Macros Part III: Carbs aren’t the Devil.

CARBS

August 19th, 2015: 1300 hours

I’ve been on something of a hiatus for approximately two months. This is due to a change in my philosophy of fitness after doing some research. As a result of this research, my wife and I have undertaken an experiment, and I did not want to post until I had some tangible results of the experiment. Well I have some great results and we are still going with this philosophy after the changes we’ve seen.

If you have been watching fitness trends for any substantial length of time, you have noticed that carbohydrates have become the scapegoat for poor fitness and body composition. On some levels, this is a true notion. People living sedentary lifestyles do not need a lot of carbs for fuel — as I’ve discussed previously, the body prefers carbs as fuel for high intensity activity. People that sit at a desk all day, work out for an hour, and then go home and watch Netflix before going to bed, do not need the same number of carbs as a professional athlete, bike delivery worker, or even a plumber. Carbs are still needed around the workout, but otherwise not so much.

For the sedentary person, a high level of carbs is likely to contribute to an expanding waistline and decrease in stamina throughout the day. Two reasons exist for this. First, carbs are used quickly by the body. Actually, carbs are divided into two categories of “slow” and “fast”, but we will get into that. It brings us to the second reason: most people with sedentary lifestyles tend to use fast carbs (read: sugar) as fuel.

I’ve been there, so I understand. Which sounds more appetizing, a pizza or a sweet potato? Pizza. Duh. But I’m hopefully going to change your opinion on that by the end of this post; especially because I’m going to tell you to keep the Oreos in the cupboard and the ice cream in the freezer.

Before I continue, I suggest anyone who hasn’t read Macros Part II, go back and do so. I explained why LEOs need to treat their body like athletes. If you are living a sedentary lifestyle, you should consider looking at a Paleo diet. I’ll let you google that. This blog and especially this post, is for those of us who get up and move and work out like fiends in order to be able to perform at the highest level whenever necessary.

With that out of the way, my prior research before this experiment was based around starving oneself. Both calorie and carbohydrate recommendations for active persons was incredibly low. I checked into a program based around upping nutrients and calories in order to fuel your workouts and lifestyle. My wife and I started the program and the results have been eye-opening. Previously, we had been on a paleo-type diet with some slow carbs mixed into the equation. We did lean out some and we did see some marginal gains in performance (read: heavier weights and faster run times). But then we stumbled across some literature that suggested that we were actually screwing up our metabolism. It told us to increase calories and carbs dramatically. We took the advice roughly one week before I posted Macros Part II and this is what it looks like for me currently.

Previous:

  • Calories – approximately 2000 with cheat days in the 3000s
  • Protein – approximately 200g
  • Fats – approximately 100g
  • Carbs – approximately 100g
  • Deadlift – all-time PR of 405lbs
  • Bench – all-time PR of 230lbs x 2 reps
  • Hang Power Clean – all-time PR of 205lbs

Currently:

  • Calories – approximately 3000 on rest days and 3600-4000 on workout days (and still trying to increase!)
  • Protein – approximately 240-250g
  • Fats – approximately 110-125g depending on activity in the day
  • Carbs – approximately 300g on rest days and 370-400 on workout days
  • Deadlift – just did 340lbs x 10 reps yesterday (calculates to 450lb 1RM)
  • Bench – three days ago did 230lbs x 10 reps
  • Hang Power Clean – three days ago did 200lbs x 10 reps
  • 12lbs lighter and 2.5% body fat lost.

My wife has also seen similar success. We purchased and use FitBits every day. They are, of course, imperfect, but they do show you a lot of useful information. The most useful information is calories burned. You’d be surprised how many calories you actually burn in a day. On a rest day, I burn about 4000 calories. On a workout day, I can often eclipse 5000 if I focus on hitting 10,000 steps. I need to eat close to my TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) on workout days in order to perform as high as possible. As you can see, I have a lot of improvement to make.

FEAST

So how does a person eat 4000+ calories and get leaner? Workouts, types of food, and timing of food. I focus the majority of carbs around workouts and dinner time. I eat slow carbs throughout the day and pre-workout; fast carbs are eaten post-workout and around dinner when I’m most depleted. This means that foods like Oreos have a place in my diet. They aren’t every day, nor in massive amounts, but I can eat them without guilt or worry.

I referred throughout this post to slow and fast carbs. Slow carbs are complex-carbohydrates. They take longer for the body to break down and make great pre-workout carbs and throughout the day carbs. Examples are sweet potatoes, brown rice, and many vegetables. Google is your friend here. Fast carbs are simple-carbohydrates. They are quickly broken down and used for fuel. The problem comes when they aren’t immediately burned. Fast carbs that aren’t used right away, are converted into energy stores for later use (read: body fat). Sugar is the most widely-eaten fast carb. Foods where the majority of the carb content is sugar (i.e. cookies, bread, most condiments) would be considered fast carbs.

The main point is that food is not “good” or “bad.” It has no moral or ethical value. Food is fuel for the body. There is a place in your life for pizza and ice cream. They just need to be used properly. Work out like a fiend, become more active, and fuel properly.

For the record: Eat to Perform is the program we are following and much of the literature paraphrased here is from them. Highly recommended if you want to train and be active like an athlete. Not recommended if you plan to be sedentary. Upcoming posts will focus on exercise and training.

Something fun for all to enjoy:

Workout of the Day: Rest day.

Quote of the Day: “If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” – Bruce Lee.

Advertisements

Macros Part II: The Skinny on Fats

June 16, 2015: 0300 hours

When I say “fat”, it probably conjures multiple images in your mind. They could range from a fat person, to fast food, or “fat free” snacks and foods. For years, we have been told through media, diet books and programs, and even education in school that eating fat is what makes you fat. I’m here to tell you that isn’t true — not entirely. The truth behind fat is far more complex than “eat fat, get fat.”

The three macro-nutrients, protein, fat and carbohydrates, are your body’s way of getting energy from food. You eat a piece of pizza and the protein, fat, and carbs from that pizza are digested and sent to various parts of the body to be used. Protein and carbs both have 4 calories per gram, and fat has 9 calories per gram (McKinley Health Center). This gives us two important insights regarding the dietary intake of fat. First, we know why the “eat fat, get fat” movement started — if you eat a lot of fat, it has more calories per gram than the other macros, you get to watch your waistline expand. But here’s the second insight, with all of that energy jam-packed in each gram of fat, if you eat more fat (and can keep yourself from overdoing it at one sitting), you will feel full and satiated for longer. So should you be eating a high-fat diet? Depends. At resting or low-intensity exercise, defined as less than 50% of your VO2 Max (rule of thumb: if you can maintain conversation while doing the exercise, it’s low-intensity), your body prefers to use fat as it’s fuel. For high-intensity exercises, your body prefers to use carbohydrates (University of Montana). What does this mean as far as what you need to be doing? If your primary exercise is low-intensity, such as walking your dog, then eating a high-carb diet without adequate fat intake can lead to weight gain and can actually screw up your metabolism. If your primary exercise is high-intensity, such as wind-sprints or weight-lifting, then eating a high-fat diet without adequate carbs can lead to substandard training and can actually screw up your metabolism.

You may have noticed nearly back-to-back phrases of “screw up your metabolism.” I’ve got bad news and good news. If you eat the Standard American Diet (SAD), which is highly processed and “fat free” until you go crazy and eat a large pizza yourself, your metabolism is probably already screwed up. Actually, if you eat any diet that doesn’t have adequate carbs and fats, your metabolism is probably screwed up. The ideal metabolism is one that is able to switch from fats to carbs as necessary based on the current activity of the person — until I start sprinting, my body uses fat for fuel; while I’m sprinting, my body switches over to use carbs for the duration of the workout. The problem is that most of our bodies aren’t this efficient because we’ve confused them with our diets for most of our lives. But it’s going to be ok — we can fix it. By eating sources of fat and carbs at the right times throughout the day, we can teach our bodies to use each macro as needed.

Here’s how it looks: I workout at approximately 1600 hours every day, this means that just before and after my workouts, I concentrate my carb intake (this will be expanded on in the carbohydrate post). But it means that the rest of my day, I need to be focusing on getting my energy from good fat sources, animal meats (fish!), nuts, full-fat butter, peanut butter (all the women just breathed a sigh of relief). For those of you who took my advice on tracking your food, 100 grams of fat per day for men is recommended and 70-75g for women. These are obviously baseline numbers, you have to listen to your body. If you are starving all day long, increase your fat and protein intake.

Quick caveat before I wrap up this post — these numbers and the advice I give are based on you treating your body like an athlete. In this profession, we may have to complete physically demanding tasks at a moment’s notice without prior warning. This means that we need to be in top physical condition, because losing is unacceptable for us. Take pride in yourself and be prepared to do whatever is called of you. That means eating and training like an athlete. Workout of the Day:

  • 90 push-ups
  • 90 sit-ups
  • 2 mile run

Quote of the Day: “Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.” – General George S. Patton

Memorial Day Reflection

May 25th, 2015: 0030 hours

American Flag

May 23rd, 2015: 0935 hours

I just want to stop. The second mile of this hell is the hardest single mile I’ve ever run. My lungs struggling, my legs are burning, and my brain is screaming at me to quit. But I can’t. I absolutely cannot quit. Because he didn’t. Because they didn’t. Because I won’t quit when it’s my time.

Saturday May 23rd, 2015 — 0900 hours:

My wife, a fellow police officer, and I are in my garage. I’ve started the music and my wife prepares the clock. We are about to begin “Murph.” It is the quintessential Memorial Day workout: one mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 body squats, one mile run. It is a mammoth of a workout. As prescribed it is done with a 20lb weighted vest. I’ve never met anyone in person who has done it prescribed. I’ve met few who can actually do all the movements without scaling to some degree. It’s fucking hard. But it’s important.

“Murph” was Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy of the United States Navy. Murphy was only the third serviceman to receive the Medal of Honor since President Bush sent troops to Afghanistan in 2001. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on June 28th, 2005. On that fateful day, Murphy led a four-man SEAL team into the Hindu-Kush Mountains in Afghanistan, tasked with capturing or killing a high-value Taliban target. Three of the four team members, including Murphy, were killed after being ambushed by overwhelming Taliban forces. The team killed an estimated 30-40 enemy fighters and inflicted an estimated 80 casualties. Murphy, despite severely critical and eventually fatal injuries, fought to high ground to call for help from the only spot his radio could get out (Navy Seals). He fought until his last breath and died with his selector switch on fire and surrounded by a pile of brass. He was a warrior. He was the warrior. He was what all of us warriors should strive to be.

I started as a police officer in August of 2012. I was trained how to fight. I was shown how to train. I experienced the camaraderie and true brotherhood (I’m not forgetting my sisters) of the Thin Blue Line. But every time I read a story about an officer dying or being killed, my heart breaks. Unlike the general population, I know that each and every one of us who wears a badge has a heart, a mind, and a family. My heart bleeds blue for the survivors. The hurt I felt while struggling through “Murph” doesn’t even touch the pain I feel at a police officer’s funeral. Because of that I promise something to every warrior out there:

I will not quit. When God decides it’s my time, fine, but I’m not making it easy on him. Everyone who stands on the line with me will get the best warrior I can be. And I will fight until my last breath. For my family, for you, for your family, and for everyone on the Officer Down Memorial Page, I will fight. I will train to be the baddest I can be. I will not let my training or physical fitness be a liability. My spirit will not wane. I love every one of my brothers and sisters, and I will fight beside them until the end. The Good Lord will drag me kicking and screaming from this world.

Take a moment this holiday and every Memorial Day that follows and consider what some have given. What we may be asked to give. I will gladly give all for all of you.

Quote of the Day:

“All gave some; some gave all.” – Howard William Osterkamp

Macros Part I: Brotein – The Building Blocks of Your Performance and Gains

May 24th, 2015: 2200 hours

I told you that a post on macro-nutrients was coming. But the more I researched, the more I realized that a single post on protein, carbohydrates, fats, and fiber would be monstrous and damn near impossible to read. Therefore, I am introducing a series of posts on macros. Part I is on, what I consider to be, the most important macro-nutrient — protein.

If you told me that you would only track your intake of one macro and asked me which one to use, I would, without hesitation, tell you to track your protein. Two main reasons exist for my conviction on this point: no other nutrient plays a bigger part in muscle-building (i.e. your performance) and there’s a pretty good chance that if you are trying to get more muscle, you aren’t eating enough protein.

It’s common knowledge that protein is the main player in tissue repair. For example, Mongo lifts heavy-ass weight. This workout causes Mongo’s muscles to tear. The body uses protein to repair the muscle tears. Mongo’s body is smart though. It realizes that it needs to improve to meet the increasing demands put on it by Mongo’s workload (i.e. weightlifting). The body will build Mongo’s damaged muscles bigger and better than they were before in order to meet a potential increase in workload. But Mongo needs to make sure he eats the right foods in the right amounts to help his body.

Your body is really fucking good at repairing and building itself. There are eleven Amino Acids (building blocks for protein) that your body makes naturally. If all you did was eat some food and lift weight, you would get stronger. That’s pretty good. But there are nine other Amino Acids that your body can’t make — you have to get them through your diet (Nerd Fitness).

Dietary protein, like all good things in life, varies wildly in quality. Ice Cream actually has a lot of protein, but you wouldn’t want to make a diet out of it. Well, you might want to, but you know can’t and maintain performance and/or any appearance standards. So what’s the short list of quality protein sources? Everything PETA screams about — chicken meat and eggs, beef, and pork are the three main staples used here in the Midwest. If you are in an area with fresh fish available, eat the hell out of it if you like it. If you don’t like it, grow up and learn to like it. Fish is ounce-per-ounce (only The Rock eats meat in pounds at a time) the best source of protein when you consider calories and fats. Fish has fats you need (don’t worry, Fat is the next part in this series). Eat animals. They are tasty and nutritious. If you are a vegetarian, honestly, find another blog. I don’t hold anything against you, but I don’t, currently, have the knowledge to help you. Some day I will.

So how much protein do you need a day? This is an ongoing debate among the health and fitness community. The Center for Disease Control says an adult female needs 46 grams a day and an adult male needs 56 grams per day (CDC). The CDC is definitely a credible source, but we have one problem: the CDC cares about survival, not performance. The 56 gram estimate is an absolute minimum for your body to function correctly. I’m looking for better than that. I’m looking for the amount of protein that will add muscle to your frame and increase your performance. For better or worse, we turn to a lot of Broscience on this point.

There are massively ranging estimates, as you can imagine, when you turn to bros for official numbers on anything, let alone science. The general trend in Broscience seems to be between one gram of protein per pound of lean body weight and one gram per pound of body weight. My body weight is in the neighborhood of 300 lbs. My lean body weight is in the neighborhood of 210 lbs. Depending on who you ask in the bro community, I should be eating either 210 grams of protein or 300 grams of protein daily.

There are more reputable sources who advocate along these two lines of thought. Eat to Perform is a website and company based around eating to fuel performance and workouts (hence, the name). They advocate eating one gram per pound (ETP), but they also state that larger individuals may want to consider lean mass instead. Two other reputable sources are Nerd Fitness and Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple, both are research based and very knowledgeable. Both of these two advise eating one gram per pound of lean body mass (Nerd Fitness, MDA). Which one is correct? I don’t know that one is better than the other. Depends on your goals. As law enforcement officers, we need to treat our bodies like athletes and both of these options are suitable. I personally follow the one gram per pound of lean body mass guideline. For now.

Since I’ve increased my protein intake, I recover from workouts faster, and I am noticeably stronger (though the my weight program obviously affects this). The main takeaway here is to track your protein and see what your daily intake is. If you have never used MyFitnessPal or any other tracker, don’t let it overwhelm you. Start slow. Just focus on protein for now, and we can work the other macros after we get protein under control.

Eat animals. Lift weights. Happy hunting.

Workout for May 23rd:

Murph–

  • Run one mile
  • 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 body squats (broken up as needed)
  • Run one mile

A reflection post on Murph and Memorial Day is coming right after this one.

Quote of the Day:

“I do what I do because it is the right thing to do. I am a warrior and, and it is the way of the warrior to fight superior odds” – Paul Watson.

Nutrition – The Elephant in the Room

May 6th, 2015: 0200 hours

Warning: This is a longer post and has a fair amount of nerdy, science shit. If you are into the science, please continue. If not, there is a tl;dr section at the bottom (too long; didn’t read). Also, after I undertook tackling nutrition, I realized that this is too broad and deep a subject for one post. More posts on individual subjects within nutrition are coming. This is very introductory.

Nutrition is simultaneously the single-most important and the single-least understood facet of physical fitness. It’s impossible to outrun, outfight, or outwork your plate. My research is scientifically based so let’s check some numbers, shall we?

There are 3,500 calories in a pound. Therefore, if you want to lose/gain a pound in a week, you must burn/earn 3,500 calories than you ingest. If you eat 500 calories less/more per day than you burn, you burn/earn a pound a week (7 days x -500 cal/day = -3,500 calories). That’s the simple version. No matter how you eat, if you burn 3,500 calories more/less than you ingest over whatever period of time, you lose/gain a pound. How do we burn fat and not muscle? I’ll get into that in a future article. For now, this is introductory based on getting smaller or bigger, depending on your goals.

Let’s start with the first step of this equation — how do I burn/earn 500 extra calories a day? Simply put, the two venues are diet or exercise.

First, we must figure out how many calories you burn in a day just being you. There are two lines of thought here. The first is that by calculating your Base Metabolic Rate (BMR), which is the number of calories you burn by simply existing in your current state on this Earth — in your day-to-day activities, this is how many calories you burn. Here is a link to a calculator, but, honestly, just Google it and you can find a calculator with ease. I pimped the calculator for MyFItnesPal because that is the site I use for food logging. We’ll cover that in a second, too (seriously, this is a really long read — tl;dr section at the bottom).

(Note: I’m tired of using slashes for losing/gaining weight. This article will be written from the perspective of trying to lose weight. If you are trying to gain, a lot of the same principles apply — just reversed.)

Once you have your daily BMR, you have a starting point. Subtract 500 calories from that number, and you have a daily goal for a weight loss. You can achieve that through diet or exercise. Using a site like MyFitnessPalyou can see how much you eat every day and what your calorie count is. Quick prediction: most of you eat more calories than you think. Track every single bit of every single thing you eat every day for a few days. If you don’t want to track long term, fine, but people generally have more success when they track. Do it for a few days just to get a general picture.

Once you have determined how much you eat every day, subtract 500 calories. Eat at that level for a few weeks until you can eat less and less until you reach 500 calories under your BMR. At that point, you will see weight loss in the realm of one pound per week. Some people can go from 4,000 calories per day to 1,800 overnight through sheer willpower. God bless those people. That shit sucks. That shit is super difficult. If you don’t have the willpower of a badger, stick to the longer-term approach I listed above.

The second train of thought regarding your starting point revolves around Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). The actual term TDEE belongs to Eat to Perform. Their calculator is here. Eat to Perform has a great explanation of TDEE on their site, but for those of you who hate science/reading, here is the summary: Your body burns more than your BMR on a day-to-day basis. Carrying laundry down the stairs, picking children off the floor, and mowing the lawn all impact your daily calorie burn outside of BMR. This is especially true for athletes and/or people who work out frequently and/or super intensely. TDEE is a number that may more accurately reflect your daily calorie burn.

The same process for losing weight from TDEE applies as BMR — eat less than TDEE and you lose weight. The theory is different and if you actually want to understand the science, Google is your friend.

A picture of LEOs winning for a mental break:

Want to be fit yet?

Method 2: Exercise.

It’s important to note that exercising for more calories only really works for losing weight. You can’t exercise more calories into gaining weight — kind of. The type of exercise matters. Yet again, we’ll get to that later (a post on exercise is coming).

In order to burn an extra 500 calories a day, you could exercise enough to burn those calories. But burning a high number of calories through exercise is tougher than you think. Possible? Certainly. Suck ass? No doubt. From the Mayo Clinicwhat I consider a reputable source, you can see a table showing 1-hour blocks of various exercises and the calories burned. The table also shows weight classes for the individual performing the exercise. Click the damn link, it’s good information.

As you can see from the table, it’s not an easy task to burn 500 calories every day through exercise alone. Think you can manage that activity level? Be my guest. Just understand it’s, generally, easier to do it through food.

Another mental break:

If you don’t want to be fit yet, turn in your badge.

So what should you eat?

Basic principles of your diet:

  1. Vegetables.
  2. Vegetables.
  3. Vegetables.
  4. Umm… Vegatables.
  5. Meat.
  6. Fruits.
  7. Some dairy.
  8. Small amount of whole grains.
  9. Fuck processed (i.e. pop, candy, chips, etc. The crap you already know you shouldn’t eat.)

I’m a firm believer in the 80/20 priniciple: eat quality 80% and eat your snickers and pizza 20% of the time. Hate to break it to you, Coppers, but you probably need to cut down on your alcohol intake. You probably already know that. Weight lifting is a better therapist than Jack Daniels or Bud Light (or his filthy cousin, Busch Light). Eat mostly vegetables and meat with some fruit and a little of everything else. A stand-alone post on macro nutrients is coming down the pipe (talk about a rabbit hole you can’t get out of), so be patient on advice regarding your protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake.

Summary — TL;DR:

  1. Find your BMR or TDEE and start subtracting/adding calories as your goals desire.
  2. Diet makes up the majority of your fitness success/failure.
  3. Eat real food — more vegetables and meat. Less pop and straight shit.

Final feel good for the post:

Glorious.

Workout for 5/6/2015:

  1. Front Squat 5×5
  2. Bench Press 5×5
  3. Bent-Over Row 5×5

Quote of the Day:

“My heroes are those who risk their lives every day to protect our world and make it a better place – police, firefighters, and members of our armed forces” — Sidney Sheldon.

Prayers to the families of the officers who were killed in the line of duty this past week. We all bleed blue for you.