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Flipping the Metabolic Switch

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For most people that blog about the way people eat I easily have the best folks to work with.  People who do Crossfit and eat correctly basically make what I talk about extremely easy.  I have worked with body builders, power lifters and models in the past.  Most of those populations are trying to put a round peg in a square hole.  Imagine working with a PowerLifter that needs to lift in a weight class trying to pull triple their body weight with less food.  Body builders and models are legendary for eating disorder type behavior but those populations are getting a lot smarter as more scientific information gets out there.  For us Crossfitters, our focus is simply, to get better at Crossfit and we know from the many folks around us each that are all “ab’ed” up that it really does work.  But it’s not working for everyone, for every #SOGO warrior out there, there is also someone in the back of the gym kind of pissed off that they are killing themselves every workout with marginal gains in the mirror.

Why Ketogenic Diets work and when they become a metabolic disaster?

I talked yesterday about the fact that John Kiefer has two books, Carb Back Loading (check out my article on CBL adjusted for Crossfit and Paleo populations) the one I recommend, and Carb Nite Solution–which I don’t recommend.  John is a pretty smart dude and CNS is so drop dead easy that the book is basically all about why the diet works.  Go figure, an author that actually explains the processes that make the diet work.  In my opinion it’s the best Ketogenic book on the market but Crossfitters don’t need another Ketogenic diet.  They need a performance way of eating and that is the gaping hole that Carb Back Loading fills.  Wait, what? That’s right, the way you are eating combined with your activity level nets out to about the point where the Ketogenic Diets become effective.  To flip the metabolic switch when you are an inactive individual the key is strategic carb days like I describe below.  For active individuals, the approach takes on a life of its own and many options become available.

In 2007, I lost nearly 40 pounds as a relatively sedate individual, this left me “skinny fat” but still probably a somewhat healthier version of myself.  I wasn’t moving but I was seeing results.  I fought through all of the headaches and the sleepless nights and got to the other side.  Towards the end, I looked like the walking dead and there is no way in hell I could have done Crossfit.  Basically, I did a Ketogenic Diet with a cheat day.  That cheat day often left me sick, I would obsessively make lists of all the foods I really wanted to eat and just pound them on that one cheat day.  Gradually I was able to manage things a bit better and looking back, all of the pieces of the puzzle were there I just hadn’t put them all together yet.  Instinctively I reduced the window of cheat days from about every 7th day to about every 4th day, otherwise the scale wouldn’t move.

You have to remember I was NOT doing Crossfit at the time.  Which is good, because I couldn’t have done it.  Because I didn’t understand why what I was doing worked and at that time, I didn’t know the details on how to not get sick in the process.  In the end, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and I was a metabolic disaster.

I will never recommend a Ketogenic Diet, for anyone, even good ones like John’s because when the scale stalls, the only option people feel they have is to start eating less.  I have found they are unnecessary and can lead to harm in the wrong hands and I think it’s only natural that when the scale isn’t moving you push the panic button, eat less and that’s when things get real bad.

I was just too smart to be fat

If you want to know a synopsis of my life it’s pretty simple.  I don’t follow the crowd.  I walk into most situations with a skeptic’s eye.  There are varying degrees of success people have with “eat less do less” diets but they don’t end up more whole as a result.  I often describe this as the best version of themselves.  Not only active and healthy but those results can be shown on paper through bloods tests and or body fat analysis.

If you aren’t eating any starches and one piece of fruit I am going to say you are probably hurting yourself.  No amount of “rah rah” cheerleading bullshit is going to make that better.  Also no amount of “sugar addicted” proponents can truly explain to you why their approach isn’t working for you, after all, maybe you are just being a baby (does it not stand to reason that with few energy dense options craving sugar represents craving more energy, this isn’t rocket science folks).  “But it’s working for everyone else”.  Is it though? I mean really? Because I hear a lot of people talking about progress but it doesn’t really show.  Not in the mirror and not really in the gym.  “But I am faster and I am stronger”.  This does happen and I can explain it easily.  From a cardio perspective if you pull all of the water out of your body (that’s part of what Ketogenic diets do) you are going to weigh less.  Do you think that would be favorable as it relates to your cardio abilities? Seems obvious right?  But what about strength gains, people often PR while eating low carb and Crossfitting, so what I am saying might not jive with those folks.  Here is that answer and I am just going to lay it on the line.  You weren’t all that strong to begin with.  As someone that knows a fair amount of powerlifters I can tell you that they hone in on their areas of weakness and just hammer those spots.  Then after hammering it they find different ways to hammer it.  In some ways powerlifters are the perfect example of what I am talking about even though many of them are thought to be on the heavy side.  To lift real big you have to realize your muscles potential, powerlifters are a great example of this.  By keeping insulin high they gain muscle but many of them also get fat in the process and they become reluctant to lose weight because they think it might compromise their strength (they are probably right without proper guidance, however even with proper guidance there are no guarantees).

Your Diet Sucks

Your Diet Sucks was a book concept I came up with after many years of not knowing the little details of why all of the diets I was on didn’t work out in the end.  I am not going to lie to you, when you read Carb Back Loading it’s a bit shocking.  It doesn’t seem real and if you haven’t read the book you probably think it’s a book exclusively about making poor food choices work.  The exact opposite is actually true.  The concept I wanted to write about was going to describe some level of metabolic flexibility where I learned to move from one energy system (fats) to another energy system (carbs) and not only was it favorable it allows you to become the best version of yourself.  And then I started hearing about Carb Back Loading.  It has a few warts and if you come from a Paleo background it’s probably difficult to see all of the donuts and cherry turnovers.  I am not even an ardent low carber and it got to me a bit.  Kiefer has talked about this on multiple occasions and has said that while a super Paleo version of carb back loading might not be totally optimal it’s actually pretty close to the way he eats.  He and Robb Wolf are positively gushy talking to each other.

The only book that I could have wrote would not have been technically better than Carb Back Loading but it would have been aimed at regular folks that might not need every detail covered.  I have talked about this a bit, can you do carb back loading without reading the book, that answer quite simply is yes.  But there are some details that make GIGANTIC differences.  By the time I found Carb Back Loading I was doing things mostly right and I found tips in every chapter that made big differences for me and I have gained about 15 pounds of muscle in little over a year.  Those tips only helped.

If you are considering buying the book I would ask you to use the various links on this site.  I don’t recommend a lot of stuff so I need readers to know that it keeps me blogging when you purchase things directly from me.

Here is my blog on CBL for Paleo Crossfit type folks. There is a download link on that page and also one on the sidebar.

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2 Responses to Flipping the Metabolic Switch

  1. Alffy March 3, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    dude, I appreciate your opinions, but you have to make them clearer. Your writing is incoherent and leaves the reader unsure of what you want to say. Have your considered having someone edit your blogs?

    • Paul Nobles March 3, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

      definitely a fair criticism and I am working on getting this resolved. I have actually talked about this a bit. I am getting peppered with questions so I am trying to get everyone info as quickly as possible and so being a bit incoherent is the cost. Rest assured, that will get better soon. I sincerely appreciate the criticism.

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