The Nomad Diet – A Simple Approach to Eating

The Promise:

Eating healthy is not always clear. There’s a simple way to identify the purposes of foods – as either a builder, energy provider, or enrichers. Eat less energy providers, lose fat by caloric deficit. Eat more builders, maintain (or build) muscle. Enter the pretentiously named Nomad Diet.

The Nomad Diet is a combination of my favorite diet principles, taken from Paleo, The Simple Diet and If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM). Ideally, it promises easier weight management with simple concepts and flexibility in what you eat after acclimation. With it, you will:

  • Eat highly satiating foods -losing fat due to reduced calorie consumption.
  • Feel healthier and more energetic – an effect of eating more real foods, and increasing natural antioxidants
  • Maintain or create lean mass through higher protein intake with a workout routine


The Good
  • It’s like Paleo with carb options – no brain fog!
  • Better suited for athletes than Paleo
  • Easy to follow
  • No rare ingredients needed
  • You can eat this diet almost anywhere
  • Ingredients can be inexpensive
The Bad
  • “Liberal” consumption of fat and relying on satiety for effectiveness
  • It’s only published one place – right here

The Diet:

There are 3 categories that food fall into.

1) Builders

The most important group to understand. Builders are things that contribute to your body’s repair after life and workouts. These foods literally become a part of you – they build you. The macros here are protein and fats. Eat as much as you want of the following:

  • Fish (with/without the skin)
  • Eggs (whole or whites)
  • Chicken (without the skin – skin in moderation)
  • Turkey (without the skin – skin in moderation)
  • Red meat (in moderation)
  • Butter (in moderation)
  • Healthy oils (macadamia, olive, coconut, walnut, flaxseed, avocado – in moderation)
  • Whey protein powders, casein protein powders
  • Yogurt (Greek)

Eat lots of fish – just not tuna. Salmon is the healthiest easily-accessible fish.

Red meat and pork in moderation. They’re higher in fat and contaminants. If you have grass-fed beef, eat liberally. Spreads such as mayo and peanut butter are disallowed – you can get flavor other ways. The more processed, the less you should consume. Body composition wise, it won’t matter. Healthwise, it will make a difference. Try to limit the nitrate-laced deli meats.

I avoid nuts. They can contain healthy fats, but are calorie dense – they are easy to overeat and stunt fat loss. I also avoid dairy for similar reasons- milk, non-Greek yogurt, and cheese are too easy for me to overconsume, and many experience gastrointestinal discomfort that leads to elevated stress circulating in the body. That will stunt fat loss and weaken overall health. Experiment with dairy in moderation – if you find you are still losing fat while consuming dairy, then go ahead. You have my blessing.

2) Energy Providers

Aka, carbohydrates. These will power your strength workouts better than fats will. You can have these in any quantity.

  • Lentins & beans – the best!
  • Potatoes
  • Yams and sweet potaties
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal (steel cut > rolled > instant)
  • Fruits (non-dried)
  • Vegetables

These foods tend to be naturally satiating, but try to limit intake on days you don’t workout if you’re trying to lose weight. Vegetables are an exception to this rule.

Remember, these foods are concentrated energy. Unused energy blunts fat loss. If you are trying to build muscle, feel free to eat liberally (but don’t mindlessly stuff yourself). Naturally higher levels of fiber and better satiety mean you usually won’t “binge” on these.

Avoid french fries, deep-fried anything, dried fruits (they are as calorie dense and addicting as candy), fruit juice (basically like soda in sugar amount), granola, syrup, candy, refined sugar… you get the idea. Until you’ve built a habit out of consuming foundational foods, don’t eat things that you feel are addicting and calorie dense.

3) Enrichers

Enrichers contribute to health and overall wellness. They normally take the form of vegetables – which are also light energy providers – but I also include non-caloric drinks (coffee and tea), social lubricants (alcohol), and supplements.

Let’s talk about what vegetables give us briefly (by no means a complete lowdown):

  • Fibers – fibers help you process food in your digestive system. Constipation is the enemy of good recovery (and isn’t fun to deal with). Eat fiber! As a rule of thumb, the heavier and harder the vegetable in its raw state, the more fiber it likely has.
  • Vitamins & minerals – Vegetables have lots of vitamins that your body needs in small quantities. Vitamins are used in cascades of complex bodily processes that modern science continues to refine over time. What we do know about them is that we develop chronic disease without them. Before we go into a rabbit hole on micronutrition (the branch of nutrition dealing with vitamins and minerals), just know that getting it from foods is preferable. Try not to overthink it as you begin your fitness journey, and continue to learn a little about specific vitamins and minerals as you go forth. Incremental self-knowledge will be your guide.

Non-vegetable enrichers include:

  • Coffee – as much as you want, but not sugar-coated Starbucks drinks – they’re like a liquid candy bar
  • Tea – as much as you want
  • Alcohol – hard liquor or wine are ok in moderation. Beer in moderation, though ideally not at all.
  • Vitamin pill- a food-based multivitamin is very helpful. A half of a consumer-grade vitamin is like insurance against general micronutrient deficiency. I personally supplement with vitamin D, calcium (pre-workout), fish oil (in triglyceride form), and a glucosamine.chondroitin complex. Feel free to experiment with what you need.

It goes without saying that, if you feel bad after drinking too much coffee or tea (caffeine headaches), you should reduce intake. Same goes for alcohol. Don’t overdo the things that you know are hurting you.

One note on alcohol: it has calories at 7kcal/g. For comparison, fat has 9kcal/g, carbs 4kcal/g, and protein 4kcal/g. Alcohol metabolism differs wildly from person to person so I ignore calorie counting around alcohol for sanity purposes. You should, too. Plus, you know that stuff’s not doing you any good, so consider it a treat. If you find your sleep quality or head hurts, cut back on the drinks.

I want to keep this page brief, but if you want to know more about particular supplements to look for, check out this awesome one-pager that briefly explains a handful of the most important vitamins and minerals. 

Unlisted Foods, Drinks, and Drugs

For things not on this diet, you’re allowed to cheat a day every week. Just don’t go overboard. You’ll know when you go overboard by feeling. As you get leaner, you’re allowed more freedom to cheat due to your body’s improved ability to process more foods. If you’re fatter, I would cheat much less.

On a cheat day, be smart. Think of the next days and how you’ll feel setting yourself back. Don’t go off the deep end in entire pizzas and a cake. Have a slice or two.

The Nomad Diet in Practice

So the question remains… how does one put this diet into practice? My general rule of thumb is simple: 1-2 fistfuls of protein builders, at least 1 thumb of fat, 1-2 fistfuls of energy providers (1 for fat loss, 2 for muscle gain), and 1-infinity fistfuls of fibrous enrichers.

The diet is VERY flexible. The idea is when friends go out to eat, you aren’t left picking at a dumb salad. To prove it, here are examples of the things I eat:

Chicken thigh, green beans, and brown rice
Chicken thigh = protein + fat
Green beans = enrichers + fat (oil)
Rice = energy provider
Fist for comparison
Broccoli Beef with Shrimp and Rice
Broccoli Beef with Shrimp and Rice
Flank steak, shrimp = protein + a little fat
Broccoli = enricher
Brown rice, oyster sauce = energy provider + a little fat
Salmon Teriyaki Bowl for Athletes
Salmn Teriyaki!
Salmon = protein + fat
Rice and sauce = energy provider
Vegetables on side = enrichers
cuban sandwich for athletes
Cuban Sandwiches!
Turkey meat = protein
Cheese = protein + fat
Bread = energy provider
Lettuce+tomatoes+pickle = enrichers (pickle is fantastic; tomatoes and lettuce suck as enrichers. Not enough fiber)
Now note, cheese and bread aren’t on the list. But also note, I understood WHY I was eating what I was eating, and knew how much I should eat based on Nomad Principles.
Bibimbap, a Korean dish
Egg, Meat = Protein + Fat
Vegetable medley = enrichers (lots of fiber)
Rice at bottom = energy provider
Excellent meal choice.

But my standard meals are more like the first one. The others are the “acceptable” options when you’re out traveling, exploring, and living your life.

The Verdict:

I made this diet as a gateway (and a crutch) towards intuitive eating styles. We don’t have to overrestrict entire food categories — it isn’t just unreasonable, it’s also psychologicaly detrimental. Give the diet a spin for a month and let me know how you feel.

One more note about this diet: mindful eating goes a long way in enjoying and maintaining satiety. Take the time to enjoy your meals without distraction and restore yourself.

Good luck, and good eating.

Frequently Asked Questions

Got a question? Leave a comment below and I’ll answer in comments, and amend this post for future referencers. Thank you for contributing to a stronger world.

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By Aaron Roam

Aaron Roam is a fitness advocate from Berkeley, California.

28 replies on “The Nomad Diet – A Simple Approach to Eating”

Nice and simple. Thanks for the ideas.

Probably just inaccurate sentence construction, but alcohol does have calories: 7kcal/g.

You’re absolutely right. Alcohol is a weird beast since everyone metabolizes it so differently and it does so much to the absorption of other macronutrients! I’ve unconsciously made it a habit to simply not think about non-protein/fat/carb energy sources unless in the context of micronutrient absorption or the bacterial ecosystem.

Good catch, and I will amend.

What does a solid week of meals look like for someone who wants to cut fat? I always have thoughts like “I should get in shape” or “I should eat better”, I get to meal planning and end up immediately lost. And never ask anyone for help.

If it helps you answer, I’m 26, 5’7, 185lbs.

I’m gonna provide an answer, but if you can, clarify your question for me. Are you experiencing some friction around what to literally eat at every meal or understanding the purpose of what you need to eat? Or… something else?

Here’s what I eat. 3 meals a day now and a snack or 2. My day normally looks like…


  • Chicken/Eggs/Fish/Lean steak
  • Brown Rice
  • Broccoli/Bell Pepper/Green Bean/Vegetable Stir-fry
  • Multivitamin
  • Snacks:

  • Protein Shake, no milk. Or maybe with milk. Whatever. 🙂
  • Maybe a protein bar. Maybe an apple. Some berries… haha.
  • Lots and lots of water
  • Basically, I eyeball and categorize foods into a builder (protein), an energy provider (carbs, fat), and enricher (fiber, vitamins/minerals) category. You’re probably wondering in what quantity and why I eat like this. Here’s what I tell people. At each meal, have:

  • 1.5-2 fists of meat (builder, IMPORTANT)
  • 1 fist of potato/rice/starch/bread (energy provider, LEAST IMPORTANT)
  • 1-2 fists of vegetables (enrichers, helpful)
  • 1 thumb of fat, either the oil in your stir-fry vegetables, or some nuts (builder, second-most important)
  • Where a “fist” is the size of your balled up fist. This style, combined with the ingredients listed above, should have you recomping in no time.

    If at any point you realize your aren’t dropping in weight, eat less carbs first. Focus your attention on the protein content. And make sure you’re working out! Weight loss is fundamentally just eating less energy than your body uses. In your case, you’ll probably need to eat around 1850-1950 calories a day to lose weight. Something like 180g carbs, 150-180g protein, 55g fat if we’re getting specific.

    My issue was closer to knowing what I should be eating on a day-to-day basis, and you’ve answered that question really well. Thanks!

    Thank you for sharing the knowledge at the low low cost of free. I appreciate honesty and this is it.

    Stay awesome ✌🏻😁

    Thank you for asking this. I too was looking for bullet points to building a proper routine. Stay awesome 😎👉🏻👉🏻

    28/ 5’7/ 212lbs

    I have been referred by my Dr to invest in this diet but need a lot of help to learn and understand. I am gluten free and do not eat and meets (white or red) I have gotten myself so sick that I ended up in the hospital.
    Please help!!!

    Hey Kathleen, I’d recommend you ask your doctor directly what he’d like you to eat! I’m not well-versed in constructing diets around major allergies.

    Curious though: do you avoid the meats and gluten due to allergy or personal preference?

    Hi I am a professional French cook and this exactly the way I cook for myself, very similar with Mediterranean diet by the way which it has been proved to be the healthiest this year.
    This diet accompanied my regular routine of 100 push ups and 100 squats a day almost every single day since years (two reps of 50 each, yes iam stuck into a plateau) and love cycling 2-3 times a week one to 3 h.
    I have got the link of the diet from the page “one punch workout” which is very similar with what I do (except the sit up).
    I am glad to read all this on such professional website and feel not being so far a amateur at last.
    Thanks guys you made my day and probably many other months !

    Thank you Stephane! Especially in a time like this where we are most sedentary with social distancing and shelter-in-place orders, it’s good that we have the knowledge and skill of bodyweight fitness and habitualized diet to keep us healthy, strong, and sane.

    I love hearing about success stories like this. Keep it up! 🙂

    you should watch the documentary fat head. it debunks the processed foods part. in part because all foods are processed since processed simply means changed from 1 form to another. as such a apple isn’t naturally in juice form. turning it into juice is processing it. also its actually a scientific fact that processed foods are not less healthy.
    the director of fat head went on a fast food diet for 28 days and lost 12 lbs, his health wasn’t negatively effected. his good cholesterol went up and his bad went down. etc

    I appreciate that you look beyond the generic “eat organic, eat unprocessed foods” nonsense. Thinking critically and the theory and practice of health outcomes is why I made this blog. And I don’t disagree with you – processed foods serve a particular purpose. For many without fresh ingredient access, they can offer valuable micro/macronutrition and great flavor.

    That said, I do want to qualify why I recommend the bulk of this particular diet come from unprocessed foods.

    You noted that it’s possible to see better health otucomes on “unhealthy” foods. I believe this stems mostly from caloric deficit. There is a litany of effects that happen when your body is forced to look inward for energy needs. Most of these are positive adaptations. When in caloric deficit while meeting bare minimum macro/micronutrition (whether the source is from food or internal macronutrition), you will see general health increases. That makes bloodwork looks like magic.

    The issue is that people have difficulty being in caloric deficit when eating processed foods. Usually, this is due to:

    1. Lower in satiety – aka low on the satiety index. You’ll consume more energy because it doesn’t fill you up. This is not always true for higher processed foods, but it is a useful heuristic, and that’s what diets are for. They’re heuristics to eating.
    2. Lower/less balanced micronutrition. For the uninitiated, eating processed foods makes it harder to hit micronutrition numbers. If you more advanced in diet and fitness strategy, then I’m sure you could assemble a diet based on more processed foods. That’s really the goal of this diet to begin with: you gain the flexibility to eat whatever is necessary for you.
    3. Powerful flavors = greater desire for ONLY powerful flavors, restricting your palate. This is one that I think about a lot. Some Chinese monks practice a food based mindfulness by eating vegetables and rice without seasoning. This hones sensitivity to the hidden flavors in food. This also means they are less likely to become bored with foods, or to seek out overtly flavored foods – which tend to be calorie dense. If you build a habit out of strong flavors, it predicts eating more of them.

    And while likely minimal, there is possibility that some ingredients (nitrates/nitrites) might affect the body in ways we don’t understand fully.

    But if you want deli meats, eat deli meats. You will see greater positive health outcomes by managing strategic caloric deficit, a physical exercise habit, or intermittent fasting procotols, and it’s not always worth sweating the small stuff. The whole point of this diet is to encourage people to eat more satiating things, while understanding (at a visual level) their macronutrient needs. It is not to limit or stigmatize processed foods.

    Lastly, this diet is a starter’s approach to nutrition without the overburdening restrictions. It’s meant to be a more fleixble option beyond the Paleos and Mediterraneans of the world that helps build the habits of:

    1. Eyeballing macronutrients. Because knowing how to eyeball protein on-the-go/at restaurants is important. And because knowing that 2 cups of rice is a shitlad of carbohydrates
    2. Being conscious of what you’re eating. Because most people just have no idea, and want to blindly follow a guide. This is meant to help you interact with your food – knowing the amount, the general ingredients (and macronutrition associated), and to help understand your general macornutrient needs so you never feel out of control when you gain/lose weight in an undesireable fashion

    Hi Aaron
    Great site with good content and cool training program. I’m in my week 2 and already managed to go the first progressions. I started pole dance and use your workouts as warm ups and strength training before my pole work.
    I have a question about your diet: you wrote to avoid beer in no costs…why? I know alcohol is a bit bad when overdrink (of course!) In general and for muscle progression. But red a lot about beer and it’s good contents for muscles. I often drink some alcoholfree beer because I really like it. Why do you think beer is so worse and wine is ok?
    Greetings Anita

    Alcohol forces your body to process it over all other macronutirents. This can distract your body from repairing itself. That said, I don’t discourage drinking – it’s just a good rule of thumb that alcohol and recovery do not mix.

    As for beer – think of beer as alcohol and carbs together. If your body is busy on the alcohol, it has less focus on utilizing the carbs. If it’s non-alcoholic beer, then think of beer like any other carb source (rice, bread, etc).

    But really, a beer every other day (or even non-alcoholic beer everyday) is fine if you consider it as one fistful of carbohydrate.

    Ok cool thanks for your answer!
    Because of my pole dance activity I don’t drink much alcohol, and when then beer 🙂
    I know that beer has a lot of calories but fortunately that’s ot my problem, I’m already slim. My focus is on gaining strength!
    Looking forward to progress further with your exercises!

    Greetins from switzerland 😉

    Hey Aaron, i find it really hard because of the overload of information on the internet to know what to eat too lose fat (relatively fast) combined with with work out exercises,

    what would you recommand me? I’m 20, i have relatively a good base of muscle mass, 172 pounds and i’m 5’9” tall.

    Greetings from Belgium


    I am starting to get back into shape and I am wondering what i should eat for every meal. I noticed that you have already answered something similar to this but i am still a little confused. If it is possible could you provide an example of a day of meals written out.

    Also if it helps
    260 lbs
    21 yrs old

    Thank you for this amazing page. I am following your workout progamm now for. two months already and i am possitivly surprised. However.i have a question your diet suggestion. It is mainly based on meats. Is it possible to tweak the diet a person who would like to eat meat rather once per week (me)? What potein rich foods would you suggest?

    Cheers Franky.

    Hey Franky – if you’re following Nomad, then your protein source could be:
    A) Tofu – it’s cheap, readily available, and delicious in every stir fry. Roughly 1/2-3/4th of a block of tofu is equivalent protein to a fistful of meat. Note that tofu does have fat content. There is around 1g of fat per 2g of protein.
    B) Lentils, Beans, Chickpeas, Rice – these families have a reasonable amount of protein that is incomplete and should be paired intraday with other protein sources. While in a typical Nomad Diet (with meat), these would count solely towards your energy provider, a Nomad Diet variant without meat would require you to calculate how much protein is in your non-meat pairings of choice. 25g of protein = one fistful. You’ll want to do research on complementary proteins to ensure you’re getting all the essential amino acids from whatever choice you make. And remember – it counts towards your energy provider fistful!
    C) Fish – a fistful of fish has similar protein as a fistful of meat, if you don’t count it as meat
    D) Supplements – a rounded scoop of whey/soy/pea protein has similar protein as a fistful of meat. Gluten-based supplements also exist if your body is tolerant enough to consume them.

    Here me out… I’m going to start this diet pretty soon while also attempting the One Punch Man workout! I want to be healthier and the simple calisthenics aspect seems great paired with smart eating. Just one thing I caught… Under your turkey sandwich picture, you’ve misspelled bread as read. No big deal, just thought I’d let you know!

    Lol… and there I go not proofreading and misspelling hear as here right before I offer a correction to you. Go figure!

    Cheers for this! This is a great way to break things down very simply and quickly!

    I think it might be my lack of cooking experience but could you perhaps clarify the difference between fried and stir-fried? It sounds like fried rice shouldn’t be consumed in too much quantity because it’s an energy provider while stir fried vegetables are fine to eat more often because they fall under enricher! But where does that leave say a pan fried chicken breast sandwich? I’d say I use a similar amount of cooking oil for both but it’s hard to find a clear answer elsewhere!

    Thanks again for the info! Hope you’re staying safe and well during these crazy times! All the best!

    “Fried” tends to mean “deep fried”. Submerging in oil is a deep fry.
    “Stir-fried” tends to mean that oil is mostly on the surface to help cook an ingredient.

    Fried rice is a stir-fried dish. Like other less-addictive energy providers, you’re ok eating a reasonable amount (a cup or so cooked, maybe more or less depending on your own weight and goals). Do be careful with how much oil you use. It can be very energy dense with little sateity, leaving you wanting more. The reason vegetables – stir fried or otherwise – tend to be good choices is due to A) the higher satiety relative to caloric density and B) higher nutrient density. It’d be difficult to overeat a stir-fry of vegetables in my experience.

    A pan fried chicken breast sandwich is likely closer to a stir-fry than a deep-fry, but it all depends on how much oil is soaking into it. If you aren’t eating this every day, then you’re likely ok .If you find that you’re not meeting a particular fitness goal, then you are apt to reduce the oil usage. The longterm trend of your goals are what you should focus on — check in a month from now and see if you need to change it up.

    Keep it up!

    Thanks for the info, I’m 5’5, 16, and weigh around 180 lbs and I was wondering what should I eat/ how much should I eat for this diet.

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