My nutritional plan (aka a modified cyclical ketogenic diet)
Posted September 11, 2008on:
I often get a lot of questions about my diet/supplementation plan, possibly because I’ve spent about a decade in the supplement and fitness industry – or possibly because last year in three months I lost about 15 kilos of fat (maybe I’ll go into exactly how I let myself get that far outta shape in a future post!) so thought I’d post a bit of info on my diet here.
I’ve tried many many diet regimes over the years; Body for Life, Atkins, BodyOpus, low-fat, low-carb, I even went through a stage where I was eating at most one solid meal a day and living on meal replacement shakes (heck they were free and I was really busy what can I say!) I’ve tried most of these not out of necessity (to be honest for almost my entire adult life I’ve kept in pretty good shape – I did say almost!) but more often than not I’d give a diet and exercise plan a whirl so I could give an educated opinion on it’s merits if asked. My business meant I’d attend a lot of sporting trade shows and fitness events and get asked a lot of questions, and I don’t ever comment on something unless I feel I have adequate knowledge on the subject. So, with the exception of the really moronic fad diets (the all cabbage diet, all juice diets and the like) I’ve probably tried ’em all at some stage.
Most of the popular diets on the market work within certain limitations and certainly most work if only in-the-short-term; Body for Life for example is an excellent programme which definitely works (heck it if didn’t I wouldn’t have advocated it for so long). The Atkins diet has it’s merits, and BodyOpus definitely works – but both are hard to sustain long term. Body for Life is an excellent programme which will take you from “normal” looking (read that as overweight) to athletic. But I found BFL could only take you so far. If you’re looking to get down to a single digit bodyfat percentage then certainly the ante needs to be bumped up somewhat.
For me personally the best approach has been to amalgamate certain facets of all three of those programmes into what is effectively a cyclical ketogenic diet which quite simply kicks ass. Body for Life works as it advocates small frequent protein rich feedings each day, for six days per week and one “free-day” where you come off the diet all together. Ketogenic diets work (Atkins) as they cause the user to enter ketosis, which in layman’s terms is a state where your body far more readily burns fat as an energy source. BodyOpus is a pretty hardcore cyclical ketogenic diet whereby you follow a ketogenic diet from 6pm Sunday until late afternoon Friday, and then eat super high levels of carbs Friday evening through to Sunday afternoon.
Both BodyOpus and BFL have their “free” periods – albeit for slightly different reasons. BFL has the free-day for two reasons, the first is psychological; that is, if I put you on a fairly strict diet plan for 84 straight days and tell you you aren’t allowed to cheat at all then more often than not you will “fail”. 84 days of chicken breasts, tuna, brown rice and salads may sound okay on paper, but you’ll get cravings (for me it’s pizza) -you’ll have work functions, and family events. It’s not practical to eat that way 100% of the time. If you set yourself up to do that you’ll set yourself up for failure. So, the free-day is a psychological release day – it’s MUCH easier to say no to that slice of pizza on Thursday, knowing you can have it on Saturday. It’s much harder saying no when you think you can’t have it at all.
The second reason is physiological – a free day gives you a consistent kick in your caloric intake which theoretically should help prevent metabolic slowdown – the primary reason for the yoyo dieting syndrome.
BodyOpus on the other hand primarily, in the most basic terms, has the carbing phase as a method to minimise muscle loss caused by the very low carb ketogenic phase. Effectively during the week you starve your body of carbs, and follow a rigorous exercise plan which could easily cause the burn up of muscle as fuel due to it’s intensity. The carbing part of the programme works to counter this by glycogen replenishment – that is hyper-saturating your muscles with glycogen for about 48 hours and staving off muscle loss.
For me, the two days of solid carbing was too much. It would almost counter the efforts of the week. So, my diet is a hybrid of the above. I follow a ketogenic diet all day Sunday until Saturday morning, and then take all of Saturday off and eat whatever and in whatever quantity I like. The rest of the week my diet is a low-carb, low-fat ketogenic diet (note this dramatically differs from Atkins and BodyOpus which are moderate fat and high fat diets respectively). So on any given day I live on chicken breast, broccoli, leafy salads and lean red meat (and sometimes fish). I eat small frequent meals (every three hours) so there is never a glut of calories, and I’m never hungry, but also never full. I start eating this way Sunday morning and I’m always in ketosis again by Tuesday evening.
So that’s it! No real brain surgery required to understand it. This method maximises fat loss, still allows me to build muscle (instead of burning it off as one would via a typical ketogenic diet) and still allows me to have a social life. It may sound boring to some people but the old adage “nothing tastes as good as looking great feels” definitely applies!