Ask Lyle McDonald #3

Dear Lyle,

My name is Kirk. I’m a 29 year old amateur. kickboxer. I suffered a nerve injury and wasn’t able to train. In this time I put on a lot of weight and have not been able to take it off. I, like yourself have been lean but not as lean as I would like. I was just wondering if I could use this diet and if so, what are the specifics of this diet.

My first question would be if you are able to train now. The particulars of the Bodyopus diet require that you be able (at least) to weight train three days per week. If not, the diet won’t work for you. In a similar vein, any fat loss effort not accompanied by exercise results in the loss of muscle tissue which is unacceptable. So if your injury is still preventing you from training, you will need to wait to start your diet.

Now if you are able to train, there are a few specific implications of the cyclical ketogenic diet (CKD) in terms of performance. Weight training/bodybuilding is that highly performance oriented as many other sports (that should get me some hate mail). Yes it’s technical but other sports have far more technical requirements. From that standpoint, high intensity activity (i.e. kickboxing) and skill work should only be done when you have carbs in your system. Put differently, a low carb diet can NOT sustain high intensity activity. That is why the CKD has a carb-loading period, to refill muscle glycogen stores to sustain high intensity exercise.

So any type of kickboxing practice (assuming you are able to do it) will need to be done either during the carb-up or in the 2 days right afterwards. The other days of the week, your performance will be terrible on anything other than low intensity activity (i.e. running, walking, low intensity conditioning).

So here’s the basic gist of the diet.

Lowcarb phase: during this phase, you are allowed no more than 30 grams of carbs per day. And less is probably better. Calories should be set at 12-13 calories per pound of bodyweight. Protein is set at 0.8 grams per pound of bodyweight and fat makes up the rest.

Carb-up phase: during this phase, carbs should make up 70% of your total calories or roughly 10 grams of carbs/kilogram of lean body mass. In practice this can work out to 600 grams of carbs or more. Protein should be a little less than 1 gram/pound of bodyweight and fat should be kept low-ish.

The week typically looks like this:

Mon: no carbs, high intensity training (typically weights but could be kickboxing for you)

Tue: no carbs, high intensity training

Note: you will need to work on both your upper and lower body on Monday and Tuesday to deplete muscle glycogen. So either weight train a split routine or do both upper and lower body kickboxing drills.

Wed/Thu: no carbs, low intensity training only. So if you do any kind of running as part of your training, this is the day to do it.

Fri: no carbs during until your workout. This workout should also be high intensity to finish depleting muscle glycogen. Again, most do weights but you could do an intense kickboxing workout. Start your carb-up phase right after this workout.

Saturday: continue carbing up until bedtime. Typically most people don’t train during the carb-up but this is another day you could do high intensity training.

Sunday: back to no carbs. Since you’re carb-loaded you can do high intensity training but realize that it will affect your Mon/Tue workouts if you’re lifting weights on those days.

Dear Lyle,

I’ve been following the Body Opus diet for a couple months now, but not too precise. What I mean by that is that Monday and Tuesday training I’ve substituted, with Mike Mentzer’s advice to those who do not make continual gains, the consolidation routine. I do this by working out only every Monday (but include the depletion workout of Friday) and it consists of a 2 day program: 1-leg press, shoulder press, and pulldowns, 2-deadlifts, incline press, calf raises, abs.

Now that I’ve given you my background, my question is this: Should I follow the original workout schedule outlined by Duchaine or should I follow Mentzer’s advice as to keep training less doing no isolation exercises?

P.S. How has Dan’s “Body Contract” worked with people?

My first question would be simply this: How is the diet working for you? If you’re losing fat at a rate that is acceptable to you, then don’t change anything.

However, I doubt this is the case. One potential ‘problem’ with Cyclical ketogenic diets is that, to make them work optimally, you really need to deplete muscle glycogen completely within the span of 5 days. This requires quite a bit of volume (see other questions this month). AS well, the Mon/Tue/Fri workout seems to work best.

My general feeling is to use the time tested schedule that Duchaine suggests while you’re dieting and switch back to your mass training style of choice (in your case, Heavy Duty) when you come off of your diet. This should optimize fat loss (meaning that you don’t have to diet as long) but can make the mass gains that you want. Of course if you’re losing fat at a rate that you’re happier with, don’t change a thing.

As to Dan’s Body Contract workout, I don’t know anyone who has tried it. Since I don’t have two training partners, I can’t try it myself.

Dear Lyle,

I read your articles with great interest and they have been extremely helpful. Thank you so much for such great and easy reading. I recently bought the Bodyopus book and if it wasn’t for your articles on the Internet, I’d still be very confused.

I am now in the 2nd day of my BodyOpus diet and into ketosis. I want very much to lose fat very fast as I am getting ready for the EAS (Muscle Media) contest. In part 2, you have a section about “how to lose fat very quickly”. I would like to follow your suggestion but I am a bit confused about the “one concentrated meal one hour in length right after Friday’s workout”. Could you please elaborate on this topic? what is a one concentrated meal one hour in length? How much do I have to eat in one hour (in calories) . You don’t mentioned this anywhere else and I would really like to know what exactly do you mean.

I started the BodyOpus diet working out on Monday and Tuesday. Friday, I was going to do the depletion workout but now, I would like to modify this a bit and follow the one hour meal and go back to low carbs. Could you please help?


The idea being the ‘one concentrated’ carb meal was to extend the time in ketosis (see last question for some comments on that in general) without losing your mind from the lack of low-carbs. As well, the one carb meal will refill some muscle glycogen to sustain training intensity. So you eat a ton of carbs for one meal and then go right back to no carb life.

Basically, your two weeks would look like this:

Mon: no carbs, weights

Tue: no carbs, weights

Wed/Thu: cardio optional

Fri: full body workout, eat a bunch of carbs (like 150 grams) with some protein right after training. If you want, eat more carbs but it will keep you out of ketosis longer.

Sat/sun: no carbs, cardio optional

Mon/Tue: no carbs, weights

Wed/Thu: no carbs, cardio optional

Fri: full body workout, begin real carb-up

Sat: continue to carb-up

Sun: no carbs

Dear Lyle,

I’m sorta frustrated with the BodyOpus diet since my results were bad. In 6 weeks of dieting, I lost very little bodyfat, only 3 lbs. I ate 13 kcal/lb. and tried to keep carbs below 15 g and protein at .8 x my bodyweight. Carbup was mostly high glycemic carbs after workout with protein and no fat, followed by med. glycemic carbs towards the end of the 24 hrs. while keeping fats below 83g. Workouts were lower and upper body split on each day followed by intervals and low intensity aerobics for about 15 min. Sat on my butt from Tues. to Fri, and of course a HIT workout prior to carb comp. Sorry for being a bit detailed, I just want to know if I did anything wrong.

I’m frustrated from dieting and getting hardly nowhere that I decided to try the shortcut, DNP. I know this stuff is dangerous at 3x the normal dosage, but I do have common sense and I have never overdosed on any type of drug, even the ECA stack. I’ve heard 4mg/kg of bodyweight is pretty safe and effective. What’s your overall opinion on DNP, and should I lower my caloric intake.


I agree, 3 lbs. of fat lost in 6 weeks is not that great. One thing to look at is how did you measure fat loss. If it was by caliper measurements, make sure you got them taken by the same person each time.

The only thing I can see is that you may have needed to cut calories further or increase cardio a bit (on Wed and Thu). Depending on bodyweight, decreasing to 12 cal/lb. should have netted you some additional fat loss.

Other than those two things, it doesn’t look like you did anything explicitly ‘wrong’ with your diet. One thing you didn’t mention was the number of sets you did on Mon/Tue which can indirectly affect fat loss. To make the BodyOpus diet work, you have to fully deplete muscle glycogen during the 5 lowcarb days. This takes quite a bit of volume. Depending on the length of your carb-up, you’re looking at 3-6 sets per bodypart (and this assumes that each set lasts 45 seconds) on the Mon/Tue workouts and another 1-2 on Friday.

As to DNP, the first thing to note is that it generally doesn’t work on a lowcarb diet. For some reason, it increases carb cravings. When I took it oh so long ago, I found myself snacking on bagels around midnight every night.

I think the first thing you should do is take 1 week off of your diet. At the 6 weeks mark, your body is adapting. Eat maintenance calories (around 15-16 cal/lb. of total bodyweight) and normal carbs. Then go back to Bodyopus and try 12 cal/lb. for 2 weeks. If fat loss still isn’t happening quickly enough, add a little cardio on Wed/Thu. 20-30′ at a low intensity is plenty, especially since you’re already doing intervals. I think that is your best bet before making yourself miserable with DNP.

Good luck.

Dear Lyle,

I am new to this life style, and I do not know a lot about these supplements. You were saying something in a letter about DNP. What the hell is that. I am somewhat like how you described in the letter. I am not at my desired body fat ratio 6’1 185-190 lbs. That does not sound bad, I love the weight I am at, but I want to cut the fat off. I was reading about this DNP, what does it do? Is it legal, and if so how and where do I get it (if it is a supplement)?


Ok, first the disclaimer. DNP is a potentially FATAL compound to use. So do not take any potential use lightly. If you screw up, you will die. That said, here’s what DNP is.

DNP is what is termed a metabolic uncoupler meaning that it uncouples one metabolic process from another.

Specifically DNP blocks oxidative phosphorylation in the mitochondria of Type I muscle fibers. I bet that clears it right up. Ok, let’s take these words from the back to the front.

Type I muscle fibers: these are slow twitch muscle fibers used mostly for endurance events. They use mainly fat for fuel.

Mitochondria: these are the ‘powerhouses’ of the cell (in-joke for any physiology types since EVERY book I’ve ever read that mentions mitochondria has to comment that they are the powerhouses of the cell) which are involved in energy production, primarily through the breakdown of fat.

Oxidative phosphorylation: this is the chemical process by which the mitochondria makes ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in the cell. ATP is the only energy source that the body can use directly. When ATP is used, as during exercise, the body will make more ATP by breaking other stuff down (i.e. fat and carbohydrate).

So how does DNP work? DNP blocks the cell’s ability to produce ATP through oxidative phosphorylation. This causes the cell to become low in ATP. The cell doesn’t like being low in ATP so it tries to make more through oxidative phosphorylation (which breaks down fat for fuel). So it burns some fat in an attempt to make ATP. But it can’t, being blocked by DNP. So it burns some more fat in an attempt to make ATP. But it can’t. This continues as long as the DNP is in your system. End result: lots of fat burned in a futile attempt to make ATP.

But here’s the problem: energy is just heat. When the body breaks down fat to try to make ATP, some heat is generated. Since the ATP is never made (because of the DNP), the heat is dissipated out from the cell. Since fat continues to be burned (at very high rates) the body continues to produce more and more heat.

If you take too much DNP, your body will literally cook itself from the inside. it would not be a pleasant way to die. As an example, when I used DNP it was approximately 20 degrees outside (winter) and I still had to run a fan to keep cool. Nasty, nasty.

So that’s what DNP does.

As to your second question, thankfully DNP is not a supplement. It is legal (it is used to make bug spray because it cooks the bugs from the inside out) but the average person wouldn’t be able to get any (it can only be bought from chemical supply houses who typically don’t sell to individuals). And if you told anyone you were going to eat it, they’d think you were nuts.

Dear Lyle,

I take a supplement called Ripped Fuel by Twinlab.    I heard that it can affect a woman’s ability to reproduce.  Is this true?


Oh good an easy one finally.  To answer this let’s look at the ingredients in Twinlab’s Ripped Fuel:

MaHuang: this is herbal ephedrine.  It acts as a beta-agonist meaning that it stimulates a variety of processes in the body including calorie burning, fat burning, heart rate blood pressure, etc.  I can’t even imagine a way that this could alter reproductive function in women.  In mean of course it can cause a short term inability to ‘get it up’ (I sadly speak from experience) but that’s a different issue entirely.

Guarana (or is it kola nut): Either way both of these are herbal forms of caffeine.    Caffeine is probably the most (ab)used drug in the world.  If it made women sterile, we’d know about it.

White willow bark (I think this is still in there):  this is a herbal form of aspirin.  Again, like caffeine it’s been used for centuries without any problem that I can see.

Chromium picolinate: This is a mineral involved in glucose metabolism. There was one study a while back suggesting that very high dose chromium (like so high that it’s unrealistic to consider that a human could take enough) caused some chromosomal damage in cells.

L-carnitine: this is an amino acid involved in fat metabolism.   This can’t have any effect.

So looking at the ingredients, I can’t see any way that this product could affect reproductive function. Maybe if you took like 10 times the recommended dose and had a stroke or something but you’d have bigger problems.  Sounds like more scare tactics to me.

Hi Lyle,

My question has to due with the ECA stack (great article on it by Bryan Haycock).   I was wondering if yohimbe and/or grapefruit (naringenin) would enhance the stack further.  In Dan’s book, yohimbe was referred to “letting off the brake where ECA was like stepping on the gas” and I read that naringenin has the ability to prevent caffeine to breakdown in the liver.  Any thoughts on this?

Another question I got has to do with diet.  I’m on a high protein/carb diet with low fat (maybe too low).  My body has actually transformed.  I’m no longer worried about losing fat (I find it kinda easy if want it bad enough).  But I am worried about my metabolism slowing up.  So I’ve decided to take a few weeks off dieting.    I still get my 40gms protein every 2.5 hrs (religious about that) but I’ll eat anything.  Pizza, chocolate cake… anything.  Funny thing is I feel great.    I’m sure I’m packing on some fat but I actually feel stronger in the gym.   I figure losing fat is easy compared to building muscle.  How do you feel about this?   Maybe I should go back on my diet and supplement with some flax… I am still learning.


Yohimbe + ECA does seem to have more potent effects than ECA alone for exactly the reasons that Dan says.  ECA stimulates beta receptors which increase fat breakdown and calorie burning (like stepping on the gas pedal).  Yohimbe inhibits alpha receptors which slow fat breakdown and calorie burning (like stepping on the brake).    So the combo has a dual effect.  But there is a potential problem.   The same receptors which control fat burning and calorie burning (gas and brake pedals) also control heart rate and blood pressure. Some people get very high heart rate and blood pressure responses from combining the two and that can be potentially dangerous.   So all I can say is be careful and monitor yourself.  If your heart rate jumps very high when taking ECA and yohimbe, for god’s sake drop the yohimbe.  Also see the last question for other details.

AS to naringenin, there is some debate over how much affect it will have. Peak Training Journal had an article about the effects on grapefruit juice and the author (Lonnie Lowery) referenced several studies showing that it was other substances in grapefruit juice (not naringenin) that was having the effect.  I do know that ECA seemed to have more of a kick when I took it with grapefruit juice but that’s about all I can say about it.

In general, I would say that alternating periods of dieting (4-6 weeks unless you have a contest or something) and mass gaining seem to work best. This will keep bodyfat under control while allowing lean body mass to increase gradually.  That is, rather than just bulking and bulking and bulking and ending up with a lot more lean body mass AND a lot more fat, you can see saw your way up in lean body mass while keeping bodyfat under control.  I’m not surprised that you’re strength is going up since you’ve come off the diet.  It seems the the people who are the most anal about their diets while gaining mass tend to gain much slower.  I’m personally a believer in eating big to get big (within bodyfat limits of course). Since it seems to be working for you, I’d say go with it. You’re getting adequate protein but you might try to sneak some flax in there somewhere, it is a healthy fat.

Dear Lyle,

I’m a big fan of yours Lyle as you have always provided invaluable advice for bodybuilders on the net! Lyle I was wondering if you can help me out. I am in the middle of losing bodyfat and cutting up. I have been on the ECA stack with 500 mg of l-tyrosine for months now and have seen very good results along with my morning cardio. I was wondering what you

I thought about Yohimbine for fat lose in MEN (I know women see good results with it). Should I take yohimbine (Twinlab) for further fat loss or is it an unstudied product for fat loss? Also if I take yohimbine, should I take it with the ECA stack or on days I am not on the ECA stack? How much l-tyrosine is effective when taking the stack? I have been taking 500 mg but have been told 1 gm is much better. Lyle, are thermogenic products like Ripped Fuel even close to the real ECA stack? I find Ripped Fuel and Thermadrene are not as effective.  Should I take Ripped Fuel with an aspirin and l-tyrosine to make it better? thanks for your help Lyle and God bless!


Jeez, where to start?

I would have to say that yohimbe will have relatively greater effects in women than men but only because women tend to have higher levels of alpha-2 receptors than men do. But it might cause some additional fat loss in men and I think it’s worth a try. Do note that some people get really wild heart rate responses from combining ECA with yohimbe so make sure to raise the dosage of the yohimbe gradually. Yohimbe needs to be taken on an empty stomach and is probably going to be most beneficial for cardio done first things in the morning. A female bodybuilder I helped prep for a contest last year got her best results taking yohimbe by itself (she worked up to 24 mg per day) with caffeine before her morning cardio. Then she’d wait about 4 hours (to let the yohimbe clear her system) and then use ECA during the rest of the day. And she was ripped.

AS to tyrosine, 500-1000 mg seems to work well for most people. As a real life example, I gave my training partner (who has been on ECA non-stop for almost 3 years now) 1000 mg of l-tyrosine and he noticed a BIG kick from it.

I would have to say that the herbal forms of ECA (like ripped fuel) are probably not as potent as the drug forms. They don’t have the same kick but they don’t have as many side effects either (in terms of jitters, etc). so it’s a six of one, half a dozen of another situation. If you can get and handle ECA, I think it’s the better choice. If ECA gets you too wired (or you can’t get real ephedrine) you can use the herbals and get at least *some* effects.

I do think that the tyrosine will help with herbal ECA products though. There is still some debate on just how much the aspirin helps. The studies seem to suggest that it does more for obese individuals compared to lean but I don’t see that it can really hurt.

Dear Lyle,

I have a quick question about the diet. I’ve been on the diet for three weeks and experienced little results. By Friday I look good and lean, but by Sunday night I am the same weight and look bloated. I tried to reduce the time I carb up. I started sat morning and finished sun night. The results didn’t improve much. I feel I’m following the guidelines in the book and the extra info in you body opus 20 week post. My carb choices are not the best, but I refer to your comment that carbs should play that much of a role as long as they are carbs. I think I’m going to try to extend by time in ketosis to 10 or to 14 days. I also find it hard to hit ketosis very early usually by late wed or Thurs morning. I remember that you had mentioned that some people had tried to extend the time in ketosis for greater results. I’m 5’6″ and 180 lbs. by sat am I can get down to 171. My body fat is 19%!! I know. I feel that I’m yo-yoing back and forth throughout the week and I’m only losing water and carbs in my muscles and when I’m carbing up I’m gaining it all back. I workout mon: back chest legs, Tues: shoulders ,arms, then Friday I do a full body workout. Any comments or suggestions would be helpful thanks.


Although you didn’t mention training volume for any of your workouts, it is a critical aspect of making the Bodyopus Diet work. This is addressed in two other questions this month as well as in my article on Mesomorphosis.

The other major problem I see is that you should NOT be starting your carb-up on Saturday if you are training on Friday. The whole point of the diet is to artificially raise insulin sensitivity with exercise and carb depletion. But insulin sensitivity is THE highest right after your Friday workout. So that is when you should start your carb-up. By waiting until Saturday morning, you are missing the first 6 or so hours when glycogen resynthesis is at it’s highest and screwing yourself.

So before you try longer periods in ketosis, you should try cutting your carb-up even further, to 30 hours or less. That is, your weekly schedule will look like this:

Sunday: no carbs, cardio optional

Mon/Tue: weights

Wed/Thu: cardio optional

Fri: in evening, do Friday workout, start carb-up immediately afterwards.

Sat: carb until bedtime, then stop carbing.

Dear Lyle,

I have been training for the past 5 months. I am a vegetarian. I want a good vegetarian diet that will help me gain Mass.


I’ll say up front that I do not think a vegetarian diet is ideal for gaining muscle mass. Of course it depends on what degree of vegetarian you are. Since some readers have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll describe each below.

Pseudo-vegetarian (my term): someone who doesn’t eat red meat but eats chicken and fish. These types of individuals typically give some spurious “But fish isn’t meat” argument. The way I figure it, dead animal is dead animal. These people aren’t ‘real’ vegetarians in my mind. Although I think red meat is an excellent part of a mass gaining diet, the chicken and fish content will ensure sufficient protein.

Ovo/Lacto vegetarians: this individual eats no animal flesh but does eat milk and eggs. As with the previous group, there shouldn’t be any problem gaining mass since both egg and milk are high quality proteins.

Vegan: this individual eats no food from animal sources. That means no eggs, milk, cheese, butter, or even honey. In my opinion, this type of individual will find it nearly impossible to gain mass.

With that in mind, let’s discuss the basics of gaining mass on ANY diet. To do so you need:

1. Adequate protein: in my experience (both as a vegetarian for about 6 months in college as well as knowing some) many vegetarians don’t get enough protein. an ex-girlfriend of mine basically lived on starches (bagels, pasta, rice). As long as you’re eating eggs or milk, it shouldn’t be as much of an issue. However there are an increasing number of vegetarian protein foods (soy based sausages and the like) that can provide protein if you won’t eat milk or eggs. A good guidelines for protein is a little less than 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

2. Adequate calories: This probably won’t be a problem for most vegetarians but it might be depending on fat intake. I find it difficult to consume enough calories eating a very low fat diet. You can only eat so much pasta, rice, etc. Good starting place for calories is 16 calories per pound and up. One individual I know needed 25 cal/lb. to start growing.

That’s a lot of rice.

3. Adequate fat: This ties into #2 but is also important in it’s own right. Extremely low fat diets have been shown to lower testosterone which will hurt muscle gains. As well, vegetarian diets tend to lower testosterone as well although it’s hard to separate the vegetarianism per se from other dietary facts (fat, calories). 15-25% of total calories or so should come from fat.

So depending on what level of a vegetarian you are, you may or may not have to worry about consuming enough protein. Past that follow the other basic rules of mass gaining: lots of small meals, protein in regular intervals, etc, etc.

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