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Murph…the WOD that keeps on giving

30 May

Monday, May 29, 2013

I finished Murph…..

No, really, did you hear me?  I FINISHED MURPH!!!!

After I jogged all but 1/4 of the first mile, I started my 5-10-15 strategy.  5 rounds in, I thought to myself, “You have been doing Crossfit for only 6 months, you can be just as proud to do half of Murph.  Just get to round 10 and do your final mile.”

I will tell you this now…this conversation goes through my head in 75% of my WOD’s .  It is something that I battle and have never succombed to since I have started Crossfit, but it speaks to me more often than I want to hear it.  It is part of my problem.  I am still in the mindset that I am this obese person that no one really expect much from, so if I don’t finish a workout, it is no surprise.  “Kudos for trying!” I expect to hear.

Unfortunately, I have made too much of an impression at my box and people expect more from me.  Just writing this down is such a milestone from me and I have to say, I have tears in my eyes (Luckily, my husband and son are watching the Blackhawks, game 7, so I could be bawling uncontrollably and they would not notice).

I am so thankful that the people in my box expect more from me.  I am grateful for the comments that I still find hard to believe are true from Paul’s posts on ETP.  I am thankful for my husband’s comments here and there, calling me skinny.

I really am thankful for all of this and it has made me raise the bar for myself, but honestly, I still don’t always believe it.  Don’t get me wrong, I do believe it 60% of the time, but the other 40% of the time, I feel fat.  I feel like I could be working harder.  I feel like I could still be making better food choices.  I feel like if I could do all of these things, I would be 20 pounds lighter and 3 sizes smaller.

Damn Damn Damn!

I wish I could just flip a switch and believe the logic that my head tells me.  I KNOW I am on the right path.  I KNOW I am stronger.  I KNOW that 6 months from now, I will look and feel healthier, stronger and more confident than I do now.  Unfortunately, a little part of my heart seems to be speaking louder than my brain….

When I was young, I was INCREDIBLY shy.  Not just shy, I was “only speak to people in my immediate family” shy.  I was never really aware of this until high school.  I would hear people say that they thought I was a snob or bitchy because I didn’t really give them the time of day.  Little did they know that I was terrified to talk to them.  My self confidence was non-existent.  I had no idea what to say to people.

When I moved from Boston to Illinois after my bad breakup, I consciously told myself “I am done being shy.  Even if I have to fake my confidence, I will no longer be the person who missed out on opportunities because I am too shy.”  I honestly faked being confident for probably about 6 months, when it started coming naturally.  This was also during my “eating disorder” time when I was eating less than 1000 calories a day and exercising a ridiculous amount.  I still have to be thankful for this period though.  This is the period that I met my husband.  I had the confidence to just go up and talk to him that night at the racquet club.  3 hours later, I went home realizing that I just met the man I would marry, and wasn’t shy about sharing that with my family.

When people hear this story, they think, “No Way!  You were not shy!  You are one of the most confident people I know!”  Little do they know, I can still fake it pretty flawlessly.  It’s my defense mechanism.  I am not going to let people know how weak I think I am sometimes.  Hell, my husband can count the times he has seen me cry on one hand.  I am a rock….or so I want people to think.

All of this is why I am SO proud of how fucking sore I am right now.  Never, in my wildest imagination did I EVER think I would do a workout like Murph.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would backsquat 240 pounds.  Never, EVER, did I imagine being able to eat logically and exercise with so much determination.  Doubt is always there, but it’s just like the powdered donuts…you need to see the logic and sometimes fake it.  Fake that you don’t want to quit, fake that you have full confidence of RX’ing a WOD, fake that you are the strongest person in your box….even if deep down you know you are not…if you keep believing it and faking it…you won’t have to eventually, because you will be.   I will be…will  you?

Pan Seared Scallops and Roasted Kabocha Squash

22 Apr

Soooo, a little more about myself before I share this yummy dinner…

I really began my love of cooking in the past 5 years or so.  I have been married for almost 20 years (20 this June!) and have two boys, ages 19 and 15.  We have never been wealthy by any means (at least not with money – fun, laughter and love we have had plenty) so dinner was very often hamburger helper, meatloaf, spaghetti, etc.  It was whatever we could afford and were able to cook when we got home from work.  Once my boys got a little older, I began having this fascination with recipes.  I found that the Food Network was the channel I watched more often than any other and really began learning more about flavor profiles and how to actually COOK!  This new world of food and cooking opened up my mind about food in general and how delicious foods can be transformed into AMAZING meals.

I will be honest, my family and my husband’s family, is well aware that I DO NOT LIKE VEGETABLES!  What is crazy is how open minded I have become about foods that I would NEVER have tried prior, especially since I began this journey with Paul and Crossfit.  Simply understanding the value certain foods has when it comes to performing has completely turned my world upside down.

I am putting this out there to a lot of people who do not know my past….

I grew up VERY athletic.  With an older brother (who is the one who turned me on to Crossfit) who played football, basketball and baseball, I was constantly trying to keep up with him.  I played soccer, basketball and softball and excelled at all of them.  Honestly, I probably could have gotten an athletic scholarship of some kind if I had any kind of drive or knowledge about how athletic I was.  Unfortunately, I grew up around very well off families, most of whom were a size 6 or smaller.  With legs like tree trunks and probably having less body fat than most of the boys in my class, let alone the girls, I thought I was fat.  I had little self confidence and I believe that helped lead me in the path of self destruction.

After a rough breakup with my first love, I moved from Massachusetts to Illinois to live with my parents at age 19.  I decided this was a great time to change myself, both inside and out.  The first step was to lose weight….ugh…thinking back, I can’t believe how stupid I was.   I was probably eating less than 1000 calories a day… a yogurt for breakfast and 2 lean cuisine meals a day…biking several miles to the gym to do the stair climber for 45-60 minutes a day and then bike several miles back home.  In my spare time, I would run with my beloved dog, Rusty, to get him some exercise….I looked DAMN good….

I cannot even fathom the trauma I had done to my metabolism in this time alone….one good thing came of this time however…I met my husband.  From that one night I decided to talk to him (despite his lack of an ass) I knew I would marry him…

There is so much more that I will share as we go, but I want everyone to know that I am a real person who has struggled with weight and food her entire life.  There is far more to read about my journey, but I don’t want to give it all in one blog….(this is how we keep you reading these blogs…you have to know what happens next, right?)

With the help of my past failures and successes, Paul(Eat to Perform) and Crossfit, I think I might have it figured out…we’ll see I guess…

Anyways…when my pantry and refrigerator are scarce in supplies, I find I am at my most creative…

Today, while looking in my freezer, I found some large scallops, begging to be defrosted.  While I prefer fresh seafood, here in Minnesota, that is quite impossible…so frozen will have to do…

Kabocha squash…honestly, never tried it…  Another milestone to check of my “eating vegetables” list.  (Last night I ate FOUR pieces of broccoli!  That’s a pretty big deal for me!)  I got this recipe from Nom Nom Paleo since I had no clue what to do with it.  I am not sure if these two items really “GO” together, but they both tasted great!  Enjoy!

scallops

Pan Seared Scallops

Ingredients

  • 8 large sea scallops
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • A splash of citrus vodka

Season the scallops on both sides with salt and pepper.  Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Melt butter in the pan and add scallops to the heated pan.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side (do NOT overcook scallops or they will be rubbery!) Remove the scallops from the pan and add the maple syrup and vodka to deglaze the pan, stirring constantly.  Cook the sauce for about 1 minute and pour over the scallops.  OH!  These are heavenly!

If I want to lose fat why shouldn’t I be on Carb Nite?

10 Mar

This wasn’t a question that came up specifically in one of the nutrition question and answers but it ended up being the answer to another question.  Namely should you be on Carb Nite Solution if you are trying to lose fat? That answer can be tricky and I have seen women doing Crossfit gut it out with what they believe is some level of success.  Typically the scale went down and certain parts of them look a little tighter because their inflammation levels were lower as a result of eating less than 30g of carbohydrates.  Here are some of the pitfalls these people run into:

Now realize I am having a discussion about populations that Crossfit and some of these negative symptoms can be lessened by eating more fats but that isn’t what most people do.  They eat about the same fat and try and rely on a calorie deficit to do the work.  It basically becomes the suckiest version of Weight Watchers ever.

1.  They often can’t sleep or have less sleep.

2.  Cardio workouts might be slightly better but during weight training they never feel really strong.

3.  Stress levels are high

4.  Metabolism slows to a crawl

Above is the video where I describe how you can do Carb Back Loading in a moderate way using Crossfit to create a drain on your energy system to get a similar result to Carb Nite Solution without the negatives.  Once again, this isn’t a knock on Carb Nite Solution, it’s a fine diet for some people and I have even had Crossfitters say it works for them.  Overwhelmingly though it’s unnecessary to restrict carbohydrate in an extreme manner with our levels of activity. The end result tends to be a more broken and confused crossfit athlete.

 

 

 

Scott Paltos Crossfit Games Competitor interview

8 Mar

Scott Paltos

Today, I’m bringing you a short interview with Scott Paltos, owner and operator of PUMP Crossfit & Performance in East Hanover, NJ.  Scott has a great background in sports ranging from baseball to powerlifting.  He’s worked as a Strength & Conditioning coach for over a decade and as of late, he’s become a top-level CrossFit Games competitor.  This interview focuses mostly on Scott’s experiences with Carb Back-Loading where he works with John Kiefer (the author of the book) in creating custom plans so he can perform better as a Crossfit athlete.  To download a copy of the book click here.  (using this link supports this site and gets you into the Q&A sessions where we dial in some of the concepts in the book)

Paul (Eat To Perform):  So tell us; how did you meet Kiefer, and why did you think Carb Back-Loading would be a good fit for you as a CrossFitter?

Scott Paltos:  You have to understand, I come from a true strength background.  So a lot of my online reading was with EliteFTS, T-Nation, and other more performance-related sites.  I read a little about Kiefer, and was kind of floored by his approach.  My whole performance career was based on small meals, frequency, balance, etc.  So when this guy came out with CBL, I had to reach out.  I reached out, and reached out, and reached out.  He responded after me being a pest for a little.  We spoke on the phone for a while.  We clicked with what we were looking to do (to raise my performance)…and bam, we are going into our third year.  Kiefer is a SMART dude, as well as a good friend.

As far as me thinking CBL would be good…it was not my first reason.  I wanted to get leaner and keep strength.  We not only did that, but also improved a good deal of my performance with it.  Since Kiefer and I started, we have done some form of CBL or CN.  Yes, we adjust me personally, but I think that is because I like ice cream and turnovers too much.  Haha!!!!  Remember CBL is not based on some theory; it is science, and Kiefer proves that in his protocol (this is Paul, and highly referenced scientific principles, you could spend a year reading the research Kiefer devoured to put this book out).

Paul:  I feel like your experience is different than mine.  When I first heard about CBL, I was just coming off of a year of Leangains, which leaned me out, but killed my performance in the gym. Since then, I’ve taken CBL and added 15 pounds of muscle. I suspect that building mass wasn’t a big priority for you considering your background.  Can you shed some light on what you’d hoped for, and ultimately what you gained from CBL?

Scott:  Listen, I am not as lean as I should be, and I don’t always perform like I can.  That’s sport…well the first part, is because I eat too much.  Like I mentioned above, I needed to get leaner.  Strength in the sport of CrossFit, for me, is not an issue.  I don’t really need to pull 600 for reps anymore…I don’t need to bench 500, but what I needed was a way to manipulate energy systems.  CBL has helped me create a better environment for my body to burn fat.  It has also helped me recover better.  Look, in this sport I am NO spring chicken.  My 36th birthday is in a few weeks.  I need that assistance.  Pure volume alone, it takes its toll on me.  Now, I can’t reverse the aging process, but I can help make sure it doesn’t get bad too fast.  With Kiefer, we have been able to do that.

Carb Back Loading is the only book we promote on this site and on the Facebook page because I think it’s the ultimate performance way of eating.  People always ask me, is it really worth the $53? Meanwhile they walked into the gym with $109 Nanos, carrying $139 Olympic lifting shoes and $47 custom jump rope.  From an athletic progress standpoint I think it’s patentedly ridiculous that people would spend that much money on gear and then balk at the price of this book.  Thoughts?

I agree 100%

Paul:  I am not a huge diet guy.  I don’t count calories,  but I tend to have a pretty good idea where I’m at most days as far as how much I expend and consume. I don’t consider CBL a diet; I consider it a strategy to integrate into my lifestyle, because (from my experience) a strategy as it relates to carbs is favorable related to metabolism and athletic progress.  What are your thoughts?

Scott:  Great point!!!! It’s a lifestyle for performance.  Do I recommend my PUMPsters to do CBL or CN…Hell yeah.  But I also will cycle their lifestyle off of it for a periods of time too.  You are manipulating hormones, metabolism, and chemically stimulating yourself with CBL.  It’s not just a ho-dunk methodology….BUUUUUUUUTTTTTTTTTT, you need to train correctly as well.  That whole concept sometimes gets lost.  Intensity is something that most CrossFitters are not missing, but knowing when and how much is key.  Let’s just say I am not always a fan of how some CrossFitters train, or think what they are doing is right.  The two (nutrition AND programming) have to coincide synergistically.

And the “D” word, diet…I have been on a diet since I was 12 years old and had to make weight for junior football.  Then I was on a diet to get bigger for football, then on a diet to get smaller, bigger….It is a horrible word.  I like “Lifestyle” or like you mentioned, “Strategy”.

Paul:  This is my last question, so I’d like to thank you for taking the time to do this Scott.  In the book, Kiefer is openly critical of CrossFit and paleo.  Many CrossFitters prefer to eat in a paleo style (which I believe is very realistic in combination with CBL and have written many articles on this very topic). I read Kiefer’s jabs at CrossFit like this:  “Carb Back-Loading isn’t the ideal nutrition protocol for CrossFit.”  It might not be the perfect fit for soccer either. With that said, it is BY FAR the best alternative I have come upon (aside from having your own personal Kiefer design a diet specifically for you like you did). How would you describe his criticism, and how did you reconcile that once you started working with him?  Also, do you follow a mostly paleo approach to CBL, or are your energy needs just so high that it’s almost impossible?

Scott:  This is a good one.  One:  Kiefer’s issues with CrossFit, from my view, is more of improper coaching, methodology of programming, and overall safety.  Guess what:  those are my issues with it as well.  So he and I are not far from it.  My gym, “PUMP CrossFit & Performance” in East Hanover, is a TRAINING FACILITY…not just a CrossFit.  A lot of people have seen, I do not program typical WODs from mainsite.  Not to say, that they are bad, they are just not for me or my PUMPsters.  Kiefer has caught slack, and really could not care less, for being critical of CrossFit.  The funny thing is, it’s not a rant he or I will go on.  It is strictly based on things that are seen and overviewed.  I believe a good deal of coaches in CrossFit feel entitled.  Just like a good deal of MMA coaches feel entitled.  “Well we are certified, so we can teach.”  SHIT, that is not it.  It takes years to become a great blacksmith or iron worker…What, it only takes a weekend or a few months to become a great coach or trainer?  No F’ing way…it takes time.  It takes the ability to work with people.  It takes effort and hours to work with groups.  Kiefer and I are on the same page.  You cannot just get a piece of paper and consider yourself an expert.  Do I know about Kiefer’s methodology, yes.  Do I preach it scientifically like he does?  Hell no.  There are good coaches out there, the individual needs to search for them.  Just because CrossFit is in the name, doesn’t mean it’s going to be right.

Sorry, I got off target.  Back on now…Paleo…great in theory, but not for me.  I have done CBL in a paleo mindset, I have done strict Paleo, I have done adjusted Paleo…Whatever, I have not had personal success for it in long periods.  I followed it for a while; my joints hurt more, my body recovered less…and that’s when I was in my off-season and training volume was low.  Kiefer adjusts me when I need it, but I have a pretty good grasp on when we will make changes.  If you really look at Paleo, most of the CBL meals, if done right are similar.  So there are some similarities. As far as my energy levels?  I am hyped up all day long.  Whether it’s the caffeine, or just me, I am usually pretty animated.  Around competition time there is a definite need for more intake, but I am getting better and not over regulating.  Again, my main focus right now is the season, staying healthy, and just having a good time.

I appreciate the opportunity to be in front of everybody with this, and I am always welcome to answer questions or chat.  Please feel free to email scpaltos@pumpcrossfit.com or contact me.  I do my best to answer stuff if they are general, but if it gets to the “I need to know” then I usually do ask for it to become a consultation.  Oh, and as far as the other question you asked.  “If I know any other CBL followers?”  Hell yeah…but they don’t call it CBL.  They just call it paleo with refeeds and paleo with “anything I can eat at night”.  Haha.  CrossFit followers who watch some of the personal videos of others, or read blogs from athletes, should understand what I am talking about.  There are a good deal of TOP athletes who follow a similar if not exact system of CBL.  They just don’t say it.  Good Stuff….good luck to all in the Open.

Scott Paltos

PUMP CrossFit & Performance

scpaltos@pumpcrossfit.com

 

Carb Loading – Paleo Women of Crossfit Version

8 Mar

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

7 Mar

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.

How Do I Know How Much I Should Be Eating? (w/ dead-simple calculator)

5 Mar

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

Ok, it’s time to get serious.  I talk a lot about eating “enough food” to support your activity level.  I realize that up until this point, that recommendation has remained relatively vague.  You’ve asked me, “How do I know how much I should be eating?” and I’m going to do my best to provide you with a succinct answer.  The problem with giving a one-size-fits-all recommendation, or setting up basic guidelines, is that they’re never right for everyone; each of us is a biochemically unique, adaptive organism living through its own personal challenges.  Even when a suggestion comes close, it needs to be tweaked as time wears on, or progression will wane.  Nevertheless, I’m going to do my best to explain what I mean by “enough food” and how to determine what that actually means.

Our new TDEE Calculator with activity multiplier

Here is the calculator for you guys to play with, but first, a few words of caution.  This isn’t a calorie counting exercise where you need to be all obsessive; running this calculator will simply enlighten you, show you what eating for performance looks like in a quantitative measurement, so you can make more educated decisions in regards to your food intake.  Before you start punching in your data, I want to ask you to look at this as a tool and nothing more.  Use this calculator as a means to establish a general idea of how much energy you expend during your average rest/training day, and go from there, always listening to your body and doing what feels right.

Without further ado, here is our new TDEE Calculator (remember almost everyone who Crossfit’s is considered “Very Active” and that is the calorie number we are looking at as your total)

Determining Activity Levels

Once you load the calculator, it should be pretty straight-forward.  You can ignore the bits about body fat percentage, waist circumference and such if you don’t have those data, but the “Activity” drown-down menu on the left beneath “Age” needs some special attention.  Half of knowing whether you’re eating enough comes from understanding how to define your level of activity.  The menu gives you several options; here’s how I’d suggest you match the categories available to your lifestyle:

  • Sedentary:  People who work a desk job and engage in very little (if any) structured exercise.  Chances are that if you’re reading this blog, this does not describe you, so you’ll probably avoid this option.
  • Very Active:  If you CrossFit or lift heavy a couple times a week, or if you work a physically demanding job, your activity level can probably be described as “very active”.
  • Extra Active:  For those of us who CrossFit 5-6 times a week.  Serious weightlifters and athletes, as well as folks who work jobs requiring hours of heavy llifting, fall into this category.

Again, because we’re all different and lead different lives, the TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) calculation that we arrive at is naught but a guideline; a person who lifts hay bales for 12 hours days will do well to classify their activity levels as “extra active” even if they’ve never touched a barbell in their lives.  A person who trains hard a few times a week but does little in the way of physical labor at work will err on the lower side of things.  Once you’ve got your numbers plugged in and your activity level selected, you’ll move onto the next page of the calculator: the macronutrient breakdown.

Macros:  What Are They and Why Are They Important?

Macronutrients are major components of your diet that are broken down into constituents to provide energy, build tissue and create hormones.  The ones we’re concerned with are protein (which provides 4 calories per gram), Carbs (4 calories per gram) and Fats (9 awesome calories per gram).  Just to clarify, micronutrients are vitamins that play an important role in how your body metabolizes the macronutrients that you make available.  A body without essential vitamins and minerals is like a car with a full tank of gas but no spark plugs.  This is why eating wholesome, nutrient-dense food is so important.

At the top left-hand corner, under “Presets”, you’re given several self-explanatory options.  I would recommend setting this to “Maintain” first and then to make adjustments with the sliders beneath the pie charts.  Here are some general guidelines for achieving different goals by manipulation your macronutrient ratios:

  • Improving performance/gaining muscle:  Increase your protein and fat on both days and increase your carbs on workout days.  Adding on an extra 3-500 calories for training days should help you put on some muscle and make some gains.  There are a lot of people out there looking to bulk up or get stronger with an all or nothing approach, but believe it or not, constant overeating may not be helping their progress.  Eating a little less carbohydrate on rest days can keep your body sensitive to insulin so that it can function properly when it needs the extra energy (around training).
  • Losing fat:  Simply eating at “Maintenance” calories and engaging in vigorous exercise a few times a week will help you lose body fat.  It’s important to eat when you’re active.  I write about it all the time because it’s true and I can’t stress it enough; you must eat enough or your workouts will suck and your long-term physique goals will be compromised.  To that end, a minor reduction in your carbohydrate intake on rest days that results in a 2-400 calorie deficit should do the trick and mobilize more fat, especially since you’re active.  Again, start small and work your way up.  Always pay attention to what your body’s trying to tell you.

 

A Real-World Example

I’m going to use Lindsey Valenzuela as my example, mostly because she is awesome.  Here are her stats that she tweeted the other day, with some minor adjustments to simplify the math.

  • Height:  5’6″
  • Weight:  150 pounds
  • Age:  26
  • Activity level:  Extra Active
  • BMR:  1572 kcal’s (basic calories you need to live)
  • Total Daily Energy Expenditure:  3000 (no wonder she’s so awesome)
  • Protein:  150g=600 calories from protein
  • Carbs:  300g (she is Lindsey after all)=1200 calories from carbs

That leaves 1200 calories to come from fat, so you divide by 9 which will leave us at 133.3 fat grams for the day.

Now let’s do a male example, but in this case he wants to put on 10lbs of muscle:

  • Height:  6’0″
  • Body fat %:  12%, 22.8lbs of fat
  • Lean Mass:  167lbs
  • Weight:  190
  • Age:  25
  • BMR:  2012 kcals
  •  TDEE:  3470

To get him there, we’re going to have him eat about 4,000 calories on training days, broken down into 187g of protein, 407g of carbohydrate and 181g of fat.  Now, let’s assume that several months have passed by and our male example’s training and diet were spot-on.  He gained 10lbs of muscle mass while adding only 2lbs of fat to his frame.  This is a great accomplishment, and his numbers look like this now:

  • Body fat %:  12%, 24.3lbs of fat
  • Lean Mass:  177.8lbs
  • Weight:  202lbs
  • BMR:  2115 kcals
  • TDEE:  3649

Compare the two sets of numbers:  A man at 190lbs and 202lbs, retaining the same body fat percentage burns only 100 more calories at rest, and only about 200 more throughout a day.  That equates to an extra hour of light activity or sleep…A sweet potato here or there.  First and foremost, it takes a lot of time, hard work and perseverance, but only a modest alteration of energy expenditure and intake to lose or gain weight.  The precise numbers are generally unimportant; as long as you’re within the ballpark everything is okay.  There are special circumstances where your unique biology and lifestyle require you to eat more or less but I’ll touch on that and explain why this is all so fuzzy in an upcoming article.  For now, what I want you to take away is this:  After you’re eating enough good food to end up in the general area according to the numbers, how you feel, how you perform, and how you look should always be the first indicators you assess when determining the effectiveness of your training and nutrition.

Summary

  • Everyone is unique, so there is no “one-size” diet prescription.  We all need different amounts of food based upon our height, weight, body composition and activity levels.
  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is the amount of calories you would theoretically spend at rest.
  • Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is the amount of calories you burn in a day.  This is based upon your BMR and then multiplied by an activity multiplier.
  • We recommend eating at or just slightly below your estimated TDEE to ensure proper recovery from training
  • Using our calculator, you can determine your expenditure without doing any math.
  • Macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate) provide the bulk of the energy in your diet.  By eating more or less of each, you can manipulate your weight, body composition and performance without restricting calories.
  • How you look, how you feel, and how you perform are more important than any number on a scale or a calculator.