What “Gradually Awesome” Looks Like in the Beginning

Black Coal Fennel Sausage and Pepperoni

This is part of the information I teach in the “Science Lab” seminars that we offer free when you purchase things that support our site (it’s mostly stuff you would buy anyway).  Click the link and it will give you more details.  

I am going to try to keep this short, but honestly I say that all of the time.  I can’t help it!  I have asked you guys to take a leap with me by adding strategic carbohydrates to your nutrition and eating more.  With the help of the tools and information we’re providing at Eat to Perform, many of you are achieving great results.  I wanted you to check out this bit of inspiration I pulled from the comments section of the “Dialing Things In A Bit” article.  Alyssa writes:

“Great article! I really like your perspective. Just to speak of my recent experience a bit, I was on a high fat/low carb lifestyle…and it affected my performance (and even the scale). I came across CBL this past week and I am giving it a shot. After my WOD on wednesday, I was walking back home, and passed an ice cream parlor. I thought to myself, “hmm, I’ve been feeling crappy these past few days, my body probably needs this.” I stopped in and got the flavor that sounded best to me. When I was handed the cone, I thought, how many calories is this?! haha…but then I was like, no I am going to enjoy this. And I did! Afterwards, I felt great!

Now fast forward, to my WOD on Thursday and I am SO GLAD I had that ice cream for multiple reasons! First off, I felt great throughout the day and super-pepped for my WOD (which days before I was worried about being able to get through the WOD). Secondly, I kicked butt during the WOD! It was a good burner!

Afterwards, I felt that I needed a good “backload.” How much, I wasn’t sure? 75g, 100g? I thought about getting another “treat,” but I didn’t really want one, I felt my body calling for a more wholefoods approach. Ended up having some sweet potatoes and dark chocolate and I had an amount that made me feel good, not purposely trying to eat in any way.

Now today, I feel good.

So it’s true. It is about dialing it in for yourself. No one can really tell you what you need. Everyone is different. Your body is the “expert” that will let you know what to feed it and how much. It’s all about being keen to what are sometimes subtle signals, but really are more obvious than you might think.

Again, thanks Paul for the great article!”

Thank you Alyssa!  Can I express a plea for you guys to hang out in the comments section a bit?  There are some phenomenal case examples developing there and I can assure you that if you have questions, they have probably already been answered at some point.  You aren’t alone.  The stuff we’re writing about is not sorcery; it’s real and it’s helping people all over the place.

What is Happening When I Add in the Carbs Gradually?

One part where Kiefer and I strongly disagree on nutrition is the “slamming carbs part”.  In my experience, there is no need to start with a crazy amount of carbs.  People who think they may be metabolically damaged should proceed with caution.  That’s why I support for a more gradual approach; if you have developed some level of insulin resistance related to under eating carbs and performing high intensity workouts, you are more inclined to inefficiently use those carbs in the beginning.  I recommend that you just start low, increase your calories with fats and proteins, and add the carbs as you go.  On average, I would say I eat 200g-250g of carbs a day.  I have been eating this way for almost 3 years now, but I am a 160 pound man; a smaller woman probably needs less carbs, and a larger man may (obviously) need more.  Precision isn’t our goal.  Preparation is what we aim for, experimenting along the way to see what works best and adjusting as needed.

This Is What Happens Initially

For most people, if they are starting off cautiously (100g of carbs for women and 150g for men), they won’t likely see a lot of weight gain.  A high functioning metabolism works best when the body is forced to adapt to different stimuli.  That’s what I refer to this as “metabolic flexibility” and it’s also the argument for food variety vs. eating the same thing day-in, day-out.  If you’re coming from a period of chronic under eating, you may gain some weight initially.  If you start off and the number on the scale increases, remember this:  gaining weight is a plus.  You are really going to want to do this for the rest of your life.  Does that mean intentionally stuffing yourself with 750g of carbs to gain weight quickly?  No.  It’s about gradual adaptation.

While you’re in this first stage, the number won’t be huge, but 3-5 pounds is normal; in a few days (if not immediately) the carbs you’re eating will replenish your muscles, your energy levels will rise, and most people report that they sleep a lot better.  At this stage you aren’t nearly as efficient at dealing with carbs as you’ll become, but you are probably eating a lot more than you were, and in the great scheme of things, the scale has barely moved.  This is often quite enlightening for most people.

The Next Stage

In this stage, your metabolism is healed and you’re ready to start adding in carbs (50 more grams or so) while simultaneously lowering fats to adjust total energy input (so you’ll leave out about 22 grams of fat.)  That may sound really precise, but I’d recommend that you do it that way initially so that you get a feel for how your body reacts.  What you’ll unearth on your path to discovery is that if you’re eating adequate amounts of protein and just cycle the carbs and fats around your workouts, the “specifics” really don’t matter all that much.  The added carbs during periods of intense activity accelerate protein turnover and if you are following the creatine protocol I suggest, you’ll be preserving some muscle and getting better workouts as a result.

Where the Real Magic Happens

When all of this becomes second nature, you’ll probably never count another calorie again.  You’ll eventually develop an intuitive understanding of what it looks like to add carbs or fat by modifying food choices or portions.  It doesn’t happen right out of the gate, but in time it will click and dieting will be a thing of the past.  I understand that this raises a lot of questions, mostly because you fear that you can really mess it all up.  Relax; the body doesn’t work like that.  You’re never too far gone to get things back on track, and some of the greatest discoveries will come from accidents.  If you eat too many carbs one night, simply rely more on fats the following day.  There are a lot of small details you can adjust, but in general, as your work capacity goes up and your sleep falls in line, without having to worry so much about eating right, it feels like a miracle.

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10 Responses to What “Gradually Awesome” Looks Like in the Beginning

  1. elindenstein March 25, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    I agree with this. I am 5’6″ and 137lbs (I keep losing weight because of the eating habits I’ve developed). I recently started CBL and am loving it- I was having about 50g of carbs 6 days a week for almost a year and was dropping bodyfat, but also losing strength.

    I read Kiefer’s book in two days last week and for my target weight it puts me somewhere in the 450g-550g of carbs per day- I can’t even imagine. I felt like yesterday I had a gazillion (real number) carbs and still only ended with about 265g usable carbs (carbs – fiber) at the end of the day. His numbers seem REALLY high, but I’m excited for the new CBL approach.

    • Paul Nobles March 27, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      Crossfitters don’t need that many carbs. I talk about this in the science lab seminars all of the time. I suspect you will find 200g-250g will serve you well.

  2. elindenstein March 27, 2013 at 1:24 pm #

    Thanks Paul. That’s what I figured- I went with 300g of carbs on Monday night and had a really rough workout yesterday- I just felt overly heavy and sluggish. I backed down to roughly 140 yesterday to ease back in and feel much better today. I’ll up it a bit more tonight for tomorrow.

    • Paul Nobles March 29, 2013 at 11:47 am #

      yeah, you definitely have to adjust to what feels right. I would say my biggest carb days are 250g but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I am around 150g a lot.

  3. Jt March 27, 2013 at 2:22 pm #

    How much would you say an avid cross fitter, female, 5’2, 123lbs would need in terms of carbs, fat and protein?

    • Paul Nobles March 29, 2013 at 11:45 am #

      I have posted some version of this all over and while I haven’t done the math 125g across the board is a good place to start and then adjust to the TDEE calculator favoring carbs over fats but for women I would say 150g with 200g being the high end is fine. Crossfitters don’t put near the muscle skeletal strain that weight lifting does and therefore the carb needs aren’t as high but I know powerlifters that stay under 200g and occasionally eat for Joy;-)

  4. James O'Leary April 3, 2013 at 1:36 am #

    What are your go-to carbs when back loading? I am currently at a starting point of 250g per back load and quite honestly, not sure how someone would cleanly get to 500g?

    How would you prescribe 500g of carbs? All clean or mixed in with some quick and dirty?

    Right now, I pack in 200g clean and 50g with desert.

    Much appreciated!


    • Paul Nobles April 3, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      sweet potatoes and white rice.

      I don’t prescribe 500g of carbs for a Crossfitter, that is one of the adjustments that needs to be made through the science lab.

      I like 250g a lot, I personally do less but I am a smaller guy.

  5. Laura Maxwell April 3, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

    Ok so I am going to post a rather lengthy comment/question here because I have to watch the seminars after the fact right now because of my current schedule. But I did buy CBL via your site and when my 3/month free period is up I will be signing up for the monthly sessions.. :-)

    I have been CrossFitting for 2 years at 4X per week. I am a 43 year old woman, 5’10″, 199-202 lbs. When I first started CF I weighed about 220 lbs but I was 6 dress sizes bigger (I’ve gone from a size 20 to size 14 in the last 2 years). So clearly I have lost fat and gained muscle but I need to lose more weight in order to make the gains that I want to with CF, still can’t do pull-ups (strict is my goal) because of my strength to weight ratio. I have been holding steady at 199-205 for the last year. I have done a couple of Paleo challenges, Whole LIfe Challenges but I got bored with the restrictions. I know for a fact that I am not underfed – in fact I eat 50% healthy, whole foods (grass fed beef, wild fish, veggies and some fruit) and 50% junk (kit kat bars, toast, pumpkin bread, lattes, french fries, crackers, cookies etc.) at about an average of 500-750 calories over my TDEE, I’ve tracked my calories both when I am trying to “diet” (1500 calories or less which lasts about 3 days) and when I am just being my normal, eat whatever I want self which is 90% of the time.

    So I am just wondering if following CBL at TDEE – 10% will help me to start to lose the fat in a gradual but consistent manner? (obviously I will cut out a portion of the junk I have been eating)

    It should be noted that my exercise program looks like this:

    Monday – Morning strength – 5-3-1 program
    Afternoon – CrossFit – strength training 15-20min, MetCon 5-10 minutes, cool down

    Tuesday – Morning strength – 5-3-1 program,
    Afternoon 60min Bikram (hot) Yoga

    Wednesday – Afternoon CrossFit – strength training 15-20min, MetCon 5-12 minutes, cool down

    Thursday – Morning strength – 5-3-1 program
    Afternoon 60min Bikram (hot) Yoga

    Friday – Morning strength – 5-3-1 program
    Afternoon – CrossFit – strength training 15-20min, MetCon 5-12 minutes, cool down

    Saturday – Morning CrossFit – Partner WOD, longer MetCon 15-20 minutes

    Sunday – rest day

    I average 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

    • Paul Nobles April 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm #

      emailing you

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