This is part of my series on my Q1 2016 Fitness Plan. Make sure you read that first so you get why I am writing this series and how to best navigate these posts.
Previous Cutting Diet:
In previous cutting periods I used to do a pyramid approach. I would follow the old fitness mantra:
Eat like a king in the morning, a prince at lunch, and a pauper for dinner
This means I would consume the most calories at breakfast and fewer calories as the day went on spread out between 5-6 meals. Unfortunately this often left me starving in the evening hours. That combined with an active social life often led me to eat larger quantities in the evening when I was superposed to be eating the least calories.
With that said I am trying a new approach this time. But before I go into that it is extremely important you read the following warning:
I am NOT a doctor, and I don't even play one on TV. I would never recommend this for anyone actively training. I would never recommend this to any of the athletes I coach professionally. I am not even recommending this to you without first consulting your doctor to make sure you can handle it. Fasting in any form is risky and can result in dangerously low blood sugar. If you are an endurance athlete this is possibly the dumbest thing you can do. Please don't become anorexic or starve yourself.
With that said I would like to talk about Intermittent Fasting.
Yes I said 'fasting' but in specific intervals to try and induce Ketosis. I first heard of the process from Tim Ferriss during his New Years Resolution Podcast with Kevin Rose. I decided to look a bit deeper into it and ended up re-listening to an earlier Four Hour Podcast featuring Dom D’Agostino on Fasting, Ketosis, and the End of Cancer.
I did some more research and learned a couple of things.
From my understanding Ketosis is the state when your body is no longer getting its energy from blood glucose => blood sugar => carbohydrates. While in ketosis, fat reserves are readily released and consumed.
I realize none of the guys are MDs but Dom D’Agostino is a college professor and there is some science behind it.
As opposed to plain fasting during intermittent fasting you don't eat for specific intervals. The window ranges from 4 - 8 hours a day. The goal typically is to make it so your spending as much time in Ketosis.
Sleeping and Ketosis:
It is my understanding that Ketosis often kicks in during the night while you're sleeping. As you sleep you burn off whatever glucose/sugar is in your bloodstream and eventually switch to feeding off of body fat. Obviously not at the same rate as when you're working out but still enough to cause Ketosis.
A lot of the Intermittent Fasting plans I read try and piggyback the Ketosis that is triggered during sleep. They encourage you to skip breakfast.
When I was a kid my mom always made sure we had a warm breakfast. Even after my parents divorce when she was raising us alone and had to work extra early shifts at the hospital she made sure we never left home without a solid warm breakfast.
In my adult life I have embraced this. This is why it was hard to stomach the idea of not eating breakfast(awful pun intended). So I was really skeptical. I would never recommend any of my athletes try this and I doubt I would ever use this while training with the intention of making any serious gains as well.
But in the interest of science and not being a fat ass I thought I might give it a shot.
In the end the decision to experiment with Intermittent Fasting came down to one thing: Willpower. In my book Hacking Fear I talk about decision fatigue a lot.
Basically we have a limited amount of willpower to use throughout the day. Some more than others but it is finite. I know I have more discipline in the morning and tend to start making bad decisions towards the end of the day when I am tired. Bad decisions like overeating and cheating on my diet.
Because you need to be strictest in the first half of your day with this type of diet and more lax in the afternoon/evening I decided this might be a good fit.
Periodization Of Training:
The human body cannot go calorie deficit for too long before it goes into starvation mode and starts holding on for dear life to each calorie it takes in. It does this by starting to shut down different internal systems. The experts will argue how long it takes before this starvation mode kicks in.
I have had good results with the following cycles.
3 Week Cut:
For 3 weeks straight the majority of the week I will be going calorie deficit by using the intermediate fasting method.
2 Week Bulk:
For about 2 weeks I will basically stuff myself with boneless skinless chicken breasts and on occasion Grass Fed Organic Beef. This will hopefully reset my metabolism. Ideally at the end of two weeks when I return to cutting calories my body will be expecting the increased daily intake and be ready to burn at the increased rate when I return to the decreased calorie intake.
You will notice I said 'the majority of the week'. I am not exactly sure how quickly my metabolism adjusts but I intend to spike my intake at least one or two days a week to ensure I don't completely flatten out.
It also serves to keep me sane. Some might call this a 'cheat day'. Personally I try not to go crazy during these periods. I might have a burger but I am still not touching french fries. Though I might be eating more the majority of additional calories should still be useful; as in not just empty carbs and fats.
A typical low calorie intake day:
Here is an example daily diet for a low calorie cutting day:
1 x Vanilla Protein Shake with a dash of cinnamon.
I add the cinnamon because there is evidence that it has several side benefits. The largest being that is may help to decrease my appetite during my morning fasting period. If you are interested here is a more comprehensive list of cinnamon's health benefits
The specific brand of protein shake I like has BCAA's which I will talk about more in my supplement section.
Morning Workout - No food just lots of water
At the gym my warmup of High Intensity Interval Training burns the 170 Calories from the protein shake in about the first 15 minutes dropping me back into Ketosis.
2 x Organic Large Eggs
5 x Slices of Organic Turkey
3 x Mushrooms
Diced Onions and various other vegetables
1 x Vanilla Protein Shake with a dash of cinnamon.
I mainly have this seconds one to try and decrease the amount of muscle mass I might loose while cutting weight.
Dinner. I like to switch this up but one of my go to meals is an easy to whip up slow cooker meal.
Take a couple boneless skinless chicken breasts and toss them into the slow cooker at medium temp. Throw in a can of diced tomatoes. Throw in various other vegetables(Onions, etc) and some seasoning. Let cook for 8 hours stirring once ever hour or two. The end result should have a texture similar to pulled pork.
Separate these into servings about 1 cup each. I then take 1 serving of this chicken dish and spread it over whichever vegetables I have. Usually at a ration of 1 cup chicken to 2.5 cups of green vegetables.
As for the vegetables early on when I have not come to a plateau I broil my vegetables and drizzle oil over them and seasoning. I usually use about 2 tablespoons which contains an extra 250 calories of fat. Once I plateau or have the need to get aggressive I will switch over to steamed veggies with no oil and utilize a low cal hot sauce or mustard.
I might do another Protein shake this time with less water and a spritz of fat free whip cream or I might do a Jello cup with a spritz of fat free whip cream.
Bedtime. This works well this time of year because it gets dark so damn early and I get tired so early. I doubt this approach would work during the summer when there is so much going on but then again in the summer I am burning upward of 4000 calories a day on the average day.
Quick Tips For Your Diet:
Here are some helpful tips that might help you kick off your diet.
Throw it out:
When kicking off a new diet be dramatic: Throw out the cheese, butter, ranch, mayo, etc. Don't leave it in the fridge as a temptation for future decision fatigued you to stumble upon in a moment of weakness. Make a big deal out of it. Treat it like a ceremony that demonstrates you are not about to half ass this difficult endeavor you are about to take on.
Stuff Yourself With Greens:
A huge part of how I curb my hunger is to stuff myself with greens. Greens are low in calories and high in fiber. Fiber is important for many reasons you can find here but basically keep these two things in mind:
Fiber does not get turned into energy and their for fat
Not to be gross but if you don’t have enough fiber your internal plumbing can become stuffed up if you know what I mean. It is really not pleasant. Eat your fiber.
My favorite greens are as follows:
- Broccoli(and Cauliflower)
- Spinach and Kale
- Brussel Sprouts
Now I am not the type to eat plain raw vegetables. Most people I know that can do that pile on gobs of ranch dressing just to be able to stomach it anyway.
I personally prefer to broil my vegetables. Broiled vegetables with a little oil are far from fat free. Eventually when I plateau I switch to steamed because it does not have the additional calories from the oil.
Another little trick I do is to take whichever protein I am having and mix it in or sprinkle it over the vegetables to enhance the taste.
Hot Sauce, Spices, And Mustard Are Your Friends:
If you're going to chow down on tasteless greens when you will find it helps to add flavor in anyway you can. I keep a selection of spices, hot sauces, and mustard to keep things interesting.
Be warned though all of the above usually contain a fair amount of sodium/salt. Be careful not to over due it and end up with high blood pressure. Combining that with the stimulants most people end up relying on during diets such as caffeine can be dangerous. I'll talk more about this in my section on stimulants and supplements.
These also can be useful to add flavor to your bland diet foods. But there are drawbacks.
SIDE NOTE: I apologize I cannot find my original sources on this at the moment. I will need to come back later and add them. If you know of any please send them my way.
I have seen evidence(See side note above) that some artificial sweeteners may cause similar effects to actual sugar. As in simulating a spike in blood glucose/sugar and eventual crash that causes additional hunger. Some even go as far as to cause depression because of the crash and lack of actual glucose in the blood stream.
Basically I cut out as much artificial sweetener as I can, especially from my beverages like soda and zero calorie juice mixes(with some exceptions) and it has made regulating my appetite much easier.
If you have read my various posts on personal finances then you probably would guess historically I haven't splurged on the fancy stuff. But being physically fit is an important investment. So after hearing about it from many of my friends and online sources I have started to try and eat more organic stuff.
Will it have any positive effects? I have no idea. I will let you know if I can zero in on any specific variables that correlate back to the switch to organic.
This last one is a weird one but bare with me. You know the feeling you get in your stomach when you're really hungry? I try and visualize that feeling as being my body burning stomach fat while I am deep in Ketosis. Again it's a little new age-ey but it does the trick for me. 'Feel the burn' I suppose.
I will keep you up to date with how this intermittent fasting is going. I hope some of my diet tips and tricks have been helpful. See more in the Habit Hacking Section.
UPDATE - 1/10/16: This series of posts has gotten so long I have actually started the diet and have been doing it for 5 days. So far I have seen a good amount of progress with out a huge drop in energy or mood. So far so good