Q&A With Dr. John Berardi

By Paul Southern

In Nutrition

June 27, 2011

PDF Article

Paul Southern interviews nutrition expert Dr. John Berardi of PrecisionNutrition.com.

Dr. John Berardi runs PrecisionNutrition.com, a “nutrition coaching” website where members pay to access nutrition information, online support, exercise programs, etc. Dr. Beradi boasts an impressive list of academic credentials, and he’s also worked with Olympians and professional athletes.

Paul Southern of CrossFit Pleasanton talked with Dr. Berardi about his website, his views on nutrition, eating for performance, the Paleo Diet, intermittent fasting and more.

CrossFit Training is presenting a free Q&A session with Dr. Berardi from 5-8 p.m. on Aug. 26 at CrossFit Marina. To register, click here.

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39 Comments on “Q&A With Dr. John Berardi”


wrote …

The University of Western Ontario- and it's displaced graduates- send a warm hello to JB.


wrote …

Thanks for the warm welcome to the CF Journal, Jason. Much appreciated.


wrote …

Thanks for the interview, Mr. Berardi has a sensible approach, especially tweaking parameters depending on the goal. Just one bone to pick:

The "Paleo" issue with milk has nothing to do with lactose. Most will figure out on their own whether they can digest it or not.

The only relevance lactose intolerance has to the Paleo Diet is it's existence supports the idea that milk is not required to be healthy and thrive as an adult human being. It, like grains, are not essential food-stuffs and can cause all sorts of issues beyond just flatulence, stomach cramps, and diarrhea---whether you can digest lactose or not.

The fact that most of the world's population is intolerant to lactose makes N. European descendants a special case rather than the norm. Don't treat it like a problem. Take it as a sign.


wrote …

Always good to hear from JB. He has a great team at precision nutrition that has helped a ton of people.


Rob Barrese wrote …

Really enjoyed the article thank you JB.


wrote …

Thanks for the great feedback everyone! I really appreciate it. As this is my first article for the CF Journal (with hopefully more to come), I appreciate the warm reception.


wrote …

Kevin, thanks for the feedback.

And I do see what you're saying - in fact, I wasn't trying to imply that the Paleo prohibition of milk has everything to do with lactose intolerance. Sorry if I came off that way.

I do try to be a student of all the different nutritional philosophies out there (I dig deep into everyone's ideas, not just the ones that support my own). So I'd hate to misrepresent anyone's beliefs.

With that said, I just wanted to point out - with my milk comments - that human evolution has created different nutrient tolerances in peoples of different parts of the world.

Therefore, the concept of a single diet, supposedly based on "what the human species evolved to eat" can get problematic.

We can nail down most of the foods. And the fact that processed foods don't seem all the well-designed for us.

However, if you like dairy, tolerate it well, and can get better sources of it(free of hormones, pollutants, and heavy processing), I see no problem. And I guess I'm suggesting that the Paleo diet followers shouldn't either. But, those are a lot of caveats. And, I agree, if there are a bunch of "what ifs" then it might be best to just go with another nutrient source.

Thanks for the discussion!


wrote …

Yes! So happy to have JB and his outstanding company featured in the CF Journal. I completed the PrecisionNutrition Lean Eating Coaching Program a couple years back and lost 40lbs, 14% body fat and put on about 12lbs. of muscle w/ his/his team's guidance.

In the paleo/zone culture in CF I still carry the 10 PN principles w/ me and benefit from the cross pollination. Seeing this article I am inspired to dig back into PN content and get my nutrition even more dialed in!

More JB!!


wrote …

A fantastic article. Really looking forward to some more from John Berardi.

His attitude towards keeping humble as expertise grows is awesome.

A great read.....thanks.


Paul Southern wrote …

Thank you for the feedback on the interview. I have been following JB's writings and research for the last 10 years. His prudent, evidence based nutrition coaching strategies have helped me change the lives of innumerable athletes and clients. He is a great voice of reason in a sometimes unreasonable nutritional conversation. I look forward to more contributions from JB to the CrossFit Journal.


wrote …

Again, thanks for the kind words, all. I wasn't sure how the community would receive the info in this interview. But wow - I feel very welcome. If the CF Journal editors would hear more from me, I'm happy to send more articles in.

Perhaps, if there are some topics you'd like to hear more about, you could post them here and I'll consider them for future articles.


Dr Berardi, great article. I read it with much interest as I am always self-experimenting with nutrition. Most recently with Cyclical ketogenic diet, but that's not working for me - psychologically.

I very much like how you lay down the idea that calling something a "diet" and living by it like a religion is a bad thing. I ALSO VERY VERY MUCH like your reference to nutrigenomics. I've been toying in this area for a bit now - hoping to do some research. It makes complete sense, but is lost a lot of the time by the zealots as you refer to them.

Thanks for a great article.


wrote …

I'm so happy to see John Berardi's article in the journal! I'm going through his nutrition certification and am a Crossfit Level 1 trainer. I'm hoping to help the Crossfit community in its quest for optimal nutrition as we all know how important good nutrition is! Thanks, John


wrote …

Looking forward to viewing more from JB. I am also in the process of doing the Precision Nutrition Certification and highly recommend it for trainers.


wrote …

Down with all zealots!
The b*****ds should be hung drawn and quartered for their inflexible thinking and persecution of anyone who doesn't adhere to their beliefs.
It was a joke!

Well written and very good to see some common sense thinking put forward. Not sure that's likely to catch on, but we can hope.

And I can hope that we hear a lot more from Dr Baraldi.


wrote …

I am very happy to see temperance and moderation in a professional, not a salesman but someone who is self aware and educated with an open mind as well. I'm coming off like an ass kisser but it is nice.


wrote …

Good article, I disagree about the dairy and legumes, but I like how an individual can tweak their diet for their specific goals. My disagreement on dairy and legumes is similar to Mr. Sandburg's, why would we consume something that is not necessary to achieve perfect health, body composition, fitness or athletic goals?

I started Crossfit 6 months ago and have dropped from 25% bodyfat to a little over 10% and I attribute the success to a strict Paleo/Primal regimen. I have never in the past felt that I had an issue with dairy, as I have consumed milk and dairy products my entire life, but since keeping off of milk for these 6 months I have noticed a couple of times, when I forgot to give specific instructions and they included milk in the coffee, that I have felt the difference with increased mucous production. While this may not be a major issue it definitely suggests, at least to me, that we shouldn't be eating these things, there really is no benefit when there are better options available.


wrote …

Thanks Dr. B. I, along with a lot of other folks in the CF community I presume, welcome a different perspective. Keep 'em coming.


wrote …

Andres, congratulations on your success to date! Kudos to you for seeking out CF and a nutrition change. It's clearly paid off.

As far as your comments, I have to reiterate that I'm not necessarily pro-legumes or pro-dairy.

In fact, I personally avoid dairy completely. Not only am I lactose-intolerant (can't digest the sugar), I'm also allergic (have a reaction to the protein).

(Note: I suspect you're allergic too as the mucous production is a sign of that.)

Nevertheless, to say that because YOU and I are unable to use dairy - therefore NO ONE should eat dairy - is a problem. Here's why.

I have clients who are allergic to strawberries. And clients who are allergic to chicken. And clients who are allergic to eggs. And clients who have a terrible reaction when the go out into the sun.

See where this is headed?

Does that mean that NO ONE should eat strawberries, chicken, eggs, or go out into the sun? According to your logic, these would also be true.

Now, I agree that dairy is problematic for some - as are legumes. But that doesn't make them a "bad" food. It just makes them bad for SOME.

The beauty of self-experimentation is that you get to find out what works FOR YOU and what doesn't. And from there you get to come up with a plan that not only works, but that you enjoy.

With our clients, we have a saying: "how's that workin' for ya?" In other words, results rule the day. If it's working, we keep going. If not, we try something else.

It seems like you found both results and enjoyment in strict Paleo/Primal eating. That's awesome. It appears it's "working for ya" well.

However, I encourage you to NOT assume that everyone else, under all circumstances, should do EXACTLY what you did to lose 15% body fat.

We all find our results and our enjoyment in different places.

Thanks for the discussion!


wrote …

Hey John,

I don't know if I'm asking to get for free what you make your living off, but I'll ask anyway. If it is, feel free not to answer. Any specific recipe recommendations on a shake to get 45g protein and 90g of carb, especially if it's in water? I would think juice or a liquid would make up a bulk of the carbs. Where are those carbs coming from?



replied to comment from John Berardi

Dr. Berardi, thanks for your response. I see your point, thank you for elaborating.


wrote …

Am happy to help, Ross.

While a graduate student, I developed a nutritional product based on my research. I later went on to sell the formula to a company called Biotest. They sell the formula as "Surge Recovery".

I have no financial stake in the product or company. However, as I developed the formula and have seen the research demonstrate its efficacy, it's got my seal of approval.

There are other options, of course. After Surge was first released many other companies came out with similar formulas. And, if you wanted to try to put your own together with something like gatorade and whey protein, you could do that.

However, I've always found that using Surge Recovery is the easiest - and tastes the best.

Hope that helps.

And remember, this isn't for everyone. As discussed in the article, it's only for those who are in the midst of a hard training phase that requires extra recovery firepower.


wrote …

Thanks, John. I love how responsive/interactive authors are in the comments section.


wrote …

Really enjoyed reading this. Thanks for posting it.


wrote …

Well written, and an impressive show of logic and precision in your answers - these are not commodities I expect to discover in a nutrition article!

Thanks gents.

I have seen in the past something that led me to think that JB was a lipo-phobe, but that seems not to be the case, based on this article.

JB, would you comment on your perspective of saturated fats and health - do you view animal fats as a cardiovascular (or other) risk? What is your take on salt/sodium intake and health?

It was a pleasant surprise to read this, thanks again. Paul


wrote …

Thanks for the feedback, Paul.

As far as your questions - I spent a long time in school - so I do like tests. :-)

(Just be prepared for some conditional statements because, as you may have learned in the article, I don't believe there are many absolutes in nutritional practice.)

Fat intake - I like ALL the fats. In fact, I strive for a balance between saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats in my own diet - and in the diets of my clients.

Do I think saturated/animal fats are a CV risk? Yes, they absolutely are. But only under certain conditions.

For example, when out of balance with polys and monos, in a body that's high in inflammation, when there's excess body fat, and when there is high blood pressure, saturated fats can absolutely increase CV risk by leading to atherosclerotic plaque build-up. There is no ambiguity in the literature.

Of course, that doesn't mean they are "bad." When part of a balanced fat profile, in folks who aren't storing body fat like crazy and who don't have high BP or excess inflammation, I haven't seen much good evidence to suggest they're a problem.

So, no absolutes. Animal fats can be very damaging under certain conditions while totally helpful under other conditions.

As far as salt/sodium intake, I love salt too (in particular, sea salt). In fact, I encourage clients to eat lots of sea salt, especially when exercising and when body water balance seems well regulated.

But, again, no absolutes. In sedentary folks who aren't regulating BP or body water very well, additional dietary salt can lead to water retention, higher BP, and more CV damage. Again, there is no ambiguity in the literature.

As many smart scientists have said: the poison is in the dose. So, animal fats, salt, etc. can be life-saving or poisonous. It all depends on the dose. And on the system this dose is introduced to.

Hope that helps.


Dane Thomas wrote …

I'm reeling from the overdose of rationality and balance demonstrated by JB in both the article and the comments. Very Dalai Lama-esque with respect to the combination of wisdom, humility, curiosity and enthusiasm. Keep up the good work!


wrote …

"As far as your questions - I spent a long time in school - so I do like tests. :-)"
--Fair enough, but I prefer to think of it as an "audition."

Poison is in the dose - certainly true and applicable to this audition! I weigh 215, approx 13% BF, train intensely avg. 4 days/week, am 47, and with well regulated blood sugars and a high HDL/low triglicerides/moderate to high LDL (~120) lipid profile. I eat about 80% of calories as saturated fat. By what measure might I discern whether I'm having "too high a dose" of sat fat? By what mechanism is sat fat causing injury to my CV system?

I'm wait listed for your cert, so you might say the audition is over. I am curious how you understand the above scenario. Perhaps these questions, being a bit 'larger' than could be ideally answered in a comments section, could be the basis for another CFJ article?

If you have time to move from audition to teaching - what do you see as the benefit of polyunsaturated fats? And which ones are you thinking of when you say you want to balance them?

Many more questions, such as how you might test this concept or if you have in fact run a test similar to this, http://robbwolf.com/2009/10/08/crossfit-on-a-low-carb-paleo-diet-mat-lalonde-reporting/ (the key issue being outstanding performance on glycolysis based WODs after adaptation to a carb restricted diet). I have been able to replicate these kinds of results in my own training, but as far as I can tell everyone else in the "fitness world" thinks it is impossible.

Thanks again for an insightful article, and for your answer. Paul

---Dane - "overdose of rationality" - well put!


wrote …

Great Article. I remember there being a video or article somewhere in the past that describes nutrition as a pendulum. The pendulum swung wide with the high carb/low fat movement and then swung wide agin with the high protein/no carb blitz but ultimately it will settle in the middle with quality protein, good fats, and "favorable" carbs. I believe Gary Taubes (in good calories/bad calories) talks about the first thing that people remove when they want to lose weight is the liquid sugary carbs (i.e. pop, fruit juices), then it is the sugary carbs (desserts), then it is bread and pasta. I think moderation should be the first step in dietary manipulation.


wrote …

-"As far as your questions - I spent a long time in school - so I do like tests. :-)"

--"Fair enough, but I prefer to think of it as an "audition.""

---Touche! Comments below...

"Poison is in the dose - certainly true and applicable to this audition! I weigh 215, approx 13% BF, train intensely avg. 4 days/week, am 47, and with well regulated blood sugars and a high HDL/low triglicerides/moderate to high LDL (~120) lipid profile. I eat about 80% of calories as saturated fat. By what measure might I discern whether I'm having "too high a dose" of sat fat? By what mechanism is sat fat causing injury to my CV system?"

---Well, first off, with your healthy lipid profile, commitment to training, and well-managed body comp, I'd say that your statistical risk of CV disease is low. (Hard to say definitively, though, since genetics do play a role).

In addition, I do wonder about the 80% sat fat claim. What I mean is this. It's quite difficult to get 80% of your fat from saturated fat because even things like beef (55% saturated fat, 40% mono, 4% poly) and eggs (39% sat, 43% mono, 18% poly) contain pretty big doses of the monos and polys. Maybe you're actively trying to get 80% saturated fat and I'm missing the point. But if you're eating a mixed diet of animal and plant foods, I'd suggest you're in a better balance than you might think. Which is great.

--To assist with my own fatty acid balance, I keep it simple. I eat lots of veggies and meats. Then I supplement with 1tbsp fish oil and 1tbsp Udo's oil each day. When I break it down, that gives me a pretty even distribution of sat, poly, and mono.

"I'm wait listed for your cert, so you might say the audition is over."

--Great, would love to have you in the program! You seem sharp and well-read. So you'd be a real asset to our community!

"What do you see as the benefit of polyunsaturated fats? And which ones are you thinking of when you say you want to balance them?"

--This is covered pretty well in the Cert but here are some quick thoughts. The benefits of polys (in particular omega 3s) and monos include increase membrane fluidity, decreased inflammation, reduced tumor growth, lowered CV risk, improved neural transmission, decreased risk of depression, hypertension, and ADHD.

--Again, not to say that saturates are bad. In fact, I think a diet that has a good balance of all 3 fats offers these benefits above. It's about the balance. Not about any one fat in isolation. (Plus, it's about the lifestyle, as suggested earlier).

"Many more questions, such as how you might test this concept or if you have in fact run a test similar to this, http://robbwolf.com/2009/10/08/crossfit-on-a-low-carb-paleo-diet-mat-lalonde-reporting/ (the key issue being outstanding performance on glycolysis based WODs after adaptation to a carb restricted diet). I have been able to replicate these kinds of results in my own training, but as far as I can tell everyone else in the "fitness world" thinks it is impossible."

--Physiology explains this pretty well. The body can easily make its own carbs, if necessary. And can burn ketones if necessary. Metabolic flexibility is awesome.

--With the WODs which are intensely glycolytic - but not that long in duration - it's no problem for the body to provide enough energy for performance.

--The real challenge comes with elite athletes training 3-6 hours a day. For them, a diet very low in carbs does reduce performance and increase perceived exertion.

--So, again, it's the dose and the system you introduce that dose into.

--We get into all this in the cert program. Based on your questions, you'll love the section on metabolism and metabolic flexibility.

"Thanks again for an insightful article, and for your answer. Paul"

--No problem. I hope that helps. And I look forward to seeing you in the Cert program. I know you'll get A LOT out of it.


wrote …

Loved the article. Can't wait to hear more. Some videos would be great. I would love to hear you talk more about post workout shakes. I follow main site and do an 3 days on 1 day off schedule is that considered a heavy training phase. Should I even worry about protein shakes. The other question I have is everything talks about how to eat to lose fat and how to eat to gain muscle. I would like to do both do I need to start with the fat lose and then move to muscle gain after I get more lean. Starting to ramble.... I would love to see some videos on these types of things. HQ we definitely need some videos from this guy.


wrote …

To Jeff (thanks for the comments!) -- as discussed in the article, if you're doing very intense exercise of appreciable duration for multiple days of the week, a post-exercise drink is probably valuable. But it's up to you to determine that. You could even do a little experimentation for a few weeks - add in a pw drink and see what happens. If it helps, keep it in. If not, drop it out.

As far as protein shakes during other times of the day, I say they're only useful if you're not eating protein food. I get most of my protein from lean meats, fish, and eggs, most of the time. When traveling and it's tougher to find good protein sources, I may use a protein supplement. But I try my best to go with whole foods as often as I can.

Thanks for the questions and the positive feedback. I hope to do more with CrossFit in the coming months.


wrote …

Hey John, I think it would be so awesome for you to spearhead a nutrition cert for Crossfit!


replied to comment from John Berardi

Thanks JB, I wouldn't expect us to agree on everything, after all, we're talking about a topic that's so complex science really hasn't caught up to it yet, much room for interpretation and opinion, very little that's proven. Still, I'd have nothing but a few nits to pick with your answers, and appreciate the thoughtfulness and time you took to respond. It's always exciting to find another source to learn from, thanks, Paul


replied to comment from John Berardi


I had found your website several years ago- really embraced your philosophy ( for a better term) of nutrition, but got seriously sidetracked by the whole Paleo- primal advice/ philosophy. I'm know searching to attain balance- I feel very ill eating "Paleo" and have become phobic about fruit and grains. After reading this interview from my new passion- CrossFit, I'm breaking out my dusty Precision Nutrition manual and Gourmet Nutrition book to get my life back! Wow- to have a bowl of oatmeal again....


wrote …

Hi Laura,

Great to hear from you!

As you probably know, Paleo-style eating and PN-style eating are very similar with their focus on whole, unprocessed foods, lean meats, veggies, and good fats. So I think either approach can work great.

However, if the Paleo anti-grain focus has lead you to an unhealthy relationship with food, I agree - bring on the oats! (In small amounts and after workouts, of course ;-).

Feel free to pop over to the PN forums anytime if you have questions or need some support. we're happy to help.



wrote …

I have been crossfitting for a year and about 5 months. I have done the whole zone paleo, zone, and paleo kick. When I started paleo I began to notice a leaness in my body and it was getting me through my heavy strength training mixed with crossfit workouts. At my crossfit back home in California I worked with a coach with very rigorous workouts and was eating a high amount of calories to support this. I had alot of PRs and such. However, I began to switch to intermittent fasting and I have been doing it for a little over a month and am at school in Illinois. I typically have the same things everyday.... my performance is good in the gym, however I want to keep building more lean muscle and I feel I am in a rut.

Since starting intermittent fasting I eat about 1600 cals a day(isnt much but I feel okay, at first it was tough with the heavy strength training)

My meals are at 12 pm, post workout and 4 hrs after I finish my post workout meal. My 12 pm and last meal of the day are 25% of my calories and my post workout is 50% of my calories. Most of my meals consist of steak, chicken, free range eggs, apples, green beans, coconut oil, and post workout I always have brown rice and either fruit snacks or a gatorade for carbs and always pro7 to help fufill protein needs postworkout . Each meal adds up to the percentages by measuring my food, For example post workout consists of 50 g carbs, 33 g fat, 75 g protein and my 25& meals are 17 g fat, 37 g protein, and 25 grams of carbs. I also have 2 scoops of BCAA's about 15 mins and usually during warm up.

I feel that by continuing this way of eating, I may not be able to continue adding more muscle because my brother recomended this to me and he is a bodybuilder and I am a crossfitter. My workouts are more metcon and strength.

Any Advice? I just feel like I have done everything under the sun, and have seen slight differences but haven't found the program to give me amazing results.

And I am 5'1 about 133


wrote …

John, I can't tell you how happy I am to have you entering the community, and I hope we can continue to hear from you. Your grappling book was my first foray into nutrition, and then I ordered the more comprehensive PN binder shortly thereafter.


wrote …

Great stuff! You have captured my nerdy, nutrition brain and will definitely been looking into more of PN. Glad to have you in the CF community. I, like another had posted above, would love to see a CF Nutrition cert get spearheaded here. Keep up the great info!

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