Big Meals to Fuel Big Workouts and Big Gains

In the process of losing the 60 pounds I’ve lost I became averse to appetite, by which I mean that when I got hungry I’d eat pretty good — you’ve seen the food porn — but hardly ever with a voracious or gluttonous attitude. I just really got out of the habit of eating a lot, or often. This was good.

What I’ve done is to gradually accustom myself to eating big…really big; for me. Today’s post workout meal, after nine days of rest from the gym — and eating less each day because — was records on deadlift, standing press, and seated cable rows. After that and a few other exercises I downed 1,420 kcal in a single meal. Yea, carbage was involved, but not huge.

Anyway, this is not the typical food porn, it’s fixed only for me (another factor), but it’s what I’m doing right now. You see, I have a specific goal and I’m going to attain it. It requires real attention to diet in a way that’s paleoesque but not necessarily how I would eat normally, short the goal I’m intent on attaining. (Click all images for hi-res.)

Steak Eggs
Steak & Eggs

That was a post-workout "break-fast." What you don’t see is the cup of cottage cheese and the shake I downed for another big whack of protein.

Her’s a pound of roast beef, chopped & crisped under the broiler with a bit of beef stock for moisture.

Roast Beef
Roast Beef

First helping.

Roast Beef and More Protein
Roast Beef and More Protein

And then I finished off the rest of the beef.

At first this was hard and I drank a lot of the protein needed to make the impressive strength gains I’ve made in the gym in a couple of months. How much protein exactly on workout and rest days?  I can’t say exactly and I don’t really know "the formula" in any case if there even is such a thing, but should it be any mystery that lots of protein is needed to make really big gains? Maybe it’s not required, long term, but I don’t want to wait another three years. I want these gains in months! And plus, I’ve simply found that I dig lifting bigger and bigger. I just do.

This is very, very different from what was going on before, where I had respect from trainers other than my own. Now I get a bit of awe. This is not a body-builder gym by any means (…oh so far from it — it’s an old-fat-fuck, downtown-lawyer gym; they call it a "club") so some of them — standard cert-holder p-trainers — are quite interested in what I’m up to. Today one of the newer trainers came into the room where I was doing some post-workout intervals on the stationary bike and, having seen me do my DLs and standing presses earlier said, "Dude, you’re gettin’ strong!" Believe me: he’s 20-sumthin’ and I’m pushin’ 50. That’s music every day.

And I’m just getting started. A 300 conventional deadlift would have been unimaginable three months ago. Now it’s just a matter of a few weeks away and I taste it. Can I hit 500? That will surely take more time and serious effort. I’m not committed to that goal, yet, but I’m thinking about it.

I wrote earlier that I downed 1420 calories post workout today. I had a lot of roast beef, cottage cheese, mashed potato, cantaloupe and a big glass of coconut water. Here was my second meal, tonight.


Basic grilled grassfed burger & mash. The sauce was of my recent batch of bone stock — of which I have photos and may do a post on soon.

I dunno… Maybe it’s obvious. I suppose just getting lean is a great goal. It’s what I wanted to do and then I bounced 175-180 for a year and never got much stronger, or leaner. I still bounce 175-180, the difference being I’m hugely stronger and visibly more muscular and lean.

I’ll take it; and plus, I’m not finished.


  1. Maleficarum on June 23, 2010 at 15:58

    I say congrats. 300 DL is an impressive goal… and to hear that you are looking to go well beyond that is equally impressive.

    one thing i find off putting about traditional paleo diets is the focus on leanness without focusing on strength. i first found paleo by way of the Army and Crossfit. Crossfit is not my style… i just dont have the patience or the motivation for it. After i drop a significant amount of weight i am deeply interested in increasing my strength. My body type just begs for muscles that match my bone structure. Ive never had trouble packing on the muscle when I make an effort to work out. It’s when i stop working out and continue to eat like i am working out that the pounds just start pouring back on.

  2. Skyler Tanner on June 23, 2010 at 16:36

    Your mystery dietary coach is clearly earning his pay. Of course, you’re busting your ass which is what matters in the end.

  3. Mountain Dew on June 23, 2010 at 16:43

    Richard, if you don’t mind me asking, how tall are you?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 23, 2010 at 16:53

      I’m 5’10” just about on the nose.

      • Mountain Dew on June 23, 2010 at 17:06

        Cool, thanks. And I do hope you do a post on that sauce. They’re the perfect touch on the mash!

  4. Michael on June 23, 2010 at 17:14

    Mountain Dew, he’s 5’10. You can see his starting measurements on the side bar.

    Richard, how is your wife reacting to all these changes? :-) Any chance she might join you in the gym?

    • Christoph Dollis on June 24, 2010 at 14:39

      Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

      You’re asking for too much detail there.

      • Michael on June 24, 2010 at 15:54


  5. Ned Kock on June 23, 2010 at 17:34

    Richard, as you probably know you also need carbs to replenish you glycogen stores.

    You can do that with protein, through gluconeogenesis, but that is a bit wasteful (metabolically speaking) and less protein is not used for muscle gain. It seems that fructose (from fruits), which more often than not comes with glucose, is particularly good for glycogen replenishment:

    Fructose seems to contribute to glycogen replenishment itself, and “turbocharge” the contribution of glucose. That is in spite of all the controversy regarding fructose, related to Dr. Lustig’s presentation, even though Lustig himself cleared fruits in that presentation.

    • chris on June 23, 2010 at 18:32

      Ned, He’s got the carbs via potatoes, cottage cheese and I’d bet a bit of carb in the protein powder as well.

      • Ned Kock on June 24, 2010 at 07:02

        Sure, the potatoes are a big source, but of glucose alone. I wanted to make a point about the role of fructose in my comment above.

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  7. Primal Toad on June 23, 2010 at 18:55

    Thats a lot of amazingly delicious food. I am a small dude but could almost enjoy that much. I am on the verge of working out a little more as I have been too relaxe recently when it comes to fitness. I am also doing a simple lift heavy things routine that involves bodyweight squats, pull-ups and push-ups. I require a lot more protein. I enjoyed part of my grass fed cow today by consuming an 8 oz. ribeye steak. The other 8 oz is in the fridge and will be eaten for breakfast with probably a smoothie

    Great pictures of the food. You give me and I am sure a lot of others of what food to consume if one wants to gain a lot of muscle like myself.

  8. Alex on June 23, 2010 at 19:35

    Hey Richard,

    I know whey protein is not quite paleo, so I’m just curious what brand you like and how you prepare it? Do you go for the all natural whey and mix it up with some almond milk or something? Thanks.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 29, 2010 at 10:11


      Usually I use Whey to Go but am now also using Pro Complex because a serving has 60g instead of 30g.

      I mix it in various ways, usually just water & a raw egg, sometimes a bit of heavy cream mixed in as well.

  9. Austin on June 23, 2010 at 21:55

    Holy cow! It’d be great to see a short video cut of your workouts.

    • Richard Nikoley on June 29, 2010 at 10:12

      I’m thinking of doing that now that I have the iPhone 4 that does great video and that will make it easy.

  10. Aaron Curl on June 24, 2010 at 03:56

    Is this site going to turn into Free the Powerlifter? Nice numbers your throwing around! I could do about half of that. Keep it up Richard! I’m thinking I need to start lifting “heavier” things like yourself a couple of times a week.

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  12. Ken Oursler Jr on June 24, 2010 at 06:24

    I totally understand what you are doing and it will work but it is important to explain that there are long terms problems from high protein consumption too….Dr. Rosedae speaks to this with Jimmy Moore on his podcast as you know… may want to explain the downside of high protein diets as well in an effort of full disclosure…..just a thought….not a big deal really.

    Enjoy and appreciate all of your work here.

  13. WVUDave on June 24, 2010 at 07:14

    I just wanted to let you know how unbelievably jealous I am that you are going to the MovNat Workshop. West Virginia is the perfect place to host the event, I should know, I went to WVU. Unfortunately because I am a recent grad I’ve got loans and am financially incapable of affording said workshop. Can’t wait to hear about it, try to take lots of pictures and video! Maybe I’ll be able to make it next year!

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  15. bob r on June 24, 2010 at 17:57

    ….Dr. Rosedae speaks to this with Jimmy Moore on his podcast as you know…..

    That should be

  16. Scott W on June 25, 2010 at 09:24

    I’m working on adding more protein too. But it can be hard sometimes when you don’t want to cook or may be traveling. Especially if you want to have lean protein. So here is something I have found that you may be interested in. Don’t laugh. Certain dog treats from Costco. I’m serious.

    Kingdom Pets Chicken Jerky.
    3 pound bag for about $7. Ingredients: Chicken breast fillet, vegetable glycerin, salt.

    And it looks like a piece of jerky, a strip about 1.5 inches by 5 inches so no one laughs. Travels well.

    Yes, the bag says “not for human consumption” but I’ve eaten pounds of it and have not yet died.

    Just an idea that someone may find useful.

    Scott W

  17. Saturday Link Love: Edition 1 on June 26, 2010 at 03:07

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  18. Dan on June 26, 2010 at 12:33

    Love the idea of chopping up the roast beef and grilling it.

  19. Derek S. on June 28, 2010 at 13:11

    I’ve noticed that your carb intake has increased significantly this year and I have to believe that has a major part to play in your performance increases. Increased carb intake equals increased glycogen stores. Increased glycogen stores equals increased duration & intensity of weightlifting, which of course, in turn, equates to greater strength gains & muscle synthesis (assuming adequate protein intake).

    Since being on my own primal journey for the past 4 months, and losing 25 lbs of fat in the process while gaining 2 lbs of muscle, I’ve discovered that glycogen is a much bigger deal than we generally believe. When I’ve been particularly low carb in a given week (30-40g per day) I can tell I hit the wall much faster and that I run out of gas after only 2 or 3 workouts or so. My low to medium intensity cardio holds up just fine because I’m burning fat for energy, but my weightlifting and sprinting suffers quite a bit. However, when I make sure to get at least 75g of carb per day this never happens. The only difference between the two diets, of course, is increased glycogen synthesis as I always make sure to take in at least 100g of protein each and every day.

    My question is whether or not you’d recommend the diet you’re consuming now to someone who’s still in the fat loss phase of their primal journey. In other words, do you think you could’ve had the same success with fat loss if you’d been eating this way, say, a year ago? Two years ago? Or would you recommend someone wait until they are near their “ideal weight” before increasing the daily carb intake to a significant degree?

    • Richard Nikoley on June 28, 2010 at 13:17

      I think I might, Derek, but on the condition that:

      1. The bulk of the carbs are ingested in the post workout meal with a good amount of protein to go with it (basically, high on both — I just ate about 100g carbs an hour after a BIG workout)

      2. The gains at the gym are consistent, i.e., you’re making progress in increasing weight without falling off too much in reps with each increase.

      Obviously, the gains are not going to happen forever and I think one ought to be low to moderate carb out of the context of post-workout meals.

      • Derek S. on June 28, 2010 at 13:36

        I was doing some more research and discovered that the greatest glycogen synthesis takes place about 45 minutes after a workout and that we should consume our carbs around that time, keeping them as simple as possible. The recommendation was for 100g post workout with a nice dose of protein to go with it. Then I returned here to see if you’d responded yet and you said exactly the same thing. Thanks for the quick reply and for the confirmation. Much appreciated!

  20. GiGi on July 7, 2010 at 20:52

    I could take you in an eating contest ANY DAY! ha ha ha.

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