Dialing Things In a Bit

22 Mar

Phone Dial

Let’s be honest, navigating the waters related to nutrition and performance is tricky.  We have 100’s of people that Crossfit and do high intensity sports and we have lots of ways for you to become a Science Lab member.  Everything from free to the full package for $49.95.  If you have ever struggled with fat loss we can help.

When people read Eat To Perform, I surely hope that the first thing they think to themselves isn’t “But I don’t want to count calories!”  I’ve been writing a lot about the subject as the site develops, so please allow me to be crystal clear on this point:  not only do I not count calories, but I believe it’s virtually useless as a long term strategy.  The value in diligently weighing and tracking your food applies mostly for chronic under eaters (you know who you are) who’re just beginning to get a handle on their nutrition.  By obtaining a real measurement of how much food you’re eating and drawing correlations with your average weight, performance and look, you open the door to getting your diet back on track.  Eventually, you will “know” how much and what to eat.  You’ll move away from counting.  I am not sure this is “an article” so much as it’s a description of how I approach my carb refeeds, but it’s a strategy I recommend for a lot of folks, primarily because it resembles real-life circumstances we all deal with.

Although I know I shouldn’t, I find myself under eating on occasion too.  I get busy, can’t find the time to eat properly, and sometimes I try to make up for it by having bigger meals towards the end of the night.  That isn’t great for digestion, sleep or hormone balance.  Mostly though, I try to be prepared and eat at regular intervals.  Everything runs more smoothly that way.  I also tend to keep fats relatively high during the day.  This allows for a sort of “fat adaptation” where I rely upon fat for energy at rest, which is obviously favorable as far as staying lean is concerned.  That’s actually one of the things that sucks about the way some folks view back-loading, especially people who hear “carbs” or “sugars” and run for the hills.  CBL is mostly about eating fats.  That’s right; your boys Gary Taubes and Robb Wolf?  They’re buds with Kiefer.  So let’s be adults about this whole “carbs” and “sugar” thing.  We aren’t talking about slamming Slurpees after our 7 a.m. WOD’s and eating like children; we are talking about eating based upon a greater understanding of how our body actually works, rather than adhering to myth and superstition.  Yes, you are you are doing it mostly right by eating natural foods, but I believe you’re missing the “eat for joy occasionally” part.  This is how I approach dining out.

What “Eating for Joy” Looks Like

I’m not ashamed to say that most Fridays, I have pizza.  We go to a place called “Black Sheep Coal” in St. Paul, MN.  They have coal-fired ovens, but that isn’t why we love it.  Don’t get me wrong; the pizza is great, but many of the beautiful salads you see me post are from the same restaurant.  They usually have some sort of beet salad, or an Indian-themed cauliflower salad.  Occasionally, they have a delicious salad with potatoes that I used to avoid.  You know what?  I was really missing out!  That’s probably the best salad they offer.  Along with the pizza, this gives me plenty of carbs to get things going after being cautious all week.  I understand that grains aren’t for everyone; some people have very real food allergies that don’t allow them to eat certain foods, and then there are food allergies like mine.

When I was a child I, was plagued by a milk protein allergy.  It was so bad that my parents (Bless their souls, but they were lost.) fed me what basically amounted to sugar water.  It rotted my teeth, but the good news is you guys get to see this cute picture of me as a kid.  (Wow did I have a huge head!)

Me with a Grill

Any who, I never completely grew out of the milk protein allergy, but it did improve to the point where I can eat some cheese if I want to.  Certain things are fine, while others cause me more discomfort, but for the most part I avoid dairy.  The only real symptom I experience is that it seems to affect my cardio a bit, but I suck at cardio anyway so it’s hard to tell the difference.  Next door to Black Sheep Coal is “Key’s Café”; their House Cake and Coconut Cake are to die for.  I used to eat the whole piece, but I didn’t always feel so good afterwards.  Now I have learned to eat about half of their House Cake (it’s quite rich) and all is well.  I don’t drink, but my wife often has a glass or two of wine.  We don’t do the cake every single time, and sometimes my wife and I split the small pizza (depending upon how we ate for the day).

The point of all of this is that I give absolutely zero thought to “guilt”, “sugars”, or any of the other bull that seems to cloud most people’s thoughts related to their food intake.  I will admit that it took me a while to get here; I realize why some of you are a little fearful and you’re starting off by kind of dipping your toes in the water.  That’s cool.  What you are going to figure out is that it was never the occasional pizza, cake or wine that was the problem; it was consistently eating extremely energy dense processed foods that made you fat and unhealthy.  For our lean brothers and sisters that control their weight by under eating, let me just say that my wife and I typically crush the following day’s WOD’s.  If it scares you to eat closer to your actual energy requirements, try it out; one day of pizza isn’t going to kill you.  In fact, the opposite may end up being true.

Eating Mostly Fats, Most of the Time

On the nights I have pizza, I eat mostly fats and proteins throughout the day.  This means I’m typically as close to 0 carbs as possible, excluding fibrous veggies.  (I know I say that all the time and I apologize, but some people are new here.)  This helps avoid the spillover effect; if you have ever felt bloated after eating pasta (or any carb), I might argue that the reason you did was because you didn’t have a conscious approach to carbohydrates.  I don’t really care if you back-load or not.  It’s just a strategy, but if you are overly reliant on carbohydrates for energy and then you have another big carb meal, it might take you a while to get all that water/sugar/carbs out of your system.  Even so, it will probably happen more quickly than you’d think.  Consider this: if you have your equivalent of pizza night out on Friday, you’ll be ready for a “killer WOD” on Saturday and you will shuttle a lot of those carbs where they need to go (namely your muscles).  Sunday is a rest day.  That’s another part of back-loading that you don’t really get by simply saying, “Well now I eat carbs.”  I mean, that’s great and all, but you aren’t back-loading.  While I agree that it’s probably favorable vs. not eating carbs, it’s not really a strategy as much as it is you just being “normal”.  You want to ask yourself, “Why am I eating this pizza?  How will it help or hinder me in the near future?”

Moving ahead, on Saturday night I eat a relatively small amount of carbs, relying on mostly fats and proteins for my energy.  I have some dark chocolate and a coconut milk smoothie before bed.  I don’t typically WOD on Sunday, but I do lift on occasion if I’m feeling frisky.  Sunday night has me eating carbs in an anticipation of Monday’s workouts.  No counting, just a generalized plan with (mostly) consistent meal times.

Advanced Strategies to keep fat mobilizing

When I make the recommendation to eat close to 0 grams of carbs during the day, I inevitably hear, “For lunch I have a banana.”  In CBL, Kiefer says to try and stay under 30g throughout the day, and certainly a banana is under 30g, so who is right? Obviously, I am right, since this is my blog (hehe).  Here is my line of thinking though; as long as you eat enough on “fat days” where your calories aren’t severely restricted, your performance shouldn’t suffer all that much.  This is especially true when you consider that many of you are new to adding carbohydrates anyway.

Here is an example of a weekly schedule I might suggest for someone trying to boost fat mobilization a bit:

  • 1 high carb day, sort of like the pizza and cake example from above
  • WOD the following day
  • 2 or even 3 high fat days (probably 50-75g of carbs coming mostly from sweet potatoes and coconut milk smoothies, just less of them)

The high carb day is a rest day, and the following day is a WOD where the focus is carb depletion (lot’s of reps, maybe even mod down to really crush it from a cardio perspective).  One thing I need to caution you guys about is that for many of you (especially if you’ve been low carbing), once you add them back in your muscles will start to fill up.  This will look good in the mirror, but not on the scale (you also may feel sluggish as you begin to adapt, this is normal).  In the end, however, full muscles translate to lower body fat percentage and better body composition overall so don’t be fooled by the numbers; you didn’t gain 5 lbs. of fat overnight.  If you add carbs the third day and you feel great, then go for it, but I find that modifying down on this day is very helpful a lot of the time as well.

Oftentimes this is a good strategy when the first two days of the week are workout days followed by a rest day on Wednesday.  Now, this is the part that will get ignored and it’s very important:  if you have been low carbing for the last three years straight, this won’t work as effectively and could end up being kind of confusing initially.  You have to give it time.  Carbs fuel metabolism, so allow a month or so where you aren’t cycling fats so aggressively and I think you will be happy with the results.

The Best Part of This Plan

I haven’t mentioned counting calories at all, because you don’t need to.  As long as you have a basic understanding of what your protein needs are and what 75g of non-fibrous carbs look like, you should be good.  Also, you really need to be aggressive on your “reefed” day.  By playing it safe and going to bed hungry, you aren’t quite sending the right signal to your metabolism.  While it may sound like we are pulling metabolic strings, we are in fact going a long way towards healing the metabolism and letting it do what it needs to do.  Don’t try to rely solely on the standards for this day; it’s a good time for pizza, pasta and breadsticks.  If that’s a little too much or you have a gluten allergy, white rice and cauliflower work great too.  If you don’t get hung up on being 100% Paleo (this plan is certainly within the 80/20 range), taking a day to “live a little” can really jumpstart your metabolism and kick your performance into high gear.


21 Responses to “Dialing Things In a Bit”

  1. Laura March 22, 2013 at 1:46 pm #

    I’m giving the CBL a very good try over the next month to see how I feel. Counting grams/weighing carbs/fats/proteins has been kind of a challenge. I have drank the coconut smoothie for a couple of nights, but I’m confused on if I’m counting that as fat grams or carb grams or both? I’m trying to get a handle on how much of everything to eat so I know what it looks like. I’ve been eating at such a deficit for the past couple of years that I don’t actually know what “enough” food looks like, so starting off counting grams has helped me to see how much I should be eating to know where to start. Thanks again for all of the info, it’s awesome!!

    • Paul Nobles March 23, 2013 at 11:20 am #

      definitely count as both you want fat in your back loads before bed and more lean for your evening meals (honestly though the fat hardly matters, want a ribeye, eat a ribeye).

      Yeah, seeing it in real life is interesting. Update us on your journey.

  2. Alyssa March 22, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    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!

    • Paul Nobles March 23, 2013 at 11:13 am #

      Raises his hands in Victory! Great Post!

  3. Samara March 22, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

    I am glad you said something about those who have not eaten carbs for 3 years… I am one of those who was frightened by carbs, had a severe eating disorder and now my metabolism is completely wrecked. I started adding many more carbs and fats to my diet (everything you mention), to go with my crossfit which I started a month ago, but I still see absolutely no results. I don’t know if I am still not eating enough carbs, enough fats, too much of one or the other, or just wrong timing, but it’s getting frustrating! Will it just take more time? I find it difficult to figure out how much I need personally compared to others….PS great post and thankyou!

    • Paul Nobles March 23, 2013 at 11:12 am #

      The answer to a “wrecked” metabolism is to just be cautious with the carbs because your cells are flat footed at this point and then gradually add them back in but that isn’t the most important part. The most important part is adequate food intake. Check these out and let me know if it helps?



      • Samara March 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

        Great! I did the BMR calculator, it says about 3000 cals daily for me. It just seems like a lot because I’m up about 2400 and am so full…I added in about 2 cups of rice paster/day (no gluten for me), along with my 3 pieces of fruit and a ton of veggies..I just don’t really know what else there is I guess, or maybe that is enough? I also added in more fats, and have especially been enjoying your suggested coconut milk/chocolate smoothie…lots of nuts, etc…. Thanks for all the info! 🙂

      • Paul Nobles March 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

        did you do -10? Even that probably seems like a lot. This is what your body needs to perform correctly.

      • Samara March 24, 2013 at 12:55 am #

        what do you mean, -10? I’m sorry , you had probably already mentioned this, but I am horrible with numbers and such …..

      • Paul Nobles March 24, 2013 at 10:57 am #

        TDEE minus 10 percent. If your TDEE is 3000, that would be 2700.

  4. Ilyse March 23, 2013 at 12:11 am #

    Great info!! I have to admit I was an obsessive “calorie counter” and was always hungry even though I was eating at least six times a day. But being 4’11” and 98 pounds, I figured I had to be extra careful with how much I ate. Now I have upped the carbs and fat, and eat more calories. I’m sleeping better, lifting stronger and don’t spend the whole day starving. I have even stopped counting calories and the number on the scale has not gone up at all so what you are saying is completely true and I appreciate the info a great deal. Keep them coming!! Thanks!!

  5. Rodney March 23, 2013 at 2:56 am #

    “The high carb day is a rest day, and the following day is a WOD”
    Paul, are you saying you rest on Fridays, eat pizza then WOD with cardio high intensity on Saturday?

    I rest on Sundays and do heavy backs squats plus the WOD on Mondays. Should Sunday be my heavy carb back load day?

    • Paul Nobles March 23, 2013 at 10:44 am #

      It wouldn’t matter if I workout on Friday’s but it wouldn’t hurt. Yes, you back load for Monday’s WOD so eat on Sunday night (I know it sounds weird because you are technically front loading). Here is the video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaj5ICd9Nt8

  6. Erika March 23, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    So I’ve following this blog and considering, most likely will, purchase your CBL. I’ve been a crossfitter for about 10 months now but I’m also training for a half-marathon too. I run most days of the week and do crossfit about 3 times a week, long runs on Saturday mornings, sometimes running after the WOD too. Does the running change anything? I haven’t lost any weight from starting crossfit, only gained a bit. I’d really like to get my nutrition “dialed in” and start making some changes in both my running and crossfit abilities. Some advice? I’d really appreciate it!

    • Paul Nobles March 24, 2013 at 11:07 am #

      Yes, the running thing changes a lot. You need to eat more and eat more carbs. Most people run to stay slim, when I run I eat like crazy because I don’t want to lose the muscle I have earned in the gym.

  7. Heidi Brauner McCarthy March 23, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    Great post. I am a chronic calorie counter and have been doing super strict Paleo for over a year. I haven’t seen any weight loss and want desperately to lean out. That said, probably 5 lbs. would make a difference. I’m trying to figure out the differences of what is being recommended on Crossfitters eat to perform and in Kiefer’s CBL. I figured out my TDEE with the BMR calculator and -10% is 2282. I worked it all out macro nutrient wise. It seems better to me to follow that plan that to do the total CBL, I feel like I’m binge eating on that. Would you recommend just sticking to the roughly 100 grams of carbs on rest days and 200 on training days, with ‘living a little’ once a week? I’m skipping breakfast now and saving food for late morning after I crossfit per CBL as well as trying to save most of my carb’s for nighttime as well.

    • Paul Nobles March 24, 2013 at 11:06 am #

      We can talk about this more in the seminars. 100g is a starting point, if you really want to get your metabolism going that won’t do it. It also isn’t favorable for protein turnover. If I were you I would have days higher in carbs and use the 100g days as “control days”.

  8. Julie Cunningham March 25, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

    Does it matter when you workout in terms of carb intake? For example, on Mon/Tues, I Crossfit at 6pm vs. Thurs/Fri which are 8a. Obviously, that means I am CBL on Sun/Mon/Wed/Th. I think you mentioned elsewhere in a post that you stay fat/protein centered until evening…. does that change if you are working out in the evening on a CBL day? Am I just getting the bulk of my carbs PWO and bed? (And thanks for the TDEE wake up call… I’ve been eating significantly under that. Upping my calories like 900 a day! Your thoughts are answer some concerns I’ve had about thyroid issues and metabolism.)

    • Paul Nobles March 27, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

      Evening workouts is the basis for the book. It’s every other time that needs an adjustment. Yep PWO and bed. This should all be favorable as it relates to thyroid issues. I used to have to take medication, now I don’t.

  9. Jen March 27, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    Hi Paul! I just want to say thank you for all of your efforts! You have truly helped me in so many ways.

    I did my first week (last week) doing CBL. I did this “gradually awesomely”. The last couple years of my life I have been low-carbing and severely under eating. Because of this, I didn’t want to dive right into CBL and practically double my cals. I am ashamed to admit that I was eating 1300-1400 cals per day and under 50 g of carbs. I know, I know, but I have seen the light.

    So last week I started CBL and I took my cals up to 1800 and my carbs up to 90 grams. I have to tell you, the first few days were hard. I was tired, sluggish and I felt all around “heavy”. I can’t even tell you how horrible my WOD’s were. I was on the verge of puking EVERY.SINGLE. WOD. I honestly haven’t felt that bad since my first week of Crossfit. Then on day 4, my body got on board. WOD’s started feeling better, I had energy all day (without coffee!!!) and I had a spring in my step.

    Which brings me to this week (my 2nd week). I have upped my cals to 2000 and upped my carbs to 120 grams (before deducting fiber). I am really feeling great! My WOD’s are fantastic too. My TTDE # is 2387, so next week I will up again and then again until I get to 2387 (there and around).

    I weighed myself before I started and after the first week I am up 3#. This is not surprising at all because of how low carb I was. However, I will weigh myself at the end of this week and I have a pretty sneaking suspicion that I will have stayed the same weight, I will be sure to keep you updated. I have one of those Ironman Tanita scales, and although they are not entirely accurate, if I keep using it as a measuring tool, numbers changing are still numbers changing. According to the Tanita, I lost 2% body fat and gained 5# of muscle.

    Here is my typical day (because if it were me, I would want to know…):
    6:00- WOD fasted
    8:30- breakfast of eggs and bacon
    10:30- snack – greek yogurt
    1:00- lunch – salad with protein (usually steak because I am a carnivore)
    4:30- snack – almonds
    7:00- dinner – side salad (I LOVE salad), protein (meat) and rice with coconut oil or potatoes with olive oil
    8:45- pre-bed coconut milk smoothie

    Now, I know I need to up cals and maybe I am spacing them out wrong, so any input would be great. Should I be eating more volume at meals and eliminate snacking? Or is this ok? Or should I not be eating so much during the day and saving more for evening. I plugged a few days into Fitday just to get an idea and I am eating about 1200 cals and 28 carbs before my 7:00 meal and between dinner and smoothie, getting the balance.

    • Paul Nobles March 28, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      honestly I don’t think you need my help at all. Sounds like you have it covered. Meal planning is very person dependent, I still move food in and out. The weight thing you are right, when you fill up depleted muscles there is a “weight” cost but as you can see it is favorable in WOD’s. Your meal plan looks fine but you might find some fat and protein will serve you better than the greek yogurt which will get insulin rolling. Good option in the evening however.

      Great post!

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