Diet questions
September 17, 2010 8:25 PM   Subscribe

Fruit and protein powder are pretty much all I eat, is this okay? A few questions about fruit and protein powder.


First the facts: I'm in the middle of dieting and working out a lot. At least an hour (usually two) a day of mixed cardio/weightlifting with Sunday off. I'm huge and my BMR is 4000-4500 calories.

1) I'm keeping complete track of my diet with the "Calorie Counter" app for Android (which is awesome, btw) and my carbs are quite high. The average is between 2-300 a day. The vast majority of these are from the 3 apples and 3 bananas I'm eating. I'm aware eating broccoli or carrots or spinach would be the best way to go, but I find them to be unappetizing and I've managed to completely eliminate snack foods from my diet by using fruit as a substitute.

How much will the fruit carbs/sugars hold me back? Is it worth the additional stress/change to eat greens instead?

2) I'm eating 6 scoops of Muscle Milk protein powder a day with 3-4 glasses of skim milk (essentially the rest of my carbs). I bought it because it tastes good and it's at Costco for cheap. Are the additional supplements in it worthwhile? Is there a better mainstream alternative that doesn't taste like ass?

3) Is this a pretty good regimen? I'm serious about losing weight, but I figure a diet I can stand is much better than a diet I'll go nuts doing. Are there minor tweaks to my structure you folks would recommend that might have a noticeable difference?

4) Off-topic: I REALLY like doing ab and back work with a balance ball and bosu (sp?), much more than weightlifting. If I'm doing a lot of sit ups (I did over 100 today) and push ups (40), should I count that as a "day" of abs and chest? Do these activities stress the muscles enough that you should take a day off in-between? Should you lift weights targeting those muscles AND do the exercises on the same day?

Thanks in advance
posted by lattiboy to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Approximately 100% of this sounds wrong. Wherever you're getting all these ideas, stop getting advice from there.

No, that's not a good diet. Eat some rice and oats for carbs and eat some vegetables. Eat meat and fish and eggs. Use a plain, nothing-added whey protein powder as a supplement.

If you care about maintaining muscle and strength while you diet and not looking skinny-fat when you're done, then lift weights. Don't waste your time and look ridiculous playing around on balance balls. Don't do "abs days" or "chest days" or target muscles. Work your whole body together. 40 pushups isn't a lot and doesn't take a day to recover from. You could do some pushups as a warmup to e.g. a bench press, or afterwards on the same day.

There are some good articles on training and fat loss on this site.
posted by JohnMarston at 8:37 PM on September 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Also, here or here are good options for protein powder.
posted by JohnMarston at 8:41 PM on September 17, 2010

No, this is not OK.

For one thing, there's no iron in your diet. For another, there isn't any Vitamin A.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:44 PM on September 17, 2010

Read this book.
posted by John Cohen at 9:18 PM on September 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would not try to live on this diet. For starters, you're likely to backlash and binge. Secondly, this is not a nutritionally balanced diet that your body can thrive on.

Don't like broccoli? There are hundreds of other vegetables out there. You're going to have to teach yourself to eat differently. It will take time. Start with one or two foods at a time and slowly incorporate them. Do you like salads? Chard? Grated beets? Corn? Experiment with different veggies and whole grains. Lean meats, or vegetable protein like beans or tofu should fit into your requirements, right? I really want you to have a diet that includes real food. Whole, fresh, foods. Stuff made in factories (like protein powder) can't replace the value of food that grows in the earth or comes from an animal. Sorry, and good luck!
posted by serazin at 9:40 PM on September 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Why not eat brown rice and beans or lentils? If broccoli tastes bad to you, how about kale, chard, green squash, yellow squash, snap peas, lettuce, cucumbers? If all of these taste bad to you, change your taste pronto. Greens are a sort of a necessary part of food. Of the stuff you're eating, nothing is really food. Fruits are a dessert. Protein powder is anything but natural. Why the skim milk? - fat is an essential part of a diet.
posted by rainy at 9:43 PM on September 17, 2010

2 or 300 carbs is way too much even if you get them from fruits and veggies. You should consider a low-carb/primal/paleo/panu diet. I've been keeping my carb intake to <1>
I also think with your exercise habits referenced in your previous posts you should look into some high-intensity interval training (HIIT/Tabata 1E1/etc) -- check with your doctor first. You need to be upping your exercise, since your previous regimes were intense. You might also want to look into crossfit/P90X.

I am not a doctor or nutritionist.
posted by arimathea at 10:10 PM on September 17, 2010

sorry, that's less than 100 carbs per day max, usually less than 50.
posted by arimathea at 10:11 PM on September 17, 2010

Best answer: In regards to the first part of your question, your diet will absolutely hold you back. You need protein to lift weights and maintain muscle. While a ketogenic diet is generally recommended as the easiest way to lose weight while doing the least damage to your muscles as you cut calories, you don't even need to be that extreme in your approach. Read this book. Then read this book if you didn't already, since it was recommended in your last question.

Your "diet" will get you nowhere fast. Your lifts will suffer, your energy will spike briefly and crash again, and your hunger will increase. Don't like vegetables as much as you like fruit? Tough, you're an adult. Learn to prepare healthy, leafy greens in ways that will make it easier to consume them. Learn how to cook meat, or start buying canned tuna and roasted chicken from the store. Quit snacking on fruit and get some nice smoked almonds. These foods will keep you full, give you long-lasting energy, and help you maintain muscle mass. Fruit is a sometimes food, like the dessert version of a vegetable. Again: meat, veggies, nuts, cheese, plain yogurt, etc. Fat and protein are your friends, especially on a carb-restricted diet tailored for dropping fat while building muscle. You would actually do better to thrive off Snicker's bars so you could at least count on some fat and protein from the nuts.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:21 PM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

Aside from the poor nutrition your diet has, Muscle Milk can contain some pretty nasty stuff. Greens can seem unappetizing if they are not cooked correctly. Here are some ideas. Making simple soups with carrots, celery, kale, onions, garlic, and tomatoes (add a half lemon or some vinegar) can give you a LOT of flavor and nutrition for very few calories. The vegetables will taste delicious (it seems like you probably don't enjoy raw or steamed veggies). Throw some salmon and quinoa into it! As a matter of fact, eat lots and lots of fish, chicken, and beans. You need good protein right now--NOT Muscle Milk!

It's awesome that you are taking charge of your life! 40 pushups is great to start out with. You should look at some online guides so that you're really getting the most out of your muscle workouts. It sounds like you're taking a great approach to cardio. Keep it up.

p.s. I know that paleo/atkins say otherwise, but: "Both 30 and 55 grams of carbohydrate per day are less than the minimum 130 grams necessary to prevent loss of lean tissue (muscles and organs). I would not recommend either for weight loss as you are likely to regain this weight once you stop dieting." (
posted by 200burritos at 10:48 PM on September 17, 2010

You need to secure the services of a registered dietian or a nutritionist to work out a meal plan. Your drive is admirable, but your insistence on limiting food options to one or two items (kale and wheat germ, or fruit and Muscle Milk) speaks of an unhealthy approach to eating that will do you more harm than good in the long run.

Think of it this way-- if you're going to assert iron-willed control over everything you eat, you should do so only with the guidance of a specialist who's trained to tell others what they should be eating to achieve their personal goals.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:56 AM on September 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I hear what ya'll are saying and will cut out the fruit (for the most part) and replace it with vegetables. I should've added that my lunches mainly consist of deli meat with low-fat mayo on whole grain bread. Almonds are a good idea, so thanks for that.

Also, I'm pretty broke, so the idea of getting a "nutritionist" is a delightful fantasy. If I could afford that, do you think I'd be asking people I don't know on the internet for advice?
posted by lattiboy at 3:53 AM on September 18, 2010

Best answer: I am going to go against this tide. While I don't see this as a particularly balanced healthy diet it would seem acceptable if you were to do this for months rather than years, took vitamin supplements, and it worked. Are you losing weight?

The caution can be found right on the label of most protein drinks, "don't use as a diet replacement" or something. A further caveat is the high level of protein. It can be hard on your body. Do your research. Fruit is better than donuts because it has more fiber which naturally limits your intake. It still has copious sugar. You recognize that vegetables are the better alternative but if in the real world the choice is failure from vegetables back to donuts versus fruit, eat fruit. Someone mentioned rice; try to avoid this carb if possible. It has a fairly high glycemic index and not that many additional nutrients, although brown rice isn't so bad. Beans are one of your best starches, along with low glycemic carbs such as barley. Whole corn kernels, as opposed to meal, aren't bad and go well with beans. I think you would do well to start taking in some lowish calorie, high fiber filling foods in substitution of some of that protein, especially the Muscle Milk. That stuff is designed as a meal replacement (not a total diet replacement) and thus has fat, carb and protein. Do you really think that eating powdered fructose and maltodextrin is the path to weight loss? Perhaps in the short term if it helps avoid worse stuff, but long term you will need to find a more balanced mix of foods.

Push-ups are a fine replacement for weights if your goal is getting into shape. There exist many fine workout regimens based upon body weight exercises like push-ups.
posted by caddis at 6:38 AM on September 18, 2010

Most deli meats are high in fat and sodium.
posted by shiny blue object at 6:49 AM on September 18, 2010

I see you're in Seattle. Do you have anything like New Seasons grocery stores up there? They offer free nutritionist appointments.
posted by emkelley at 7:01 AM on September 18, 2010

Also, I find that if I really restrict myself to beans, veggies, (maybe a little cheese) and low fat protein (chicken, flank steak, eggs) weight comes off fairly easily, without feeling hungry.

A good technique for enjoying vegetables is roasting them. I used to hate green beans, but I will eat them by the barrelful now that I understand the deliciousness of roasting. Roasted cauliflower is also excellent. Toss about a pound of veg with 2 tbsp of olive oil (to taste) and salt/pepper. 20 minutes at 450, stir at 10 minutes so you get even browning.

Another way vegetables became tolerable to me was forcing myself to eat them. In college I decided I was going to learn to like broccoli. I ate a small plate of it every day for a month. The first few days, I just cut it up into tiny pieces and swallowed it like pills. Then I would chew it a couple times and then down the hatch. It's a total pain in the ass, but I love broccoli now.

Good luck!
posted by emkelley at 7:12 AM on September 18, 2010

Best answer: Also, please, please, please disabuse yourself of the low-fat phenomenon. Don't be so afraid of fat. Don't be afraid of steak and nuts and eggs. Fat does not kill you and balloon your weight with nearly the same rate as sugar and carbs. I'm serious, read Good Calories, Bad Calories to get an idea of A) how your body gains weight based on the types of food you eat, B) how "calories in, calories out" is wrong wrong wrong, and C) how the low fat diet industry and bad supportive science has rampantly misinformed an entire generation of dieters. I will mail you my copy if you can't afford to buy a new one. The reason why Americans are prone to heart disease and diabetes, especially the poor, is because they eat processed, carb-y crap that makes them fatter and hungrier and low-energy and diseased.

This thread addresses why eating processed, barely nutritional food (and sorry, apples and bananas are only a little better than what this guy was consuming) will retard your dieting goals.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:14 AM on September 18, 2010 [3 favorites]

You know what made me love vegetables? Joining a CSA. You get a box of vegetables from a farm every week. Not just the BROCCOLI or CARROTS or SPINACH you grew up with, but a huge variety of stuff (though, yes, there will be those old familiar veggies in there too). Some will be things you like, or that you have no bad associations imprinted on (mizuna? garlic scapes?). Some will be things you always thought you hated.

Now you get to learn to cook them. Which inevitably leads to discoveries that you actually don't hate vegetables at all, you just dislike the ways they've been presented before. Especially if you mostly grew up with veggies out of a can or the freezer.
posted by Sara C. at 8:42 AM on September 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

Both 30 and 55 grams of carbohydrate per day are less than the minimum 130 grams necessary to prevent loss of lean tissue (muscles and organs).

"Carbohydrates are not essential nutrients in humans: the body can obtain all its energy from protein and fats."

Also, zoomorphic linked to the 1st endition of Starting Strength, but you'd want the 2nd edition.
posted by JohnMarston at 8:58 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

1. Yes, you will want to diversify your diet there.

You've got your daily BMR calorie requirements. Shoot for being between 500-800 calories under that. (More than that, and you want a dietician, because you don't want to have your body freak out and imagine it's starving).

Pick foods that are low calorie, filling, and nutritious. Filling is important! When you're more full of low calorie food, you don't have as much space for high calorie food. And yes, occasionally you'll want to eat some high calorie food.

Nutritious is the other part of the equation. Obviously, high protein things like meat or fish are useful. You can also do brown rice + beans to get your full amino acids (supplement with B vitamins!). Veggies are good - they're full of vitamins and super low on calories. Find ways to cook them, and, at least, add them to other dishes you're eating. I've found beef broth is a nice filling extra (go for low sodium).

Obviously, as you lose weight, adjust down your calories accordingly.

2. Working out

Against what was said above, 40 pushups isn't a lot if you're a light person. 40 pushups IS a lot when you weigh 300+ lbs, as your basically pressing 70% of that weight! Good for you!

If you're doing weight training, be sure to get protein. You're probably looking at 70-80g a day. Try not to go above 200g of protein, some folks catch kidney damage from that. Be aware that muscle weighs more than fat, so you will probably not see a drop in your actual weight for a bit, or as fast as you might expect- but your body shape will change. (I've been steady at 250 for the last month, with my muscle gain meeting my fat loss, despite calorie deficits).

You'll want to get some cardio. If you can swim, swimming would be best, because you won't have to stress your joints. If you can't/don't have access, I suggest starting with things that don't involve stepping/jumping/bouncing, since it'll be hard on your knees and back until you drop more weight. What doesn't involve all that? Anything where you move your hands around primarily, or, at the very least, anything where you are laying down and moving your limbs around (which, is what babies do).

If you're doing Pilates type stuff with the ball, it will be helpful for posture and preventing injury, though not much for weight loss at this time.
posted by yeloson at 9:23 AM on September 18, 2010

If you're doing weight training, be sure to get protein. You're probably looking at 70-80g a day. Try not to go above 200g of protein, some folks catch kidney damage from that.

70-80g of protein a day is appropriate for a small woman who doesn't lift weights. The OP is a 6'8" 400lb. man who, according to his previous question, is a former athlete and lifter. If he's going to be doing heavy lifting, 300g/day is a more appropriate number. High protein intake doesn't cause damage in people with normal kidney function.
posted by JohnMarston at 9:30 AM on September 18, 2010

The US guidelines recommend a daily protein dietary allowance, measured as intake per body weight, is 0.8 g/kg.[5] However, this recommendation is based on structural requirements, but disregards use of protein for energy metabolism.[5] Several studies have concluded that active people and athletes may require elevated protein intake (compared to 0.8 g/kg).[9][6][5] Suggested amounts vary between 1.6 g/kg and 1.8 g/kg,[6] while a proposed maximum daily protein intake would be approximately 25% of energy requirements i.e. approximately 2 to 2.5 g/kg.[5]

Assuming 400 lbs is where he wants to stay at, and it's proportionately muscle, we're talking 145g.

I'm guessing he wants to be 300 lbs or less. You're right though, I should up it to 100g based on that.
posted by yeloson at 11:02 AM on September 18, 2010

USDA guidelines are for sedentary people, not lifters. If the OP's only goal is to weigh less with no regard for his health, appearance, or strength, then he can eat whatever he wants as long as he limits his intake sufficiently, and 100g of protein will probably be sufficient to prevent starvation. If he wants to lift weights and look good and be strong at his lower bodyweight, he needs more than that. I'm assuming the latter. 100g of protein would be around 10% of his daily intake, which is way lower than even the conservative conventional wisdom that you're quoting. There are no muscular 6'8" men in the world that subsist on 100g of protein a day.

Before you give any more advice, I suggest you find some strong 300lb. lifters and ask them how much protein they get. I'll give you a data point to start with: I weigh 200, I squatted 405 a few days ago, and I aim for 300g/day.
posted by JohnMarston at 11:23 AM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Stop fighting kids!

I appreciate some of the info yeloson, but EVERY person I've spoken with who is in my size range has said I should aim for having as much protein as my goal weight, many (including John) have suggested I should go for my current weight, but I find this to be nigh impossible. I think I'd feel pretty horrid working out like I am if I wasn't getting that boost of 200-300g of protein I'm getting a day.

My brother and sister have also told me our family seems to have erratic metabolisms. When we're sedentary, we don't eat much for how big we are, but when we're working out, we tend to loose extraordinary amounts of weight and eat like horses (I lost 35 lbs in a month when I was 21). As I've kept track, I've been eating around 3200 calories a day on average.

Also, I hear what everybody is saying about weight lifting being the ultimate tool to convert muscle to fat, but now that I'm a month or so into this routine I realize that the cardio and the weight-resistance stuff makes me FEEL BETTER. I've changed my mindset and feel that I'll loose the weight in time, but my back is stronger and I'm less tired when I really push myself at the gym (did 150 crunches today!) walking, stair machine(ing), and doing "core" classes.

I still put in at least 20 minutes of high-intensity max-out lifting, so don't fret John!

My new plan is to cut it to 3-4 scoops a day + milk and supplement that with a hyper-nutritious lunch and dinner (Quinoa will be my first experiment). I'm going to Costco to buy a bunch of green shit I have to cook. Thanks a lot, dicks....
posted by lattiboy at 12:28 PM on September 18, 2010

Response by poster: One thing I didn't get answered was the muscle-stress issue. Should I avoid chest weight work if I really pushed myself to the limit with push-ups? Ab work with crunches? Ect? I'm used to at least one day of rest between body zones (when I was lifting), so the idea of working them every day is foreign to me.....
posted by lattiboy at 12:41 PM on September 18, 2010

On that muscle-stress question:

(I'm not really well-informed enough to be a dick about this, and a real dick may come with a more accurate correction, but:)

The reason you rested a day between zones when you were lifting was to maximize your muscle mass. A day of rest makes your muscles get bigger and bulkier and ripped-er. ISTR that you've said you're not primarily interested in getting ripped. I don't think you'll be doing any damage by working the same muscles every day—you just won't be bulking up. Which I think is what you want, leading to somewhat leaner muscles or something. You won't be mega-stronger but you'll be burning the calories and improving your endurance (maybe?) and working your cardio (to whatever degree). So I would go for it, modulo the need for variety to avoid boredom & keep motivation. I've gotten really bored with pushups and crunches and I'm on to exercise DVDs that give me a bit more variety.
posted by xueexueg at 2:40 PM on September 18, 2010

Yikes. Maybe we could all agree to save our answering for the questions about which we are well-informed, and then nobody has to be a dick or correct anybody else?

Resting between workouts has nothing to do with leanness. Sufficient rest is necessary to make any kind of progress in endurance, strength, or size. Progress occurs between workouts, not during them. Chronically insufficient recovery will cause stalled progress and can lead to injury and a host of other undesirable effects.

However, if you can perform more than 15 or so pushups before failing, then they do not represent a sufficient stress to increase size or strength and you won't necessarily need the typical 48 hours to recover from them.

If you're using pushups as part of a circuit/interval-type workout, and you're not doing hundreds of them, there's nothing wrong with doing them every day, but it might start to take a toll on your joints and tendons. I don't know how you're organizing your training, but I'd do pushups as an assistance exercise at the end of your chest workout.
posted by JohnMarston at 3:31 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

I totally agree that cardio is key to the mental health aspect of exercise. I spent about 9 months doing free weights, and it was fun, but cardio is just 100 times more satisfying to me. And the health benefits of cardio are well established.
posted by serazin at 4:12 PM on September 18, 2010

Response by poster: I hope everybody realizes that I was kidding with the "...dicks." comment. Please say you do. I appreciate all the info. Thanks again AskMe!
posted by lattiboy at 5:12 PM on September 18, 2010

I'm going to Costco to buy a bunch of green shit I have to cook. Thanks a lot, dicks....

You really, really, REALLY should work on improving your attitude towards food. Even if it means saving up to pay out of pocket for a nutritionist. I know you're joking around, but please stop referring to nutritious food as "shit" and cooking/preparing food as a chore.
posted by Sara C. at 6:22 PM on September 18, 2010

Also, I'm pretty broke, so the idea of getting a "nutritionist" is a delightful fantasy. If I could afford that, do you think I'd be asking people I don't know on the internet for advice?

lattiboy, with all due respect you really should be looking into a more suitable forum. If you can't save up a bit of money to hire someone, than at least try to talk/email somebody who has the proper credentials to help you. Your answers remain far outside the realm what you're getting here.

First for the reason that there are strength coaches or dieticians out there who would salivate at the idea of trying to help someone lose 150 pounds and get them into top shape.
Secondly, because you seem to be favoring and picking up really bad advice that's developing bad ideas on how to go about this.

A better suited forum is going to have an abundance of people who have or are trying to do the same things you are. It's also may be a great place that has an open sounding board about ideas and advice, unlike here.
Any person who has proper credentials and is established will be someone that most likely has already helped someone in your position. They will give you proper advice on how to deal with this.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:35 PM on September 20, 2010

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