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The Poliquin Principles

Charles Poliquin
Charles is one of the most accomplished strength coaches in the world. He has designed workouts for Olympic medalists, world-record holders and pro athletes.
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QUESTION: Can you explain your protein goal system for fat loss simply?

ANSWER: For losing fat quickly, I like what I call the “Protein Goal Diet”: high protein (1.5 to 2 grams of animal protein per pound of bodyweight), high omega-3s (1.5 grams per pound of body fat in fish oils) and carbs limited to green veggies (but consumed in unlimited amounts). To fit in that much protein, shoot for six to seven meals a day. Taking branched-chain amino acids during training can count as a seventh meal. A two-hour fast before bed is recommended, so if you screw up and hit only four or five meals one day, don’t try to cram in the last two. Hey, you messed up, but you still made 80 percent that day, and that’s okay. Start again the next day. After a strict 14-day initial phase, add a cheat meal every five days until you’re at less than 10 percent body fat. Then you can have a full cheat day. For women, it’s the same thing, except you’ll need to multiply the protein goal by 0.6.

Most nutritionists advocate diets that have worked for them, which isn’t always a good thing if the coach is a carb-tolerant ectomorph. While I’m definitely a fan of low-carb diets for 75 percent of the population, I acknowledge that most people can still get results with a carb-based diet. It just requires more precision than the average Joe or Jane can usually commit to. Need a handy way to calculate the amount of protein to eat per meal? Animal protein is roughly 22 percent protein; so 100 grams of chicken, beef or scallops would translate to around 22 grams of protein. If your daily protein intake is 400 grams and you eat six meals a day, shoot for 300 grams of animal protein at each meal (300 x 22 percent = 66 grams of protein x 6 meals = 396 grams a day). It’s not ultra-exact, of course, but you don’t need to be obsessive to lose body fat.

All is not lost for the 75 percent of the population who don’t tolerate carbs well. I believe that by getting lean and staying lean for a solid 18 months, you can actually make yourself carb tolerant. Just watch the subscapular skinfold site – as the reading goes down, carbohydrate tolerance goes up. Food rotation, especially varying your proteins, is very important, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. I suggest labeling the meats you usually cook at home as “home foods” and making a point of avoiding them when dining out or traveling. So, for example, chicken, salmon and bison at home; steak, eggs and halibut on the road. In a nutshell, that’s what the protein goal is all about.

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