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80/10/10: The Hottest and Most Overlooked Diet For Athletes? (Part 1)


Maybe you’re constipated going on a high fat diet (too much animal protein, my friend).

Maybe you’ve tried veganism, or even raw veganism, and you didn’t stick with it.

Maybe you got fat being vegan.

Maybe you just want to recover faster from your grueling workout, and burn more fat.

What if there’s a simple, easy solution to all of the above?

While almost every magazine out there is advocating a low-carb diet (“Carbs make you fat!”), our interviewee is advocating the opposite: A high-carb, low fat diet. Sorry Dr. Atkins, he thinks a high fat diet is the culprit to our world’s leading diseases.

And the most interesting part is… our interviewee advocates eating plant-based, whole, raw foods: fruits and vegetables. And, you can eat as much whole, fresh fruit as you want, till you’re full. And you may lose twice the weight in half the time, without feeling deprived. Ohhh bring on the durians!

Yes, today we’ve invited Dr. Douglas Graham, Founder of the 80/10/10 to share with us his philosophy.  Dr. Douglas Graham is a lifetime athlete and raw fooder since 1978. Dr. Graham is the author of The 80/10/10 Diet, The High Energy Diet Recipe Guide, Nutrition and Athletic Performance, Grain Damage, and Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries.


Dr. Graham has worked professionally with world-class athletes and trainers from around the globe, including tennis legend Martina Navratilova, NBA pro basketball player Ronnie Grandison, track Olympic sprinter Doug Dickinson, pro women’s soccer player Callie Withers, championship bodybuilder Kenneth G. Williams, and actress Demi Moore.

In Part One of this series, we’ll talk about:

  • How Dr. Graham’s athletic background helped him create 80/10/10
  • Why 80/10/10 is arguably the greatest factor that improves athletes’ ability to recover
  • What 80/10/10 entails, Dr. Graham’s take on carbohydrates, fat and protein
  • Why it is impossible to get too much sugar from fruit
  • Why natural fruit sugar keeps you satiated and makes it difficult for you to overeat
  • Why natural sugar is not the same as refined sugars

This is a multi-part series, so please stay tuned here for updates on the next part!

Let’s start.


Q: Dr. Douglas Graham, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us. We’ve read everything about you from the press and online. How did your work as a chiropractor and athlete influence your work with 80/10/10?

Dr. Douglas Graham:  That’s a good question, and it’s a pleasure to be with you, Nicole. Basically, I tend to be a mechanical type of person. I look at things in an analytical way. I want to know what works for my patients.

As a chiropractor, I look at things mechanically in order to make sure that my patients end up with optimum functional ability. From an athletic standpoint, what we’re dealing with is known as high stress mechanics. When you run slowly, it’s really not that big an issue. However, if you want to run as fast as the world’s fastest man, your mechanics have to be perfect.

What I found was that, whether it was for chiropractic patients or for high level athletes, the biggest concern was recovery. Training, we all know how to train; some can train more efficiently and effectively than others. But there is a limit on your training, whether it’s frequency, intensity, or duration of training, the limiting factor is your ability to recover.

This is the same for people in hospital and chiropractic patients. They’re trying to recover. As a result, I started looking at factors that affected recovery, and found that really were very few.

Number one was getting enough sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t recover on a day-to-day basis, week to week, whatever. And it affects you all day long, even if you’re not totally aware of being tired all day long.

The best gauge is when you first wake up, do you feel like you got enough sleep? If you didn’t get enough, it will affect you all day long. Your decision-making skills, aspects of your anatomy and physiology, and your emotional self will be affected adversely if you did not get enough sleep, including recovery.

But the biggest factor invariably deals with food. Although different athletes have worked out different food programs, I wanted to look for the ideal program that would work in all circumstances.

In order to do that, I had to go back to nature and look at what do the animals that are anatomically and physiologically similar to us eat when they’re in nature, and how are they fed by zookeepers when they’re kept?

In other words, what would a human being be fed, if a human being were kept in a zoo? This experiment has actually already been done. Several times now, people have put themselves into situations that were zoo like, and stayed for a month or a period of months.

These people fed on nothing but fruits and vegetables as if they were animals in a zoo, with incredibly good results – both medically and mentally, profoundly good results.

So I looked at this information and realized that fruits and vegetables are universally acclaimed as health foods. I just hypothesized what would happen if the only things we ate were health foods. The only way to find the answer was to do the experiment, which I did. I liked the results, and then I started telling people about it.


Q:  What about 80/10/10? What does 80/10/10 mean and what does each component consists of?

Dr. Douglas Graham: 80/10/10 describes the recommended range of caloronutrients – protein, fat, and carbohydrate – that best supports our physiology and our anatomy. In other words, what are we designed to eat?

Because every creature has a species-specific diet, whether you’re a killer whale eating seals, or a wolf eating mice, etc. Every animal has a species-specific ideal diet. This is determined in a variety of ways, but mostly by our anatomy and our physiology.

We are designed to thrive on fruits and vegetables.

This is the food that best supports us; this is the food that’s recognized as health food. So 80/10/10 basically talks about how much carbohydrate, protein, and fat supports human health.

If we look around the world, human beings eat around 10 or 11% of our calories from protein, and I’m recommending that we max out around 10% of our calories from protein. In fruits and vegetables for instance, there’s about 7% on average protein, 7% – 8%. Fruits are a little bit lower; vegetables are a little bit higher. If you eat fruits and vegetables, you end up around 7% or 8% of your calories from protein.

If you eat a few more vegetables, you can bring it up to 9% or 10%, but you’ll end up close to 10%.


Q: What about the fat?

Dr. Douglas Graham: Yes, the controversy essentially ranges in the fat issue. This has to be the big issue.

I would like to mention two studies. One is the largest study ever done on human beings, The China Study; and the other is the longest study ever done on human beings, the Framingham Heart Study, which has been continually running since 1948. The China study encompasses more than 100,000 individuals.

Both studies came up with the same recommendations, which were to limit fat intake into single digits, below 10%.

When studies in sports performance have been done, they usually found that the best sports performance occurs when fat intake is below 10%. When medical doctors studied fat intake, they found that cancer, heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue, candida issues, and most digestive disorders all respond best to diets with fat that are less 10% of total calories.

My making a recommendation of putting 10% at the upper end limit for fat consumption was not something I concocted out of thin air. This was the result of thousands of studies, the conclusion of thousands of studies in different areas from health performance, fitness performance, emotional awareness, mental acuity. I believe all different aspects of human health are affected by our fat consumption, including hormonal health.

So I ended up going at 10% as the upper limit for protein, 10% as the upper limit for fat, leaving us with 80% as the lower limit for carbohydrate.

Q: And the carbohydrates: you mean just fruits and vegetables in their raw and natural whole state?

Dr. Douglas Graham: Well, 80/10/10 refers to the “caloronutrients.” Whether you get your carbs from fruits and vegetables, or whether you’re getting your carbs from bread, rice, pasta, corn, potatoes, doesn’t affect the numbers. However, it affects the health outcome.

When we cook our food, there are problems inherent. Carcinogens are formed when we cook carbohydrates. We know that mutagens are formed when we heat proteins, that they become denatured and inaccessible to human digestion (due to the formation of enzyme-resistant bonds,) and that fats go rancid when they’re heated. There are a great number of problems associated with heating food, including the destruction of a wide variety of nutrients such as vitamins, antioxidants, etc.

I recommend a raw food diet as the ideal for health, and 80/10/10 as the ideal raw diet. However, in terms of figuring 80/10/10 itself, it’s simply caloronutrient based. If somebody wants to eat cooked food, they certainly can, it just won’t be ideal for health.


Q: I see that you love and talk a lot about fruit.

Dr. Douglas Graham: I do.

Q: I read that in your book, you said that it’s almost impossible to get too much sugar from fruit. Can you elaborate a little on that?

Dr. Douglas Graham: When we look at the World Health Organization’s recommendations for protein and fats, medical recommendations, sports performance recommendations, they all come up with the same numbers. Pretty much what we see is a range of three to ten: we’re looking at 3% to 10% of calories from protein, 3% to 10% of calories from fat, as the ideal range.

Now we all understand when we do blood work for instance that we don’t want too much of something, but we also don’t want too little. We want to fall into the ideal range. The ideal range for protein and fat consumption both turns out to be about 3% to 10% of calories, leaving us with a recommended range for carbohydrates of anywhere from 80% to below 90% of calories from carbohydrates.

This makes it very difficult to get too much carbohydrate, or too much sugar, from any food because our recommended range already takes us up as high as the low 90s. You’d have to be eating just bags of sugar to end up with too much sugar.

But the other thing is that, as your mom and everybody else’s mom told us when we were kids, don’t eat sweets before a meal because it will spoil our appetite. It’s difficult to consume too much sugar, because sugar is very satiating, and it cuts our appetite.

Sugar puts a natural stopping point on carbohydrate consumption, when the carbohydrates are in the form of sweet sugars. Sugar kills our appetite making it difficult for us to overeat on fruit.

Q: Just to clarify, were you referring to fruit sugar?

Dr. Douglas Graham: Well, all sugar will do the same thing. It is just that some sugars come with nutrients, like fruit sugars. Refined sugars come without those associated nutrients, and are referred to as empty calories.

Fruit sugars come with thousands of nutrients, fiber, and water. Refined sugar in candy has no other nutrients, no fiber, and typically has no water. As a result, refined sugars are not nearly as good for you by any stretch, because you’re missing the nutrients, water, and fiber. Refined sugars are empty calories, stripped of their associated nutrients.

We know that the ideal for nutrition is to eat whole food, and so I differentiate between the sugars in fruits and the sugar in candy simply because candy is not a whole food.

Like what you see? Stay tuned for the next part. We’ll address:

  • Why you might want to eat more whole fresh fruit rather than piling on meat and/or nuts, even if you’ve been told that fruit makes you fat
  • Why fruit sugar is good (not bad) for you
  • Why fruits do not cause or worsen diabetes and pancreatic cancer, and why fructose should not be misconstrued as high fructose corn syrup

 You can sign up for updates here.

About Dr. Graham: Dr. Douglas Graham is a lifetime athlete and raw fooder since 1978. Dr. Graham is a renowned public speaker, teacher, and author of The 80/10/10 Diet, The High Energy Diet Recipe Guide, Nutrition and Athletic Performance, Grain Damage, and Prevention and Care of Athletic Injuries. Dr. Graham has worked professionally with world-class athletes and trainers from around the globe, such as NBA pro basketball player Ronnie Grandison, track Olympic sprinter Doug Dickinson, championship bodybuilder Kenneth G. Williams, and actress Demi Moore.

  • John Francis

    This is a most fascinating article. I am thinking very seriously of trying this, subsisting only on raw fruits and vegetables and see what happens. I’ll get on a very diet but always end up compromising. What if I lived only on fruit and vegetable smoothies, and nothing more? Would love to hear from those who have done it.

    • Lana

      John, thank you for posting. It does depend on your body type and your level of physical activity. I’ve tried this for a day or so and I enjoyed it. That being said, I do still enjoy my nuts and seeds. I’d suggest that you reach out to the 80/10/10 community and see what folks are saying. Some people love it, some people don’t. Let us know how it goes for you!