I get asked all the time: “Hey Warren, how healthy is _______?” Oftentimes, in the case of a sugary or processed food, the answer is an unequivocal “not at all.” Other times, it’s much more complicated and often results in a follow up question: “how hardcore are you?”
How Hardcore Are You?
Hardcore you ask? Yes, hardcore about nutrition. If you’re super-hardcore, a sweet potato is completely off limits. If you’re only kinda hardcore, it might be fine.
First, to be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with different levels of hardcore. Everyone is at a different place in their training life; everyone has different goals, and goals are the most important factor in how hardcore you are. Someone just getting started training who needs to lose 40 lbs, does not need to worry about counting their macro-nutrient ratios or cutting carbs below 50 grams per day. They need to stop drinking soda. On the other hand, someone 6 weeks out from a figure competition needs to be doing those things in their sleep.
Levels Of Hardcore
So let me lay out some basic strata of hardcore, who might be using them, and what they entail in terms of eating strategy.
Not Very Hardcore
- Who: Off-season 90s bodybuilder, Winter Warren, anyone bulking up
- How: Starchy carbs acceptable all the time (oatmeal, rice, whole wheat pasta, potatoes). No carb or calorie counting (unless it’s to increase them).
A Little Hardcore
- Who: Those coming off a bulk, Early spring Warren, endurance athletes
- How: Starchy carbs OK all day workout days and in the morning. No carb or calorie counting.
- Who: Spring Warren, power athletes, those in “ab-maintenance” mode, off-season pro figure competitor
- How: No carb/calorie counting, following Nutritional Habits, Starchy carbs only immediately around workout and for breakfast.
- Examples: most carb cycling plans
- Who: Those in “ab-cutting” mode, Warren just before beach season, figure competitor starting to cut
- How: No starchy carbs except on weekly refeed day. Potentially counting carbs, but probably not limiting calories.
- Who: figure competitors and bodybuilders in pre-contest cut
- How: No starchy carbs, total carbs under 10-15% of calories, calories restricted, food choices essentially lean meat, egg whites, & vegetables, heavy supplementation
- Examples: Get Shredded Diet
Hopefully that clears up the confusion from my oft-repeated “how hardcore are you.” Most foods have their place (most real foods, that is), it just depends how hardcore you are!
If people are interested, I might be able to follow-up with some sample eating plans for these levels. Maybe.