Part 1: Dialing in Your Diet: Bringing the Nerd and the Meathead together.

By October 7, 2014 Uncategorized No Comments
Nick Shaw

An Interview with Nick Shaw of Renaissance Periodization and RhodeBlocks

Editor’s Note: Our blogger this week is Nick Shaw, owner oand founder of Renaissance Periodization in New York, New York, and currently has an eBook out called “The Renaissance Diet.” Thanks for reading the blog, and consider downloading the eBook to dial in and better understanding your dietary needs. Rhode Blocks interviewed Nick over a course of two weeks, and the amount of knowledge that Nick put into the answers after reading a portion of his book, left us with so many more questions, and so many great answers. We know you’ll be hooked once you start reading this blog. Be sure to visit the online store and purchase his book.

1. Nick, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us here at Rhode Blocks. Tell us a little about yourself and your company.

-First off, thanks for having me on your blog! My name is Nick Shaw and I am the owner and founder of Renaissance Periodization (quite the name, I know). My company specializes in writing diet and training programs for athletes and everyday businessmen and women looking to get leaner or to get in better shape. We’re quite unique in that almost everybody on staff has a PhD in the field of Sport Physiology, Nutrition, Strength and Conditioning and the Biological sciences. Just that alone would be pretty cool, but we all happen to be competitive athletes ourselves. Dr. Jen Case is a world champion BJJ grappler and has a PhD in Nutrition, she also serves as our Nutrition Consultant and works with a lot of our female clients. Another great example would be Dr. Mike Caruso. He is a Professional Strongman Competitor and just competed at the 2014 World’s Strongest Man competition while having his PhD in Cellular & Molecular Biology with an emphasis in nutrition and growth. Mike serves as a Consultant for us as well.

I like to think we’re trying to bridge the gap between the science “nerds” as some might call them (we’re all nerds here at RP) and the “jocks” or “meatheads.” There seems to be a gap in that a lot of the top athletes don’t necessarily trust the scientists and the scientists can sometimes look down on the athlete’s anecdotal evidence. We’re hoping to be the missing link there in that we’re nerds ourselves, but also high level competitive athletes.

2. Being new to the world of bodybuilding, I’m always surprised how much more info there is out there when it comes to nutrition and counting things like macros and calories. I had no idea that calories played such an integral roll. Is there an easy way of determining caloric intake and balancing your macros?

-Calories in vs calories out (calorie balance) is certainly the most critical component when it comes to changing your body composition. For example, if you want to gain weight and muscle you had better be in a caloric surplus where you are eating more calories than you are burning. The opposite holds true for fat loss. You had better be in a caloric deficit to see the best results here.

An easy way to count calories without actually counting them is to record and chart your bodyweight. This isn’t something that has to be done every single day, but a couple times a week if you can chart and record this (at the same time of day to increase the reliability of it) it will help you know if you’re staying even in terms of calories, eating more or eating less. If you’re eating more than you are burning, you will be gaining weight and the scale will reflect this. The same holds true if you are losing weight. This is a much easier way to keep an eye on calories without writing down every single thing that you eat on a given day compared to how much activity you do in any given day (which can vary a great deal).

Macros are very important as well, ranking right behind calorie balance for body composition changes. I would love to give a general blanket statement here about a person’s macro breakdown, but that would be doing a great disservice to everybody that reads this. A person’s macro breakdown will vary depending on physical activity, training volumes, bodyweight and body composition. A couple good guidelines to start off with would be around 1g/lb of bodyweight for protein intake. Another good starting point for carbs (this has the most variance as it’s highly dependent on total training volumes) would be around 1.5-2g/lb of bodyweight. This would mean that a 200 lb individual would be anywhere from 300-400g of carbs per day assuming they train fairly hard with a decent overall training volume (think multiple compound exercises with multiple sets of 5-8 reps).

3. You talk like it’s pretty simple to balance your caloric intake for muscle growth and fat loss. Is it attainable for all body types? Or do you have to have genetics playing in your favor? Endo vs. Meso vs. Ectotherms… Seems like thin guys can’t build, and hefty guys can’t lose.

-Genetics certainly play a role here in gaining weight or losing weight. Anybody that discounts genetics hasn’t likely worked with enough clients or been doing this long enough. Some clients will lose weight quite rapidly on the same calorie intake as somebody that can’t seem to lose any weight. This is where being a diet coach and making adjustments comes into play. You just have to recognize the trends and make the appropriate adjustments along the way. Some people will have a really hard time losing weight and therefore they’ll have to eat fewer calories along the way compared to others to reach their goals. It stinks, but you have to deal with the cards you were dealt so to speak. The same holds true for people trying to gain weight. Gaining weight can be REALLY tough sometimes with what seems like an endless amount of food in front of you all the time! For some people, they just have to eat MASSIVE amounts of food to gain weight as they likely have a faster metabolism (typically a good problem to have).

This should also be a time when appropriate goal setting should come into play. If somebody has always had a hard time losing weight their entire life, thinking they will magically drop 25-30 lbs over the course of a few months is just likely not the case (unless they enjoy suffering with a huge calorie deficit). The same goes for clients that have had a history of gaining weight, they had better accept that they’ll likely be force feeding themselves quite often in order to get the calories in to gain the amount of weight that they want!

4. How do you get the calories necessary for building muscle without gaining fat weight?

-This is a great question. It can be somewhat tricky as you want to find the right balance between eating enough that you can actually stimulate muscle growth without eating so much as to just get really fat. It seems that this right balance is somewhere around a calorie surplus of 500-1000 calories per day. This would yield anywhere from 1-2 lbs of weight gain per week. For those that are really concerned about staying leaner, the 500 calorie surplus would seem like the better idea.

The whole idea that you can gain muscle and simultaneously burn fat is highly unlikely for most people. There are of course some exceptions (new to training or diet, drug use, etc) to this rule but as you get more advanced into training it’s very likely the best course to go through dedicated phases where you focus on adding weight or dropping weight. Trying to do both at the same time usually yields less than optimal results.

5. What foods out there promote a high calorie diet that facilitates muscle growth but doesn’t add on fat? Or do I have the whole concept wrong of that high calorie equals fat gain?

-A lot of people like to think that there are certain magic foods out there and in reality this just really isn’t the case. If we look through all of the nutritional priorities for changing body composition, food composition comes in last place. The nutritional priorities break down like this:

1) Calorie balance

2) Macronutrient breakdown

3) Nutrient timing

4) Food composition

5) Supplements

If you’re eating a high calorie diet that exceeds how many calories you are burning you will be gaining weight, but some of that will be fat tissue. Like in the previous comment, you can certainly limit the caloric surplus to keep fat accumulation in check, but trying to grow muscle while in a eucaloric diet (calories in vs calories out are equal and your weight is steady) is just not overly efficient at doing so.

Getting back to the magical food question, this is actually a pretty good reason that IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) became so popular. People were able to realize that so long as they were eating the right macro breakdown and had their calories in order they could be very successful in reaching their body composition goals. Certainly there are limitations and we here at RP would not recommend eating a diet of just junk food, but it does go to show you how important those first two nutritional priorities are.

6. I think what most people, including myself, when they read an ebook like yours, they get overwhelmed by the jargon and the numbers. Are there simple tables and index charts that map out the course of action? Would you mind sharing an example?

-One of Dr. Mike Israetel’s best qualities is his ability to take what are seemingly complex ideas and presenting them in a way that almost anybody can understand quite easily. Mike is one of my long-time best friends and the co-founder of RP with me. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Missouri and teaches several classes on personal training, exercise physiology and exercise programming. I’ve had the privilege of sitting in on some of his classes and he is truly great at presenting the information in a manner that all of the students get and can relate to. Having said all of this, he was the main author of the RP diet ebook (along with a couple of our other consultants) and everything in the book is presented in a manner that most people will easily be able to understand. There are a host of easy to read and understand chart, graphs and tables that help the reader determine their needs for assembling their own scientific diet. Here’s a sample picture that is highly relevant to our discussion here on the nutritional priorities:


The chart goes to show how important calorie balance and the macronutrient breakdown are. If you can nail those two down, you can be highly successful like mentioned above. Getting into the timing of macros, meal frequency and the composition of each macro then becomes details in the grand scheme of things. It should also be noted that we believe (the literature tends to support this and our own anecdotal evidence highly supports this) that as the more advanced of an athlete you become, these seemingly more minor priorities should really be nailed in order to give yourself the best chance of being successful. That means if you’re looking to get into the national level or higher, you should really take a close look at the timing of your foods around activity and the food composition of what you’re eating!

7. Any closing remarks or anything you would like to mention before we end this blog post?

Again, I would just like to say thanks for the chance to do this interview and helping get the RP name out there. If anybody is interested in learning more about Renaissance Periodization and our scientific approach to diet and training should check us out at our new website www.renaissanceperiodization and be sure to follow us on social media to check out all of the free articles, videos and Q&A sessions that we do. You can also purchase the RP ebook this week for just $27 at