Archive for September, 2008


 Lyle McDonald

Lyle McDonald

As promised, we’re very excited to share with you an exclusive interview with Lyle McDonald. From my perspective he truly is a shining light in the fitness/nutrition industry. From my dealings with him it’s apparent he operates with the primary intent of maintaining integrity; integrity of sound information and integrity of the respect between himself and his customers. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on an introduction because there is a lot we covered in this interview, so let’s get started!


STEVE:  First, I’d like to extend a big thanks to Lyle for taking time out of his busy schedule to talk with Body-Improvements. It’s an honor and a privilege to have this opportunity.

I’ve been reading your writings for years, Lyle, and can honestly say you’ve influenced my training and nutrition philosophies as a trainee and a trainer, as much as anyone. I think you’ll agree that the majority, who follow your information and purchase your products, is intermediate if not advanced in terms of their training/nutrition status. Body-Improvements caters to a demographic encompassing people who more than likely haven’t heard of you. Most of our readers and clientele are complete novices just starting on their quest for information and fitness. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself to our readers?


LYLE:  Well, my name is Lyle McDonald and the short version of a longer story was that I was a fat kid growing up (thank you, Intellivision) who got into sports in high school (it was mandatory).  Between that, cycling and martial arts, I started to get into shape and that started what has been a 20-year obsession with the field.  I attended UCLA to get a degree in exercise physiology at which point I became interested in competitive sport, in-line skating.  This got me interested in all aspects of human performance training, nutrition, supplements, even drugs to some degree (the last one is not my area of interest nor forte).  Although my background was primarily in exercise, in the mid-90’s I got more interested in nutrition and had to basically teach myself nutritional biochemistry while writing my first book, The Ketogenic Diet.

That project nearly killed me but gave me the background I needed to do the later projects, all of which have been about diet or fat loss to one degree or another (I hope to do a training project at some point in the near future).  I’ve worked with bodybuilders, powerlifters and other athletes on their training and nutrition and some days, I even think I know what I’m talking about.  I believe in research and spend most of my time reading it.


STEVE: Intellivision!  I was an Atari guy myself.  It’s amazing how long technological entertainment has been corrupting our health and fitness.  And no, I’m not calling you old, Lyle!

So, to our readers, if you couldn’t gather from Lyle’s previous response, among other things, Lyle is a fantastic author.

We have always purchased every one of your books as soon as they’ve been released.  You have an awesome style of writing and a unique talent of presenting intense information in a mentally-digestible way.  For starters, keeping in mind our readership, what would you recommend the novice purchase from your store and why?  If the same question was posed to me, my first response would be “A Guide to Flexible Dieting” and my second response would be “The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook.”  Would you agree?  Secondly, where can we buy your books?


LYLE:  I’d definitely agree with Flexible Dieting.  Frankly it’s the book that I wish more people would read.  But since it doesn’t have a sexy title like the others, and doesn’t seem to appeal to the more/harder is better mentality, it’s gone relatively less noticed than my other products.  Which is a shame, the feedback I’ve gotten from people who have read and applied it has been overwhelmingly good.  People who used to get into trouble with very extreme (and ultimately destructive) approaches to how they ate were able to find a much happier balance by applying the information in that book.

As a second book, I’d say it depends on the person and their goals and what they’re looking for.   Rapid Fat Loss is good, of course, but it’s not for everyone.  It’s an extreme diet for extreme circumstances and, as I specifically lay out in that book, I recommend that people pick more moderate approaches under most circumstances. Unfortunately, people tend to ignore the warnings I always insist on putting in my books and the idea of 4-7 lbs true fat loss in 2 weeks is pretty attractive (which is why I gave it that title).  My first book, The Ketogenic Diet, was a labor of love; it also nearly killed me.  Anybody interested in the science and application of very low- carbohydrate diets (it also has a pretty good review of both nutritional biochemistry and exercise physiology) would want that one. The Ultimate diet 2.0 is for lean dieters who want to get super lean but lose too much muscle and performance on more standard diets.  The Protein Book was another monster project; it’s really a reference manual (although with a lot of application) for all topics related to protein and athletes.  Finally is the newest book, The Stubborn Fat Solution.  Like UD2, it’s for lean folks trying to get very lean who have trouble spots (abs/low back for men and hips/thighs for women).  Which would be the best second choice would, again, simply depend on the goals.

As far as where to get the books, they can be ordered directly from my store by going to and clicking on the products link.


STEVE:  Thanks for highlighting the gist of most of your books.  For any of our readers interested in learning more about these particular diets, a great resource is a second, new forum Lyle has opened that deals solely with his diets/products.  It can be found at 

Lyle, you mention above that you are interested in writing a training book.  I know I’ve been anxiously waiting for you to produce something of the sort.  I’ve also heard mention of something in relation to women and fat loss.  Are you simply throwing around ideas right now or have you actually started working on your next project?  I know you released The Protein Book and The Stubborn Fat Solution close together so I’m sure you’re interested in some down time.  Out of my own curiosity though, I’m interested in hearing what the future holds.


LYLE:  The way I work on projects can both be a little bit strange and vary quite a bit.  The protein book was an absolute grind for me, 2 years of reading research, a solid 6 months where I did nothing on it at all (I had huge writer’s block and a loss of motivation) and it nearly killed me to finish it.  In comparison, the information in Stubborn Fat is something I’ve been thinking about for nearly 10 years.  It was mainly waiting for a few more pieces of data to fall into place and then I wrote it fairly quickly and easily.  It was more an issue of putting my thoughts down on the computer at long last and it flowed very easily (it helped that I was able to use some stuff I’d already written, of course).

Beyond that, I basically just have a half dozen different sub-interests within the field including nutrition, fat loss, physiology, training, etc.  Like the crazed obsessive compulsive that I am, I try to keep on top of all of them although it’s becoming increasingly impossible to do so.  So I just keep plugging ideas into my brain/model of how this stuff works and when the desire grabs me, I sit down and put something down on the computer.

As far as new projects, while fat loss is always a perennial seller, I’m actually a bit bored writing about it. Eventually I’ll put together everything I’ve already written with a lot of other information and just release one final fat loss book and be done with it.  In the interim, doing something about training interests me a bit more.  Actually, doing an exercise technique DVD is something I’ve been planning for a while (I’ve done some pretty extended exercise technique features in the newsletter/blog).  It’s gotten to the sad point in commercial gyms that the people actually using good form stand out because 99% of people don’t have a clue what they’re doing.  And the trainers are no better, they don’t use proper form; nor can they teach it. Going ahead and throwing something down about training techniques in a book form to go with it just makes sense.  Hell, I can steal most of it from the extended posts on my forum about the topic.

The women and fat loss thing came out of some real strangeness that *some* women seem to experience while dieting whereby standard thermodynamics seems to be failing; that is, despite a pretty big deficit, nothing is happening.  Even more strangely, these same women often see results with either fairly small or fairly large deficits; stuff in the middle does nothing.  I want to figure out why and, more importantly, how to fix the problem.  As a teaser, frankly I think most of it is just screwy water balance issues but I intend to find out if something even stranger is going on.

Beyond that, who knows?  It’s getting to the point where there is scant new truly usable information on either fat loss or training.  Most of the research coming out is reductive level stuff that merely explains why the stuff we know works, works and if folks don’t have a pretty good idea of how to lose fat, they haven’t been paying enough attention.


STEVE:  I’m stoked about the training video and manual idea!  It would be a tremendous product and is surely needed this day and age.  We’re trying to do something similar with our community/website to better promote proper exercise instruction.  We’ve been filming and editing videos for a while now and placing them in our video library.  I’ve read your exercise descriptions you’ve explained in your blog and forums and they’re top-notch. 

It’s a sad day when you can walk into most any commercial gym and see the vast majority of members (even those being trained by ‘professionals’) using nothing but machines, or even better, using circus acts involving single leg squats on bosu balls while juggling medicine balls.  It’s absurd. 

If you did this product right, which I’m sure you would, it could even be a great tool for trainers to get their hands on.  It has my vote. 


This interview spanned over the course of a few weeks and many topics were covered.  Rather than throwing the entire thing out there in one blog post, I thought it best to break it up, releasing chunks of it every few days.  It’s a great interview but most of us have short attention spans and I don’t want that to rob the readers of all the great information Lyle shared. 

With that, hopefully our readers have a good understanding of who Lyle is and what he brings to the table.  Next we’ll be picking his brain regarding topics such as weight lifting, carbohydrates, why diets fail and much more.

Thanks for following along.