Carb Roundtable

I suppose that this post is directed to John M. Berardi since he has mediated the other two roundtables. I was wondering if you were planning on doing a carb roundtable. I was thinking that a carb roundtable could cover the importance of GI is when choosing carb sources, the lowest percent of calories from carbs that people training for strength events, like Highland Games, could use so that they could slowly lose fat and still increase strength, and perhaps talk about the mania with low to no carb diets, when and how long they should be used. I know that you have talked about the last topic in quite a few post here in the forum, but I’m just trying to plant a seed in your head so that you might consider doing a carb roundtable.

Also, if you haven’t guessed the second topic suggestion is for me. I’m training for my second season of Highland Games. Last year I competed in the amateur class and I did very well. Therefore I’m getting moved up a division and I feel that I need to drop some weight so that I can be quicker during the throws. Right now I’m 6’ 255 lbs. with 15-17% body fat, which compared to some of the other competitors is svelte, but I’d like to be a little leaner, perhaps 10-12%. I’ve been this lean before but to get there I followed a very low carb diet, about 20% or less of my calories from carbs. This got me very lean but it was not conducive to great strength gains. Right now my macronutrients percentages are 45-50% carbs, 25-30% protein, and 20-25% fat. The fats are from fish oils, flax, and olive oil, equally divided between the three. The carbs and protein are from GROW!, lean meats, vegetables and grain products (breads, oatmeal,…). My weight training consists of working out Sun (Quads), Mon (Chest and Back), Wed (Hamstrings and Calves), and Thurs (Arms and Shoulders), Abs are usually done on Sun and Wed, but that varies. I also do about 20 minutes of cardio at least three days. I think the only other thing you need to know is that I’m 25 and have been training for 11 years.

Thank you for your time and consideration. If you can help me with my question or do a carb roundtable that would be great. Again thank you. I'd also appreciate any feed back from anyone reading this post, either concerning a carb roundtable or diet ideas to help get me a little leaner with out losing strength.

Hey Harley…thanks for the idea. I guess Ive been asked a few times for a carb roundtable but am not sure whether to do the discussion type format or just do a comprehensive carb article. Either way, Ive put the article on the back burner (although Ive been reading quite a bit about carbs, GI, insulin responses, and glucose homeostatic physiology lately). There are actually 2 or 3 articles I want to do. What I want to discuss in the articles(whatever format) are GI; Insulin Index (a concept that we are developing in my lab); insulin management using meal timing, frequency, and nutritient ratios; and low carb dieting. The reason that I havent done this is that Im working on a few projects with Biotest in my lab. These projects are sure to make a big impact on nutrition and supplementation for ALL athletes (not just strength and power and bodybuilders). This along with University finals week coming up and me moving this month has really limited my time. Sorry to keep you waiting for the articles.

As far as your situation, I think that you have to prioritize if your goal is to kick some heiney at the highland games. Train for the games and when in the “off season” train for getting leaner. I really think that added carbs in the diet (and the glycogen and h20 benefits that come with them) really increase structural stability and strenght of the muscle fiber. By limiting carbs, you just wont have the same power and work capacity that you might have by being full with glycogen and h20. So I would at least eat 35-40% carbs when training for an athletic event. You probably wont need the carbs for energy but I think they add a structural component/advantage. Your program looks pretty tight. One thing I MIGHT add is a bit of sat fat. If you are only eating fish oils, flax, and olive, you might benefit from a bit of animal fat. Not too much. 8 oz of lean beef per day might do the trick. Best of luck, and keep us posted as to your training and progress. Also, Ill try to get the carb articles out as soon as I can.

Hello Harley

It sounds like you are eating pretty clean. Here is what I’d suggest you try. I have used this, as have a number others I have recommended it to, with great success. Set protein at 1gm per pound of lean body mass. Then set your macros at 33,33,33.The idea behind it isn’t entirely new. Dan Duchaine called this ratio the Iso-Caloric Diet. Barry Sears calls it the Zone diet. Actually, Sears starts with a protein to carb ratio of 0.75 and then adjust from there anywhere from 0.6 to 1.0 (were going with the 1.0 ratio).

Here goes: 255 at 15-17% = Lean body mass of 212-217lbs. P=215 gm F=95 gm C=215 gm

On workout days, immediately following your workout, add one additional meal in the form of a post workout shake.
Post workout shake:
P=60 (0.6 g/kg/LBM)
C=60 (0.6 g/kg/LBM)

As a side note, if I were using this myself, I’d be experimenting and adjusting slightly based on overall results of the diet and the given workout I had just completed. So my post-workout-shake would like something like this:
P=60 (0.6 g/kg/LBM)
C=60-100 (0.6-0.8 g/kg/LBM)

Finally I'd like to second the motion for carb roundtable.

Best of luck and keep us posted!!!


Harley, I would suggest not trying the zone type diet. At 1g/pound of protein and an isocaloric diet, I think your caloric intake might be too low to support your highland training. I think the diet that midnight presented is sound, but just not for your training right now. Not enough cals, protein, carbs or fat.

John and Midnight,
Thank you for your input. John I agree with you on your thoughts about the added benefits of glycogen and water while training. When I was training last year I tried to decrease my carbs for about two weeks and noticed a difference when I was throwing and lifting. So, if I’m understanding you, I should spend perhaps the first part of the off season training to get leaner and the second half training more for the events (strength and speed). Living and training in Wyoming gives me an off season of about 7-8 months. That should give me plenty of time to drop some fat and then turn around and train for strength, and still be well trained for the games.

I’ll look forward to the carb articles whatever the format may be. Being a Ph.D. candidate in Chemistry myself I understand the stress you are under.

Again, thanks for your input.

Hello Harley and John!

First I’d like to say that when it comes to cutting-edge nutritional and supplement information, John is The Man. Nearly every he writes I learn something new. John, I too am very muchlooking forward to your carb articles. Also, I would really appreciate your opinion on the rest of this post.

If I mis-read the request, I would like to apologize.The recommendation I made was targeted at what I perceived to be Harley’s desire to reduce his bodyfat while improving, or at the very least maintaining, strength and lean body mass.

In North America, the competitive phase for Highland Games/strongman type events generally runs from roughly May through October. Assuming a standard perodiaztion model (effective alternatives would include Westside, or some Russian/Eastern-Block models), that would have Harley somewhere in late transition or early GPP. Therefore, if he wants to reduce body fat I would think that now would be the time (actually starting about month ago would have been even better).

The complete yearly model that I've been working with, including Post-season transition, GPP, SPP, Pre-competition, and Competition phases, is listed below. The nutritional recommendations that I posted earlier are what I have labeled below as phase 1.

Phase 1 Nutrition: Post season transition, early GPP, body fat reduction phases. Ratios P=33%, F=33%, C=33. Protein 1gm/lb LBM on rest days and 1.28 gm/lb of training days. The additional protein comes in the form a post-work shake (same ratios).

Phase 2 Nutrition:General training, GPP, SPP, pre-competition, and competition (unless competing that week)phases. Ratios P=30%, F=30%, C=40. Protein 1.5 gm/lb LBM on rest days and 1.78 gm/lb of training days. The additional protein comes in the form a post-work shake (same ratios).

Phase 3: Competition week. Start with this phase 7-10 day before competition. Ratios P=27.3%, F=27.3%, C=45.4. Protein 1.5 gm/lb LBM on rest days and 1.78 gm/lb of training days. The additional protein comes in the form a post-work shake (same ratios).

Here are my questions for John. What's your take on the model in general? ....ratios....protein recommendations (quantity in each phase, alteration in each phase, and finally changes from phase to phase)? What improvements/modifications would you suggest? Sincere thanks for any feedback!!!

Finally a question for Harley. In your original post, your gave us your macro-nutrient ratios, but nothing on total calories or actual number of grams of protein. I was just wondering what those are.

Thanks to all and best wishes in your training.


I truly believe that carbs, insulin responce, macronutrient ratios and timing are THE thing.
Really looking forward to your articles, John.


My total calories are between 3300 and 3500 with 212 to 318 grams of protein, depending on the training day. In your second post, what is GPP and SPP, also assuming the competition season starts in May what would be the approximate months to start and stop your different phases? Do you compete in Highland Games or are you a track and field person using the phases you described?


I’m primarily interested in strength related pursuits…powerlifting, Olympic lifting, strongman. I have specific preoccupation with relative strength…how to get bodatatiously strong at a given body weight or weight class. GPP and SPP stand for general and specific preparatory phases.

Dave Tate has written a couple of kick-ass articles on periodization for T-mag The Periodization Bible & The Periodization Bible — Part II For a good look at a linear/western periodization model specifically for strongman/Highland games type athletes check out

To answer your question about phases, let’s say your last competition was late October. I’d be looking at Transition and early GPP from November 1 through probably not much latter than January 1. During this time you’d be rehabbing any injuries, assessing and addressing structural imbalances, reducing body fat, and designing your program.

By early January, you’d definitely be into full-blown, hard-core GPP type training…think power and Olympic type lifting…think Poliquin’s Training with Maximal Weights, The 1-6 Principle, The Five Percent Solution. The transition to SPP type work would really depend on a number of factors and feedback back on how your doing in GPP. For more info on SPP check out Thomas Incledon’s T-mag articles From Lab Geek to Strongman and Strongman Exercises, Strongman Injuries . Also, refer again to the link above. Pre-competitive phase should start about a month before your first event …refer again to the links above and Charles Staley’s From Russia With Love .

Probably the advice I can offer you for both short and long term success is to focus on structural balance and not overtraining.... read Poliquin's Achieving Structural Balance and Ian King's Fundamentals of Strength Training and Recovery I've had great success with King's idea of 3 weeks on, half week recovery for 4 cycles then a full recovery week.

The nutritional recommendation that I posted earlier should be fairly straight forward. The only change that I make is that I sometimes use a phase one type nutrition approach during half and full recovery weeks.

I hope this helps. Best of luck in your training!!


This post sure has a host of good info. Nice discussion harley and midnight! Midnight, in looking at your program design I am pretty impressed with the layout. Here are some things I would change (but I agree with most of the program).

I wrote a periodization plan for bodybuilding-type training for the site which hasnt been posted yet. Although the training here is different, I think some of the same principles apply.

You didnt list it so Im not sure if you build in "mini-transition" weeks into your GPP or SPP, but I would suggest doing this...So lets say you are on transition for Nov Dec Jan...I would actually recommend a higher volume/hypertrophy approach to training with added cardio and a moderate calorie diet of 40%P, 30%C, 30%F or the isocaloric approach midnight utilized (i agree this might be the time for it). As far as total calories, keep the in the 3000 range but definately cycle the cals (see how below). During this time Id use a week off every for every 5 weeks of training during this week off cut the cals back to 2500 per day. This approach is pretty solid way to drop fat without "overdieting". Also during this time maybe take some MD6.

Then after a week off begin the GPP using strength training models. Begin to shift the caloric intake a bit. Maybe up to 3500-4000 kcal with 45% now coming from carbs, 35% from protein, and 20% from fat (your metabolism should be jacked from the last phase). I would then use 4 weeks of strength training followed by 1 week of low, low intensity higher volume training. If you need a week off, during these weeks, take it. The "transition week" would entail backing off most of the carbs in general and eating fewer calories (2500 with 20% carbs). Do this for Feb, March, April, May.

Then in June July August, after a week completely off you would go into SPP. Calories come up to 4000 with about 45% coming from carbs and 35% from protein and 20%from fats again. Using power, explosive, and highland specific training would be the order of the day. Assuming your intensity is jacked up, during this phase you will again use 5 weeks on, 1 week of low, low intensity higher volume or off. Again, during these weeks, cut the cals back to about 3000. This will take you up to Sept. which you would follow some precompetition unloading type preparations. For this month, cycle cals back to below 3500 and ride it into the contest.

This is great! I plan on printing out all the stuff you guys have posted and begin applying it immediately. If I would have asked these questions on a Highland Games forum, I would have gotten a response like, “Why do you want to be lean, just eat and get fat and throw far.” Midnight and John, again thank you for your insight. I’ll make the occasional post about my progress.

Awesome post John! Last night, I dumped the numbers into a spreadsheet just to see how the whole thing would work in terms of protein, cals, etc. For Harley and other interested readers, the protein for transition weeks ranges from 1.18 to 1.24 gm/lb LBM. Training weeks from 1.40 to 1.65gm/lb LBM. As for calories, if you cycle the model all the way through as John described it, it averages out to be right around 3500 cal/day. Optimized for what you need when you need it…and in the end your going to be bigger, stronger, and just as lean or leaner than when your started…how cool is that!!!

Although I’ve been getting pretty good results, I can see where the ratios, in the model I had been using, were adding in a lot of extra calories with not really much more protein or performance. I’m sold! I’m going to switch and give John’s model a try for a year. Harley and others I’d suggest you do the same…or at the very least, modify what I posted earlier using John’s ratios.

John, here are my two questions for you: 1. In the GPP phase you wrote, "The "transition week" would entail backing off most of the carbs in general and eating fewer calories (2500 with 20% carbs)." How would you split the other 80%? 2. Would you cycle fat back to 10-15% of fat saturates during the transition phase and weeks and then, for the rest of the training, use 30-35% sats, 10-20% monos, and 50-60% polys as you described in the Fat Roundtable article?

Harley, as for training in transitions between phases that John mentioned, there are a couple of ways to do it. The “standard” way would be to decide on X number of training sessions or weeks and then phase your training from one type to another (1. GPP 80%, SPP 20%, 2.GPP 60%, SPP 40%…etc). In other words, it’s an analog and not a digital type transition. And while it can be good to plan this out in advance, it sounds like you’ve been training long enough to intuitively sense how your doing.

Best of luck to everyone. Thanks again to John and Harley. This has been awesome thread!!! I hope that everyone on this forum takes the time to read and learn from it! I know I have.


Greetings all! I know that John Berardi is a busy guy…and as such hasn’t had the opportunity to post any messages to this forum over the last few days. Therefore, I am posting to this thread for the purpose of saving it from disappearing off the forum before he’s had a chance to respond. For those of you who may have missed it earlier, it’s a great thread! I’d encourage you to read and learn…and hopefully toss in your 2 cents. Thanks to everyone. Midnight

"1. In the GPP phase you rote, “The “transition week” would entail backing off most of the carbs in general and eating fewer calories (2500 with 20% carbs).”

I would probably just compensate for the loss of carbs with a 50%P and 30%F split. Since your cals are low, you might want the extra protein.

"2. Would you cycle fat back to 10-15% of fat saturates during the transition phase and weeks and then, for the rest of the training, use 30-35% sats, 10-20% monos, and 50-60% polys as you described in the Fat Roundtable article?"

That makes the most sense but it probably doesnt matter for just one week…If you are really regimented and dont mind the change for 1 week then Id go for it (I would) but not everyone wants to change their diet so often. I dont think the single week change in fat % is that big of a deal so it might not be essential (it may help though).