So how would my diet look if I wanted to look like Tom Hardy in the movie “Warrior”?

When I started getting the urge to write more than I normally have been, I started paying attention to what people were asking. Now bear in mind I wasn’t previously ignoring them, but I started looking at questions, especially those asked of me in my roles as a group fitness class coach and a strength and conditioning coordinator as potential sources for articles. I reasoned the potential existed  that if the person in front of me was asking a certain question there’s a very good chance that others might be looking for similar answers. My younger brother, Andy who (I think) is 25 years of age occasionally texts me questions regarding health and fitness. It’s fitting considered he’s entered the same field, working as a personal trainer at a local gym and working with UW Parkside Men’s basketball team in regards to strength and conditioning (and here I am, still coaching at the high school level at nearly twice his age – woes me!)

A couple of weeks ago, I read one of the texts he had sent me: ‘So how would my diet look if I wanted to look like Tom Hardy in the movie “Warrior”?

“Jackpot!”, I thought –  This would be the basis of a great article! Right around that same time, I posted a reprint of a review I did for the Performance Menu on Dr. William Davis’ Wheatbelly book in early 2012. I was hoping to give some of our potentially uninitiated readers background information on one of the speakers for the Milwaukee area Protect the Belly, Protect the back event. What I didn’t have at the time was some good written information ready on the other presenter, Dr. Paul Ralston. Although I had met him on a couple of occasions and we spoke about nutrition (I was hugely impressed), I thought our readers might appreciate some his knowledge nuggets directly from the source. Besides, I’ve twice been accused at my gym of eating marshmallows, when I was, in fact eating hard boiled eggs. Given this apparent perception of me by my client base (and other stories that, for the moment shall remain undisclosed to prevent further PR damage), I’m guessing readers will be more receptive to dietary advice given by Dr. Ralston rather than that disposed by yours truly.

After reading, Dr. Ralston’s article I didn’t want to wait to the next morning to post it online (I had already posted a photo album for a forthcoming article earlier that morning and want to ‘spread out’ our material so to speak). Dr. Ralston does a couple of things I really found that increases the value of his article. He sets some guidelines, stating what he will and won’t go into detail about, applies the 80/20 rule (working to have this article have the most impact on the most readers – any Ferris fans here?) and he allows for some tinkering with the measures he suggests. I hope you find it as informative and pleasurable to read as I did. I eagerly look forward to his speaking engagement later this month. – Ryan Atkins, Proving Grounds MKE.


So how would my diet look if I wanted to look like Tom Hardy in the movie “Warrior”?

By Dr. Paul Ralston

January 2013

ScreenHunter_66 Jan. 20 10.08

It’s an excellent question and we could get carried away with the myriad factors that affect his body composition such as exercise selection, genetic fuel partitioning variables (do you store fat in different places), hormones, xenoestrogen exposure, sleep habits, and on and on. In addition, I’m purposefully avoiding nutritional ketosis, intermittent fasting, and carbohydrate backloading for the purpose of the article, although I think these strategies work well in the proper context.

So, for this article, I will stay on task and cover ONLY the diet component required to stay lean and gain some muscle. I want to demonstrate one way to approach diet; this is by no means a one size fits all approach, but I’m shooting for 80% of the population; the 10% on either side of the bell will need more specialized help.

Let’s be hypothetical for demonstration purposes and say that the person asking this question is 200 pounds and at 20% body fat. The first step, and in my opinion, the most non-negotiable step, is calculating protein intake. The old physique competitor’s adage is to make sure you get one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. I have never subscribed to this notion. The main point of a higher protein intake is to make sure you are getting enough protein to support your structure as well as what’s needed to add new structure. However, if you calculate lean tissue, (bodyweight less the fat), in our 200 pound individual, you would end up with 160 pounds of lean mass. The idea is that you don’t need to take in the extra protein to support the fat tissue. My recommendation has always been one gram of protein per pound of LEAN body mass. Protein will store as body fat, albeit not as readily as fat and carbohydrate, and it will also mildly stimulate insulin. Remember, for the sake of this article, we’re trying to develop a lean muscular physique, not go into a mass phase!

Now, let’s take a look at fat and carbohydrates, your main energy macronutrients. These are really tough to make recommendations on without knowing what type training our subject will be performing. Let’s assume, again for the sake of argument, our subject is doing two met-con workouts per week and 3 heavier type weight training sessions per week.

First, let’s cover the fat. I would first and foremost get two points down in stone: 0 trans fats, and 3-5g EPA/DHA per day, without fail. Other than that, I’ve always found it tedious to count fat grams. I certainly do not recommend avoiding fat like the plague, but I think it needs to be approached carefully in the context of carbohydrate intake when you’re looking to lean out. In other words, if either carbohydrates or fat are high, the other needs to be low, they both can’t be high. If I find my carbs are on the higher end for the day, I don’t load up on fat, on the flip side, if my fat is up, I try to bottom my carbs out.

Now for the red-headed step child of macronutrients: carbohydrates. Much has been studied and written about carbohydrates over the past several years, and depending on what you’ve read, they’re either Satan’s excrement, or a performance enhancer. As with most things in life, I think the truth hangs out somewhere in the middle.

Let’s KISS (keep it simple stupid) carbohydrates for this article agreed? Remember, our 200 pounder is performing two met cons and three heavy weight training sessions per week right? On the days of the met cons, use 25-50 grams of a maltodextrin type drink immediately prior to training and a 2-1 or 1-1 carbohydrate to protein ratio post workout, shutting down carbohydrate intake after 2-3P.M., except for vegetables. On the weight training days, 0-25g maltodextrin type drink prior to training and 0-25g carbohydrate post-workout, again, shutting carbs down after 2-3PM. I have heard a 3-1 carbohydrate to protein ratio post workout, but I have never leaned out with that high of an intake. So how to put it all together? Again, let’s KISS this concept as well. I would keep protein 35-45g post workout, leaving you with 115-125g left to ingest over the course of the day. Standard bodybuilding folklore has always been neurotic about eating this amount in small amounts every 2-3 hours. I have done it both ways, i.e., eat when I’m hungry, versus keeping the meals every 2-3 hours throughout the day and I’ve never noticed a huge difference. I think everyone has to tinker with the meal frequency and see what works best. Just make sure to obey the rules of the minimum protein intake, the pre and post workout carb amounts, and no carbs after 2-3PM. and go from there. The final though would be what kinds of food to make up these macronutrients? As far as protein goes, I only count meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and shakes as protein grams. I would keep fruit on the low side for carbohydrates 1-2 pieces a day max. Vegetables are always a great choice, as are sweet potatoes. For fat, basically just stay away from vegetable and seed oils and stick with saturated fat sources like animal fats, coconut oil, palm oil, etc. In addition to the EPA/DHA of course.

I have never found it useful to stay at a base calorie level; I’ve always found that it makes more sense to be diligent on your macronutrient intake, especially protein for the best results. Also, you have to eat for what you’re doing; if you’re doing met-cons, you’re going to need higher carbs; fat is not a preferred source of fuel for the type of energy pathway involved here. Lastly, if you’re not achieving the desired results, try manipulating the carbs first; they’re usually the path of least resistance working towards your lean physique!

About the author:

Dr. Paul Ralston is a chiropractor in Hales Corners, Wisconsin. He has competed in Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and bodybuilding. He specializes in coaching patients to achieve their physique and lifestyle goals by advocating a paleo and primal approach to health and wellness.

He can be reached at or contacted on Facebook at



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