Now get me? For me the above is the epitome of where I want my body to be, explosive, strong, lean, physically able, proportional, not too bulky but hench, an all round athlete.
Laying the foundations....
Letís face it, were in the iron game for a reason. We like to lift, we like to look good, we enjoy being strong and we want to be that guy that can whip his top of wherever whenever and be beach ready. Oh, that not you? Sorry! In that case letís change the course of time and empower you with some fine details that could really make or break your physique, Adonis style.
You see for years we have battled with the bulk and cut regime, should we stay lean, should we go for it, can I do it all at once? Thoughts that enter our minds all the time, even mine, it would be unnatural and against human nature to think I couldnít conquer all of my goals at once. After all Iím a machine right?
Thereís a geek in all of us....
Now if you canít tell already Iím a geek, a nutrition geek, and for a good reason. When youíre working with people that want results yesterday you better have a damn good idea how the body works. Every bit of knowledge we obtain, empowers us to do more, achieve more and reach our goals quicker.
Now before I geek out on you understand that at the end of this article I will provide you with one simple strategy, something you can try tomorrow to harness the power of insulin. But this article is only for that man that wants to build muscle while still rocking the Brad Pitt ďfight clubĒ style look. Iím a man that likes to take his top of when needed and be proud, this article is aimed at the like minded.
The guy in charge: Insulin
So insulin is secreted when we consume certain foods, in varying magnitudes, but largely from carbohydrates and dairy (Iím generalising the most Insulin reactive foods, donít shoot me on the specifics yet). We are more sensitive to insulin in the morning (1), so we do not want porridge and whey protein if we want to stay lean, sorry to kill your breakfast right there and then, go the Spanish omelette route instead and save the insulin release for when you really want it. Yes, protein can stimulate insulin, but this will depend on its amino acid profile, but for the sake of this article were sticking to carbohydrates and dairy. Insulin has the power to influence liver, muscle and fat cells and the nutrients they uptake, largely glucose (2). So stimulate at the right time for muscle, the wrong time for fat.
What is key is that insulin STOPS fat being burnt as a fuel by inhibiting glucagon release. But we want to burn fat for fuel, not just when losing weight, but daily as an energy source to maintain weight, so thus we need to control insulin the majority of the time. Remember that the body runs a cycle of store, burn and use, itís a constant cycle for every meal that comes in. Estimation is that itís a 33/33/33% split with the food that comes in, store some, burn some and the rest is used for metabolic process (2). But I strongly believe that what comes in results in how the calorie is used.
So while it is good to control insulin, it is also good to become more sensitive to it.
But thereís a catch. If you are serious about your physique then do this, if youíre not then donít. Why? Because when you go off the rails, go out on a bender, or abuse your diet for any period of time then the road to ruin can be quicker as your body is more sensitive to the deleterious effects of insulin. Become more sensitive and it takes less sugar (as an example) to get the same response, so you could in turn gain fat even quicker when hitting the pizza and beer. So if you want to get ripped, can control your diet most of the time and stick to a solid training plan then continue reading, of not I bid you well.
Now letís analyse the benefits of being sensitive to insulin:
1. Increased amino acid uptake post exercise in the presence of increased insulin levels
2. Greater simulation of GLUT-4 transporter when ingesting carbohydrates and itís diversion into the muscle cells as a result of muscle heightened muscle contraction (exercise)
3. Faster recovery due to muscles ability to draw glucose from the blood instead of fat tissue and get repairing quick step
So letís tie this in to the strategy, which I have coined the "Fat-Fast" aka the "Ben Coomber breakfast.Ē Sure Iím not re-inventing the wheel here, Iím just piecing together systems that I have tried and tested with myself and clients along with proven theories from the science.
The breakfast, or lack of, is going to help sensitise you to insulin with the aid of coffee (4, 5, although sensitivity benefits of coffee are argued with quantity consumed, I find two medium strength cups with each a serving of oil works fine) and cinnamon (8) or cinnamon extract. Thus making you more efficient at partitioning nutrients into muscle tissue when needed, and enabling you to oxidise fat as a fuel source through fat ingestion.
So the theory in practice....
Intermittent fasting (leangains style) + caffeine + coconut oil + cinnamon
Last meal at 8-9pm, lunch around 12-1pm as per leangains.com
Waking till lunch: coffee or green tea + coconut oil
So from waking up until lunch all you are allowed is black organic coffee or green tea with 1tsp of coconut oil per cup. Want to mix up the green tea and coffee, go for it, they both have their benefits. The caffeine is going to up regulate fat burning in combination with the coconut oil. The oil is going to provide calories to the working body, improve health, skin condition, gut health, the immune system and act as a microbial and anti-fungal (6, 7). Plus it tastes lush, well I think so. What happens if you donít enjoy the coconut oil? Try whole whipping cream instead, but coconut oil is preferred due to the many other health benefits, otherwise just let it cool and neck it, job done! To then crank this up further you can add a Ĺ tsp of cinnamon to your coffee and oil, again more cinnamon at this stage is good. Taste rank with green tea, fine with coffee.
Now break-fast food will depend on whether or not you can work out before lunch, which is the ideal scenario, if not then the food changes accordingly. No ergogenic (performance enhancing) supplements will be listed as this is a whole other topic, just macronutrients, but if working out pre lunch put down 10-20g of BCAAís intra-workout or ideally Exceed, a personal favourite.
Lunch post workout (1): Moderate protein, high starchy carbs, low fat
Lunch without a workout (2): Moderate protein, high fat, low carb
Post workout lunch example (1): 30g of whey isolate or similar & 30-50g of dextrose/waxy maize starch, 2 chicken breasts in spices, 100-200g of white rice, serving of green veggies, piece of fruit, 2 tsp fish oil, optional glass of whole milk.
Lunch on non workout day (2): 500g of free range mince beef fried in own fat and seasoned with smoked paprika, salt and pepper and little coconut oil, curly kale, onions, peppers.
Now if you workout in the evening lunch is going to be number 2, then dinner, which is post workout is going to be number 1. If you had meal 1 after your workout then meal 2 is dinner. You can have 2 meals a day, which I find good on time and if eating enough is fine, otherwise have an afternoon snack on something like a few boiled eggs or handful of nuts and some raw veggies like carrots dipped in hummus. Now with both meals you are also going to have 1tsp of cinnamon in a little water with the 1st few mouthfuls of the meal. Donít worry about the cinnamon if having a snack, just a hassle to think about it. Again have some fish oil at dinner, 2 tsp oil or 3-4 caps.
Carbohydrates: I base the carb intake above in the post workout meal in the average guy, compared to me and many that I have worked with. Different body types will soon find the sweet spot in terms of lean muscle gain and fat gain with the post workout carb intake. For me if I overshoot the 150g mark (depending on workout volume and intensity of course) itís more fat than good stuff, so listening to your body and being able to alter the variables is really important. I know some guys that can get in up to 7-800g post workout from crazy intakes and still pile on the good stuff. So individualisation is key.
Calories: I donít count them and 99% of the time I donít build programs for other people with any counting involved. I like to teach to listen to your body and let the actual calories consumed do the talking. But if you are a counter and like to geek out on that kind of stuff then I find eating at maintenance or just over is ideal for fat loss and slow muscle gain due to improved nutrient partitioning post training, but I am personally having good success with eating above maintenance (around 5-800) and gaining muscle with slow fat loss, so again play with the variables.
For the calorie concerned a heaped tsp of coconut oil (9g) is around 90 calories...
DISCLAIMER: if youíre going to use this protocol, intermittent fasting, plus the coconut oil with macronutrient cycling, do it 100% or not at all. Itís a protocol, like any, that needs adherence to work optimally. Example; do this for 3 weeks to get ripped for a holiday and the bender that ensues during the holiday will make the rebound fat gain quick due to your increased sensitivity to insulin from all the crap you will be eating and drinking, so be warned!
Ben Coomber is the owner of www.bodytypenutrition.co.uk and director of performance nutrition and assistant strength coach at The Training Lab based in West Sussex. He works with people looking to rapidly transform their body alongside coaching a handful of athletes, both online and in person. He also teaches and will be running several seminars in 2012 across the UK. Want to geek out on nutrition with him? Add him on facebook and join in the conversation with his blogs, videos and upcoming podcast: http://www.facebook.com/BenCoomber1
1. Sofer et al,. (2011). Greater weight loss and hormonal changes after 6 months diet with carbohydrates eaten mostly at dinner. Obesity. 19(10):2006-2014.
2. Antonio, J. Et al. (2008). Essentials of sports nutrition and supplements. Humana Press.
3. Martin Berkham, Leangains.com
4. Tianying, W. U., et al. (2005). Caffeinated Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee, and Caffeine in Relation to Plasma C-Peptide Levels, a Marker of Insulin Secretion, in U.S. Women. Diabetes Care. 28(6):1390-1396.
5. Arnlov, J. (2004). Coffee consumption and insulin sensitivity. American Journal of American Medical Association. 291(10):1199-1201.
6. Nevin, K. G. & Rajamohan, T. (2003). Beneficial effects of virgin coconut oil on lipid parameters and in vitro LDL oxidation. Clinical Biochemistry. 37(9):830-835.
7. Enig, M. (1996). Health and nutritional benefits from coconut oil: An important functional food for the 21st century. Presented at the AVOC Lauric Oils Symposium, Ho Chi Min City, Vietnam, Western A. Price Foundation.
8. Anderson, R. A. (2008). Chromium and polyphenols from cinnamon improve insulin sensitivity. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 67:48-53.
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