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“WHEN and WHY to Deload for Increased Strength” by James Barnum

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Check out our Meal Planning Guide for a step-by-step approach to planning meal frequency and composition.  No matter what your schedule, you’ll gain insight into how to eat to make the most of your efforts!  Also included are sample meal plans, food lists and weekly schedules. 

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One of the most misunderstood phases during an athletes development is the deload.  Deloading is exactly what it sound like.  For a short period of time, training load – intensity, density, and volume may all be reduced to facilitate improved recovery.  After the end of the deload, submaximal training loads are resumed to stimulate further adaptations.  Put simply, a deload will allow you time to rest your body and refocus your efforts.

The most common questions I’m asked regarding deloading are when and why to take a deload, how long it should last, what to do during the deload, and how to transition back into normal training.  The answers differ on a case-by-case basis but there are some guidelines you should follow.

Why Deload?

Let’s start off by examining why you’d want to deload your training.  As I mentioned earlier, the primary function of a deload phase is to improve recovery by reducing fatigue accumulated over the course of the training cycle.  This is usually done at three specific points during a training cycle:

  1. Before a competition to create a supercompensatory effect and ensure maximum performance during the event
  2. After a competition to allow adequate recovery
  3. Between training phases during a developmental program to reduce mental fatigue and prevent injury

Fatigue & Recovery

Imagine if you will that you have a credit card with a $1000 limit.  Let’s say that every time you train, you’re making an expensive purchase and incurring debt but also improving performance – i.e. your recovery ability is reduced but you’re acquiring new toys like a new television or (in terms of performance ) a faster Fran time.

As your recovery ability approaches its limit and you make more purchases – as you increase fatigue – you’ll eventually have to stop spending as much/training as hard or you’ll go into the red.  At that point, you’ve got to take a break from your shopping spree and pay off your card or (for our purposes) take a deload!

In essence, you’re training on credit and your accumulated debt will eventually have to be repaid or you’ll have your fancy new improvements in strength, speed, and muscle mass repossessed by overtraining syndrome.  Fear not though – overtraining is pretty darn hard to do.  It’s a miserable condition where you can’t make any progress, you’re not motivated to train, and you start to get hurt.  After your deload, you’ll be recovered beyond normal – you’ll have supercompensated and be better than ever!  You can look at this like a period where your credit limit has been increased from $1000 to $1500.  In other words, you’re ready to do big things because you allowed your body to fully adapt to the stress of training!

Most of us will never max out our credit card/overtrain, which would result in everything from depression to catastrophic injury but we WILL overreach.  Overreaching happens whenever you attempt to really push yourself to a new level and precedes the development of overtraining symptoms.  This is when you make the most progress – overreaching is a good thing but you have to be careful!

When to Deload

OK.  Let’s quickly recap.  Overreaching is a period of accelerated progress that results in above-average levels of fatigue, and overtraining is a period of awful, terrible stagnation.  ”How do I prevent myself from overtraining while still making the most progress as fast as possible?”  The answer is to intentionally overreach and then follow it up with a deload period.

Take for instance a simple wave loading protocol to gradually and intelligently intensify training while preventing stagnation.  This type of training periodization is utilized in one form or another by many popular strength programs, including 5/3/1, The Juggernaut Method, and even Westside/conjugate styles of training.

  • On a 6 week wave load, you’ll hit a single set of maximum repetitions between 75-85% of a 1 rep max over the course of three weeks.
  • After three weeks you’ll work between 80-90% of your max for another three weeks.

At this point, you’ve pretty much overreached as far as you can without risk of burnout/overtraining.  NOW is when you want to program a deload.  This will give you respite so you can repay your recovery debt a little bit and enter into a new phase of training where you either realize the fruits of your labor – either in competition or a mock competition – or continue to accumulate strength.

I’m getting ahead of myself though.  Now that it’s time to deload, you might ask “How long do I deload?  What do I do?”

Deload Length, Active Recovery, and Extended Layoffs

First let’s look at what to do during a deload.

As a word of caution, if you’re one of those people that cannot go to the gym without pushing it to the limit, then the best thing for you to do during your deload is to stay out of the gym, do some stretching, and focus on something else.  If you turn your deload into a normal week of training, you’re missing the point!

If you can behave, you’ll want to engage in some active recovery - i.e. very low intensity, low volume training that facilitates accelerated recovery.  You should still get some work in on your primary lifts – clean & jerk, snatch,  squat, deadlift, bench press, etc. so you don’t lose coordination.  Keep accessory lifts – especially single-joint movements – out of the picture!

A common strategy that seems to work for a broad range of athletes is to stay around 30% of your max for 1-3 sets of 8 repetitions twice a week in each lift.  Organizing these sessions into full body routines rather than splitting up movements is ideal.  Not only will this prevent you from overdoing it on a single movement due to boredom, but it will also make sure everything from your calves to your shoulders gets a good pump.

The length of your deload will depend upon a few factors.  Commonly, a week is set aside and that’s usually all that’s needed.  Any longer and you’ll probably begin to detrain.  Detrained abilities can always be brought back up, but your goal with a deload is to improve performance in the immediate future, not regress.  However, if you’re particularly beat up – let’s say you have a chronic injury you’ve been dealing with for a long time and you’re finally ready to let it heal – there may be merit in taking additional time off from normal training.  Under these circumstances, you’re really not deloading; you’re taking a layoff.

If you do need extended time off from training due to an injury, I’d advise you to talk to a specialist and follow their orders.  If you need surgery or physical therapy, it could be a while before you’re back to normal.  However long this period lasts, when you’re clear to return to your old routine, you’re going to want to gradually ramp up training load until you’re closer to your baseline.  Don’t jump back in and re-injure yourself!

Nutrition During a Deload

An article on taking time off to recover would not be complete without addressing nutrition!  Since the goal of this whole ordeal is to come out stronger, faster, and better recovered, you don’t want to reduce calories.  You may be thinking to yourself, “But I’ll gain body fat if I eat too much and exercise too little!”  While it is true that your energy output will be lower than normal during a deload, you’re trying to let your body make up for weeks, if not many months of overreaching so that you can perform your best or undo some of the wear and tear associated with hard training.

So does that mean you should go balls to the wall and overeat?  Not likely, unless of course you’re on a diet to gain weight as it is.  Instead, you should maintain a steady intake of food that’s right around or just below your normal maintenance.  To establish your maintenance calories, you can use a calculator like our own ETP Calculator, or you can track your food for a week and see how much you need to eat to maintain your body weight.  The second option is more accurate but using a calculator is a lot easier and it should come pretty close.

Things are pretty straightforward then – you just keep eating normally, or maybe slightly less.  The only modification I’d consider making, and this is entirely up to you, is to reduce carbohydrate intake during your deload and replace some of the calories with fat and protein.  Since you’re not training very hard, you won’t necessarily need the carbohydrates so you can rely more upon fat.  This should be a welcome change and allow you to reduce inflammation, which will also help you recover better.

Do I Need To Schedule Deloads?

Whether or not you plan your deloads or insert them into your training by feel is personal preference.  Some people take one every 6-8 weeks, and some people only take them when they feel it’s necessary.  Likewise, you can deload specific movements or training modalities separately of one another – i.e. keep working on your clean & jerk but take a break from muscle-ups for a week.  Still, those of us training on strict block schedules throughout the year may choose to deload as phases transition.  For example, an athlete beginning sport specific work transitioning from general training may take a week off to work on skills at a low intensity and drop some of the less specific movements and training methods they may have been utilizing in their off-season.

In summary:

  • Deloading is all about increasing performance between training phases/before competition and keeping injury at bay.  If you’re already hurt, take time off and go see a doctor before it gets worse!
  • Deloading doesn’t mean sitting around on your butt all week doing nothing – you’ll actually benefit from doing light skill work and getting a pump while you take a break from greater training loads.  That said, if you can’t back off and being in the gym gets you too riled up, stay out and focus on something else so you can reap the benefits of a deload!
  • You don’t really need to eat differently during your deload – just slightly fewer calories than normal, perhaps with less carbohydrate due to the reduction in activity.
  • Training deloads don’t need to be strictly scheduled, but it’s probably a good idea to take one every 6-8 weeks, when you transition between training blocks, or before any big event/testing occurs.

“Rehab” by Sheri Stiles

Sherideadstrong

Check out our new Meal Planning Guide for a step-by-step approach to planning meal frequency and composition. Also included are sample meal plans, food lists and weekly schedules. 

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I have said before, and will again, injuries within the sport of powerlifting are inevitable; sooner or later, we will all be faced with some form of injury. I also believe its how we deal with these tough situations that determines successful outcomes.

Tomorrow marks the start of week 3 of what I like to call my rehab program, and I’d like to share some of the emotions and situations I have found myself in. I can assure you I am not the only one dealing with this kind of situation, nor will any of us ever be alone when faced with an injury within the strength sports.

Rehabbing My Back

I had decided to finally take the time to rehab my back the proper way, and not just lift through the pain. I was able to squat and deadlift still, however, I also had been struggling through a great deal or pain during those two movements. I decided to dig deeper and look into fixing this issue, and with much resistance and annoyance, I am finally starting to see the positive benefits in this decision.

I will say, without a doubt, this has sucked! It’s also proved much harder mentally for me than I thought. I can’t tell you the number or times I have said, “I just want to squat, or deadlift.” Or, how much I dislike many of the movements and workouts I have been implementing.  However, I have made it a priority to keep reminding myself the reasons I am doing this—reminding myself,  “I will be stronger because of this.”

I once talked about loving the ‘grind’ and process it takes to become better. I still believe this, and although injury, and the inability to get stronger at this very moment isn’t my idea of a great time, I am consciously kept aware that this struggle is just that—part of the ‘grind’

I have felt everything from anger, frustration, disappointment, annoyance, even accepting of the fact these workouts will help me, it’s felt like a roller-coaster the last few weeks. When I was down to the point of feeling hopeless, I had great friends and training partners to encourage and lift me back up; this I am truly great full for.

The Five Stages of Loss & Grief

Within the cycle of grief, we have to go through denial, anger, bargaining and depression to finally get to acceptance. This, I believe, is where I am finally approaching

I have denied the pain long enough, I have been angry throughout all of this, and I certainly have tried to bargain with myself; however, I have come to realize I need to be open to accepting the positives, no matter how small, that are coming to me. A friend of mine said, “You need to accept the small progress and PRs you have made, not dwell on the negative.” You know what—he is exactly right!

I am taking a conscious effort to remind myself how much better I feel, even if it’s only been 2 weeks. How much my body needs this. How much better I will be able to perform fixing the underlying issue I have been trying to cover up. How much these workouts have challenged me, athletically and mentally, and how I have worked through those and came out just fine! How this situation has given me the chance to research and learn so much more…And ultimately how much stronger I am going to come back. How much desire I have for competition again – everything I had hoped to accomplish.

Although its tough, even felt unattainable at times, I have now accepted every small positive thing is paving the way towards my goals. Having a support system and being open to all the emotions has certainly proved a necessity.

I look forward to the day I can deadlift and squat heavy again; to the day I can gush to you all about those emotions and excitement, but for now, I am staying open, positive, and getting dang good at lunges and planks! :)

I Don’t Have Time To Eat Healthy…

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Check out our new Meal Planning Guide for a step-by-step approach to planning meal frequency and composition. Also included are sample meal plans, food lists and weekly schedules. 

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Hey, remember me?  The recipe chick who makes all those amazing foods you see on ETP?

Yes, I know, it’s been a while since my last blog.  Sometimes life just gets the best of you.  Lately I have been dealing with family health issues, my son’s soccer season starting, and a busy time at work.  Injuries seem to be plaguing me right now and my entire right arm is pretty useless between the rotator cuff pain, sprained wrist that doesn’t want to heal, and now some newly injured fingers thanks to a life saving air bag.  Needless to say, life is busy as I am sure it is for all of you.

Sometimes when things get busy, eating goes to shit.  I am always sympathetic towards people who say “Eating healthy just takes so much time and preparation!”  I agree!!  If you looked at my credit card statement you would certainly be able to tell when my life is busy and when I have time…ok, let’s be honest, when I MAKE time to prepare my week of meals.  Pizza receipts seem to begin piling up on our counter when this happens.  I have had ingredients for new recipes sitting on my counter for weeks now and i just haven’t made the time to make them..until today!

One of the reasons I don’t bake a lot of Paleo recipes is because of all of the different combinations of flour it often takes to make it a decent recipe.  I have seen lots of gluten free flours at the grocery store, so I decided to try to make my own.  If this flour combination works, it will save me SO much time when cooking and baking.  It is meant to replace the flour in any recipe at an equal 1:1 ratio, so if it calls for 1 cup of flour, you would use 1 cup of my flour substitute.  Let me say, it is NOT Paleo, but neither am I :)

Here you go!

Shannon’s Gluten Free Flour Substitute

Ingredients  IMG_1864

  • 2 Cups of rice flour (white or brown)
  • 2 cups of coconut flour
  • 2 cups of tapioca flour
  • 2 cups of almond flour/meal
  • ½ cup cornstarch
  • 2 envelopes of zantham gum

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a fine mesh colander or sifter.  Sift to combine (toss any remnants that don’t go through the mesh of the colander or sifter.  Use in recipes that call for flour at a 1:1 ratio.

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Of course, now that I have this “short cut”, I need to experiment with it!  I had to use a couple of zucchinis I had in my refrigerator before they went bad and I wasn’t in the mood for the same old “zoodles”, so I thought I would try a fritter type of recipe with them.  They turned out great and after making them discovered how versatile they can be.  These may be a component of some yummy recipes to come…

Zucchini Fritters with Italian Crema

Ingredients

  • 2 medium zucchini, grated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup Shannon’s Gluten Free Flour Substitute
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ¼ cup chopped green onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or mix 1 tbsp bacon fat with 1 tbsp olive oil)

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After grating your zucchini, toss with your salt and place in a colander over a bowl to drain.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Using a clean dish towel or cheese cloth, drain zucchini completely by squeezing as much liquid out of the zucchini as possible.

In a large bowl, combine flour substitiute, Parmesan, garlic, green onion and egg; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add zucchini into the mixture and combine well.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Scoop tablespoons of batter for each fritter, flattening with a spatula, and cook until the underside is nicely golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side, about 2-3 minutes longer.

Serve with Italian spiced crema and fresh tomato slices.

Italian Spiced Crema

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. plain Greek yogurt
  • 3 tbsp of chopped green onion
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Combine all ingredients and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

And hell, why not throw in a dessert too?!  I knew from the get go these chocolate chip cookies would be a hit just from the consistency of the batter.

Guilt Free Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup grassfed butter
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 2/3 cups of Shannon’s Gluten Free Flour Substitute
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 10 oz dark chocolate chips

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Combine the butter, oil and maple syrup using an electric mixer or food processer.  Add the remaining ingredients except for the chocolate chips.  Once combined, stir the chocolate chips into the mixture.  Spoon tablespoons of batter onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Flatten down a bit with the back of a spoon and place in oven.  Cook for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.  Cool on cookie sheet and enjoy!

Meg D’s ETP Testimonial: 3 1/2 lbs. of Muscle in Six Weeks!

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Check out our new Meal Planning Guide for a step-by-step approach to planning meal frequency and composition. Also included are sample meal plans, food lists and weekly schedules. 

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Meg has been following ETP on Facebook since we started – for over a year now – but she only joined the Science Lab a mere six weeks ago.  In that time, she’s made some awesome progress!  Please take a moment to read about her experience:

“I came to ETP fairly broken, in regards to my relationship with food and my body image. Our family had been following an 80/20 Paleo way of eating for a few years, but all of a sudden it seemed like I wasn’t able to recover from that 20% and would spend all week “making up” for a meal or two that I had over the weekend…only to repeat the process.  I continued to train 5 days a week, and added in some additional running a few times a week in an attempt to lose the extra couple of pounds that I had gained.  When that didn’t work, I switched our diet to the Zone, and spent a miserable few weeks measuring out 3 almonds at a time.  What do you know, I lost a few pounds that way, but then the holidays came around and, while I didn’t go all out crazy, by the time January rolled around I was a good 8 lbs heavier than I liked to be.  I decided to do a popular “cleanse” combined with strict Paleo Zone.  Another 3 weeks of being an emotional, hungry mess  I decided that the 2-3 lbs I lost just wasn’t worth it.

I had been getting the ETP feed on FB for over a year, but I didn’t think it was for me because aesthetics won out over performance in my mind.  Besides, who had time for being “gradually awesome”?  But then again….what if it worked?

I decided to bite the bullet and signed up for the forum. I got a baseline Bod Pod reading to see where I stood. At first, following ETP seemed sort of impossible and so confusing.  I whined on the forum.  A lot.  But all of the folks on the forum seemed to know exactly what I was going through and answered each and every question that I had and encouraged me to “just keep swimming”.  Each day I had to talk myself into trusting the process (and just eat that bedtime snack!).  It was a leap of faith. But I was also happier.  I wasn’t hungry—in fact, on my training days I was eating almost 1,000 calories more than I was used to.  I was able to keep up with my husband in the gym.  I wasn’t bonking in my WODs and I was PRing on lots of my lifts.  I was finding the joy in putting performance over aesthetics, for the first time ever.

And then I started to panic again at about 6 weeks in.  I kept letting the number on the scale dictate my mood for the day and determine my self worth.  I wasn’t losing any weight…in fact I seemed to be gradually trending up.  I decided to go in and get another Bod Pod reading. Yep, I had gained a few pounds.  3.68 pounds.  Of muscle.  While losing almost a half a pound of fat and decreasing my BF from 18.2 to 17.5%.  In 42 days. A few months ago I would have been shattered at weighing 124 pounds.  Right now I’m pretty proud of that number.  I can’t wait to keep getting gradually awesome results as I continue to fuel my body.  Trust the process!” - Meg

ETP Science Lab Round-up for 03/26/14

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Here are some posts from Science Lab members this week who’re making progress towards their strength and body composition goals.  If you want to get started with ETP and see what we’re about, check out our Meal Planning Guide.

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“Seeing improvement with hard work and a great eating plan!” -Kate Nacole (pictured above)



Steve got a back squat PR for his birthday:

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Meg is a new member but she’s already seeing some positive changes:
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Marylisa PR’d her total:

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ETP moderator Eddy Lindenstein competed in his third weightlifting meet this weekend.  Although it didn’t go exactly as planned, he did PR his clean & jerk!  

“Growth and Learning” by Sheri Stiles

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Check out our new Meal Planning Guide for a step-by-step approach to planning meal frequency and composition. Also included are sample meal plans, food lists and weekly schedules. 

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I would like to share with you all something a little different than what I normally do in my blog posts.

For those of you who do not know this about me, I would consider myself kind of a nerd. In regards to the fact I like reading, I love writing, and I enjoy over all learning–and for some reason people are still shocked how many years of college I’ve taken, and in how many different majors ;)

But, with that said, I would like to share with you something my last writing and research professor said to me. “Good writing comes in response to negativity and criticism; its here, passion is ignited, thoughts are shaped, and creativity is formed.” “How else would learning take place?”

To this day, I remember her words so clearly; probably, because its helped to shape how I view situations, respond to others, and over-all better myself, and learn to grow as an individual.

Naturally, all people are not going to agree on a specific topic 100% of the time. If they did, how boring would life, and conversations be?!

What I strive to do with my training, blog posts, discussions, videos, etc. is share and show others one way of doing something. ONE way.

I also hope to provide a positive message to other strength athletes’, especially females, to send the message that it is OK to be strong. It’s ok to not fit a societal driven mold, it is ok to pursue your goals, and it’s defiantly possible to do all that while overcoming A LOT of negatively you will face in that process. I am simply sharing my thoughts, my experiences, and my opinion’s– ONE way of doing something.

Now, will that mean what I believe, write, experience and so forth will relate to everyone else all the time? –Absolutely not. But, will it also provide, hopefully, a positive message of encouragement, and the reassurance that you are not alone in certain thoughts, feelings, or general experiences? I sure hope so!

I would also like to point out my thoughts, feelings, and experiences are just that; mine. I do not claim to be right about everything, or know all the answers, and I have no problem admitting that.

What I do know is I can write and share those with others with pure hope and desire to help another person. Weather that helps someone in the smallest or biggest way, I still hold intentions to provide positive, honest, and real experiences.

What others take from my thoughts or advise, or ANY thoughts and advice in general, is up to them; because it is with all these experiences, and conversations we have with others, grow and learning takes place.

“Are Carbs the Body’s Preferred Fuel Source?” by James Barnum

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes; The Neelys

Check out our new Meal Planning Guide for a step-by-step approach to planning meal frequency and composition. Also included are sample meal plans, food lists and weekly schedules. 

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The subject of this article is one that divides coaches, training partners, and even families.  OK…Maybe families haven’t been driven apart discussing whether the body prefers either carbs or fat to produce energy, but this is a topic that a lot of people take very personally.  The rise in popularity of Paleo and low carb dieting within the fitness community made believers out of many of us.

Lately though, it seems like a more balanced approach – like the one Eat To Perform espouses – has made a comeback.  Carbohydrates can super-charge high intensity athletic performance!  This is because glycogen, the intramuscular fuel source, is the human equivalent to plant starches and is thus replenished faster when we eat a moderate amount of starchy carbs – potatoes, rice, oats, quinoa, etc. – around our workouts!  How can we then, as a group, have gotten things wrong?  Well, it’s happened before…

Recall that at one point a high fat diet was attributed to all kinds of diseases and disorders related to the heart and circulatory system.  We know now that fat isn’t bad for us – in fact, we know that a diet rich in essential fatty acids from both plant and animal sources has very little to do with obesity and heart disease; the right balance of dietary fats can actually lower the risk and severity of many conditions!

So if fat was bad but it wasn’t, and carbs were bad but they aren’t…What gives!?  Which one of these energy substrates is actually the body’s preferred fuel source?  I hear you screaming “TELL ME NOW SO I KNOW WHAT TO EAT!”

Personal Preference vs. Physiological Fact

Settle down and consider this, dear reader.  When we talk about what the body prefers, it’s an issue of semantics.  Bodies are a collection of cells.  Cells don’t have “preferences” per se…They don’t care whether they watch Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead.  Green and blue are both A-OK.  Yes, there are circumstances where our cells function either better or worse due to what we eat, but I’m getting ahead of myself.  Individual cells just don’t care, because they can’t.

People, however, are very picky.  From a macroscopic perspective, when we talk about the body – this collection of tiny pieces – we’re really talking about the PERSON.  YOU are your body.  It’s more a question then of what YOU prefer if we’re examining preferences.  Preferences are almost entirely subjective – i.e. they’re based upon experiential bias.  Believe it or not, a lot of the people handing out nutrition information on the internet are VERY biased, to the point where they may even reject facts in favor of anecdotal evidence.

While it’s always healthy and fun to consider anecdote, as objective, rational people who want to make the most progress they can in the shortest amount of time, we aren’t really concerned with what someone THINKS works best (especially when they’re ignoring basic nutrition science).  We don’t care if Guru #1 says dietary carbs are unnecessary since the body can make them from protein, nor if Guru #2 swears by a 90% carbohydrate diet provided by 30 bananas a day – we’re SCIENTISTS and we want to go based upon data and observable, repeatable, factual information!

What really confounds the issue then is that when you trust someone’s word, unbeknownst that it’s actually just a matter of personal preference, you might end up making some big mistakes and deterring your own progress or the progress of others.  Experience is great, but we need a baseline and that baseline is grounded in facts, not belief.

If you still follow me, you understand then that it’s not a matter of “preference” at all when we’re talking about fuel sources – whether it’s carbs or fat.  It’s a matter of cold, hard FUNCTION.  While we cannot venture to guess what our bodies PREFER, we know pretty much exactly how our bodies FUNCTION.

Let’s Change the Question

When we ask instead, “Are carbs the most EFFICIENT fuel source for the body?” we get closer to the answer…But not quite all the way.  Indeed, the fastest way to make cellular energy within almost all of your bodily tissues is through glycolysis – the process of breaking down glucose to make ATP.  The only major exception is your heart, which runs almost exclusively on fat.  Your brain however cannot efficiently use fat for energy – it needs ketone bodies (derived from fat and protein) and glucose.  In the end, the only time fat is the most efficient fuel source is when there is no glucose available.

So glucose is the most efficient fuel source for your body…”But is efficiency always important?”  No, not necessarily.  There are scenarios where relying upon fat metabolism has distinct benefits.  To take advantage of your body’s natural Metabolic Flexibility, you can eat more fat when you’re not exercising intensely – mainly when you’re not lifting weights.  Everything from watching TV to jogging at a comfortable pace can be adequately fueled by fat.  In fact, by flexing your metabolism to fat burning mode by eating mostly meat and veggies when you’re not lifting weights, you can improve body composition and health, as well as your body’s sensitivity to carbohydrates.  When it’s time to kill it and improve your WOD time or hit a new PR, you can go for some sweet potatoes and flex to carbohydrate metabolism to make energy available quickly and efficiently.

The Answer

In summary, both fat and carbs are technically the “preferred” fuel source of the body.  It just depends upon what the body is doing!  The only reason this question ever comes up is because internet gurus, be it with good-intention or not, have pushed their agendas so far that they’re neglecting basic nutrition science.  This is a debate very swiftly ended by a Wikipedia search and it really doesn’t have much to do with preference – it’s a matter of efficiency and like most things, a balanced approach is the right approach.  With that in mind, don’t take this to mean that you should shovel pizza and donuts into your belly before and after every workout – the quality of the food you eat, as well as the quantity matters.  You’re just cleared now to have rice and potatoes again without fear.

“Starting Strongman” by Sheri Stiles

Sherideadstrong

Check out our new Meal Planning Guide for a step-by-step approach to planning meal frequency and composition. Also included are sample meal plans, food lists and weekly schedules. 

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After my not-so-great performance at the LA FitExpo I had decided I would finally take a little time off from powerlifting (bodybuilders have an “off-season” so let’s call it that!) and focus on healing the back injury I’ve been battling for months, get the negative feelings out of my head, and come back feeling the excitement I have grown to know and love surrounding competition.

Although it’s been extremely frustrating not being able to squat heavy, or chase PR deadlifts like I want to, it’s been interesting doing other things in the gym I don’t normally do; making it through a mobility circuit was humbling to say the least.

However, I seem to be faced with the same question over and over: “When are you going to compete next?”

Well, here goes nothing – I have decided to sign up and attempt a strongman competition!

I have always had an interest in competing in one, but, it’s usually been around the same time I was planning to do a powerlifting meet.  Now that I have been unable to squat or pull at the level needed to improve my strength in these lifts, I have shifted gears so to speak.

Although it’s something I am not familiar with, I am excited! I feel like I am reliving my first powerlifting meet—where I basically said, “Sure, I’ll do a meet, I just lift stuff right?” I may show up and do terrible but but oddly enough, I am seeing excitement in that uncertainty.

It’s worth mentioning I am still not avoiding movements that give me pain. So, when attempting rack pulls the other night I had to stop; I have been able to deadlift but at a substantially lower weight, and I have resorted to lunges and other accessory lower body lifts to work areas I would otherwise during squats. I started doing some farmers walks with dumbbells and even some curls (oh ya, those happened) J I will incorporate lifts that mimic the events at the competition, and hopefully get stronger in my “off season”.  After all, they do call it STRONGman right?!—it can’t make me weaker!

I am hoping that in the mix of rehabbing my back, working on mobility work, and working with events/lifts I don’t normally train, my outcome will be an overall improvement in strength. That way, when I am feeling better physically, I can come back to kick that squat’s butt!

So for all of you who will be there to witness my first attempts at strongman, I thank you for not laughing ahead of time! I hear you don’t even get to wear your singlet—now that’s just crazy! ;)

Chorizo, Sweet Potato and Spinach Stuffed Breakfast Mushrooms

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Check out our new Meal Planning Guide for a step-by-step approach to planning meal frequency and composition. Also included are sample meal plans, food lists and weekly schedules. 

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So the past few weeks have introduced me to the Open.  While I entered the Open simply as a means to push myself a little harder, I can’t help but let my competitiveness get the best of me…and sometimes…it ain’t pretty….

Don’t get me wrong, I have always been competitive, but right now, I am watching those athletes that are close to me in the rankings and I am working hard to stay ahead or get ahead of them.  Part of me feels bad that deep down, I am hoping they can’t do a movement as well as me, or can’t lift the prescribed weight but really, they are probably thinking the same thing about me…right?  (Sure Shannon, of course they are….)  I know that this competition should be about what I can do, not what my competitors can’t do, but sometimes you’ve gotta use what you can to your advantage, right?

With that said, I am truly excited and happy for my fellow competitors in my gym when it is all said and done (I am just writing that in case they read this….ha ha!!) No seriously, I am….really….

Ok, now that I have dug my own hole, let’s eat!  I have been planning on making some sort of stuffed mushroom for a while now and this morning, inspiration hit!  I love my sweet potato breakfast hash, so why not make a play on that?  These honestly could be eaten ANY time of day, just like everything else I make, but was delish with the egg on top!

Chorizo, Sweet Potato and Spinach Stuffed Breakfast Mushrooms

Ingredients

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  • 6 medium portabella mushroom caps (with the stems and gills removed)
  • ½ lb chorizo sausage
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½  red bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 cups of spinach or kale (tip: I put my spinach/kale in the freezer when it’s getting close to going bad and use it for recipes like this!)
  • 1 cooked sweet potato, skinned
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, cooked to your liking (I did mine over easy)
  • Optional: Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Brown the sausage thoroughly and transfer into a food processor.
  2. Use the sausage fat to sauté the onion and peppers for a couple of minutes and add the frozen spinach or kale and cook for about 1 minute. Add this to your sausage mixture along with your egg, sweet potato, coconut flour and salt/pepper. Pulse a few times just to combine.
  3. Spoon a good amount of the mixture into each cap, top with cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes. If the cheese isn’t quite browned enough, throw them under the broiler for a hot second.
  4. In the last five minutes of your mushroom’s cooking time, heat a frying pan for your egg(s) and cook as you like.
  5. Place on top of your mushrooms and enjoy!

Kelly Edelmann’s ETP Story

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Check out our new Meal Planning Guide for a step-by-step approach to planning meal frequency and composition. Also included are sample meal plans, food lists and weekly schedules. 

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I started following Eat To Perform October 9th, 2013 after taking Nutrition/Food Science through my local college. In that class I learned that my approach to nutrition was in need of change! Previous to Eat To Perform my diet was fairly strict Paleo. I ate a lot of meat, fats, and veggies. I didn’t count my macros and I ate all the time! Every once in awhile I would have a sweet potato.  I had a project in my class where we counted all the food we ate for 3 days and I was shocked at the amount of fat I was consuming and surprised that my large plates of veggies didn’t add up to much in carbohydrates.

After that realization I went searching for more info on what a really good diet for an athlete consisted of…that’s when I stumbled across ETP. My first thought after plugging in my numbers to the calculator was “how in the heck am I supposed to eat this many starchy carbs?!?” and “what will I snack on instead of handfuls of nuts and spoonfuls of coconut butter?!?” I was challenging at first to make changes but totally worth the results. For the first time in years I was eating white rice, gluten free oatmeal and chex cereal and not food shaming myself because my choices weren’t Paleo. My “diet” went from being about what I couldn’t eat to now what CAN I eat!

I am very active in both my work and play. Right now I am signed up for the Open and have completed my first of 5 workouts. My results in the gym have been astonishing! After a few weeks of ETP I started to see huge fitness gains. Crushing old PR’s, increases in all my lifts and the ability to recover faster with less soreness and more energy than I’d ever have. I am hoping to qualify for the Nor-Cal Regionals and when I do it will because I finally have my nutrition all figured out.

The interesting thing when you compare the first picture to the second is that she weighs exactly the same in both pictures.  In one she just has better muscle definition and more of a "full" muscle look from added carbs.

The interesting thing when you compare the first picture to the second is that she weighs exactly the same in both pictures. In one she just has better muscle definition and more of a “full” muscle look from added carbs.

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