8 Weeks to RIPPED, Week #2
Allow me to clear up a potential misunderstanding before I begin this week’s journal. For sustainable, healthy weight loss I do not recommend going low carb for an extended period of time. When dealing with a temporary achievement of single-digit, unsustainable body fat levels however, cycling carbohydrates can be very successful. A large issue in the fitness industry is that specialized diets with a very specific purpose (NOT general weight loss) are often misunderstood and adopted by ordinary folks looking for general weight loss, which is ineffective, unsafe and sometimes even counter-productive.
For the general public, by far and large the most important factor to weight loss is the amount of calories being consumed, followed by the macronutrient breakdown and the food choice. Micromanaging nutrient timing, balance and supplementation is a huge waste of time for most people–not only will it fail to provide superior results to regular, healthy eating practices, but in fact may cause more of a hinderance than a help.
That being said, for my purposes, carb cycling works better than any other method I’ve used. It allows me to retain my relatively high proportion of muscle mass (even increase it a small amount in some instances) while shedding the last few lbs of body fat from my body so that I can end my cutting phase under 10% body fat but without losing a substantial amount of muscle. Keep in mind, the less time you give yourself to reach your weight loss goal, the more likely you are to lose muscle mass, and since I’m only giving myself 12 weeks total I am at a high risk to lose a lot of muscle in the process if I’m not careful. For me, carb cycling mitigates this risk.
So what is carb cycling, exactly? In a nutshell, I alternate periods of eating no starchy carbohydrates whatsoever and a higher amount of fat, with periods of super-feeding myself a high amount of carbohydrates and a lower amount of fat. Protein remains high at all times (necessary when on calorie restriction to keep your muscle mass from eating itself for amino acids).
Lowering carbohydrates (temporarily) puts the body in a state of increased fat-burning, in which the body prefers to use stored energy (body fat) over immediate energy (glycogen) due to the lack of carbohydrates in the diet. The problem is, the body becomes increasingly-susceptible to muscle loss the longer it remains in this environment.
On the flipside, a high intake of carbohydrates increases the metabolism and is “protein-sparing”–that is, in this environment, the body saves protein for repairing and building muscle. In other words, a high level of carbohydrates is great for maintaining and even increasing muscle. The downside, of course, is that fat loss tends to become more difficult the longer the body remains in this state.
So clearly, by alternating between short periods of low carbs with short periods of higher carbs, I am able to get the best of both worlds–an elevated level of fat-burning without the susceptibility to muscle loss that normally comes with it, perhaps even moving into an environment of increased muscle.
Thus, my carbohydrate limit during the early weekdays is less than 50g per day, which is VERY low. I avoid all starches including grains, rice, potatoes, onions, sugar, fruits, etc. The only carbohydrate sources I eat during this time are cruciferous vegetables. To make up for the calories I increase my fat content during this time, meaning I can eat cheese, fatty meats, etc.
Starting Thursday night, my diet switches to extremely high carbohydrate intake and low fat. Bagels, rice, pasta, fruit and breads are all viable options during this time and I aim to eat over 1,000g of carbohydrates per day until midday on Sunday.
Here are my stats as of Monday, March 21st, 2011:
- Weight: 202 lbs (-5 lbs in the last week, from glycogen depletion)
- Body Fat Percentage: 12%
- Total Lean Body Mass: 177 lbs
- Phase 2 Target Daily Calories: Variable (carb cycling)
- Goal: lose at least 12 lbs and end at 10% body fat or under, while losing no more than 2 lbs of lean body mass in the process
- Deadline: May 1, 2011 (6 weeks)
As you may notice, I have lost more than 2 lbs of lean muscle mass, but this number is deceptive because of my carb cycling. During my refeed this weekend, my lean mass (and overall weight) will jump back up 2-4 lbs. Next week I will talk about my approach to fitness for this cutting phase.
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