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You’re Doing It Wrong

Muscle gain *and* fat loss at the same time? Can you have it all? Physicist-turned-fitness guru John Kiefer says you can. His semi-new Carb Backloading program, which is being talked about by everyone from Robb Wolf (“it’s the triple point of health, longevity, and perfomance”) to Arnold Schwarzenegger (some story about he and Franco Columbu eating pies after a workout). I gave the program a half-assed try for a week or two earlier in the year, and now, to paraphrase Homer Simpson, I’m using my whole ass.

The theory of Carb Backloading, and the success of many followers, hinges on one interesting phenomenon. After lifting heavy weights, your muscles rapidly take up glucose without relying on insulin. The end result is that you can ingest loads of high-carbohydrate meals, which replenish muscle glycogen and yield increased strength and size when faced with heavier and heavier loads. In addition, the caloric intake is a great stimulator of muscle growth in general. Calories -> muscle mass. Calories usually also -> fat gain (via insulin). And muscle mass -> fat loss. What if you got the muscle gain from calories without the fat gain from calories? Carb Backloading purports to make this happen, by concentrating your carb intake to the 2-3 hours after finishing some heavy lifting. Even better if you start these gorging sessions with a mixture of fat-free starches and whey protein (both of which extend the period of insulin-free nutrient absorption by the muscles).

So I *did* try this a few months ago, and didn’t give it a fair shake. After getting a couple e-mails from some FOB’s (Friends of the Blog) and reading 20-30 articles on Backloading, I feel a little more comfortable and a lot more motivated to give this another try. Add to this the fact that Carb Backloading is by far the most-searched-for term on my blog, and actually chronicling an experience with this may help publicity. What about Crossfit Football? Well… that’s a JOB. Pounds of meat a day? I don’t know if I care enough to eat enough to increase my squats *ten pounds a week*. That’s a lot. I *have* increased by bench and my clean by a little bit, and I put on 10 pounds of muscle in the first 2 months. But since then, I’ve been stagnating, and the calories are to blame. I have eater’s remorse every time my waist gets a little bigger.

So what was I doing incorrectly last time (or over the past few months) that I could do better this time? A few little tweaks could make all the difference:

1. Focus on sleep. The next 2-3 weeks are going to be pretty light for me at work, so I plan on taking full advantage. Eight hours a night, and on the nights when I get a little less, some serious napping.

2. Selective intermittent fasting. Read: whenever I get a good sleep (8 hours, minimal interruptions), I’m going to skip breakfast altogether, walk leisurely to work, and wait until lunch to load up on meat. Watch out, Sitar Buffet.

3. Don’t go crazy over carbs. Somehow I got it in my mind last time that eggs were as insulinogenic as potatoes, and eating eggs for breakfast would destroy any progress. As long as I cook it in bacon fat and eat it with extra fat (and this includes the heavy cream in my coffee every morning), I should be fine.

4. Go crazy over carbs. In that 2-hour post-workout window, anything goes, and everything must go. This seems like no time to get picky about grams of carbohydrates. I should eat as much as I can in the form of sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, or ice cream, gradually lowering the carbs and increasing the fat as the Backloading Period goes on.

5. Timing my workout (and dinner). This tends to be a problem whenever The Terrorist and I hang out. We have a drink, we take our leisurely time prepping vegetables, and before we know it, it’s 9:30pm and dinner’s still not ready. If I lift around 5:00, I should be done by 6:00, and that means all my carbs need to be in my belly by 8:00, on average. Some days are going to work better than others, and this is bound to be a good spreadsheet measure to look at over time

6. The low-carb primer. So Kiefer recommends a 10-day carb-free period to get your body used to using ketones. I *think* my body’s already prepared for this. But I’m not sure. If I weren’t so giddy about starting the program ASAP, I’d go through the 10 days, ideally after Thanksgiving (when I would most need such a reprieve from sugary food). But if I do decide to bail on CF Football tomorrow, I should be ready to just dive in.

7. The workout plan. I have two options, both of which are pretty similar. There’s your usual CF Football paradigm of 4-days a week (squat/press, deadlift, squat/bench, clean) with chinups once a week and a conditioning WOD 3-4 days a week, after the lift. Then there’s the Jim Wendler program, 3 days a week cycling through 4 major lifts (squat, press, deadlift, bench) with accessory work afterward (cleans, chins, dips) and the option to run some uphill sprints for dessert. I have to say, I like the simplicity.

Bail? Bail! I’ll let you know how the first week goes.

Oh, and make these. http://paleopumpkinmuffins.com

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