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The Lean It UP Clean Eating Manifesto — 17 Nutrition Tactics To Eat Cleaner, Live Leaner, And Build The Ultimate Body

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It’s time to overhaul your backwards, incredibly ineffective, fat-as-hell American diet. Because frankly—statistically speaking—your eating is likely a disgusting, unmitigated disaster.

And if so, it’s completely undermining your training and any results you’re hoping to see.

From an aesthetic PoV, the way you eat has the profound power to elevate training performance, enhance recovery, accelerate fat loss, and catalyze muscle growth. It’s like a moving airport walkway or a high-powered fan — it accentuates your habits and propels everything forward, faster.

Conversely, eating utter garbage pulls everything backwards, destroys the effectiveness of workouts, and makes it incredibly difficult to see positive change. Momentum drags. You’re stuck in quicksand, slowly sinking as your health deteriorates.

Effectively, when your diet is a disaster, the hard work you do put in barely keeps your body afloat. And if that effort slips whatsoever—and it will, once you inevitably lose your motivation from a lack of results—your body fat is bound to skyrocket and your physique will spontaneously combust.

To help revamp your “diet” (read: your pattern of eating) we’ve concocted the de facto Lean It UP Clean Eating Manifesto. It’s an insanely simple, straightforward, nutritional blueprint that’s designed to help streamline HOW you eat and actively build a killer physique; in a way that’s highly flexible, SUSTAINABLE long term, and not a royal pain in the ass.

Think of it as the 10 Commandments of eating, except that we beefed it up to 17 essential rules.

Follow it and not only will you build muscle tone, drop body fat, and keep it low—gasp, you might even see a few abs blossom—but you’ll gradually construct a body that’s glowing from the inside-out, immune from disease, bubbling with energy, and designed to stay strong in the long run.

Don’t call it a diet. I absolutely hate that word — it implies that you’re following a temporary eating pattern. Call it a lifestyle. This is how you’re living. And it starts right now.


17 Nutrition Tactics To Eat Cleaner, Live Leaner, And Build The Ultimate Body

clean eating, healthy eating, diet, nutrition, lean eating, meal plan, eating plan, nutrition plan, diet plans, healthy eating plan, diet meal plan, healthy diet plan, diet plan, weight loss diet

You’re busy and we won’t bullshit you. Our rulebook is completely free of gimmicks and trivialities, as we’ve stripped it down to the bare essentials that are tried and tested to work effectively.

Most notably, you won’t have to follow asinine meal plans, count calories, suffer through a noxious juice cleanse, eat all-organic-everything, or chug cayenne water.

Eating healthy and effectively really isn’t that hard. It just takes a little discipline and a slight recalibration.

Ready? Start with #1.


1. KNOW Your Calories.

Calories matter. You just don’t have to count them.

At the foundation of any diet—regardless of what goes in—engorging yourself with food will lead to weight gain, and eating an all-celery diet will lead to weight loss. It’s energy balance, and those core principles almost always hold. But nutrition is highly sophisticated — the QUALITY of weight gain/loss (i.e. muscle, fat, water) will vary immensely depending on a spectrum of factors.

Your move: use your personal calories as a guideline.

Knowing a rough estimate of your body’s caloric maintenance gives you a frame of reference to work with, and a number to shoot for. That ballpark helps keep your eating in check — and immediately magnifies the impact of a 1,800 calorie Sonic Blast.

To get there, follow two easy steps:

  • (1) Calculate your maintenance calories. Use this calculatorpop in your information, and it’ll spit out a number. That’s a rough approximate of how much you should be eating based on your metabolism and activity levels.
  • (2) Divide your total cals by your expected # of meals. Let’s say you typically eat 4 meals/day and your maintenance is 2,000 calories. Eating four 500 calories meals is an easy framework to work with. Of course, meal size and frequency are your call — there’s no scientific proof that eating 5-7 small meals impacts weight loss.1

Plus, food labels are notoriously inaccurate. By law, labeled calorie counts are allowed to exceed labels by up to 20%. TWENTY. One study in the Journal of The American Dietetic Association found that calorie counts on packaged foods exceeded labels by 8%, and those on restaurant menus by a whopping 18%.2345

Others suggest that estimates are off by a whopping 25%.6

So yeah, counting meticulously is a futile exercise — don’t waste your time or sanity. Eat around your ballpark, keep a rough count in your head, and spend most of your energy focusing HEAVILY on #2.


2. Upgrade Your Food QUALITY. 

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“Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.” — Kevin Trudeau

Above all else, food quality reigns supreme. Everything you put into your body directly impacts the way you look, feel, perform, and grow. Stop treating it like a garbage disposal.

Like a Ferrari, you deserve to run on high-grade, high-octane fuel. Respect it.

There’s immense power in eating real, whole food. Like, stuff that comes from nature, not a factory. Soda, sugar, processed food, refined carbs, and other artificial crap gradually drives your body’s internal thermostat haywire and causes major dietary damage.

Over time you’ll develop nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, and degenerative diseases. Blood sugar levels chronically spiral, which (A) triggers fat storage and (B) leads to insulin resistance and diabetes. Eventually, the body forgets how to use stored fat as fuel, as it becomes overly reliant on glucose — that equates to early fatigue, horrible CV fitness, and the inability to burn off body fat.

But once you cut out all of the garbage—and replace it with whole, fresh, nutrient-dense powerhouses—your body gradually refreshes itself, resets its hormones, and re-learns to function as it was designed.

Additionally, you’ll be able to rely on automatic cues to regulate hunger. Americans are hungry ALL THE TIME because of what they eat. Protein, healthy fats, veggies, and complex carbs all boost satiety and work in concert to produce a feeling of fullness.

Your move: Start eating BETTER food. Master these resources to upgrade what you’re eating.


3. De-Process.

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If we weren’t clear we’ll say it again for emphasis — eliminate packaged, refined, processed foods. ANNIHILATE them from your diet.

Things like soda, cereal, white bread, low quality meat, candy, cookies, convenience food, and anything labeled “diet” are all stripped of nutrients, full of GMOs, loaded with sodium, and contain inflammatory omega-6 to omega-3 ratios.

Plus, they’re often gushing with trans fats, added sugar, artificial sweeteners, HFCS, chemicals, colors, hormones, and preservatives.

You are what you eat — garbage in, garbage out. It’s 2015, enough already.


4. Eat Strategically For the Body You Want.

All training needs an objective. Are you trying to build muscle mass, drop pounds on pounds, add muscle definition without getting bulky, or just maintain where you’re at and stay healthy?

Got your answer? Good. Okay, now manipulate your calories accordingly. Choose your own adventure:

  • (A) Maintain — Eat around your maintenance if your goal is to keep your weight roughly the same. If you’re working out like a beast and/or eating extremely lean, you’ll see a gradual, progressive re-composition; including increases in lean muscle and reduced body fat.
  • (B) Muscle Gain — Increase your calories slightly (aka eat more). Higher surplus → faster muscle growth, but you’ll gain body fat along with it.
  • (C) Weight Loss — Decrease your calories slightly (aka eat less). Bigger deficit → faster weight loss, but you’ll also lose muscle mass, decrease performance, and sap energy levels.

In the bodybuilding world, people often follow a “bulk/cut” cycle where they apply a MASSIVE swing in calories for a period to increase muscle mass or drop body fat; sometimes going as high as 1,000+ calories above or below maintenance. One issue with that — you get excessively fat when you’re “bulking” and can quickly blow up into the Michelin Man.

Unless you’re competing, we’d recommend mini fluctuations: ±300-500 calories for deliberate change. It’s healthier, easier to manage, and you’ll keep the side effects within a shorter bandwidth, including energy crashes and unnecessary fat gain. 

Personally, I want to be as lean as possible whenever my shirt flies off. Not based on a monthly cycle.


5. Muscle Hungry? Optimize Critical Windows.

If packing on slabs of Grade A, USDA Prime, lean muscle is your #1 priority, timing matters.

Flooding your body with nutrition during specific time windows is absolutely critical. It has the power to make or break workout performance, optimize muscle recovery, and ultimately drive GAINS.

Plan ahead and dominate these windows:

  • (1) PRE-Workout: Serious workouts require preparation in advance. That means sucking down a meal that’ll provide your body with the fuel needed to crush AND sustain intense training. Eat a heavy dose of carbs, with some protein as well, 1-1.5 hours before training (e.g. oatmeal, a banana, and a Greek yogurt). 
  • (2) POST-Workout: A high-powered post-workout meal is absolutely ESSENTIAL. As far as muscle growth is concerned, it’s the most important meal of the day. Eat 20-40g of protein (ideally whey) and a heavy dose of carbs within 2 hours of your workout (e.g. a whey protein smoothie with fresh fruit and coconut water). Make sure you hydrate excessively, too.
  • (3) PRE-Bed: Studies have shown that chugging a protein shake before bed can help boost muscle protein synthesis, which stimulates recovery and growth. It’s not mandatory, but it can provide a nice little edge.


6. Go QUASI-Gluten-Free.

Be honest. If you’re eating a gluten-free diet, do you have any idea why the hell you’re doing it? Or why you’re asking the waiter at Benihana for gluten-free soy sauce?

Let’s be clear, if you’re one of the 1-in-133 that have celiac, we get it. And approximately 6% of people are gluten sensitive, which can cause gut issues.7 But for 94% of the population, gluten isn’t some magical little gremlin that’s going to make your gut explode and transform your body into the Pillsbury Doughboy.

It’s a protein found in grain. There’s nothing inherently bad about it, stop viewing it that way. A gluten-free label DOES NOT IMPLY THAT SOMETHING IS HEALTHY. Just look at the gluten-free cookies, brownies, and beer dominating shelves.

Use your brain.

That said, gluten prevalence is HIGHLY correlated with fattening food and food that’s devoid of nutrition, including processed carbs, garbage snack food, desserts, and sugar-laced fat bombs. By using GF as a framework you’ll eat fewer carbs, obliterate unhealthy food, and inadvertently displace it with clean, lean powerhouses — protein, fruit, veggies, brown rice, quinoa, oats, and healthy fats.

Borrow the concept, but don’t follow it blindly like a cult disciple.



Sugar is the nutritional devil.

It has absolutely no nutritional value, stimulates appetite, produces inflammation, and directly stimulates fat storage. That goes for refined carbs, too. Guzzle a bottle of Coke, a pack of Sour Patch Kids, or a few pieces of Wonder Bread and your blood sugar will immediately skyrocket, which triggers an insulin release.

Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas that helps keep blood sugar levels under control. When the body is overflowing with too much glucose it enters storage mode, and insulin helps stuff it all away into fat cells. AKA you get fatter.

Sugar consumption → blood sugar spike → insulin release → fat storage.

If you do that often enough your body becomes insulin resistant, which eventually leads to type 2 diabetes.

What’s worse, the more sugar you eat, the more your body craves it, which creates a vicious cycle of fatness and gross overindulgence. CUT IT OUT.

**One caveat. If you’re highly active and working out like a beast, spiking insulin can help shuttle nutrients to depleted muscle cells (known as glycogen). Post-workout, eating quick-digesting carbs can actually be an effective way to replenish hungry muscles and stimulate recovery. And quench your insatiable sweet tooth in a productive way.


8. Protein Power.

I don’t care if you’re trying to build muscle, melt body fat, or maintain your weight. PROTEIN has to be the centerpiece of EVERY meal. Drill that into your cranium. Protein. Must. Be. Included. In. Every. Meal.

Protein is the Lebron James of the nutrition world. It has the miraculous power to simultaneously stimulate muscle growth and accelerate fat loss  the dual threat of any lean diet.

It helps destroy hunger and control appetite; actively keeps blood sugar/insulin on lockdown, which reduces the impact of carbs on fat storage (it lowers the collective glycemic load); AND it burns major calories—no effort required—thermogenically during digestion.

In terms of net calories, protein churns through roughly 30% of its own calories during digestion. Basically, a 100 calorie meal from protein would burn ~30 calories; whereas that same meal from carbs or fat would only burn 5-15. FOR SCIENCE.8910111213

Mentally, plan whatever you’re eating around an HQ protein source and then accessorize it with fats, carbs, fruit, and veggies. And if you’re eating out, pick anything that has protein as a core component.

Maybe that’s salmon on a bed of linguini, a nicoise salad, an ahi tuna roll, or an omelette with a bowl of oatmeal. Between chicken, eggs, fish, Greek yogurt, dairy, protein powder, nuts, beans, and green leafy veggies, you’ve got an arsenal of options to choose from.

All in all, shoot for roughly .75-1g of protein/LB of bodyweight/day (165 pound person = 120-165g/day). And if you want, eat more than that. Research suggests that protein hyper-consumption (2g/LB) has no impact on weight gain even if your calories are elevated. LOOPHOLES.


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References, Notes, Links

  1. — Effects of eating frequency on metabolic rate []
  2. USNews — When Nutrition Labels Lie []
  3. Market Watch — Are your food and vitamin labels lying to you? []
  4. Time — Dieters Beware: Calorie Counts Are Frequently Off []
  5. Reiner Jumpertz, Colleen A Venti, Duc Son Le, Jennifer Michaels, Shannon Parrington, Jonathan Krakoff, and Susanne Votruba. Food Label Accuracy of Common Snack Foods. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Jan; 21(1): 164–169 []
  6. Precision Nutrition — Forget calorie counting: Try this calorie control guide for men and women []
  7. Lean It UP — A Little Gluten Reality Check — What Is Gluten, And Why The Hell Are You Even Eating Gluten-Free? []
  8. Halton T. The Effects of High Protein Diets on Thermogenesis, Satiety and Weight Loss: A Critical Review. J Am Coll Nutr October 2004 vol. 23 no. 5 373-385 []
  9. Skov AR, Toubro S, Rønn B, Holm L, Astrup A. Randomized trial on protein vs carbohydrate in ad libitum fat reduced diet for the treatment of obesity. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders : Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity [1999, 23(5):528-536. []
  10. Layman D, Boileau R. A Reduced Ratio of Dietary Carbohydrate to Protein Improves Body Composition and Blood Lipid Profiles during Weight Loss in Adult Women. J. Nutr. February 1, 2003vol. 133 no. 2 411-417 []
  11. Belko A, Barbieri T. Effect of energy and protein intake and exercise intensity on the thermic effect of food. Am J Clin Nutr June 1986vol. 43 no. 6 863-869 []
  12. Martens E, Lemmens S. Protein leverage affects energy intake of high-protein diets in humans. Am J Clin Nutr January 2013 vol. 97 no. 1 86-93 []
  13. Welle S, Lilavivit U. Thermic effect of feeding in man: Increased plasma norepinephrine levels following glucose but not protein or fat consumption. Metabolism. 1981 Oct;30(10):953-8. []


Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Owner & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
Bryan DiSanto is the Owner & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a culinary student at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, an ACE-CPT & CSN, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness/nutrition nutjob.

He also contributes to Men's Health Magazine.

When he’s not working on his (or somebody else’s) abs, whipping up Eggocados, or running a Tough Mudder, he’s probably off yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.
Bryan DiSanto

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  • Abhi

    hi i totally agree with being lean. I am going to florida at the end of this summer and want to have that type of body. Im first yr at uni (so freshman 15 is very real). Im 5’8 155 lbs at about 13% body fat. Im pretty athletic so i have a more muscular build but most of my fat sits at my belly. I want to gain some noticeable muscle and loose a lot of the fat to show some abs. What would you suggest?

    • Bryan DiSanto

      You’re working with 2 competing goals, which’ll make that tough in a short time frame — I’d do a mini “bulk” and focus on building muscle (lift heavy weights, up your calories slightly) for 1-2 months. Add some mass, then cut your calories back, keep your workouts INTENSE, and do HIIT 2-3 days per week.

      You’re not that far off though, work hard over the next 3-4 months and you’ll get there. Keep your eating on point.

      Follow this workout plan:

      • ABHI

        For the mini bulk phase should I still do HIIT from the workouts you suggested or what?

        • Bryan DiSanto

          Sorry for the delay! Chop off the HIIT sessions for the time-being.

  • Jack

    As abhi said, cuz im folating the same boat, For the mini bulk phase should I still do HIIT from the workouts you suggested or not? Ill be doing the beast mode split which includes hiit twice a week.

    • Bryan DiSanto

      Hey Jack — If muscle gain is your #1 priority, cut out the included HIIT for the time-being.

  • Katarina

    Is it a better idea to try bulk up (eat more, less cardio) BEFORE trying to lose some weight and get leaner? Does it matter if I add in HIIT to my workouts and cut back on calories and then have a “mini bulk?”

    • Katarina

      I guess what I’m asking is, does order matter?

  • Jake

    Hey Brian,
    Was wondering if you could help me out as am a bit confused with the direction I’m heading in. I’ve got 3 months until I go on holiday and am looking to pack on lean muscle in that period (currently 6’4 180lbs). What would you recommend? Thanks for your help!

  • Lexi

    This page is fab, taking on board everything said here. My only question is do you have any tips on how to stop yourself from gorging and then feeling guilty? This is my one issue! Especially with sugar!! Thanks :)

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