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Lose Fat and Retain Muscle By Getting In Touch With Hunger

"Unless that apple tastes like the best apple you've ever tasted in your life, unless that treat or slight deviation in your diet tastes like a dish prepared by a professional chef - you ain't doing it right?unless you are always on the brink of hunger - hunger so deep and intense that eating a single piece of fruit or having a bagel with a hint of jelly is a transcendental taste experience, than you need to redouble your diet effort. There comes a point in deep dieting where the slightest stray from your day to day eating routine results in what I'd call, amplified taste."

This statement was made by a well known professional bodybuilder I interviewed in 1982 just prior to a major competition; he carried a 4% body fat percentile weighing 232 pounds with 19-inch arms and a 31-inch waist.

"I would love just one sip of that beer?but of course that is ridiculous; I cannot have even one sip of that beer - not that it wouldn't be incredible?that sip would taste so incredible? As soon as this competition is over in three days I can have all the sips of beer I want - and I shall!"

This man won the Mr. Olympia competition within a week. Denial and discipline are dietary keys but an overlooked aspect is acquiring "amplified taste phenomena."

"When Douglas MacArthur liberated General Wainwright's survivors of the Bataan death march in 1945, they treated the emaciated survivor's to a banquet consisting of the first real food these men had eaten after four years of brutalization and starvation. A major literally fainted away and fell to the floor in a fit of taste euphoria after he took a single sip of cold, whole milk."--William Manchester, American Caesar

Hunger and heightened taste are inexorably linked. You can improve your quest to effect a total physical transformation by purposefully getting in touch with hunger. Okay, so maybe you don't have to take it to the extremes used by those competing in professional bodybuilding competitions or perhaps you need not develop the taste deprivation sense of a concentration camp survivor, but getting in touch with hunger could be the missing piece of the dietary puzzle. Hunger and taste amplification could bust you through to the next level. Progress need be visible, tangible and statistically verifiable. A sensible fitness program has twin goals: add muscle, strip away body fat.

Like a sculptor paring marble into a sleek and defined finished product, we lift weights to build muscle and we diet and engage in cardio to melt off unhealthy and unsightly body fat. The culmination of all our training and diet effort is a muscular, fat-free physique. When proper exercise and precision eating are combined in a balanced way they create a physical synergy wherein the sum of the individual parts exceeds realistic results. When synergy is achieved (a direct result of a precise balance between progressive resistance training, cardiovascular training and precision eating) rapid physical transformation happens incredibly quickly.To trigger true transformation, not imagined or infinitesimal, nutrition and exercise must weave together in a delicate ballet.

Intense effort must be offset with nutrient-based regeneration: proper nutrients need be consumed in proper amounts at the proper time. Carefully consider the relationship between taste and hunger and if you scratch below the surface you will see that hunger can be used to manipulate powerful primordial urges. Can you use hunger in such a way that primitive hardwiring can be used to advantage instead of as a detrimental binge trigger? Yes but this is a high-wire act without a net. Getting in touch with hunger can be both smart and productive; hunger amplifies the sense of taste and hunger makes us appreciate what we get when we get it. Hunger is multi-leveled and multidimensional.

One trick of the bodybuilding trade is to purposefully induce intense hunger in order to achieve an amplified sense of taste. By carefully preserving this heightened taste sensibility we eat less and appreciate it more. A binge becomes eating an entire apple instead of an entire half gallon of ice cream. Once true hunger is achieved, we reintroduce foods into back our diet?slowly, carefully?savoring them and appreciating them - never overwhelming the taste buds and never exceeding our reduced capacity. In doing so, we prolong the amplified taste sensation.

Take three days and gradually, imperceptibly, eliminate solid food. At the end of 72-hours fruit juice and protein shakes are all that is consumed. Adhere to this for another 24 to 72 hours. After the fast period, reintroduce foods one at a time. At this juncture, the taste buds are so alert, tactile sensibility so dramatically elevated that food never tasted better. By not going hog-wild, by reintroducing foods in a controlled fashion, we purposefully preserve hunger. By coming in low and light and precise in our portion size, quantity and quality, we maintain the precious amplified taste sensation.

By purposefully preserving hunger we also ensure rapid and complete nutrient assimilation and improve food utilization. Go on a fast to acquire a deep and intense sense of hunger and don't go crazy coming off the fast. Reintroduce foods and once the food is reintroduced, reintroduce exercise - gradually and slowly. Put it all together and you force the human body to oxidize stored body fat in order to fuel caloric shortfall.

Once this physiological phenomenon of taste depravation takes hold, it will continue until the individual does something to derail this marvelous heightened state. Professional bodybuilders purposefully put themselves into this amazing metabolic state and stay there for weeks on end, resulting, ultimately, in a body that is virtually fat-free while still retaining 90% of hard-earned gym muscle. Let's expropriate these tactics for our own purposes.


  • Pick a time when you are not working. Let's use a hypothetical weekend.
  • Start on Friday morning: have a good breakfast; equal portions of protein and carbohydrate. Keep saturated fat and sugar to a bare minimum
  • Starting the fast mid-morning on Friday.
  • Every three waking hours drink a 6 to 8-ounce portion of either fruit juice of protein powder mixed with cold water.
  • See how long you can go?some can go for days, effortlessly alternating various types of fruit and vegetable juice with potent protein powder.

When you decide to come off the juice and protein shake fast, add back, in order:

  • Fibrous carbohydrates - salads with lite dressing are a great way to segue from the ethereal liquids to the more substantial grub.
  • Lean protein can be added back but keep the sources 'clean' (devoid of saturated fat as possible), quantities small and infrequent; add fish, fowl and lean beef back in very slowly.
  • Starchy carbohydrates like rice and potatoes are fine but again portions should be kept small
  • Too much of any one food will mess things up coming off a serious fast. The slower you can add back regular food the more likely you are to maintain the 'hunger.'

Coming off the liquid fast, regardless the length of time you are able to maintain it, be it 24-48-72 or more hours, the first foods you taste will have a taste intensity that need be savored and preserved. That first piece of fruit you taste coming off the liquid fast will rival the descriptive ecstasy our IFBB pro bodybuilder used when recounting eating his apple. Depravation heightens taste sensitivity and as long as you don't overwhelm this amplified sense of taste, as long as you avoid eating too much or too often, you can maintain the taste ultra-sensitivity and thereby 'stay hungry.' Hunger as we use the term, denotes the proper combination of calories and activity and results in an elevated metabolism.

For all intents and purposes think of the metabolism as the body's thermostat. By turning up the thermostat we increase the number of calories burned while at rest. An accelerated metabolism allows us to eat often and eat a relatively high number of calories. The trick is not allowing ourselves to go berserk and begin recklessly consuming an excessive amount of calories derived from impure sources - saturated fat, sugar or alcohol. The body's delicate metabolic gyroscope will be knocked off its pivot point and the accelerated metabolism becomes sluggish and inefficient unless great care is taken.

Get in touch with hunger on a periodic basis - we all need to have sludge eliminated and the primordial sense of amplified taste reestablished. So take a tip from the pros and get hungry in a systematic fashion every once in a while.

Marty Gallagher is a former strength and fitness columnist for He is also a former national and world champion powerlifter. Marty has written for world-renowned publications, including Powerlifting USA, Muscle & Fitness, and Muscle Media. His website,, assimilates years of accumulated knowledge from the athletic elite and makes them accessible to the average person. The "Purposeful Primitive" way is deceptively simple, yet profoundly effective in the pursuit of fat loss, building muscle, increasing strength, and improving health. Read about diet basics, strength training secrets, bodybuilding, and physical transformation in Marty's daily blogs.


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