The Renegade Diet Reviewed
written by sean hyson
I have two big announcements. The first is that my friend and colleague Jason Ferruggia has just released his looong awaited Renegade Diet (which you can pick up HERE). The second is that I’m very, very close to releasing my next FREE e-book—a buyer’s guide to the best training and nutrition programs of the past several years. This project has been a huge undertaking and a major labor of love, and I think you’ll find it very helpful in determining where to take your training and diet plans in the coming months.
Below is my review of Renegade Diet. It will give you an idea of what Ferruggia is offering, and an insight into what I’ve been working on. My book includes another 16 DIFFERENT PROGRAMS, giving you a tremendous summary (and analysis) of what’s on the market out there and what it can do for you. My book will be out in another month or so, but in the meantime, PLEASE tell me what you think of Jay’s book and my write-up of it. (Note that this is an ABBREVIATED version of what’s in my e-book.)
The Renegade Diet
Jason Ferruggia’s e-book combines philosophies on digestive health and intermittent fasting in a diet that you can maintain long-term. It’s mainly for body re-composition—losing fat while gaining muscle, healthfully—but can be tweaked for maximum leanness or muscle gains. In the book, Ferruggia brings together many of the theories and strategies espoused by Martin Berkhan, John Kiefer, and Michael Keck, as well as digestion gurus like Paul Chek.
About the Author
Ferruggia, “The Renegade Strength Coach”, has been my fitness adviser at Men’s Fitness for years and has written a regular column called “The Hard-Gainer”. He’s trained all kinds of athletes and regular joes for the past 18 years. Of course, Ferruggia also designed my transformation program in 2010 that helped me lose 35 pounds while increasing my squat by 50 pounds.
How To Do It
The Renegade Diet divides your day into three sections—the fasting phase (16 hours), the undereating phase (four hours), and the overeating phase (four hours). It plays out like this: you’ll have a long fasting period followed by a few light meals consisting mainly of protein, fat, and vegetables. At night, you have a four-hour “feast” where you get most of your carbs for the day.
The fasting phase is designed to give your digestive system a break and speed fat loss. It can improve insulin sensitivity and promote greater release of growth hormone and insulin-like growth factors, and it lets you maintain steady energy and mental focus throughout the day. The nightly feast creates a slight anabolic effect so you can gain muscle, and it helps you fall into a deeper, more restful sleep.
1. Fast. Counting the time you spent sleeping the night before, you should go a total of 16 hours without food. So if you had your last meal of the day at 10 p.m. last night, you won’t eat until 2 p.m. today. Drink lots of water during this time. Not only will it help you control hunger, but it will keep you focused and energetic.
2. To break the fast, juice some vegetables or drink a whey protein shake blended with spinach (mix it up well and you won’t taste the leaves). Begin the undereating phase by consuming mainly easily-digested protein and fat foods, and vegetables. White fish, eggs, nuts, and yogurt are all options. You can have some carbs, but limit them to fruit (Ferruggia recommends berries). This goes on for four hours.
3. Do your weight workout (if you can’t do this in the afternoon, the morning option is explained below), and then drink a protein shake and eat sweet potatoes for a post-workout meal. The overeating phase has now begun. You may want to pop some digestive enzymes before you feast to help you digest everything—most of your calorie intake for the day comes now. Start the extended feast with a large salad (you can squeeze some prebiotics in here, too), and then eat a big protein dinner. Grass-fed beef, chicken, fish, etc. Follow that with some big servings of carbs—sweet potatoes are Ferruggia’s preference. This sequence of prebiotics/probiotics and vegetables, followed by meat and then carbs is the prescribed order, and can be repeated until you’ve had your fill.
This is the basic plan for losing your gut while gradually gaining muscle mass, but it can be adjusted. If you are very overweight (Ferruggia says 15% body fat or higher), you must concentrate on getting lean first and improving your body’s sensitivity to insulin. Otherwise, the carbs you eat will most likely make you fatter. In this case, you would eat no carbs save for some berries and maybe a sweet potato after your workout. If you are skinny and want to bulk up, you can shorten the undereating phase by a few hours in order to consume more food. Also, you should eat more carbs at night.
What I Like About It
It’s healthy. This isn’t a diet but a lifestyle, and one that is likely to please both the people who follow it and government organizations that are typically skeptical of fitness industry nutrition recommendations. There’s nothing too controversial here apart from skipping breakfast. Ferruggia recommends all organic foods, if possible, shies away from supplements except for simple probiotics and whey protein, and advocates plenty of vegetables. There is no nutrient that is restricted—carb meals are timed and controlled but not eliminated. But it’s Ferruggia’s attention to digestive and overall systemic health that really sets the plan apart.
The book makes several references to cleansing the liver and easing stress on the gut, which is an aspect of nutrition—and a healthy lifestyle—that is rarely discussed by nutritionists. The worst you can say here is that some of this is unproven science. Whether lemon can really cleanse the liver or sea salt in water can improve digestion to any notable degree is questionable, and hasn’t been clearly demonstrated in any studies I’m aware of. But you have to file it under the category of “it can’t hurt”, and it certainly won’t throw off your diet or cause any health problems to give it a shot. Try it and see how you feel.
It fits with most schedules. As with Kiefer’s Carb Back-loading, The Renegade Diet has most of your carb as well as calorie intake coming at night. This means that big, social dinners fit well within the confines of the plan, and you won’t need to cook, prep, and pack lots of meals ahead before a busy workday. The long bouts of fasting allow you to be more productive during the morning.
The fasting phase sharpens your mind. One of the hardest facets of the intermittent fasting concept for anyone to swallow is the fact that you simply won’t be mentally sluggish and starving when you try it. If you drink water in the morning as recommended, you’ll feel fine.
The sympathetic nervous system (your “fight” or “flight” instinct) is on overdrive during a fast, and that means your mind will be highly alert. The one thing you can do that will surely dull your senses is to eat sugar and starches, which The Renegade Diet forbids at this time. At worst, you’ll go through an adaptation period that may last a few days up to two weeks, but your body will eventually come around.
You’ll sleep better. Carbs are known to have a sedative effect, as is a big meal in general. Rather than feeling groggy after a big lunch when you still have hours of work to do, The Renegade Diet lets you get that feeling right before bed time. You will fall asleep more easily and it will be more restful.
You don’t have to worry about overeating at night. Ferruggia doesn’t ask you to do many calculations at any point in the day. He prescribes some ranges for your macronutrients, but you don’t have to be anal about them. When you overeat at night, your body is more than ready to take in all you can give it, and a huge amount of food that would leave you stuffed and sick at any other time of day will feel normal by this point. You probably won’t go to bed feeling fat. Furthermore, there’s no limit on how much protein you can digest at one time. There’s no research to back up the old idea that your body could only process 30 or 40 grams in a sitting, so eat up. On the other hand, if you feel sluggish and bloated during the afternoon undereating phase, that’s a sure sign that you overdid it and should eat less during this phase going forward.
What To Consider
It may be hard to stick with. While meal scheduling is made convenient and protein-, fat- and carb-foods are allowed daily, the actual list of food choices is fairly short. Furthermore, timing meals properly throughout the day can be tricky. Beef is fine to eat but considered too hard to digest for the undereating phase, so you can’t have it until dinner. Forget about a big business lunch with your colleagues because you have to eat sparingly until the evening. Of course, if you have plans one evening that keep you away from a kitchen, you may not be able to pack in all the food you need before bed. Which brings me to my next point…
It’s not ideal for gaining mass. Skinny guys (“hard gainers”) have to eat often and abundantly. While Ferruggia argues that the longer you fast, the better your body will be able to absorb and assimilate the food you feed it later, a window of only four hours to feast may not be enough to pack the necessary calories in. If this turns out to be the case, he says you can extend the feasting window, or skip the undereating phase entirely. (He goes into more detail about this in the book, so pick it up if you’re interested.)
On A Personal Note
As with most everything Ferruggia has put out over the years, I tried this plan and got great results. The fasting phase felt GREAT—I was clear-headed and productive through the afternoon (no post-lunch energy crash). Bloating, gas, and other mild albeit annoying digestive issues cleared up for me within days, and the digestive enzymes and probiotics he introduced me to remain a part of my diet and always will be. For people looking to lose weight healthfully or re-compose their bodies with more muscle and less fat, this is a great plan. Despite all the hype and propaganda saying that eating after 7 p.m. is fattening, and that you should eat your carbs in the morning, you’ll see after a week or two on this program that those notions are totally false.
In fact, the one problem I encountered with The Renegade Diet was that it was hard to keep weight on! I got leaner effortlessly, and when I wanted to gain more muscle with it, I found that it just wasn’t possible to get enough calories in. I extended the feasting time and added grains, which Ferruggia allows as a last resort, but the only way I found I could eat enough was by allowing for more food earlier in the day. Of course, when I did this, my digestive issues became more prominent. For most of us, I think that’s going to be an unavoidable trade-off when over-eating for mass.