Forget everything you know about nutrition. Start from the beginning. You are the result of what you eat, and that fact goes way deeper than you think.
You Can’t Outrun A Bad Diet, Or A Suboptimal One
It doesn’t matter how much you can lift, how many buckets you can sweat, how many hours you can slave through every week. If you’re still filling your plate with the wrong foods, then the body’s going to be way off the pace.
Every facet of health, energy, muscle, and performance is hinging on the diet. It’s a great chance to knock off all the birds with one stone. But unfortunately we’ve been taught to tackle it in the worst way possible. And that would be by pointing the finger at one sole perpetrator. As if all your problems could be down to a single ingredient. It’s fanciful, but expected in a setting that relies on soundbites and shortcuts.
What’s slowly killing you? Take your pick, there’s a whole lot of nasty stuff going around.
- It’s the gluten.
- The sugar.
- Trans fats
- Saturated fat
- Red meat
- Processed foods
You Need More Than One Solution
In a sense, there is one food group that’s causing the most fuss. And in this diet, there is one glaring omission. It’s just not enough by itself. You would certainly be better off for throwing that one switch, but you couldn’t then sit back and expect miracles.
The freak genetic specimen might be able to get away with a suboptimal diet, but they won’t be sitting down to read this article. For the majority of people, there is a chance to build a lifestyle that can match the look with the feel. Performance with energy. And for that to happen, there’s a whole host of other levers that need to be pulled. In this case, there are nine in total.
The Nine Levers Of The Apex Diet
- Low Carbs
- Low Plants
- Red Meat
- Intermittent Fasting
- Saturated Fats
- Eliminating Seed Oils
- The Fat to Protein Ratio
- Carb Cycling
- Calorie Cycling
Worried that you’ve committed to reading something that’s going to spiral into an overly theory? Don’t worry, at no point in this article do I breach BTEC science. This is all incredibly easy to grasp, even if you have to read back over a line here and there.
Let’s start with the basic principle that the Apex Diet stems from.
Humans are the apex predators, and we didn’t get there by munching on salad bowls, or taking swigs of soybean oil.
We were built to survive, and thrive, through cycles of fasting and feeding, on meat. Now we can barely make it three hours without caving into hunger and staging an evening fridge raid. We’re not slightly off the money, we’re way off on a distant planet.
As tragic as the situation is, it’s not that hard to salvage. You don’t need to forsake all modern foods and enter the caveman cult to get there. All you need is to prioritise. When 95% of your diet is made of empty calories, it’s not that hard to fix.
There are no absolutes in this diet.
How I Wound Up Building The Apex Diet
A few years ago I was a mess, and I’d done everything right by the book. I trained every day, rarely cheated on the diet, and occasionally had a leaf of spinach on my plate. There wasn’t anything wrong with my physique, but I just didn’t feel it. Instead I had to slog through brain fog, bloating, lethargy, cravings, the whole kitchen sink.
Any day I finally managed to figure everything out, the next morning would be back to square one. None of these issues made me a special case of bad luck, it was more of a mash-up of all the usual problems of a modern lifestyle. When you feel like a nail, everything looks like a hammer.
So I started a deep dive into nutrition, looking to find something that could fix all of my problems. With one caveat.
I’d put in years of work in order to build up the physique I had, and I wasn’t going to sign up to anything that cost me muscle and performance. It’s vain, but you have to jump on whatever motivates you to live the lifestyle every single day.
So the diet I was after had to match health with performance. And it’s taken a few years of ironing out the kinks, but I’ve arrived at a few nutritional fundamentals that can bring about that fabled union of brain and muscle.
Let’s roll them out.
1. Low to No Carbs
- Stabilised Energy
- Reduced Anxiety
- Fat Adaptation
This again. You might be able to think of people, including yourself, who thrive on the opposite. And while that may seem to be the case, high-carb diets only really work when they’re propped up by absurd amounts of exercise. Think professional athletes, or your average gym nut who hits the gym twice a day while playing five-a-side every other. Even then, there’s next to no chance that the brain is firing on all cylinders.
Lowering carbs can accomplish a huge array of benefits. Loosening the brakes on fat loss, reducing visceral fat, better glycogen uptake, less brain fog, no energy swings, and a significantly reduced risk of chronic diseases. All this, by flicking one lever.
I’m not going to argue for a zero carb diet. There’s still the matter of keeping some sort of peak performance in your locker, and carbs are a valuable resource for explosive fuel. Whichever way you spin it, if you lift heavy weights, there’s going to be a drop-off at some point. This is the point where I started to add my own spin to the usual meat and water diet.
2. Low To No Plants
- Reduced Inflammation
- Improved Digestion
- Rebalanced Hormones
Hey, you’ve already dealt with most of the suspects over the previous point. But that won’t quite be enough. Keto-style diets meet the same requirements, but they also manage to sneak in a significant amount of fibrous vegetables. It’s a step in the right direction, as the sugar rollercoaster is taken out the game, and the magical properties of ketones can rise to the top.
But low-calorie low-carb vegetables are still angry invaders that don’t play nice once they reach the digestive tract. They cause damage, and you don’t need a bad case of IBS in order to have a reason to avoid them. Besides irritating the stomach lining, plants prevent the body from absorbing vital nutrients, and can even reach past the blood-brain barrier. The real issue is that the biological structures of plants are completely separate from that of humans and animals. Eating a ‘healthy’ diet filled with vegetables essentially means you’re shovelling in a bunch of stuff that the body has no means of dealing with.
Once again, the apex diet isn’t a blanket ban on plants. There’s a solid basis to argue for carbs as a high-intensity fuel source. But even then, you’re best off picking the foods that rank the lowest in toxicity levels.
3. Red Meat
- Nutritionally Complete
- Protein Rich
- Low Toxicity
Meat gets a tough rap. Let’s connect the dots. One one side, we have a carcinogen that’s fast-tracking global warming. On the other, we have ‘walking all-in-one nutritional powerhouse’. Both can’t be right. The fact is, the meat from ruminants are the closest thing we have to a complete food source. You could eat red meat alone, and be absolutely fine. Better than fine.
Ultimately an apex diet would require that you eat the best possible foods. There’s a lot of debate going back and forth on the merits of quality against quantity. And it’s certainly true that reducing quantity, the amount of calories on your plate, is likely going to force weight loss. But it’s an outdated model that can’t be used as a trump card.
The quality of your food has a direct effect on boosting hormones, satiety, energy, strength, and fat utilisation. All the tools that you’d want for an easy attempt at weight loss. Better quality inevitably leads to a lower quantity. Reversing that formula isn’t so foolproof.
So that’s the big secret for fat loss. Pick the best foods and the body can steadily transform into a well-oiled, high energy, fat-burning machine. That just so happens to be steak. Any ruminant for that matter. Their stomachs are designed to absorb the nutrients from plants while also breaking down the toxic parts.
So beef fills the function of linking the chain of energy from photosynthesis through to us. Chicken, not so much. When you eat chicken, you’re basically eating what it’s been eating. Which is invariably a large amount of inflammatory polyunsaturated fats in seed oils.
4. Intermittent Fasting
- Reduced Stress
- Fat Adaptation
- Overcome Hunger
Whereas red meat gives you something you can feast and thrive on, intermittent fasting is the lever that allows you to push in the other direction and optimise your fat-burning machinery. It’s the yin to the yang.
In this formula, you’re eating extremely nutritionally dense meals, priming the body to reload energy and force muscle protein synthesis. This is followed up with a fast that pushes the metabolism into a state of fat burning. Various hormones such as adrenaline and BDNF get raised to further help fat mobilisation and prevent you from feeling an energy lull. And before you’re able to feel the suppressive effects of energy scarcity, it’s back to feeding time.
That’s a loop that’s incredibly easy to maintain over a matter of months. A constant cycle between states of energy abundance and scarcity, accentuating the effects of muscle building and fat burning.
That’s not to say you’re going to build lean mass and lose fat at the same time, but it’s certainly possible in modest amounts when you’re early on in your training years. At the very least, you’re not going to experience much muscle loss and fat gain while pulling in the other direction.
See My Article – 7 Tips Before Starting Intermittent Fasting
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5. Saturated Fats
- High Satiety
- Nutrient Dense
- Less Fat Stored
Here’s another case where you might need to throw out the old rulebook. Where would you place saturated fats on the healthy scale? The standard advice is to label it as a hazard, and place the priority on unsaturated fats. But you’d be missing out on a huge advantage by doing so.
Saturated fats, found in abundance in animal fat and dairy, is highly satiating and nutrient-dense. They also produce a spike in energy expenditure while decreasing fat storage. It’s a funny mechanism to get to grips with, but saturated fats essentially create localised insulin resistance across bodyfat. The body responds by sending out signals to waste energy and reduce appetite. Both being extremely useful features in a diet.
So not only are saturated fats a great resource for getting in your macros and micros, they also eschew the metabolism towards lipolytic (fat burning) instead of lipogenic (storage). It’s a win-win situation that makes them essentials on an optimised diet.
6. Eliminating Vegetable / Seed Oils
- Insulin Resistance
- Lowered Fat Burning Rate
On the other end of the fat spectrum, you have Omega 6 polyunsaturates. These are fats that we’ve not been designed to store, as they’re made by processing plants. Omega 6 fats are pro-inflammatory while promoting fat storage. And because we’re not designed to keep them, that also makes them incredibly hard to get rid.
It’s quite likely that the omega 3:6 ratio is as much to blame as rampant carbs for the modern obesity epidemic. Whereas it used to be a 1:1 equation, it’s now been radically overblown to 20:1 and possibly more. You might imagine a no-plant diet would be enough to sidestep this issue, but unfortunately the influx of seed oils has blown up to the point where animals are fed these products in order to cut costs. So the chicken and bacon you’re eating will likely have a huge amount of Omega 6 fats.
As luck would have it, red meat doesn’t suffer from this issue. Ruminants come with stomachs that can absorb and break down the polyunsaturated fats, converting them into healthy saturated fats.
See My Article – Why Beef Beats Bacon
7. The Protein To Fat Ratio
- Optimal Energy
- Optimal Muscle Gain
Since carbs are mainly out of the picture, we’re down to two macronutrients. They both need to be balanced out in order to get the best out of both muscle gain and energy, two aspects that don’t necessarily come hand-in-hand. This is where many end up going wrong, despite following the book and committing to a low carb diet. Push fat too high, and protein levels become inadequate for gluconeogenesis and MPS.
That’s where a lot of ketogenic diets end up failing. There’s a fear of protein, and a nonsensical idea that it cancels ketosis and fat burning. It certainly can dent ketones, but the apex diet isn’t after therapeutic levels. Cognition has to be matched with performance. Protein is still the macro that’s weighed the heaviest with successful weight loss programmes. It also more ketogenic than glycogenic, so the harm it causes to ketones is way overblown.
On the other hand, raising protein too high will leave you leaning on the muscle macro for energy. Protein is a building block, not a straight-up fuel source. You can try using it for energy, and it’s going to make for an extremely inefficient process, leaving you feeling lethargic and insatiably hungry.
So an optimised diet needs a balance between both. A 1:1 ratio by the gram allows you to net the energising and brain-boosting effects of ketones, while retaining the building blocks you need to keep protein synthesis from falling behind protein breakdown.
See My Article – Will X Food Kick Me Out Of Ketosis?
Check Out – The Protein Keto Cookbook
8. Carb Cycling And Workout Carbs
- Increased Strength
- Better Recovery
- Lowered Muscle Breakdown
There are points where carbs are going to be performance-enhancing, making them invaluable for training and muscle gain. By choosing from low toxicity carbs, you can make use of them without loading up on inflammation at the same time. A small amount, dosed during training, can certainly provide a boost in strength. And since it’s intentionally done inside the session, there’s going to be little to no effect on disturbing ketones and fat burning.
While intra-workout carbs are simply for an on-site training boost, carb cycling goes further. Alternating between low carb and moderate carb days will help you sidestep any issues that come up from long-term carb restriction. Cravings for one, but also the carb intolerance that starts to build.
There is an emphasis on picking the carbs that aren’t hyper-palatable here. Part of the package of a meat-based carnivore diet is going to be a revamp of the gut microbiome, reducing the cravings for processed foods. This can be a game-changer for making weight loss easy, and you might not want to risk reversing those perks by having doughnuts every sunday.
See My Article – How To Get Carbs Back On A Keto Diet
9. Calorie Cycling
- Better Adherence
- Raised Hormones
- Muscle Gain
Try to stretch a weight-loss season over several months, and you’re bound to run into a wall at some point. A caloric deficit is by definition a stress, as it forces the body to break itself down in order to survive. Take this over an extended period of time, it becomes a state of starvation. The metabolic rate drops, the body begins to blockade against further fat loss, and muscle breakdown starts to ratchet up. These are all features that can’t be completely avoided, but they certainly can be mitigated.
https://fitawakening.co.uk/2020/04/19/why-you-shouldnt-have-carb-up-days-on-a-keto-diet/The solution isn’t going to be a cheat day, that’s a great method for letting you know what you’re missing out on. Rather than making each day a 20% deficit, or including all-you-can-eat days that spike up cravings, we can include maintenance days that can bring flagging hormones back towards the healthy baseline.
Even better, they can be synced up with the carb-up day. By keeping the calories to maintenance, you’re keeping everything within the frame of the diet. Stepping completely out of the rules is not the best idea when you’re still coming to grips with portion control.
Not that portion control is even effective once you’re wading waist-deep into diet. Eating to satiety stops being good advice when the body starts fighting to climb back up. You can’t beat a good bit of calorie tracking.
See My Article – Fasting And Feeding For The Perfectly Balanced Diet
Wrapping Up – Why The Apex Diet Works So Well
THe state of optimal nutrition hinges on a whole bunch of factors, despite what you might have read.
Pick up any diet book and you’ll probably end up wading through several hundred pages of a lopsided mauling, along with a one-step solution for your nutritional problems. On the other hand the writer might play it safe and give sweeping statements that are technically true, but incredibly vague and easy to mess up.
High protein for instance, is strongly correlated with weight loss. But that still leaves the door wide open for carbs, fats, and fiber. Key ingredients that can make or break the diet. Other trends preach eating fat to satiety, assuming that you can’t possibly overeat fat without carbs present. That’s the kind of advice that’s led to people digging into heavy cream like it’s free calories.
When you want a diet that can get you to your goals, and fill you beyond the brim with energy, then there’s more than one box that needs ticking off. And while it may seem like a giant hassle, keep in mind that the reward is long-term lifestyle enhancement. The blueprint is here, you just need to get on the front foot and start troubleshooting.
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