The 511 Diet

by Tony Elam · 2 comments

So what makes a pharmacist qualified to talk about diet?  Nothing really.  But I’m not your typical pharmacist.

Growing up, I was always a very skinny kid.  Starting around twelve years old, I began lifting weights.  I saw the movie Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger and wanted to look like those guys in the movie.  So I began to follow the workout routines of these advanced bodybuilders.  These routines in the bodybuilding magazines and books are for men who have been in a gym for five or ten years and who are using, well, let’s call them “performance enhancing substances.”

For a skinny kid who didn’t know anything about eating properly, this type of plan got me nowhere fast.  Hitting the gym regularly for years barely produced any results at all.  I graduated high school a skinny bean pole at just over 150 pounds with five years of gym experience under my belt.  Needless to say, what I was doing wasn’t working.

In the early 1990’s I attended the University of Florida.  I began going to the gym in Gainesville with a friend from my home town gym, Heath Allison.  Health was always one of the big guys and is now a professional strongman.  I learned so much about the proper way to eat that in six month of training with Health, I gained 60 pounds of body weight.  Not all this weight was muscle but a significant amount of it was.  In the following six months, I proceeded to lose 50 pounds of mostly fat and changed my physique forever.  In one year’s time, I went from a skinny 160 pounds, up to a hefty 220 pounds, and back down to a very lean, very muscular 170 pounds, all by learning the proper way to eat and train.

I’ve experimented with just about every diet and exercise plan out there and have learned a tremendous amount based on my own personal experience and the experience of those who have followed this plan.  Being the self proclaimed nerd that I am, I’ve written everything down, what I ate, how I worked out; everything going back about twenty years.

Going through pharmacy school and learning about the different systems of the body, I wanted to develop a system of eating that is socially acceptable.  A plan that will allow you to eat junk food on occasion.  A sensible plan that is easy to follow.   A plan that forced the body to use fat for energy.  A plan that allowed your mind to relax so that you are not constantly thinking about eating.

The 511 Diet was developed.

On many of the popular diets today, you are told what foods to eat every day.  You are allowed to eat this, but not that.  After a period of time, you mentally break down and cheat.  When food was scarce, God made it so our bodies want to consume all the food in front of us.  Now, when food is always a few feet away or at the closest drive through, we have to resist that temptation.

We will create our new body over five days, admire what we’ve accomplished on the sixth day, and rest on the seventh day.  It comes down to eating good, wholesome foods for five straight days, fasting until dinner the sixth day, and eating whatever you like on the seventh day.

Personally, my five days cover Monday through Friday, my work week.  My sixth day is Saturday, and my free day, the day I can eat whatever I want, is Sunday.

Portion distortion

Many people have what can be described as “portion distortion.”  They think a portion size is much larger than it really is.  Look at the size of your fist, this is about the size of your stomach when there is no food in it.  Adding food to your stomach causes it stretch.  Simply put, when your stomach is stretched to a certain point, your brain gets a signal to stop eating because you are now feeling full.

Like a balloon, when you continue to eat too much and continue to overstretch your stomach, it doesn’t quite return to normal size.  After a short period of time, the signal to stop eating gets more and more delayed because your stomach can stretch more and more.  Consequently, you have to eat more and more food to feel full.  As you reduce the amount of food you eat, your stomach will return to normal size.

Protein, carbohydrates, and fats, oh my

Protein consists of chicken, fish, lean cuts of red meat, and eggs.  A trick to tell which cuts of red meat are the leanest is the price.  Fat gives red meat moisture, tenderness, and flavor.  In general, the less expensive the meat is, the lower the fat content.

A portion size for your protein is going to be the size of the palm or your hand, or about the size of a deck of cards.  I prefer using the palm of my hand because I may not have a deck of cards handy.  Remember, your palm does not include your fingers or your thumb.

The portion size for carbohydrates is your fist.  The types of carbohydrates you want to eat are mostly vegetables.  You are allowed some berries, the occasional sweet potato, but mostly vegetables.  If you like fruits, limit those to one small piece of fruit at breakfast.  Although nutritious, fruits contain a high amount of sugar.

When you are deciding on the amount of vegetables to put on your plate, simply make a fist, and put about that much on your plate.  It looks like a large amount, but vegetables contain a high percentage of water and fiber, both of which are good for you.

The hormone insulin plays a major role in fat storage.  When you eat simple carbohydrates like sugar, white bread, ice cream, and white potatoes, your blood sugar goes up quickly.   In response, your body releases insulin to carry that sugar into cells to be burned as energy.  If that sugar, now in the form of glucose, is not used for energy, it gets stored as fat for later use.

The glycemic index is a carbohydrate ranking system listed according to how they effect our blood sugar level.  You can find this information by simply searching for glycemic index on any internet search engine.  Carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion, releasing glucose rapidly into the bloodstream, have a high glycemic index; carbohydrates that break down more slowly, releasing glucose more gradually into the bloodstream, have a low glycemic index.  It is best to eat foods with a low glycemic index because these keep your insulin level low.

When choosing your food, the best type is the organic, pesticide free for your vegetables and organic, free range for your meats.  These will give you the best overall health benefits but they also come with a higher price tag.  It is your decision if you feel the extra price is worth it.

The next best food choice is the non-organic fresh meats and vegetable found in the supermarket.  These are found on the outside perimeter of your grocery store.  These are the foods I eat.  You can eat healthy by eating foods in the way God made them.  God made avocadoes, not guacamole.  God made broccoli, not broccoli casserole with cheese, butter, and bread crumbs.  If you buy it in a cardboard box, don’t eat it.

After fresh foods, the next best quality of food is frozen foods.  This is a good choice because most of us cannot get to the grocery store several times a week to pick out fresh meats and produce.  Buying a bag of frozen broccoli or frozen green beans is perfectly acceptable on the 511 Diet.

Finally, canned vegetables and canned meats are our final choice for quality foods.  The best example here would be canned tuna.  While it is possible to get fresh tuna, it is much more convenient to keep a few cans of tuna around the house for a quick protein portion.

The third macronutrient we need in our diet is fat.  Yes, we need fat.  You have to eat fat.  Fat is good for you.  Eat fat for your health and well being.  Was that clear?

Fat gives your food flavor.  Fat, along with protein, slows down digestion so you feel full longer.  The portion size for fat at every meal is the size of your thumb.  Remember, there is an amount of fat in the protein you are eating with your meal.  You can add a little butter to your vegetables or use oil and vinegar dressing on a salad, but you need fat with every meal.

The two best fats are coconut oil and olive oil.  I would rank coconut oil as number one simply because you can cook with it up to about 350 degrees and it has a long shelf life before turning rancid.  Coconut oil is also expensive when compared to olive oil.  Olive oil should not be used for cooking as it begins to smoke and break down at a relatively low temperature.  Use olive oil to flavor vegetables or as a salad dressing, it is very healthy, just don’t cook with it.

The third and most versatile choice for fat is good, old fashioned butter.  In butter, I mean butter, not margarine, not yellow spread in the gallon tub, not spray “butter,” I mean butter.  Margarine is a man-made chemical substance not recognizable to the body, don’t eat it.

Here is why this eating plan works…

If you were to go on a traditional diet and eat roughly the same amount of calories every day, your body will adapt, your metabolism will slow, and your weight loss will stop.  Frustrated, the dieter eats even fewer calories, the body adjusts itself again, and the weight loss stops.

Finally, the person gives up, begins to eat unhealthy again, and gains back all the weight she lost, plus a few pounds.  This is the common scenario of the “yo-yo” diets.

The body has a set metabolism level and that is where is wants to be.  When you overeat over long periods of time, your body continues to store that energy in the form of fat with greater efficiency.  This is how you are training your body to be, a fat storing machine.  When you suddenly drop the calories, the body says, “Wait, I’m supposed to be storing this energy, slow down.”

You metabolism slows to accommodate the decrease in calories, and you get to a plateau in your weight loss.  On the 511 Diet, we are keeping your body off balance.  It won’t have time to adjust itself.

During the five days of clean eating, you are giving yourself good, wholesome foods that your body craves.  Notice you read “your body craves” and not “your mouth craves.”  After a couple days, your body will begin to adjust.  Just as it starts getting used to that amount of calories, we switch it up.

Suddenly, day six comes along, and there is no food.  Your body is waiting to be fed and nothing is there, so it must adapt.  You are not eating for about twenty hours.  This does a couple things for you.

Mentally, you must conquer food.  Don’t allow food to control you, you are better than that.  By not eating, you are telling your subconscious that you control your body, not the food.  In reality, all you are doing is skipping breakfast and lunch.  When you feel the need to eat on a fasting day, visualize all the people in the world who also will not be eating that day, not by choice.  You are so fortunate to have the resources to walk a couple feet and eat.  Millions of other do not have that luxury.  I think not eating for a day toughens the mind, it’s good for the soul.

Not eating and conquering food one day a week will make you stronger physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Fasting will help you be healthier, bolster your immunity, detoxify your body, resist disease, lose weight, save money, feel better, and best of all, live longer.

Remember, fasting is not starvation.  You can easily go for two weeks without eating food and be perfectly fine.  You should stop taking your supplements but continue your hormones while you fast.  You can, however, take probiotics, FOS, and L-glutamine to condition your digestive system while it is empty and not “occupied” digesting food.

You are giving your body a rest 52 days a year by fasting once a week.  The cumulative effect here is amazing.

Once dinner arrives on day six, it is a free for all.  Go ahead, eat, enjoy life.  The evening meal on day six is wonderful.  It is your best meal of the week and your reward for six days of being healthy and eating correctly.

Day seven is your “cheat” day, the day you can eat whatever you like.  You will soon discover that you can’t like you used to.  The portions that you were accustomed to consuming are suddenly smaller.  You learn that you cannot physically eat very much food before feeling full.  You body has adapted to surviving on less food by “shrinking” your stomach.  Often times, you will notice that after breakfast on day seven, you won’t feel hungry again until dinner time.

This “cheat” day is also mentally revitalizing because the cravings that have built up over the last six days, are gone.  You can eat the food you want to eat, the ones you have been thinking about all week long.  You will notice towards the end of day seven, that you’ll actually begin to crave the wholesome foods you eat during days one through five.

Once again, your body cannot adapt to either the fasting nor the poor eating because they are too short in duration.

The key factor in the 511 Diet is preparation.  You must prepare your food for days one through five in advance.   This process begins during the late afternoon or early evening of day seven.

During your five days of clean eating, if your food is not ready for you to eat, it will be easy for you to cheat.  It is much easier to go to a drive through or grab a candy bar than it is to prepare a healthy meal from scratch.  It is crucial that all your food is ready for you.  You don’t want to be in a situation on day three or four where there is no food for you to eat.

During your first five days, here is the plan for how to eat.  You are going to eat three meals a day with two or three snacks in between those meals.  Each meal is going to contain a serving of protein, a serving of carbohydrates, and a serving of fat.  You can measure your portions by simply “eyeballing” the right size based on your palm for protein, fist for carbohydrates, and thumb for fats.

The proper amount of fat is going to be the most difficult to measure because there will already be some fat in the protein and carbohydrate.  As a rule of thumb, pun intended, add some coconut oil, olive oil, or butter to your food for flavor.  If you keep the amount low, the portion size will usually be pretty close.

The snacks that you will be eating are going to be half the size of your meals.  Your snacks are quick mini-meals that keep you blood sugar stable throughout the day.

You can use a meal replacement bar or drink for this purpose but you must be cautious not to eat one with too many carbohydrates and too much sugar.  Look at the nutritional information on the packaging to see this information.  Ideally you want an equally number of protein and carbohydrate grams and half that number of fat.  For example, an ideal meal replacement bar could contain 25 grams of protein, 25 grams of carbohydrates, and 12 grams of fat.


*By using the portion sizes we’ve already discussed, your portion sizes and ratios will generally be pretty close to what is needed.  This next section is for people like me who have to figure out how much protein, carbohydrates, and fats they should eat down to the exact number.  You can use this section as a guideline to see how well you are doing with your portions.

The amount of protein someone should get in their diet has been the subject of controversy.  In my own experience and in the experience of many people I have assisted in their weight loss, the amount of protein you need if you are exercising regularly, is 1.15 grams per pound of lean body weight.

In order to determine your lean body weight, you must check your body fat percentage.  Here is a simple formula for determining your lean weight:

Body fat percentage X 0.01 X body weight = weight of body fat

Body weight – body fat weight = lean weight

Lean weight X 1.15 = amount of protein

Let’s use the example of a 200 pound person with 30% body fat.

30 (body fat) X 0.01 X 200 (pounds of body weight) = 60 (pounds of body fat)

200 (pounds of body weight) – 60 (pounds of body fat) = 140 (pounds of lean weight)

140 (pounds of lean weight) X 1.15 = 161 (grams of protein)

Once you determine the amount of protein, you should determine the amount of carbohydrates you require.  To do this, simply multiply your protein requirements by 0.8.

Grams of protein X 0.8 = grams of carbohydrates

In our example, we need 161 grams of protein.

161 (grams of protein) X 0.8 = 129 (grams of carbohydrates)

For the amount of fat, use half the amount of protein.

161 (grams of protein) ÷ 2 = 81 (grams of fat)

So, our example person should be eating 161 grams of protein, 129 grams of carbohydrates, and 81 grams of fat a day.  This works out to be about 1880 calories a day for those five days.

Divide the total calories for the day by three.

1880 (total daily calories) ÷ 3 = 627

Divide this number by three again to get the calories per snack.

627 ÷ 3 = 209 (calories per snack)

Multiply the calories per snack by two to get your meal calories.

209 (calories per snack) X 2 = 418 (calories per meal)

Phew.  After all that math, our example of a 200 pound person with 30% body fat looks like this:

Three meals a day, each meal about 418 calories

Three snacks a day, each snack about 209 calories.

That doesn’t sound like much food, but here is the good news; as you increase muscle mass with exercise, you can eat more food.  The more lean muscle weight you carry, the more food you can eat.  Losing fat does not require you eat less food.

Another controversial subject when it comes to health is water.  How much water should someone drink?  What is the best kind of water to drink?  You’ll hear health nuts saying to drink eight glasses of water a day, or half your weight in pounds in ounces of water, or divide your shoe size by how many siblings you have and multiply that by three times your kilogram weight, or whatever.

Here’s what I think; God put this incredible thing in our head called a brain.  Inside this brain, we have something called a thirst mechanism.  God made it so that when our body needs water, our brain tells us that we are thirsty, go get a drink.  If you feel better drinking a gallon of water a day, go ahead.  If you just want to have a drink when you are thirsty, wonderful.  I don’t put too much effort into how much fluid I drink because God put a brain in our head that will tell us when we need water.

Losing weight is not the key to weight loss.  Losing fat is the key to weight loss.  You do not just want to lose weight for the sake of losing weight.  With any diet that has you eating healthy foods, you will lose the most weight in the beginning.  This is simply water that your body is forced to hold because of a high carbohydrate diet.  When you bring the macronutrients into balance, the excess water is removed, causing a loss of weight, but not a loss of fat.

Fat as a substance does not use any appreciable amount of energy to sustain itself.  Muscle, on the other hand, burns calories at rest.  Your muscles are living off the food you eat, fat does not.  As you decrease calories, your body will naturally want to sacrifice muscle and maintain fat.  God knew when he made us that we were going to go through periods where there was not going to be food available.  By maintaining the fat, it gives the body a higher percentage of stored energy and a “blanket” to keep warm in colder climates.

How can we be sure we are losing fat and not muscle?  The best way is to check your body fat percentage with a simple, electronic body fat analyzer.  You can purchase these at most department stores or online.  The body fat analyzer will send a harmless, weak electrical current through your body and measure the resistance.

Checking your body fat percentage on a weekly basis is the best way to check your progress.  The best time to check your level is the morning of day six.  This is after the last day of your clean eating and any excess water that your body stored from day seven’s “free for all” will be gone.  You don’t want to check on a daily basis because your percentage will fluctuate with the changes in fluid retention.  Check consistently at the same time every week and monitor your progress.

So, lets review everything we’ve learned so you can get started on a fat loss eating plan that you can live with.  The 511 Diet involves you eating good, clean, wholesome foods for five days in a row.  On day six, you are not to eat any food what-so-ever until dinner that evening.  If you just cannot stand the hunger pangs, try sipping on some clear soup broth, this will help hold you over until dinner.  Dinner begins your free day, which is day seven of the plan.  On this day you may eat whatever you want in any amount you want.  Just remember to begin planning for the five days of clean eating so you are not caught without prepared food.


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