In order to give one last whirl to such things as intermittent fasting, cheat day gorging, and super-low-carb eating in general, I’m putting myself through a 10-day experiment with The Carb Backloading Plan. You’ll see the rules and goals of the program as I go through my day chronologically. Why 10 days? Because each of my weightlifting cycles (4 workouts) usually takes about that long, and because on Friday, The Terrorist and I are leaving for an extended birthday vacation to New Orleans, and there will be no talk of Paleo, trans fats, gluten, insulin, or leaky gut on that trip. None. Laissez les bon temps rouler.
6am: Wake up. I should have gotten 8 hours of sleep, but I settled for 6.5. On a regular day, I’d take a brisk 20-minute morning walk, but I need to be at work by 7. Hence, a cup of coffee, a cold shower, and a couple tablespoons of butter. 30g fat, 0 carbs, 0 protein.
Analysis: intermittent fasting is one of the tenets of Carb Backloading. Failing that, you could go the way of the Bulletproof Diet and just have fat until 12-1pm. Failing that, an egg or two with some bacon or sausage, but nothing too heavy on a weight-training day. And definitely no starchy/sugary carbs. Tomorrow, I’m thinking some nori slices with butter or olive oil, at least 50 grams of fat to keep me satiated.
12:30pm: This morning, I’ve downed a couple more cups of coffee and done a lot of staying active / not thinking about food. It’s OK to have protein and some fat during lunch, but again, no carbs before lifting. I wander into a bland grilled chicken salad and a couple cashews, a few cubes of cheese for the fat, and some lettuce leaves. 20g fat, 30g protein, 0g carbs (total 40g F, 30g P, 0g C)
Analysis: preparation is going to be huge, especially for the pre-workout / breaking-the-fast meal. Not counting the morning fat load, I had gone 16 hours in between carb-protein meals, which is ideal. Again, insulin has yet to be spiked, presuming there’s enough fat in the lunch meal to slow amino acid absorption. This is it until lifting time.
2pm: Nap. 20 solid minutes of drooling.
3pm: Stuck in a meeting. Sipping coffee.
Analysis: That afternoon coffee seems to be best 30-60 minutes before a lift, in order to give you a boost of energy.
4:00pm: Stuck in the same meeting. Want to go home and lift. Want to go home and lift.
Analysis: Per the CBL plan, the ideal window for lifting should coincide with the bottoming-out of your daily cortisol cycle, so between 3pm and 5pm. Not easy for those of us who work full-time.
4:30pm: Stuck in the SAME meeting. They’re talking about their kids. I’m about to deadlift a desk.
5:30pm: Finally! Lifting time! I get into the squat rack and push 235lb x5 with just a bit of sloppy form on the last lift. I wait 5 minutes, then push 210 x6, which is a bit tougher.
Analysis: You can really do any lifting program you want, but I had some success with reverse pyramid training, which operates on the premise that you’re at your strongest with the first lift (as opposed to increasing the weights with each progressive set.) So I pick a weight I think I can do, get 5 reps for my big set, then drop the weight 10% and do one extra rep for the secondary set. That’s it.
The problem I (and other people) have had with RPT is the burnout. I would increase the weight just to increase the weight, eschewing good form for what I thought was progress. This time, checking my ego at the door. Slow, slow progress. So next time, I’d repeat the same weights, looking for an easier 5 reps.
5:55pm: Finish off my lifting with 2 sets of hang power cleans, 85 x 8 reps (easy), 75 x 9 reps (also easy.) Next time, likely increasing weight by 10 lbs. Okay, *5* pounds.
6pm: Put two sweet potatoes in the oven, wrapped in foil, 400 degrees for 60 minutes. Pour 1/2 cup rice, 1 cup water, some salt, some curry powder, and 2 chicken breasts into a saucepan. Let water boil x1 minute, then turn down to simmer until water is all absorbed.
Analysis: What do to for the post-workout meal? CBL advocates entry of high-glycemic carbs and protein into the system within 2 hours of lifting, the so-called ‘anabolic window’ where these can be absorbed into the muscles without excessive insulin. But if burning fat is more of a goal (and it is for me), there might be a place for waiting an hour after the lift or just having whey protein +/- a fat source immediately after the lift. This week, performance can take a back seat. I decide to watch the clock.
6:40pm: Cold shower. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
7:10pm: I finish off the sweet potatoes with some butter, a chicken breast, and a bit of my rice, along with a teeeeeeeny bit of chocolate. 90g carb, 50g protein, 40g fat. (Total 90g carb, 80g protein, 80g fat).
Analysis: The post-workout feeding is supposed to be low-ish in fat, high in starchy and sugary carbs, and high in protein, some of it ideally being whey (which is absorbed very quickly). I didn’t touch the whey yesterday, but I might change my tune. More on this… next.
9pm: I’m stuffed. I chow down all but the last of the rice and chicken. There’s still half a cup of food remaining and I just can’t finish it. Into the fridge it goes. 40g carb, 30g protein, 30g fat (Total 130g carb, 110g protein, 110g fat). I plan ahead by making egg and broccoli cupcakes for the rest of the week. A dozen eggs, a dozen muffin cups in a pan. Oil up each cup, pour a scoop of beaten egg in, put a piece or 2 of frozen broccoli inside, add salt and red chili flakes, bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Voila, snacks for the week. There are 100 variations on this, but EGG = WIN any way you cut it.
Analysis: I undercut my eating goals for the day. My total calories are at about 2000, but for a lifting day, I should have bumped them up to 2500-3000. I think a spike of 200g carbs, 150g protein, and 150g fat on lift days will get me there (2750 cals). I need to get most of that fat into my 2 early meals, and have some of my protein (50g or so), be whey with my first post-workout carbs (sweet potatoes and/or chocolate). The remaining balance can be a hearty dinner with The Terrorist. As opposed to rest days, which I want to hit at about 50g carbs, 100g protein, and 150g fat (1950 cals).
Tomorrow: finding low-carb things to eat on a rest day. Also, I make a long-awaited food purchase.