This is a blog from James Barnum, he normally does the editing for a good majority of my stuff because there aren’t a lot of people that get what I am talking about quite the way James does. Editing isn’t just about grammer anymore. This is a big topic we cover in the Science Lab that confuses a lot of people. Click the link below for most information on that.
Events on earth tend to operate in a cyclical fashion. Human beings observe these state changes in their extremes; hot and cold, day and night, toil and cessation. The eternal wheel spins on, but we only really pay attention to when it stops (and starts again). For every action, there is a reaction, and that concept has (for good reason) been applied to human nutrition for many decades. The dinosaur notion of bulking and cutting has been put to rest; by cycling everything from macronutrient ratios to meal frequency, we’re able to coax different responses from our bodies and shape our physical realities like never before. Would you like to add muscle to your frame and lose fat? We can do that. How about gaining strength while remaining light? No problem. If you’re willing to go the distance, there is a plan that will work for you…Or so it would seem.
You’ve read about my experiences with ketogenic dieting (low carb paleo, Carb Nite, CKD, Atkins etc.) on this blog; it didn’t bring me where I wanted to go and I got wrecked in the process. I love my carbs and it’s a huge burden psychologically (and metabolically) to avoid them for weeks at a time. Attempting to intermittent fast and cycle macronutrients/calories based upon whether or not I was working out that day (Leangains, Warrior Diet etc.) also failed me. No matter how hard I tried, I always hit a wall and I would end up splayed out on the floor stuffing myself when I was supposed to be under eating; other nights I’d finish training only to find that I had no appetite at all. Hell on earth is sitting down with friends at a Chinese buffet on cheat day to gorge, and being full after one plate.
Natural Systems vs. Unnatural Cycles
As it turns out, when I began following a diet based around diurnal rhythms (the natural cycle of rest and activity) and put more emphasis on figuring things out for myself, I made somewhat dramatic gains in strength and muscle mass. The problem wasn’t cycling calories or carbs; the issue laid in adhering to a strict interval based on one qualifier: training. I wasn’t allowing any room for life; I was following the system, which thought that all I did was sleep, eat and lift weights, and it was letting me down hard. It didn’t take into account the stress of work, relationships, and the cumulative effective of being who I am. Sometimes, you need to eat more carbs even though you haven’t gone to the gym that day; after all, it can take up to 48 hours to replenish glycogen stores and you may be on the road to under-recovering. Your body will tell you this, but you’ll ignore it because you’re on a diet and today is a low carb day; you don’t want to break the rules and get fat. This is what we mean when we talk about “getting in your own way”. This is why auto-regulation is important; these protocols are built around a theory, based upon studies, and you’re living in the real world.
Although you’re “only human,” you are the byproduct of a lifetime of individual experience. The genes you were endowed with are only part of the recipe; you are probably not the baseline person that the protocol was designed for. How does the diet know that you should eat less today than you did yesterday simply because today is a “rest day”? Isn’t rest about recovery? Doesn’t eating help you recover? What if you’re going rock climbing this afternoon? Do you still eat low carb? In the real world, your energy expenditure and metabolic needs fluctuate from hour-to-hour, day-to-day. Your body is constantly shifting towards homeostasis, trying to pump out the right amount of hundreds of different hormones to keep your heart going, digest your food, repair your muscles and put you to sleep at the end of the day. Where all of these other protocols fail, Carb Back-Loading and biorhythm diets succeed. These diets show you how to make educated guesses about how to eat based upon what you did today, what you’re doing tomorrow, how you look, how you perform, but mostly how you feel.
Applying Auto-Regulatory Principles to Your Nutrition
First of all, you need to understand that auto-regulation does not mean that you’ll be eating randomly; quite to the contrary, you will be eating with more intention and purpose than ever before. Beginning with a sound nutritional strategy like CBL, you’ll perform checks throughout the day and engage in a lot of introspection while still doing what you know you need to do. You’ll still hit your macros, you’ll still pay attention to the quality of your food, but you’ll throw the plan out the window if it doesn’t correlate with what your body is telling you.
Breakfast and Pre-Workout
If you’ve read CBL, you understand that a big part of why the diet works is shifting from fat-burning in the morning to carb-burning in the evening. You also know that delaying breakfast after awakening isn’t going to kill you; it’s actually favorable as far as fat mobilization and overall recovery are concerned. Let’s say you’re up and atom now; you take a peek in the fridge and remark that you’re not hungry. You might delay breakfast a little longer while you get some work done, or you might make a coffee with a scoop of protein powder to stimulate myosynthesis. Contrast this with a morning where you awaken after an all-nighter; you’re not feeling tip-top. You consider the golden, delicious flavor of bacon and eggs cooked in grassfed butter; your mouth waters and your stomach rumbles, “Hey. FEED ME.” You would be wise to listen and get some high-quality protein and saturated fat into your belly, even if you just woke up.
Breakfast should be about stimulating protein synthesis and keeping stress hormones from getting out of hand so you can mobilize fat and build muscle. You should get a large portion of your daily fat and protein intake from this meal, especially if you don’t eat lunch. So what do you do when you know, deep down inside, that you need some carbs with your breakfast? Go for fibrous vegetables, nuts and fruits that will fill you up without eliciting too great an insulin spike. If fruit and vegetables aren’t cutting it, you could try some gluten-free waffles or a glass of milk. The idea is to take what you know is optimal and let your personal preferences dictate the application; if you feel better and train harder with some fried potatoes or pancakes in you, then you are completely free to incorporate them into your plan.
Dinner and Post-Workout
As the day progresses, dinner time arrives. Let’s say you had a very productive squat session last night, and you hit some new PRs. You had a big steak and a few sweet potatoes after your post-workout shake, and you slept well…You feel good today, you’re out with your friends and a nice fat Philly cheese steak sounds like it’d hit the spot. You stop and you say to yourself, “I looked lean as hell this morning!” It might not kill you to go for it and have the Philly tonight, but your desire to eat is motivated more by delicious cheesiness than nutritional necessity and you aren’t training tomorrow. It may be time to exercise some willpower. Perhaps you can double the steak and cheese and forego the bread this time; maybe this will be a low carb day after all. However, if you woke up looking (and feeling) flat, and you’re hungry as hell tonight, you may not have eaten enough the previous evening. Maybe you also feel a little bit on the glum side and a cheese steak would be the perfect pick-me-up. You would be foolish to ignore the signs, and it may be in your best interest to order some fries to go with your sandwich.
Completely the opposite of breakfast, dinner is the best time to eat carbs and get some extra food in if you feel like you haven’t been eating enough. If you stayed relatively low carb throughout the day, the surge of insulin brought on by ingesting carbohydrates will signal your brain that it’s okay to burn fat tomorrow morning. Growth hormone secretion will spike, and you’ll have more recuperative sleep. It’s a win-win-situation. Whether or not you’ve trained, it’s important to use this time to make sure you’ve eaten enough protein and that you’ve taken in enough overall energy. If you have to choose between either going to bed hungry or having a cinnamon roll five minutes before you hit the hay, you should probably pick the latter. The only situation where I would suggest going easy on the carbs is if you’re really not hungry, or if you plan on being a lay-about the next day and won’t do much of anything as far as movement goes.
Thinking for Yourself
Remember that rest days are not nearly as restful if you under eat. Listen to your body, and make decisions about how much and what you’re eating based upon how you feel, how you look, and how you’re performing during your training. You’re an adult, and in the end you’ve got to look out for yourself because nobody else will (unless you pay them to do so!). Neither I nor Kiefer know how many carbohydrates you need after a workout. Martin Berkhan and Robb Wolf can only guess at how many calories you need to eat every day to perform optimally. Any and all suggestions are ultimately rubbish if they’re letting you down. When something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to deviate from the plan. If you don’t know, find out.