Archive | intermittent fasting

From Heavyweight to Welterweight to Light Heavyweight

Me at 9%

A big part of what the Science Lab is about is changing what you THINK you know about health and fitness.  We focus on bringing out the best version of you, irrespective of your body fat percentage or how much weight you THINK you need to lose.  Our book Met Flex for Fat Loss teaches you how to fuel your workouts without adding excessive fat.

As you can tell from the title, I went from a heavyweight (boxing divisions) to a welterweight (the division that is so popular in boxing with Floyd Mayweather and Manny PacQuiao.  Just so you know, those guys are small in real life.)  In the picture above, I weigh 149 lbs. (down from 215 lbs.)  This was almost two years ago now, and since then I have put on a considerable amount of muscle (and yes, some fat as well.)  The problem with this picture is that I was weak.  By many standards, I still am, which is why I have mixed feelings.

Just a sidenote if you want to see an amazing knockout from the light heavyweight division check out this video and just jump to 1:30.

Going from 215 lbs. to 149 lbs. is a life changer.  I have no ambivalence about that, but let’s be clear:  that was not the most athletic version of myself.  This morning, I woke up at 176.4 lbs. (Or in boxing terms, a “light heavyweight.”)  I will be pulling close to 400 pounds for reps today.  The 149 lb. version of me could not do that even once.  My wife didn’t have more sex with me as a result of this picture…In fact, nothing really changed at all when I was smaller.

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 7.10.25 AM

Wait.  I take it back, something DID change; I was like “Fuck that.” and I focused on getting bigger.  I think I got caught up in other people’s ideal view of what my journey was about.  Don’t get me wrong; I went from 32% body fat (measured in a lab) to 9%.  There are a lot of people who THINK they are a certain percentage and get the bad news when they actually test it.  The reality is that nothing changed for that person.  When you get your body fat percentage tested often, there is a chart that measures obesity.  The chart is kind of bullshit for most people.  Certainly, if you are in the 40th percentile it’s time to go to work but when you are a woman at 29%, you aren’t fat.  The same goes for a man; in my last test I was 16% and I am certainly not scared to take off my shirt (#SOGO.)

All that said, I lost all that fat mostly fed.  Certainly, in the last month I dialed it in a bit and ate less FOR 3 WEEKS!  Other than that, I just did CrossFit and got better.  I can tell you this:  I think I was meant to be a light heavyweight.  I don’t care what the chart at the University of Minnesota says or what other people’s vision of me is or was.  The best version of Paul Nobles is strong.  I may never get to 9% again because of that but I can tell you this…If it ever happens again, my chest and ass won’t be as small because they’ve certainly grown. (OK, they could still use a little work…We are all unfinished products to a certain extent.)

FYI after writing this post I lifted 507 pounds, as a light heavyweight;-)

507 pounds

Intermittent Fasting: Paul’s Experience


James and I tend to avoid writing in the first person.  While reading about individual trials can be inspiring, our experience with a concept may differ substantially from yours, so it’s better to keep things less personal and more analytic ..Most of the time.  That said, I’m about to unload a whole bunch of anecdote (as well as some analysis), so open up.  This is part of my story and I think you’ll find it enjoyable to read, but here’s a summary if you’re strapped for time


  • Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a healthy lifestyle modification you can use to mobilize fat and optimize hormone balance.
  • You don’t have to fast every day.  Some people fast once a week, on alternate days, or do it randomly when it makes sense in context of their lifestyle.
  • Different protocols exist; check out Eat Stop Eat, LeanGains, and The Warrior Diet.  Find something that fits into your life.
  • Carb Back-Loading is “IF perfected”.
  • Training fasted is favorable as well, if you’re comfortable doing it.
  • I fast because it’s convenient and easy to adhere to.  I am much more productive fasted than I am fed, which is why I can get out so many articles each month.  Lethargy isn’t a problem, especially when you add coffee to your morning fasts.

Like many of us, my weight/fat loss journey has evolved through many incarnations.  It wasn’t like I stumbled upon one method and then, “POOF!” I was magically fixed.  It was an arduous process of trial and error.  In 2007, I lost almost 40 pounds by adhering to what ultimately became the basis for efficiency expert Tim Ferriss’s book “The 4 Hour Body”.  It was a horribly restricted way of eating, and frankly I didn’t know why the diet was working.  At the time I was a pretty well-known professional poker player (technically I don’t think you ever lose that moniker until you take a job, which I have yet to do because I love doing this for you guys, so it doesn’t count in my opinion).  The loss was dramatic; over 40 pounds of unmitigated loss of both fat and lean mass.  I looked ill, and much to my chagrin, I still had a double chin.  As vain as this may sound, I had actually Googled “how to lose a double chin” in an attempt to find a way to lose fat.

I have said this many times, and I feel like it deserves its own paragraph.  “I was just too smart to be fat and out of shape”.

Hawaii 2007

I didn’t play the World Series of Poker that year, even though I’d gone deep in 2 of the last 4 years; literally anyone would have bought a piece of me.  At the time, I was easily a name coming up in conversation of the best tournament poker players in the world (most of my reputation was built online).  I wasn’t sleeping well from chronically dieting, which is not a formula for playing poker well over what amounts to about 9 days.  Soon after, we had a vacation planned, and I decided it was time to add back in all of the stuff I really wanted to eat.  At the moment, just thinking of this is somewhat heartbreaking, but honestly if it wasn’t for that experience, I wouldn’t be able to offer you guys what I put out there on a daily basis.

Every day began with a preposterous amount of carbs that I had avoided for quite some time other than the prescribed “cheat days” (a concept I disdain now).  At the time, my muscles just weren’t ready for that.  My empty fat cells quickly refilled and multiplied.  I don’t remember the exact number, but demoralizing doesn’t begin to describe how I felt.  Although “severely depressed” comes close, while I never seriously considered it, “suicidal” is probably accurate.  (This goes to show how messed up your head can get when you eat wrong.)  I had dropped as low as 175 lbs., but by the time I was back from Hawaii (as I recall) I was just under 190.  It didn’t take me long to get to 215 lbs.  Applying for life insurance served as a wake up call, and the pity party finally ended.

Here is a short list of some other things that should have snapped me out of it before it got to that point:

  • I didn’t want to go to the doctor.  Ever.  I didn’t want the bad news.
  • Walking up a flight of stairs left me winded.
  • I lacked energy all of the time and it compromised my role as a father.
  • I also wasn’t the best husband; sex was a chore.  I couldn’t breathe and my chest would hurt and turn purple.

I can’t recall the exact year now, but I know it was on tax day (I really need to write this blog because looking back it was hilarious).  I thought I was having a heart attack.  I would have been in my 30′s at the time, and it seemed completely reasonable.  It turned out that it was severely inflamed cartilage that connects my sternum to my ribs.  This all brings me to how I manage my weight on vacation now.

Intermittent Fasting

To make a long story short, when it’s convenient and it fits in with my life, I practice intermittent fasting (IF).  IF entails avoiding food for most of the day and eating all of your calories in a short evening window.  This allows you to mobilize fat by optimizing hormonal rhythms.  I eat two meals a day, sometimes with a snack, but I consider dinner and dessert one meal.

I don’t take it to any extreme, and I have been able to refine what works best for me after using many different methods.  I can’t say that I have ever done a fast longer than maybe 20 hours like in “The Warrior Diet”, which is basically one big meal at the end of the day.  “Warrior” works great for some people, but it wasn’t a good fit for me.  I know this because I tested it; I lost 5 pounds of muscle doing The Warrior Diet.  While I don’t believe that people need to count calories, I do believe in tracking body composition through objective measurement.  That has been a big part of my journey; I learned that data was my friend, and that it ultimately pointed me in the direction of discovery.  Knowing what I know now, I think I could have retained more muscle if I ate more, but trying to pack 3000-3500 calories into a 4 hour eating window is just tough (and unnecessary).

Shortly thereafter, I started CrossFitting.  I was lifting weights before CrossFit, but looking back, I was kind of fucking around and mostly doing cardio to keep the weight off.  One of my friends described me as “gaunt”, which was not by any means the look I was going for.  I started CF almost two years ago, and roughly one month in, I started doing Martin Berkhan’s LeanGains.  LeanGains is a fasting protocol where men eat in an 8 hour window, and women eat in a 10 hour window.  This is much easier as far as eating enough food is concerned.  As I mentioned earlier, it’s also a great way to control your intake when you are on vacation; you spend the day having fun/being productive and spend the night eating/relaxing.  I’m not going to link to Martin’s site or Facebook page because honestly, they’ve become somewhat of a train wreck.  It’s a shame because his solution works for a great majority of people.

Carb Back Loading has been described as LeanGains perfected, and I agree.  The ketogenic approach described in CBL closely mirrors a fasted state.  You get most of the benefits of fasting and you can still eat.  So you aren’t really skipping breakfast, you’re just delaying it.  This does open the door to a lot more food, especially breakfast staples like bacon, steak, eggs, and other high-protein options.

As an aside, I would like to mention that you can work out fasted too.  One caveat is to consider when you’re training and when you’re breaking your fast.  I do my morning workouts (before 10 a.m.) fasted, but for evening workouts, I try to make sure I am fed.  I never have any trouble recovering or progressing.  (Admittedly, no one is going to confuse me with Matt Chan anytime soon, so take that for what it’s worth.)

What the Critics Say

Layne Norton is not a fan of fasting.  He’s a competitive bodybuilder and a pretty smart guy, so what he has to say is pertinent to this discussion.   Layne argues that eating in an 8 hour window does not allow for adequate protein ingestion and synthesis.  The science on this is pretty unclear but he is probably right as far as bodybuilding goes.  Kiefer, author of Carb Back-Loading, posits a similar argument.  So who is right?  Once again, probably me, because this is my blog.  (I’m just kidding!)

Kiefer is what I refer to as a “meathead genius”.  When he writes, he has powerlifters and bodybuilders in mind.  In the book CBL, he points out that his protocol isn’t optimal for CrossFit or P90x-type folks.  If you understand where he is coming from, it makes total sense.  He is not trying to get a person to their best “Fran” time; he’s focused on trying to get them shredded and on stage, or squatting 1000 pounds while staying in their weight class.  It is an extreme performance protocol.  It also happens to be the best strategy as it relates to metabolic flexibility I have seen since LeanGains.  So let’s, theoretically, ask Kiefer another question: “Should CrossFitters eat carbs?”  I think I can comfortably state that he would respond with a “Yes, of course!”  That begs another question; “How many?”  This is one of the concepts we dial in with the seminars but it’s pretty simple:  not as much as the book recommends for competitive bodybuilders and powerlifters.

CrossFitters probably don’t need as many carbs, but should avoid low carbing in an extreme manner.  Even the Paleo very low carbohydrate authors tend to agree on this, but people don’t listen because they see low carbing as some panacea that isn’t consistent with reality.  In the end you have to ask yourself, “Am I trying to become a world-class bodybuilder?  Do I want to squat 1000 pounds next year?”  If not, intermittent fasting combined with adequate protein, carbohydrate and fat intake (as well as overall calories) might be something to consider.

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