Eric's Guide to Dieting

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Q. Eric, I have seen many photos of you and you are always in shape. I have also read many of your posts on Facebook and bodybuilding message boards talking about how you stay at a single digit body fat measurement year around. As the years pass you are also still gaining muscle, so my question is, what is your normal, everyday diet like? How much, and what exactly, do you eat to remain lean while gaining muscle?

A. In my younger days I used to follow the “traditional” protocol of leaning out for shows and then bulking up as much as possible in the “off season,” reaching a high of 273 lbs. at one point. However, as time went on I began to understand that this was not the best method for gaining muscle year to year and that getting back into contest condition was becoming increasingly more difficult. In addition my career began to dictate that I remain closer to photo shoot shape year around, not to mention the fact that not seeing my abs for eight months a year was kind of depressing (LOL). So, you are correct in that these days I remain in single digit body fat year round, attempting to never going higher than 8% at any point, while keeping my weight at around 235 lbs. This is accomplished by performing at least 20 minutes of cardio work on a daily basis and of course sticking to a very strict/clean, lower calorie diet at all times. This does not mean, however, that I have given up on building more muscle mass (as you have seen in my photos), despite the fact that I am drug-free, in my mid-forties and not on any kind of HRT! In fact, I believe that I am still capable of adding quite a bit more lean tissue to my frame! It just takes the right mindset along with a meticulously designed training, supplement and nutritional regimen to accomplish this difficult feat. Since your query was specifically about my diet, I will now lay out for you what a typical day’s plan looks like so you have a good idea of the foods I eat, the amounts of each, and how I time my macronutrients around my cardio and training. 9:00 am: 20-30 minutes of cardio 10:00 am: 16 oz. scrambled liquid egg whites (with either a handful of broccoli or spinach mixed in) and 5 slices of Ezekiel bread. 1:00 pm: 8 oz. extremely lean ground beef, medium-sized bowl of green beans, asparagus or broccoli, and 1-tablespoon olive oil. 4:00 pm: 2 scoops whey isolate protein in water and two tablespoons natural peanut butter or 30-grams (weight) of mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts). 5:00-6:30 pm: PRRS or FDFS weight training session. 7:00 pm: Egg white/protein powder/Quinoa pancakes consisting of 12 oz. liquid egg whites, 1 scoop whey isolate, 115 grams (weight) Quinoa. 9:30 pm: 8 oz. chicken breast, turkey breast or fish (usually Tilapia), medium-sized bowl of green beans, asparagus or broccoli, and 1-tablespoon olive oil. 12:00-12:30 am: 2 scoops casein protein in water and 1-tablespoon natural peanut butter or 15-grams (weight) of mixed nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts). This puts my macronutrient totals for the day at (approximately) – Protein 371 grams, Carbohydrates 160 grams, and Fats 66 grams. Total Calories = 2718. It is this relatively small amount of nutrient dense calories that allows me to slowly gain quality muscle while remaining lean and fit. The keys to my plan include my high (but not too high) protein intake from varied sources (creating a well-rounded amino acid pool)…the moderate carbohydrates taken in at two specific meals where the body can best utilize them for anabolism…and the ample ingestion of healthy fats, which keep blood sugar stable, energy levels in tact, metabolism strong, and hormone production on point. I should also mention that up until about eight weeks before a major event, photo shoot or competition I allow myself one cheat meal per week, having whatever it is I’m craving (usually pizza) in whatever amount satisfies me. I believe this only serves to boost metabolism and keep me on track the entire week.