The Diet of UFC Champion Georges St-Pierre: How He Transformed Himself

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Georges St. Pierre, better known to fight fans worldwide as “GSP,” is currently the UFC Welterweight Champion.

His publicly stated goal is to retire as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and, at a record of 23-2, ESPN currently ranks him as the #3 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. I think he’ll get there.

His intellect–and consistency–is what separates him from the brawlers. He has a scientific approach to winning.

This isn’t limited to training. He considers nutrition a critical part of his fight prep, just as important as being in the cage. In this respect, 2009 marked an inflection point. That year, after successfully defending his Welterweight title in his second fight against BJ Penn, GSP hired Dr. John Berardi of Precision Nutrition to help him gain lean muscle tissue and improve his recovery abilities. Berardi, in charge of the nutrient science, recommended that GSP hire Jennifer Nickel and Rosario “Ross” Gurreri, two chefs in the Montreal area who worked at Cavalli and Bice restaurants, for his meal preparation.

In the next 8 weeks, GSP gained approximately 12 pounds of lean muscle and bulked up to 195 pounds. His upgraded speed and power helped him to dominate every subsequent opponent, posting a 5-0 record since 2009.

This post will walk you through how GSP ate during his 2009 transformation…

While he no longer has a private chef for everyday meals, GSP still consults with Berardi and still flies Jen and Ross to his hotel the week before a big fight to cook for him and his entourage.

First, we’ll look at GSP’s meal plan.
Second, we’ll look at how your design your own version using Dr. Berardi’s guidelines.

What Does GSP Eat?

Below is the 2009 meal plan designed for GSP by Dr. Berardi.

It’s based it around “anytime” (AT) and “post-workout” (PW) meals. He gave the guidelines to Jen and Ross and they prepared a menu of roughly 30-40 items that adhered to the calorie and macro-nutrient (carbohydrate, protein, and fat) requirements and ratios. Berardi explains the basic approach:

“Georges’ baseline menu is about 3200-3500kcal per day, with around 250 grams of protein, 350 grams of carbs, and 100 grams of fat. PW meals are higher in protein and carbs, while being lower in fat, and eaten right after workouts. AT meals are higher in protein and fat, while being low in carbs.”

The brands and products mentioned are those Berardi recommended for GSP. Though Berardi formulated the original Surge Recovery product while wrapping up his PhD studies in Exercise and Nutritional Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario and Yale University, he has no financial interest in the products.

Editorial note: In the descriptions, I use both “GSP” and “you” interchangeably, assuming that you might want to duplicate this for yourself.

3 Meals Provided by Ross and Jennifer

- 1 lower carb anytime meal to be eaten whenever you like: 650 calories – 60g protein, 40g carbs, 30g fat
- 1 lower carb anytime meal to be eaten whenever you like: 650 calories – 60g protein, 40g carbs, 30g fat
- 1 high-carb post-exercise meal to be eaten immediately after training (a recipe that can be eaten cold):  700 calories – 60g protein, 100g carbs, 10g fat

You’ll find two sample recipes at the end of this post.


Credit: Wikimedia Commons

2 Daily Super Shakes

GSP made sure to drink shakes every day, to get sufficient protein between meals. Here is his plan:

1 super shake at a time, between meals, mixed with almond milk or water. This was used to wash down 4 fish oil capsules

- 1 scoop milk-based protein powder
- 1 scoop greens supplement
- 1 cup frozen mixed berries (use “mixed” to avoid developing food intolerances from eating too much of a single variety) 282 calories – 18g protein, 25g carbs, 12g fat

Berardi’s suggested products: Muscle Milk protein powder from CytoSport, greens+ from Genuine Health, Flameout fish oil capsules from Biotest.

Workout Nutrition

GSP added protein bars in addition to his two daily shakes. Here is his daily feeding schedule.

Before training: ½ protein bar . Recommended Brand: Finibar from Biotest: 125 calories – 7g protein, 20g carbs, 4g fat

During training: 1 workout drink. Recommended brand: Surge Workout Fuel from Biotest: 85 calories – 8g protein, 21g carbs, 0 fat

Immediately after training: 1 workout drink.  Recommended Brand: Surge Recovery from Biotest: 330 calories – 25g protein, 44g carbs, 1g fat. Followed by a post-workout meal 1 hour later.

Optional: 1 Additional Meal

If you’re hungry, eat 1 additional meal per day. It can be whatever you like, as long as it’s lower in carbs and higher in protein and fat. Given GSP’s leanness, he was given more latitude, as Berardi explains:

“The rule was to eat everything on the menu and then, if he wanted anything else, he could have it.  Some days that meant Subway, other days McDonald’s.  It didn’t matter.  As long as he got his required food in each day, he could eat whatever discretionary calories he wanted. He ended up reporting that he had a few extra meals a week.  But he was pretty satisfied from his normal menu, so he didn’t need to use too many discretionary calories.”

Approximate Total Baseline Intake: 3104 calories – 256g protein (30%), 315 carbs (40%), 99g fat (30%)

Q&A With Dr. Berardi–How to Mimic GSP’s Results

What guidelines should someone use if trying to replicate the above?

“When determining a client’s macronutrient split, at Precision Nutrition we use body-type specific guidelines. In essence, we plan someone’s nutrition according to their somatotype, as follows:

Ectomorphs — around 25% p (protein), 55%c (carbs), 20%f (fat)

Mesomorphs — around 30%p, 40%c, 30%f

Endomorphs — around 35%p, 25%c, 40%f”

Definitions:

Ectomorph – Thin build, challenging to put on weight (muscle or fat); Example: long-distance runner.

Mesomorph – Muscular build, can lose or gain muscle easily (fat gain minimal); Example: sprinter or gymnast.

Endomorph – Large build, easy to put on weight (both good and bad); Example: shotputter or football lineman.

“Since GSP is a clear mesomorph, that’s why his split looked like it did. As far as calories, for most people wanting to gain weight, we’d multiply body weight in pounds x 20-22 to determine the total.  This would have put GSP at 3400 to 3700kcal to start with.  However, he was chronically underfed leading up to us working together, so jumping all the way up to 20 or 22 would have probably led to fat gain.  So we chose a multiplier of 18 to start with.  This ended up being perfect for him, based on the outcomes described above.”

How much did GSP weigh when consuming the above?

“We started this plan about 2 months before a training camp when he weighed around 183 lbs.  In the 2 months leading up to camp, the plan took him to about 195 lbs.  At that point his weight stabilized, which was perfect going into camp. We didn’t want him much heavier because it then might be too hard to cut to 170.

In the next 3 months, the diet stayed the same, but the high volume of camp helped him come down to about 188 the week before the fight.  That made the cut to 170 pretty easy.  We did the cut from 188 to 170 in 5 days (from M-F).  Then in 24 hours (from F-Sa), he rehydrated to about 188 lbs for the fight.”

How is the Food Prepared?

In 2009, when the GSP experiment began, Jen had the entire professional kitchen of Bice to herself in the morning and prepared 3 meals for Georges during that time: a post-workout meal (that could be eaten cold, so he could have it directly after his workout), a dinner meal, and a breakfast meal for the next morning. Meal prep took between 2-4 hours.

Jen shopped for 100% organic foods, cooked the meals, and had someone else deliver the meals to Georges’ gym once a day. Georges, having eaten breakfast and workout shakes, would eat the post-workout meal directly after training in the early afternoon. These below answers and suggestions are from Jennifer, who has been a chef for 12 years and now runs a private catering business in Toronto.

Equipment and Methods

First, Jen has the right gear for the job. In Jen’s tool kit are:

- Microplane zester/grater
– 7-9” chefs knives (
MAC MTH-80 8″ Chef’s Knife, which “stays sharp longer than any knife I have ever used”)
- Peugeot peppermill
– Kuhn Rikon vegetable peelers

For cooking methods, Jen explains the basics: “It’s important to have access to a stove-top grill (she uses a Le Creuset cast-iron “griddle”) and a bamboo steamer. Having this equipment makes it easy to cook fast meals because they are stationary and easy to clean, so you don’t have to mess around with pots and pans.” These cooking vessels stay on the stovetop and are quickly cleaned on the stovetop so there’s no sink involved.

“For example, if I were making grilled tuna with Asian greens and sweet potato, I would station a steamer and a cast-iron grill on the back burners of my stove, steam the potato first and then use the same steamer to cook the greens. Using equipment like this guarantees that you won’t be slopping extra cooking fat in your frying pan or killing your green vegetables in boiling water. It’s fast and easy.”

Shopping Tips

“In terms of buying fruit, always buy what appears to be heavy for it’s size. And for vegetables, look for bright colors and perky leaves. Fish should have glossy flesh, bright eyes and have the slight aroma of sea water. Meat should be freshly butchered whenever possible and should be devoid of any sulfur-type smell or brownish, greenish tinges.”

Above all, according to Jen, try to incorporate more fresh herbs, spices and vinegars into your shopping list. “It’s amazing how much flavor (not to mention health benefits) you can get from these ingredients without having to add calories.”

Shortcuts

Prepare certain things in bulk so that you have them for the week, something like braised lima beans or lentils, which can be used later in many recipes. “If you store them in their own cooking liquid in an airtight container in the fridge, they have a surprisingly long shelf-life.

“This is an important step for having access to nutritious carbohydrates, especially if you don’t have time to cook them throughout the week. The same beans and legumes can be used for so many different recipes, so that’s a huge time saver.”

How Much does it Cost?

Having a private chef may seem like it would cost a fortune—and a single, full-time person definitely can. Rates (by hour and year) vary widely depending on location, but a good starting point is $50,000 per year. If that’s your preference, you can search here by state for chefs.

But there are other options–you can search on Craigslist or use meal delivery, which is what Phil Caravaggio, CEO of Precision Nutrition, does. He stopped cooking years ago to focus on business and other priorities.

Phil uses Essential Meal Delivery out of Toronto: “The meals cost $13-$17 each. Every week, I call them and tell them my goals (intermittent fasting, Paleo, etc.) and they make a menu based on my food likes and dislikes. Then they’re delivered to my apartment every morning, and I get a bill at the end of the week. I only have them delivered Monday – Friday. I save the weekends for going out and cooking with family and friends.”

Depending on where you live, there are a variety of options: check out Home Cooking for You and Dine In 2Nite, for instance.

For those who want to get a private chef for as little at $5 a meal, there is a real-world Craigslist template in The 4-Hour Workweek. I’ll expand on this in future posts.

Sample GSP Recipes

Grilled Tuna with “Recovery Salad and Soy-Ginger Vinaigrette” – Post-Workout (PW) Meal

Calories: 758 / protein: 60g / carbs: 100 g / fat: 10g

- 160 grams fresh sushi grade yellowfin tuna
- 100 grams cooked lentils
- 190 grams cooked quinoa
- 28 grams shelled edamame beans
- 28 grams shaved red cabbage
- 30 grams dried apricots or prunes, chopped
- 50 grams cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 28 grams sliced red onion
- 1 teaspooon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon chopped coriander/cilantro
- 1 tablespoon chopped green onion/scallion
- 1 handful baby spinach

Directions: Set your grill pan to medium heat. Grill the sliced red onion, dry, until it starts to char and wilt. Remove from the pan and chop. Turn your grill pan to high. Prepare the salad: In a large bowl mix together the lentils, quinoa, edamame, cabbage, cherry tomatoes, and chopped red onion. Cover and set aside. Prepare the vinaigrette: in a small bowl mix together the olive oil, soy, vinegar, ginger, coriander, apricots, and green onion.

Grill the tuna evenly on all sides, seasoning with sea salt as you go, until rare or medium rare. Remove from heat immediately and slice into 4-6 thin slices. Mix half of the vinaigrette into the salad. Spoon the salad onto a plate of raw spinach. Plate the sliced tuna on top of the salad and garnish with the remaining vinaigrette.

Steak and Eggs Anytime Meal

Calories: 700 / protein: 60g / carbs: 40g / fat: 30g

- 150 grams mashed steamed sweet potato or squash
- 200 grams of veal tenderloin

The crust/rub for the veal:

- 3 chestnuts, dry roasted, peeled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon old fashioned or dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Salt and fresh cracked pepper

Sauteed topping:

- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 50 grams wild mushrooms like chanterelle or matsutake, brushed not rinsed
- 1 teaspoon cider or red wine vinegar
- Fresh herbs like basil, parsley and/or tarragon, roughly chopped

Sides:

- 1 egg or 3 quail eggs
- 5 spears steamed asparagus or broccoli

###

For full meal plans of competitive bodybuilders aiming for sub-6% bodyfat, see “The Last Mile” chapter of 4HB.

Posted on: January 27, 2013.

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111 comments on “The Diet of UFC Champion Georges St-Pierre: How He Transformed Himself

  1. Cool! This was in the BitTorrent stuff!

    Tim, what are you doing for training right now and do you ever modify slow-carb depending on your training?

    Like

  2. Perfect, I’m doing intense cardio exercise right now in conjunction with eating healthier and will be drinking more protein shakes to gain the build.

    I’m an ectomorph, but want to eliminate more fat so doing intense cardio for the next 2 months and then bulking up with weights. Been day 20 so far, and expect to see amazing results by day 100 and beyond.

    Always wanted to do some boxing or MMA training on the side as well. Good article.

    Like

  3. Great post, Tim. I haven’t watched a ton of UFC but in the matches that I have watched, GSP was always my favorite (and he always won).

    Thanks for the specificity. So great to see exactly how a world-class athlete eats and trains.

    Like

    • I agree, so many times these articles just gloss over exactly what someone is doing, leaving you to fill in the blanks – so, yes – thanks Tim, this level of info is great, why I keep coming back to this blog, reading posts that are several years old!

      Like

  4. The muscle milk reference scared me a bit -and i personally dont trust cytosport even though they say arsenic and heavy metals in the mix are now under control. Tim and Kevin make mention of some good organic protein in the latest Random show. I am an endomorph and loose and gain quickly but plateau easily – i have to switch up the diet and exercise regemin to get consistent results trending one way or another!

    Like

  5. I’ve read this article 4-5 times now, I never get tired of it- so awesome. I have had one question about it, maybe now’s a good time to ask. Anyone who knows what they are talking about, please chime in. Berardi set GSP’s calorie intake according to him being an underfed mesomorph (a super active one)- How would we calculate this for say…an underfed endomorph? (gym 5x a week, heavy compound lifts +HIIT, no more than an hour/ day)

    Like

      • well they said to gain weight multiply body by 22x’s. You yourself stated GSP is hyper Active and they started him out at 18x’s. Even if you take it down to 14 that is still about 3800 cals for a 275 lb male. It really depends on what your goals are. Muscle gain, fat loss etc…

        Like

  6. Nice post. I saw him in Vegas walking around when he was injured. Yet he still maintained a ripped physique. Looking forward to testing this out..

    Like

  7. Hey Tim,

    Can you let us know what page in the 4HWW you reference hiring a personal chef for as little as $5 per meal? I have the original 2007 version and can’t seem to locate it.

    Thank you sir!

    Like

  8. Hi Tim,

    Your bonus info about survival eg billionaire bunker plans isn’t up on the site from your link in the 4 hr Chef ?
    PS be great if you did a survival book and included all the best martial arts in the world ! I would buy it and so would a lot off people :)

    Like

  9. I have been flirting with the notion of various nutrition schemes to boost my performance. I like the idea of gaining instead of cutting to get to your best performance levels. Still in most weight class sports you will have the cutters, I just think they should change the way they weigh in and make it safer. Just weight in right before the fight, be your best and thats it. Don’t allow the hack.
    Pretty simple really.

    Like

  10. I’ve been doing pretty much the same thing but at a slighy calorie deficit and I’ve put on alot of muscle while slowly reducing bodyfat. Quinoa is my favorite slow carb, replacing my anytime meal carbs with that has helped alot. Counting macros has helped too.

    Like

  11. Tim, you are really rocking on the content lately! With the blog posts and MeatEater and Random Show and other random articles… I’m never hurting for something great to read during the day. Plus, I think GSP is and will be the #1 #4# fighter. Especially after reading this article and that video of training. Now I need to get back into shape and the mma gym…
    I’m running a “yams for books” contest on my personal site, sweet potato based main dish or dessert recipes, for a hardback copy of The 4-Hour Chef for the best main dish and one for the best dessert dish (one of my favorites is sweet potato so I figured something different was in order). Thanks again for everything!

    Like

  12. Nice article but it’s pretty impossible to put on 12lbs of LEAN muscle in 8 weeks. Even with ‘help’ it’s a pretty tough to achieve, especially for someone who has years of training behind them.

    12lbs of muscle including water and increased glycogen retention is possible however. Probably closer to a 6 – 4 – 2 split.

    Like

  13. I’ve been using Precision Nutrition myself for a couple years, and it’s totally changed the way I eat, the way I look and my energy levels. I can train much, much harder, because my body is properly fueled and devoid of any of the midday crashes most people – with poor diets – suffer from.

    Personally, I don’t use as much supplementation as the program recommends. I drink one shake per day and eat real food beyond that, because I’ve found that too much protein powder affects my stomach.

    It’s true: great abs are built in the kitchen.

    Like

  14. Tim,

    I am loving your 4hr chef (as I really enjoyed your other books) but am struggling to find some of the equipment and foods. I live in Mexico but travel up to the US for business meetings from time to time.

    It would be great if you could put something on the blog where people could post places to buy the kit and current prices. Might even prompt some companies to provide discounts. Could even work something out for them to advertise your book as it recommends their products.

    Just a thought.

    Anyway, keep doing what you do, you are an inspiration!

    Like