DRIVEN Nutritional Adjustments for Advanced Bodybuilders

Nutrition, Supplement, and Training Plans

By: By: Steve Colescott
Magazine 22 #1

13 January 2018

Beginner Phase

In the Beginner Phase of this Driven series, some basic nutrition changes created a major shift in the food consumption of those starting a bodybuilding fitness lifestyle. Taking a serious consideration of things you eat, items you place in the cart, and supplements that you consume, really changes your food intake...and quite often, your body!

In the Intermediate Phase of the Driven program, we took things a HUGE step forward. Okay, not a step, it was more like an Olympic-level track and field long jump forward. Remember when kids questioned if they are ever going to need math in their adult lives? Well, this diet was all about muscle-building math, causing you to figure out calorie, protein, carbs, and fat levels based on your specific body (and adjusting it as your body changes). We also gave directions on what choices to best fill those numbers. (review these articles.)

Advanced Phase

As a lifter entering the Advanced Phase, will there be a lot of changes to your diet? Not nearly as much as you have seen in the first two phases. In fact, some of you may be making fantastic progress with the diet program exactly as it is. So how do you adjust your food intake as an advanced lifter? We need to possibly make two simple changes:

  1. Your nutrition needs to be focused to serve the changes you have made to your body (more increased muscle and the accompanying faster metabolism, hopefully?) and the greater recovery required due to your improvements in training intensity and volume
  2. You may feel that need to learn a bit more about your personal nutrition needs by experimenting with some unique diet adjustments. You may need dramatically different nutrition than the average person (probably not) but the best way to find out is to try some different adjustments and see how they affect your condition

Increased Protein

This should be the first nutrition change you attempt. If you have been following the diet plan in the intermediate program and consuming 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight, increase that to 1.75 (if you have been at 1.75, increase to 2.0). Do this for a three-month period and check your body composition every two weeks. This is an adjustment that I have seen the highest level of success in many bodybuilders' programs...but there is no need to remain at this higher protein intake unless it has proven to be successful for you.

This should be the first dietary adjustment that you try and it also should be attempted the first time you are on an advanced weakpoint improving program (which will be covered in the next, article in this series).

Ketogenic Diet

Another major change to the diet program might be a dramatic decrease in carbohydrates. Paleo diets are effective for many that have followed them due to the decrease in calories and carbohydrates (not to mention simple sugars and crappy produced snack foods). This is an adequate protein, fairly high fat, and low carb diet with the caveman marketing angle (which draws in the general public).

The ketogenic diet involves strict limitation of carbohydrate levels to minimal grams daily, with protein and fats for energy. Ketones are produced by the breakdown of fats in the liver due to low carb levels (hence the name of the diet). Ketones can cross the blood barrier of the brain keeping your genius-gourd adequately nourished. While the uneducated public tends to think that “eating fat makes you fat,” it makes more sense that making fat your energy source makes you more efficient at burning fat (and body fat) rather than storing them. This is supported by the fact that the increase in obesity in our population is largely due to excessive carbs consumed daily (including simple sugars).

While preparing for a contest, Frank Zane would go very low in carbs (75 grams) for three days and then on the fourth day double it (150+ grams). “This was my diet for burning fat,” says Zane.1 “I was trying to get into ketosis by that third day and then pull myself out of it on the fourth. It worked really well for me.”

The first few weeks are challenging for those trying this diet as you need to give your metabolism adequate time to converting your energy source. If you choose to give ketogenic dieting a try, stick with it for at least 6-8 weeks because the first few weeks will not seem easy for anyone.

Carb Rotation Diet

A carb rotation diet does not require ketogenic levels on most days. It involves reduced carbs most of the time, with adjustments made by how your hard training sessions (or current goals) drives the nutrition game plan.

One of the smartest contest prep coaches in the industry is Justin Harris (NPC Junior USA class winner before leaving the sport to get his PhD in atomic physics, and recently returning). In his diets, carbs and fats are the primary sources of fuel but are adjusted, as needed, for a metabolic effect.2 He includes high carb, medium carb, and low carb days. Fat levels are very low on high carb days and rather high on low carb days. A common week would include 2 high carb days, 3-5 low carb days, and some medium carbs days (usually during the fat loss periods). The high-carb days are often scheduled for the heavy leg or back training days (to help with recovery).

The best part of this program is that it provides simple adjustment. For fat loss, one of the high carb days are decreased to medium or one of the medium carb days become low carb. If you are not recovering or getting the strength and size gains wanted, then the food intake gets an adjustment in the other direction.

High-Carb Day

Medium-Carb Day

Low-Carb Day

  • Increased insulin sensitivity from low carb days allows for glycogen super-compensation and increases intake of aminos
  • Higher calorie count than other two days
  • Highly anti-catabolic
  • Consume around 1/3 of the daily carb intake near training
  • (Used only during fat loss)
  • Slightly sub-maintenance calorie level, but enough calories to fuel training
  • Keeps metabolism elevated and keeps you from flattening out
  • Fat-burning still takes place
  • Fat-burning
  • Higher (healthy – EFA Gold) fats which increase insulin sensitivity
  • More protein needed since some is used as energy source
  • Insulin levels low, allowing for efficient fat-burning
  • Good time for added BCAAs (Muscularity) and/or EAAs (Density) to maintain muscle size
No cardioHIIT cardioLong, fairly high-intensity, steady-state cardio


Lastly, I recommend that you consider advanced bodybuilding as the pursuit of a doctorate degree in muscleology. While many pro bodybuilders train and eat well, others do not...but their genetics allow them to succeed anyway. Those with average genetics need to learn everything possible to achieve their best progress.

Who do I list as excellent information sources? I would direct you to the articles, books or videos by: Charles Poliquin, Brad Schoenfeld, Scott Stevenson, Josh Bryant, Justin Harris, Milos Sarcev, Mike Israetel, Christian Thibadeau, Alan Aragon, Fred Hatfield, John Meadows, Matt Wenning, Michael Zordos, Jerry Brainum, Chris Aceto, Ben Pakulski, Michael Tuchscherer, Matt Porter and Frank Zane. Consider ongoing education vital to advanced progress, so you may want to make it a point to follow the articles and videos presented by these physique mentors. While I have learned a great deal from these experts, I also learn things from local level champions such as you see profiled here, and both Sandy and Roger Riedinger (as well as their longtime employees) have a ton of realistic experience that I recommend. As a Driven lifter, this knowledge will make you achieve far more than you may have ever guessed was possible!

1) Duncan, Fred.
2) Harris, Justin. Comprehensive Performance Nutrition (first edition), Lulu Publishing (2007)