Monday, December 9, 2013

The "every other" diet and the "clean" vs "dirty" food debate

Back when I was conversing on a regular basis with Kirk Karwoski we talked extensively about his training and eating during his competitive years.

When I asked him how he ate in order to get into the lean condition he did for his AAU raw meet back in 94 he told me something very interesting.

"I did the "every other" diet." he said.

"The every other diet?" I asked, befuddled.

"Yeah, so I would eat something clean one meal, then something you know, not so clean the next meal.  Then something clean, etc."

"And that's got you that lean?" I said.  Kirk competed that year in the 242 class looking the best he ever had.

"Yeah" he said.  "Well, you have to remember at the time, I was working a very physically active job.  When I ate clean every meal I lost too much weight.  When I ate clean and then threw in some extra calories to cover my physical needs, it seemed to work out just right."

Kirk knows a thing or two about training and eating

I've been meaning to write about this "diet" for some time because I thought it was so interesting.

Kirk, regardless of how crazy he is (and he's crazy as fuck, trust me), was and is really smart about these kinds of things.  You know, diet, training, managing all the facets involved in what made him great (besides being born a mutant).

Kirk's "plan" was nothing more than energy in vs energy out.  Nevermind that people will tell you that not all calories are the same and blah blah blah.  Kirk lost too much weight when he ate clean.  So he added more calories back in via "dirtier" foods and presto magic, he leaned out at just the right pace, yet still had enough energy to train and get stronger.

When I went to write it, however, the words that Kirk used kept ringing in my ears.

"Clean one meal, dirty the next".

Clean vs Dirty - Shitting on diet gurus until the cows come home 

Before I could write this out, I had to address this whole "clean" and "dirty" foods business because well, I've seen several well known diet "gurus" say "there is no such thing as clean or dirty foods".

O Rly?  That's where we are at now?

That we're either too fucking stupid or too paralyzed by information to draw some very simple lines as to what clean and dirty foods are?

We don't know what "junk food" is anymore?

Can tell you what junk food is, while diet guru cannot

I mean, the common god damn house wife with a couple of ankle biters can tell you what junk food is, but Mr. Diet Guru can't?  Well what good are you then?

If you can't even discern between what is a healthy (clean) food, and what is junk (dirty) food, how smart are you really?  You're really not.  You're just a mental masturbation specialist that fancies himself smarter than he really is.  And that's it.

There are eleventy billion diet guru's out there debating on what the fuck "clean" and "dirty" foods are.  Last week I even read from one certified assclown about how you shouldn't eat fruit (really?  we're at a point where fruit is up for god damn debate?) or drink milk, or how wheat poisons you.


I know every time I am served a fucking bowl of Oatmeal at a place, I sneer at the waitress and wonder why the fuck she would bring me a bowl of hot death.  My guess is, it wasn't bubonic plague that wiped out most of Europe in the middle was mother fuckin porridge!

The real "black death"

If you are a dietary mental masturbator when it comes to diet shit and have no idea what is true or not, please do yourself a favor and look up my guy Michael Israetel at Renaissance Periodization (that's a link to click BTW).

Dr. Michael Israetel has a PhD in Sport Physiology, and has taught graduate sports nutrition and been the head sport nutrition consultant to the ETSU Olympic Training Site.

Dr. Israetel would define DIRTY foods as.......

"Dirty" foods are those which contain: 1.) very high quantities of unhealthy fats (many animal products such as bacon, sausage, etc...), which are both seemingly bad for health and bad for adiposity (fat stores).

2.) Very high amounts of highly glycemic, processed carbs, which spike insulin and also lead to poor health and body composition outcomes. Eating these in the workout window promotes muscle growth. Eating them outside of it likely promotes fat deposition. Examples: poptarts, full-sugar sodas, fruit juices, white breads...

3.) Foods which COMBINE high levels of unhealthy (vs. healty) saturated fats and glycemic carbs. Examples: almost ALL known "cheat foods" (cheesecake, pizza, cheeseburgers, shakes, fries...)

4.) Foods that contain trans-fats (fast foods and some store-bought baked goods), which cause muscle loss and fat growth, and are very bad for health.

Eating lots of these foods has been shown, repeatedly, to be slightly worse for health and body comp than eating the same calories in mostly clean foods (low GI carbs like whole grains, healthy fats like nut butters, lean proteins...). The difference (once calories are equated) is not MASSIVE, but it's meaningful, ESPECIALLY for competitive athletes. Your mom can have a piece of cheesecake and be ok, but if you want to look your best onstage, you should probably abstain.

So to all of you who say "who is to say what's clean and what is dirty?" that is a big fuck you, to you.  At least in regards as how to define what "dirty" can be.

Where the confusion comes in, it appears, is when someone tries to define what "clean" means.  Someone will say anything processed at all isn't "clean".  Or that anything with oats or wheat isn't "clean" (I'm still having trouble getting my head around that).

So again, I'll defer back to Mr. PhD so he can shed some light on what he believes "clean" foods are........

I would say that clean foods are ones that contain low glycemic carbs, more fiber, and low (or zero) levels of saturated fats and trans fats. So... the OPPOSITE of dirty foods. 

And just to reiterate, this is a MINOR point... whether or not you eat dirty or clean is not a huge deal, as long as you calories, macros, and timing are in order. BUT if you're looking for that last 5% of difference, it pays to watch your food composition as well... so I have no problem with regular people eating junk on occasion, but I really wonder when people do "flexible dieting" for a BBing contest.  

So what you're saying Mike is, IIFYM is fine for people who want to look good naked, but if you're really looking to get to that next level of lean then you're going to have to do more eat an IIFYM diet?

Correct. Now, IIFYM also misses nutrient timing, which is even more important than "clean" vs. "dirty."

Tell me more my friend..........

Cause IIFYM doesn't really make allowances for timing. BUT this will be debated by some people who follow IIFYM because they themselves DO incorporate timing, but other IIFYM people don't.

So what you're saying is, if you follow the IIFYM protocol then it really behooves you to also include nutrient timing into the macros as well?


So would you say it's fair to say that a diet consisting mainly of what you described as "clean" foods would not only have a better effect on overall body composition, but just overall health as well?

Absolutely. The evidence on that is quite clear.

Then why is it that what foods are "clean" is so heavily debated by the diet community and so many dietary gurus?  I mean I've read a million times that oatmeal and wheat and such are terrible fucking foods. Please explain this to me.

Wheat is usually a gluten issue which only a couple percent of the population has an issue with, so that opinion is mostly dogshit. IF your calories are low enough, and your protein needs are being met, THEN you are already doing the two biggest things possible to get lean. where they go wrong is saying that there is NO benefit to timing and glycemic index, etc as opposed to just a smaller benefit than some bodybuilders think.

For example I had a student ask me what's wrong with her bbing diet and why she's not losing weight fast enough. Turns out she was eating ALL clean foods but like 2x what she needed to lose fat!!! So she thought eating clean was some magical thing, but she forgot that calories are even more important much more.

So what you're saying is, the IIFYM crowd has really shed light on some of the most important parts of a sound dieting strategy, but like most diet ideas they got a bit silly with it and lost sight of some very important factors in rounding it all out?

Yes, especially for serious, competitive athletes.

So in closing........IIFYM is good, but needs to built more around clean foods and nutrient timing to make it great, and lastly, the people that argue there are no such things as clean and dirty foods are being fairly disingenuous.  Right?  

I think IIFYM (in the sense that you must count calories and macros) cannot be ignored. If you're trying to get big OR lean, calories and macros matter the MOST.  So ALL diets should start with IIFYM. If you're a competitor or want to take your diet to the next level, the details matter, so timing and food composition (clean vs. dirty) should become a concern as well.  For those that want the edge, IIFYM is not quite enough. 

As for people who write that there is no such thing as clean eating (such as that article on impruvism), they are either disingenuous or just haven't gone into the data deeply enough. I suspect the latter as I have no idea why anyone would do it for the former reason.

Thanks, Mike. 


  1. I just bashed my skull against a wall after reading this in hopes that I'll kill whatever brain cells hold the memory of what was in this article.

    1. You can probably lightly tap a pencil against your head and that alone will probably do the job just fine, idiot.

  2. Honestly, your blog is one of the very few where the nutrition info matches up with what I have learned in Nutrition and Sports Nutrition classes as an undergrad. It bothers me that so many people out there who have no formal education in the field feel the need to disregard what the academics say. Another good post, Paul.

  3. THANK YOU!!

    The level of fucktardness on nutrition seemed to have hit an all time high recently. This was so refreshing to read and be assured not everyone cant understand the difference between a box of fruit loops and a fucking apple

  4. Agree with this. In the last few years i've cut twice. First on an IIFYM type diet with carbs timed around my workouts and ate clean for the most part but just tried to hit calories and macros, also had a big weekly cheat; and second on CBL eating as clean as possible, I also didn't have a cheat meal/food for three months.

    The IIFYM was fairly strict with the macros and calories, which went down gradually over the diet; the clean CBL diet was mercilessly strict with calories, macros to the gram almost, and as clean as my sanity would allow and then some.

    The first time around (IIFYM) i went from 93kg to 78kg. The second time (CBL clean) went from 85kg to 80kg - but a hell of a lot leaner and muscular. I was happy with my results on both diets.

    This shouldn't be that hard to figure out - if a few cookies and some sweet potatos both have 100g carbs, that's great and everything but it's still a fucking cookie don't kid yourself!

    The stricter i get with making clean food choices, the more accurate i am with estimating my calorie/protein/carb needs, and the smarter i am with nutrient timing, the better my results are getting.

    tl;dr - I tried eating as much clean food as i wanted - I got fat. I tried backloading with crappy foods - I got fatter. I managed my macros and calories - i got lean. I ate clean and timed my carbs better (in addition to macros/calories tracking) - i got leaner.

    Kinda Clean IIFYM =

    Very Clean CBL =

  5. I think spiking your insulin then eating a shitload of fats is not sensible personally. There is simply no way you can justify deep frying something then wedging it in a bun. Once a week? Yeah I'm sure that's fine but I made a habit of it when I was a holocaust survivor. I bulked the fuck up and didn't get fat, still had abs even though I had gained a solid 20kg but I had built up a significant amount of visceral fat which I am now dieting off with paleo/keto dieting with great success. When I need to bulk again I'll be doing some sort of carbohydrate cycling that's for sure.

    IIFYM is a great approach. Eat whatever macros it takes to allow you to eat enough food or limit your hunger enough. I can't keto diet for cutting weight, I am far too hungry. 2kg of wings is 4,500kcal and I am still hungry after. So I drop fats and eat 1.5kg of kangaroo instead for 1,500kcal and am very full when it's stewed up with some veg.

  6. You didnt strike me as one of the people that believes saturated fats and red meats are bad, and thay lean meats are clean... thats what the "PHD" you quoted in the article stated.

    1. I think you should read it all again.

    2. Powerrager - So you don't think a grilled chicken breast is healthier than say, 80% ground beef?

  7. I think most people are having trouble getting the 95% part of their diet down, validating some of the 'no food is clean or dirty'. That stuff doesn't matter until you get calories and macros in order (this is what you acknowledged, but again I do think it validates the comment because you right now you get these fat bitches trying to lose weight by cutting out McDonalds but still eating over their TDEE) And if you do and you're dealing with the last 5% and you fall for snake charmers...then you deserve to fail.

  8. Berardi's Precision Nutrition is pretty much just clean eating. Even the "anytime" vs "post-workout" meals is a last 10% type of consideration. I don't get why some people want to make diet so complicated.