Note: Carbohydrate sometimes referred to as carb throughout
When your target is to achieve a very lean and defined physique, your workout routine should be geared towards building strength and muscle mass, and at the same time dieting at either maintenance level or at a calorie deficit to burn fat. This is a vital component that’s commonly overlooked by many people who will instead, not track nutrition and intensify cardio sessions and/or double up the lifting volume to attempt to lean up and get ripped.
What this actually does, overtime is over-train your body which eventually leads to muscle loss due to excess stress and excess cortisol building up in the muscles - cortisol being a muscle destroying hormone produced when the body is under prolonged stress.
When performing numerous workouts and exercises on a regular basis, your body becomes depleted of muscle glycogen from high intensity training. Muscle glycogen is derived from the carbohydrates we eat daily, however, not all carbohydrates are driven into muscle and converted into glycogen. For example, foods such as sweet potato are excellent for topping up muscle glycogen levels because sweet potato is a starchy carbohydrate and when eaten a much larger portion is stored inside muscle compared to other carb sources. If something is eaten that is high in refined sugar, in general, there are 2 things that occur:
1. A tiny portion of the refined sugar is driven into muscle and stored as glycogen
2. Most of the refined sugar is driven into fat cells
Muscle glycogen is the fuel that the body uses when we hit a high intensity in training and if the intensity is high enough, the body will also use lactate. The other fuel the body will use when exercising is fat, but the body will only begin using body fat as a fuel source during aerobic exercise and this occurs when it is performed consecutively for several minutes.
Source: Donovan, C, & Pagliassotti, M. (1998). Quantitative assessment of pathways for lactate disposal in skeletal muscle fiber types. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
What is tricky about body re-comping (burning fat while building muscle) is when one subjects themselves to a restricted diet - restricted meaning the amount of food consumed is tracked and kept below the maintenance amount of calories per day (a deficit). When on a restricted diet, the body has a harder time recovering from workouts. This is the hardest part about body re-composition - finding the perfect balance for your own biology where your body is in a fat burning state while you are maintaining strength and conditioning.
At this point we have two choices:
1. Maintain your current diet. Introduce advanced scientific supplementation into your current program. These supplements need to cover 2 objectives to actually be effective (to which 99% of all fat burning supplements do not achieve) these are:
a. Create insulin sensitivity so more carbohydrate consumed can be driven into muscle instead of being stored as fat and;
b. Increase metabolism so the body expends more calories
2. The second option is to do what is called Carb Cycling. Now let's explore this Carb Cycling option a little more:
HOW TO USE YOUR CHEAT MEALS TO BURN FAT AND BUILD MUSCLE!!!
Yes, it is exactly as awesome as it sounds ^^^ Believe it or not, but scientifically you can use cheat meals in a strategic way to burn fat and build muscle. And it goes a little something like this…………..
By restricting weekly calorie intake below maintenance level while continuing to train at a high level with heavyweight and at a high intensity, the body begins to use up the glycogen that is stored in your muscles. This is called glycogen depletion. You will have experienced the feeling of carbohydrate depletion many times. Basically, if your immune system is not low, you are not getting sick however you have lost energy and motivation to train, then you are most likely overtrained and this will mean that your glycogen stores are depleted, this is the feeling of your entire body being drained. And the solution to this problem is a big ol cheat meal and some rest…. how perfect ;)
You see, in this glycogen depleted state, if you are then to have a cheat meal that is:
1. High in calories
2. High in simple and complex sugars
The sugars in the meal, both simple and complex will be taken up by the carb depleted muscles, the amount depends on the amount of muscle mass the individual has and the person's biology, however, this process will occur no matter what level of training experience the person is.
This uptake of sugar from the cheat meal and into the muscles nourishes the muscles and creates an anabolic (muscle building) environment in the body. The higher the intensity of the training one carries out will determine the level of carb depletion one experiences and subsequently, the amount of carbohydrate that is re-loaded into the muscle, which will be higher than an untrained person.
Just like any skill though, practice makes perfect and each time you conduct a carb cycle your body gets better and better at it, and that will lead to better results each time you do one.
The Method: This takes place over 3 days…
Part I Choose either basmati rice or sweet potato for your starchy carbohydrate. This will be the main fuel source for your muscles during the 3 day period so you can keep the full-body sessions at a high intensity.
For your diet slightly increase your protein and healthy fats intake however for your carbohydrates with each meal conduct an 80/20 split of 80% vegetables to 20% starchy carbs (sweet potato or rice). It can be any vegetables. Broccoli and cauliflower are excellent vegetable choices to include. I call this the: 2 type carbohydrate protocol
Part II Over the next 3 days, train every muscle group in your entire body in each training session. With each movement, you carry out, keep the weight moderate-heavy around the 8 - 12 repetitions range and do not rest for a set time. Rest only long enough to carry out the next set successfully with intensity. An example training session could include:
*Each movement includes 1-2 light warm-up sets. The number before the word sets is the number of working sets to be completed*
8 - 12 Back Squats x 3 sets
8 - 12 Front Squats x 3 sets
8 - 12 Box Jumps x 3 sets
8 - 12 Deadlifts x 3 sets
8 - 12 Pullups x 3 sets
8 - 12 Chinups x 3 sets
8 - 12 Bench Press x 3 sets
8 - 12 Barbell Shoulder Press x 3 sets
8 - 12 Dumbbell Biceps Curls x 3 sets
8 - 12 Triceps Pulldowns x 3 sets
8 - 12 Dips x 3 sets
Part III This combination of the full-body workout each day, at high set volume with short rest periods combined while being fueled by a small amount of starchy carbs and heaps of vegetables creates physiological magic when it comes to depleting glycogen in the muscles. And remember, this is the end goal - to deplete as much of the glycogen in the muscles in the 3 days. Normally we are consuming more refined carbohydrates in our diet so the muscles never get a chance to fully deplete properly or re-load properly. By trying this for yourself and carrying out the 3 day full-body intensive training and following the 2 type carbohydrate protocol for the 3 days also you will achieve the goal of glycogen depletion.
The Finale On the evening of the 3rd day, you pick your favourite cheat meal and you have a cheat meal - yayyyyyyyyy. The goal here is to have a high-calorie meal that contains some protein, fats and mostly carbohydrates. It could be a burger place, it could be a pizza place it could be Thai food, you pick one that lights you up, that brings out your inner child and that brings you a little bit of excitement each week, so you stay on track and focused the rest of the week. That's the meal we want to choose for our Carb Re-Feed.
The Carb Re-Feed results in lean muscle tissue creation (glycogen fills the muscle bells), a natural testosterone boost, nourishment and fuel for the muscles and its also a great mood lifter - from neurochemical activation also. It is also excellent for fat burning helping to release stored sugars in fat when one enters the carb depletion phase. Also, by having this cheat meal planned once per week it makes it easier to focus on a good nutrition routine the other 6 days of the week and this goes a very, very long way to successful long-term fat loss results.
Anyhow, when you do have this weekly cheat meal, really enjoy this meal! Don’t feel guilty one minute because if you have completed the Carb Depletion properly, then physiologically your muscles actually NEED the sugar, and to deprive them of that sugar would leave your entire body low on energy, weaker and if it continued for some time eventually muscle loss.
And there you have it folks, this is the science explained of how to body re-comp through eating food. We will go deeper on this subject but for now, this is the ES INTEL investigators signing off. Stay tuned to ES sources for more bio-hacking adventures.
Donovan, C, & Pagliassotti, M. (1998). Quantitative assessment of pathways for lactate disposal in skeletal muscle fiber types. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Gualano, A., Bozza, T., Lopes, D., Roschel, H., Costa, D., Marquezi, L., Benatti, F., & Herbert, J. (2011). Branched-chain amino acids supplementation enhances exercise capacity and lipid oxidation during exercise after muscle glycogen depletion. Journal of Sports Medicine Physical Fitness, 51(1), 82 – 88.