Why this matters:
Women, it’s time to de-mysticize metabolism and carbs and learn how to fuel your workouts, gain muscle, and get lean (with carbs!).
[Read time: 25 minutes (stick with it; it’s worth it!)]
Let’s get on with talking about carbs, muscles, and metabolism.
Metabolism is such a cool word. It implies all kinds of sciencey things. “I don’t want to slow down my metabolism.” “You have such a fast metabolism.” It’s like the mystery mechanism that is responsible for some people being lean-fucking-mean machines, and the rest stuck in fat-opia of The Land of the Last 10 Pounds. What is our metabolism? What is the metabolism? What can we do to get a better one?
What do muscles and carbs (ARE THOSE DIRTY WORDS TO YOU LADIES?) have to do with my metabolism?
All the chemical reactions in the body are collectively called metabolism. Anything going on in your body is using energy of SOME sort (with the exception of certain cell processes that don’t require it, but they don’t concern this discussion). Metabolism is the word we use in a casual sense, when we are describing how well a body can use the food provided, break it down, and put it to use. But really, what we are referring to are ongoing reactions and processes caused by how we go about our days and what we eat.
Everyone wants a “faster” metabolism, but what we really mean is that we want our body to be proficient at using the energy we provide for it in the form of food. We want our “metabolism” to burn our fat, build our muscles, and keep us in this ideal we envision. If it is not (for a variety of reasons), we store fat, get fat, and blame our metabolism. Well, the good news is that you are sort of right about it being your metabolim’s fault. The news you don’t want to hear is that YOU control your metabolism. It’s largely not your hormones, rogue fat cells out to get you, the secret ingredients big bad companies use to make you a food addict, or the dangers lurking in your small intestine that green tea attacks. Diet and exercise are the biggest regulators of metabolism we are concerned with, and we have a fuck-ton of control over that.
Disclaimer: There are legitimate concerns about fat retention or hormonal issues that seem to be beyond the scope of diet and training, but from MY experience haunting many threads, forums, and talking with average women, it is not those things that perhaps are the biggest culprit in not getting what they want out of their bodies. It is the basics they are missing and refuse to pinpoint and fix once and for all. It’s much easier to blame something that seems out of our hands, mysterious, or complicated rather than saying: “Maybe it’s my drinking 4x a week,” or “I just don’t make sure I eat proper meals,” or “No, I don’t really get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep a night.” I see long discussions about herbal supplments, thyroid testing, T-levels, birth control, etc., and I’m not saying those factors don’t have an impact. I just think that for the most part, a lot of answers are pretty damn simple when approached honestly. Simple, but maybe not easy.
Think of your body and its processes as a loop. There is no ONE part or ONE result. Everything affects everything else. Matt Perryman, in his book Squat Every Day, says:
“Combing abstracts for biochemical information or the hormonal responses of athletes or some such trivia removes you from the realities of actually lifting a weight (or finding the “diet” for you). It strips away all the context and creates mock-quote “facts” in a vacuum. In the absence of any grounding, it’s easy to construct a whole reality out of those “facts,” one which has little to do with the world we live in.”
Everything affects everything else. The result of a process influences the process itself in a constant attempt to maintain balance. But why do we fall down in the implementation so much? Why can we have the information at our finger tips, yet not be able to translate that into results? Why the disconnect with what we KNOW and what WE DO?
Let’s do some grounding.
Several clients of mine come from very low-carb backgrounds. They hire me to help get them the progress they are looking for, but also are pretty carb-phobic, even when having a high level of activity. They are – for the most part – not obese or significantly overweight. They have fat they want to lose, or muscle they want to gain, or want to perform better in their workouts; however, they are convinced that eating carbs is NOT part of reaching their goals. In fact, they think carbs will mean the opposite of reaching their goals, aka they will put on fat. Yet at the same time, they want to get leaner and lose some fat (or LOOSE the fat, as JC Deen likes to say. Let it run wildly away from the body!). They attach eating carbs to gaining fat. And I don’t blame them.
Many diets have made a splash by giving you “one or the other” approaches or sticking carbs in the bad camp. You can’t just throw an entire food group in the trash and ignore physiology.
What I want to outline here is what is behind how the body fuels workouts through the food we eat and the energy pathways used. I also want to reinforce WHY no one food or macro (or micro, for that matter) can be responsible for fat gain, obesity or THE all-around bad guy. It just doesn’t work when remembering the bigger picture. If you are someone who has had success on a Paleo-style diet, or low-carb diet, and now wants increased muscle tone, strength, and to lose the last 10-15 while training anaerobically (strength, Oly lifting etc), staying low carb might be exactly what is holding you back.
I wrote most of this blog post before The Fitness Summit, where Mike T. Nelson and Alan Aragon presented and touched on this topic, so it was great to see the excellent way they support their arguments against classic nutrition dogma, while still making generous allowance for individual preference. They also readily acknowledge the limitations of some research and the “we just don’t know exactly why it works sometimes” side of things. I am grateful that I can turn to the likes of Alan, James Krieger, Bret Contreras, and Chris Beardsley, who compile and review the current research for those of us who are not as embedded in the research side of this industry.
*Extra reading at the end of the blog for those interested in understanding the whole “low carb, no carb” discussion or just how to sort out which diet approach is more useful for you.
Mike T. Nelson graciously sent me the slides for his presentation, which I will quote as well. He presented on the idea of metabolic flexibility. Essentially, your body being able to easily switch between burning fat for fuel, or carbs for fuel. But let’s get the basics over with first.
Disclaimer: This post has NOTHING to do with saying why ketogenic or low-carb diets won’t work, or why restricting carbs is bad, or why everyone should eat carbs, or why eliminating carbs is a horrible idea etc., etc. On the contrary, I just want to clarify what’s behind all this, and why, then you can do whatever the fuck you want because you understand what matters and what doesn’t and have the proper framework from which to approach choices.
SEPARATE THE IDEA THAT CARBS = AUTOMATIC FAT STORAGE
The law of thermodynamics is important – dare I say, mandatory – to understanding dieting and nutrition on any level.
“All the energy associated with a system must be accounted for as heat, work, chemical energy.”
(Excerpt of wiki definition)
All the processes of the body, including “burning” fat, adding muscle, keeping your organs working, blood pumping, etc., require energy. We provide our body energy through food. Your body cannot store excess energy without you eating MORE than you spend.
There is no way around this rule. Let’s get that straight. Before someone inserts a “but…”, the combinations of burn versus spend are where we get individual variations, recommendations, and sometimes seeming contradictions. I say seeming, because our body has ways of adaptation that involve a myriad of possible variables. Anything from grandma dying and you are still traumatized, to the fact that you started having more sex.
When faced with a diet and body composition contradiction, check your premises about what is really going on with your day-to-day habits and lifestyle. Start simple.
To continue, but what about carbs specifically? Do they make you fat?
No. A surplus of calories does.
De novo lipogenesis is the process by which carbs are turned into body fat, or adipose tissue (fancy name for your rolls). This is the process we all fear: I eat carbs, I get fat. Certain popular diet books convinced a lot of people that sugar and carbs are THE reason for obesity, food addictions, and the health crises we are facing. For some objective reading on that topic and how the research cited was manipulated, incorrectly used, and downright sensationalized, check out:
Gary Taubes: Bad Calories or Bad Research? – James Krieger
A Retrospective Look at the Fructose Alarmism Debate – Alan Aragon
Low Carb Talibans – Martin Berkhan
Converting carbohydrates to fat is not a simple process for the body to complete. It’s expensive energy-wise. But if you are eating way above your needs, of course your body will have to do something with the excess. Store it as fat. Below is a quote from research by Mark Hellerstein specifically about how the body turns carbs into fat (or not) (1).
“Eucaloric replacement of dietary fat by CHO does not induce hepatic DNL to any substantial degree. Similarly, addition of CHO to a mixed diet does not increase hepatic DNL to quantitatively important levels, as long as CHO energy intake remains less than total energy expenditure (TEE).”
In Layman’s terms: Eucaloric means maintenance calories. You are not eating more or less than what you need to stay the same weight. So take my same calories and instead eat more carbs than fat. Increasing carbs did not mean de novo lipogenesis increased. The body did not go on a fat storing craze because of carbohydrates. That comes from eating in excess of what you need.
“Thus, the addition of excess carbohydrate energy to a mixed diet so that total energy intake exceeded total energy expenditure (TEE) increased body fat stores, but not by conversion of the carbohydrate to fat. Instead, the oxidation of dietary fat was suppressed and fat storage thereby increased.” (2)
In Layman’s terms: Too much eating increased fat stores, but not because of the carbs. The body stopped burning up the dietary fat in the food eaten, shoveled it off to be stored so it could deal with the carbs.
“The few exceptions to the rule that de novo lipogenesis is quantitatively minor have been when carbohydrate energy intake massively exceeds TEE (total energy expenditure aka what you burn daily). Thus, de novo lipogenesis does become a quantitatively major pathway when carbohydrate energy intake exceeds TEE, but this circumstance is unusual in daily life.” (2)
In Layman’s terms: Your body *likes* to store fat and burn carbs. It doesn’t like to store carbs AS FAT unless it has too because you are being a piggy.
Carbohydrates as an energy source are subject to the same rules of thermodynamics as any other food. You cannot get fat if you are consuming less than you burn. The exception to this could seem to be when someone is experiencing metabolic down-regulation (through extreme dieting, starvation, disordered eating, excessive exercise, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, disease, basically extremes) so much that their body is doing a circus act to get around it and keep you alive with your vital organs functioning as much as possible. Then it can seem that the energy equation is false. This is not so. Your body will find a way around such extremes, and that is when everything can go wonky or seem to be working against you.
“The cellular stress response (chronic under-eating or over-eating is stress) is a universal mechanism of extraordinary physiological/pathophysiological significance. It represents a defense reaction of cells to damage that environmental forces inflict on macromolecules.” (3)
Your body finds ways to “defend” itself against extremes. Your body and its processes are striving for balance at all times. But, the domino effect (that loop) of continuous bad choices or even the tilting of the scale in little ways built up over time, often exhibits in seemingly un-fixable or complex “problems” that may have had a very simple root.
So we know that carbohydates of themselves have no power to make you fat or gain weight (which can be a desirable thing when we want to gain muscle). That *power* comes from consuming more calories than you burn. You must continue to consume more than expended long enough for your body to store the excess as both adipose tissue and lean mass after it has taken what it needs for bodily processes, functions, and additional energy needs (like exercise). Your body does not switch “on and off” for fat gain, or muscle gain, or vice versa. That’s why one “cheat day” may not be a big deal, but small, consistent habits are a big deal.
You are the result of what you do the most.
*Below is a link to more in-depth reading about carbs, low carb dieting, and the actual science behind all this confusion of low carb versus pro-carb. Check it out.
WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN USING CARBS AS FUEL AND WEIGHT/STRENGTH TRAINING SPECIFICALLY?
This comes down to how your body fuels different types of exercise and the physiology of muscle. Again, this discussion is NOT to say that this exercise or that exercise is good or bad. I will just explain HOW the body fuels exercise and muscle contraction and how this will determine the results you GET from that type of exercise. First, let’s categorize the types of exercise according to how much “time” they take. This is probably something you have heard before, but a lot of us seem to continue to make a disconnect between what is “known” about exercise, what you do in the gym, and then how surprised you are at how your body changes (or does not change).
Your body uses different metabolic processes depending on what demand you are placing on it. “Oh, she’s lifting weights now” versus “Oh, she’s running for a long time.” The body will break down energy provided (food or fat stores) in different ways depending on the kind of activity you are doing. The two biggest distinctions between exercise and how it must be fueled are anaerobic exercise and aerobic exercise. Anaerobic is “without oxygen” and aerobic is “with oxygen.” What does that actually mean?
On the one hand is endurance-based exercise that uses oxygen as fuel to break down fats, carbs, and occasionally proteins (rarely) and anaerobic exercise like weightlifting that can ONLY use carbs as fuel because it doesn’t last long enough for the body to start burning fat for energy. The MAIN energy sources the body will kick in for activity can be categorized simply for our purposes by looking at how long that activity takes.
Non-oxidative/anaerobic activities are those that last from 1 second to 120 seconds. “During intense, short-duration muscular effort, more carbohydrate is used, with less reliance on fat to generate ATP (ATP = adenosine triphosphate aka energy bank for all kinds of activity shit). Longer, less intense exercise utilizes carbohydrate and fat for sustained energy production.” (4) But for aerobic or oxidative activities that last longer, “Endurance training substantially enhances fatty acid oxidative capacity (aka burning fat) in skeletal muscle and increases the proportion of energy derived from fatty acid oxidation during exercise.” (5)
Examples of anaerobic exercise:
– Weight training (think how long the REPS and SETS actually last. Each exertion is the “activity” being fueled, NOT that you spent 2 hours in the gym fucking around between sets. That doesn’t count as cardio either).
– Olympic lifting/powerlifting (again, think of how long the rep ACTUALLY takes).
– Sprinting or other high intensity exertions (muscle-ups for instance) that fit the time frame above (HIIT, Tabata, TRUE short very intense bursts of energy).
These activities, because of their duration and intensity (no, you cannot have true intensity for long periods of time), require our body to use ATP stores (energy stored inside the muscle cells itself) and glycolysis; the breaking down of glucose (think carbs) to produce more ATP to be used for more muscle contraction.
Can you get a hint about why lifting weights or training anaerobically and increasing muscular function and mass could allow you to eat more carbs or why eating carbs might be a good idea?
Glucose stored in the muscle or liver as glycogen is more quickly accessible as an energy source than either fat or protein. Fast exercise = fast fuel please.
Here is a confusing diagram that actually makes a lot of sense if you can decipher it. Good luck.
Hint: See the word metabolism down there on the left?
But then we ask, what about burning the body fat we are carrying already?
WHY IS THERE A “FAT BURNING ZONE” RECOMMENDATION FOR CARDIO? ISN’T CARDIO PROVEN TO BE BETTER FOR FAT BURNING SPECIFICALLY? IT IS SO CONFUSING WHEN LOOKING AT EXERCISE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FAT LOSS FROM PEOPLE LIKE YOU WHO SAY TO LIFT WEIGHTS TO BURN FAT? DOESN’T CARDIO BURN MORE FAT?
Money question! Simple answer is: OF COURSE cardio burns fat. But wait, we still need to outline the bigger picture. Getting a hot body is not just about how many calories we manage to burn. Why is muscle important for fat loss? And why is cardio not the end-all-be-all?
So how does exercise beyond 120 seconds (2 minutes) fuel itself?
When your body “senses” (simplified way to say it) that the activity you are putting it through is going on a long time, it says “Hold up, I gotta fuel this stuff she wants to do, I need more than just ATP and glycolysis. I am using up my available carbs that were floating around. This shit is lasting a long time, and the muscular contractions and intensity is not the same. I need to use oxygen to fuel this and I have enough time (fat breakdown for fuel is much slower).”
Fat oxidation increases from low to moderate exercise intensities and decreases from moderate to high exercise intensities (6). And, again, we see that during whole-body exercise, peak fat oxidation occurs at a moderate intensity (7).
Now you are switching energy pathways, or what the body chooses to use for energy. The MAIN way oxidative work (anything 2 minutes or longer) is fueled is by using oxygen (oxidative or aerobic) to break down fat for fuel. Because of the nature of the exercise being done, endurance “cardio” will break down fats for fuel, especially at a certain intensity of heart rate, which is where we get THE FAT BURNING ZONE that is plastered on all respectable cardio machines. Working within this “rate” is when the body is fueling the work done by breaking down fats. An exerciser can be reasonably confident that maximum fat oxidation lies between 60.2% and 80.0% of the maximal heart rate (8). So moderate cardio stuff.
Note: I can’t give cardio recommendations across the board. It all depends on goals (MAINLY), training level, body composition, and what you LIKE to do for exercise, unless you are an athlete with specific performance needs. So I will not really cover that side of the discussion in this post.
So anaerobic/non-oxidative (weight training, Oly lifting, sprinting) work = breaks down carbs for fuel.
Aerobic/oxidative (endurance, long cardio, any consistent work over 3 minutes) work breaks down = carbs, fats, and sometimes proteins (rarely, but imagine how little muscle mass real endurance athletes have).
Hooray, you think! That means that “enduranceish cardio” style exercise burns fat more than weight training. Ideally we are thinking, well that’s great. Thats what I want to do. I want my FAT to be used as fuel because I want to LOSE fat! And since oxidative work (aka longer cardio) breaks down fats for fuel, than that’s what I should be doing to lose fat!
But unfortunately, if we hang on to that thought alone, we will miss the bigger AND MORE IMPORTANT picture to long term bro/atacular success. Alwyn Cosgrove explained this so well, that instead of rephrasing him, I will just quote him:
“So we are trying to burn as many calories as possible. This occurs in two ways: directly and indirectly. Direct energy expenditure is obvious; that’s the calories you burn running on the treadmill, for instance (think of the hour you spend directly in that “fat burning zone”). Perform X amount of exercise to burn X amount of calories. Indirect energy expenditure, on the other hand, isn’t quite as obvious – but for simplicity’s sake – it’s governed by your lean muscle mass (WEIGHT TRAINING AND INCREASING PROTEIN ARE THE TWO BIGGEST FACTORS FOR INCREASING LEAN MASS) and is commonly referred to as “resting metabolism” and includes EPOC – the recovery of metabolic rate back to pre-exercise levels. The important thing to consider is that your indirect expenditure is the bigger contributor overall – getting the “metabolism up” is the key. (9)
What is indirect expenditure? All the stuff going on OUTSIDE OF intentional exercise. Your muscle mass living its happy little life eating energy so you can look lean = big factor here. Bigger than the hours you slave away appeasing the cardio gods. And this is the point not brought up in your average “exercise” recommendations.
For example – aerobic training can burn a lot of calories – but it doesn’t really create much in the way of EPOC or raising your metabolism outside of the exercise session.
“Resistance training and interval training may not burn many more calories while you are doing it – but they both create that metabolic disturbance that burns more calories the ‘other 23 hours’ of the day. Every study that ever compares interval training to steady state training shows an enhanced effect in terms of fat loss with the higher intensity group – even when they actually burn less calories during the session. It’s that powerful a tool” (9).
You can’t look at what the body burns to fuel exercise ONLY when the exercising happens. If you do, you will come to the wrong conclusions and potentially screw over the magic word that is METABOLISM (and become one of those people who wonder why more and more cardio isn’t getting them “more toned” or “leaner looking”). And that has a lot to do with muscle mass, and building it. Muscle is fascinating in the way it “acts” in our body and how much our levels of it affect everything else that results in what we look like in the mirror or how we can perform certain activities. Training anerobically primarily is the best way to influence our muscles because, as Alwyn said, it affects how we burn fat the other 23 hours of the day.
So, you have read that weight training is a good way to get more toned, and even though you have been comfortable doing cardio-based exercise to try to look “fitter” or lose some fat, you are willing to jump on weight training because everyone who’s “a good trainer” seems to be telling you to. This is what happens when you are weight training,
>>>>> your body really isn’t using your body fat for fuel, its using carbs. But then,
>>>>> training anerobically is the best exercise for influencing the muscles
>>>>> and muscles are very important to the metabolism, and metabolism (a healthy “fast” one) is what
>>>>> determines long term success in fat loss, muscle gain etc.
>>>>> you can eat more, you can train more
>>>>> everything changes
>>>>> OMIGOD I’m getting results
A lot of cardio and endurance-based exercise will burn more fat for the time you do it, but it doesn’t cause metabolic adaptions in the way that training anerobically does.
And those adaptations are what we should be after. So would you rather have 1-2 hours of “fat-burning” or 24 hours of “fat-burning.” That’s aerobic versus anaerobic work on a very simple level. Affecting your muscles and nervous system with anerobic training might not use fat for fuel immediately, but it does ramp up the metabolism, which results in greater fat loss effects OVER ALL. Do you want a quickie or a long, thorough session? Do you want to greatly affect your body’s ability to burn fat ALL THE TIME, or just for an hour a day? The best analogy for this that someone told me ages ago was:
Would you rather have 10% of $1 million or 50% of $10?
Anerobic training is that 10% of a million for how it will affect you metabolic capacity in the long-term. Seems like a smaller “fat burning percentage” at the time, but is greater when looked at in the bigger picture of the metabolism as a whole, especially when you include progressive strength training in some form, not just interval type exercise. Excessive aerobic training is the 50% you think is “a lot” because of the immediate high percentage of fat being burned at the moment of exercise, but it fails to affect your metabolism on a larger level.
Alan Aragon’s research review in September of 2012 looked at studies using diabetic populations on this topic and how resistance training improves how well your body uses carbs, aka glucose.
“It’s often overlooked that resistance training is the trump card for improving insulin/glucose metabolism (and other measures). Aerobic training covers only part of what’s optimal. For example, Bweir et al found that resistance training improved pre- and post-exercise HbA1c readings to a greater degree than aerobic training in type 2 diabetics. Similarly, Arora et al found that progressive resistance training improved blood lipids and measures of glucose control and general well being to a greater extent than aerobic training in type 2 diabetics. Of course, it never hurts to do both types of exercise. To illustrate this, Sigal et al reported that both resistance and aerobic training are effective at improving glycemic control in type 2 diabetics, but combining the two types of training was more effective than either type on its own (note that this could have been due to a greater training volume overall).”
SO WHY DO PHYSIQUE COMPETITORS DO CARDIO? WHY DO YOU HEAR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR SOME CARDIO LIKE WALKS OR HITT INTERVALS OR SPRINTS?
Cardio is exercise and a tool either way you spin it. But without a base of muscle and strength, aerobic exercise is often a two-edged sword. While it can help you create a deficit and burn calories and fat, it does not affect your muscles and metabolism the same way that anaerobic exercise does. For those who have muscle to “strip” fat off of and train weights regularly, cardio is an excellent tool for getting leaner (if that is the goal). They can benefit from that fat burning zone MORE (in MY opinion, I am not citing research supporting this, this is anecdotal from following bodybuilders and their training) . Given this fact, you can see why bodybuilders, or those with a good level of muscle mass can easily use moderate cardio more effectively to “strip fat.”
As a tool, any kind of longer duration cardio can have its place in the right context. But for the best body composition in the long run, and to positively affect your metabolic capacity over time (eat more food, tolerate intense training, recover faster), anaerobic training (especially progressive strength/weight training) is essential and will contribute greater to giving you the effects you are looking for for your average exerciser. If you are an endurance athlete, affecting your muscles directly in strength ways is very complementary to enhancing your performance for endurance.
HOW CAN YOU GO FROM EATING LESS THAN 50 GRAMS OF CARBS PER DAY TO 200-300 GRAMS WITHOUT NEGATIVELY AFFECTING YOUR BODY AND INCREASING MUSCLE MASS? SHOW ME!
Remember the energy equation?
As you increase your activity level (both during exercise, and “the rest of the 23 hours”)/strength, and increase lean muscle mass, the carbs you eat are being put to use both for muscle protein synthesis (aka growth) and to fuel your exercise because of higher demand (you gained strength, your power output is greater, you train harder). Imagine fueling your exercise with carbs, and then having your muscles continue to demand “energy” post-exercise that your body has to take from fat tissue. Doesn’t that seem ideal? Use carbs to perform well. Burn body fat the rest of the time. Win = Win!
Mike T. Nelson called this “Using the right fuel at the right time.” You want your body to burn fat efficiently, and you still want to be able to lift weights like a mofo. Below are some of his slides from his presentation on Metabolic Flexibility. I got to say for a Ph.D candidate, and the classic “stuffy scientist” look (don’t kill me, Mike!), he was hilarious, entertaining, and sciencey all at the same time.
This last slide is important: the fat loss benefits from anaerobic training OUTWEIGH the immediate fat burn from aerobic exercise.
As an example, here is a 6 month comparison from March 2012 to August 2012.
In the first, I was at 1100 calories (could only maintain that intake briefly once I dropped to that weight because of the “newness” of IF’ing and big meals for the first time. Weight: 123 lbs) with 100-150 grams of carbs on training days only (3-4/week), coming from trying to stay under 50 grams EVERYDAY.
In the second pic right next to it, I had started eating 1500-1800 calories with 150-200 grams of carbs on training days. Weight 132-133.
The third picture is last summer, same time frame as the second, same intake.
The last picture is me now, eating 2000-2500 calories a day with 250-300 grams of carbs almost every day (I am training almost every day). My weight has stayed at an average of 132, going as low as 127 and as high as 138, but never maintained at either extreme. I’ve stayed steady at an average of 130-132, and have for the past year and a half. Back pic and leg pic are from a couple of days ago. The deadlifting and squat pictures is from The Fitness Summit about two weeks ago. I aim to do one more photoshoot before I move to Toronto (HUGE thanks to Matthew Payeur of Empire Imaging in Danville, who has been my photographer) as I continue to gain strength and look leaner, so I can provide some objective body examples.
A NOTE ABOUT INTENSITY, CARB AMOUNTS AND LOOKING LIKE ME
A little disclaimer to put out there before I wrap this up. Intensity in training is built, just like strength. Muscle mass is built. The ability to train HARD takes time. “Hard” is also pretty relative. You have to give yourself enough time, with enough progression and enough work to train intensely, and do the stuff you see people who have put a couple of years into it do. Don’t go stuffing your face with carbs because “Joy said I can because I squat.” Build on your base, to build up your metabolism, to build up what you are capable of. Time is a big factor, and one which I will touch on more from my personal journey.
How many carbs someone eats varies greatly, as we discussed, on their needs and individual body. Not much more to say about that! A little experimentation and a healthy relationship with food does the trick. Some people do well on less, some people NEED less, some people need to pull their head out of their ass about what food does.
Some girls don’t want to be “as muscular” as I am. Fair enough. All this STILL applies to you. I lift a lot, frequently and HEAVIER than even what is considered “heavy” for girls. Also, my shape is mine. You will not turn out “just like me” if you don’t want to, but I guarantee you can get MUCH better results from implementing strength training, HITT style cardio, and hitting better basic nutrition. If you do want muscles like me, then there are ways to get them 😉
1. Hellerstein, M. (1999). De novo lipogenesis in humans: metabolic and regulatory aspects. Eur J Clin Nutr., (53), S53-65. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10365981
2. Hellerstein, M. (2001). No common energy currency: de novo lipogenesis as the road less traveled .American Society for Clinical Nutrition, Retrieved from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/74/6/707.full
3. Kultz, D. (2005). Molecular and evolutionary basis of the cellular stress response. Annual Review of Physiology, 67, 225-57. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15709958
4. Kenney, Wilmore, Costil (2011). Physiology of sport and exercise . (5 ed.). Human Kinetics Publisher.
5. Martin, W. 3. (1996). Effects of acute and chronic exercise on fat metabolism. Exercise Sport Science Review, 24, 203-31. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8744251
6. Achten, Jeukendrup. (2003). Maximal fat oxidation during exercise in trained men. . International Journal of Sports Medicine, 24(8), 603-8. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14598198
7. Nordby, Saltin, Helge. (2006). Whole-body fat oxidation by graded exercise and indirect calorimetry: a role for muscle oxidative capacity? . Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports , 16(3), 209-14. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16643200
8. Carey, D. (2009). Quantifying differences in the “fat burning” zone and the aerobic zone: implications for training. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(7), 2090-5. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=fat burning zone and heart rate
9. Cressey, E. (2008, January 8). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.ericcressey.com/newsletter51html
For additional reading: