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Carb Loading – Paleo Women of Crossfit Version

Tomorrow we are releasing our Metabolic Flexibility chapters that you get when you purchase a year long subscription for $49.95.  These chapters are written by Mike T Nelson who is considered to be the authority on the topic.  When I wrote this article Carb Back Loading was the only book that closely resembled what I teach.  With two volumes of Foundations and now Mike’s chapters on MetFlex I can safely say this is NOW the best information you can purchase specific to our sport (that being high intensity weight lifting and OLY lifting).  Not only do you get that but you get seminars and a private group with other doctors and Crossfit athletes to support your new performance journey (how cool is that?).

(Click here to jump to a summary of this article)

This is a big topic for the seminars:  “How can a woman keep a healthy amount of carbs in her diet while also mobilizing fat?”  I realize that it’s all very confusing at this point, because there’s been a lot of buzz over the past few years surrounding fat loss on a ketogenic diet.  There are certainly a lot of women who’ve made dramatic transformations by cutting carbs, but the results may have come at a cost; for a small percentage of women, symptoms like irregular menstrual cycles and compromised fertility go hand in hand with calorie deprivation and maintaining a low body fat percentage.  If this doesn’t apply to you, you probably can’t relate, but for a few of the ladies out there, a bell just went off in their heads.  Another group of relatively lean ladies have taken a less restrictive approach to eating, and most are quite happy with their body composition.

Exercise Differences Between Men and Women

Aside from the obvious differences, men and women are biologically quite different and respond differently to exercise in a few important ways.  For instance, women burn fat more easily than men do while CrossFitting; due to a significantly decreased oxidative work capacity, women have been shown to use up glycogen more slowly than men do.  They rely upon alternate pathways to supply ATP to the muscle cells during intense activity.  So if women burn more fat while exercising, why are some of them struggling to rid themselves of what they consider to be excess body fat?  Although it has something to do with neurotransmitters and adrenergic receptors in adipose tissue, we’ll just say that each person stores and mobilizes fat differently; it’s dependent upon so many factors that it would take an entire book to adequately explain.  Once again, this is a complicated question that is largely individual, but I have and will continue to argue that there is a process of analysis that must occur.  In the long run, the results are enlightening and will lead to important discoveries about your unique metabolism.

What about Carb Back-Loading?  That Seems Like a Lot of Carbs…

Later, you will read three testimonies from women who Eat to Perform.  Not all of them are CrossFitters, nor are they CBL zealots, but that makes their experiences much more informative and broadly applicable.  Each of these women has formulated a conscious approach to carbohydrate intake that works for them.

Once you hear from them, you’ll agree that the contrasts between these various athletes are eye-opening.  All of them do some version of what I describe in this article, adjusted for their activity level, at various times.  Some do it by feel, some count calories and some carb cycle BUT every single one of them agrees that a high-functioning metabolism involves some amount of carbohydrates.

Adjusting CBL for Women

Back-loading can be intimidating.  Kiefer talks about “slamming the carbs”; images of doughnuts and turnovers dance before your eyes.  This rubs people the wrong way sometimes, because it doesn’t jive with what they consider a basic tenant of human nutrition; it seems insane (and unhealthy) to suggest that eating baked goods and pizza could help you lose fat.  When I started this site, I wanted to start women down the path of thinking more openly as far as carbohydrates are concerned.  That started a discussion and here we are with almost 200,000 people participating (it will probably be more if you read this down the road).  That discussion led to experiments for a lot of people and better performance while eating moderate carbohydrates.  I think I can safely say that women trying to lose fat might do well to try something out of their comfort zone and add some carbs/starches to their meal plans.

This Is a “Non-Standard” Recommendation

It’s important that everyone understands that no recommendation works for everyone.  You have to take the reins, but this is a safe spot for most active women to start.  I just posted an article with a link and explanation of how to calculate your energy requirements based upon your activity level.  It’s very informative so you should give it a quick read.  In the articles coming up you will see examples of women using vastly different approaches as it relates to carb strategies that all make sense.  We’ll go over this more during the seminars as well, so don’t sweat it if these numbers don’t work for you.

  • For our example, we’ll use a woman in her mid-twenties, 5’4”, 125lbs who CrossFits a few times a week.
  • We’ll start her on 125g of protein a day.  If you are particularly light (under 125 pounds) then you can get away with 100g.
  • 125g of carbs (ideally eaten in a small window post workout at the end of the day, similar to the way it is described in the book).  Again, if you weigh less than 125 pounds, 100g is a good place to start.  If you’re particularly active (or you train in the morning), you may want to add 25-50g of carbs to your post workout nutrition.
  • 125g of fat.  This will provide the bulk of your energy throughout the day and turn you into a veritable furnace of fat burning.

Starch Sources in Your Evening Meals

Part of the problem with very active women following a Paleo-esque diet is that they struggle to find energy dense sources that come from mostly whole unprocessed foods.  Fibrous vegetables don’t count; eat as much of them as you want throughout the day but leave them out of your evening meals.  While they may be packed with vitamins and minerals, they will fill you up and you may have a tendency to under eat when it comes time to “slam the carbs”.  This is one of the reasons I recommend having dessert on your back-loading days (ideally, the day before a workout).  My coconut milk smoothies are a great choice; I have also seen women get very favorable results adding dark chocolate and wine into the mix (as long as it’s in moderation).

As far as more traditional options go, we’ll keep this simple: sweet potatoes, squash (kabocha squash pictured above) are great carbohydrate sources.  If you’re open-minded, you could occasionally try some white rice too.  Starches are important, as they provide a quick source of glucose to spur muscle tone (really muscle growth but I digress) and trigger the hormonal cascade responsible for fat burning.  I think you’ll get a great response from these.  Finally, variety is the spice of life, so try different things and don’t be afraid to have a cinnamon roll before bed to prepare for a particularly brutal workout the following day.

Workout Days Followed by Rest Days

Because men burn through sugar like there’s no tomorrow, they can get away with back-loading every day.  Women have things a little harder due to their decreased usage of glycogen as fuel during exercise.  If your goal is to mobilize fat, I would suggest reducing your carbohydrate intake on these days, while simultaneously increasing your fat intake.  It may seem like it contradicts the entire ideology of back-loading, but by eating relatively low carb after training, you will ensure a glycogen debt and maximize fat burning hormones.  Using the example from above, stay with 125g protein, 100g of carbs and add roughly 22g of fat (preferably from sources like coconut oil and grass-fed butter) to make up for the loss of calories incurred by lowering carbohydrate intake.  That would shift your macros to 125p/150f/100c.

These are just my thoughts; you can play with this many different ways.  My goal is to convey a more clear understanding that a reckless approach is unnecessary; you don’t need to eat turnovers and pizza to back-load.  I hope this helps a bit in clarifying that.  As always, these are guidelines and not rules.

Summary

  • Men and women utilize carbohydrate differently.  Women are, in general, better at burning fat than men so they need fewer carbohydrates in their nutrition plans.
  • Ketogenic/low carb diets can cause fast weight loss but they are rarely ideal for optimal performance.
  • While it may not be extremely common, some women suffer some unfortunate side effects when they get really lean and/or deprive their bodies of carbohydrates.  For this reason, it’s better to adopt a less restrictive approach to carbs.
  • Women should strive to hit their protein goals first, and then focus on carbs and fat; in general, women seem to do well on 100-125g of carbs on training days.
  • Rest days can be modified to include more fat and less carbs; 75-100g may be appropriate.
  • As with most things, experimenting with more or less carbs will help you arrive at a balance that works for you and allows you to look and perform the way you want to.
  • You don’t need to eat pizza and turnovers to carb back-load; go for starches like potatoes and rice, and be sure to include some vegetables.  Coconut milk smoothies are also a great option.

 

Leptin, the hormone and metabolic trigger

So Leptin says to the brain “Yo homey, why you always hoggin’ the sugar”.  This is a leptin joke that will never catch on but it cracks me up.

Leptin Resistance

Most people are aware of insulin but many people are not as aware of the hormone leptin and its role in the body.  Leptin is sort of like insulin’s identical brother. Each is simply a signal for the body, and a hormonal signal at that. Leptin and its receptors are spread throughout your body and even those areas which do not see the light of day! Leptin is also found in your fat tissue.  It relays signals to your brain regarding energy balance and the brain relays back whether your body should release fat, keep it or store it.  So if you are on a diet, or have ever been on a diet then leptin is something you need to be well versed in.  Blood tests resulting in elevated triglycerides may impair your brains ability to process the relay messages between leptin receptors and the brain. This can serve as a sign of leptin resistance. One week of dieting can lower your leptin by 50%.

The role of leptin in the body is affected when insulin levels are too high due to increased inflammation related to excessive carbohydrate consumption.  Leptin is a complex topic, so complex that this short primer isn’t going to tell you all you need to know but it is a start.

Leptin excess leads to resistance of signaling, much like insulin in excess leads to downgraded organ signaling. When dieting too long or too strictly, especially when using a low carbohydrate diet as a tool for weight loss, leptin is lowered to an extreme level affecting the body’s ability to mobilize fat and keep hormones at healthy libido levels (this is the opposite of the scenario in the last paragraph).  This is where a big helping of sweet potatoes and bananas after a day of low carbohydrate dieting can actually spur fat loss, because you have now opened the door for leptin again and it mobilizes fat as a result (I keep referring to this as the Metabolism Switch and it’s one of the basic premises of the book Carb Back Loading).  As it stands, the body can become leptin resistant from excessive signaling but also levels can become too low from excessive restriction- both impair fat loss.

Carbohydrates are the boogie man of nutrition to many, even more so than fats, though there are groups on both sides who disdain both of them with equal fervor.  The detonator in the carbohydrate war is over simple and complex carbohydrates.  Simple carbohydrates consist of quick acting foods like white bread, cereal, table sugar, soda- very refined foods.  On the other side are complex carbohydrates consisting of sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, tomatoes and quinoa.  That is a pretty wide spectrum to paint with a very broad brush (but I just did it baby!).

For a lot of people the Paleo Diet can cause Leptin issues but things are fine if they add Paleo starches and some occasional white rice and keep overall calories at maintenance levels. I have no beef with the Paleo Diet if you do it without restricting intake. If you are in a standstill as it relates to weight issues and would rather not count calories Paleo can be useful.  I can assure you it is more difficult to become obese eating in such a way.  That said, if you eat coconut fried sweet potatoes in all of your meals each day it’s not the diet that is the problem …..  Such a diet would clearly be nutrient deficient and you are likely well aware of that fact.

So now that we have cleared that up let’s move on.

Solving Leptin

Solving leptin goes a long way to having a healthy metabolism and one of the best ways to do that is to keep a moderate amount of starchy carbs in your diet. Certainly fruits are advantageous and even the occasional sugary treat can actually serve a purpose as the joke at the top suggests.

Live streaming plus Question and Answer seminars

Simply Pure Nutrients

My goal is for the seminars to be free when people use links on this site.  Unfortunately that will probably never happen with Amazon.com but buying stuff you would have already bought using this link supports our site and keeps the content rolling.

We now offer a paid option as well

For some people they want may want to join the science lab but have no need for any of the products we sell.  For those people we have a $4.95 monthly recurring option.  The details and “Science Lab” sign in can be found on this page.

I am still sorting out the schedule (and will release it publicly) but I am going to try and use various times of the day to meet everyone’s needs.  I will be using the new Google Live Hangouts software and will be sending out invites and times for people to stop by.

For the quickest access to the Science Lab using the free option it is best to sign up using this link and then follow the steps below.

To get the free offers simply send the order numbers from Simply Pure Nutrients, Rogue (for orders $50 and up) and Carb Back Loading.

The email is maggie@eattoperform.com.  This email is for business inquiries, if you email me asking for advice using this method I’m probably going to let you down because someone actually checks this email for me.  I rarely see it.  It serves an administration function.

Why Do I Have to Buy Carb Back Loading to participate?

You don’t, you can now also buy any of the products from Simply Pure Nutrients using the same process where you simply email me your order number.  You will also get the seminars free with a purchase from Rogue using the links on this site (that’s important because when you email me I match it up with the information I get from Rogue, this is for orders over $50).

You might want to consider it though.

The method I teach people is covered in CBL, that is why it is the only book I sell.  I have not really seen a better book as it relates to “Metabolic Flexibility” and it is a great starting point for the discussion.

Made in America

But I despise Carbs with a passion, yuck yuck yuck, what should I do?

Reconsider your position.  No macronutrient is the enemy and if you want a well functioning metabolism you should have a strategy as it relates to carbohydrate intake.  Ultimately though Carb Back Loading (ironically) is really a book about fat.  Both mobilizing it and eating it correctly and then using carbohydrates to mobilize it.

What if you can’t help me?

I’ll refund your money no questions asked.  What I won’t be doing however is become your doctor (even though I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night).  I like to refer to myself as a “fatologist” I know a whole bunch about one thing that seems very important to a lot of people.  Most body fat struggles are just a manifestation of something that is off along the way.  In this series we will explore that and I suspect it will be very enlightening for everyone.

Ok, I am convinced but I haven’t bought the book, am I still eligible?

Yes, use this link to purchase Carb Back Loading, shoot me your order number and I will email you the schedule for the upcoming week.

carb back loading button

What if none of those times work for me?

I will be doing them to accomodate everyone’s needs, if you don’t see a time that works simply email me and I will make arrangements so that everyone that purchases the book gets this special promotion.

Also one HUGE benefit that will only be available to members will be the time stamping of the seminars.  While we will publish most, if not all, seminars only subscribed members will get time stamped info that makes watching the videos a much easier process.

Do you really have a mohawk and aren’t you a 44 year old man and father to 2 daughters? What the hell is it that you do that allows you to walk around with said mohawk and what does your wife think about that thing?

Firstly you know way too much about me.  Secondly, “what it is I do” will be covered in the series and you will find out exactly why this page went from 0 to whatever many likes it has now in only a few days.  I know what I am talking about.  Period.  I will say this though, I am not Kiefer, what we will talk about will just use Carb Back Loading as a back drop and then I will apply my knowledge base on top of that.  It’s easy to do back loading wrong, I can help put together the pieces a bit.

Bulking Series-Carb Back-Loading As an Ectomorph (Hard Gainer)

James Awesome Shot

We have added a Hard Gainer class at 7pm on Sunday evenings.  Lot’s of sites have manuals on how to get bigger, we give you a manual and the ability to talk to two people that did it.  If you want instant access to the class you do that by purchasing a recurring monthly subscription for $4.95 (adding your phone number when you sign up allows me to contact you, many people struggle to get signed in correctly initially).

While not as easy of convenient you can also get a free membership by purchasing items like Carb Back Loading, here is the link to do that.  CBL is simply one of the best strategies as it relates to putting on lean mass that I have seen.

In May of 2011, I had the privilege of witnessing my younger sister Elizabeth graduate from the University of South Florida with her Bachelor’s degree.  All along she’s told me that she pursued her degree not for herself, but for her family; for me.  Her accomplishment inspired me to take a look deep inside myself and reflect upon my own life.  I asked myself what I was doing with the time I’d been given, what my ancestors would think of me, as well as where I was going to end up if I continued on the path I’d set out upon.  I had given up on my life-long goal of becoming a successful musician and started work as a line cook at a local barbecue restaurant; I had never made so little money for so much work but it was all I could find.  My social life had dwindled to nothing, my girlfriend was constantly at my throat…My self-esteem had hit rock bottom.  Not only was I poor, uneducated and demotivated, but I was also fat, weak and chronically ill.  I contemplated suicide practically every day, but I thought to myself, “I cannot let my sister down.  I have to get better.  If not for myself, I have to do it for her.” I made a promise to her that I wouldn’t carry on that way any longer.

Fast-forward two years; I’m an NASM certified personal trainer, I’m in college studying for a degree in dietetics, I lift weights 4-8x a week, I’m running my first 5K obstacle course in 18 days (I intend to place in my age group), and I can pull a 2.3x bodyweight deadlift right now if you’d like me to.  I’m still working at a restaurant, but I make enough money to get by and hey, I’m playing music again!  It’s absolutely astonishing how things can change if you keep an open mind and take advantage of the incredible fountain of information we commonly refer to as “the internet”.  I lost over 50lbs, added 20lbs of muscle to my frame, and (most importantly) found new respect for myself and my body.  It wasn’t easy; I wasted a lot of time (and muscle), drove myself crazy on a few occasions and endured countless paradigm shifts, but I made it.

My low carb “Perma-cut” and How I Snapped Out of It

Without a doubt, one of the greatest changes in my life has been how I approach eating.  I spent the first year of my “transformation” (if you can call it that) following a strict low carb/ketogenic (under 30g a day) paleo diet.  Mark’s Daily Apple became my bible and I almost bought a pair of Vibram Five-Fingers.  I sprinted, played, did a ton of pushups, synthesized a ton of vitamin D, and within six months I’d dropped from 5’6” 180lbs to 130lbs.  I got a gym membership and started doing some HIT training on machines (think Arthur Jones), but as 2012 rolled around, low carb “perma cutting” had rendered me a spry 120lbs.  After posting a progress picture on my favorite Facebook group (which Paul happens to have created) it hit me:  I was emaciated, and I wasn’t all that lean.  I thought to myself, “Oh my god.  How did this happen!?”  I had struggled with bulimia and self-abuse in high school, so I was surprised that it took me so long to see what I was doing to myself.  I knew that there had to be a better way, so I fired up the Google, did some research and took the plunge; I started training and eating like a powerlifter.

The cornerstone of my new lifestyle modifications were Carb Back-Loading and heavy barbell lifts to the tune of the Westside conjugate method.  When I began training in February (a little bit over a year ago as of this writing), I was benching 95lbs for two reps, I couldn’t squat the bar and deadlifting actually gave me an upper respiratory tract infection the first time I tried it.  I’m not kidding.  It was THAT bad.  Now, I’ve never been a very athletic person; I was born with clubbed feet, my shoulders and hips dislocate at will, and the only sport I ever liked was hockey (GO RED WINGS!) so although my numbers aren’t fantastic, I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished this year.  My best gym lifts are a 170lb flat bench press, 285lb box squat, 225lb Zercher, 315lb deadlift and 125lb military press.  I went from a bodyweight 122lbs to 142lbs and maintained about the same body fat percentage.  I attribute the bulk (pun intended) of my strength and muscle gains to how I ate over the course of this year.

How Carb Back-Loading “Fixed” Me

Following CBL allowed me to literally pig out every single night and gain 20lbs without getting fat.  You may not be surprised, considering how tiny I was, but the key to getting where I knew I wanted to be really WAS (as Paul has written about countless times now) to ditch the “clean eating” mindset, feed my body based upon my activity levels and eat to perform.  Rather than trying to appease the imaginary, unseen panel of judges that care about how much I weigh on a scale, I paid attention to my deadlift and how my body felt.  I let the ice cream/doughnuts/beer back into my life.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that I gorged on a ton of junk food, but there have been intense training weeks where I’ve hit my protein intake and devoured a pound of bananas, several large sweet potatoes and half of a home-made pizza every night after training.  Even after ingesting between 3,500 and 5,000 calories in a day (mostly from carbs), I found myself waking up a few pounds lighter the next morning.  My lifts improved every single week.  It’s almost unbelievable, but that’s why I had to write this post.

A lot of us don’t want to hear it, but it may be time to face the facts; if you live an active lifestyle, low carbing and (especially) clean eating might be screwing you over big time.  This goes double (maybe triple) for young people with raging metabolic fires.  I hope I can serve as a real-world example of how detrimental it can be to put all your faith into a single method or program, especially when it teaches you to avoid foods you love for the sake of keeping off a few pounds of water weight.  I believe in John Kiefer and Carb Back-Loading, but it is not my bible.  It’s a toolkit into which I reached, and pulled out a viable method of continuously getting stronger and gaining weight, of healing the metabolic and psychological damage that dieting can cause in those who’re susceptible.  My mind has been liberated, my world reconstructed, and I don’t look at evenings out at dinner as a one-way ticket to Fattytown; for the first time in my adult life, food and physical activity are my best friends.  I’m proud of myself and I feel like I’m finally living up to the promise I made to my sister.

If you are interested in buying Carb Back Loading I can personally say that the $53 changed my life forever.  Here is a link to download the book with tips for Crossfit and Paleo eaters.

James Barnum is an NASM certified personal trainer, weightlifting and nutrition enthusiast, musician and all-around awesome guy living in Tampa, Florida.  He is also one of the head writers for this site.

Bulking Series: The Skinny on Creatine

Creatine

This is part of the information I teach in the “Science Lab” seminars that we offer free when you purchase Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss.

(Click here to jump to a summary of this article) 

When nutrition comes up in a discussion between CrossFitters, a thick line is drawn.  Two separate groups emerge: those who’re ready to slam the Ben and Jerry’s, and those who believe adamantly that eating junk food is a dietary sin (even if it works).  I think I can help the first bunch, but the second faction may as well “unlike” this page.  I’m of the opinion that the “clean eating” people have erected a psychological bulwark between themselves and their long-term goals that no amount of cajoling will tear down.

Someone sold them the flawed ideology that “natural” is always better, and rather than considering that there may be more than one way to crack an egg (or bake a turnover), they’ve become so sick of not being able to eat chocolate chip cookies that they want the whole world to miss out on the privilege as well.  To top it off, they often avoid “unnatural” substances that can be extremely beneficial to their development.  This obstinate, dogmatic approach to nutrition and supplementation flies in the face of scientific principle and ultimately prevents us from finding the best path forward.

Although I’ve been there before, nowadays I live by these two phrases:  “I don’t know.” follows “Let me find out”.  I feel that the “me” writing this blog, at least mentally (but possibly physically as well), is set up for long-term discovery and advancement.

A big part of optimizing performance is the inclusion of “add-on” supplements throughout the day and after the workout.  These extras augment your performance during training, speed up recovery and ensure that you’ve refueled for your next encounter with the iron.  Hands down, creatine is one of the most beneficial (though also misunderstood) supplements you can add to your diet.  In the following sections, I am going to make some general recommendations for taking creatine.

I’ll also offer some suggestions as to how (and when) you should modify the standard protocol.  This is important, because one of the biggest mistakes I see people making is going too far over/under the line and outright ignoring their body’s signals.  Remember that for most of this stuff, if it feels uncomfortable to take the full suggested dose, you should listen to yourself and ignore me.  Start small, see if it works for you, and make gradual changes.  No need to be all in, in fact, I believe that can lead to more pain (emotional) in the long run.

Different Types of Creatine:

On the “Supplements I Both Use and Recommend” page, I list Con-Cret capsules as my preferred method of creatine supplementation.  The main ingredient of Con-Cret is micronized Creatine HCL, which should theoretically be more easily absorbed by the intestines, potentially resulting in less bloating and stomach discomfort (which I cover later in this post).  People have argued (and will continue to argue) that creatine monohydrate HCL is just as effective, and they may be right.

While dozens of peer reviewed studies have established the effectiveness of creatine monohydrate, none have been conducted to conclude a true benefit when comparing creatine HCL to the monohydrate form, and the price difference between the two may be an issue (monohydrate is commonly cheaper).  For that reason, I have added some monohydrate options from a supplement producer I trust.  I personally think that Con-Cret works best for me because the suggested amount on the container ultimately equates to a lot more than 5g of monohydrate (which for the most part didn’t feel like it was doing very much for me).

Although I must admit that there may be a bit of placebo effect going on, I rationalize that if it takes me from being nailed to the floor with 315 pounds on my back one week, to making the lift the next, I’ll just say this: “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right”.

When Should You Take Creatine?

Although simply taking creatine every day will yield benefits, the time at which you dose may be important for achieving maximum results.  There does seem to be some advantage to taking creatine when your GLUT4 pathways are most active (read about GLUT4 here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GLUT4 and watch this video:

That means dosing when you first awaken, and then again around intense bouts of training.  Taking your creatine in the morning will down-regulate the activity of myostatin (a gene that inhibits muscle growth and preservation).  A big part of muscle building is retaining the muscle you currently have, so this is a big deal.  Taking creatine before and after your workouts will make it available for loading as soon as the GLUT4’s become active.  This will aid in hydrating your muscles with water and glucose, which will speed up glycogen synthesis and help you refuel for future training sessions.

Who Should Take Creatine?  What about Negative Side-Effects?

There are really no populations I would exclude; it’s quite simply the best researched supplement on the market today.  As I’ve already stated, the effects of creatine supplementation on muscle growth and performance are well-documented, so athletes are all over it.  There is some research to suggest that it can help people with Alzheimer’s disease function better in their daily lives.  In addition, vegans and vegetarians (or people who don’t eat a lot of red meat for any other reason) may benefit from creatine supplementation in a similar fashion; studies show that these populations experience improved energy levels, memory and verbal fluency when on a creatine regimen.  To top it off, creatine happens to be one of the cheapest supplements you can buy, so if you’re looking for something that really works but won’t break the bank, look no further.

Like most any other substance, if you regularly force a ton of creatine into your body without listening to the signals, there is the possibility that you can cause damage to your kidneys, although you’d have to be pretty crazy to ignore the signs.  Creatine is extremely hard to overdose on; because it’s water soluble, even in instances where you take in too much, your body simply expels it.  Some people complain of diarrhea and bloating but I think most of this comes as a result of taking too much for their activity levels/size, and at slightly the wrong times.

To avoid these side-effects, I recommend that you start small and make sure to properly hydrate; drink more water than you normally would as diarrhea and bloating are commonly caused by dehydration.  Other than that, creatine is perfectly safe and you should at least give it a try.

So How Much Should I Take?

*NOTE:  For Con Cret take the dosage recommended on the bottle possibly with one capsule or scoop post workout.

Start off loading 5g post-workout and see how that feels.  If it seemed to work well, you could add a second dose pre-workout.  This is preferable to simply adding another 5g post-workout; I mentioned earlier that taking creatine can result in bloating and stomach discomfort.  Although dehydration plays a big role, this can oftentimes result from simply taking too much in one sitting.  If 10g a day feels good and you want to try more, you can begin taking another 5g as soon as you wake up.

If you feel more alert, your workouts improve and you don’t experience any negative symptoms, then great.  If loading in the morning (or at any other prescribed time) causes an upset stomach, back off the amount you’re taking or simply stop loading at that point altogether.  Some experimentation is required if you want to find the sweet spot and achieve the best results.

Dosing Recommendations by Weight and Gender:

For men, a reasonable daily dose of creatine would be around 5g for every 50lbs of bodyweight, with an additional 5g dose post-workout (if it suits you).  For the ladies, I am going to suggest 5g for every 75lbs, with a potential for adding more for women that are particularly active (I am looking at you WOD killers).

As an example, I am a 160lb male leading an active lifestyle, so I load roughly the equivalent of 20g a day.  As the directions on my Con-Cret suggest, I take what amounts to 15g pre-workout and it seems to work well.  I also take an additional 5g post workout with no ill effects.  With this information, it should be easy for you to understand why you should be taking creatine and how you can integrate it into your daily regimen without experiencing any negative effects.  Remember, it’s better to start small and work your way up.  When in doubt, listen to your body.

Summary

  • Creatine is one of the most beneficial, well-researched supplements you can add to your nutrition, but some attention needs to be paid to how much and when you take it to maximize its effect.  When dosed properly, creatine can help you lift heavier weights for more repetitions.
  • There are different types of creatine; creatine HCL is slightly more expensive than creatine monohydrate HCL but either or will work.
  • A reasonable daily dose of creatine for men would be around 5g for every 50lbs. of bodyweight.  Women should shoot for 5g/75lbs. of bodyweight.  Start on the low side and gradually increase your dose.
  • The primary benefit of taking creatine is to store more creatine phosphate in your muscles.  This can help you get a few more reps on heavy exercises and recover more quickly between sets.  Taking 5g before training will ensure creatine levels are maxed out.
  • Taking 5g of creatine upon waking will help you retain muscle by inhibiting myostatin production.  This is important whether you’re trying to gain or lose weight.
  • Another 5-10g of creatine after training when your muscles are most sensitive will help hydrate your muscles with water and glucose from your post-workout nutrition.
  • Again, start on the low end and add doses of creatine at these strategic points during the day to get the most out of it.

Flipping the Metabolic Switch

light switch

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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