By Andre Newcomb
One of John Parrillo’s most important and controversial ideas was his contention that, over time and with strict nutritional and exercise adherence, the metabolism could be “built.” In many ways this is the fundamental Parrillo precept, one upon which the entire Parrillo philosophy of bodybuilding is constructed. Metabolism is defined as “the breakdown and conversion of food (and drink) into energy.” Further, John Parrillo states, “The metabolism has two functional components, catabolism and anabolism. Catabolism breaks down food and extracts the nutrients needed for energy, repair and growth. Anabolism is the construction of new body tissue, new muscle.” Why is a “built” metabolism a good thing for a bodybuilder? To build and maintain significant amounts of muscle mass requires ample calories, first to build muscle and then to maintain that muscle. Muscle is a metabolically active tissue that requires calories to survive: the more muscle you have the more calories are required. Those bodybuilders that swear allegiance to low calorie diets never become large and muscular. John Parrillo pointed this out in a recent interview, “Note that those that adhere to low calorie diets and to ketogenic (no carb) diets are able to lose body fat – however they are unable to grow muscle mass.” The lack of calories and carbohydrate stymies new muscle construction. The Parrillo approach to bodybuilding requires a skillful blending of high intensity exercise with a highly specific and extremely sophisticated nutritional strategy. Those that successfully adhere to the Parrillo approach invariably add lean mass while simultaneously reducing body fat. What could be better than that?
Foundational core precept: engage in intense exercise: diets alone are never as effective as diets synchronized with exercise. Most conventional progressive resistance exercise programs are insufficiently intense to build muscle; most conventional cardiovascular exercise routines are insufficiently intense to burn body fat. The Parrillo approach towards exercise insists bodybuilders must engage in two types of exercise: weight training and aerobic training. Both types of exercise need be sufficiently intense in order to obtain the muscle-building, fat-burning results being sought. “Aerobic exercise is critical,” John explained, “a fitter bodybuilder is able to train harder, train longer and train more often. Intense cardio exercise builds cardiovascular density and mitochondrial density.” The Parrillo approach to cardio is not polite, sweat-free jogging, or texting while riding an exercise bike. “The bodybuilder should use a variety of aerobic tools, machines and modes, while always seeking to train just below the oxygen-debt threshold.” By sweating profusely, by, huffing and puffing, the bodybuilder derives maximum benefit from their cardio efforts. Weight training, Parrillo-style, covers all the bases: low rep training is recommended for maximum power and muscle density; moderate reps build maximum muscle size while ultra-high rep sets reset Golgi-tendon reflex trigger points and straddle the fence between resistance training and cardio. The Parrillo weight training approach is best described as hard, heavy and often.
Foundational core precept: use metabolism-amping nutrition: not all calories are created equal: some calories are naturally “partitioned” towards healing muscles torn down in training. These calories contain micronutrients that repair and replenish muscles, this as a precursor to generating actual muscle growth. Other calories are naturally partitioned into the creation of body fat. The Parrillo nutritional approach biases food consumption towards muscle-building calories while avoiding fat-producing calories. Not coincidentally, those beneficial calories also accelerate the metabolism. Certain foods are nutritionally power-packed, yet difficult to digest. There is a thermic expenditure assigned to digesting hard-to-digest nutrients. “Dynamic action” refers to a food’s ability to stimulate heat during digestion. Heat accelerates the body’s metabolic rate. By biasing food consumption towards foods that spike the metabolism, by ingesting calories that are difficult to store as fat, the Parrillo nutritional approach creates the perfect anabolic diet. Regular food is augmented with powerful Parrillo nutritional supplements. In the Parrillo lexicon, a “clean” calorie is partitioned towards building new muscle, providing energy or it is excreted. Ample amounts of clean calories “underpin and optimize results obtained from high intensity exercise.” John went on to explain, “we stress eating calories difficult for the body to convert into body fat. We stress eating calories that spike dynamic action and amp-up the metabolism.”
• Lean protein: the backbone of the Parrillo nutritional approach is the ample consumption of lean protein. Protein spikes the metabolism by upwards of 30% for 10-12 hours. Carbohydrate and fat, by comparison, elevate the metabolic rate a mere 4%. Parrillo recommends hard-trainers intake a minimum of 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. A 200-pound bodybuilder would take 200-300 grams per day.
• Fiber carbohydrates: fiber carbs are virtually impossible to be converted into body fat. Fiber has very few calories, a low caloric density. Fiber is an excellent intestinal cleanser; fiber scraps walls of sludge as it passes through the body. Fiber carbs include green beans, broccoli, onions, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, kale, asparagus, etc. Parrillo recommends a high fiber intake as “the perfect complement to a high protein intake.
• Starch carbohydrates: starch carbs are broken down into glucose, blood sugar. Glucose is used as energy for red blood cells and the central nervous system. Glucose is a muscle’s main fuel source during intense exercise. Unlike simple sugar, natural starch carbs produce a slow, steady release of glucose. In the Parrillo approach, starch carbs are always eaten with fiber and protein, never alone; food combining dampens starch insulin spikes.
• Nutritional supplementation: John Parrillo developed a line of super-potent nutritional supplements, initially to fill a gap; potency was sadly lacking. During the 60s and 70s, impotent soy protein was cut with sugar and sold with nasty chemical filler. Parrillo set the potency standard with his protein products. CapTri® C8 MCT possesses the caloric density of fat, 9-calories per gram, yet cannot be stored as body fat.
Putting it all together: Are you training hard enough? Engage in hardcore weight training and intense cardio. Train with the requisite ferocity. Be consistent. Weight training need be hard enough to trigger hypertrophy; cardio need be intense enough to cause the burning of body fat. The training is underpinned with high-calorie, clean calorie eating. Protein goals are set: each day, seven days a week, protein minimums are attained. Nutritional supplementation can go a long way in helping a serious bodybuilder attain his daily protein goals. Fiber carbs are eaten often. Starch carbs are derived from natural sources and eaten with other foods to dampen insulin spikes. The classic Parrillo meal consists of a large portion of lean protein along with unlimited fiber and a portion of natural starch. The intake of calories is divided up into smaller, more frequent meals or feedings. Be aware that in the Parrillo approach, there are no cheat days or cheat meals: once the process commences, the training is expected to be done as scheduled and the nutritional game plan adhered to completely. The Parrillo approach is an expert blending of cardio, lifting, nutrition and supplementation. None of the elements are optional or replaceable. All the disciplines amplify one another.
How to build the metabolism: a Parrillo-influenced bodybuilder might start of with a 2,500 (clean) calorie per day diet. Here is one potential 2,500 calorie daily meal plan…
The Parrillo nutritional approach has many characteristics: establish a multiple meal eating schedule stressing a high intake of lean protein and fiber. Natural starch carbs are only eaten with other food. Long-chain triglyceride fat consumption is minimalized and “switched out” with MCT fat (medium-chain triglyceride) contained in CapTri® C8 MCT. After four weeks of stabilized eating at 2,500 calories, the Parrillo bodybuilder “kicks up” the overall daily caloric intake by 500 calories, from 2,500 to 3,000 calories. This might be accomplished by intaking an additional 65 grams of protein (one more shake, one chicken breast) and an additional 65 grams of starch carbs (a modest-sized portion of brown rice.) Aerobic intensity would be kicked up, lifting intensity taken up a notch. Stabilize at 3,000 for two to three weeks, stabilize and realize the gains. Repeat. Multiple meals, clean calories, high protein and heavy MCT supplementation underpin exercise that becomes increasingly intense. Results are monitored weekly using the unique Parrillo BodyStat Kit. This nine-point skin-fold caliper test assesses changes in body fat percentiles, week to week, month to month.
Augment with supplements: the Parrillo bodybuilder adopts and adapts to the process. As the weeks roll by, clean calories need be systematically increased. Exercise intensity is increased, training sessions grow longer, momentum develops, muscle is built, body fat oxidized. There must be a complete commitment to nutrition. The Parrillo Nutritional Program includes a 450-gram scale; the Parrillo approach to nutrition requires total accuracy. The serious bodybuilding effort requires nutritional precision – are you able to eyeball 250 grams of brown rice or 125 grams of cod? How big a portion is 200 grams of turkey breast of 100 grams of green beans? After handling foods over and over, after repeated food prep and meal creation, a seasoned bodybuilder can “eyeball” a 250-gram portion of chicken breast or 50 grams of broccoli with great accuracy. Regular food is augmented with powerhouse Parrillo nutritional supplements. As the weeks roll by, as the bodybuilder delves deeper and deeper into the process, more clean calories are needed, more fat-free protein is needed. Two Parrillo protein shakes per day, one Optimized Whey™ shake in the morning and a Parrillo Hi-Protein™ caseinate shake before bed, provide 70 grams of protein – this goes a long way towards hitting daily protein goals. CapTri® C8 MCT becomes critical: each tablespoon contains 120 calories per level tablespoon. CapTri® C8 MCT calories are the cleanest of calories. Despite being a lipid, a fat, CapTri® C8 MCT calories go to the head of the oxidation line as soon as they are consumed. Many bodybuilders will double their caloric intake over the course of a 12-week off-season mass-building phase. Use supplements judiciously and expertly.
Why go to the trouble? If you are serious about taking your physique to the next level, a serious approach is needed. Most trainees have sluggish metabolisms; they under eat the wrong foods and under-train. Real gains are rooted in establishing an intense training regimen and underpinning the never-ending body shock (that is true training) with a high calorie, clean calorie, multiple meals eating approach. Those that can lock down the training and establish consistent clean eating, with lots of calories and lots of potent supplements, never fail to make sensational gains. Jump in (calorically) at a low level and lock it in for a protracted period. No bobbles or cheats. Begin building the metabolism by slowly adding small amounts of clean calories, heavily biased towards protein. Each week kick up the calories, each week kick up the cardio and each week kick up the lifting intensity. Hold the course for 8-12 weeks. Building the metabolism requires you eat more (clean fuel) in order to lose body fat. Use weekly BodyStat readings as a report card. Keep the fuel clean and the exercise intense. Eating more to lose body fat is the very definition of building the metabolism and the core principle of Parrillo-style bodybuilding.