The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.

~ Oscar Wilde

The following exercise presents itself as a fantastic TTP opportunity.  One of the things that I hear frequently from folks is that whatever “success” I may have garnered from following my particular diet and exercise regimen has more to do with my specific, favorable genetic makeup, coupled with a freakish determination/willpower and a competitive athletic background (and the accompanying mindset) than to the actual diet/exercise philosophies I operate within.  And I concede the fact that there is some validity to that thought — nothing occurs in a vacuum, and I’ve never had to “to come back from the dark side” of diet and fitness, so to speak — however, it is my contention, and firm belief, that anyone can show a significant improvement to body composition with an accompanying overall improvement in health by following my diet and exercise philosophy.  And let me say at the onset that I have discovered nothing new here, nor do I claim any inside or secret knowledge.  Nothing of the sort.  Although the scientific basis behind why a “Paleo-like” diet works has only within the last 50 years or so begun to be brought to light, the end results of following this diet scheme have been know for generations.  The same can be said of the constituent parts of my particular exercise philosophy.  I’ve uncovered no exercise-related “Dead Sea Scrolls” here; there’s really nothing new under the sun.  But the application of these ideas within a hurried, modern lifestyle is — if I have any unique contribution to make — where my success can truly be found.

With that said, allow me to introduce you to my friend, AT22.  Take a tour of her blog entries and get a feel for who she is, what her goals are and what she’s up against.  What I hope to do is open an ongoing dialog with AT22 — a dialog that we can track via her blog, Journey to Health. From this dialog, maybe we can learn if my diet/exercise philosophies really are as easily transferable to the “everyday layperson” as I contend.  Without further ado, here’s AT22’s latest blog post.  I’ll post my comments/critiques in red (though I’m not sure if this will be a “post friendly” format or not — I guess we’ll have to see). Our subsequent discussions can be followed at her blog, Journey to Health:

Day in the Life

This one is long, but Keith of Theory to Practice – an uberfit and healthy Paleo-diet follower – has kindly agreed to look over my program. The last few weeks have been intense due to the Warp Speed Fat Loss program, thus I’ll give a typical day over the last week and then give the normal routine that I might usually do when not trying to follow the WSFL. (WSFL is over after this week, so I’ll return to the lighter workout schedule)

Up between 5 and 5:30 AM – Make a shake to drink on way to work (7-7:30 AM) (handful spinach, protein powder – one scoop low carb – 18 g protein 100 cals, 3/4 c frozen berries, water, cinnamon, maybe a tsp peanut butter).

Is working out first thing in the morning an option?  This would optimize fat-burning, since you’d be exercising in a fasted state. I’ll address meal frequency in the wrap-up.  In any event, I’d skip this “meal” in lieu of forcing a prolonged, fasted state.  I’ll address the resultant “slowed metabolism” issue in the wrap-up as well.

Real Breakfast around 9 AM – 2/3 c egg whites, 1 whole egg (or 1 oz meat) handful spinach or tomatoes.

I’m sensing a bit of a fat phobia, maybe a cholesterol phobia as well.  Eat the entire egg.  All of the egg’s nutritional value (save for a slight bit of additional protein) is contained in the yoke. Fat will not contribute to the body’s fat stores (due to, among other things, a blunted insulin response), and cholesterol is not a problem in the bloodstream unless coupled with a chronically high blood sugar/insulin level.

Snack on 1.5 oz nuts throughout morning to keep any hunger away. Also have decaf coffee in AM.

No peanuts, right (because they’re actually legumes)?  And move toward unsalted varieties as much as possible.  Any particular reason for decaf, i.e., any caffeine sensitivity?  Otherwise, plug into the added fat burning promoted by the full-octane stuff.

Lunch around 12 or 1 PM depending on hunger – usually 1 – 1.5 cups of a veggie (generally broccoli or zucchini) and 2.5 oz chicken. I might add 1/2 avocado or 1 c berries.

I like the chicken — just don’t avoid the fat.  I’d choose the avocado over the other carb choices, here.  Not that the others are bad necessarily (they’re absolutely not), but 80% of winning this “game” is consistently and continually choosing the “best” over the “better” and the “better” over the “so-so”.

Green tea at least once I day. I do add some Splenda.

Green tea is good, though, if I had to nit-pick, I’d say drop the Splenda.  Your body can’t tell the difference between a sugar substitute and the real thing.  The same negative hormone cascade response will follow the ingestion of Spenda as would occur (and the resultant insulin spike) if you had ingested sugar.

Snack around 3:30 PM – 1/3 c cottage cheese with 1/4 c veggies OR 1 c greek style plain yogurt with 3/4 c berries OR 2 string cheese plus veggies OR 2 boiled eggs with veggies (you get the idea) – this may include dairy but may not.

Again, to nit-pick, I’d drop the dairy.  And we have the meal frequency thing to contend with again.

Home around 5:30 PM for workout – have been using 5 g creatine with workouts for last two weeks or so (also with 1/2 scoop protein powder – this is from the WSFL routine).

Creatine works, no doubt.  Is it what you need to achieve your particular goals?  That’s another question entirely.  And an intesting side note about the protein powder — one of the reasons it’s included here is as a shuttling agent (via a heightened insulin response).  It also provides some BCAA’s to promote recovery.  Now, neither of these responses, in and of themselves are “bad” per se, but again you have to define your goals.  Are you wiling to blunt the fat burning promoted by working out in a fasted state, for the immediate benefits of the creatine/protein ingestion prior to an exercise bout? Your body will naturally achieve the same recovery (minus the creatine/protein), though it will take a good 24 hours to do so. This is yet another reason behind my promotion of infrequent (though intense) workouts.

Post workout meal around 7 PM – 1-2 c veggies and 2-3 oz meat (chicken/pork/steak options). If I’m extra hungry I’ll add some yam or squash of some kind.

More fat, less carbs.  Give yourself at least an hour, post workout, prior to ingesting anything.  This will maximize the resultant GH response prompted by the workout itself.

Might have a piece of dark chocolate. I take 2 fish oil caps per day/Vitamin D/Magnesium. I try to drink at least 32 oz of water a day – I’m working on increasing it.

I’d bump the fish oil intake up to 10 grams per day, at least, split over two, after-meal, doses.  This is what I do.  Use Carlson’s lemon flavored cod liver oil, 2 tablespoons per day.  Drink when prompted by thirst, otherwise, don’t worry about it.  Your genotype has had millions of years to develope a quite accurate thirst que.

I’ve listed my workouts here on occasion – the WSFL consists of resistance M-W-F – 3-4 sets of a strength exercise (DL, Squat, or Chest), two back-to-back 10 minute circuits of two exercises (ex: thrusters and chin ups, 6 reps, as many rounds in 10 minutes), 15 minutes of HIIT intervals – it takes about 50 minutes. T-Th-Sa is Cardio – 40-50 minute sessions that start out with about 20 minutes of HIIT and then follow a short low intensity break with 20 minutes of steady state cardio (with a warm up and cool down).

Some of the M-W-F stuff I actually like.  I think I’d drop the final 15-minute HIIT interval, though and do a sprint interval session or your “HIIT session” on (in lieu of) the “cardio” days.  Become a sprinter, not a distance athlete.  Take a look at the Olympic female 100 meter contestants.  Now take a look at the 800 meter contestants.  The 800 is considered the “sprint” of the distance events, and yet, look at the difference in body types.  Now, take a guess as to which group exhibits both a higher fast-twitch muscle fiber make-up and a lower body fat percentage.  Just a visual to keep you on the right track.

Before WSFL I was doing the very short AM workouts 4 days a week – either 20-30 minutes of HIIT or 20-30 minutes of circuit exercises, generally a pull/push two exercise circuit with another set of either pull/push or a strength move – or doing this after work taking more like 45 minutes. Pretty high intensity for the 20 or so minutes I had in the AM – partly high intensity and part lower intensity for longer sessions. I also would do at least one longer session on the weekend with more walking/cardio and resistance combined.

And the results are really slim. I actually felt leaner the last few days (until today) – I’m not sure if it was the exercise, less food (the travel to my parents’ and Thanksgiving I did some IF) or the relaxation. Possibly some combination. I was following the WSFL diet – fairly low carb and low-cal – but it didn’t feel right and relied heavily on protein powder and dairy, which I normally don’t go overboard on.

I’m having the most trouble losing the belly fat, but my problem areas are the typical female areas – thighs, hips, and also my arms don’t seem to trim down easily.

TTP: Let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing what you have to say!

My thoughts on AT22’s exercise regimen are basically this: too much “exercise” at too low of an intensity, thereby priming the body to be a slow-twitch dominant (i.e., fuel efficient) machine. I’d say this exercise modality preference stems from a belief in the “energy balance” philosophy of weight control.  The fact is, though, that this philosophy simply does not work in the long term. Does it work in the short term?  You bet it does — but it cannot be successfully sustained. And this is where the slowed metabolism, fatigue and symptoms of overtraining come into play.  AT22 is in that purgatory of what I call being two steps in front of the masses, but one step behind the enlightened.  I get the feeling that she knows, intuitively, that there’s something missing from the fat-phobic, energy balance philosophy of diet and fitness.  She’s seen it attempted — and she’s attempted it herself — and she believes that the “energy balance philosophy” can work if only she were more diligent in perfecting it.  Maybe she believes that it can work if only for a few tweaks here and there. It is my firm contention, however, that a favorable body composition is the result of a favorable gene expression (regardless of inherited genetics) and sustained, favorable hormone cascade/profile — both of which can be manipulated via a proper (Paleo-like) diet and infrequent, high-intensity exercise.  I’ve seen it work, I know it works, and I practice it myself.

When AT22 chooses a workout (or, ideally, designs one of her own), her overriding concern should be how to best target her fast-twitch muscle fibers.  Go back and look at some of my workouts — the exercise selection, the rep range, the overall workout duration, and, most notably, the absence of any sustained cardio work in any of my workout plans.  Even the infrequent “sustained cardio” sessions are actually long bouts of intermittent sprints.  So my initial workout suggestion for AT22 would be to look at my basic deadlift/dips/pull-ups routine, use that as a template (scale/adjust as necessary), and perform it 3 to 4 times a week.  Sprinkle in some bouts of sprinting, both to mix things up and to help overcome the psychological addiction to the “more is better” doctrine, i.e., when that “gotta do something”, wiggy feeling sets in.  In short, prime the body to be fast-twitch dominant.  Train like a sprinter, not a distance athlete. The tough thing here is trying to covey what I consider to be true intensity without being there for her workout session.  We’ll just have to do the best we can, here.

Diet-wise, my overrall, initial suggestions would be:

(1) drop the frequent eating, and eat only when hungry.  Check out this post, as a guide to where you want to eventually get.  Of course, you’ll scale the amount, but not the content.

(2) goes hand-in-hand with #1 — you’ve got to add more fat to your diet, and probably more protein.  Reduce the carb contribution to your overall calorie intake.

(3) be done with the notion that dietary fat begets bodily fat.

Now this is just an initial scratching of the surface.  There’s plenty more to cover and, hopefully, much will be revealed through our back-and-forth dialog.  Check back with Journey to Health, often and we’ll see how it goes.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I agree that it is more following the philosophy than any particular arguments that you are more motivated or disciplined per se. I have been doing the primal/paleo thing with some IF (which really just boils down to some days I don’t eat until late morning or lunchtime). I shopped the farmers’ market all summer and bought all my meats and vegetables there as possible (no one there grows avocados since this is Ohio). I drastically cut back on processed foods and don’t eat any non-fat foods unless they occur naturally that way. I also cook with butter, lard, and coconut oil. I do functional workouts typically twice a week, sometimes 3 times. Occasionally I go for a run like I did at the relative’s house during last week. It was a nice change since the weather was sunny. This from someone who ran a marathon and did triathlons. My niece wants to know if I’m going to the gym a lot. No not really. In fact it is pretty hit or miss.

    The first thing my mother-in-law said at Thanksgiving was “you’re getting skinny.” I knew my midsection was flattening out, but of course I thought a lot of that is from not eating foods that were bloating me up. Once you start to really commit to the eating part, the results start to show. What I mostly did was focus on how I felt after I ate, not on dieting or Omigod you need to lose weight. I paid attention to which foods made me feel absolutely like crap and then tried to stay away from them. One horrible bloating session can go a long way toward changing your mind about a food. I also took note of which days I felt energetic all day long without any need for a nap. It was typically high protein and fat days where I didn’t eat right away.

    So I may have changed some things gradually at first. Focused on shopping for whole foods. Then on cutting out grains. Then tweaking it even more.

    Man I had the red meat craving when I got back from Thanksgiving! So the philosophy works, and I think it’s important to be flexible with it. It offers a lot of freedom. You can get right back on track if you have a bunch of junk, and you can work out when it suits you and how much.

    TrailGrrl

  2. I meant to mention in the above comment that I am also female, and it was very hard to let go of the “more cardio” and “eat less fat” mantras. I completely cut out protein shakes and artificial sweeteners in addition to eating a helluva a lot of steak and fat. I didn’t do it all right away. The Diet Pepsis were a big crutch at first. The shakes tended to make me feel bloated up, maybe from the milk products.

    I also noticed a few things that you pointed out as well Keith. Eat two eggs with some meat (bacon, steak, sausage) and ditch the egg whites. Cook these in butter or bacon grease to get some fat going. I sometimes eat steak for breakfast. Or leftover ribs or other meat. Unsalted nuts like walnuts will carry you for a while too.

    I think your cardio days are too much. If you do your workouts in the “crossfit” or functional style combining strength with sprinting, you will not feel like working out the next day (in fact you may feel a little queasy and unsteady). When I started letting myself take more time between these types of workouts, I saw great improvements in my performance and energy. More is definitely not better, which I know is counterintuitive. Some weeks I only hit one day, and that’s just the way it is.

    Fat is where it’s at. When I did more of a bodybuilding paleo, I was hungry and bitchy all the time, and then was running for sweets or a loaf of bread. Binge city. Avocados and unsalted nuts are my favorites. Butter and cream as well. I like drinking heaving whipping cream right out of the carton.

    Try eating 3 times a day or fewer. You don’t need to go on a vision quest, just eat later than normal for breakfast. Then a larger lunch and dinner. Eat until you are satisfied. If you are eating something and it isn’t doing the trick, get rid of it and get something else. Don’t settle for crap, unless you are starting to get that weird “my sugar is low and I’m going psycho” feeling, in which case it is better for you to eat something small and junky and then shore it up with high-quality protein and fat at your next opportunity.

    I haven’t given up everything by any means. I don’t eat much fruit because I don’t feel good afterwards. And of course I still do beer and tortilla chips and pizza. Beer more than the other two. If you are paleo/primal most of the time you should have room for things like that. I’ve always been a dark chocolate fan so that is another good vice.

    It took a bit to get into the mindset. Mostly I was absolutely terrified of going without breakfast because I thought my sugar levels would be totally unstable. This turned out not to be the case. But definitely eat if you are hungry in the morning.

    Two things were key for me: Egg whites suck and I’ve never liked them, so go right for the yolk. Ditto for brown rice. Once I gave into those thoughts, it all came together.

    TrailGrrl

  3. Yup, it sounds like you’ve pretty much got it nailed, TrailGrrl. Small steps, continuous improvement, consistently choosing the “better” choice in a given situation vice worrying about what would’ve been the “perfect” choice. This is, after all, a lifestyle and as such, it had better be flexible.

  4. Awesome stuff TrailGrrl. I love the line about the occasional Beer, TOrtialla’s and Pizza. A good Italian pizza made with wholesome ingredients at a good restaurant is the one non paleo thing I really like to treat myself to once every couple of weeks. Beer is something I enjoy in moderation……

    And well done to Keith and yourself for putting this extremely informative and interesting post together, it was a joy to read and I got a load out of it…..My diet is very similar to what Keith recommends and lives by except I eat a tad more fruit (3-5 pieces a day) but it all depends on the season and what’s available at the moment I am eating a lot of berries and oranges/satsumas taking advantage of the vitamin C.

    Take care guys,

    Chris – Zen to Fitness

  5. Beer, wine and whiskey are my non-Paleo treats. Usually a bite of anything else (sweets, bread) will satisfy my curiosity.

  6. Keith,
    How very cool of you to take the time to do this for AT22.

    I could not agree more with your suggestions.
    They are basic to follow….and can be maintained.
    But I would like to emphasize FAT some more! It’s crucial in my opinion for the paleo life style to “work”.
    Yet, there is is still a huge hesitance out there in regards to consuming it.
    For example; my girlfriend can’t believe her eyes when I heap my homemade mayo on a something.
    She’ll get there eventually 😉
    Thanks Keith, awesome post.

    Marc

  7. Marc,
    I agree, an increased fat intake is a key component to the diet/health/fitness continuum. It’s a tough psychological hurdle to overcome, though. On a positive note, it does seem that AT22 is ahead of the curve in that she doesn’t (or won’t) have to contend with carbohydrate withdraw.

    Jeff,
    This will be both fun and interesting. “Training” someone without physical contact is a tough thing to do, requiring a good bit of discipline on the part of the trainee. There are so many cues passed back and forth that go missing via written contact alone. I think AT22 has what it takes, though.

  8. Just one more thing (really!). I was sort of half-assing the primal thing but the realized I felt just plain felt better when I cut back on certain foods. Sometimes it took a bit of trial and error to figure out which foodstuff was the problem.

    For me, I wasn’t doing tons of dairy, so I suspect that wheat was more of a problem.

    And then when I saw the TTP site, I really got into it since Keith has the abs and muscle to back up his claim. And great recipes to boot!

    TrailGrrl

  9. Yeah, I think some people do have the ability to tolerate (notice I used the word tolerate, not thrive on)certain substances, i.e., lactose tolerance vs. lactose intolerance. I’ve come to find out that I’m highly intolerant to wheat; dairy & some selected grains (brown rice) I can handle ok. I’m much better off not having either, though.

    BTW, comment as much as you like, TrailGrrl. We’ll all learn a little something along the way.

  10. Very good post. I look forward to following along. I, despite being an endurance sports guy, do follow a Paleo diet, very low carbs. People often ask how I run and ride that much with little carbs, but you get adapted to burning fat and that is the best place to be.

    Your blog is excellent, I look forward to reading more!

  11. Thanks for the good words, Brett. I have found that since adapting a Paleo-like diet, I don’t suffer the bonking spells that were common for me during extended sessions of mountain or road biking. I never train specifically for these outings, but I do partake in them about once per month. Once the body adapts to efficiently burning fat, the bonk phenomenon is quelled.

  12. This is great. I’ll be posting my thoughts soon – hopefully tonight – and some expected changes. I will note that I’m not fat phobic – although I realize that my menu as outlined does seem like it. I use egg whites as a portion measure, not a fat issue. I generally cook with lard, butter, coconut oil, and bacon grease. Oh, and I still use olive oil – I like it. I eat chicken breast because I don’t like the dark meat – I don’t like steak fat either. Just a taste thing. And I eat more red meat than my day in the life really shows (had ribeye tonight, in fact). But I do like my veggies 🙂 Anyway, more to come over on Journey to Health, and here hopefully.
    THANK YOU!

  13. Keith – you mention legumes. I’ve never quite gotten why the paleo crowd frowns on these. I’ve read about lectins and such – is that the main reason? I’d love to hear your take on why you avoid them.

  14. It’s mostly an insulin response issue, Mark. Personally, I put legumes in the same “bucket” as say sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips and such. I put cheese and other dairy in the same “bucket”. I eat them infrequently, and when I do eat them, it’s in very limited amounts. In AT22’s case, I’d have her avoid them completely until she gets to her desired BF level. Then, she could experiment with the “gray area” foods and see how she responds to them. Some people are more sensitive than others. Paleo “purists” though, will avoid legumes because they, along with grains, are a cultivated foodstuff.

  15. Hey Keith,

    I’ve been strictly paleo now for about 3 months, lifting heavy, intensely, and sporadically (modeling my workouts after yours) as well as experimenting somewhat with intermittent fasting (my body just wakes up some days and doesn’t want food at all, I guess that’s the result of a high fat diet). I get enough fat and protein from coconut oil/steak/chicken/olive oil/nuts etc. but I still can’t seem to put on a single pound of muscle. I’m 6’1 and have been stuck at 155 some odd pounds for months. I get 8-9 hours of sleep a night, plenty of rest between workouts, is there something else I need to be doing to signal to my body to start building some muscle? I rode some trails on my bike a couple days ago for about an hour and a half and for the past three days my scale has been reading 150 even. What gives? Why do I lose weight so readily and how can I finally stimulate a little muscle growth?

    • It may be in your genetic hand to trend towards being lean. You can influence your end phenotype only just so much. Like I’ve said previously, genetics certainly isn’t a set of railroad tracks, but they are, to be sure, a set of guardrails. I would imagine that you’re a slow-twitch dominant person, and so you’ll have to take this into consideration when devising a lifting plan. I’m more fast-twitch dominant, and my workouts are geared toward exploiting that make-up. I’ve got a post in the works that might answer your question a little more directly; keep an eye out for it. I’ve found, though, that with slow-twitch dominant types, hierarchical-type sets are about the best option more adding muscle mass. Not that this should be thought of as the end-all, be-all, but as something that should form the foundation of your lifting program. To put this in perspective, speed-strength and strength-speed (2 sides of the power coin) form my lifting foundation, and I use hierarchical sets now and again within that overall structure. Different muscle fiber make-up (genetically driven, for the most part), different training focus.

      I would say the weight loss you speak of here was water weight.

  16. Thanks a lot for the reply Keith. By hierarchical sets do you mean going back to the typical body builders routine of Mon, Wed, Fri; Chest/triceps, back/biceps, leg/shoulders type routines with heavy weight, compound exercises and slow controlled type movements?

    This was once my training routine but I’ve kind of adapted it to more speed-strength things because, well, it’s just so fun to flip a huge tire outside in a field.

    • I hear ya, Justin — power dominant workouts are where the fun is 🙂

      Actually, I was referring to a DeVany-style hierarchical set. Another take on the same idea is “dog crap” training. Stupid name, great training idea — it also makes sense biologically-speaking (hierarchical fiber-type exhaustion) . I use either method interchangeably when I’m in “hypertrophy” mode. Yet another variation of the same idea is what I like to call “25 for a bigger engine”. Check out this post for a little more info.

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