Calorie intake as it relates to phenotypical expression; to cop a phrase from Robb Wolf: “Holy Cats!”  I really have nothing but the deepest of sympathies for people who do not happen to make Paleo/Primal, Physical Culture their geek-out hobby – I can only imagine what it’s like to stumble into this arena trying to find a sane voice.  Who to believe?

Bottom line, folks:  calories do matter – they’re just not the end-all, not the full story.  Taube’s axiom of “a calorie is not a calorie” is true, to be sure; it should not, however, be considered as license to unmitigated gluttony, free of consequences (especially fat gain).  Calories ought to be considered as the co-stars of a jam-packed, star-studded stage, wherein insulin could be considered the production’s glamorous diva.  Ok, that’s about enough of that analogy…

Skyler Tanner has posted a nice observation on gross calorie intake vis-à-vis its effect on body composition, with some poignant takes on how his own body reacted to a few weeks worth of decreased caloric intake as a result of his recent vagabonding expedition around central America.  Now, I don’t bring this up to throw Skyler under the H8R bus (don’t be hatin’!) – being the naturally lean guy he is, who’s free to engage in extended leisure travel – no, the reason I bring this up is that it’s a perfect example of the fact that as people drop weight, at a certain point, calories will have to be restricted to reach ultra-low body fat levels.  Now, we can prompt this calorie restriction in a number of different ways, the easiest being to severely restrict all carbs (to the point of going zero carb in some cases) and increase the fat intake.  This approach offers a nice one-two punch, in that fat tends to satiate one’s appetite quickly, and we get a lower insulin response to boot.  Now, at what point calorie restriction  is required to spur further weight drop is dependent upon a multitude of factors, not the least of which are sex, hormone/biochemical milieu, activity level…and on and on it goes.  Sometimes one might even need to increase calorie intake for a short period (to re-vamp the metabolism), then return to a decreased level.  One thing is for certain, though: drill down just a bit, and the weight loss/weight gain game becomes a highly n=1 affair.  For more on that, check out this story, from my friends at Efficient Exercise, in Austin, Texas.

Another reason I bring up the calorie issue is that I have received quite a few questions as of late specifically asking about lean mass gain.  Skyler has stated that he intends to engage in a little n=1, weight-gain experimentation of his own.  And he’s in a perfect position right now to do so, having dropped down to a single-digit body fat percentage.  And again I ask: how friggin’ fair is that?  The guy returns from an extended vacation to find his bodyfat chillin’ in the single-digits?  Ok, so how about we drop the hate-fest for the lucky guy, and set about monitoring his upcoming weight-gain technique and following his progress?  Can he pull-off some sizable lean gains without tacking-on too much in the way fat gain and/or water retention?  I’ll bet the (organic) farm that he can.  Skyler is an experienced trainer and, bottom line, he knows what in the hell he’s doing.  I think we’ll all learn a thing or two from his experiment.

And along those lines, here’s a way-cool web-based BMI, Waist/Height Ratio, BMR, %BF, Surface Area, and Willoughby Ideal Weight and Waist calculator that Skyler alerted me to.  My own numbers (6’-0”, 205lbs, 33” waist) equate to a pretty good return, especially if I focus on the “Willoughby Ideal”, and ignore the “establishment’s” BMI recommendations.

Tuesday Evening’s Workout –

reverse lunge + (btn jerk): 95 x 10 (10); 165 x 6 (6); 175 x 5 (3).  I then put 195 on the bar and hit 3 more sets of 2 in the btn jerks.  On each set, I completed the lunge reps on each leg, then, after a quick breather, moved into the btn jerk reps.

Notice I only did three sets of lunges.  This is in deference to the amount of biking and sprinting (coupled with the hip-dominant Oly-derivatives) I do during the spring, summer and fall; I don’t want to tumble into the dreaded overtraining hole, so *usually* I’ll opt to drop the 2nd “to failure” set if I’m following a classic APRE leg scheme.

Following the lunge/btn jerk combo, I played around with some single leg good mornings into a high box step-up – just some explosive, bw stuff.  My legs were pretty well dusted from the lunges and jerks, though, so I kept things quick & explosive and didn’t add any additional loading.  I did a total of maybe 20 reps each leg, at bw.  I really love this movement, though I haven’t done them in quite a while.  Check out coach Jimmy Radcliffe explaining and demonstrating the movement progression here (via Jason Glass Performance Lab):

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3UkWcurq5I&feature]

I’ve been doing a lot of high-rep, feet elevated, push-ups lately, so I decided to throw the body a curveball and hit it with something I do rarely – machine flyes.  This particular pec-deck is of the “straight arm” variety (versus the variety which places the arm/elbow at a 90-degree position).   Anyway, it offers a nice change-up every now and again.  Consistency of movement, especially within the same rep range and intensity, is just another of the many factors that can lead to overtraining, and just the kind of easy-to-fall-into rut that I avoid like the plague.

Atlantis pec-deck: 150 x 12; 210 x 7; 225 x 7+; 225 x 5+

7 COMMENTS

  1. I have an upcoming post outlining my training scheme, diet, and body comp stats. Thanks for the hat tip; it’s a great motivator to be public with this.

    • We’re looking forward to learning from you. Thanks for offering yourself up as as an observed experiment of one.

  2. Also as a result, I see one of my highest visit days ever thanks to your reference. The other time I got this was when I said Paleo was “not magic.” I suppose any press is good press. 😀

  3. I followed a trackback here from Robb Wolf paleo solution website and have been struggling with calorie questions.

    My problem is I think I hit bottom on the lean out and was wondering if calorie restriction is in order?

    I was curious about your comment “to eat more in order to go down in weight.” Sorry to bore you but I would like to lean out more but what in your opinion would I be giving up to get it, strength, stamina etc., on the calorie restricted approach? Unfortunately I can’t swing a long trip abroad to lean out.

    I’m pretty pleased with where I am and don’t want to get greedy on leaning out but I liked your take on the calorie restriction issue so I thought I would ask for your opinion. Thanks for your thoughts.

    This is the blah blah blah part . . .
    I have been unweighed unmeasured gluten-free paleo, low carb (sub 50 per day),1oz nuts a day,no dairy (excpet heavy cream in decaf coffee) keeping a food journal for 6 months. My cheats are protein style double doubles (1 x per week), chicken nachos (1x every 2 weeks). (I’m trying to be honest with what goes in my mouth per Skyler’s related blog post)
    I have dropped about 40 pounds in the past six months on the strict paleo, did the water tank body fat measurement and came out at 16% in April. The BF % scale at home would seem to indicate this is going down still and my weight is staying the same at around 220 for the past month, which is good (muscle?). Activity level is strength biased xfit 3 times a week, longer outdoor activities (biking stairs etc) at least once per week, sleep good but could be better.

    • Here’s the thing with calorie restriction: your metabolism will slow (thereby reducing the effectiveness of said cal. restriction), and your workouts will suck. Not right off, of course, but pretty damn quick. Short bursts of slight — in in some cases large — over-eating interspersed with a few days of under-eating & IF seem to help most people punch beyond sticking points. I do this quite naturally, and in a random manner — I very rarely think “gee, I haven’t hit an IF in a while”, rather, it just comes about organically. Same with the “eat like a starved hyena” days. Until you really learn to listen to your body, though, a 5-day restricted/2-day re-fuel might be appropriate. Personally, though, I’m not good with schedules like that, preferring the more organic, fractal method.

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