The Diet Doctor is in…and so are carbs

A nutritionist to some of Australia’s most famous sportsmen, MF cover guy Moodi Dennaoui reveals the secrets behind his successful diet program — and his mega-ripped physique.


“Count nutrients, not calories,” say Dennaoui of his somewhat unconventional diet philosophy. “People get too caught up on counting calories, but low-calorie foods aren’t necessarily healthy for you: avocado and coconuts may have more fat but they are better for you than a tub of processed yoghurt.”

Having worked as a nutritionist to boxers Billy Dib and Anthony Mundine, and footballer Sonny-Bill Williams [he currently advises a stack of NRL players including NSW State of Origin captain Paul Gallen and Trent Merrin] the Sydney-based 35-year-old is well-versed on what
it takes to fuel the best.

An original thinker — against the accepted wisdom, he is pro-carbs, citing their positive effect on the brain and the decision-making process — Dennaoui uses himself as a guinea pig to test theories and hone practices before imparting the wisdom he learns to clients.

He also works as a mathematics teacher three nights a week, combining that with a disciplined strength and fitness regime and gruelling martial arts sessions.

His twin obsessions of good diet and building a better physique are borne of his peripatetic childhood where he was regularly shuffled from school to school after his father left home. It meant Dennaoui, now the dad to a five-year-old boy himself, was continually being challenged as the “new kid”. It didn’t help that he was small either. He had to find a way to avoid playground battles and fit in —putting on muscle was the answer: “It was a rough environment,” he recalls. “If I could demonstrate my strength, by doing, say, handstand pushups,
I would gain respect.”






His gym training ramped up his strength but he struggled to get bigger. It was only when he took up natural bodybuilding in his late teens — as a way to further challenge himself — that he discovered it was his diet that was letting him down.

At university studying nuclear medicine and later maths, Dennaoui couldn’t afford to buy supplements, so he set about researching what foods best fuelled muscle growth. But instead of reading a second-hand report in a newspaper or gleaning dubious info from television programs, he went straight to the source of the reports: the actual studies.

He pored over research in publications such as the Journal of Nutrition and Journal of Supplementation and experimented with the results. It was here that he discovered the special role carbs have to play in diet. “The brain is made of fat,” he says. “Its fuel source is carbs — you need carbs for mental acuity. But it’s the way you put them together: you can put protein with carbs or protein with fat but not fat with carbs.”

A firm advocate of eating five to seven meals a day, he suggests getting a fill of carbs early on in the cycle, because the body will be reassured that it doesn’t need fat as a secondary fuel source — so it won’t hang on to it for survival purposes.

“The body is a far smarter and more intricate than we think,” he says. “The benefit of eating regularly is that your energy levels stay up through the day and you don’t suffer from 3 o’clock-itis in the afternoon.”

He also takes multivitamins in the morning as a back-up, in case he misses out on the full quota during the day.


Ripped on Carbs
Ripped on Carbs

In the gym he is just as thorough and exacting in his pursuit of muscle — it’s why
he only carries a remarkable 5%-5.8% body fat. He smashes five strength sessions a week plus two high- and low-intensity cardio workouts, but isn’t concerned with graduating to larger weights, preferring to reduce rest periods between sets to increase muscle growth.

“It means I don’t lift as much but muscles don’t know numbers on a barbell, however, they do recognise stress and that’s what
you have to do: put stress on them.

“Core is the most important area to work — having a well-developed core also makes you look better, more complete, so when
I go to the gym I always do five sets of hanging leg raises.”

On top of his rigorous training schedule, he also busts out two jiu-jitsu sparring sessions — a martial art he says has instilled in him an authentic sense of discipline and personal ethics.

Working with professional athletes has given Dennaoui a unique insight into how they build and prepare their bodies for competing with the best. He says it all comes back to nutrition: “Every day they’ll do 1-3 hours working out; 1-2 hours preparing food; and 5-6 hours eating
the food. Time in the kitchen preparing food is everything. It’s this kind of ratio — and dedication — you need if you want to
be like them.”

His philosophy on fitness and life is straightforward: “Be prepared to create your own future rather than wishing for it
— be proactive. If you’re not prepared to make something happen it won’t.”

To find out more about Dennaoui’s diet programs, go to

                                     — Ashley Gray



Moodi’s muscle-building diet plan


Protein shake (1 serving of protein powder with water) followed by 50g of Goodness Digestive cereal (found at supermarkets) with almond milk


2 whole eggs (prepared with virgin olive oil cooking spray if fried, however, any method
is fine). Options to add to eggs (pick 2): 2 tbsp mushroom, spinach, kale, 2 tbsp cottage cheese, cucumber, tomato with 2 slices of rye bread


Smoothie: 250ml coconut water, 1 serving of protein powder, 1 cup ice, 1 cup blueberries,
1 tsp chia seeds, 1 tsp goji berries, 1 banana or ¼ avocado, and 20g of Digestive cereal + ¼ tsp of maca + 1 tsp of cacao

l Have 1 multivitamin, 1 calcium citrate, 1000mg of vitamin C (Prima C — low acidity) and
1 triple-strength fish oil capsule halfway through dinner



Cup of green tea followed by handful of nuts (40g)



130g (cooked) chicken breast or white fish (cooked with coconut oil or olive oil
cooking spray)

100g (cooked) of either sweet potato, brown/black rice, quinoa or wholemeal pasta.

Large garden salad with 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar


Cup of green tea followed by handful of nuts (40g)



150g (cooked) of either chicken breast, fish (aim for salmon 2-3 nights a week) or steak (eye fillet or sirloin, 2-3 nights a week)

150g dark green vegetables (broccoli, bok choy, green beans, asparagus, spinach, kale)

l Have 1 multivitamin, 1 calcium citrate, 1000mg of vitamin C (Prima C — low acidity) halfway through dinner

l After dinner have 1 row of Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate (70-85%) with a cup of peppermint tea


Additional snacks you may eat any time of the day (Keep these on you at all times
— you never know when they will come in handy):

l  Raw nuts (an additional 40g per day won’t hurt)

Quest bar (1 additional bar per day is OK)

Herbal teas

Dark chocolate (1-2 pieces after lunch is OK)

Air-popped popcorn (great as an after-dinner snack. Butter-free, of course.
It’s high in antioxidants and also available at supermarkets Celery



lHave meals 2-3 hours apart. Never allow yourself to get really hungry.

l Drink approximately 2L of water to keep your organs hydrated but add 600ml-1L for each workout you do.

l Always drink while training — 3% dehydration leads to a 20% reduction in strength.

l Use Stevia (not artificial sweetener)

l Honey is good to use as a sweetener with tea throughout the day
(1 teaspoon per cup)

l Do not drink while eating. This dilutes the stomach’s enzymes, which makes digestion difficult. Poor digestion leads to fat storage.


l Use a protein powder
that consists of a blend of different whey proteins; an isolate, concentrate and casein is more effective at keeping your body in an anabolic state. You are trying to acquire muscle tissue so you don’t want catabolism [body using muscle as fuel], which is a reality with pure isolates. This is good if you’re running late between meals. Options include
GNC Low Carb, Syntha 6, Amplified XL, Combat. Avoid weight-gainers.









3-DAY strengthprogram


Shoulders: Seated side laterals (3 sets), front barbell raises (2 sets),
rear lateral raises (3 sets), Smith Machine presses
(3 sets)

Tris: Pushdowns (3 sets), skull crushers (3 sets), dumbbell extensions behind head (2 sets)

Calves: Standing (3 sets), seated (2 sets)

Abs: 3 sets of leg raises, crunches and jack-knives



Chest: Incline bench press (3 sets), flat dumbbell press (3 sets), dips (2 sets), incline flyes (3 sets)

Biceps: Alternate dumbbell curls (3 sets), hammer curls (3 sets), preacher curls (2 sets)

Hams: Lying leg curls (3 sets), stiff-leg deadlifts dumbbell (2 sets)

Abs: 3 sets of leg raises, crunches and jack-knives



Back: Chinups (3 sets), seated rows (3 sets), pulldowns (2 sets), close grip pulldowns (2 sets), hyperextensions (2 sets)

Traps: Dumbbell shrugs
(2 sets), barbell shrugs from the rear (2 sets)

Quads: Leg extensions
(3 sets), squats (3 sets), leg press (3 sets)

Abs: 3 sets of leg raises, crunches and jack-knives


Start adding 30 minutes
of cardio after each

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