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Cyclic Nutrition Program for Hormone Optimization

Part Two

By Gary F. Zeolla

Part One of this article provided the background to the Cyclic Nutrition Program (CNP). This second half of this two-part article will look at the first two phases of the CNP.

Initiation Period

Follow for one week, or until energy levels return and carb cravings subside. Then start cyclic program with regular low carb days.

Eat meats, eggs, cheese, butter, protein powders, high-MUFA/ Omega 3 oils, low calorie veggies.

Foods Notes:

Meats include: lean red meat, skinless chicken and turkey (white and dark meat), and fish (especially Omega 3 rich fish like halibut, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, and tuna).

Eggs are preferably Omega 3 rich eggs.

Cheese includes all hard cheeses like Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, Parmesan, Provolone, and Swiss, but not cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. Also not included are processed cheeses and cheese food. You want real cheese, not laboratory concoctions.

Butter should only be used in limited amounts. You are much better off using the healthy oils listed below.

Protein Powders: see Protein Powders for details.

High-monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA)/ Omega 3 oils include: almond, avocado, canola, flax, hazelnut, macadamia, olive, peanut, pumpkin seed, safflower (high-oleic only), sesame, sunflower (high-oleic only), walnut, and various fish oils.

Note that some safflower and sunflower oils are mostly polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA; high-linoleic), others are mostly MUFA (high oleic). Read the label to be sure you get the latter.

Some of these oils are hard to find and can be expensive. But health foods stores will have some of the more “exotic” ones. Unrefined nut oils are to be preferred over refined ones, but they tend to be more expensive. So a better option would be cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil. This is the least expensive, unrefined oil available. And it is higher in MUFAs than most other oils. Get organic olive oil, and it will be that much better. MacNut Oil (also organic) was mentioned in Part One as being another good option.

Not allowed are high PUFA oils like soybean oil. Also not allowed is mayonnaise or most sandwich dressings as they are usually made with soybean, high oleic sunflower, or other high PUFA oils. Also not allowed are salad dressings made with PUFA oils or with added sugars or artificial ingredients. Use the listed oils on your salads instead.

Also not allowed are coconut and palm oils. The reason is these contain mostly medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) rather than the long chain triglycerides (LCTs) that most fats and body fat are composed of. MCTs are burned more like carbs in the body. But the purpose of this initiation phase is to “teach” your body to burn fats (LCTs) for fuel.

Low calorie veggies include: asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chard, collard greens, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, green beans, kale, lettuce, onions, peppers, radishes, spinach, zucchini. The glycemic index of these veggies is essentially zero.

Caloric Proportions:

<10% Carb (<50g*)
30% Protein
60% Fat

*For 2000 calories, adjust proportionally for different caloric intakes.

Based on total carbs, not net carbs (net carbs = total carbs - fiber). If net carbs were used, the number of carbs would be less. And be sure to note the “lesser than” signs. The indicated percentage and grams of carbs are the maximum amounts.

However, don't get too hung up on the caloric percentages and grams of carbs, protein, and fat. These are just general guidelines. The ideal amounts will vary from person to person. And it is not really necessary to be counting grams or figuring out caloric proportions. What is important is to eat a variety of the indicated foods for each phase of the program. But if you do want to keep track of things, I would suggest downloading a copy of a nutrition software program like DietPower or get a book like Food Values of Portions Commonly Used by Jean. A. T. Pennington.

The general idea for the initiation period is to keep carbs very low and to split the remaining calories between protein and fat, with about twice as much fat as protein. Consumption of fat at this time will help initiate the metabolic shift by “teaching” the body to burn fat for energy, while the consumption of protein will elevate the metabolism since protein has the highest thermogenic effect of the macronutrients. This means it takes more energy for the body to digest protein than to digest carbohydrate or fat. However, too much protein will lower testosterone levels, so the emphasis is more on fat than protein. As such, a liberal use of the listed oils is encouraged.

Or another way of looking at it would be:
<0.5g of carb per pound of bodyweight.
1.0 - 1.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Rest of calories from fat.

Opinions vary as to how much protein is necessary for muscle repair and growth from the strength training workouts. But the consensus among powerlifters and bodybuilders is that at least one gram per pound of bodyweight is needed for optimal muscle growth. However, more than one and half grams per pound would be unnecessary and could lead to a drop in T levels.

General Notes:

Although it is not necessary to count calories, you should try to continue to consume about the same amount of food (number of calories) as you had been eating. You just need to substitute what you have been eating with the indicated foods. This phase is not for losing weight but to make the metabolic shift.

But for those who want to count calories, a general guideline would be the number of calories needed for maintenance is about 18 times your bodyweight in pounds (or 40 times your bodyweight in kilograms). Of course, this will vary based on activity levels and other factors.

Try to consume a copious amount of the indicated vegetables. A good habit to get into would be to consume 1-2 servings with each meal. Along with the many health benefits of vegetable consumption, this will help to prevent the constipation many experience when trying a low carb diet.

But another problem will not be able to be avoided. About 2-3 days into the initiation period, after your glycogen stores are depleted, you will feel lousy. This is a guarantee. It will happen, so be prepared for it.

What is happening is at that point you will have depleted your glycogen stores, and without incoming carbohydrate, your body, still being in a carb-burning mode, basically has no way to produce energy. So your energy levels will be abysmal, and you might even have problems sleeping at night. And you'll probably experience cravings for carbs, possibly intense cravings. It is at this point that many give up. But if you don't give in to the cravings or give up, you'll begin to experience the benefits of the program.

These problems will only continue for a day or two, and then, if you stick with the program, you will make the "metabolic shift" into being a fat-burner. At this point, your energy levels should return to normal or even higher than they were before, and the carb cravings will subside. When that happens, you'll know you've made the metabolic shift. It will then be time to start the regular cyclic part of this program with your first low carb days.

Low Carb Days

Follow for at least three days.

Eat the foods from the initiation period: meats, eggs, cheese, butter, protein powders, high-MUFA/ Omega 3 oils, low calorie veggies.

Eat also peanuts, nuts and seeds, cottage and ricotta cheese, moderate calorie veggies, high-fiber/ high water fruit, avocados.

Foods Notes:

All nuts and seeds are included except chestnuts. The nuts and seeds can be raw or roasted, but preferably unsalted or lightly salted. Natural peanut butter and nut butters are also included (e.g. with no added sugars or hydrogenated oils). These can be found at health food stores. The glycemic index of nuts and seeds are either very low or essentially zero, and their carb levels are very low. But they are not carb free. So they can be consumed rather freely, but don’t overdo it.

Cottage and ricotta cheese are also very low glycemic and very low in carbs, but again, not carb free. So don’t overdo their consumption. A particularly good option for the cottage cheese is cultured cottage cheese, available at health food stores. It has the same beneficial bacteria found in yogurt but with far fewer carbs.

Moderate carb veggies include carrots, squash, and tomatoes. The glycemic index of these veggies is low to moderate. But due to the higher carb levels, consumption should be limited to one or two servings a day.

High-fiber/ high water (HiFHiW) fruit includes: apples, apricots, berries, cherries, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, and plums. These are all low to moderate glycemic. But again, due to the carb content, only one or two servings a day should be consumed.

Avocados are the only fruit that is high in fat. Specifically they are high in MUFAs. They are also very low in carbs, and their glycemic rating is essentially zero. So they fit well on the low carb days. The main use for avocados is to make guacamole, which makes a great veggie dip.

Caloric Proportions:

10-20% Carb (50-100g)
25-30% Protein
55-60% Fat

Similar to the initiation period, the idea is to keep carbs low and to split the remaining calories between protein and fat, with about twice as much fat as protein.

Or again, another way of looking at it would be:
0.5-0.75g of carb per pound of bodyweight.
1.0 - 1.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Rest of calories from fat.

You'll need to experiment to see how much of the carb-containing foods you can eat on the low carb days without converting back to carb-burning mode. If your energy levels drop, you might have consumed too many carbs and slipped back into carb-burning mode. Also, if you start to feel bloated, you've probably eaten too many carbs. But the approximate amounts given should be right for most people.

However, it would be best to stick with just the foods from the initiation period within two hours before bedtime. Consumption of even a small amount of carbs at bedtime will blunt nighttime growth hormone release. But it is recommended that a small bedtime snack composed of protein and fat be eaten, with maybe a serving of low-calorie veggies. The protein will aid in muscle recovery and increase nighttime growth hormone release, and the fat will increase nighttime testosterone production.

General Notes:

Try to keep the amount of food (calories) about the same as before for your first cycle of low carb days. And don't get too excited about any weight loss during the initiation period and your first low carb days. This is just water loss from the loss of glycogen. It will come back on after the first day of high carb meals.

Part Three of this three-part article will conclude this discussion by providing details on the third phase of the CNP. It will also look at foods and food ingredients that should be to avoid for the best success on the CNP.


Brand-Miller, Jennie, et. al. The New Glucose Revolution. Marlowe & Company: New York, 2003.
Collins, Anne. Omega-3 and Omega-6 Essential Fatty Acids. Essential Fatty Acids in Fish.
Di Pasquale, Mauro. Anabolic Diet: Secrets Reveled. N/A, videotape.
    The Anabolic Solution for Powerlifters
. N/A. 2002.
    Metabolic Diet Web site.
DietPower 2.4. 1999-2001.
Faigin, Rob. Natural Hormonal Enhancement. Extique Publishing: Cedar Moutaint, NC. 2000.
    Extique Web site.
HGH Magazine.
Jamieson, James and Dr. L.E. Dorman. Growth Hormone: Reversing Human Aging Naturally. Published by J. Jamieson: St. Louis, MO, 1997.
Pennington, Jean. A. T. Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. Lippicott Williams & Williams: Philadelphia, 1998.
Schuler, Lou. The Testosterone Advantage Plan. Rodale: USA, 2002.
Thorton, Jim. "Maximum Testosterone." Men's Health. April, 2005, pp. 146-155,182.

Various abstracts on PubMed.

Cyclic Nutrition Program for Hormone Optimization. Copyright   2006 by Gary F. Zeolla.

Disclaimers:  The material presented in this article is intended for educational purposes only. The author is not offering medical or legal advice. Accuracy of information is attempted but not guaranteed. Before undertaking any diet, exercise, or health improvement program, one should consult your doctor. The author is in no way responsible or liable for any bodily harm, physical, mental, or emotional, that results from following any of the advice in this article.

The above article first appeared in the free FitTips for One and All email newsletter.
It was posted on this site March 30, 2006.

Nutrition: Hormones and Diet

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