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173: The Ultimate Diet For Building Muscle (And Improving Your Health) by Ted Ryce


Special Announcement:

– I’ll be speaking at the 21 Convention this month and in October.

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The Ultimate Diet For Building Muscle And Improving Your Health

Are you confused about exactly what to eat for optimal health AND physical performance?

You’re not alone.

I’ve been studying nutrition in college and on my own for over 17 years…and I still get confused at times!

It’s no wonder. A search on Amazon for “diet books” yields over 200,00 results!

Check it out for yourself:


There’s so much conflicting information…

“Eggs are good for you.” Vs. “Eggs raise your cholesterol and will clog your arteries.”

“Carbs are evil.” Vs. “You need carbs to train hard and build muscle.”

“Protein is essential for building muscle.” Vs. “Eating meat will give you cancer and ruins the environment.”

It’s leaves you frustrated, confused and feeling like, “Screw this nutrition thing, it’s too complicated!”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

And you don’t have to be a “diet zealot” who practices an almost religious adherence to a particular nutrition philosophy.

And there’s no need for you to beat your head against the wall trying to figure out the perfect nutrition plan that makes you look AND feel great!

I get results for my clients and myself by following what I call “Nutrition Basics.” And we don’t eat boiled chicken breast and steamed broccoli out of Tupperware six times a day either. In fact, I’m telling you that you can look and feel great AND eat delicious meals…and a desert every once and a while. (Yes, for real.)

Below you will find my 8 basic principles of nutrition that will give you everything you need to lose fat, build muscle, improve your health, boost your energy and ultimately look and feel great.

This list is the result of nearly 30 years of formal study, self-study, experimentation and working with hundreds of clients.

It also includes essential lessons I’ve learned from countless conversations with nutrition experts, performance coaches, behavior change experts, strength coaches, as well as medical doctors who specialize in health, anti-aging and longevity.

By following these principles, you can expect to achieve…

Faster fat loss
Faster muscle gains (without added fat)
Less mood or energy highs and lows
More focus and concentration
Better digestion
Better immune system (i.e. less colds and sick days)
Increased libido
Less aches and injuries


Enough talk…let’s get to it!


1) Eat Whole And Minimally Processed Foods 90% of the Time

Any nutrition plan designed to transform your physique AND enhance your health should be based on whole foods.

This is one of the issues I have with the calorie-counting and macro-tracking folks. They use examples like the Twinkie diet (yes, that’s a real thing) and talk about eating junk food as long as it fits your daily calorie and macronutrient intake.

An overwhelming body of research shows what nutrition habits do produce positive changes in both body composition (i.e. looking better) and health. All of them emphasize whole, mostly plant foods direct from nature.

If it doesn’t run, fly, swim or grow on trees or out of the ground, then it’s not a whole food.

If it has more than a few ingredients or contains things you can’t pronounce, then it’s not a whole food.

So what are examples of whole foods?

Here are some solid staples to buy next time you go grocery shopping…


  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb
  • Bison

Game Meat

  • Venison
  • Pheasant
  • Elk
  • Duck
  • Rabbit
  • Wild Boar
  • Wild Turkey


  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Trout
  • Sea bass
  • Halibut
  • Haddock
  • Sole
  • Tilapia
  • Cod
  • Grouper
  • Mackerel

 Shell Fish:

  • Crab
  • Lobster
  • Shrimp
  • Scallops
  • Oysters
  • Mussels


  • Chicken eggs
  • Duck eggs
  • Quail eggs


  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados (technically a fruit but whatever)
  • Beets
  • Bell peppers
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage (all kinds)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Cucumbers
  • Garlic
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Parsnips
  • Radishes
  • Rutabagas
  • Shallots
  • Squash of all kinds (we love butternut, spaghetti squash and sugar pie pumpkins)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Watercress


  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Grapefruits
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Lemons
  • Mangoes
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Raspberries
  • Star fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon

 Healthy Fats:

  • Avocados
  • Avocado oil
  • Extra virgin Olive oil
  • Extra virgin coconut oil
  • Grass-fed Butter
  • Ghee (clarified butter)
  • Nut butters (almond, cashew, etc)
  • Nut oils (walnut, macadamia, etc)
  • Coconut flesh
  • Fish or Krill Oil Supplement

Healthy Grains:

  • Quinoa
  • Brown Rice
  • Millet
  • Buckwheat
  • Steel Cut Oats

2) Eat Protein At Every Meal

What are proteins? Check out the list of Meats, game meats, fish, shellfish and eggs above. That’ll give you an idea.

Proteins also make up a number of hormones and enzymes. It comprises your hair, blood, and your fingernails and toenails. Protein also makes up your muscles–which are key to looking great naked.

Why is protein important? You’ll actually die with no protein at all (although you can survive on very little) Whether you want to build muscle or lose fat, eating adequate amounts of protein is critical to your goal.

If you want to build muscle, you should aim for 1 gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight. For example, if you weight 200lbs then you want to eat 200 grams of protein per day. Or if you’re super lazy like me, just shoot for 8oz of protein at every meal.

If you want to lose fat (while maintaining your muscle so your metabolic rate doesn’t drop to the level of starving in the desert), then you want to shoot for 1 gram of protein per pound of your target bodyweight. For example, if you weigh 200lbs but want to weigh 190lbs, then you shoot for 190 grams of protein per day. Or if you’re lazy like me, shoot for 3-4oz servings of protein at each meal.


3) Eat Superfood Vegetables at Every Meal

What are superfood vegetables? “Superfood” vegetable is just a cool way of saying “nutrient-dense” vegetable.

Nutrient density is the ratio of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, etc) to calorie content. So if a food is very high in nutrients but very low in calories, that food is said to be nutrient-dense,

Examples of Superfoods are:

  • Bright or deeply colored vegetables
  • Bright or deeply colored fruits
  • High fiber, unprocessed grains
  • High quality meats

Examples of not-so-super foods are:

  • Table sugar
  • Soda
  • White flour
  • Pizza
  • Cookies


Eating superfoods at every meal will give you a boost of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and other health-boosting nutrients that will help you feel as good as you look!

Here is a list of 41 of the most nutrient-dense superfoods available. Make sure you eat a serving of one or two of these for every one of your 90% meals :


4) Eat Healthy Fats Daily

What are healthy fats? They are naturally occurring saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega fats.

Why are healthy fats important? Dietary fat has six major roles:

  1. Provides a source of energy
  2. Helps manufacture and balance steroid hormones (testosterone, estrogen, etc)
  3. Raw material for our cell membranes
  4. Raw material for our brains and nervous systems
  5. Helps transport fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
  6. Provides two essential fatty acids that the body cannot make: Omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids.

Healthy fats are essential to our health and vitality. There’s some research that shows low-fat diets can lower testosterone levels. Not. Good.

Make sure you get healthy fats in your diet on a daily basis. Here is the list of healthy fats again so you don’t have to scroll all the way up:

Healthy Fats:

  • Avocados
  • Avocado oil
  • Extra virgin Olive oil
  • Extra virgin coconut oil
  • Grass-fed Butter
  • Ghee (clarified butter)
  • Nuts and Seeds (pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, etc)
  • Nut butters (almond, cashew, etc)
  • Nut oils (walnut, macadamia, etc)
  • Coconut flesh
  • Fish or Krill Oil Supplement


5) Eat Carbs Daily

What are the carbs we’re talking about here? Starchy vegetables, fruits and healthy grains are what we’re talking about here.

Why are carbs important? Carbohydrates do one thing: provide energy.

Everyone jumps on the low-carb wagon when trying to lose fat. And it works at first. You drop water weight, glycogen (stored energy in your muscles and liver) and fat pretty quickly.

Then, after a few weeks of rapid weight loss, your progress comes to a stand still. The scale doesn’t budge and neither does your waistline.

Adding insult to injury, you get tired halfway through your workout and you’re not able to handle the same weight—your strength and endurance are sapped!

Cutting carbs to an unnecessarily low level is counterproductive to your efforts to look and feel better! And they let you push yourself harder in your workouts when in turn will help you build muscle and burn more calories.

The key is to not overdo it!

How many carbs should you eat?  You can follow the science-y recommendation from the International Society of Sports Nutrition and shoot for 3-5 grams/kg per day.

Or you can be lazy like me and use carb cycling. It’s pretty simple. On days when I workout, I eat starchy carbs from healthy grains, fruits and starchy vegetables. On days when I’m not as active, I only eat protein, vegetables and healthy fats.

There is one caveat though. Some of us handle our carbs better than others. Put another way, some of us are more resistant to insulin. People with insulin resistance have a hard time processing carbs. A University of Colorado study, done in 2005, showed that insulin-resistant women lost more weight on low-carb diet.

How do you know if you’re insulin resistant? Well, a trip to your doctor to get a basic blood chemistry panel would tell you. But if you have a lot of weight to lose and you’re a few years behind on your workouts, then it’s pretty safe to say that you probably have some degree of insulin resistance going on.


6) Learn How Foods Make You Feel

I recently had a client who was breaking out in hives (uricaria) and wasn’t sure what was causing it. After a few months—and several visits to a world-renowned allergy specialist who was NOT helpful at all—he was able to trace it back to peanuts. Turns out he developed a peanut allergy!

After he removed peanuts from his diet, he was able to come off of the anti-histamines that his doctor had him take.

A less extreme example was when I used to get bad mood swings after eating certain foods. My friend, who was a psychologist, told me I should consider medication to help me balance my emotional ups and downs.

I’m glad I didn’t listen to her because after taking a Holistic Lifestyle Coach certification from the CHEK Institute, I learned a lot of things I wasn’t taught in university classes in nutrition. One of the most important ideas was to pay attention to the food you eat and how your body responds to it.

Food Allergies Vs. Food Intolerances

If you have a legitimate food allergy, then you already know: you’ve most likely been rushed to the hospital because of it.

However, food intolerances and general poor gut health are much more subtle. They can be difficult for people to identify. Some food intolerances don’t have overt symptoms but they can increase stress hormones and other chemical cascades that can lead to symptoms like:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Stuffy nose
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Irritability

Here’s a simple process to start connecting the food you eat with the way you feel.

Step 1: Pay attention to the foods you eat

Step 2: Pay attention to the way you feel immediately after as well as a couple hours after

How do you feel?

  • Are you full of energy or are you crashing?
  • Do you feel satisfied or starving an hour later?
  • Did you digest it well or do you have gas?
  • Are you mentally sharp or do you have brain fog?

After a few weeks of experimentation and listening to your body, you’ll start to learn which foods make you feel your best and which foods make you feel like garbage.

Eat more of the foods that help you perform better and stay away from the ones that make you feel less than your best.


7) Eat What You Want 10% Of The Time

I like gelato. A lot. I also like having a burger or a few slices of pizza. Especially when I’m out socially and having a good time.

I couldn’t imagine following a long-term eating plan that didn’t allow me to indulge every once and a while.

I’m telling you this because I was that guy in the early 2000’s who wouldn’t go out to eat unless it was grass-fed meat, wild game, raw dairy, organic vegetables and specific grains. This was pre-paleo diet and before Whole Foods was in every major city.

I wasn’t much fun to be around and my social life suffered a lot. I never want to get back to that.

That’s why I’m a fan of flexible dieting. A flexible nutrition plan like this is the only one that will work long term. Being flexible will allow you to make healthy eating into a lifestyle while allowing you to have a life.

Now, that’s not excuse to eat junk foods that make you waistline expand and feel like garbage. Be intentional about your day-to-day routine and make eat very healthy foods most of the time. That way when the desire strikes or it’s a special occasion, you can feel free to indulge.


8) Track Your Progress

Good nutrition is outcome-based. That means if you’re on a good nutrition program, then you will achieve health, body composition AND performance goals.

If you’re losing weight but your arms and legs are shrinking (and not your waist) and you have low testosterone and low thyroid hormone, then you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Here are several ways to track your progress to keep yourself honest about your dietary habits:

  1. Use a scale and tape measure

This is as low tech as it gets but it’s also super effective. Use the scale to track your weight every week. Use the measuring tape to measure your “problem area.”

For example, I put on fat around the midsection. If I weigh myself and I’ve gained weight, but my waist has slimmed down, then I know I’m getting good results.

I track this every week to stay honest with my exercise and eating habits. Try it!

  1. DXA Scan (duel-energy X-ray absorptiometry)

If you want to go high-tech, then make yourself an appointment to get a DXA scan. It provides one of the most highly accurate measurements of body composition available.

A DXA scan can give you a general and regional assessment of:

  • Fat mass
  • Lean mass
  • Bone mass

The only draw back is that it will run you about $100 and only Universities and private health facilities have them. But it’s worth the investment if you want to know the details.

  1. Blood Chemistry, Hormone and Other Tests

Everyone should get at least a yearly check up with their doctor to track their biomarkers.

I worked with an Anti-aging doctor who had all his clients do tests every 3 months. That may be a bit excessive and cost-prohibitive for most of us. But we should be on top of our health biomarkers. That way, you can spot good or bad trends based on your lifestyle choices.

Here are some yearly tests that you should consider:

  • Basic blood chemistry (i.e. your SMAC-20, SMA-20 or Chem 20)
  • Full hormone panel
  • Cardiovascular Risk Profile
  • Thyroid Panel
  • Liver function tests
  • Kidney function tests

No matter who’s eating philosophy, plan or diet you follow, it’s your responsibility to make sure it’s right for you. That means you should be getting measureable results.

If you’re not getting results, then nothing else matters!

Marketing doesn’t matter as much as objective evaluation. Make sure you track your progress to make sure your diet is delivering!


Are abs really made in the kitchen?

I get annoyed with people who say this. There is no doubt that your nutrition will determine how you look. But the type of workout you’re doing will also have a HUGE effect on how you look as well. And if you want to see a defined, muscular body in the mirror, then make sure that you have your diet AND your exercise program dialed in. This is where coaching can help immensely.


How many meals should I eat in a day?

There is no rule about how many meals you should have in a day. It ultimately comes down to how much food you eat and the type and quality of those foods.

Personally, I average 3 meals a day. Sometimes I eat 4 meals and a few snacks (when I’m unusually hungry from hard training). And sometimes I eat 2 meals (when I haven’t been very active at all).

I suggest you follow all the rules here about what you should eat in a meal. Then eat when you’re hungry. Simple.


Should I drink protein shakes?

You definitely don’t need to drink protein shakes to get your daily protein requirement—especially if you’re getting enough protein from whole food sources listed in the protein section above. A major benefit of drinking protein shakes is the convenience. If you’re on the go, a protein shake is something you should consider.

A fast and easy protein shake recipe is:

– 8oz of water or nut milk

– Handful of leafy greens (baby spinach, watercress, etc)

– Handful of frozen berries

– 1 tbsp of nut butter

– 2 scoops of protein powder

Something else to consider is that whey protein has been shown to be beneficial before and after a workout. Click here to see which protein powder I recommend.


Do I need to take supplements to get results?

The quick answer is: NO!

That said, there are some supplements that can dramatically improve your results from hard training (which in turn will help you look and feel better).

Check out this article to see which supplements have evidence to support their use and are worth your hard-earned money.


Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Instagram handle so we can thank you personally.


Recapping The Ultimate Muscle Building Diet:

  • Eat Whole And Minimally Processed Foods 90% of the Time
  • Eat Protein At Every Meal
  • Eat Superfood Vegetables at Every Meal
  • Eat Health Fats Daily
  • Eat Carbs Daily
  • Learn How Foods Make You Feel
  • Eat What You Want 10% Of The Time
  • Track Your Progress
Ted Ryce is a high-performance coach, celebrity trainer, and a longevity evangelist. A leading fitness professional for over 24 years in the Miami Beach area, who has worked with celebrities like Sir Richard Branson, Rick Martin, Robert Downey, Jr., and hundreads of CEOs of multimillion-dollar companies. In addition to his fitness career, Ryce is the host of the top-rated podcast called Legendary Life, which helps men and women reclaim their health, and create the body and life they deserve.

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