Do you ever feel like every time you start a new diet, you have to flip your lifestyle upside down in order to adhere to the diets rules!? If you are like most people then that answer is a big YES….
Well let me introduce you to Ryan Andrews
His endless list of credentials
- Registered Dietitian
- Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
- Possesses a masters degree in Nutrition as well another masters in Exercise Physiology
- Trained and worked at the prestigious John Hopkins Medical Center
- Writer and Coach for Precision Nutrition the past 6 years (click on link or search precision nutrition on google and you will be blown away by how awesome of a company they are!)
- Author of the amazing book Drop The Fat Act & Live Lean
How Ryan has helped me
Ryan has hundreds of amazing articles all over the internet with unbelievable content that I’ve read which has helped me tremendously in my growth as a coach. But not only that, I am a Precision Nutrition L1 Exercise and Sports Nutrition coach and am currently in the PN L2 Nutrition Certification which is a year long certification. He is head of both of those certification and I have had the pleasure of learning so much from him over the past year and a half.
So I asked Ryan if he’d hop on a call with me to answer a few questions for my readers because I wanted you to have the same opportunity as I have learning from one of the most respected experts in the field! So lets get on with the interview!
P.S. We chatted for a long time and went way past our original planned time but that means more content for you guys! This is a long one but hope you all enjoy it!
What We Cover
- Why your morning routine can be life changing
- Meeting you are your level and why most diets fail because they neglect this
- Flexible Dieting and Precision Nutrition
- Tackling the obesity epidemic
- Discretionary calories: what are they and why we need them
- Ryan’s nationally ranked bodybuilding career
- How Flexible Dieting could’ve saved his career
- His 180 in training and nutrition
- Pro tips for vegetarians
- Fiber: why its important and how to get more of it
- Diet Soda: Is it bad for you!?
- Ryan’s unique gifts to make a difference in the world
Me: Ryan! How ya doin!?
Ryan: Doing really well! Looking forward to talking with ya!
Me: Well before we start, I wanted to just say thanks first and foremost for taking the time to let a lowly peasant like me interview someone of your caliber. I truly appreciate it.
Ryan: I think it’s awesome. I find interviews fascinating and I’m really looking forward to this one today.
Me: I look up to all the amazing things you’ve done and the journey you’ve had thus far. I am relatively young in the field and know that success leaves clues, and want to not only learn as much as I can from you but want my readers to learn a ton as well! So lets get this interview started.
Question #1: Success Leaves Clues
Me: I love to study successful people. not matter the field, because success does leave clues. This lead me to become with fascinated with their morning routines and what they do the first 60-90 minutes of their days. I noticed that almost all of the most successful people in the world make this a priority. I know personally by making my morning sacred, I have transformed my productivity and also my life. It allows me to be proactive and attack my day rather than being reactive and putting out fires as I go. Was curious to hear about what your morning routine looks like now and whether it has changed over the years.
Ryan: Yea, I’ve long been a morning person and I think the morning is a unique, calming time and a perfect time for you to set the stage for the day. My routine has changed over the years. For many years, my morning routine was I would wake up, have some tea and then do my movement for the day. That would be my strength training, yoga, conditioning, or something like that for the first 1-2 hours of my day. The last 3-5 years has changed that a good bit because of relationship, priorities, etc. I now start my day with some type of hydration, which could be lemon water, which is good for liver health, to just basic hydration but I don’t stress over it if I don’t have any lemons. Then I like to do some basic 10-15 minutes of mobility and breathing exercises which I’ve seen has been extremely beneficial for my lumbar spine. Years and years of heavy lifting and excessive extension of my lumbars did not make my back very happy. So starting my day with these exercises allows me to get my hips and back in a good position and also like you said, it is a great way to relax, into a good head space and get my day organized. Maybe throw on a podcast or music while doing this and then I do some writing.
Me: That’s awesome! I love that our routines are very very similar. I usually wake up around 5:30 and go for about a 15-20 minutes walk to get some blood flow and just get out into nature. I’ll usually throw on a podcast during this to start my day with some continuing education. Then I’ll get back and do about 10 minutes of mobility such as the couch stretch that Kelly Starrett made famous. I notice that when I open up my hip flexors to start my day, my hips feel amazing and am ready to do whatever the day asks of me. So many people go from a curled up position while sleeping to a sitting position at work which both cause our hip flexors to become so tight causing host of problems such as low back pain.
Questions #2: Meeting You at Your Level
Me: I recently read a great quote from you about how you work with clients and wanted to touch on it so my readers can truly see why I wanted to interview you so bad. You said that “you work with your clients individual needs, step by step and meet them where they’re at.” I loved this quote because so many professionals in the field do the opposite of this. They thrust their philosophies on the client without the slightest input on whether the client thinks it will be sustainable. Would love your feed back on this.
Ryan: I think I’ve only accepted this over time as I’ve gained more experience that this is the best approach. I’ve worked with clients anywhere from people who live in downtown Baltimore, non-profits in suburbs, low-income families, professional athletes, bodybuilders, generally healthy people, etc. I’ve worked with almost every type of client and I think when you are exposed to all kinds of clients and get a glimpse of what their life is like and what they are experiencing, you quickly learn that if you just have one point of view that you force on everybody, it will resonate with very few of them. If I say, “Hey I think everyone should eat minimally processed, organic food and thats the only way to do it.” Well if I am working with someone from Baltimore who is in a lower income bracket, my message is going to go right over there head. I’m going to do no good for that person. If I meet them where they are at and understand their income bracket, I can think of what types of foods will they have access to, what foods do they like, what did they grow up with, what is their culture about, what do their goals. You have to get the full history and picture of that client before you make a recommendation. There are so many factors that go into our food choices and it is so easy to forget about them and just become closed off to all those things.
Me: I agree 100%. I am of the belief that the perfect diet is not synonymous with the best diet. You can tell somebody that they need to follow this perfect diet but if it not sustainable, then you are just getting temporary results. Finding that good medium that meets someone where they are at, and creating a plan that takes into account all the factors that you outlined earlier is the key to making lasting change. You definitely hammered home on that.
Question #3: Flexible Dieting and PN
Me: As you know, I am a proponent of flexible dieting (iifym). It is simply the tracking of macronutrients in order to achieve a certain body composition goal. You hit your macronutrient goals that are specific to your goals. I promote doing this with 80% of your calories coming from high quality, minimally processed, nutrient dense foods while leaving 20% to use on lower quality sources. My teaching and understanding of flexible dieting is that it covers the whole spectrum. You get the understanding of serving sizes, caloric balance, macronutrient balance, food quality balance, and you get the healthy relationship with food and no longer see eating lower quality sources of food as cheating as long as it fits in the context on your diet. I think all this is perfectly in line with the PN model. Would love your opinion on this and the PN philosophy.
Ryan: I think the good news about nutrition and it is like what you mentioned, there are a lot of ways a person can structure their diet that will promote better health and body composition. I like flexible dieting as another tool and framework people can use in order to achieve their goals. If they can feel better mentally where they don’t feel like they are restricted and have flexibility with their food choices, I am all in favor of that. It sounds good to me.
Me: It’s something that has personally changed my life. I like to use the analogy that we all have been taught how to budget our finances but have never understood how to do that with our nutrition. It lets people learn on their own what they want to spend their calories. It’s like going to the store and looking for deals like BOGO where you can get as much things you want while spending as little as you have to. It’s the same process with our nutrition. If we have our budget of macronutrients, we soon realize that were wasting a ton of our budget of foods that were not giving us the value for the chunk they took out of our budget. For example, If I take carb intake goal for the day is 150g then me eating 70g of carbs in a pop tart is not the best use of my budget. That just wiped out half my carbs for the day and gave me no fiber. It’s like buying a brand new corvette when you make $30,000 a year. This realization is really fun to watch come into fruition. We soon find foods that give us that are macro friendly and give us the best bang for our buck. It becomes fun.
Question #4: Tackling Obesity
Me: Next, I wanted to cover the ever growing obesity epidemic and get your opinion of what you think is the biggest problem were are facing when tackling this massive problem. I personally think that this problem is our overconsumption of calories. Not just from the standpoint that we gain weight from excess calories but also our lack of awareness of the caloric content of the foods we eat.
Ryan: I really love this question. My wife gets bothered with me because I am always talking to her about my latest theories of the problems of the world! But seriously, I think the fundamental things that is going wrong in North America is regards to eating and obesity is that we are completely disconnected from food. And from this, I think this disconnect leads to a low level respect for food and when we don’t respect something, we tend to abuse it just like you said about over consuming calories. We have all this nutrition science and frameworks that are emerging as well as so many great coaches which is fantastic but at the simplest level, there is this lack of baseline respect for food. They don’t know where it comes from, they’ve never been to a farm, they don’t know how it grows. Or maybe that don’t even prepare their own food at all. They don’t cook anything, they don’t know how to put together a meal, or even shop at the grocery store. I always encourage people to connect more with food, learn more about food and get more involved in the process. This will lead to a greater respect and thus help with the overconsumption/abuse of calories. I think we are on the same page.
Me: I agree without a doubt. If you have a foundational understanding that we don’t take food for granted and food is a gift to us then our definition of food will definitely change. The definition of food has changed dramatically over the years. You look at many of the highly processed foods that are now considered food but 100 years ago they didn’t even exist. It’s pretty wild to see how this has evolved over time. I mean we have companies that are being paid billions of dollars to genetically modify foods to elicit a drug like response in our brains so that we eat more of their product!
Ryan: If somebody is just going along with what everyone else is eating and eat the foods that are in commercials or magazines, they are in for a problematic life and probably have excess body fat.
Question #5: Discretionary Calories
Me: I want to go back to the 80-20 rule. A lot of diets or people have this “all in” mentality and don’t believe in this principle of eating. I personally believe that when calories are held constant, that 80% is a good baseline for our high quality, minimally processed, nutrient dense foods while leaving the 20% for what I call discretionary calories. In the 80%, you are getting in your vegetables, micronutrients, fibers, etc. and if you hit all these requirements, using 20% of your calories to have flexibility and eat those lower quality foods, is a perfectly fine approach. I think it is actually necessary in order to restore a good relationship with food and eliminate that feeling of guilt if you eat those lower quality foods. Would love your opinion on this and whether you think the 80-20 is a good approach.
Ryan: Discretionary calories are something everyone forgets about and do not take advantage of them! Everyone imagines that they have to be 100% spot on with nutrition everyday. Then they do it for a few days, go into a tailspin, and its the opposite and they are 100% off. Yeah I think that if the majority of your nutritional intake is solid and it aligns with what you need to be doing, then great! I mean 10-20% of your food intake can be just those discretionary calories. Its fascinating when looking at other cultures who are long lived and very healthy, you wouldn’t look at their diet and think its a perfectly clean diet. You see foods that are treats, taste good, alcohol, or many other things we wouldn’t consider to be healthy. So I definitely think there is the enjoyment factor and the social factor where you might be having a meal with someone with these discretionary foods and you want to enjoy it together. Nonetheless, discretionary calories are not taken advantage of enough and if you allow yourself this flexibility on a regular basis then it makes the idea of a complete food bender not that appealing. You are getting the things you crave on regular basis so you are satisfied and don’t have that urge to go off the deep end.
Me: Yes! So many people think that if they allow themselves the ability to have these foods in moderation when they crave it, that they will over consume. So I tell them to try it and see how they do. 10 times out of 10 they come back smiling at the fact that they were able to satisfy their craving and not binge! It’s super amazing to see. Once they understand that if they fit it into the context of their macros/budget, they don’t have to worry about any adverse effects. Life changing moment for most people. I get goosebumps talking about it honestly because of all the people I’ve seen change their once terrible relationship with food to one that is amazing! It allows them to live the life they want to live!
Question #6: Ryan The Bodybuilder
Me: I wanted to touch on the fact that you were once a nationally ranked bodybuilder up until you were 20 years old! Actually saw a picture the other day of you and Arnold from back during your bodybuilding days. Pretty freaking cool! A lot of my readers focus on bodybuilding/physique type goals and just wanted to touch on what your diet and training looked like back then to become nationally ranked.
Ryan: Yeah competitive bodybuilding was a different world. I definitely would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for bodybuilding pushing me to learn about nutrition, exercise, health, dedication, discipline, improving body composition and quality of life. In general, leading up to a show, I would start my prep 16 weeks out. A pretty typical day would look like me waking up in the morning and doing some low level cardio for 30-60 minutes. This would usually be like an incline treadmill walk. And I would do that then have my first meal of the day. My meals were small and was having about 6 per day. My meals were super simple and my food bank was between 8-12 food choices. Protein sources, carbs sources, some veggies, a few fat sources and thats about it. The most I could minimize any strange reaction to food whether something like water retention, the better. So I’d have a very basic diet. Then I’d go back to the gym later on that day and hit my weight training then come home make my meals for the next day and then go to sleep. Super basic but it got the job done.
Question #7: Sustainability Is Key
Me: It’s amazing how much training and nutrition has evolved even since then. So many things that we once thought were facts have changed such as the thermic effect of food and eating small frequent meals to speed up metabolism to now we have the complete opposite of that is Intermittent Fasting. Science is just proving that there are soo many different ways to reach the same goal. It’s just finding the one that is the most sustainable for you and your lifestyle. And in the training side, we have bodybuilders, instead of using body part splits, are instead training like powerlifters and using all rep ranges and protocols and putting a surpreme emphasis on strength. And then you have the powerlifters who look like bodybuilders now and are stronger and leaner than they’ve ever been! And then you have your crossfitters who look like bodybuilders and are strong as hell like Olympic weight lifters and powerlifters! Its friggin crazy and exciting!
So what I am getting at is, if all this new information was around back then and you realized that you didn’t need to be so rigid with your diet and that there were many different protocols you could use in order to reach your end destination, which was a optimal physique on stage, do you think you would’ve continued on longer in your bodybuilding career? Also, whether you think flexible dieting would’ve helped as well with your relationship with food.
Ryan: It might have! Looking back, I had a coach and he gave me what to eat and I posted it on my fridge and that was what I ate. There was no flexibility, there was no wiggle room, it was very regimented and that did not lead to a very good relationship with food. This never felt like something that was sustainable and something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. All I could think was that I couldn’t wait for this to be over! I’m not blaming my trainer or anything but I think if it was presented or he knew about a different way and it became more flexible/sustainable, it would’ve been cool to see what the results could’ve been then and for the long term.
Question #8: Ryan’s Training/Diet Now
Me: What’s your training and diet look like now that you are not the young buck you used to be!? I’m sure everyone is going to be surprised when they hear your answer
Ryan: Yeah its funny, I always think that if 17 or 18 year old Ryan knew what 33 year old ryan was going to do, he probably would’ve made fun of him! Things have changed a lot thought. My workouts I try to focus more on what I can do to feel my best and functioning well rather than just the pure strength and hypertrophy aspect I was focusing on before. I’m really balanced and do a little bit of strength, conditioning, yoga work, low intensity stuff. I am a huge fan of just moving in any type of way. I’m a huge fan of If I can walk somewhere I will, I take the stairs if I can, ride the bike somewhere if I can. Overall, I feel great and my goals have significantly changed. I just want to be fully functional, have no pain and just feel great.
In terms of nutrition, I eat a plant based diet now. That was more of a shift in terms of my values in life rather than just a health thing. Was a necessary shift in my life.
Question #9: Pro Tips For Vegetarians
Me: I do have some readers who are vegetarian and I promised that I would ask about getting enough protein via a vegetarian diet in regard to achieving body composition goals. Just wanted to see if you had any tips for my vegetarians out there trying to up their protein intake or any best practices that they can take advantage of?
Ryan: I do have a couple things:
Number 1 being adding in the whole category of beans and legumes into your diet. They are a plant eaters main source of protein. I encourage those who are eating a plant based diet to get at least 1-1.5 cups of beans and/or legumes a day.
Number 2 would be going low fat on a vegetarian diet. I see thing a lot but it is leaving a lot on the table in regards to health and performance. Things like nuts and seeds will not only help with getting your protein in but also with helping you keep a good hormonal balance as well.
Number 3: If you are still struggling to hit your protein after those initial two tips, then checking out a great plant based protein supplements that can help you reach your protein goals would be a great would help. Just focus on those 3 points and your should have no problem hitting your protein.
Question #10: The Fiber Epidemic
Me: Next up, I wanted to cover fiber intake and how as a country, we are on average taking in way less than we should be? There is definitely a fiber epidemic and on average this intake is between 10-15g per day which is absurdly low. It’s crazy for me to understand this because I get that much fiber in before 8am. I am constantly having to find ways to hit my carbs without eating too much fiber! I wanted to touch on what are your thoughts on fiber and what is too little and what is too much? Especially with vegetarians, whos diet is made up of foods mostly that are high in fiber.
Ryan: I think you are right on. I always think of fiber as fuel for the bacteria in our gut. In order to maintain optimal gut health, you need to have regular fiber intake.
In regards to too much fiber, I think that is very relative. If you are excessively bloated, then maybe you taking in too much especially if someone is not used to eating that much. If they go from this 10-15g per day American diet to just loading up on a bunch of fiber rich foods, their GI tract is not going to be ready for it. That is just like going from doing no exercise, to doing a 6-7 days a week exhaustive training regime. Your body is going to be broken down. Scaling it up in small doses is the best route and giving your GI tract a chance to get used to the increased fiber would be best. If somebody is struggling to get enough, then just have them eat a cup of cooked beans per day and it meets their minimum level for the day.
And if you are bloated, maybe your diet is too whole foods based and that’s one of the lessons that people need to learn. There is an absolute kick on eating no processed foods and eating all whole foods. Well if somebody is trying to gain weight, they can only eat so many whole foods before they just get full. At that point they might have to utilize processed foods that are lower in fiber. In the end, it comes down to the person and their goals.
Question #11: Diet Soda
Me: I just read an amazing article over at examine.com about diet soda. They covered the amount of diet soda or artificial sweeteners you would have to be consuming in order to cause adverse effects to your health. I wanted to get your opinion on that and whether you think it is better for someone to drink regular soda rather than diet soda. So many peoples rationale is that it is “real sugar” thus it is better for them than the artificial sweeteners in diet soda. You know that I think the root of our problem is caloric excess and drinking regular soda just adds to this.
Ryan: Yes Examine.com has been doing some great work and I know a lot about them. I’ve been back and forth on this topic of artificial sweeteners over the years. I think it kinda comes down to looking at when someone is drinking a beverage or consuming a food, whats the alternative? What are they willing to swap out with that? If someone is drinking a regular coke and something and you get to talking to them and factor in their goals, and they say yea I can do water, then that’s a great alternative. But if they say, “theres no way I could do water but maybe I could switch to a diet soda,” then yes a diet soda might be the best step in the right direction. If it gets someone to take a baby step in the right direction, then maybe it is the best decision to make. If you get into excessive amounts of sugar, artificial sweeteners, both are going to harmful. It’s hard to stay. The other aspect I like to take into consideration is the psychological aspect to artificial sweeteners. This is the same with any pseudo diet foods.. If we know these are engineered to be an alternative version of a cookie, ice cream or soda, we already have it in our head.Then we eat these foods and think that we are not getting any calories. Consumption without consequence? Sign me up. So we end up overeating them and feeling miserable. Plus we don’t factor in the consequences that might occur beyond the overconsumption of calories.
Last Question: Our Unique Gift
Me: I know God put us on this earth with unique gifts and talents that we have a duty to harvest in order to make a difference in the world. I have a passion for this topic and could talk about it all day! I just wanted your thought on this and what you think your unique gifts/talents are to make a difference in the world and leave it better than when we got here.
Ryan: I love that question. Think about this so much and I think its to help raise awareness of nutrition. Not just from a personal health standpoint, like how does this food affect my body fat, my health, etc but just raising awareness of where food comes from and how our daily food choices that we all make have these repercussions to farmers, to animals, to the soil, to the environment and all this stuff is influenced by the foods we eat. It is so easy to not be aware or these things and I think it is my purpose to get people talking more about these thing. Getting people moving in a more sustainable direction. The diet we choose for us must be the diet we choose to sustain our planet.
Me: I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to let me interview you even though you are so unbelievably busy. For you to take 45 minutes out of your day to let me interview is truly an honor. Thank you so much for that. I hope all is well and can’t to get this out to my readers because I know they will love this.
Ryan: Anytime my friend! Hope they enjoy it! Keep up the good work.
And That’s It!
Hope you all enjoyed that very long, but information packed interview with the world renowned nutritional expert Ryan Andrews!
What you learned
- Starting your day with some type of routine involving hydration, mobility, meditation/reflection, planning and most importantly, movement allows you to be ready to attack your day rather than react.
- Sustainability is key. You are your own person with your own individual factors that need to be assessed when putting together the best/most sustainable diet for YOU
- Obesity is a mix between lack of respect of caloric balance and where our food comes from.
- We need to take advantage of discretionary calories so we can make our diet sustainable.
- Our training goals change over the years, but high quality movement should always be there.
- Awesome tips for you vegetarians on how to hit your protein and fiber.
- Diet Soda is not as bad as we once thought. But when over consumed, it is.
If you did, share it with any of your friends or family so they can take action on improving their quality of life!
In the comments, let me know what questions you’d like to have him answer for the next time I talk to him. He is awesome and would love to answer more of you guys questions!
If you enjoyed this post, join the Flexible Dieting Lifestyle Community and subscribe so I can send you that and much more info to turn you into a Master Flexible Dieter!
Thanks and God Bless!