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Bulletin #22 – Fruit and Your Diet

Fruit and Your Diet

At Parrillo NutritionmanualPerformance we have always said that proper nutrition is the foundation of bodybuilding excellence. And we continually emphasize that food is the cornerstone of nutrition. Our philosophy is to lay the foundation by eating the right foods.The details of exactly which foods to eat,how much to eat, and how to combine meals for maximum metabolic efficiency are all spelled out step by step in the Parrillo Performance Nutrition Manual. We specifically address the questions of how to gain lean mass and lose fat.One of the best things about working with people who have given our program a try  is when they call to tell me how much they’ve been able to change their lives— how the Parrillo program has allowed them to achieve the body of their dreams. Sometimes it’s an up and coming bodybuilder, but just as often it’s a middle aged man or woman who has been trying their entire life to get in shape. Helping people achieve their goals is my greatest reward. Can supplements help? Try to find a champion bodybuilder who doesn’t use them. The key is to use the right ones and use them properly.

Again, you must first lay down the foundation by eating the right foods. On top of a diet of lean, nutritious foods, the supplements can boost levels of specific nutrients even higher. For those people who eat a lot of junk food then expect supplements to make up for their lack of nutrients, you must realize that no amount of supplements can redeem a poor diet. One of the most common questions about our program is why we omit fruit from the diet. Although it will take a few pages of biochemistry to explain it, I can tell you the answer in one sentence: FRUIT MAKES YOU FAT. This little known fact has caused such a stir that sometimes I almost regret bringing it to light, but my job is to get the best results possible for the people who follow our programs. Can you eat some fruit and still have a good physique? Sure you can. But people who come to Parrillo Performance want the BEST RESULTS POSSIBLE. Professional bodybuilders don’t want good physiques — they want perfect physiques. If you’re not interested in biochemistry or physiology, you can skip the rest. All you need to know is that fruit makes you fat, and juice is even worse than whole fruit. Of course, fruit is generally a healthy food — high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and low in fat. But try to think of fruit as nature’s candy, because that’s exactly what it is. If your goal is to build a lean and  muscular physique, then you don’t want to eat candy.

Sugar and fat are natural, but that doesn’t mean they’ll make you lean and muscular.

Rather than being some theory out of a book, this is an experimental fact. For a long time I didn’t understand it — I just knew from our work in the gym that certain foods made bodybuilders get in better shape and other foods made them get fat. The experiment goes like this: As a bodybuilder gets closer to a contest, his body fat level gets very low — maybe 3-5% for a male and 8-9% for a female. At this point the skin is paper thin (in the human most fat is stored just under the skin). You can see the striations of muscle clearly through the skin. As you can imagine any little change at this point really shows up. This is why I like to use competitive bodybuilders for the most demanding nutritional experiments — they are a very sensitive indicator of what works and what doesn’t.

With the athlete in contest shape, we measure body weight and percentage of body fat every day. We weigh the food the subject will eat and calculate how many calories are being consumed and break it down into calories from protein, carbohydrate and fat. If the subject’s weight doesn’t change,this means caloric intake exactly balances caloric expenditure, so we have a direct empirical measurement of the total daily energy expenditure for the subject. Everything is measured and controlled, and nothing is left to chance.Okay, here’s what happens: Let’s Say we remove 300 calories worth of complex carbohydrates from the subject’s diet in the form of rice, and replace it with 300 calories worth from fruit. The subject’s total caloric intake remains the same as does the percefruitnt of calories from protein, carbohydrate and fat. The training program remains exactly the same. The only change is in the form of carbohydrate supplying 300 of the calories: rice has been replaced by bananas.You would expect the subject’s body weight and percent body fat to remain the same,right? To everyone’s surprise, the subject starts to gain fat. We let this go on for a couple of weeks and the subject continues to gain fat. Now, we pull the bananas out of the diet and put the rice back in — i.e., go back to the original diet. Guess what? The Subject loses fat. Amazing, but true. We’ve done countless experiments like this with just about every food imaginable. That’s how we came up with our diet— by finding what really works. The Parrillo Performance Nutrition Manual tells you Well, back to the story on fruit.

Why Does it make any difference what kind of food you eat? For a given number of calories it seems like it shouldn’t matter what foods they come from. This is one of the most common mistakes people make when trying to lose fat. They think that if they reduce calories they will automatically lose weight. This Is true, but only for a little while. And if you lose weight by drastically cutting calories,about 50% of the weight lost will be muscle.What people fail to realize is that the types of food you eat is just as important as how many calories you consume. If cutting calories was the answer, then those low calorie weight loss drinks would work. But they don’t.The key point is that different foods have different chemical compositions and therefore have different effects inside your body. Of course, all food is fuel, but what type of fuel it is matters a lot.

Try putting kerosene in you car sometime and see how it runs. For any machine to run optimally, including the human body, it requires the right kind of fuel.During the last year in this column,I’ve explored two major themes in detail. The First was the central role of hormones in determining your body composition (amount of muscle and fat) and how to control these hormone levels through diet and exercise.The second theme was thermogenesis — the thermodynamics of food metabolism in the human body. The bottom line you should have gotten out of this was that different foods have different effects on the body, by virtue of the hormonal responses they elicit and the route of energy metabolism that they follow. These concepts are so important that we devoted about 50 pages to them in the Performance Press  during the last year.  They Form the theoretical underpinnings of our experiments with the diets of bodybuilders that I described earlier. Like all good scientists, we make progress by combining scientific theory with real life observations.Some foods, such as simple sugars, are undesirable because they cause a large and rapid insulin release, and insulin is a potent stimulus for fat storage (1). Other Foods, such as conventional dietary fats (but not MCTs like CapTri®) are undesirable because they have a low TEF (Thermic Effect Of Feeding) and lower the FQ (Food Quotient) of the diet (2). Please see the series on thermogenesis in the December 1993, and January and February 1994 issues in the Performance Press.

Remember that the energy contained in all foods is converted to ATP (adenosine triphosphate) before it is used as fuel in the body. ATP is the chemical form of energy directly used to power muscle contractions and other biological functions.Simply put, if a food is efficiently converted into ATP, then all of the energy contained in that food is available to do work in the body.Any excess energy from such a food will be stored as fat. If a food is inefficiently converted to ATP, then a substantial portion of the calories contained in the food will be lost as heat, and therefore cannot be stored as fat.The problem with fruit is that virtually all of the calories it supplies come in the form of simple sugars. The most abundant sugar in fruit is fructose (commonly known as fruit sugar), although some fruits (oranges and grapes for example) also contain a lot of glucose.  I know, I know, all of you budding biochemists out there are going to point out that fructose is very low on the glycemic index.

This means that it does not elicit a large and rapid insulin release, and so on that basis we would not expect it to promote fat storage. Right you are. Although the reason fruit makes you fat is because of the fructose it contains, the effect is not mediated by insulin. The problem with fructose is that it bypasses the enzyme phosphofructokinase (PFKI), the rate limiting step of glycolysis (3). In other words, fructose bypasses the control point that decides if a dietary sugar is going to be stored as glycogen or fat. Complex carbohydrates, such as rice, oatmeal or potatoes, are preferentially stored as glycogen until glycogen stores are full. Fructose, on the other hand, gets directly converted to fat in the liver, then gets whisked off in the bloodstream to be stored in fat cells (3). Next month I’ll walk you through the metabolic pathway, step by step.


  1. de Castro JM, Paullin SK and DeLugasGM. Insulin and glucagon as determinants of body weight set point and micro regulation in rats. J. Comp. Physiol. Psychol. 92: 571579, 1978.
  2. Bjorntorp P, and Brodoff BN. Obesity. J.B.Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, 1992.
  3. Shafrir E. Fructose/sucrose metabolism,its physiological and pathological implications. Sugars and Sweeteners, Kretchmer Nand Hollenbeck CB, Eds. p. 6398. CRC Press,1991.
2018-03-13T11:10:38-04:00 May 14th, 2009|Technical Supplement Bulletins|

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