The “Vindication” Of John Berardi

Don’t know who John Berardi is? I bet a lot of people haven’t heard of him (like they haven’t heard of Martin Berkhan). The problem with people who I follow (or follow me) is that they keep the wagons circled, often refusing to venture outside of the “leaders” such as De Vany, Eades, Norris (who will agree with this), Sisson, etc. If you’ve had a modicum of success with this Paleo-ish dieting and health movement, you don’t want to hear a different viewpoint. This makes sense, as you don’t want to fuck up a good thing, right?

Robb Wolf likes to say we take from the past without turning it into a religion…which is exactly what so many want to do. It really irritates me that people will get in pissing matches about nightshades, carbohydrate content of the diet, and grain fed vs. grass fed. The latter is especially irritating, as people will go as far as to say grain fed is junk food not fit for human consumption. If I’m nice, that person is misguided; if I’m mean, they’re out of their fucking mind. Digression.

So turning this evolutionary minutia and cutting edge science into a usable template without bowing to the altar of paleo? Dr. Berardi has been doing this for at least 9 years.First let’s start with 2 articles Berardi wrote on the subject: Built Like A Neanderthaland the sequel. My only beef with the articles relies mostly on the aging component in light of newer evidence but that’s a minor quibble. Also noted in this article was that humans did have access to grain (but had to work their buns off to make it edible). The latter being the subject of some level of hyperbolic “debate” from both the media and various paleo types. He was also championing pastured meat and dairy for all athletes at least 7 years ago. Way ahead of the curve.

Second, Berardi never got hung up on growth hormone, mostly because trying to optimize GH is like maximizing the aerodynamics of a Jeep Wrangler: interesting but ultimately worthless. I spoke of this years ago and it seems like others are starting to come around by focusing on big picture more than minutia.

Third, Berardi was always about post-workout nutrition. Workout quite hard and your reward is putting carbs where you most need them, even if they are “neolithic” in nature. The rest of the time, you’re low carb. This could be called a Targeted Pseudo-Ketogenic Diet (or TPKD if you like acronyms) but that’s basically what guys like Martin Berkhan use to balance the appetite control of higher protein and fat with the growth-promotion that carbs and protein bring to the party. It worked for Richard and it can work for you.

Finally, his guidelines are pretty dang simple. See if you can find a quibble with this for 90+% of people after improved athleticism and health:

1. Eat every 2-3 hours, no matter what. You should eat between 5-8 meals per day.

2. Eat complete (containing all the essential amino acids), lean protein with each meal.

3. Eat fruits and/or vegetables with each food meal.

4. Ensure that your carbohydrate intake comes from fruits and vegetables. Exception: workout and post-workout drinks and meals.

5. Ensure that 25-35% of your energy intake comes from fat, with your fat intake split equally between saturates (e.g. animal fat), monounsaturates (e.g., olive oil), and polyunsaturates (e.g. flax oil, salmon oil).

6. Drink only non-calorie containing beverages, the best choices being water and green tea.

7. Eat mostly whole foods (except workout and post-workout drinks).
So what about calories, or macronutrient ratios, or any number of other things that I’ve covered in other articles? The short answer is that if you aren’t already practicing the above-mentioned habits, and by practicing them I mean putting them to use over 90% of the time (i.e., no more than 4 meals out of an average 42 meals per week violate any of those rules), everything else is pretty pointless.

He’s not against fasting, basically keeping an n=1  approach to feeding schedule. I find 2 meals a day best for me but I have clients who prefer more for appetite control; as long as they’re lean and health metrics are in line, it’s all good.

I wonder if he’s never caught on with paleo types because he doesn’t push a fantasy storyline, tugging at emotions. I feel he warrants another look, or perhaps a first look. As much as I love minutia, its these guidelines (and IF) that keep me as lean as I am. Simple.

12 thoughts on “The “Vindication” Of John Berardi

  1. Yep, the only dogma is that there is no (or ought not be) dogma; true in life as well as in physical culture and, in this specific case, the Paleo movement. The only point that I’d tend to quibble with JB over is the “need” to eat multiple times per day; I rather prefer the “listen to one’s own body” and “eat when hungry” (and what you’re hungry for) methodologies. But what to do until you get good at that manner of “listening”? Listen to JB’s advice — it’s as spot-on as one needs to heed in order to shed lard and (re)gain health.

    1. That’s one of the things I like about JB is that you know when you get to his level 3 eating. It’s not unlike being at your level of training: the internal cues are correctly interpreted for external action. There’s no guru to tell you that.

  2. Interesting…actually ‘massive eating’ a la berardi was my initial introduction into low carb, eventually paleo eating. I was doing crossfit at the time and this was in line what a lot of the affiliates were recommending back then. Robb Wolf mentions him periodically in his podcasts as well. I think the biggest problem for me was eating that often.

    1. Hello Sean,

      Regarding “those types” of paleos, check out the comment section of this old post of mine. Perhaps I should have said the “recently converted.”

      Great write up on the grass fed vs. grain fed beef; it’s basically what I’ve gleaned from the research as well.

      1. Yeah, there are always going to be those people who turn something into a dogma/religion; they will also be the ones unwilling to acquire the baseline knowledge. I’m just a bit allergic because it now seems somewhat in fashion to bash paleo by those who consider themselves ahead of the curve and want to dismiss it as trendy or populist.

        As far as grain vs grass beef goes, it is pretty amazing how little hard info there is. Grain-fed certainly isn’t junk food, but the difference couldn’t really be called negligible, either. The effect on dairy is probably a lot more pronounced but the data available on that is even more scant.

  3. I read both articles. Great stuff! I especially liked the last parts of the “sequel”. The whole “paleo” movement, beyond becoming tiresome, is definitely ripe for criticism.

    We need to try to not be prisoners of our preconceptions.


  4. I’ve been following Berardi’s material prior to ever hearing about Cordain, Wolf, or Eades. His methods are solid, and while the science behind paleolithic nutrition is also sound, one cannot argue what Berardi has brought (and brings) to the “knowledge” table.

    I damn well wish he would have put a freakin’ index in his The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition. I have no idea why a “textbook” would not contain one. That being said it’s an excellent resource.

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