further advances
your knowledge.

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The Holy Grail

Body Transformation Program:
Part Three – Training

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The Importance of Resistance Training

If you want to gain muscle while losing fat, it should go without saying that the only
logical place to start your training efforts is with resistance training, preferably with
weights (barbells, dumbbells, cables, some machines, etc). Without some type of
resistance training, all bets are off - your muscle gains will be minimal.

In fact, it has been a frequent finding in research on starvation and very low calorie
diets that in the absence of weight training, a calorie deficit can lead to 25% of the
weight loss coming from lean tissue. In extreme cases, as much as half the weight
loss could come from lean tissue. You’re not even in the recomposition game without
serious strength training.

Even if your goal is fat loss, the weight training is necessary to maintain the lean
body mass you have and to keep your body looking hard and lean. I think the
opposite of successful recomposition is what most of the general public does for
weight loss: they crash diet without training and lose a lot of body weight, but their
body composition doesn’t improve. They simply become smaller versions of their old
selves – skinny fat people. They fit into smaller clothes, but they don’t look good out
of clothes (and they may not be healthier either).

Resistance training has a powerful effect on anabolic hormones and the partitioning
of energy and nutrients. In the absence of weight training, a large percentage of the
energy surplus gets stored as adipose tissue. By simply adding resistance training, if
all else remains equal, calories will be utilized for energy to fuel training, amino acids
shuttled into the muscle for tissue repair and growth, and carbohydrates sent to
replace muscle glycogen.

What kind of resistance training is ideal?

The Holy Grail program does not require a specific weight training program. It is a
system of nutritional periodization and cyclical dieting which you can match to
whatever training you choose. However, weight training is mandatory and so crucial
to getting optimal results that we need to discuss the basics of training design.

You can use almost any strength and hypertrophy-based workout program you like.
If you do not have a weight training program that you currently prefer, I have two
recommendations that will work perfectly in the context of body recomposition goals,
which are decidedly cosmetic goals:

(1) Traditional bodybuilding split routines as seen in the ebook, Burn the Fat,
Feed the Muscle. For physique athletes, I recommend physique-oriented training
and that usually means a body-part based split routine, typically performed on a 3
day or 4 day split. I recommend not training more than 2 days in a row, so a 2 on 1
off schedule will work well in conjunction with The Holy Grail nutritional cycling plan.

(2) “The New Bodybuilding” (TNB) workout as seen in Men’s Fitness

magazine. I recommend this style of training – an upper and lower 2-day split for
everyone else who wants to gain muscle and lose fat, but who is not interested in
bodybuilding. I’ve included the TNB training program as a bonus with the purchase of
this Holy Grail e-book.

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Regardless of which training system you use, you should run your program through
this quick checklist to make sure it’s an optimal choice to use in conjunction with The
Holy Grail nutrition program.

9 The program should have a dual strength-hypertrophy emphasis.

Optimal results will be achieved when you rotate between heavier lifting in
the 4-6 rep range for strength and moderate lifting in the 8-12 rep range for
hypertrophy. High rep training in the 13-20 rep range can be included in
smaller amounts, but should not replace the heavy and moderate training.
This program will not work optimally if you only use high reps. It’s a huge
mistake to lower the poundage and perform only high reps thinking that you’ll
burn more fat. You will actually be more likely to lose muscle.

9 The resistance training program should emphasize mostly straight

sets and or supersets. You will get the best results if you use straight sets,
where you perform one set then rest, or supersets, where you perform two
exercises back to back with little to no rest in between, then rest. Circuit or
bodyweight-only training can be excellent for conditioning and fat loss, but it
lacks the maximum strength and hypertrophy elements. I have case studies
in my files of people who gained muscle with virtually every type of program
imaginable, including circuit training. However, you will almost always find
the presence of the X1 and X2 factors (beginners, etc) that explain the
concurrent muscle gains with fat loss even with sub-optimal protocols.

9 The resistance training program should have an appropriate training

volume and duration. More sets and exercises are not necessarily better.
Better is better! Better training means more intensity, good exercise form and
continuous progression. The training volume you choose (number of exercises
X sets) should usually not have you training more than about 45-60 minutes
per session. No training duration is set in stone, but the job can get done in
under an hour.

9 The resistance program must use a frequency that allows optimal

total body recovery and individual muscle group recovery. Your
muscles don’t grow during your workouts, they grow after your workouts. For
body recomposition, resistance training frequency is optimal in the range of
3-4 days per week, depending on your experience level, available time and
your goals. Bodybuilders might be the exception, utilizing more training days
with a body part split routine (ie, 4-5 days per week of training). However,
the frequency of working each muscle group would actually be lower, as each
workout might only focus on one major and one minor muscle group and each
muscle group might only be worked once every 5-6 days.

9 The resistance training program should emphasize basic compound

lifts, with isolation exercises used as secondary movements. The
majority of your exercises should be basic compound movements such as
squats, Romanian deadlifts, lunges, split squats, chest presses, dips, shoulder
presses, pull ups, rows and deadlifts. Isolation exercises and small body part
exercises should be included, but considered of secondary importance.

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Cardio training

It’s widely believed today that endurance training, also known as aerobic exercise or
cardio, can interfere with your strength and muscle gains. In fact, there has been so
much aerobics-bashing in the fitness and strength training community in recent
years that debates between pro-cardio and anti-cardio camps sometimes get heated.
Research plus anecdotal evidence from groups such as competitive bodybuilders,
suggests there’s room for both.

Most bodybuilders integrate cardio with weights year-round in moderate amounts

and in larger amounts before contests. They seem to have no problem maintaining
their muscle mass as they get ripped. But there’s no doubt that too much cardio
added on top of a weight training program has the potential to hinder strength and
muscle size gains.

Exercise physiology 101 tells us that the human body adapts specifically to the
demands imposed upon it. If you impose the demand of lifting heavy weights, you
stimulate mostly fast twitch (type IIb) muscle fibers, increase the size of your muscle
fibers and increase the neuromuscular connections. In short, you send a message to
your body to get bigger and stronger.

If you impose the demand of endurance training, you stimulate mostly slow twitch
(type I) muscle fibers, increase maximal oxygen uptake, muscle aerobic enzyme
activities, capillary density and mitochondrial density of your muscles. In short, you
send a message to your body to increase aerobic capacity and become more
resistant to fatigue.

Some athletes need a little bit of both – strength and aerobic capacity. And of
course, many people want to gain muscle and lose fat, so they lift and do cardio. But
what happens when you do both together?

Many strength and aerobic adaptations are antagonistic to one another. After all, no
one can successfully train for a marathon and a powerlifting contest at the same
time, can they? As they say, jack of all trades, master of none.

The question is, how much cardio is too much? How much is too little?

A study published in Medicine and Science and Sports and Exercise recruited 30
sedentary (untrained) healthy men who were divided into three groups, strength,
endurance and concurrent (both).

The strength group performed eight weight training exercises for one warm up set
and three maximal effort sets for 5 to 7 reps per set, to the point of muscular failure.
Rest between sets was approximately 75 seconds. The endurance group performed
50 minutes of continuous cycling at 70% of heart rate reserve.

The concurrent group completed the strength and the endurance protocol in the
same session, with a 10-20 minute break between each workout (lifting or cycling).
The order of weight lifting or cycling was rotated with each session.

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Results: When strength and endurance training were performed on the same day
and for only 3 days per week on alternate days, strength development was NOT
compromised as compared to the strength training only.

But here’s the kicker: The subjects in the concurrent training group actually
experienced greater muscle growth in the thighs than the strength training only

The interference effect of doing cardio and weight training together is definitely not a
foregone conclusion. In many of the studies which showed impairment in strength,
the training protocol involved training the thighs 6 days per week (either via strength
training such as squats, etc or cycling, etc.).

In some studies showing strength interference, up to 11 workouts per week were

performed. Therefore, lower body recovery, choice of exercise and frequency of
training are all important factors when you design a cardio program for concurrent
muscle gain and fat loss emphasis.

Moderate amounts of cardio can help you gain muscle, while staying lean!

When the amount of cardio is moderate (2 to 3 days per week), cardio and strength
training together can actually improve muscle growth without impeding strength. As
one group of researchers from McMaster’s University put it, “A combination of some
forms of strength and endurance training may be ‘additive’ rather than antagonistic.”

This may come as a surprise to many people, but there are many explanations for
why this is the case.

9 First, cardio can help increase nutrient clearance from the blood and enhance
nutrient uptake into the cells.

9 Second, cardio can increase capillary density, which can enhance delivery of
oxygen, nutrients and hormones to the muscle cells. At the same time, the
increased capillary density helps with the removal of waste products from
working muscle tissue.

9 Third, when your cardiovascular fitness improves, you can also recover faster
from your weight training. Many forms of low intensity cardio actually serve
as active recovery.

9 Fourth, when you’re in good cardiovascular condition, you can perform better
on demanding compound strength training exercises like squats, deadlifts,
rows and lunges. If you ever felt yourself sucking wind after a set of squats or
rows, then you can appreciate the role of good cardio in a strength training

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Cardio recommendations

Looking at the research on concurrent cardio and strength training, combined with
experience of physique athletes and strength athletes helps us come up with some
solid guidelines for cardio while seeking concurrent muscle gain and fat loss:

9 If your primary goal is muscle gain with a secondary goal of fat loss,
limit yourself to 3 days per week of cardio. Research says that moderate
amounts of cardio can actually help increase muscle growth. The key is to
keep it to 2-3 days per week. Let the weight training and nutritional
manipulation do the rest.

9 If your primary goal is fat loss with a secondary goal of concurrent

muscle gain, start with 3 days of cardio. Increase conservatively.
When your primary goal is fat loss, longer and more frequent cardio sessions
are helpful for increasing the weekly caloric deficit and burning fat faster.
However, if your secondary goal is muscle gain, be alert to the impact this
may have on strength and muscle retention. Increase cardio conservatively
and use mostly nutritional manipulation to get the deficit you need.

9 If your goal is focused fat loss, higher cardio frequencies are helpful
and sometimes necessary. Bodybuilders typically do cardio 4-7 times per
week during precontest training in addition to strength training as often as 4-
5 times per week. During any cutting program, gaining strength and muscle
mass are no longer priorities, as the goal switches to getting lean while
maintaining muscle. As long as you maintain your LBM, the higher cardio
frequency is not only acceptable, it is ideal for helping you get leaner faster.

9 Choose a cardio duration between 20 and 50 minutes. You can start on

the low end and increase duration or intensity based on your weekly progress.
The duration will be dictated largely by your intensity level. The longer
sessions will be low to moderate in intensity. The shorter sessions may be
higher in intensity and could be performed as interval training (HIIT).

9 Use running or high impact cardio sparingly or not at all. Choose any
type of cardio you want. However, keep in mind that the greatest area for
concurrent training interference effects is in the legs. Cardio with high
intensity, high impact or a strong eccentric component may place additional
stress on the lower body and on your overall recovery capacity. Running has
been shown to be particularly taxing on the lower body and is believed to
increase risk of muscle loss more than other forms of cardio.

9 Restrict intense cardio to 2 days per week, 3 days max if you have
good recovery ability. High intensity interval training (HIIT) has become
popular as an effective and time-efficient way to do cardio, but too much
intense cardio on top of intense weight training can easily lead to over
training. I recommend no more than 2-3 HIIT sessions per week when
concurrently doing 3 or more days per week of high intensity strength
training. If you do additional cardio, make it lower intensity training or light
activity like casual walking, which may even serve as active recovery while
burning some calories.

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9 Do cardio and weights separated into 2 sessions, if possible. If you do

cardio and weight training in the same day, separating them into two
sessions, at least 8 hours apart, may help you enhance recovery and avoid
some of the residual fatigue where one interferes with the other. Be especially
certain that your legs are recovering completely and that fatigue from cardio
doesn’t interfere with your weight training workouts, especially on leg day.

9 Do weights first and cardio second. If you do cardio and weights in the
same session, always do the weights first and cardio second. Endurance
athletes are the exception to this rule, but when strength and muscle increase
are primary goals, the strength training should go first.

Body composition testing and the scale

Weekly weigh-ins and body composition tests are extremely important for tracking
your progress. But be forewarned: When you’re using cyclical dieting methods,
especially those with large carb-ups, scale fluctuations can mess with your head. As
glycogen stores fill up on high carb days, your body weight usually spikes, and then
drops precipitously by the third low carb day before jumping back up.

Keep a meticulous progress chart with weekly results for total body weight, fat mass,
lean body mass, and body fat percentage. However, pay more attention to the trend
in body composition over time and not so much to the daily fluctuations, especially if
you are prone to large water weight fluctuations.

For detailed information on how to measure your body fat, refer to my fat loss book
Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle chapter 3 and chapter 4 for detailed information
on how to track your results and chart your progress.

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The Holy Grail

Body Transformation Program:
Part Four – Lifestyle Factors

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Your Lifestyle Matters

Muscle gain and fat loss are not influenced only by training and nutrition. What do
you think would happen if you were following the most perfect workout but you were
also stressed out, sleep-deprived, strung out on caffeine all day long and indulging in
alcohol late at night on a regular basis? You know the answer – your results would
be sub-optimal and your odds of achieving that elusive Holy Grail would be much

Concurrent muscle gain and fat loss is the type of goal that requires you to have
your act together in every area of your life! Far too often, the lifestyle factors get
totally taken for granted and blown off. Don’t let that happen to you.

There are many lifestyle factors we could discuss, but there are a few biggies and I
suggest you start with these.


We talked earlier about how hormones can affect the ever-important nutrient
partitioning that determines where energy comes from in a deficit or where it is
stored in a surplus. Hormones also affect your metabolism (thyroid is one you are
probably familiar with). Hormones also affect your appetite. Some hormones send a
signal that you’re full, others send a signal to eat more.

In a study published in Nutrition Research Reviews, scientists discovered that sleep

deprivation can reduce leptin, the antistarvation hormone (also known as an
anorexigenic hormone) and increase ghrelin, a stomach hormone that increases

That’s a double whammy. Lower leptin levels in turn affect thyroid and other body
systems that decrease metabolism. Higher ghrelin levels increase your appetite, so
you’ve got fewer calories being burned and a greater chance of more calories being

A study published in Hormone and Metabolic Research also explained how shorting
yourself of quality sleep can increase cortisol as well:

“Sleep deprivation induces specific alterations in neuroendocrine systems, which

include an increase in the stress hormone cortisol favoring central fat deposition, a
decrease in the adipostatic signal leptin and an increase in the orexogenic signal
ghrelin, inducing increased appetite and food intake. This phenomenon may be
contributing to the current epidemic of obesity.”

I know many bodybuilders and athletes, and I used to be one of them, who
stubbornly refused to sleep 7-8 hours a night, which is arguably the optimal sleep
duration. In fact, I seemed to get not only satisfactory results with only 5 ½ to 6
hours of sleep, I competed during times when I was sleeping less than 6 hours a
night and I placed high or even won. Therefore, I defiantly thumbed my nose at the
thought of sleeping 8 hours every night.

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Nevertheless, knowing what I know now, if I wanted the best odds for getting the
best results possible, I would not take any chances by neglecting sleep quality or

Good sleep habits include:

1. Getting to bed early

2. Waking up early, if possible, (to maximize sleeping nighttime hours and
waking daylight hours)
3. Going to sleep and waking up on a schedule (at the same time every
4. Sleeping in a totally dark room
5. Avoiding alcohol right before bedtime
6. Avoiding caffeine or stimulants late in the day

Remember also that the largest growth hormone spike occurs after you fall into deep
sleep. Anything that disrupts getting quality sleep can also affect growth hormone as


Continuous exposure to adverse stressors without release and without coping

mechanisms is not just bad for you, it can quite literally kill you! If it doesn’t kill you,
it can make you fat!

The stress response causes an increase in cortisol, the catabolic stress hormone.
Inability to cope with long-term adverse stressful events has been linked to enlarged
visceral fat deposits, insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, impaired glucose
tolerance, altered lipid profiles, and a very high incidence of coronary artery disease,
as well as adrenal hypertrophy.

Research has shown that glucocorticoids (cortisol) may have a direct or indirect
effect on adipose tissue metabolism, energy partitioning and insulin action. High
cortisol may suppress thermogenesis, and induce leptin resistance.

Chronic stress can lead to increased food intake especially for women, both for
physiological and psychological reasons (women tend to be more emotional eaters
than men).

High levels of chronic stress also predict weight relapse and overeating after weight
loss via low calorie dieting (ie, high stress kills your maintenance efforts after weight

If you have high stress in your life, you cannot underestimate the importance of
developing coping mechanisms and using stress reduction techniques, both for
health and body fat control.

Before you get stressed out about stress though, remember one thing: the only
people that don’t have stress are dead people. The stress response is a normal part
of our evolutionary fight or flight programming. What’s not normal is continuous

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stress and that is what many people are exposed to in our modern fast-paced

So don’t stress about having stress! It’s when you feel continuous stress and you
don’t balance that with rest, release and recovery that you run into problems. When
you feel continuously stressed, you MUST either escape (at least temporarily) from
the source of the stress or find/develop coping mechanisms to deal with the stress to
lessen your response to it.

Some people take up meditation or use deep breathing exercises. Some people take
walks (along the beach or out in nature would be nice, if possible), they take a hot
bath or jacuzzi, get a massage or spa treatment, listen to classical music, light an
aromatherapy candle, watch a comedy and the list of stress relievers goes on and on
from there.

Here’s one suggestion that may seem novel, but it comes right from the scientific
literature. Research published in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry has
demonstrated that emotional social support reduces the physical effects of stress and
lowers levels of cortisol.

So…. Get a support buddy, turn to a trusted friend, boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse, or

join a motivation and support group like our own inner circle:


My clients and readers ask me all the time about whether it’s ok to drink just a little
or even how they can “get away with” drinking while doing the least damage. I’ve
always had this sneaking suspicion that even when someone asks me an innocent
question about alcohol during a fat loss or muscle building program, what they’re
really doing is looking for permission. They’re hoping they can keep drinking and
wanting someone to tell them it’s ok.

Gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time is the most challenging of all body
composition goals. It takes focus, effort and attention to detail. Just as you’ll rarely
see a serious figure or bodybuilding competitor boozing just weeks or months prior
to an important contest, a “holy grail” transformation is also a time when nutritional
details matter the most. Why make compromises or risk making it more difficult
than it already is by indulging in habits or behaviors with little or no upside, but
potentially serious downsides?

How serious are the downsides? Will drinking really give you a beer belly or sabotage
your muscle building goals? Whether alcohol is really "fattening" has been a
controversial subject because technically speaking, alcohol is not stored as fat, it is
simply used first in the oxidative hierarchy, ahead of other fuels.

Your body has no storage capacity for alcohol, so it must be immediately eliminated.
As soon as you absorb it, the alcohol is metabolized by the ADH pathway into
acetate, which is used as the fuel source instead of fat, while fat oxidation takes a
back seat. And that’s the bad news: when you’re metabolizing alcohol, fat burning
goes on hold and the other foods you eat are more likely to be stored as fat.

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A study that was widely publicized by the BBC in 2003 dismissed the concept of the
"beer belly" and said it was just a myth. But a recent study published in the journal
Obesity, says otherwise. They found a very "robust" association between alcohol
intake, waist circumference and waist to hip ratio. They pointed out that a high
alcohol intake was closely associated with abdominal body fat.

Abdominal fat accumulation, also known as "android" or "central" obesity, is not just
a cosmetic problem; it can be a serious health risk, independent of total body mass.
Deep abdominal (visceral) fat increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, high
blood pressure, high blood lipids, glucose intolerance, elevated insulin levels and
even a higher mortality rate.

The weight of the current evidence gives scientific support to the "beer belly"
phenomenon, given the right conditions: calorie surplus and hormonal disarray.

Hormones may be strongly involved because high alcohol intake has been shown to
decrease testosterone in men, and also increase cortisol levels, which can lead to
visceral fat accumulation. Drinking often goes hand in hand with late nights and
disrupted sleep cycles, which compounds the negative hormonal effects.

Age may be a factor as well, as the recent research shows a very strong correlation
between alcohol use and abdominal fat, specifically in older men. Women also tend
to shift their fat storage from hips and thighs to the abdominal region once
menopause arrives. This explains the common complaint that you could “get away
with it” in college, but not after you got older.

Speaking of gender, this also seems to play a major role in the alcohol - body fat
relationship. Chicken wing and nacho-eating men take notice: The correlation
between alcohol and body fat gain is much stronger in men in almost all of the
studies. Statistics show that when men drink more, they gain more weight. Women
don't. In fact, some studies show an inverse relationship between alcohol and body
mass in females.

Although there may be a gender-based physiological reason for this, a simple and
likely explanation is that women might be better at compensating for the alcohol
calories they consume. In other words, men tend to drink and eat, while women tend
to drink instead of eating.

Most people don't cut back their food intake when they drink alcohol; they drink in
addition to what they normally eat or they eat even more then usual - and they do it
unconsciously (especially men). Their failure to compensate leads to a caloric surplus
(weight gain), or the loss of their caloric deficit (an "unexplainable" fat loss plateau!)

On fat loss programs, liquid calories are usually not a good idea to begin with,
because fluids, especially sugar-containing and non-viscous fluids, are known to have
a weaker effect on satiety (fullness) than solid foods (soft drinks sweetened with
high fructose corn syrup are a notorious example). The alcohol calories themselves,
in combination with the appetite-induced increase in food intake, have an additive
effect on weight gain.

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Fatty foods are a major culprit in adding to the calorie surplus and fat storage
potential. A study by Angelo Tremblay in 1995 emphasized that alcohol and a high
fat diet are a combination that favors overfeeding. Another one of the worst
combinations is alcoholic drinks made with soda, added sugar or drink mixes. An 8
oz margarita, for example, can set you back 500 calories! A couple of those on top of
a high fat junk food meal, and you could erase days worth of work.

If you drink in moderation, if you're aware of the calories in alcohol, if you're aware
of the calories from additional food consumed during or after drinking, and if you
compensate for all of the above so you stay in energy balance, you won't get fat. If
you stay in a calorie deficit, you will still lose fat.

With that said, beer and wine lovers might be wondering: "You mean I can drink and
still lose fat - I just need to stay in a calorie deficit?" Yes, but before you rush off to
the pub for a cold one, hold that thought while you consider this nutritional reality:
Empty alcohol calories displace nutrient-dense whole food calories.

When you're on a fat loss program, you have a fairly small "calorie budget,"
(especially women), so you need to give some careful consideration to how those
calories should be "spent." For example, if a female is on a 1500 calorie per day diet,
does she really want to "spend" 500 of those calories - one third of her intake – on
alcoholic drinks, and leave only 1000 calories for health-promoting food, fiber and
lean muscle-building protein?

I realize some people may answer "yes" to that question, but then again, if some
people spent their money as frivolously as they spent their calories, they would be
deep financial trouble fast!

Although drinking alcohol doesn't necessarily cause fat gain or slow down weight loss
if you stay in negative energy balance, it's a waste of calories. For optimal body
composition improvements, the priority is to achieve adequate intake of protein,
fiber and all other essential nutrients first and obtain the highest nutrient density
possible, given the small "calorie budget" available. You need nutrients, not just
calories and you also need enough quality fuel to power your training sessions.

A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association many years ago
revealed significantly higher calorie intakes among drinkers, but much lower nutrient
densities of vitamins, minerals, protein and essential fats. The skinny, but
malnourished and atrophied alcoholic is a perfect example of someone who has
stayed in an energy deficit by replacing quality nutrient dense food calories with
worthless empty alcohol calories. But unless you want that “skid row physique” I
wouldn’t recommend the alcohol plus calorie deficit approach.

In conclusion, alcohol is not stored directly as fat in the literal sense, although it
does provide metabolizable calories that count. Whether or not you gain weight as a
result of drinking depends on whether you’re in a caloric deficit or a caloric surplus,
but alcohol affects you in many ways. Alcohol contributes to worsening your body
composition by way of: caloric surplus, suppressing fat oxidation, stimulating
appetite, decreasing testosterone, increasing cortisol, disrupting sleep, disrupting
training intensity, stimulating abdominal fat buildup, providing little nutritional value
and displacing foods that are high in nutritional value.

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Beyond the one or two drinks that most people consider as moderation, alcohol is
toxic and not beneficial in any way. As Andrew Prentice of Cambridge wrote in his
much cited paper, Alcohol and Obesity: "Alcohol is essentially a poison which must
be detoxified as soon as possible." Needless to say, binge drinking and getting drunk
never has a place in a fitness lifestyle (not to mention hangovers aren't very
conducive to good workouts).

What about the reputed upsides of a drink or two? The current consensus in the
scientific community is that moderate amounts of alcohol, particularly red wine,
provide causally-proven heart health benefits. Much ado has also been made of
reservatrol lately, not to mention other healthy compounds found in wine such as
polyphenols and proanthocyanidin. However, I don't recommend daily drinking
because behaviors repeated daily become habits. Behaviors repeated multiple times
daily become strong habits. Habits can be hard to break and habitual drinking can
lead to binges or even alcoholism.

There are countless alternatives to gain similar or greater health benefits, both from
exercise as well as the intake of other foods such as fruits and vegetables; foods
which coincidentally, are low in the diets of most heavy drinkers, and which are well-
spent calories that help your fat loss efforts, not hurt them.

Although you could drink and "get away with it" if you diligently maintained your
calorie deficit, drinking does not help with your quest for the Holy Grail. Your optimal
strategy is to avoid alcohol while on a fat loss or a body recomposition program.

After reaching your goal and shifting back to maintenance or more casual fitness
goals, you can drink in moderation if that's your choice. If you make this choice,
then enjoy your adult beverages moderately, sensibly and responsibly – preferably
infrequently such as on weekends or special occasions. Plan it carefully into your
calorie budget as part of a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins,
essential fats and other nutrients, then you can enjoy it without feeling guilty. In the
long run, it's all about energy balance, nutrition and moderation.

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The Holy Grail

Body Transformation Program:
Part Five - Frequently Asked
Questions (FAQ)

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QUESTION: Tom, in the first part of your Holy Grail e-book, you teach how
to categorize goals into four different possibilities. You then go on to say
that selecting a goal is easy, but I’m still confused. Please let me explain.
I’m a 27 year old female, 5’ 6” tall. I recently had my body fat measured by
BIA and it said my body fat was 31.7%. I couldn’t believe it, but then our
class also did DEXA testing as part of a graduate level nutrition class at UC
Berkeley. It said I was 33.8% fat, confirming the first test (only a little
worse). I only weigh 140 pounds and I’m fairly happy with my body shape,
but I know that having body fat over 30% is unacceptable. That’s what’s
confusing me. My goal is to look lean but I also want to get stronger and
gain some muscle. I don’t feel like I’m overweight, and my goal isn’t really
to get thinner, but the tests say I’m definitely overfat. My problem is, now I
can’t decide what my goal should be. Can you make this decision making
process a little more clear for people like me who are not super overweight,
nor underweight? Thank you.

ANSWER: If your body fat is 33.8%, then fat loss should be a priority for sure. But
if you do the math, your lean body mass is 92.6 pounds, so you are also right that
increasing your lean body mass would be a good goal to pursue as well. So gaining
muscle and losing fat (Body recomposition) is exactly what you need.

However, in your case, I suggest you take a patient, longer term, big picture
approach to achieving that dual goal. So I’m going to repeat the advice I gave at
the end of part one of this e-book: “if you are significantly overweight, choose
focused fat loss. Consider muscle gain or recomposition goals later.”

That’s where I think some confusion might have entered. Choosing a goal may have
been easier if I had been clearer and said “overfat” instead of “overweight.” You are
a perfect example of why the weight versus fat distinction is so important.
Regardless of body weight, and regardless of whether you’d like to gain muscle right
now, if your body fat percentage is high, I still recommend that you focus on the fat
loss first.

That means you should set aside the Holy Grail body recomposition strategies briefly
and begin your journey by setting a 12-week focused fat loss goal for your first
macrocycle. During that time, by staying in a caloric deficit, you’ll be able to bring
your body fat down into the acceptable (“average”) range as quickly as possible.
That could bring you to around 25% to 27% body fat or thereabouts, possibly lower
if you are very ambitious.

Once your body fat level is average or better, then you can begin a new macrocycle
with a goal of fat loss first priority, concurrent muscle gain secondary. That’s when
you’ll begin cycling your calories during the week, planning out your mesocycles with
3 days low and 1 day high.

You’ll still be focused at that point on getting even leaner, but including that one day
of surplus calories every fourth day, combined with the weight training and proper
nutrient timing around your workouts, will help increase the odds of you gaining
some lean body mass as you continue to get leaner.

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QUESTION: Tom, I really enjoyed reading the Holy Grail and am excited to
try it out. I appreciate that you talked about hormones, because I have
always believed that hormones were a huge part of how our bodies work.
That’s my problem – I think my stress hormones are out of whack because I
don’t get enough rest, I work long hours, I have a lot of stress (which I
honestly don’t manage that well), and I have a tendency for overtraining. I
guess I’m a type A personality. The thing is, I really enjoy training and I’m
not afraid of hard work. In fact, my time in the gym is like a “release” for
me. My goal is losing fat and gaining muscle and I’d rather do more training
than less, but after reading your e-book, I’m worried that doing too much
cardio may be holding back my muscle gains.

ANSWER: On a focused fat loss program, you could – and many times, must – do
more cardio to reach low body fat levels or achieve goals in aggressive time frames.
So knowing how much cardio to do is very much a matter of prioritization of your
goals. When gaining muscle is also one of your priorities, as it is on this program, it’s
important not to over-do the cardio. Too much cardio can interfere with strength and
muscle gains. In extreme excess, it could even decrease strength or lead to loss of
lean body mass. The trick of course, is knowing how much is excessive.

Research on concurrent strength and aerobic training shows that once you go
beyond three days a week of cardio, when you’re simultaneously doing three or more
days per week of strength training, it’s possible there may be some strength and/or
hypertrophy compromise introduced. When you get up to daily cardio (and for
certain twice a day cardios) it’s very likely there will be a compromise. So, while
larger amounts of cardio help you get very low body fat and lean out at the
maximum rate of speed, it may cause you to put your muscle gains on hold.

Fortunately, there’s a good solution in your situation. Low intensity cardio has been
criticized by a lot of fitness professionals in favor of higher intensity cardio. However,
there is a place for it. Some types of cardio, like moderate to brisk walking, can add
to your daily and weekly calorie expenditure. While the amount of calories burned is
no where near what you’d achieve with more intense cardio, it can add up and help
with fat loss. The difference is, lower intensity cardio does not break down muscle
fibers and does not tap into your limited central nervous system recovery reserves.

Incidentally, this is probably one of the reasons that large professional bodybuilders
often opt for treadmill walking as their choice of cardio in the pre-contest phase. It
doesn’t chew up muscle and it doesn’t use up valuable nervous energy that could be
directed to the important muscle building weight training workouts.

Some types of light activity can actually restorative in nature and could be
considered a form of active recovery. If you can find some type of light activity that
is enjoyable and relaxing, you may actually find that it helps with stress release. If
you have hiking trails in the hills or woods, or a beach nearby, that’s a perfect
example. It’s possible you might find some other activities, even things like yoga,
that could keep you active and burn a few more calories while actually decreasing
the stress response.

So in summary, keep your “formal cardio” – the moderate and intense stuff that
you’d consider a “real workout” - to three days a week, but add in some lower

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intensity activity to get some additional calories burned, to satisfy your urge to stay
active and possibly even to relieve some stress at the same time. Stay active, just
manage the intensity and energy expenditure.

QUESTION: You mentioned eating more after training or even before and
after training, but you also mentioned eating more on training days for the
whole day. You only talked about this briefly though, when you mentioned
“floating” or “targeted” high carb days. It seems to me that staying in line
with the overall principles of the Holy Grail, it would make eating more on
the training days and less on the non training days would be the ideal
method. Which leads me to two questions: First, Is there any reason you
didn’t set this up so that you’re always eating more on training days and
eating less on non training days? Second, if we wanted to use this targeted
high carb day strategy, what would be the best way to do it?

ANSWER: This is a good question that I’ve received quite a few times. I agree that
it may help with muscle growth not only to use pre and post workout nutrition
interventions on training days but also to consider eating more overall for the entire
day on training days. If you eat more on training days, you’ll be providing more fuel
and more building/recovery materials when you need them the most, so this
approach seems logical and in perfect alignment with this program’s philosophy.

But there are some other things to consider first, including your need for simplicity,
your goals, your training frequency, the type of training you’re doing on a particular
day, the time of day you train, your desired weekly calorie deficit and your weekly
calorie budget available.

One of the reasons I opted for the 3:1 or 3:3 cycles as the standard method for the
Holy Grail program is for sheer simplicity. Repeating a designated cycle over and
over is easy to do – there’s not much thinking involved – and it could be as simple as
creating just two menu plans, which are rotated. While I assume that most followers
of this program are highly motivated and disciplined enough to follow more complex
nutritional programs, you can’t discount the importance of making your nutrition as
practical and easy to follow as possible. “Eat more carbohydrate calories every fourth
day” for example, is a simple instruction.

If you were intending to eat more on every training day (going to maintenance or
surplus level calories), another factor you’d have to think about is your training
frequency. What if you train almost every day? Bodybuilders often train 5 or 6 days
a week because they’ve split up their workouts to the point of hitting only one or two
body parts a day. If they were to eat more on every training day, almost every day
would be a high calorie day. You can’t achieve much fat loss if you’re eating at
maintenance or in a surplus most of the time.

Furthermore, one of our goals with this program is to stay out of prolonged
surpluses, because it’s very hard to avoid some fat gain when you’re in a surplus
most of the time. That’s the old school “bulking” method. The Holy Grail is the new
and improved model.

You also have to consider the intensity and energy demands of the workout. Energy-
demanding workouts such as legs (squat day) or back (deadlifts, rows, etc.) take

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much more out of you than abs, calves or arms, therefore it would make sense to
put more back in for recovery. If your training split has workouts where only small
muscle groups are trained – an arm day for example – that is much less energy
demanding. It would make sense then to take the higher calorie/carb days when the
most energy is used.

I know a lot of bodybuilders and physique athletes who have been sold the bill of
goods on post workout recovery drinks (and even pre/during workout drinks) and
they chug the same (quantity) of sugar-laden post workout drinks with every
workout. But do you really need all those carbs after training your calves, abs or
forearms? Not every workout is equal.

In a perfect situation, it might make the most sense to quantify the demands of
every workout (energy expended, glycogen depleted, stress on nervous system etc),
and devise a refeeding or carb up strategy by the numbers on that basis. The trouble
is, that could make your nutrition program immensely complicated.

What time of day you train could also complicate your decisions about what days to
make your high calorie days. For example, if you train late in the evening, should
you start your reefed early that day even though you don’t hit the gym until
nighttime, or would it be more beneficial to eat more starting right after a late night
workout and continue into the next day? Even though the day after may be a non-
training day, doesn’t the recovery period extend into the next day? Which day should
really be the high carb day? The 24 hours preceding the workout or the hours after?

While there are important windows of opportunity to attend to, if you train several
times a week, muscle growth and recovery is really a perpetual process. Your
muscles don’t grow during the workout, they grow after the workout when you’re
recovering, including on the days you’re resting, so a certain amount of base
nutrition must be provided every single day.

So you can see that true integration of nutrition to training 100% of the time can
surely be taken to a higher level, but it could also make your nutrition plan
exceedingly complex and difficult to follow and who knows how much more it will
help. I believe that trying to get it perfect, if not an exercise in futility, is simply
unnecessary. I have used the 3:1 and 3:3 methods for years, both in fat loss
programs and in recomposition programs.

The Holy Grail program does integrate nutrition with training by taking advantage of
the windows of opportunity around training times. On training days, regardless of
whether you train in the morning, afternoon or evening, you move some of your
calories into the post workout meal, so that becomes one of your larger meals and it
always contains ample amounts of carbs. You make your preworkout meal one of
your more substantial meals of the day as well. This provides fuel before the
workout for energy and the nutrients needed after the workout for recovery.

This pre and post workout nutrient timing is known as the bracketing technique and
it’s part of the microcyle (daily training-nutrition integration). Depending on your
calorie budget for the day, you would ideally make breakfast (or the first meal after
waking) a substantial meal as well. For most people, this provides important appetite
control and stable blood sugar levels during the day.

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If you want to take nutrition-training integration a step further, then you can
certainly use the floating high carb days method (within-week carb targeting). The
solution to some of the problems I mentioned above is to match the higher
carb/calorie days to your hardest training days. Since this could make the program
complicated and there are pros and cons to either method, let me make a specific
recommendation for you.

First, it’s critical that you’re totally clear on what you want to accomplish. If you
haven’t firmly decided on a body transformation goal, go back to section one, pick
one of the four goals and commit to it. Assuming you want some kind of body
recomposition, you will have either chosen goal 3 (fat loss first priority, concurrent
muscle gain secondary goal) or goal 4 (muscle gain first priority, concurrent fat loss
secondary goal)

If your goal is fat loss first priority, concurrent muscle gain secondary goal, then I
recommend that you stick with the 3 days low (deficit) 1 day high (surplus) cycle.
Here’s why: If you train 4 days a week and you always eat more (maintenance or
surplus) on every training day, that means you’ll only be in a deficit 43% of the time.
A maximum fat loss goal requires more time spent in deficit, not less, or the time
required to goal completion will take much longer.

So with fat loss as first priority, use the bracketing technique on training days, but
don’t worry about eating more overall on every training day. If the high day is a
training day, that’s fine. If the high day is not a training day, that is fine too.

If your goal is muscle gain first priority, concurrent fat loss second priority, then here
is where you can use the technique of eating more on training days (aka “floating”
high carb days). Assuming you’re training 3 or 4 days per week, your strategy is
simple: On the weight training days, you eat more (surplus) and on non training
days you eat less (deficit). This gives you approximately half your days in surplus
and half in deficit.

If you train more than 4 days a week (as in the bodybuilding splits I mentioned
above), then take your higher calorie days only on the workout days that demand
the most energy (typically back and legs). There’s no need for a huge carb up if
you’re only training small body parts and/or the workouts are low in intensity.

In summary, even though this type of carb targeting appears to be a more

sophisticated integration of training and nutrition, due to the factors I mentioned
above, I don’t believe it 100% vital to eat more on every training day.

I’ve seen excellent results with the 3:3 method even though some of my training
days were “low days” and some of my rest days were “high days.” just make sure
your pre and post nutrition is covered.

But if muscle gain is your first priority, go ahead and try eating more (mostly carbs)
on all your intense training days and see for yourself how it works.

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QUESTION: Tom, what do you think about taking some of the low days –
but not all of them – on zero carbs? I’ve seen some carb cycling programs
where they varied the amount of carbs and some days were zero carbs – or
at least nothing but green veggies and fibrous carbs. An occasional zero
carb day supposedly increases fat loss compared to just low carbs.

ANSWER: It wouldn’t be surprising if zero carb days increased fat loss, because if
you cut carbs all the way to zero, or close to it, you are cutting more calories. If your
calorie intake goes down – regardless of which macronutrient is cut – you’re going to
lose more fat. But there are many downsides of zero carb diets – even if it’s only for
a day here and there.

There are potential advantages of selectively reducing carbs over other

macronutrients, but it’s not necessary to be so extreme. Getting leaner will come
mostly as a result of the caloric deficit, plain and simple, so you don’t have to reduce
carbs to zero to increase fat loss, you simply have to increase your calorie deficit.
You could do that by reducing calories overall and you could also increase your
deficit by increasing your cardio volume.

Advantages of cutting some of the calories from carbs to create a larger deficit
include the following: it helps to control insulin (which is helpful in getting rid of the
last bit of stubborn fat), it can have metabolic health benefits for people who are
carb intolerant, the lower carb diet is naturally higher in protein, which is a good
appetite suppressant and muscle maintainer, and it’s much harder to unknowingly
overeat calories when you’ve restricted an entire calorie-dense group of foods (call it
automatic calorie control, if you like).

Moderate restriction of carbs can be very beneficial. The downsides hit you when you
get into a more is better (or “less is better” in this case) mentality. I don’t like any
diets that go to extremes or which remove an entire macronutrient. Those types of
diets are unbalanced and usually unsustainable.

There are rare exceptions, but when your carbs go really low or all the way to zero,
most people experience “brain fog” and their energy levels plummet. Without the
energy to perform high intensity weight training at peak levels, your results will

There’s also a significant amount of research suggesting that very low carb diets can
down-regulate your thyroid, resulting in a slower metabolism. Obviously, that
defeats the purpose of what you’re trying to do in the first place. Studies suggest
that you need about 100-120 grams of carbs for optimum thyroid function.

I also think it’s important to mention that cutting out all carbs can lead to some very
neurotic thinking – I call it carbophobia. That’s where people fear carbs, demonize
carbs and become more worried about carbs than calories.

The Holy Grail program is quite the opposite – it’s about learning how and when to
use carbs, not how to completely eliminate them. I’ve found that with moderate carb
restriction, you can gain virtually all of the potential low carb benefits without the low
carb downsides.

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When I’m asked to give a number, I typically recommend 0.8 to 1.0 grams per
pound of lean body weight for the low carb days. That might put a typical male at
175 to 200 grams a day and a typical female at about 130 to 150 grams a day or
thereabouts. Low carb purists would hardly consider this a low carb diet. For the
active trainee or physique athlete, I think these levels are actually quite low. But it is
enough carbs to get you through your training and keep your head on straight. It’s
even enough so you have plenty of carbs to put after your workouts for a nice post
workout meal – even on a low carb day.

If you went to zero carbs, then on training days you wouldn’t be able to properly fuel
your workouts or re-fuel afterwards. If you went to zero carbs, your calories would
also probably drop too low for the day, unless you replaced some of them with more
fat and protein. Such a severe deficit could increase the risk for muscle loss and
metabolic slowdown.

I don’t see anything wrong with experimenting and trying greater carb restrictions on
the low days, especially if your goal is focused fat loss or primary fat loss. I would
recommend that you try it only on non-weight lifting days and you don’t do it very
often. You’d be doing more damage than good by going to zero or very low carbs on
training days. When dropping the carbs to lower levels than indicated above, I
recommend you continue eating plenty of green veggies, salads and other fibrous
carbs. Cut the carbs in the form of all processed sugars and the starchy carbs or
grains. You also may need to increase the protein if the drop in carbs puts you into a
very aggressive deficit.

My best advice: Avoid going all the way to zero carbs or using protein-only diets –
it’s simply not necessary and may do more harm than good. Try making 100-120
grams per day a bare minimum, otherwise you may find yourself a “low carb
zombie” - in mental haze all day long, with no energy to train and suboptimal muscle

QUESTION: Isn’t there some kind of benefit to staying in a deficit for a while
to get into a “fat burning mode” and staying in a surplus for a while to get
into a “muscle building mode?” If so, then wouldn’t the longer cycles make
sense – like 2 weeks of deficit then 2 weeks of surplus, or even 3-4 week
blocks at a time? I’d heard about the ABCDE diet before and understand that
people complained about gaining fat with that approach, but maybe people
were just pigging out on the surplus days. Couldn’t you do longer cycles and
prevent the fat gain by eating cleaner on the surplus cycles and keeping the
surplus smaller.

ANSWER: I do think that you get into a groove after a few days on deficit or a few
days on surplus compared to raising and lowering calories every other day. That’s
part of why I prefer three day cycles (5 low days at most) to every other day carb
cycling programs. I also prefer three day cycles in a deficit over longer multi-week
cycles for reasons I discussed earlier in this book – I don’t want the groove to turn
into a rut.

I’m sure that all kinds of combinations of low and high cycles could work including
every other day and alternating 1-4 week cycles of surplus and deficit. But one thing

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we clearly do NOT want, is to err on the side of staying in a surplus so long that we
start to gain fat.

If you experience any significant fat gain during your surplus cycle, then when you
go into your fat loss cycle, you have to spend some of that time burning off the fat
you just gained rather than getting leaner than when you started. The net effect is
you spin your wheels and get nowhere with regards to the fat loss side of
recomposition. I think this is where the ABCDE method fell short – too much fat was
gained along with the muscle during the surplus/overfeeding phase.

Certainly fat gain could be minimized during long cycles by using a more
conservative surplus and by eating clean, high quality food. That’s the approach you
take on a traditional focused muscle gain program. But what we’ve noticed is that
even when your surplus is small, the likelihood of gaining fat increases with the
duration of the surplus (especially for the endomorph body type). It’s very difficult
to stay in a surplus all the time, for a long period of time without gaining at least a
little bit of fat. I notice in particular that when you’re in a prolonged surplus, if you
cheat in that already overfed, anabolic state, additional surpluses are very very
easily stored as fat.

So what happens with the traditional approach to gaining muscle is that you gain the
maximum amount of muscle, but you accept a small fat gain along with it. You have
to take that fat off later during the fat loss phase. With the Holy Grail approach we
use very short cycles of surplus and deficit (days, not weeks or months) and we may
even spend more time in deficit than in surplus. This approach helps prevent any fat
gain in the first place. The trade off is that the muscle gains come more slowly, but
you also slowly get leaner at the same time. It’s like taking one slow step at a time,
but every step moves you forward toward improved body composition versus taking
2 steps forward and 1 step back. The short cycles eliminate the back stepping.

This Holy Grail approach of short cyclical dieting is not necessary for the skinny
“hard-gainer” type of person. If you’re an ectomorph body type and you have more
difficulty gaining weight than losing it, I think it makes sense to stay in a surplus to
maximize muscle gains. On the other hand, an endomorph who tends to gain fat with
the muscle would be especially advised not to stay in a prolonged surplus, not even
2-4 weeks. The Holy Grail strategies of 3:1 or 3:3 cycles of deficit and surplus are
especially helpful to the endomorph.

QUESTION: Thank you for the Holy Grail. I was very happy that someone
finally focused on this topic that so many of us are interested in – gaining
muscle AND losing fat. I was also happy to see that you talked about getting
enough sleep as I think that is far more important than most people realize.
I’ve heard it’s more beneficial to go to bed early and get up early in the
morning, so as to be sleeping between 10 pm and 2 am and to maximize the
amount of dark hours asleep and light / daytime hours awake. I appreciated
that you covered the science behind everything and was wondering if you
had seen any research that confirmed this belief about “early to bed and
early to rise” and how it could affect our fat losses and muscle gains.

ANSWER: I have seen research about benefits of getting exposure to early morning
sunlight (early to rise), and early to bed and early to rise go together because you

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have to get to bed early to get up early and still get enough hours of quality sleep,
right? A 2003 study published in the journal Neuroscience Letters found that
Luteinizing Hormone (LH) was increased after bright light exposure. The subjects
who were awakened at 5:00 am and exposed to bright light had a 69.5% increase in
LH while the placebo light group did not.

LH in men drives up testosterone levels, so testosterone could be enhanced with

extra hours of bright light exposure. A lot of people in bodybuilding and fitness
immediately connect increased testosterone with increased muscle size and strength
but it’s not always clear whether transient spikes in test or growth hormone have a
direct effect on increasing muscle mass. For example, body composition was not
measured in this study. However, in reference to the results of this study, one of the
authors, Dr. Daniel Kripke, said that “benefits of increased testosterone may include
a muscle building and strengthening effect.” What was of even greater interest to
Kripke, a psychiatrist at The University of San Diego, was the possible effect on
mood and depression.

A condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has been studied at length
by psychologists and psychiatrists. Much more than just the winter blues, but an
actual type of depression, SAD occurs during the short days and long nights of winter
and fall when there is less sunlight and colder temperatures. Symptoms include
depression, cravings for specific foods (especially carbohydrates), loss of energy,
feelings of hopelessness and oversleeping. Obviously, these types of symptoms and
behavior can affect whether you lose or gain fat just about every way possible –
through calories consumed, calories burned, motivational factors, hormones and so

It’s now widely accepted that sleep deprivation is a risk factor for obesity, but it does
appear that getting maximum daily exposure to sunlight has benefits of its own.
Maybe we know why Southern California was always the “Mecca of bodybuilding!”

QUESTION: I’m a 40 year old male, 200 pounds and 27-30% body fat. In
part one, after you re-defined the possible goals, you mentioned that an
overweight person should focus strictly on fat loss (no secondary goal).
However, you also mentioned that “newbie gains” can account for a person
sometimes having near equal gains in muscle and losses in fat over an
extended period. I feel that I am in both categories – newbie and
overweight, so I’m left wondering if I should start fresh with a singular
focus on fat loss as you suggested or whether I should try to “cash in” on
those newbie muscle gains before switching to a single goal of fat loss?

ANSWER: If I understand your question correctly, you’re wondering if you start on a

fat loss phase and stay focused on fat loss for 12 weeks or more, that by the time
you finish the fat loss phase, you will no longer be a beginner. I see how this could
be an interesting question! My answer is my standard advice: if you have high body
fat, start with fat loss first. There are very few exceptions to this rule. That’s because
when your body fat is high, muscle loss is much less of a concern than when you are
already lean and wanting to get leaner. And when your body fat is high and you go
into a prolonged calorie surplus, it’s awfully easy to gain fat along with the muscle.

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You don’t need to be concerned about missing out on newbie muscle gains, because
in this case, newbie gains is not referring to how many months or years of training
you’ve accumulated (training age). With muscle growth, newbie gains means the
first pounds of new muscle you gain, not how long you’ve been weight training per
se. So even if you focus on fat loss for 6 months and at that point, you’d be usually
be considered out of the beginner stage, you still haven’t put on that first 10-12
pounds of muscle yet. I predict that you will find that the first 10-12 pounds of
muscle is fairly easy to put on regardless of whether you do it now or 3 months from
now or 6 months from now.

You’re no longer a “newbie” in muscle gaining terms, after you’ve already gained a
sizeable amount of muscle. The second 10-12 pounds of pure lean body mass will be
significantly more difficult. And once you’ve put on 20-25 pounds of lean mass, after
that, natural gains almost always start coming very slowly, because the honeymoon
period of “newbie gains” is over.

So pour your mental focus and physical effort into getting lean right now. Once your
body fat is down to the average or better range, then switch gears and go into your
focused muscle building macrocycle (or primary muscle gain, secondary fat loss).
You’ll be less likely to add fat while adding muscle to an already lean body, and I
think you’ll find that first spurt of muscle will still be there for you to enjoy.

QUESTION: What is the minimum amount of strength training required to

prevent muscle loss in a hypocaloric situation?

ANSWER: The consensus among most trainers and strength coaches – and the
strength training research backs this up – is that you need a minimum of two
training sessions per week to maintain the muscle you have. Three days per week is
often cited as optimal, and on bodybuilding or hypertrophy-focused programs, four
or even five days a week can be beneficial, depending on how much you split up
your body parts.

This program however, is not one where you should be looking to do the minimum
amount to get by. Body recomposition is a challenging goal, so you should really be
asking yourself what is the optimal training frequency. I recommend three to four
days a week for most people. Each session will last approximately an hour, although
the workouts can be shortened if necessary, without that much compromise in

Virtually any weight training program could be used in conjunction with the Holy
Grail system of cyclical dieting, as long as it has a periodized system with strength
and hypertrophy elements. To achieve optimal hypertrophy, accumulating a certain
amount of training volume is important, so extremely brief and infrequent types of
training paradigms would not be optimal while following the Holy Grail.

However, for people who have very busy schedules or people who have lower
recovery abilities, abbreviated programs can be used, and in fact, how to abbreviate
your workouts is discussed in the TNB workout that’s included with this program.
Instead of training each muscle group twice a week on the two day split, for a total
of four weekly workouts, you cut back to three days a week. You’re likely to see only
minimal differences in results between the three and four day schedules.

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In addition, the TNB program has specified which exercises are primary (generally
compound, large muscle group exercises) and which are secondary (generally
isolation, small muscle group exercises). When you need to minimize your training
time, for any reason, you can cut back on the isolation/ secondary exercises and
leave only the primary exercise in the routine. This could clip off anywhere from 15
to as much as 30 minutes off your strength training time, bringing the length of your
workouts into the neighborhood of 30 minutes or so.

Keep in mind that while the type of strength training recommended in the Holy Grail
program typically lasts close to 60 minutes per session, you cannot necessarily judge
the effectiveness of your workouts on time spent training. It’s what you do in the
time you have that counts – did you train with intensity? Did you hit your training
goals for the day, adding weight where called for and progressively overloading your
muscles from one week to the next? That’s what counts. If you hit it really hard on
the basics, you may surprise yourself what you can achieve with a fairly modest time

QUESTION: You suggest a 3 days low 1 day high carb cycling schedule for
someone with the primary goal of fat loss, secondary goal of muscle gain,
with the three days in a deficit and the 1 day all the way up into surplus – a
pretty big reefed day. I’m wondering if spending 3 days in a deficit might
be enough to trigger a slowdown in metabolism or starvation mode
symptoms. With that in mind, would a 2 days low, 1 day high carb cycle be a
useful option?

ANSWER: You could experiment with 2 days low and 1 day high, and I mentioned in
a previous Q & A that some people even like doing every other day cycles. But keep
in mind that doing so will decrease your weekly deficit, so you’ll be moving further
away from primary goal fat loss, secondary goal muscle gain, and one step closer to
muscle gain as your primary goal. The answer to your question is really about
whether you want to compromise on the fat loss side of things a little bit more.

If your sole rationale for doing 2 days low instead of 3 is that you’re worried about
metabolic slowdown, you can set that fear aside. Your metabolic rate and regulatory
hormones are not going to crash in just 3 days. As for other starvation mode
symptoms like appetite increasing, that probably won’t happen either in just 3 days,
although a little hunger comes with the territory on low carb days. Typically, by the
3rd day you’re just starting to sense the hunger and craving the “missed foods” like
the starchy carbs, but it’s easy to hold out because you know you have a reefed day
coming. Usually it takes a more prolonged deficit before there’s any metabolic
slowdown or before a low calorie/ and or low carb diet becomes harder to tolerate.

Three days in a deficit is a short period of time and it’s intentionally set up that way,
with a reefed at least every fourth day to provide psychological relief and help
prevent any metabolic slowdown. It’s prolonged severe deficits that you should
avoid. We don’t cut calories severely or for a long time on this program, so it
shouldn’t worry you. If your goal is primarily fat loss, secondarily muscle gain, then I
recommend sticking with the 3 days low, 1 day high method. In fact, if your body fat
is on the high side, you could actually take reefeds even less often (once every 5 to
7 days).

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QUESTION: What do you think about changing the type of training on fat
loss days to something more metabolic and calorie-burning like circuits and
then change the type of training to strength and muscle mass workouts on
the higher calorie surplus days?

ANSWER: If you switch some of your workouts from traditional strength training to
circuit training or the increasingly popular “metabolic weight training,” it’s very
possible that may increase the amount of calories burned during your workout. It
might also elevate your metabolic rate after the training session similar to the way
high intensity cardio increases metabolic rate after the workout (known as excess
post exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC). This could help increase fat loss to
some degree.

However, the more you try to turn your weight training into a fat loss workout, the
less effective it becomes for building strength and muscle. I often joke around about
circuit training being “exercise with an identity crisis.” What is it – cardio training or
resistance training? All kidding aside, I have nothing against circuit training – it has
it’s place. But a good principle to remember is “Never compromise your primary

If you are highly time-restricted and your goal has nothing to do with gaining muscle
and you simply want physical conditioning, fat loss and what many women call
“toning”, then I could understand why you might use circuits or metabolic strength
training workouts.

But if your primary objective is gaining muscle (and that’s one of the goals of this
program), then don’t compromise your muscle gains by using general fitness or
conditioning workouts like circuit training. Use the most effective muscle building
workouts possible – traditional hypertrophy-focused strength training.

For optimum strength and muscle growth, your acute training variables (sets, reps,
load, rest intervals) need to stay in the optimal strength and muscle growth ranges.
Use weight training as your tool for building muscle and strength and use cardio and
nutrition as your tools for burning fat.

QUESTION: Do the post workout nutrition guidelines apply to cardio training

as well? If so, then what if I separate my cardio and weights – do I take a
post workout meal and carb up after both training sessions?

ANSWER: All our discussions about post workout nutrition refer primarily to intense
weight training, not cardio. Low intensity or even medium intensity cardio training
does not require any special pre or post workout nutrition strategy. Arguably,
however, some of our observations about pre and post workout nutrition could apply
to high intensity cardio training.

In a separate question, someone asked me about fasted cardio. I answered that low
intensity cardio is ok to do fasted. All kinds of intense training – cardio or resistance
– are best done fed. This is both for energy reasons and for recovery and body
composition improvement reasons. This is why we don’t recommend doing high
intensity interval training fasted.

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Post workout nutrition for cardio is a little bit fuzzier. In a perfect situation, it would
actually be beneficial to have some kind of nutritional intake after intense cardio
training. Intense cardio creates a window of opportunity of its own, much like weight
training. Some people argue that twice a day training creates two windows of
opportunity and with proper feeding after each session, this could actually improve
body composition results over once a day training (provided that the double training
sessions don’t push the body into an overtrained state).

This subject is still being debated, but it actually does make sense to get some kind
of intake before and after all intense training sessions. The difference is, an intense
cardio workout might be as little as 20 minutes, it doesn’t necessarily deplete the
whole body and is not as energy intense as a 60 minute weight training workout, so
protein and carb intake afterwards might help, but the size of the meal would be
smaller than the meal following your longer weight training workout.

In practice, it might pan out like this: Many people do their cardio right after their
weight training and this is often for practical reasons, as they don’t want to schlep to
the gym twice a day, take two showers, etc. After this long weight training plus
cardio workout, you’d certainly take a very large post workout meal – the highest
carb meal of the day.

If you split your weights and cardio, this may provide benefits including better
energy allocation (you’re not as tired from weight training so you can put more
energy into the cardio), and the possibility of getting that second (albeit less
impactful) window of opportunity. In this case, you’d take your primary post workout
meal after the weight training workout. Then, assuming you have carb calories to
spare, you’d arrange your daily meal schedule so one of your other meals falls after
that high intensity cardio session. The carb intake simply would not be as high as
after the longer, more intense workout.

This is very counter-intuitive to a lot of people because many experts advise their
clients NOT to eat after cardio, with the intention of increasing fat loss. It’s possible
that may indeed increase the fat oxidation during the acute period after the workout,
but it may also be missing the forest for the trees. A Holy Grail transformation
means gaining muscle, and often what’s optimal for losing fat is not optimal for
gaining muscle. Eating after every intense workout is optimal for gaining muscle.

On a tangent, the same situation occurs with double split weight training that is
often employed by advanced bodybuilders. For example, a bodybuilder might do
chest in the a.m. and back in the p.m. Or, depending on his split, he might do chest
and abs in the a.m and biceps plus intense cardio in the p.m. Either way, post
workout nutrition could be applied to both post workout windows. The amount of
carbs and calories provided might simply be higher or lower depending on the
volume, intensity and energy demands of the workout.

Having two post workout meals, both of substantial size, depends a lot on how many
calories and grams of carbs you have to spare in your nutritional budget. When carbs
and calories are limited, you have to save the bulk of them for after your most
intense workouts and that means intense weight training first. Intense cardio is only
secondary, and low or medium intensity cardio requires no extra intervention at all.

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QUESTION: What percentage of calorie limits can be treat/cheat foods

without impacting on fat loss? Has this ever been assessed in a scientific

ANSWER: First of all, calories always count. If eating cheat foods pushes you more
easily into a greater surplus than you need, it’s going to negatively impact your fat
loss. My typical advice is to follow a 90% rule: stick with natural, unprocessed foods
90% of the time and the other 10% of the time, have whatever you want. Another
way to approach it is to allow one or two free meals every week where you can eat
whatever you want.

Either way, I don’t recommend free for all, unrestricted cheat days or cheat
weekends. I recommend allowing yourself room to eat your favorite foods on
occasion, but keeping within your target calories and macros. These kinds of rules
usually make for better compliance in the long run, not to mention much happier

I’m not sure if any scientists have ever looked at how much junk food and cheating
you can do without storing body fat or slowing down your overall progress - at least
not in the context of a carb cycling program.

You need a small surplus – typically about 10-15% over maintenance calories to gain
lean mass at the maximum rate, so we know that kind of surplus is needed for
optimal muscle growth.

Naturally of course, eating large amounts of junk food, including refined sugars and
fat, increases the odds that you’ll push yourself into a calorie surplus larger than you
can utilize. Also, it’s more likely that if you’re in a surplus, a high fat and high sugar
intake increases the likelihood that some of those dietary fat calories will easily
convert into body fat. But cycling carbs changes the game – a lot.

A period of reduced carb hypocaloric dieting that precedes a large surplus alters the
hormonal milieu and depletes glycogen, which creates a space for some of those
excess carbs to go on the surplus/refeed day (“cheat day”). This is how it appears
that people get away with eating junk food or unusually high amounts of carbs in a
surplus with no ill effect or possibly even achieving a positive effect. (Witness the
bodybuilder who actually looks better the day after his contest after the victory
celebration feast!)

How often you can do this and how much extra you can eat on the surplus (“cheat”)
day are the big questions and I think there are too many variables to give a single
answer. A lot of it depends on what happened before the cheat.

Some nutrition and bodybuilding experts have looked at how much carbohydrate you
could take in on a reefed day following a period of low carb, hypocaloric dieting. That
might give you some insights. Also, there is reason to believe that using high
glycemic carbs or even called “not so clean” carbs like pasta, pancakes, cereals, or
even flat out junk food on high carb day seem to work at least as well as natural
complex carbs and possibly better – again, that’s if you’ve created a space for those
extra carbs with previous depletion.

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In the 1990’s, cyclical low carb or ketogenic diets became a popular variation on the
standard (ie, Aktins) low carb diets). The cyclical low carb diet called for 5 days of
low calories and very low carbohydrate intake followed by 2 days of high
carbohydrates and fairly high calories – enough to achieve glycogen
supercompensation. This causes the muscles to fill out from water and glycogen
being driven into the cell and it creates an overall anabolic response. Taking a break
from carb depletion and spiking carbs also stops the catabolism and even allows you
to rebuild muscle. These cyclical ketogenic diets were viewed by some as an
improvement over ketogenic diets like Atkins which did not have any carb up. They
also seemed a better choice for bodybuilders.

Now, here’s where this ties into your question. After a period of depletion, and when
your muscles have become insulin sensitive, carbs are pushed first into muscle cells.
This means that after a period of carb depletion and continued training, you
temporarily won’t get fat from overeating – even junk food carbs. This wouldn’t
happen under normal circumstances. It’s the depletion phase that potentiates the
ability to carb load so much without getting fat – even junk carbs.

These programs called for 1-2 days of massive carbing up. How many carbs? We’re
talking at least 9 g per kg of LBM which would be about 750 grams of carbs on in
one day for an average 185 pound male. That may seem like an insane amount of
carbs, but some people who use these types of diets actually hit those amounts –
and higher (1000-1200 grams is not unheard of) and continue to improve their body

Keep in mind, though, for this to work, it requires depletion of glycogen and this is
not appropriate for everyone. Furthermore, many people, myself included, find
almost zero-carb, high fat ketogenic diets distasteful and hard to sustain, even after
getting adapted to it. In addition, a full 5 days of near-zero carbs is harder to
tolerate than just 3 days of low carbs.

Nevertheless, this should answer your question and goes to show that if you’ve
primed yourself through diet depletion and or training depletion to a great enough
degree, you can consume a surprisingly large amount of carbs for one day without
storing body fat, and that could include so-called junk food sources of carbs.

Doing extreme reefeds or all-out unrestricted cheat days is not my favorite approach
to carb cycling. I prefer to be more conservative on low carb days seldom dropping
below 0.8 to 1.0 g/lb bodyweight, (never below 100 g) as well as more conservative
on reefed days. For example, if I weigh 195 pounds at 10% bodyfat and I’m on a
Holy Grail style recomp program, my low carb days might be 175 grams and then on
reefed days I might go up to 2-3 times that, or about 350-450 grams. I would
occasionally go higher if my activity level is really high and/or when muscle gain is
the first priority, but it’s never a carb or sugar “binge” and it’s not the 700 – 1000
gram refeeds you sometimes hear about after a more extended and extreme
depletion period.

I’ve seen the extreme carb up or junk-loading approaches work, but I’ve also seen
them backfire far too many times to prescribe it broadly. I prefer the allowance of
one or two “free meals” per week (eat absolutely anything you want, but stay within

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your macro and calorie targets for the day). Then I recommend controlled refeeds
with mostly “clean” (nutrient dense) carbs, co-ordinated with training. And if you
want to relax your carb choices, that’s the day to have your bread, pasta, cereal, etc.
especially in your post-workout meal after really intense training sessions.

QUESTION: Tom, I’m a female 5’6” 120 pounds, I could stand to gain some
muscle and lose a little more fat. I don’t eat any meat at all. I eat some
yogurt and cottage cheese and some eggs, and I know which vegetarian
protein versions to substitute for meat in your suggested meal plans. My
questions are, first, will this make it harder to gain muscle and lose fat?
Second, what do you think about taking 1 out of every 3 days eating purely
raw fruits and vegetables?

ANSWER: Between dairy products, eggs and high protein plant-based foods, you
can easily get all the protein you need (as an ovo-lacto vegetarian). You’ll get plenty
of complete proteins from using dairy products or eggs daily and or mixing and
matching your vegetarian proteins each day for the full spectrum of amino acids.

Your goal should simply be to hit your daily macronutrient and calorie goals every
day. Establish your calorie goals first, and secondary in importance, be sure to hit
your protein requirement every day. As per the Holy Grail nutrition guidelines, that’s
approximately one gram per pound of body weight, or 120 grams for you.

This program was not designed for a strict pure vegetarian (vegan), who doesn’t eat
any animal based proteins whatsoever. It would require an entirely new set of
specialty menu plans for that, which is an area of nutritional expertise I don’t have.

Also, while a vegan should have no difficulty with fat loss simply by setting calories
and total daily protein correctly, a vegan diet probably puts you at a disadvantage in
the muscle building department. The diet completely void of animal based proteins is
sub-optimal for building muscle in comparison to one that contains at least small
amounts of animal based protein.

That’s not to say a vegan can’t build a fine physique. In fact, I have seen a handful
of vegans pursue physique goals to the point of bodybuilding. However, vegan
bodybuilders are somewhat rare and arguably, the physiques of vegan bodybuilders
I’ve seen don’t compare to the physiques of non vegetarians, at least from a
competitive perspective.

I don’t, however, see any reason why an ovo lacto vegetarian can’t get equal results
as someone who eats meat. Meat and fish eaters will simply have a wider variety of
protein sources to choose from and the non-meat eater will need to carefully double
check her daily protein intake to make sure she’s getting optimal amounts.

As for pure fruit and vegetable days, I suppose that depends on what you include
with vegetables. By vegetables if you mean including beans, legumes and high
protein whole grains, you could still probably get close to hitting your protein target
for the day. If you mean only green veggies and salads plus fruits, you will probably
come up short on total daily protein.

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I think it’s a great idea for everyone – meat eaters especially – to eat more fruits
and veggies, and certainly you can eat some of those veggies raw. You could even
take occasional days of “fruit and veggie fasts” where you take a break from the high
daily protein intakes.

But for optimal results in terms of gaining lean body mass, I would make it a point to
hit your daily protein target the majority of the time, especially when you’re doing
intense training that includes the 4X a week of weights and 3X a week of cardio
that’s called for on this program.

QUESTION: Tom, I used your fat loss program (Burn the Fat, Feed the
Muscle) to go from 28% down to 20.5%. I’m fairly happy with my results so
far, but I still have more fat to lose and then I want to gain some lean
muscle. The problem is, I figured out my body type and I am definitely an
endomorph – I put on fat very easily, I lose it slowly and the ONLY and I
mean the ONLY way I seem to lose it quickly is to do a lot of cardio. When I
increased my cardio to 40-45 minutes twice a day, 5-7 days a week (I
alternate between spinning class, elliptical machine and running) – plus
lifting – that’s when I really started to drop the fat. I don’t feel exhausted
from doing 2 cardios a day. I have the time – I’m a student and so the only
time commitment I have is studying. I don’t feel overworked. But I’ve heard
so many warnings about doing too much cardio, and even though you
mentioned that you’ve done 2 a day yourself when you competed, in your
Holy Grail program, now you’re saying the same thing I heard elsewhere –
don’t do too much cardio. My concern is that I won’t be able to reach my
long term goal of 17% body fat without the cardio so I’m wondering if it’s
ok to keep doing cardio 2X a day at least until I reach that goal.

ANSWER: I’m not against double cardio for short periods of time for the physique
athlete prepping for competition or anyone working under time pressure to reach a
goal. Two cardios a day is highly effective for focused fat loss programs. But there
are downsides of doing a large volume of cardio which include overuse injuries,
metabolic adaptation and interference with strength/muscle gains.

However, I see that you are tracking body composition and if you’re getting good fat
loss results while maintaining your lean body mass, then your high volume cardio
strategy is working. As a general rule, don’t fix it if it’s not broken. If your goal is
focused maximal fat loss, then daily cardio is an effective strategy and occasionally
for peaking, double cardios can also be helpful.

Once your goals switch to gaining muscle, then you’ll definitely want to decrease
your cardio. High volume cardio is for peaking, it shouldn’t be done all year round
purely for body composition purposes. There’s no way you’re going to be able to
keep doing double cardio and maximize muscle gains. Rather than cut your cardio
drastically, taper it slowly over a period of weeks. It may surprise you how you can
stay lean or even continue to lose fat on less cardio.

For optimal muscle gains, keep your cardio down to 3 days per week. If you need
to, you can always bring the cardio back up, but don’t overdo it when muscle gain is
a primary goal.

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QUESTION: Hey Tom, I’ve read your articles about the pros and cons of
fasted cardio I the morning and I for one, love doing it this way. It works
for me and I like having it out of the way early. You mentioned fasted cardio
and recommended it in your earlier e-book, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle,
but I don’t think you said anything about it in the Holy Grail. Is it ok to keep
doing it fasted when your goal is concurrently losing fat and gaining
muscle? The reason I ask is because you hear a lot of people say that fasted
cardio can make you lose muscle. I have been tracking my lean body mass
and didn’t lose ANY muscle at all, but I was just wondering what you
thought. Thanks!

ANSWER: Doing cardio in the morning fasted (or semi-fasted on just a protein
shake) is fine even during this program as long as you keep the intensity level low to
medium. I’d recommend eating breakfast (meal one) immediately afterward.
Intense training of all kinds, including cardio (interval training for example), should
be done fed, for optimal performance and optimal body composition results. Doing
intense cardio in a fasted state is more risky, as it teeters on the catabolic side. For
optimal results on a body recomp program, it’s best to avoid any nutritional or
training techniques that are “high risk.”

QUESTION: Tom is there a reason you don’t synchronize your training

periodization with the nutrition periodization? I’ve read some stuff about
cyclical dieting before that said when you’re doing a depletion phase of a
carb cycling schedule, on those days you should change your training for
better fat loss like doing more high reps and then on the carb up days you
should change your training more for muscle mass with heavy weight and
low reps.

ANSWER: I covered on this subject in a previous Q & A about whether you should
eat more on training days and another about whether the type of training should
change on low carb and high carb days. As for high reps, it’s a myth that doing high
rep weight training will increase fat loss.

It’s always a good idea to use a periodization program and that can include
alternating between lower and medium/higher rep days. On this program we do
heavier strength days in the 5-6 rep range and more moderate hypertrophy days in
the 8-12 rep range.

Occasionally mixing in some high reps there is fine as well. But switching entirely to
very high reps (13-20 and up) for all your training is a mistake. In fact, you could
actually lose muscle if you stop training with the heavier weights and you’d get no
added fat loss from the higher reps.

Fat loss is achieved from the caloric deficit which is best handled primarily though
nutrition and then secondarily through cardio. Keep the majority of your weight
training focused on strength and hypertrophy and let the cardio and nutrition take
care of the fat loss.

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The Holy Grail

Body Transformation Program:

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Conclusion: Fat loss and muscle gain reality

Although I've made a strong case for how to gain some muscle during your fat loss
program (or just prevent muscle loss) and how to lose some fat during your muscle
gain program (or just stay lean), I want to end by re-emphasizing the main point
from part one: gaining a lot of muscle and losing a lot of fat at the same time is
difficult and uncommon. There are only a handful of exceptions, which revolve
around certain ideal conditions being present.

Building large muscles while getting cut goes against our evolutionary programming.
Being ripped has no survival value. Having huge muscles also has no survival value.
Being ripped and huge… well, you can put one and one together.

Despite all the biological and evolutionary evidence to the contrary, why do so many
people persist in believing that huge simultaneous gains in muscle and losses in body
fat are easy and common? I can think of two reasons.

One reason is because when people get leaner, they reveal more muscular definition.
Ripped muscles create an optimal illusion of more size, especially for men. Looking at
some before and after photos, you’d swear they weighed MORE in the lean after
photo, but they might be 10 or 15 pounds lighter than in the fat before photo.

Second, as I mentioned in part one, supplement and weight loss marketing has
brainwashed people into expecting incredible gains of muscle along with large losses
of fat (if you use their products, of course). More often than not, what you're really
seeing is a complete fabrication (phony testimonials, steroid-using models,
photoshopped pictures), or the best case scenarios - not the typical results.

I want to encourage you, because what we are trying to do with the Holy Grail
program is to put the odds in your favor for making a “results not typical”
transformation. But it would be irresponsible of me to rave on about how you can
“easily” gain huge amounts of muscle and lose a lot of fat concurrently. Instead, I
want to conclude with both a dose of encouragement and a dose of reality so you
can set your goals realistically.

This is a challenging goal to achieve. You’ve got to have all your ducks lined up in a
row to make this work: training, nutrition, and lifestyle. Choosing the right parents
helps too (and if you’re just starting out, enjoy those newbie gains while they last!)

One of the most common obstacles blocking the way to reaching a goal is setting two
or more goals that conflict with one another. Training for strength and maximum
muscle mass while trying to train for long distance endurance events at the same
time is a perfect example. They don't go well together.

Of course, there are exceptions to everything. I have a friend who wins masters
bodybuilding contests and has run full marathons in the same year, but he competes
in bodybuilding as a bantamweight. He would likely be much larger and stronger,
especially in the legs, if he didn’t run so much.

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The more you attempt to split your focus between two conflicting goals, the more
you begin to make compromises. If for no other reason, prioritize one goal because
it's psychologically detrimental to split your focus. Without a primary focus, what
often happens is your progress in either direction will be so slow that you'll give up
out of sheer frustration.

Your chances for success are greatest if you choose your single most important
priority, make that your primary goal, and pour your heart into it. To get the most
out of this program, remember our new paradigm on setting body transformation
goals: That is, be sure you have a primary goal, even when you’re pursuing the
“Holy Grail” of body recomposition.

In closing, let’s summarize the components of the Holy Grail body

transformation system:

1. Choose a primary goal for your macrocycle

2. Choose your within-week calorie/carb cycling plan (mesocycle)
3. Establish a plan for pre and post workout nutrition (microcycle) on training days
4. Determine maintenance calorie needs and set calorie levels for low days and high
5. Use menu templates or sample menus as examples to design your own meal plans
6. Cycle calories by manipulating your carb intake – protein and healthy fats stay
relatively constant, while the carbs vary (example: 3 days low carb, 1 – 3 days high
7. Double check for adequate protein intake – eat protein at each meal, minimum 1
g/lb of bodyweight
8. Set up your weight training schedule with 3-4 days per week of training
(bodybuilders may use higher frequency on body part split routines)
9. Start with 3 days per week of cardio. Limit cardio to 3/d/wk when muscle gain is
primary goal. Add sparingly when fat loss is primary focus.
10. Make sure all lifestyle factors are in place (adequate sleep, stress management
plan, little or no alcohol, etc.)
11. Measure body composition once a week. Adjust carb and calorie levels as needed
based on your weekly results.

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Thank you for reading The Holy Grail Body Transformation System – which is now in
its second incarnation. This program has grown from a short e-book that was
originally offered as an ancillary bonus report for another product to an exciting
stand-alone program which is already becoming immensely popular after less than a
year on the market. The entire question and answer section in this edition is a result
of all the feedback I received from first edition users.

Although this program has expanded tremendously since it’s early days, the interest
in the Holy Grail Body Transformation system has exceeded our expectations by such
a large magnitude that we plan to expand it even further and continue to build it into
an even larger and more comprehensive program.

In order to create the next edition of this program, I would love to get your
feedback. Our gallery of success stories is growing rapidly and we want to hear about
the results from even more Holy Grail users. This will help us create future editions
of the program as well as prove motivation and inspiration to our new users and our
current community.

Now that you’ve finished reading, I’d love to hear from you right away. Please take a
moment right now to drop me a note via email with your initial impressions about
this course at:

In a few months, after you’ve put this program to work, I’d also like to hear from
you again to find out about your results. Whether you hit a snag and had some
challenges, or there were unanswered questions and you’d like to have a question
added to the FAQ section, or it all worked brilliantly and you have a success story or
testimonial to send me, let me know either way.

I want to hear not only about your experience with the Holy Grail nutritional
periodization and cycle dieting techniques, but also your experience with the TNB
workout, if you used the workout. TNB first appeared in Men’s Fitness magazine,
then I expanded it for our Inner Circle members who started testing the TNB
workout last year. The response and the results from this workout system have been

Last but not least, if you’re a member of our Inner Circle, you can discuss this
program with our thousands of members or ask me questions in the Inner Circle
discussion forums.

If you’re not a member of our private community yet, you can get membership
information at:

Thanks again for reading.

Train hard and expect success!

Tom Venuto, author of

The Holy Grail Body Transformation System.

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Selected References:

Danforth, et al, Dietary Induced Alterations in Thyroid Hormone Metabolism During Overnutrition,
Journal of Clin. Invest, Volume 64, 1336-1347. 1979

Donnelly JE, et al. Muscle hypertrophy with large-scale weight loss and resistance training American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 58, 561-565 Human Performance Laboratory, University of
Nebraska at Kearney 68849.

Duchaine, Dan, Body Opus, Xipe Press, 1996

Dulloo, AG, Jacquet J., The control of partitioning between protein and fat during human starvation:
its internal determinants and biological significance, Br Jour Nutr, 82L 339-356, 1999.

Dulloo AG, Regulation of body composition during weight recovery: integrating the control of energy
partitioning and thermogenesis, Clin Nutr, 16(suppl): 25-35, 1997
Forbes GB, Perspectives in Body Composition, Curr Op Clin Nutr Metab, 5:25-30, 2002

Forbes, GB Body fat content influences the body composition response to nutrition and exercise.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 904, 359-365 2000.
Forbes, GB, et al, Hormonal Response to Overfeeding, Am J Clin Nutr,:49:608-11. 1989

Hall, KD, What is the required energy deficit per unit of weight loss?, Int J Obesity, 32: 573-576,

Hatfield, Fred, PhD., Hardcore Bodybuilding, A Scientific Approach, Contemporary Books, 1993

Heinrichs, et al, Social Support and Oxytocin Interact to Suppress Cortisol and Subjective
Responses to Psychosocial Stress. Biol Psychiatry 2003;54:1389–1398. 2003. Department of
Clinical Psychology (MH, TB, UE), University of Zu¨rich, Switzerland.

Ivy, John Ph.D. & Portman, Robert, Ph.D. Nutrient Timing, Basic Health Publications, 21004

Lev-ran A., Human obesity: an evolutionary approach to understanding our bulging waistline,
diabetes Metab res Rev, 17: 347-363, 2001

McCarthy JP, et al, Compatibility of adaptive responses with combining strength and endurance
training. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 27(3):429-36, 1995. Biodynamics Laboratory, University of
Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

Payne PR & Dugdale AE, A model for the prediction of energy balance and body weight. Annals of
Human Biology 4, 1977.

Staron, R.S., et al, Strength and skeletal muscle adaptations in heavy-resistance-trained women
after detraining and retraining. Journal of Applied Physiology, 70, 631-640, 1991.

Valimaki, M.J.,et al, Sex hormones and adrenocortical steroids in men acutely intoxicated with
ethanol. Alcohol, 1, 89-93, 1984

Vicennati V, et al, Stress-related Development of Obesity and Cortisol in Women. Obesity. 2009
Sep;17(9):1678-83. University Alma Mater Studiorum of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.

Volek, J.S., Sharman, M.J., Love, D.M., Avery, N.G., Gomez, A.L., Scheett, T.P., & Kraemer, W.J.
Body composition and hormonal responses to a carbohydrate-restricted diet. Metabolism, 51, 864-
870. 2002

Wallace, M.B., Mills, B.D., & Browning, C.L. Effects of cross training on markers of insulin
resistance/hyperinsulinemia. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 29, 1170-1175. 1997

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Appendix 1:
Carb Cycling Meal Plans

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program – Appendix 1
The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program

Introduction to the Holy Grail carb cycling meal plans

Every person has unique calorie, macronutrient and nutrition needs. There are some
foods you may love to eat every day and some you strongly dislike. You might be
allergic or intolerant to certain foods (dairy and wheat/gluten products are commonly
avoided for these reasons). You may like to use post-workout or meal replacement
drinks for convenience or you may prefer whole foods. Depending on what part of
the world you’re from, some foods may be readily available while others are not.

These are only a handful of the reasons why it’s virtually impossible to create one set
of “perfect” menu plans. At the very least, it would require an entire book filled with
a huge variety of meal plans to cover the majority of scenarios. Even then, personal
tastes in food would dictate that no generic menu plan will be ideal for everyone.

That’s one reason I’ve never been keen on prescribing meal plans. Another reason is
because if a certain food isn’t printed on the menu, some people think they’re not
allowed to have that food (not true). Yet another is because if I print a specific
menu, most people get the idea that if they don’t follow exactly what the meal plan
says 100% of the time, they’ve failed. This kind of perfectionist thinking is not
beneficial – it’s another form of neurosis, like the “carbophobia” I mentioned earlier.

I prefer to teach nutrition principles which give you the information you need to
create your own meal plans. That means you must learn the arts of substitution and

Although I haven’t created a customized meal plan exclusively for you, I have done
something that will help all Holy Grail readers immensely. I’ve created one set of
sample menus which you can use as templates. You can use these samples as idea
starters and easily make substitutions with your favorite foods. You can also increase
or decrease the calories or macronutrients as your personal needs dictate.

Customizing your calories, macronutrients and foods

To create a set of general menu templates that’s useful to you, we will use a
“reference person” that represents the average or typical individual who might follow
this program. That person is moderately active and not obese, but still has body fat
to lose, so we will estimate that the reference male is about 190 pounds and the
reference female is about 140 pounds, or within 10 pounds or so.

If you’re very small in body size, you may need to decrease the calorie and
macronutrient amounts slightly. If you’re much larger and more active than the
sample reference person, you’ll need to calculate your personal calorie needs and
increase the calories and servings of all the foods listed on the sample menus.

In setting calories, we’re making an assumption that your activity level won’t go
much below moderately active once you’re into this program. That’s because the
Holy Grail program requires a certain amount of weekly training, and that requires a
certain amount of energy.

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program – Appendix 1
The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program

Our sample meal plans have not been created with complicated recipes. Instead, for
the most part, the meals have been made with individual foods. This is an easy way
to get started in the beginning, and it allows you to see how a simple muscle-
building meal is created (lean protein plus natural carbs). However, this doesn’t
mean you can’t or shouldn’t substitute these basic meals with more complex recipes.

For example, if you see plain chicken breast, broccoli and brown rice on the menu,
you could substitute your favorite vegetable stir fry, adding whatever flavorings and
additional vegetables you desire. You can use herbs or spices on your fish and
meats. You can create fancy omelets with any kind of vegetables, spices or even
low/nonfat cheese. Anything added that is caloric must be carefully counted into your
daily calorie and macronutrient totals, especially oils and fats which are very calorie

You can make all the substitutions you like, provided you follow the overall principles
of the program and achieve your nutrition goals in the order of their priority.

One thing you will notice about all the sample menus is that post-workout meals
have been labeled and they are almost always the largest and highest carb meal of
the day. If you make substitutions in your meal plans, one thing that should stay the
same is the post-workout meal should always be one of your largest meals.

A post-workout whole food meal can also be substituted with a post-workout drink.
Typically, these contain whey protein and simple carbs. Refer back to the post
workout nutrition section of this book for more details.

These menu templates show you generally how to place more food around training
sessions. If you have particularly intense and energy-demanding workouts, it’s your
prerogative to move even more of your daily carbs into the post-workout meal. If
you alter your meal frequency from the standard template, then all meals need to be
larger and the post-workout meal much larger.

Customizing your meal frequency

Five or six smaller meals has been the favorite method of bodybuilders for decades
and is beneficial, if not optimal for muscle-building programs for a variety of reasons.
This meal frequency is considered the “best practice” on the Holy Grail program as

In programs where surplus calories are required, it’s easier and more practical for
most people to spread the large food intake into multiple smaller meals. On the fat
loss (deficit) side, the small, frequent meal pattern has proven very helpful for
controlling appetite and avoiding binge eating. It’s also helpful for maintaining stable
blood sugar levels.

All the sample menu plans in this section are based on 5 to 6 small meals per day
rather than 3 (or fewer) huge meals. However, the bodybuilder’s method of 5 to 6
meals a day is not a hard and fast rule as long as daily goals are reached and
nutrient timing is carefully observed. Meal frequency can be customized. Some
people may find 3-4 meals or 3 meals plus snacks is more practical for their personal
schedule and lifestyle.

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program – Appendix 1
The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program

People with very low calorie requirements (someone short and/or very small-framed)
may find that spreading their small daily calorie allotment into 5 or 6 meals doesn’t
leave much food per meal. In fact, each meal may seem like little more than a
snack. These low energy expenditure individuals also may prefer to spread the food
out into 3 or 4 meals or 3 meals plus small snacks.

Note: A snack is generally something with fewer calories than a meal (75 to 200
calories is typical) and requires no cooking or food preparation. This could include a
piece of fruit, a serving of raw veggies, a handful of nuts, a yogurt, a serving of
cottage cheese, or a protein shake.

It’s also important to consider the impact of your daily meal schedule on compliance
(can you stick with a certain meal plan as a lifestyle?). Following any program that’s
optimal for body re-composition or building muscle mass is going to take some
planning, discipline and hard work. But if possible, you should avoid meal schedules
that make it any harder to stick with your eating plan than necessary.

Many people – including most bodybuilders and athletes - thrive on eating 5 to 6

times per day. A handful of people however, find it inconvenient and difficult to eat
every 3 hours. If you’re in the latter group, you’ll be happy to hear that you could
consider a 3 to 4 meal per day schedule or 3 meals plus snacks schedule. Note: a
protein shake, meal replacement shake or post workout drink could also count as
one of the “meals.”

Meal planning priorities

Many people get immensely confused about meal planning when they first start a
muscle building or fat burning program and some people stay confused for years
until it finally clicks. There’s a short cut solution to this problem and it works every
time. All you have to do is approach your nutrition program from a “hierarchy of
importance” point of view.

In other words, set nutrition priorities in the order of most to least important and use
the famous 80-20 rule. The 80-20 rule says that 20% of your actions (the important
few) will produce the majority of your results. The remaining 80% is minutia (the
trivial many). That means, if you identify and apply just a handful of the most
important nutrition principles, you’ll get great results and you won’t have to worry
about all the little details.

On a program like this, the details do matter. But using the 80-20 rule and taking
care of the most important stuff first is a guaranteed way to cut through confusion
and start getting results right from the start. You can fine tune the details later as
you go.

Your first priority should be to make sure you hit your calorie and macronutrient
targets for each day, every day. After nailing down the right amount of calories, it’s
vitally important to make sure you hit your protein requirement. Most people will find
hitting their protein target is easy if you eat protein 4 to 6 times per day, with a
serving of protein at each meal. If you decide to eat fewer meals, you have to be
certain to increase your protein per meal so you still hit your daily target.

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program – Appendix 1
The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program

Next on the list of priorities is to be sure you consume one of your larger, higher-
carb meals after your strength training sessions. It may be your largest meal of the
day. Following in order of priority, your pre-workout nutrition comes next. Slow-
digesting carbs and lean protein with a little healthy fat are ideal.

Breakfast (the first meal of the day after waking) is close behind in importance. On
training days, breakfast may not be your largest meal (post-workout meals are often
larger), but if you’re like most people, you’ll find that eating a large breakfast helps
stave off hunger during the day and it helps most people avoid binge eating, over-
eating and inappropriate snacking later in the day and night.

Five to six feedings per day is optimal for most people on this program, but with the
priorities above in mind, 3 to 4 meals a day should be the minimum. Now, this part
is very important: If you opt for fewer meals, the importance of meal timing on
training days is greatly amplified.

Fewer meals = greater need for precision nutrient timing

If you’re eating 5 or 6 times a day like a bodybuilder, you’ve got a fairly constant
flow of nutrients hitting your system all day long. Unless you train before your first
meal or after your last meal at night (not recommended), then your workout, by
default, has to fall somewhere between two of your six meals. Therefore, pre- and
post-workout nutrition is automatically handled, as long as you include carbs in those

In addition, during-workout nutrition is unnecessary when you’re eating frequently,

because nutrients from the pre-workout meal are hitting your bloodstream during
the workout (endurance athletes with workouts lasting over an hour are an
exception, but that’s not relevant to this program). For the same reason, when you
eat often, it’s not so urgent to eat the post-workout meal immediately after training.
Anytime within the 30-60 minute window of opportunity after training is fine.

On the other hand, when you eat less often, the meal timing is much more important
and requires some fine tuning. One of the meals should be placed close enough
before the workout to optimize energy levels for training. The post-workout meal
should be eaten immediately after training. In fact, if the post workout feeding
comes in the form of a protein/carb drink, you could even start drinking it at the end
of your workout while you’re still in the gym.

If you eat a whole food meal after training and you’re on a meal plan with fewer
meals per day, then the post-workout meal will be your largest meal of the day by
far. You will load a very large proportion of your daily carbs into this feeding.

One popular meal schedule for people who prefer fewer meals is the traditional 3
whole food meals per day and one drink on training days (that’s four “meals”). One
meal is placed within an hour before the workout, a post-workout drink is consumed
immediately after training, and another large meal is eaten approximately one hour
after the post-workout drink. The other (smaller) meal is placed in the day as
convenience dictates. The drink is optional and purely a matter of personal

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program – Appendix 1
The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program

Final advice on daily meal planning

The majority of successful athletes in the bodybuilding and physique world set up
their daily meal plans on the tried and tested 5-6 meals per day schedule. This is the
recommended method for the Holy Grail program. On a personal note, it’s the
method I’ve used for all 22+ of my years in bodybuilding with better results than any
other meal plan I’ve tried.

However, not everyone is a bodybuilder. It’s important to acknowledge the need for
customizing nutrition for each individual. That includes not only the right calorie and
macronutrient levels but also the right meal schedule to suit your goals and your
lifestyle. A logical way to start is to begin with the best practices but don’t be afraid
to experiment to see what works best for you.

The meal plans that follow should give you a good starting point, but always
remember how important it is to customize everything.

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program – Appendix 1
1500 calorie low carb (tapered) - women
Meal #1 (pre)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
oatmeal, quaker oats 2/3 200 6.7 36 4
egg whites (scrambled) 6 102 21 1.8 0
egg, whole (scrambled) 1 75 6.3 0.6 5
1/2 cup blueberries 1/2 cup 41 0.5 10.2 0.3
Meal #1 Subtotals: 418 34.5 48.6 9.3
Meal #2 (post)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
oatmeal, quaker oats 2/3 200 6.7 36 4
Whey protein powder 2 scoops 180 35 4 3
ground flaxseeds 2 tbsp 93 4 6 6
1 orange 1 med (5 oz) 65 1 16.3 0.3
Meal #2 subtotals: 538 46.7 62.3 13.3
Meal #3
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
white potato baked small, 4 oz 91 2.4 20.7 0.1
chicken breast 4 oz 110 26 0 1
broccoli 1 cup 46 4.6 8.6 0.4

meal #3 subtotals: 247 33 29.3 1.5

Meal #4
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
beef, extra lean top sirloin 5 oz 180 31.2 0 5
asparagus 10 spears 40 4 6 0

meal #4 subtotals: 220 35.2 6 5

Meal #5
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
chicken breast 4 oz 110 26 0 1
green beans 6 oz 50 2 12 0

meal #5 subtotals: 160 28 12 1

Calories Pro (g) Carbs (g) Fat (g)

Grand Totals: 1583 177.4 158.2 30.1
Pro (cal) Carbs (cal) Fat (cal)
709.6 632.8 270.9
Pro (%) Carbs (%) Fat (%)
44.8% 40.0% 17.1%
1500 calorie low carb day (targeted) - women
Meal #1
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
oatmeal, quaker oats 2/3 cup 200 6.7 36 4
Whey protein powder 1.5 scoops 135 26.2 3 2.2

Meal #1 Subtotals: 335 32.9 39 6.2

Meal #2
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
egg whites (scrambled) 4 68 13 1.2 0
egg, whole (scrambled) 1 75 6.3 0.6 5
1/2 red, 1/2 green bell pepper 1/2 each 40 1.4 9.6 0.2
chopped fresh onion 1/2 cup 30 0.9 4.8 0.1
Meal #2 subtotals: 213 21.6 16.2 5.3
Meal #3
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
salmon 5 oz 257 34.5 0 11.5
cauliflower 1 cup 26 2 5.2 0.2

meal #3 subtotals: 283 36.5 5.2 11.7

Meal #4 (pre)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
beef, extra lean top sirloin 5 oz 180 31.2 0 5
asparagus 10 spears 40 4 6 0
yams 5 oz 150 3.1 34 0.2

meal #4 subtotals: 370 38.3 40 5.2

Meal #5 (post)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
chicken breast 4 oz 110 26 0 1
broccoli 1 cup 46 4.6 8.6 0.4
white potato baked 8 oz 183 4.8 41.4 0.2
1 cup
meal #5 subtotals: 339 35.4 50 1.6

Calories Pro (g) Carbs (g) Fat (g)

Grand Totals: 1540 164.7 150.4 30
Pro (cal) Carbs (cal) Fat (cal)
658.8 601.6 270
Pro (%) Carbs (%) Fat (%l)
42.8% 39.1% 17.5%
2100 calorie maintenance (refeed) - women
Meal #1
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
oatmeal, quaker oats 2/3 cup 200 6.7 36 4
Whey protein powder 1.5 scoops 135 26.2 3 2.2
natural peanut butter 1 tbsp 95 4 3.4 8
orange 1 med (5 oz) 65 1 16 0
Meal #1 Subtotals: 495 37.9 58.4 14.2
Meal #2
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
oatmeal, quaker oats 2/3 cup 200 6.7 36 4
egg, whole (scrambled) 1 75 6.3 0.6 5
egg whites (scrambled) 4 68 13 1.2 0
blueberries 3/4 cup 63 0.7 15.3 0.4
Meal #2 subtotals: 406 26.7 53.1 9.4
Meal #3 (pre)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
salmon 5 oz 257 34.5 0 11.5
asparagus 10 spears 40 4 6 0
yams 6 oz 180 3.8 40.8 0.3

meal #3 subtotals: 477 42.3 46.8 11.8

Meal #4 (post)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
chicken breast 4 oz 110 26 0 1
broccoli 1 cup 46 4.6 8.6 0.4
brown rice 1 Cup cooked 216 5 44.8 1.8
teriyaki sauce 1.5 tbsp 37 3 9 0
meal #4 subtotals: 409 38.6 62.4 3.2
Meal #5
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
chicken breast 4 oz 110 26 0 1
green beans 6 oz 50 2 12 0
white potato baked 6 oz 136.5 3.6 31 0.2

meal #5 subtotals: 296.5 31.6 43 1.2

Calories Pro (g) Carbs (g) Fat (g)

Grand Totals: 2083.5 177.1 263.7 39.8
Pro (cal) Carbs (cal) Fat (cal)
708.4 1054.8 358.2
Pro (%) Carbs (%) Fat (%)
34.0% 50.6% 17.2%
2400 calorie surplus day - women
Meal #1 (pre)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
egg, whole (scrambled) 1 75 6.3 0.6 5
egg whites (scrambled) 4 68 13 1.2 0
blueberries 3/4 cup 63 0.7 15.3 0.4
banana 1 med (4.4 oz) 110 1 29 0
Meal #1 Subtotals: 316 21 46.1 5.4
Meal #2 (post)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
oatmeal, quaker oats 3/4 cup 225 7.5 40.5 4.5
Whey protein powder 1.5 scoops 135 26.2 3 2.2
natural peanut butter 1 tbsp 95 4 3.4 8
banana 1 med (4.4 oz) 110 1 29 0
Meal #2 subtotals: 565 38.7 75.9 14.7
Meal #3
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
beef, extra lean top sirloin 6 oz 216 37.4 0 6
broccoli 1 cup 46 4.6 8.6 0.4
brown rice 1 cup cooked 216 5 44.8 1.8

meal #3 subtotals: 478 47 53.4 8.2

Meal #4
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
salmon 5 oz 257 34.5 0 11.5
asparagus 10 spears 40 4 6 0
yams 8 oz 240 5 46.2 0.4

meal #4 subtotals: 537 43.5 52.2 11.9

Meal #5
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
chicken breast 4 oz 110 26 0 1
green beans 6 oz 50 2 12 0
white potato baked 9 oz 203 5.4 46.1 0.4

meal #5 subtotals: 363 33.4 58.1 1.4

Calories Pro (g) Carbs (g) Fat (g)

Grand Totals: 2259 183.6 285.7 41.6
Pro (cal) Carbs (cal) Fat (cal)
734.4 1142.8 374.4
Pro (%) Carb (%) Fat (%)
32.5% 50.6% 16.6%
2300 calorie low carb day (tapered) - men
Meal #1 (pre)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
oatmeal, quaker oats 3/4 cup 225 7.5 40.5 4.5
egg, whole (scrambled) 2 150 12.6 1.2 10
egg whites (scrambled) 4 68 14 1.2 0

Meal #1 Subtotals: 443 34.1 42.9 14.5

Meal #2 (post)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
oatmeal, quaker oats 1 cup 300 10 54 6
Whey protein powder 2 scoops 180 35 4 3
banana 1med (4.4 oz) 110 1 29 0

Meal #2 subtotals: 590 46 87 9

Meal #3
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
yams 6 oz 180 3.8 40.8 0.3
chicken breast 6 oz 165 39 0 1.5
broccoli 1 cup 46 4.6 8.6 0.4

meal #3 subtotals: 391 47.4 49.4 2.2

Meal #4
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
beef, extra lean sirloin 5 oz 286 43 0 11.3
asparagus 10 spears 40 4 6 0

meal #4 subtotals: 326 47 6 11.3

Meal #5
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
salmon 5 oz 257 34.5 0 11.5
green beans 6 oz 50 2 12 0

meal #5 subtotals: 307 36.5 12 11.5

Meal #6
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
tuna, water packed 6 oz 180 39 0 1.5
light italian dressing 3 tbsp 12 0 3 0
Large mixed green salad 2.0 cups 40 0 10 0

meal #6 subtotals: 232 39 13 1.5

Calories Pro (g) Carbs (g) Fat (g)

Grand Totals: 2289 250 210.3 50
Pro (cal) Carb (cal) Fat (cal)
1000 841.2 450
Pro (%) Carbs (%) Fat (%)
43.7% 36.7% 19.7%
2300 calorie low carb day (targeted) - men
Meal #1
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
oatmeal, quaker oats 3/4 cup 225 7.5 40.5 4.5
Whey protein powder 2 scoops 180 35 4 3
orange 1 med (5 oz) 65 1 16 0

Meal #1 Subtotals: 470 43.5 60.5 7.5

Meal #2
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
egg whites (scrambled) 6 102 21 1.8 0
egg, whole (scrambled) 2 150 12.6 1.2 10
1/2 red, 1/2 green bell pepper 1/2 each 40 1.4 9.6 0.2
chopped fresh onion 1/2 cup 30 0.9 4.8 0.1
Meal #2 subtotals: 322 35.9 17.4 10.3
Meal #3
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
salmon 5 oz 257 34.5 0 11.5
broccoli 1 cup 46 4.6 8.6 0.4

meal #3 subtotals: 303 39.1 8.6 11.9

Meal #4 (pre)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
chicken breast 6 oz 165 39 0 1.5
green beans 6 oz 50 2 12 0
yams 6 oz 180 3.8 40.8 0.3

meal #4 subtotals: 395 44.8 52.8 1.8

Meal #5 (post)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
chicken breast 6 oz 165 39 0 1.5
oriental mixed stir fry vegetables 1 cup cooked 35 1 6 0
brown rice 1.5 cups cooked 324 7.5 67.2 2.7

meal #5 subtotals: 524 47.5 73.2 4.2

Meal #6
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
tuna, water packed 6 oz 180 39 0 1.5
light italian dressing 3 tbsp 12 0 3 0
Large mixed green salad 2.0 cups 40 0 10 0
tomato small (4 oz) 35 0.7 7 0
meal #6 subtotals: 267 39.7 20 1.5

Calories Pro (g) Carbs (g) Fat (g)

Grand Totals: 2281 250.5 232.5 37.2
Pro (cal) Carb (cal) Fat (cal)
1002 930 334.8
Pro (%) Carbs (%) Fat (%)
43.9% 40.8% 14.7%
3000 calorie maintenance day (refeeding) - men
Meal #1
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
oatmeal, quaker oats 1 cup 300 10 54 6
Whey protein powder 1.5 scoop 135 26.2 3 2.2
banana 1 med (4.4 oz) 110 1 29 0
1 tbsp natural peanut butter 1tbsp 95 4 3.4 8
Meal #1 Subtotals: 640 41.2 89.4 16.2
Meal #2
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
whole wheat toast 2 slices 200 10 40 3
egg whites (scrambled) 6 102 21 1.8 0
egg, whole (scrambled) 1 75 6.3 0.6 5
red pepper, green pepper, onion 1/2 cup ea chopped 70 2.3 14.4 0.3
Meal #2 subtotals: 447 39.6 56.8 8.3
Meal #3
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
salmon 5 oz 257 34.5 0 11.5
asparagus 10 spears 40 4 6 0
white potato, baked 1 lg (7 oz) 160 4.2 36.3 0.2

meal #3 subtotals: 457 42.7 42.3 11.7

Meal #4 (pre)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
beef, extra lean sirloin 5 oz 286 43 0 11.3
green beans 6 oz 50 2 12 0
yams 6 oz 180 3.8 40.8 0.3

meal #4 subtotals: 516 48.8 52.8 11.6

Meal #5 (post)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
chicken breast 6 oz 165 39 0 1.5
broccoli 1.5 cups 69 6.8 12.9 0.6
brown rice 1.5 cups 324 7.5 67.2 2.7

meal #5 subtotals: 558 53.3 80.1 4.8

Meal #6
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
tuna, water packed 6 oz 180 39 0 1.5
light italian dressing 3 tbsp 12 0 3 0
white potato, baked 1 lg (7 oz) 160 4.2 36.3 0.2
Large mixed green salad 2.0 cups 40 0 10 0
meal #6 subtotals: 392 43.2 49.3 1.7

Calories Pro (g) Carbs (g) Fat (g)

Grand Totals: 3010 268.8 370.7 54.3
Pro (cal) Carbs (cal) Fat (cal)
1075.2 1482.8 488.7
Pro (%) Carbs (%) Fat (%)
35.7% 49.3% 16.2%
3500 calorie surplus day - men
Meal #1 (pre)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
oatmeal, quaker oats 1 cup 300 10 54 6
Whey protein powder 1.5 scoop 135 26.2 3 2.2
canteloupe 1/2 med (3.5 oz) 94 2.3 22.3 2.7
1 tbsp natural peanut butter 1tbsp 95 4 3.4 8
Meal #1 Subtotals: 624 42.5 82.7 18.9
Meal #2 (post)
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
cream of rice hot cereal 1/2 cup (dry) 340 6 76 0
egg whites (scrambled) 6 102 21 1.8 0
egg, whole (scrambled) 2 150 12.6 1.2 10
banana 1 med (4.4 oz) 110 1 29 0
Meal #2 subtotals: 702 40.6 108 10
Meal #3
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
salmon 5 oz 257 34.5 0 11.5
asparagus 10 spears 40 4 6 0
yams 8 oz 240 5 54.4 0.4

meal #3 subtotals: 537 43.5 60.4 11.9

Meal #4
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
beef, extra lean sirloin 8 oz 343 51.6 0 13.8
green beans 6 oz 50 2 12 0
white potato, baked lg 10 oz 229 6 51.7 0.4

meal #4 subtotals: 622 59.6 63.7 14.2

Meal #5
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
chicken breast 6 oz 165 39 0 1.5
broccoli 1 cup 46 4.6 8.6 0.4
brown rice 1.5 cups 324 7.5 67.2 2.7

meal #5 subtotals: 535 51.1 75.8 4.6

Meal #6
Food Item Quantity Cal Pro (g) Carb (g) Fat (g)
tuna, water packed 6 oz 180 39 0 1.5
white potato, baked lg 10 oz 229 6 51.7 0.4
olive oil & balsamic dressing, light 3 tbsp 67.5 0 3 6
Large mixed green salad 2.0 cups 40 0 10 0
meal #6 subtotals: 516.5 45 64.7 7.9

Calories Pro (g) Carbs (g) Fat (g)

Grand Totals: 3536.5 282.3 455.3 67.5
Pro (cal) Carbs (cal) Fat (cal)
1129.2 1821.2 607.5
Pro (%) Carbs (%) Fat (%l)
31.9% 51.5% 17.2%
The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program

Appendix 2:
The How Many Calories
Should I Eat “Cheat Sheet”

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program – Appendix 2
Calorie Cheat Sheets

I have provided you with four methods to calculate your calorie needs. If you’re going
to attempt to gain muscle and lose fat concurrently, then a precise by-the-numbers
approach is almost a necessity. I recommend the Katch-McArdle method if you know
your body fat percentage and the Harris-Benedict method if you don’t. For quick
estimations and ballpark figures, I’ve provided the averages and quick method as well.


Use this method if you want a general ballpark estimate and you don't like math.

For fat loss:

Men: 2100-2500 calories per day
Women: 1400-1800 calories per day

For maintenance (TDEE):

Men: 2700-2900 calories per day
Women: 2000-2100 calories per day

* NOTE: These are average numbers, so they'll be reasonably accurate if your body
size or activity levels are average. If you're a statistical "outlier", ie, if you're very
small-framed and or very sedentary, your calorie needs will be in the lower end of
these ranges. If you're very large and or very active, your calories needs will be in the
upper end of these ranges or beyond. Our sample meal plans are based on an
“average” reference man and women weighing 140 and 190 pounds, respectively, who
is moderately active and has average or just slightly-above average body fat levels.


Use this formula if you want a personalized ballpark estimate with one quick
calculation. Use the lower number for lightly active, the middle number for moderately
active and the higher number for very active.

Fat loss:
10 - 12 calories per lb. of bodyweight

Maintenance (TDEE):
14 - 16 calories per lb. of bodyweight


Use this formula for a very accurate estimate of your maintenance level if you know
your body weight but not your body fat percentage. For fat loss, create a 15%-30%
deficit below maintenance.

Note: BMR = basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy you require for
normal body functions at rest (does not include activity).

Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 X wt in kg) + (5 X ht in cm) - (6.8 X age in years)

Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 X wt in kg) + (1.8 X ht in cm) - (4.7 X age in years)
1 inch = 2.54 cm.
1 kilogram = 2.2 lbs.

You are female
You are 30 yrs old
You are 5' 6 " tall (167.6 cm)
You weigh 120 lbs. (54.5 kilos)
Your BMR = 655 + 523 + 302 - 141 = 1339 calories/day

Now that you know your BMR, you can calculate your maintenance level, (also known
as total daily energy expenditure or TDEE), by multiplying your BMR by your activity
multiplier from the chart below:

Activity Multiplier:
Sedentary = BMR X 1.2 (little or no exercise, desk job)
Lightly active = BMR X 1.375 (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/wk)
Mod. active = BMR X 1.55 (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/wk)
Very active = BMR X 1.725 (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days/wk)
Extr. active = BMR X 1.9 (hard daily exercise/sports & physical job
Or 2X day training, i.e marathon, competition etc.)

Your BMR is 1339 calories per day
Your activity level is moderately active (work out 3-4 times per week)
Your activity factor is 1.55
Your TDEE = 1.55 X 1339 = 2075 calories/day


Use this formula for a very accurate estimate of your maintenance level if you know
your body fat percentage and lean body mass. For fat loss, create a 15-30% deficit
below maintenance.

BMR (men and women) = 370 + (21.6 X lean mass in kg)

You are female
You weigh 120 lbs. (54.5 kilos)
Your body fat percentage is 20% (24 lbs. fat, 96 lbs. lean)
Your lean mass is 96 lbs. (43.6 kilos)
Your BMR = 370 + (21.6 X 43.6) = 1312 calories

To determine TDEE from BMR, you simply multiply BMR by the activity multiplier:

Your BMR is 1312

Your activity level is moderately active (working out 3-4 times per week)
Your activity factor is 1.55
Your TDEE = 1.55 X 1312 = 2033 calories per day
The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program

Appendix 3:
Burn The Fat Foods 2.0
Calorie & Nutrient Data Base

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program – Appendix 3
Lean Proteins
Food Item Quantity Weight (g) Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fiber
Beef, ground, 90% lean 4 oz uncooked 113 199 22.7 0 11.3 0.0
Beef, ground 95% lean 4 oz uncooked 113 155 24.3 0 6.0 0.0
Beef, round, top, lean (select) 4 oz uncooked 113 146 26.1 0 3.8 0.0
Beef, round tip, lean (select) 4 oz uncooked 113 138 24.2 0 3.8 0.0
Beef, round, eye of, lean (select) 4 oz uncooked 113 134 25.2 0 3.0 0.0
Beef, flank steak, lean (select) 4 oz uncooked 113 155 24.2 0 5.6 0.0
Beef, sirloin, top, lean (select) 4 oz uncooked 113 144 25 0 4.0 0.0
Beef, tenderloin (filet) 4 oz uncooked 113 167 25 0 6.7 0.0
Buffalo (bison) steak, top round 4 oz uncooked 113 138 26.3 0 2.7 0.0
Buffalo (bison) steak, top sirloin 4 oz uncooked 113 128 24.2 0 2.7 0.0
Chicken breast, light meat, skinless, 99% lean 4 oz uncooked 113 110 26 0 1.0 0.0
Chicken breast, canned 4 oz 113 100 18 0 2.0 0.0
Chicken breast, ground, lean 4 oz uncooked 113 100 24 0 0.5 0.0
Clams, raw 1/2 cup (4 oz) 113 84 14.5 2.9 1.1 0.0
Crab, fresh, raw (Dungeness, U.S. King or Stone) 4 oz uncooked 113 95 20.8 0 0.7 0.0
Crawfish 4 oz raw meat only 113 87 18.1 0 1.1 0.0
Egg whites, liquid 1 cup (8.6 oz) 244 120 26 1 0.0 0.0
Egg whites, large 6 198 102 21 1.8 0.0 0.0
Egg, whole, large 1 50 75 6.3 0.6 5.0 0.0
Elk (game meat) 4 oz uncooked 113 125 25.9 0 1.6 0.0
Fish, Bass, Striped 4 oz uncooked 113 110 20.1 0 2.7 0.0
Fish, Catfish 4 oz uncooked 113 108 18.6 0 3.3 0.0
Fish, Cod, Pacific 4 oz uncooked 113 93 20.2 0 0.8 0.0
Fish, Flounder (flatfish) 4 oz uncooked 113 104 21.4 0 1.4 0.0
Fish, Halibut, Pacific 4 oz uncooked 113 124 23.6 0 2.6 0.0
Fish, Mackerel, Atlantic 4 oz uncooked 113 230 21 0 15.8 0.0
Fish, Mackerel, Pacific (Jack) 4 oz uncooked 113 179 22.8 0 9.0 0.0
Fish, Mackerel, canned in olive oil 1 can (3.9 oz) 110 290 24 0 22.0 0.0
Fish, Mahi-mahi, U.S. 4 oz uncooked 113 97 21 0 0.8 0.0
Fish, Pollack 4 oz uncooked 113 104 22.1 0 1.1 0.0
Fish, Tuna, canned in water, chunk light 4 oz 113 120 26 0 1.0 0.0
Fish, Tuna, canned in water, albacore 4 oz 113 140 26 0 2.0 0.0
Fish, Tuna, Yellowfin (tuna steak) 4 oz uncooked 113 123 26.5 0 1.1 0.0
Fish, Rainbow trout 4 oz uncooked 113 135 23.2 0 3.9 0.0
Fish, Salmon (wild) 4 oz uncooked 113 206 28.8 0 9.2 0.0
Fish, Tilapia 4 oz uncooked 113 110 23 0 2.0 0.0
Lamb, loin 4 oz roasted 113 217 32.1 0 8.8 0.0
Lobster 4 oz uncooked 113 102 21.3 0.6 1.0 0.0
Mussels 4 oz raw 113 98 13.5 4.2 2.5 0.0
Pork tenderloin 4 oz uncooked 113 123 23.6 0 2.6 0.0
Prawns 4 oz raw 113 119 22.7 1 1.9 0.0
Ostrich steak 4 oz uncooked 113 135 28 0 3.5 0.0
Oysters, Pacific 4 oz raw 113 92 10.7 5.6 2.6 0.0
Protein powder, casein (a milk protein) 1 scoop 31 110 23 3 0.5 1.0
Protein powder, hemp (vegetarian) 1 scoop 31 110 23 3 0.5 1.0
Protein powder, soy (vegetarian) 1 scoop 31 120 25 2 1.5 0.0
Protein powder, whey (a milk protein) 1 scoop 24 90 18 2 2.0 0.0
Scallops 4 oz raw 113 100 19 2.7 0.9 0.0
Sardines (herring), canned in water 1 can (3.2 oz) 91 150 19 0 8.0 0.0
Sardines (herring), canned in olive oil 1 can (3.2 oz) 91 191 22.7 0 10.5 0.0
Salmon, wild Alaskan 4 oz uncooked 113 206 28.8 0 9.2 0.0
Salmon burgers 1 burger (3.2 oz) 91 80 18 1 0.1 1.0
Salmon, canned, pink 4 oz 113 158 16.8 0 6.9 0.0
Shrimp 4 oz 113 120 23 1 2.0 0.0
Squid 4 oz raw 113 104 17.7 3.5 1.6 0.0
Tempeh (vegetarian protein) 1/2 cup (2.9 oz) 82 160 15.4 7.8 9.0 3.3
Tofu, firm, raw (vegetarian protein) 2.9 oz raw 117 117 12.8 3.5 7.1 0.0
Turkey Breast, skinless 4 oz uncooked 113 178 33.9 0 3.7 0.0
Turkey, ground 99% lean 4 oz uncooked 113 120 28 0 1.0 0.0
Venison steak (deer meat) 4 oz uncooked 113 136 25.9 0 2.7 0.0
Starchy Vegetables, Grains, Beans & Legumes (natural Complex Carbs)
Food Item Quantity Weight (g) Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fiber
Beans, Adzuki, canned 1/2 cup (4.1 oz) 116 147 8.7 28.5 0.1 8.4
Beans, Black, canned 1/2 cup (4.6 oz) 130 100 7 20 0.5 8
Beans, Kidney, canned 1/2 cup (4.5 oz) 127 110 7 20 0.5 8
Beans, Garbanzo (chickpeas), canned 1/2 cup (4.6 oz) 130 120 7 19 1.5 5
Beans, Navy, canned 1/2 cup (4.6 oz) 130 110 7 20 0.5 7
Beans, Pinto, canned 1/2 cup (4.2 oz) 119 100 6 18 0 6
Black eye peas, canned or frozen 1/2 cup (4.6 oz) 130 90 6 16 1 4
Cassava (Yucca root) 1/2 cup (3.5 oz) 99 165 1.4 39.2 0.3 1.8
Chickpeas (Garbanzos), canned 1/2 cup (4.6 oz) 130 120 7 19 1.5 5
Corn, canned 1/2 cup (5.4 oz) 153 70 2 18 1 3
Lentils 1/2 cup cooked (3.5 oz) 99 115 9 20 0 7.8
Lima beans, canned 1/2 cup (4.5 oz) 127 120 7 23 1 8
Oatmeal, steel-cut (no sugar added) 1/4 cup dry (1.4 oz) 40 150 5 27 2.5 4
Oatmeal, old-fashioned (no sugar added) 1/2 cup dry (1.4 oz) 40 150 5 27 3 4
Peas, split, green, dried 1/4 cup (1.6 oz) 45 160 12 24 1 4
Plantains 1/2 med (3.9 oz) 110 180 0 22 0 5
Potato, white 1 lg. uncooked (7 oz) 198 160 4.2 36.3 0.2 3.2
Potato, sweet 1 med uncooked (6 oz) 170 136 2.1 31.6 0.4 3.9
Pumpkin, canned 1 can (15 oz) 425 174 3.6 35 0 14
Rice, brown, long grain, dry 1/2 cup dry (3.3 oz) 94 320 8 64 3 4
Rice, brown, long grain, cooked 1 cup cooked (6.8 oz) 96 216 5 44.8 1.8 3.6
Rice, brown, basmati, dry 1/2 cup dry (3.3 oz) 94 320 8 64 3 4
Rice, brown, basmati, cooked 1 cup (8.6 oz) 6.9 216 5 44.8 1.8 3.6
Rice, wild, dry 1/4 cup (2.8 oz) 79 160 6 34 0.5 3
Rice, wild, cooked 1 cup (5.8 oz) 164 166 6.5 35 0.6 1.5
Squash, raw, winter, (acorn, butternut) 1 cup cubed (4.9 oz) 138 56 1.1 14.6 0.1 2.1
Yam 1 med uncooked (5 oz) 141 180 2.2 39.6 0.2 5.8

Dairy Products (Lean Protein & Natural Simple Carbs)

Food Item Quantity Weight (g) Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fiber
Milk, skim 1 cup (8 fl oz) - 90 8 12 0 0
Milk, 1% low fat 1 cup (8 fl oz) - 100 8 11 2 0
Milk, 2% low fat 1 cup (8 fl oz) - 121 8.1 11.7 4.7 0
Milk, soy, light (dairy substitute; contains sucrose) 1 cup (8 fl oz) 100 7 8 4 1
Milk, soy, nonfat (dairy substitute; contains sucrose) 1 cup (8 fl oz) 70 6 10 0 0
Milk, soy, unsweetened (dairy substitute) 1 cup (8 fl oz) 90 7 5 4 1
Cheese, American, non fat 2 slices (2 oz) 56 60 10 4 0 0
Cheese, cheddar, non fat, shredded 1/2 cup (2 oz) 56 90 16 4 0 0
Cheese, cheddar, low fat, block 2 inch cube (2 oz) 56 120 18 1 2.5 0
Cheese, feta low fat 2 oz 56 120 12 0 8 0
Cheese, feta non fat 2 oz 56 60 12 4 0 0
Cheese, mozzarella, non fat, shredded 1/2 cup (2 oz) 56 80 18 2 0 0
Cheese, mozzarella, shredded low fat (part skim) 1/2 cup (2 oz) 56 160 16 2 9 0
Cheese, Parmesan, non fat 2 tbsp (0.4 oz) 11 25 3.3 3.3 0 0
Cheese, Swiss, low fat 2 slices (2 oz) 56 100 15.9 1.9 2.9 0
Cheese, Swiss, non fat slices 2 slices (2 oz) 56 81 13.5 5.4 0 0
Cream cheese, non fat 2 tbsp (1.2 oz) 33 30 4 2 0 0
Cottage cheese, nonfat 1/2 cup (4 oz) 113 100 16.2 7.5 0 0
Cottage cheese, 2% low fat 1/2 cup (4 oz) 113 102 15.5 4.1 2.2 0
Cottage cheese, 1% low fat 1/2 cup (4 oz) 113 100 17.5 5 1.3 0
Sour cream low fat 2 tbsp (1.1 oz) 31 31 1 3 2 0
Sour cream, non fat 2 tbsp (1.1 oz) 31 25 2 4 0 0
Yogurt, plain, nonfat 1 yogurt (8 oz) 226 110 10 18 0 0
Yogurt, plain, 1% low fat 1 yogurt (8 oz) 226 143 11.9 16 3.5 0
Yogurt, fruit, low fat 1 yogurt (8 oz) 226 240 9 47 2 0
Yogurt, fruit, non fat 1 yogurt (8 oz) 226 200 16 32 0 0
Bread, Cereal, Pasta and Grains (Lightly Processed Complex Carbs)
Food Item Quantity Weight (g) Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fiber
Amaranth, whole grain 1/4 cup (1.7 oz) 49 180 7 31 3 7
Bagel, multi-grain 1 bagel (3.7 oz) 104 270 11 47 1.5 5
Bagel, plain, whole wheat 1 bagel (3.7 oz) 104 270 12 55 2 1
Bagel, plain, whole wheat high fiber 1 bagel (3.3 oz) 94 220 11 47 1.5 6
Barley, flaked 1/3 cup dry (1.3 oz) 37 110 4 28 1 5
Barley, cracked 1/3 cup (1.6 oz) 46 140 5 33 1 6
Bread, whole wheat 1 slice (1 oz) 28 100 5 20 1.5 2
Bread, whole wheat, bakery light (reduced calorie) 1 slice 21 40 2.5 8.5 0.25 2.5
Bread, whole wheat, light (reduced calorie) 1 slice (.75 oz) 21 60 5 8 1.5 3
Bread, multi-grain 1 slice (1 oz) 28 90 5 19 0.5 4
Bread, multi-grain, light (reduced calorie) 1 slice (.75 oz) 21 60 5 9 1.5 3
Bread, rye 1 slice (1 oz) 28 80 2 215 1.5 1
Bread, rye, light (reduced calorie) 1 slice (.75 oz) 21 60 5 9 1.5 3
Bread, sprouted grain (Ezekiel) 1 slice (1.2 oz) 34 80 4 15 0.5 3
Buckwheat groats (Kasha) 1/2 cup (2.9 oz) 82 284 9.6 61.5 2.2 8.4
Bulgur (whole grain), dry 1/4 cup (1.2 oz) 35 120 4.3 26.6 0.5 6.4
Bulgur (hot cereal) 1/4 cup dry (1.6 oz) 45 150 5 34 0.5 4
Cereal, hot, multi-grain (rye, barley, oats, wheat) 1/2 cup dry (1/4 oz) 40 130 5 29 1 5
Cereal, hot, multi-grain (oats, rye, barley, triticale, flax) 1/2 cup dry (1.4 oz) 40 140 6 26 2 5
Cereal, hot multi-grain (wheat, oats, barley, flax) 1/2 cup dry (1.4 oz) 40 150 6 28 2 6
Couscous, whole wheat, uncooked 1/4 cup dry (1.5 oz) 43 210 8 45 1 7
Cream of buckwheat (hot cereal) 1/4 cup dry (1.8oz) 50 180 2 41 0 0
Cream of rice (hot cereal) 1/4 cup dry (1.6 oz) 45 170 3 38 0 0
Cream of rye (hot cereal) 1/3 cup dry (1.3 oz) 36 110 5 25 1 5
Cream of wheat (hot cereal) 1/3 cup dry (1.4 oz) 41 120 3.7 24.7 0.7 3.7
English muffin, whole wheat 1 muffin (2 oz) 57 120 5 23 1 3
Fiber One (boxed cold cereal) 1 cup (2.1 oz) 60 120 4 48 2 26
Granola, low fat (no sugar added) 1/2 cup (1.7 oz) 49 186 4 39 2.5 3
Granola, honey sweetened (no sugar added) 1/2 cup (1.9 oz) 55 250 6 31 12 4
Grits, corn (hot cereal) 1/4 cup dry (1.3 oz) 37 130 3 29 0.5 2
Kamut (whole grain), dry 1/4 cup (1.6 oz) 45 170 6 35 1 9
Millet (whole grain), dry 1/4 cup (1.6 oz) 45 160 5 30 2 4
Muesli hot or cold cereal, (oats, grains, fruit, nuts) 1/4 cup dry (1.1 oz) 31 110 4 21 3 4
Muesli, Swiss, unsweetened (oats, grains, fruit, nuts) 1/2 cup dry) 57 210 6 41 3 4
Oat bran (hot cereal) 1/2 cup dry (1.4 oz) 40 120 6 23 3 6
Pancake Mix, whole wheat & flax 3 tbsp 40 140 7 27 1 2
Pasta, spelt, whole grain, uncooked 3/4 cup dry (2 oz) 56 210 9 42 1 2
Pasta, spaghetti, whole wheat, uncooked 3/4 cup dry (2 oz) 56 210 9 40 1.5 5
Pasta, quinoa, uncooked 3/4 cup dry (2 oz) 56 210 10 42 1 7
Pasta, spinach, uncooked 3/4 cup dry (2 oz) 56 200 7 41 1 2
Pasta, sprouted multi-grain, uncooked 3/4 cup dry (2 oz) 56 210 9 39 2 7
Pita, whole wheat 1 large pita (2.1 oz) 60 140 6 27 1.5 5
Pita, whole wheat, mini-size (pita pockets) 1 pita pocket (1 oz) 28 70 3 14 1 2
Quinoa, whole grain, traditional 1/4 cup dry (1.6 oz) 46 172 6 31 2.8 3
Quinoa, whole grain, flakes, hot cereal 1/3 cup dry (1.2 oz) 34 105 3 23 1 2.2
Rice cakes, brown rice, plain 1 cake (.07 oz) 1.9 70 1 16 0 0
Rice, brown, boil-in-bag (pre-cooked) 1 bag (3.5 oz) 99 347 9.3 76.4 2.3 4.6
Rice, brown, instant (pre-cooked) 1/4 cup dry (1.7 oz) 48 170 4 36 1 2
Shredded Wheat, spoon size (boxed cold cereal) 1 cup 49 170 6 40 1 6
Tortilla, corn 2 pcs (1.7 oz) 48 120 3 21 4 0
Tortilla, corn, sprouted 2 pcs (1.7 oz) 48 120 3 23 2 2
Tortilla, multi-grain, low fat 1 large (1.4 oz) 40 100 7 13 1 8
Tortilla, whole wheat 1 large (1.6 oz) 47 110 4 16 0 2
Tortilla, whole grain, sprouted (Ezekiel) 1 large (2 oz) 57 150 6 24 3.5 5
Tortilla, spelt 1 large (2 oz) 57 150 5 28 0 3
Fruit (Natural Carbs)
Food Item Quantity Weight (g) Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fiber
Apple 1 med (5.4 oz) 153 80 0.0 22 0 5
Applesauce, unsweetened (no sugar) 1 cup (8.6 oz) 243 100 0.0 26 0 4
Apricots, fresh 3 med (4 oz) 113 60 0.0 11 0 1
Banana 1 med (4.4 oz) 124 110 1.0 29 0 4
Blackberries 1 cup (5.1 oz) 144 74 1.0 18.4 0.6 7.2
Blueberries 1 cup (5.1 oz) 145 82 1.0 20.4 0.6 4
Cantaloupe (melon) 1/2 med, (3.5 oz) 99 94 2.3 22.3 0.7 2.1
Cherries, pitted 1 cup, 21 pcs (4.9 oz) 139 90 2.0 22 0 3
Clementine 1 med (2.6 oz) 74 35 0.6 8.9 0 1.3
Cranberries 1 cup (3.4 oz) 96 46 0.4 12 0 4
Custard apple (annona aka bullock's heart) 1 med (3.5 oz) 99 101 1.7 25.2 0.6 2.4
Figs 1 large (2.3 oz) 65 47 0.5 12.3 0.2 2.1
Grapefruit 1/2 large (4.7 oz) 133 53 1.1 13.4 0.2 1.8
Grapes, seedless red or green 20 grapes (3.4 oz) 96 72 0.6 17.8 0.6 0.6
Guava 1 med (4 oz) 113 45 0.7 10.7 0.5 5
Goji berries (wolfberries), dried 3 tbsp (1 oz) 28 104 4.0 24 1.3 4
Honey, raw (not a fruit, but a natural sugar) 1 tbsp (0.7 oz) 60 60 0.0 17 0 0
Honeydew melon 1 cup, cubed (6 oz) 170 60 0.8 15.6 0.2 1
Jelly, all fruit (no refined sugar) 2 tbsp (1.4 oz) 40 80 0 20 0 0
Kiwifruit 2 med (5.2 oz) 147 100 2 24 0 4
Lemon 1 med (3.8 oz) 108 22 1.3 11.6 0 0
Lime 1 med (2.4) 68 20 0 7 0 2
Mango 1/2 med (4.9 oz) 139 70 0 17 0.5 1
Nectarine 1 med (4.9 oz) 139 70 1.0 16 0 2
Orange 1 med (5 oz) 141 65 1.0 16.3 0.3 3.4
Papaya 1/2 med (4.9 oz) 139 70 0.0 19 0 2
Passion fruit 1 med (0.6 oz) 18 14 ,4 4.2 0.1 1.9
Peach 1 med (3.5 oz) 99 40 1.0 10 0 2
Pear 1 med (5.9 oz) 167 100 1.0 25 1 4
Persimmon 1 med (5.9 oz) 167 118 1.0 31.2 0.3 6
Pineapple 1 cup diced (5.5 oz) 156 76 0.6 19.2 0.6 1.8
Pomegranate, whole with peel 1 large (9.7 oz) 275 104 1.5 26.4 0 0.9
Plum 2 med (4.7) 133 80 2.0 38 2 4
Prunes (dried plum) 5 med (1.5 oz) 42 100 1.0 26 0 3
Raisins 1/4 cup (1.4 oz) 40 130 1.0 31 0 2
Raspberries 1 cup (4.3 oz) 122 61 1.2 14.2 0.6 8.2
Strawberries halved, 1 cup (5.4 oz) 153 46 1.0 10.6 0 3.6
Tangerines 1 med (3.8) 108 50 1.0 15 0.5 3
Watermelon 1 cup diced (5.4 oz) 153 50 1.0 11.4 0.6 0.8
Fibrous Vegetables & Greens (Natural Complex Carbs)
Food Item Quantity Weight (g) Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fiber
Alfalfa sprouts 2 tbsp (0.1 oz) 2.8 2 0.2 0.2 0 0.2
Arugula, raw 1 cup (0.8 oz) 6 6 0.6 0.8 0 0.4
Artichoke, fresh, edible portions 1 med (4.5 oz) 128 60 4.2 13.5 0.2 6.9
Asparagus spears 10 large 7" (6.6 oz) 187 50 4 8 0 4
Beets, raw 1 cup (6 oz) 170 70 2 16 0 4
Bok Choy (Chinese cabbage), raw, shredded 1 cup (2.5 oz) 71 10 1 1.6 0.2 0.8
Broccoli, raw, chopped 1 cup (3.2 oz) 91 44 4.6 7.8 0.4 4.6
Brussels sprouts, raw, chopped 1 cup (3.1 oz) 88 38 3 7.8 0.2 3.6
Cabbage, raw, shredded 1 cup (3.1 oz) 88 18 1 3.8 0.2 1.6
Cauliflower, raw, chopped 1 cup (3.5 oz) 99 26 2 5.2 0.2 2.6
Carrot, raw 1 large 7.5" (2.8 oz) 79 31 0.7 7.3 0.1 2.2
Celery, raw, stalk 1 med 7.5" (1.6 oz) 45 6 0.3 1.5 0.1 0.7
Chard, Swiss, fresh chopped 1 cup (1.3 oz) 85 6 0.6 1.4 0 0.3
Collard greens, raw 2 cups (2.8 oz) 79 25 2 5 0 3
Cucumber, with peel 1 small (5.6 oz) 158 19 1 3.4 0 1.1
Eggplant, raw 1 cup pieces (3 oz) 85 22 0.8 5 0.2 2
Garlic, fresh 1 clove 5.6 4 0.2 1 0 0.1
Green beans (string or snap beans), raw 1 cup (4 oz) 113 34 2 7.8 0.2 3.8
Jerusalem artichokes 1/2 cup sliced (3 oz) 85 57 1.5 13.1 0 1.2
Kale, raw, chopped 1 cup (2.4 oz) 68 34 2.2 6.8 0.4 1.4
Leeks, raw 1 cup 3.1 oz) 87 64 1.6 14.9 0.4 1.8
Lettuce, romaine, loose leaf, chopped 3 cups (6 oz) 170 30 2 4 0 2
Okra, raw, sliced 1 cup (3.5 oz) 99 38 2 7.6 0.2 2.6
Onion, white or yellow, raw, chopped 1 cup (5.2 oz) 147 60 1.8 14 0 2.8
Onion, green (scallion), raw, chopped 1 cup (3.5 oz) 99 32 1.8 7.4 0.2 2.6
Mushrooms, white, raw pieces or slices 1 cup (2.5 oz) 71 18 2 3 0.4 0.8
Parsnips 1 med (4 oz) 113 85 1.4 20.3 0.3 5.5
Peas, green, frozen 1/2 cup (2.8 oz) 79 60 4 11 0 3
Peas, sugar snap or snow, raw 1 cup (3 oz) 85 35 2 6 0 2
Pepper, bell or sweet, green or red med or 1/2 cup (4.2 oz) 119 20 0.7 4.8 0.1 1.3
Pepper, yellow, raw large (6.6 oz) 187 50 1.9 11.8 0.4 1.7
Pumpkin, raw, cubes 1 cup (4.1 oz) 116 30 1.2 7.6 0.2 2
Radishes, raw, sliced 1/2 cup (2 oz) 57 12 0.4 2.1 0.3 0.9
Salsa or picante sauce, tomato 4 tbsp (4 oz) 115 20 0 5 0 0
Shallots 1 tbsp chopped (0.4 oz) 11 7 0.3 1.7 0 0
Spinach, raw, leaves, chopped 1.5 cups (3 oz) 85 40 2 10 0.4 5
Squash, raw, summer, (zucchini, crookneck) 1 cup (3 oz) 85 16 1.4 3.2 0.2 1.4
Tomato, whole, raw * 1 med (5.2 oz) 147 35 1 7 0 1
Tomato juice 1 cup (8 fl oz) - 50 2 10 0 2
Tomato sauce 1 cup (8 fl oz) 226 80 3 16 0 4
Tomato paste 2 tbsp (1.2 oz) 34 30 1 7 0 2
Turnips 1 large (6.5 oz) 184 51 1.7 11.8 0.2 3.3
Turnip Greens 3 cups (5.7 oz) 161 42 2.4 9.6 0.6 4.2
Water Chestnuts 4 (1.3 oz) 37 35 0 8.6 0 1.1
Vegetable juice 1 cup (8 fl oz) - 50 2 10 0 2
Vegetables, mixed, frozen, peas and carrots 2/3 cup 85 50 3 9 0 3
Vegetables, mixed, frozen, oriental broccoli stir fry 1 cup 96 35 1 6 0 2
Vegetables, mixed, frozen, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots 1 cup 87 30 1 5 0 2
Watercress 1 cup chopped (1.2 oz) 34 4 0.8 0.4 0 0.8
Fats, Oils, Nuts & Seeds
Food Item Quantity Weight (g) Calories Protein Carbs Fat Fiber
Avocado 1.1 oz (1 med) 31 165 3 9 15 9
Almonds, raw 1/4 cup (1.2 oz) 34 210 7 7 19 9
Almond butter, natural (unsweetened) 2 tbsp (1.2 oz) 34 120 0 0 14 0
Brazil nuts, shelled 1/4 cup (4.9 oz) 139 240 5 5 12 2
Butter, light, omega-3 fortified 1 tbsp (0.6 oz) 14 50 0 0 5 0
Butter, light, regular 1 tbsp 14 50 0 0 6 0
Butter flavor sprinkles (Butter Buds, etc) 1 tbsp 6 15 0 2 0 0
Cashews, raw 1/4 cup (1.2 oz) 34 190 5 11 15 1
Coconut oil, extra virgin 1 tbsp (0.5 oz) 14 125 0 0 14 0
Coconut, fresh shredded 2 tbsp (1 oz) 28 180 2 7 18 5
Chia seeds 3 tbsp (1 oz) 28 139 4.4 12.4 10.8 10.7
Essential oil blend (supplement, not for cooking) 1 tbsp (0.6 oz) - 134 0 0 14.2 0
Flaxseed Oil (supplement, not for cooking) 1 tbsp (0.6 oz) - 130 0 0 14 0
Flaxseeds, ground 2 tbsp (0.7 oz) 20 93 4 6 6 4.6
Hazelnuts, dried, chopped 1/4 cup (1 oz) 28 182 3.7 4.4 18 1.7
Hemp seeds (hemp hearts) 2 tbsp (1.1 oz) 31 165 11.4 7.2 10.1 1
Macadamia nuts, raw 1/4 cup (1.1 oz) 31 230 3 5 24 2
Mayonnaise, Canola 1 tbsp (0.5 oz) 15 100 0 0 11 0
Mayonnaise, fat-free 1 tbsp (0.5 oz) 15 10 0 3 0 0
Mayonnaise, light, omega-3 enriched 1 tbsp (0.5 oz) 15 50 0 2 4.5 0
Mayonnaise, light, regular 1 tbsp (0.5 oz) 15 35 0 1 3.5 0
Peanuts, raw 1/4 cup (1.2 oz) 34 214 8.6 7.8 18.1 2.9
Peanut Butter, natural (no sugar added) 1 tbsp (0.6 oz) 17 95 4 3.5 8 1
Pecans, halves or pieces 1/4 cup (1 oz) 28 190 3 4 20 3
Pine nuts, dried 1/4 cup (1.2 oz) 34 227 4.6 4.4 23 1.3
Pistachios 1/4 cup (1 oz) 28 164 5.8 7.1 13.7 3.1
Pumpkin seeds, shelled, roasted 142 kernels (1 oz) 28 148 9.4 3.8 12 1.8
Olives, Greek black, pitted* 2 oz 56 100 0.6 4 8 0
Olives, green, pitted* 2 oz 56 100 0 4 10 0
Olive Oil, extra virgin 1 tbsp - 120 0 0 13.6 0
Salad dressing, olive oil and vinegar 1 tbsp - 75 0 0.5 8 0
Salad dressing, balsamic vinaigrette w. olive oil, light 2 tbsp - 45 0 2 4 0
Salad dressing, balsamic vinaigrette, nonfat 2 tbsp - 5 0 2 0 0
Sesame oil 1 tbsp - 120 0 0 13.6 0
Sesame seeds, whole, dried 1/4 cup (5.1 oz) 144 190 6 8 17 4
Sesame butter 1 tbsp (0.6 oz) 17 100 3 3.6 9 0
Sesame paste (Tahini) 1 tbsp (0.5 oz) 14 95 4 1.5 9 0.5
Sunflower seed, shelled 1/4 cup (1 oz) 28 170 7 6 15 3
Walnuts 1/4 cup (1.1 oz) 28 200 5 3 20 3

* Botanically speaking, avocados, tomatoes and other plant foods with seeds are fruits. Leaves, stems and roots are vegetables. Legally and traditionally,
tomatoes, cucumbers and pea pods are thought of as vegetables. Technically, olives are also a fruit, but are listed in fats due to the fat content
The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program

T.N.B Workout

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program – Appendix 1
The New Bodybuilding (“T.N.B”)
New School Training For a Classical Physique
The Complete Workout Program
by Tom Venuto

Copyright 2010, Burn The Fat Publishing

A Division of Fitness Renaissance, LLC

Consult a physician before starting any fitness or exercise program

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program – Bonus

Official website:
Support Community:
I'm a competitive bodybuilder and I love it (28 competitions so far, and counting).
I'm not sure about you, but most people probably don't plan on tanning up, pumping
up and flexing on stage in posing trunks under a spotlight any time soon (oh, and
add "shaving down" to that list for some of my more hirsute readers).

However, most people wouldn't mind adding on a little more muscle and improving
their body shape. I'd even bet that a lot of people wouldn't mind having a physique
that is both strong and functional as well as aesthetically pleasing, like some of the
top natural bodybuilders of today or the bodybuilding legends of the golden era, such
as Vince Gironda or Steve Reeves.

It's true that form usually follows function. If you train like an athlete you will
develop a body that’s not only functional, but also athletic-looking. But it takes a
little more specialization work and even a little, (gasp!) "isolation" work, to develop
the highly symmetrical and refined physique of a bodybuilder.

Traditional bodybuilding training has fallen somewhat out of favor in the mainstream
fitness magazines, but trust me - the intelligent and successful bodybuilders know
exactly what they are doing as "physique artists."

The dirty little secret that most people usually don't know about bodybuilders is that
most of the upper-level pros take industrial-strength doses of performance-
enhancing drugs. This pharmacological advantage allows them to endure and recover
from frequent, high volume training, with multiple sets of multiple exercises for
every body part.

These pros also usually have 10 years or more of training under their belt, which
necessitates greater program complexity, more frequent variation and the use of
highly specialized split routines.

The problem is, the average guy, in his eagerness to develop a more muscular and
chiseled body, usually copies the routines of the pros verbatim and makes mistakes
like these:

• He overuses the isolation exercises like concentration curls and cable

crossovers while neglecting the big compound movements like squats and

• He overworks the T-shirt muscles like chest and biceps while skimping on legs
and back.

• He overuses the machines and neglects the barbells, dumbbells and free

• He uses a high volume of sets and exercises that would destroy a beginner
(or even an intermediate) and be ineffective or counter-productive for anyone
but the most genetically gifted bodybuilder (If you've followed The "Mr
Universe tricep-trashing, bicep-blasting" 20 set arm routine out of the latest
Muscle Mag, call yourself guilty)

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program – Bonus

Official website:
Support Community:
That's where I come in. As a lifetime drug-free bodybuilder, I've discovered the best
ways to help the average guy to develop that natural muscular look, not the over-
bulked, steroid-bloated appearance.

This is the bodybuilding of the future for non-competitive bodybuilders at the

intermediate or advanced level-the new bodybuilding, aka ("T.N.B." training). It
takes a different approach than you'll find in most muscle magazines and
bodybuilding books.

The best part is, this new bodybuilding can build form and function at the same time,
it takes as little as four workouts per week (you could even get away with three if
you had to), it works for the average guy and doing it naturally is healthy to boot!

Oh, in case you're female and you're still reading - you'd better believe this program
works for the superior of the two genders! Extremely well. It just happens that I
wrote the original TNB workout for Men's Fitness magazine.

If the editors at Shape or Oxygen magazine had asked me for a new school workout
program for developing "tight glutes" "firm thighs" and "toned arms", I would have
written the same workout! (or pretty close to it). If you're female and you're still
doing those "butt squeezie" toning movements you got out of a ladies only mag,
puhleeze! Get under a bar, put heavy weights on it, squat... and then see what
happens to those glutes of yours.

Split Routine

This program uses a split routine, but not the typical body part split used by elite
bodybuilders. Instead of having body part days, like a whole day for your back or a
whole day for your arms, (which is fine for advanced bodybuilders and almost a
necessity for competitive bodybuilders), you split your body into upper and lower.

That's called a 2-day split. There is a little more volume to be done on the upper
days, but since leg training is so taxing, it's just as well that the volume is lower on
leg day.

Why not use a full body workout? You certainly could, and that would unquestionably
be the optimal choice for a beginner. However, maximum hypertrophy can usually be
achieved when you accumulate at least a moderate amount of volume.

Beyond the beginner stage, it's also important to begin using more variation in the
training stimulus, both in rep ranges and exercise selection. These goals are difficult
to achieve with full body workouts, without turning them into marathon 90-120
minute sessions, and that's where the split routine comes in.


This program is performed four days per week. As listed, the workouts are:

(1) Monday (upper strength/hypertrophy)

(2) Tuesday (lower strength/hypertrophy)
(3) Thursday (upper hypertrophy)
(4) Saturday (lower hypertrophy).

The Holy Grail Body Transformation Program – Bonus

Official website:
Support Community:
This 2 days on, 1 day off, 1 day on, 1 day off, 1 day on 1 day off program is an ideal
weekly schedule as it provides an extra day of rest between the 3rd and 4th day,
which enhances recovery. However, if you want to keep your weekends free, then
simply put workout 4 on Friday.

If you are pressed for time, or if you feel you don't recover adequately from a 4 day
training frequency, this program can be reduced to 3 workouts every 7 days,
although it won't fit neatly into a 7 day week. You would simply train on any 3 non
consecutive days per week, such as Monday, Wednesday and Fridays (or Monday,
Wednesday and Saturday).

With a M-W-F schedule, you would do workout 1 on Monday, workout 2 on

Wednesday, workout 3 on Friday and then workout 4 on the following Monday, then
repeat the cycle. (note: this program was not designed for beginners, but beginners
could conceivably use this program by taking the three day schedule and starting out
with only the primary exercises).

The Weekly Workout Schedule

Workout 1: Monday Upper Strength/Hypertrophy

A. Barbell Rows, pronated 4 sets X 5-6 reps 120-150 sec rest (P)
B. Chin Ups (supinated) eccentric emphasis (5 second negative) 3 X 6-8 120 sec rest
C. Bench press BB 4 sets X 5-6 reps, 120-150 sec rest (P)
D. Wide Grip (or V-Bar) Gironda Dips 3 X 8-10 reps, 90-sec rest
E. Standing DB Shoulder press Neutral Grip 3 sets X 8-10 reps, 90-sec rest
F1. Tricep Pushdown (cable) 2-3 sets X 8-10 reps, 0 rest (superset)
F2. Barbell Curls 2-3 sets X 8-10 reps, 60 seconds rest

Workout 2: Tuesday, Lower body, Abs, Strength/Hypertrophy

A. Squat 4 sets X 5-6 reps, 120-150 sec rest (P)

B. Romanian Deadlift 4 sets X 5-6 reps, 120-150 sec rest (P)
C. Barbell Dynamic Lunges 3 sets X 8-12 reps, 90-120 sec rest
D. Seated Calf Raise 3 X 15-20 reps, 60 sec rest
E1. Hanging Leg Raise 2-3 X 10-15 (knee ups instead if straight leg too difficult) 0
rest (superset)
E2. Swiss ball crunch 2-3 X 12-15 (P) 0 rest (superset)
E3. bicycle crunch 2-3 X 12-15

Workout 3: Thursday Upper, hypertrophy

A. Barbell Rows, supinated 3 sets X 8-12 reps, 90 sec rest (P)

B. Straight arm pulldowns 3 sets X 8-12 reps, 60-seconds rest
C. Bench press BB 3 sets X 8-12 reps, 90 sec rest (P)
D. Incline DB Flyes 3 sets X 8-12 reps, 60 sec rest
E1. Bent Over DB lateral raises 2-3 sets X 8-12 reps 0 rest (superset)
E2. Lateral raises 2-3 sets X 8-12 reps, 60 sec rest
F1. Narrow grip tricep dips 2-3 sets X 8-12 reps, 0 rest (superset) (P)
F2. Incline DB curls 2-3 sets X 8-12 reps, 60 sec rest

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Workout 4: Saturday lower, abs, hypertrophy

A. Squat 3 sets X 8-12 reps, 1 X 20, 90-120 sec rest (P)

B. Romanian Deadlift 3 sets X 8-12 reps, 1 X 20, 90-120 sec rest (P)
C. Bulgarian Split squats, eccentric emphasis (5 sec negative) 3 X 8-12
D. hyperextension 3 sets X 8-12 reps 60 sec rest
E. Standing Calf Raise 3 sets X 15-20 reps, 60 sec rest
F1. Russian twists 3 sets X 15-20 reps, 0 rest (superset)
F2. plank hold 3 sets X 60 seconds+, 60 sec rest (P)

The 4 week periodization cycle

This is a 4 week program with within-week changes in rep ranges and weekly
progression in load and intensiveness. Weekly workouts alternate between strength-
hypertrophy days with a mix of heavy sets of 5-6 reps and hypertrophy reps with 8-
12 reps and hypertrophy only days. You will progress through 4 one-week cycles as

Week 1: Introductory loading. In the first week you will be introduced to the new
exercises and training techniques. Loads will be submaximal. For example, if you
estimate that you can do 10 reps with 100 lbs, you would select 90 pounds. The
intensiveness level is low, which means you will not take any sets to failure.

Week 2: Base loading. In the second week, you will increase the load to maximal
levels. The intensiveness level will be high, which means you will come close to
failure on your hypertrophy sets.

Week 3: Overloading. In the third week, you will increase the loading again to
above your previous max, wherever this is possible, while maintaining good form.
Your goal is to start hitting beat the previous week's bests. You will probably hit
failure on some of your sets.

Week 4: Shock loading. In the fourth week, you will once again increase the load
above the previous week's bests, and aim to hit some personal bests. You will take
most of your sets to failure and you may miss some reps (you may hit only 3 or 4
reps on some of your strength sets). You may also go beyond failure on some of
your exercises by using high intensity techniques such as drop sets or forced reps if
you have a training partner.

Week 5: begin new cycle. In the fifth week, you can repeat the cycle if you
choose, by starting over again with introductory loading (submaximal load and no
sets taken to failure). At this point you will be stronger, so your introductory phase
will be equal to your previous base loading week or even the overloading week.

Once you complete the first 4 week cycle, you can repeat the program for up to 2
more four-week cycles (12 weeks total). With each cycle, you continue to increase
the weights used, as your new-found strength allows.

After 12 weeks you either change to a new program, or you can continue to use the
T.N.B. weekly workout schedule and set/rep parameters, while changing some (or

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all) of the exercises. (exercises need to be changed periodically, but this weekly
routine and set/rep parameters can be used again and again).

The Abbreviated routine

The primary (P) exercises indicate where to place the most priority and emphasis in
each workout. But more than that, the primary exercise notation also tells you where
to put your attention if you're short on time. In a time-crunched situation, you can
simply do the primary exercises hard and skip the rest. For individuals who have
limited recovery ability, stripping the workout back down to the basics may also be

The program as listed is for people who already have training experience (advanced
or advanced-intermediates). Working hard on these basic primary movements covers
all your bases and can produce a surprising amount of growth and strength for the
time invested.

Primary exercises: the biggest bang for your buck

The exercises with a "P" after them are the important primary exercises that take
priority over the others P = "primary," P = "priority"). Most of these exercises are
the compound, multi-joint movements that involve the greatest amount of muscle
mass and allow you to use the largest amount of weight.

These big compound movements also produce a larger anabolic hormonal response
than that produced by single joint isolation exercises, even with the same set/rep
schemes and intensity levels. Squats produce more muscle development than leg
extensions, period. All the other exercises are secondary exercises, also known as
assistance exercises or isolation exercises.

Isolation Exercises

The average trainee spends way too much time on isolation exercises. However,
some specialization is not only acceptable, it is necessary for successful hypertrophy
and bodybuilding programs. Just be certain to put the hard work in on the primary
exercises first. To develop a complete physique, some of your secondary exercises
may consist of isolation movements such as flyes for chest and lateral raises for
shoulders. And don't forget your calves!

In recent years, anti-isolation exercise sentiment has gone a bit too far and some
people have dropped all the isolation exercises from their programs completely.
Unfortunately, this has resulted in an epidemic of asymmetrical physiques and puny
calves! Nothing looks worse than an unsymmetrical physique with huge arms, a big
chest and stick-thin lower legs.

Note: standing calf raise is indicated as a primary exercise on day four. Obviously,
this is an isolation, not a compound exercise. It is merely indicated as primary
exercise because in the event you wish to abbreviate the routine, at least one calf
exercise a week is stilla good idea.

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Use of Free Weights (Dumbbells & Barbells)

This program uses primarily Barbells and Dumbbells with a few cable exercises. The
only machines used are the calf machines, and even those could be performed with
free weights (for example, a one legged standing calf raise holding a dumbbell).
A lying leg curl machine would be an acceptable substitute for the Romanian deadlift
on Hypertrophy day.

Dumbbells are used liberally because they are such a fantastic training tool on many
levels. Compared to machines or even barbells, dumbbells encourage equal
development on each side of the body, they allow natural, unrestricted range of
movement, they require more neuromuscular and stabilizer activation and they are
flat out great for building muscle mass.

Alternate exercises

In the event you train at home or at a small gym that doesn't have all the equipment
required for this workout, don't panic. You can simply make a substitution. For
example, if you don't have access to a pulldown machine, you can replace the
straight arm pulldowns with dumbbell pullovers (with one or two dumbbells).

Warm ups

Warm up sets are important, especially on the strength days, prior to your heaviest
sets. Perform 1-3 submaximal warm up sets on the first exercise for each primary
exercise. For example, if you were going to bench press 4 sets of 5 with 225 lbs,
your warm ups might be 135 lbs and 185 lbs for 5-6 reps before jumping up to the
heavier sets with 225.

The stronger you get, the more warm up sets you may need in order to prepare the
Central nervous system for the heavier loads to come, and of course, to help prevent

Before doing a warm up, it may also be wise to do some general total body warm up
or dynamic flexibility or mobility drills for the joints you will be using on each
particular day (upper or lower).


The amount of weight (aka "resistance" aka "load") used is often calculated by
performing a battery of 1 rep maximum tests and then having the weight prescribed
as a percentage of your 1 rep maximum. A traditional prescription usually designates
below 70% as light, between 70% and 85% as medium and 85% and above as
heavy. To simplify this program and avoid the need for heavy 1 rep maximum
testing, the loads in this workout will simply be dictated by a repetition bracket and
an intensity level that will increase each week.:

The 5-6 rep range is considered heavy and is associated with the strength workouts.

The 8-12 rep range is considered medium and is associated with the hypertrophy

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A combination of heavy and medium seems to produce optimal muscle growth
because even though the heavy training is focused on developing neural factors, this
heavy work helps you utilize heavier loads in the hypertrophy range. Basically, you
have to get stronger if you want to get bigger.

Above 12 reps is usually considered a light load and this works endurance and is not
as effective at building muscle mass and strength. Calves and abs do seem to
respond well to slightly higher rep ranges and the occasional use of a high rep pump
set can be helpful for those seeking pure bodybuilding goals.

It's a myth that high reps develops muscle definition. High reps develop endurance
and pump more blood into the muscle. Again this can be beneficial for bodybuilding,
but its always a mistake to drop all your heavy work for pump work even if you are
in a cutting phase.

The super set and tri-set techniques

Super sets have always been a favorite technique of bodybuilders. Not only are they
time efficient, they also increase the intensiveness of the workout. Supersets in this
program are performed for the same muscle group (two ab exercises performed back
to back or two shoulder exercises back to back) or for antagonistic muscle groups
such as a bicep exercise supersetted with a tricep exercise.

Hypertrophy workouts emphasize the superset technique, while strength workouts

use the traditional straight sets technique which allows a heavier load to be used.
Notation for supersets is A1 and A2 for the first and second exercise in a superset,
respectively or B1, B2, B3 for the first, second and third exercises in a triset,
respectively (or other letters, depending on where in the workout the supersets or
trisets appear; ie, F1, F2 etc)

Tempo (rep speed)

Tempo is how slowly or quickly you lift and lower the weight. Tempo can become a
complicated parameter, with three and even four point tempo counts (eccentric
action, stretch position, concentric, contracted position). However we are going to
keep it simple and use a two point tempo prescription.

The concentric action is where the muscle shortens or contracts. For example when
you curl a weight up, that is the concentric action, as the bicep contracts and
shortens. When you press a barbell up in a bench press, that is also a concentric
action as the pectoral muscles in the chest shorten and contract. The concentric
action, or the lifting of the weight up, can be done quickly, but under control. It may
take as little as a second or less. As you become fatigued, your concentric reps may
slow down as you struggle to complete the concentric portion of the rep and that is

(NOTE: In some cases, performing the concentric action more slowly is a good choice
in order to remove momentum from the movement and make the exercise stricter.
The tempo may vary depending on your objectives).

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When you lower the weight back down, that is the eccentric action, where the muscle
lengthens. Emphasizing the eccentric part of the exercise is known to increase the
tension on the muscle and may help increase strength gains. Too much emphasis as
in super slow eccentrics can be counterproductive, as this reduces the amount of
weight you can use.

An ideal eccentric action is about 3 or 4 seconds. This simply means that you should
lower the weight slowly, taking about 3 or 4 seconds to do it. Using extra eccentric
emphasis by lowering the weight very slowly (in about 5 or 6 seconds) can make the
repetition extremely intense and may help with muscle strength and size. However,
it's easy to overuse high intensity techniques, so this should be used sparingly

Number of exercises

Bodybuilding programs generally contain more exercises and a higher total volume
than programs for other strength sports. The reason is because to achieve complete
development of every aspect of very muscle, and to optimize hypertrophy (as
compared to strength or power), a higher volume produces optimal results.

However, this is an area where many trainees believe that more is better. For
example, you'll notice that in workout one there is only one exercise for biceps and
one for triceps. In their eagerness to build arms like Mr. Olympia, many trainees add
a second or even a third exercise for each of the arm muscles.

This is not only unnecessary, on this program it may be counterproductive. With all
the pushing you do on shoulder and chest exercises and all the pulling for back
exercises, your biceps and triceps are actually getting plenty of stimulation. Adding
more of the non-primary (isolation) exercises would only make the workout
unnecessarily long and possibly lead to overtraining.

If you really want to do more exercises and you've reached the advanced stage of
training, I'd simply recommend moving to a traditional bodybuilding program that
uses a 3 or 4 day body part split routine (I use a 4 day split most of the time,


If you're unfamiliar with these exercises, you can see the photographs at the Men's
Fitness website:


Well that's it. This is the "original" T.N.B. workout and you can't get this complete
program in any magazine - not even Men's Fitness (they didn’t have enough room to
print all these details). 4 weeks, 8 weeks or 12 weeks from now, after I hear back
some success stories from TNB users, I might even write TNB #2, if you want EVEN
MORE muscle!

Until then, train hard and expect success!

- Tom Venuto

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About the Author

Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilder, nutrition researcher and freelance writer.

Tom holds a bachelor of science degree in Adult health/fitness (exercise
science) and is a long time member of the American College of Sports
Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

Tom has been training since 1983 and has competed 28 times since 1989 as a
lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder. His titles include the Mr. Natural
New Jersey, Natural Pennsylvania, Natural New York State, Natural Mid
Atlantic States and Natural Eastern Classic Championships. He was also runner
up in both the Natural USA and Natural North America Championships.

Venuto is the author of numerous books including the #1 selling e-book Burn The
Fat, Feed The Muscle (e-book), the National and #1 Amazon bestseller, The Body Fat
Solution (Avery/Penguin, hardcover).

His newest e-book, The Holy Grail Body Transformation System, is the only science-
based guide on the market that teaches you how to gain muscle and lose fat at the
same time—the “Holy Grail” of fitness goals.

Tom is a regular guest on podcasts and radio shows including Martha Stewart
healthy living (Sirius XM satellite radio), ESPN-1250, WCBS-AM and Blog talk radio.
Tom’s articles have been featured on hundreds of websites worldwide and he has
been featured in IRONMAN, Australian IRONMAN, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular
Development, Men’s Fitness, Men’s Exercise, First For Women, Oprah Magazine, The
Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Tom is also the founder and CEO of the premier fat loss support community, Burn
The Fat Inner Circle.

You can visit Tom online at:

The Holy Grail Body Transformation System
Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle
Burn the Fat Inner Circle

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