Archive for the 'physical culture' Category



Oh come on, don’t tell me you’ve never had one.

As you might guess I finished the CBL induction phase today with a big ol’ workout followed by a tsunami of glucose and its polymers.  A few posts ago I mentioned that I hadn’t come across anything to mitigate the flat drudgery of ketosis induction; well, this time around I loaded up on creatine throughout the process (~15g per day), and while it didn’t make ketone adaptation any more fun it at least preserved a lot of my strength.  Provided that I kept the sets short (~3 reps) I was able to maintain some pretty good volume and intensity, even reducing rest times.

In keeping with what I said about n=1 experiments on drinking and keto/carb loading: After Thursday’s workout I weighed in around 176.  Friday I got together with friends and drank a bunch of bourbon.  Saturday I got together with different friends and drank a bunch of whiskey.  Sunday and Monday I ate clean and stayed sober — two hangovers in a row does that to me.  After today’s lifting I clocked in right around 171.  I imagine that the vast majority of that weight loss is water, but then again keto induction induces water loss regardless.  At any rate I didn’t handicap my progress.

Also, I don’t remember sushi ever tasting as good as it did post-workout this evening.

So let’s see how CBL goes.


Gettin’ shredded: Insulin, ketosis, and carb loading

Here we’re getting into some good crunchy sciencey stuff.  Given that human energy metabolism is fiendishly complex, I certainly won’t pretend to know everything about what I’m writing about, but this understanding has been good enough for me so far.  I got most of it from Lyle McDonald, Kiefer, Silverhydra, Prof. Dr. Andro, and Martin Berkhan.  They (and their sources) don’t always agree, and odds are excellent that I’ve made mistakes in trying to understand their writing, too.  Take this with a pillar of salt.

I repeat: I am going to simplify outrageously and not cite my sources (except as I’ve done above).


Let’s start here.  In metabolically healthy people (fixing diabetes is not part of the game plan), insulin is a storage hormone.  It encourages cells to take up nutrients from the bloodstream and build stuff with ’em.  Insulin levels are elevated by three things: Carbohydrate consumption; protein consumption; and high blood sugar.  Eating protein will cause a short, sharp jump in insulin levels; eating carbs will cause a similar jump, and then a longer second jump as the sugar or turns into blood glucose and gets shuttled away to wherever it’s going.

For the purposes of losing fat specifically, which is what we’re after, insulin is not our friend.  It inhibits lipolysis (the breakdown and release of fatty acids from fat tissue) and encourages fat storage.  We want to keep insulin levels chronically low (again, please don’t do this if you’re diabetic) in order to support as much lipolysis as we can possibly manage.  We do that by cutting out carbs and going ketogenic.


Tissue burns glucose preferentially.  Deprive the body of carbs, and the liver will release glycogen (“animal starch”), which gets broken down into glucose.  Muscle cells have their own stores of glycogen.  In general it takes the liver about a day, maybe less, to burn through its glycogen supply if you’re starting from a normal carby diet.  Once it does, provided that blood triglyceride levels are sufficient, it’ll start producing ketones from those trigs, which can be burned in place of glucose by most tissues in the body.  (It’ll also start producing small amounts of glucose from fat, which is good because parts of your brain really need it.)

Ketone uptake and metabolism is sufficiently different from glucose uptake and metabolism that it takes a few days for your body (in particular, your brain) to adapt to burning ketones instead of glucose, so you feel like shit for a little while.  This is the “low-carb flu” you might’ve heard of, although I’ve never found it to be nearly as bad as actually having the flu.  In any case the solution is to embrace the suck.  After a few days your cells will have adapted to uptake and process ketones, and you’ll feel fine again.

Fat metabolism, both directly and through ketone production, is significantly less efficient than glucose metabolism.  Since we’re trying to burn as many kcal worth of fat as possible, that’s a good thing.  But we don’t want to stay in ketosis absolutely forever: Liver glycogen levels act as a metabolic regulator, so if the liver’s out of glycogen (which it has to be in order to produce ketones) your metabolism will slowly drop, which is thoroughly counterproductive.  If you try to ramp up your workouts to compensate, you’ll find that without muscle glycogen you can’t lift for shit.  Also, when you’re in ketosis your pee will probably smell funny; maybe stay away from asparagus.

Carb loading

The solution is to carefully and selectively reintroduce carbs.  We can be clever about this by timing our carb-ups right.  General insulin sensitivity is highest in the morning, when the government and the food lobbies want you to be eating Cap’n Crunch and drinking orange juice, and lowest in the evening.  But muscle is most sensitive to carbs right after a good hard workout, particularly if it’s empty of glycogen.  So by lifting in the afternoon and slamming a bunch of carbs and protein immediately thereafter, we can ensure that the majority of those carbs go right into muscle glycogen, which is right where we want ’em in order to promote muscle protein synthesis.  The remainder will get turned into glycogen by the liver, giving metabolism, thyroid function, and &c. a bit of a kick and probably getting burned up overnight, so we’ll wake up the next morning in ketosis again.  This is the general approach taken, to various extremes, by Lyle McD’s targeted ketogenic diet, SilverHydra’s Cheat Mode, and Kiefer’s Carb Backloading: A one- to four-hour (…ish) carb load after each workout.

Another option is to drive the body into deep glycogen depletion over the course of several workouts and low-calorie low-carb days, say over the course of a workweek, then after one final workout to raise muscle insulin sensitivity carb-load like a motherfucker for 30-48 hours.  The idea is that any glucose you consume won’t get stored as fat until your liver and muscles are packed full of glycogen, and any small amount of fat you put on from fructose and dietary fats will get dealt with during the next week’s low-cal glycogen depletion hell.  While you’re carb-loading you hit the weights as hard as you goddamn can.  This, in vastly insufficient detail, is the method behind Lyle McD’s Ultimate Diet 2.0.

About the only downside to carb loading is that you probably shouldn’t drink during the carb-up.  The idea is that, if your liver’s processing alcohol, it isn’t doing anything with carbs — it’s not clear to me whether alcohol uptake and conversion to acetaldehyde and acetic acid in the liver actually inhibits glucose uptake; if it doesn’t, it’s plausible that you’ll be burning alcohol (really acetic acid) for energy while you’re storing even more carbs (like the maltose and maltodextrin in your favourite beer) as glycogen.  Alcohol does accelerate ketosis, so separating a few glasses of whiskey from your carb up by an hour or two might be a good plan.  Kiefer has some interesting things to say on the topic; he’s more sanguine than I am.  Clearly this calls for some n=1 experimentation.  Anecdotally, when I was running UD2.0, I timed the end of my carb-load for Friday night, wherein I ate tons of chips and popcorn and drank beer and whiskey, limited more by having to squat the next day than by dietary concerns, and I still managed to lose a good pound or more of fat per week.



Just picked up two cans of Pringles and a pound of Rockets in anticipation of Tuesday night’s carb-load.  I feel a bit like this dog.

Also, it turns out that great sashimi and ceviche make keto induction much more pleasant.


Gettin’ shredded: Hunger abatement methods

So I’m digging into the “induction phase” on Kiefer’s Carb Backloading diet plan.  Some of you will be grimly sympathetic already; “induction” on a ketogenic diet plan basically means “depleting all the glycogen in your body until you get fully into ketosis (and incidentally feel like shit for a week)”.  Yeah, lucky me.  Glycogen depletion is the price I have to pay for slamming Pringles and Rockets after my workouts.  At least I get to drink while I do it (fun fact: alcohol without carbs hastens and deepens ketosis, hence the “alcoholic ketoacidosis” that’s freaking out your pharm-major friends when they hear about Atkins).

Keto sucks; “low-carb flu” and struggling with 60% of your max for sets of five is an enormous pain in the ass, but that’s what we have to go through to earn our sushi rice and carby treats once we get to the glycogen loading phase.  I have yet to find a way around that.  Dieting in general sucks, because when you’re in an effective state of calorie depletion you get hungry.  I have found a few ways to mitigate that, and I’ma write about them here.

Intermittent fasting

Yes, to deal with hunger I suggest you skip breakfast.  Yes, this is part of my ongoing jihad against meals in the morning, but hear me out and you might learn something.

First off, IFing helps you deal with ghrelin better.  Ghrelin is, among other things, the “hunger hormone”, and it does neat things like sharpen your awareness and make you think better.  So bathing in ghrelin every morning isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  But from a hunger perspective, once you’ve come to terms with “zOMG I can’t eat until noon and it’s only 8:30 FFFFFUUUUUUUUU…” there’s not a hell of a lot else that dieting can throw at you from an acute hunger perspective.  You get really hungry around 10, deal with it for half an hour or so, and then realize that it’s not such a big deal.

By far the bigger benefit of IFing, though, is that you backload your meals.  On a “normal, sensible” diet, you eat a breakfast that doesn’t quite satisfy; a lunch that doesn’t quite satisfy; and a dinner that doesn’t quite satisfy.  You’re always hungry, and you always have to stop eating before you’re satiated.  When you’re IFing, though, you get to eat a big (er, “normal”) lunch and a big (er, “normal”) dinner, to the point where you’re stretching your stomach sufficiently for it to send “stop eating, dammit” signals.  IFing, you can eat to the point where you’re full and want to stop, rather to a point where you know you ought to stop and can convince yourself that you’ll be full-ish, kinda, relatively speaking.  It’s good.

Also, you can sleep in an extra half hour.

Protein shakes before meals

This is another “fucking with your satiety response” trick, which is how many diets work (until they stop working).  Simple idea: About half an hour before you eat a meal, start drinking a protein shake.  Give it a good 40g of protein, and while you’re at it throw in a teaspoon of Metamucil and a teaspoon of some greens powder.  You’re probably not getting enough veggies anyway, and the fibre is good for (a) enhancing your sense of satiety and (b) giving you some truly majestic shits, especially if you do the right thing and eat veggies with all your meals.  (Fibre also tends to carry off some of the kcal from your meal with it down your colon, although I’m not sure if consuming it before a meal makes this work.)

Plan some smaller meals and chug a protein shake before each.  When you’re on a kcal deficit you want to be taking in more protein anyway, to minimize lean tissue loss among other things, so you should be doing this anyway, but the protein shakes will increase your satiety on each of the smaller meals.  And you never know, you might actually put on some muscle or something useful like that.

Ephedrine + caffeine stack

It works, bitches.  Take 20mg of Ephedrine HCl and 200mg of caffeine when you get up in the morning, then again about four hours later.  EC is thermogenic in general, so you should be stacking it anyway, but for the first few weeks (months?  Depends) that you take it it’s also a mild appetite suppressant.  And seriously, stacking EC is cheaper than lentils, why would you not.

I’m told that taking L-tyrosine with EC can potentiate its appetite suppressant effects even after it’s stopped being effective, and L-tyrosine seems to be well-regarded as a peri-workout stimulant anyway.  If it’s cheap (I haven’t played with it at all, ever), go for it.


I’m going to throw out some props to my favourite nootropic ever.  L-carnitine L-tartrate is fucking amazing, for me, for sheer focus.  Want some extra willpower for five minutes or so?  Listen to Hatebreed.  Want some extra willpower for two hours or so?  Pop some LCLT.  I’ve been sticking to at most 1.5g/day to avoid developing a tolerance, and so far it’s still helpful for (among other things) getting me to the gym when my fuckitometer is reading high.  I think I’ve mentioned before that if I’d been slamming this stuff in junior high, I might’ve gone to MIT.  Not cheap, but not out of sight pricey.

Find a diet plan you can stick to

Something like Cheat Mode, where you carb up after heavy workouts, helps a fuck of a lot because it gives you a chance to eat your face off under controlled circumstances.  I ate Cheat Mode for half a year or so and probably lost about half a pound of fat per month, because I wasn’t really trying.  I ate a Mk. 1 mod 0 targeted ketogenic diet, lost just under a pound a week, and hated it for a month and a half because there was no real payoff.  I ran Lyle’s Ultimate Diet 2.0 and lost over a pound a week, and my carb-ups were fucking glorious.  Right now I’m giving carb backloading a shot, with the hope of finding something somewhere in between.  Try a bunch of different plans, and see what works best for you.

Suck it up or stay fat

This is the last piece of advice from the Lyle McDonald article that sort-of inspired this one.  If you’re in a kcal deficit, you’re probably going to get hungry.  Embrace it; that means you’re doing something right.  Yeah, it sucks; put on some metal and get over it.  Embrace the suck.  Most of hunger is just habit; your body telling you “I’m used to getting a meal half an hour ago, and I don’t see no meal here; what the fuck, buddy?”  Give it a week and that gnawing hunger won’t gnaw quite so hard.  Make ghrelin your bitch.

I will also say that you shouldn’t be going hardcore kcal-deficit for too long — work in a cheat meal every week or ten days, and work in a total diet break every two months or thereabouts.  (Want more details?  Buy Lyle McD’s books; that’s where I get much of my info, and I’m not about to give away his ideas for free.)


Bulkin’ ain’t easy

The latest post at SuppVersity is relevant to what I was saying about bulking from lean being more efficient (and what I’m probably going to say about macronutrient composition if/when I get around to writing about it).  Lots of good crunchy data; go have a read.


Gettin’ shredded: Why the hell would I do this to myself?

Shredded (adj) – possessing notably low levels of subcutaneous body fat, so that vascular and muscular definition is easily seen by awestruck onlookers.

Dieting — by which I mean honest-to-balls dieting, trying to drop significant amounts of fat while preserving lean mass — sucks.

Despite what the magic-macro peddlers will promise you, you’re going to get hungry.  You’re going to spend irritating and inconvenient amounts of time preparing meals, calculating kcal and macros in at least rough proportions, and awkwardly dodging at least a few social events.  Your strength is going to go down, at least some of the time, and your gains are going to grind to a halt (or nearly so).  You’re going to drink a lot less beer than you want to.  All that stacks up against maddeningly slow progress measured by infinitesimal changes in belt tightness or the length of the vein that’s starting to pop out on your bicep, with your metabolism being an asshole in the process and occasionally stacking up five or six pounds of fluid for no good goddamn reason at all except to test your will.  I’m told that, once I get down to a certain level of leanness, the dieting game will get closer to fun as feedback gets closer to real-time — “Sure, I haven’t had an IPA in months, but I found new veins on my abs this morning!” — but I’m not there yet.

I wasn’t fat by any standard, except perhaps that of a competitive bodybuilder, when I got serious about getting my shred on this winter.  There were no dire warnings of impending health problems, no awkward “real talk” interventions from concerned friends.  I was sitting around 185 with a blurry but persistent two-pack, slamming meat slop and watching my squat inch higher at an agonizing pace.  I put on about 20lbs over the course of 2012, and most of it — greater than half, at least — was muscle.  Pretty good by the standards of the general population, right?  Cool story bro.

So one answer is vanity.  Not just “I want men to shrivel and women to swoon when I wear a t-shirt” vanity, but the fundamental existentialist drive to be better than two standard deviations above the mean in everything I care about (and can affect).  I earned a Ph.D.; I deadlift four plates; and I once described my job as “saving the world with linear algebra”.  By the standards of the truly elite, I’m weaksauce, but compared to a distribution with seven billion samples I’m doing pretty well.  That self-image won’t tolerate hot-dog rolls of lower back fat.

But then again, I’ve been an arrogant asshole for at least two decades.

The second answer is sheer cussedness, the obverse of the “fundamental existentialist” coin.  I’ve never been truly lean before.  I want to see if I can do it.  I might get there and think “this is cool, but IPA tastes better than veins on my abs look, so fuck it”.  But I’ll have gotten there, and I’ll know that I can get back.

But I’ve been an arrogant existentialist asshole for well over a decade.

The real answer, the real driving motivation here, is that I’m a strength nerd with equal emphasis on “strength” and “nerd”.  To get stronger I need to add muscle — broad strokes here, maybe we’ll talk about neurological adaptations later — and I’m not being terribly efficient about that if half of the mass I put on is fat.  Worse yet, that fat is metabolically active, slurping up kcal, fucking up my insulin response, and shitting out estradiol — not what a growing boy needs, unless “growing” refers to gynecomastia and prostate cancer.  Simply put, bulking produces more muscle and less fat at lower starting body fat percentages.  That’s what I’m after.  I want to cut for a year and bulk for a decade.

Also, I’ve been looking for diet plans that (a) fit with and enhance my understanding of energy metabolism and (b) don’t suck all of the booze and bacon out of my life.  I’ve come across a few candidates, and I’ll blog about them later on.  I’ve yet to find anything resembling a free lunch, of course, but if you’re willing to lift like you mean it you can put yourself in the somewhat awkward situation of not being able to eat enough chips and candy to satisfy your diet over the next thirty hours.  Slamming a stack of Pringles and following it up with half a pound of Rockets — and then going to bed wondering how you’re going to get twice that volume of carbs the next day — is a peculiar kind of fun, but I’d recommend it.  I’ll explain glycogen supercompensation a few posts down the line.

One last word, if you’re interested enough to have read this far down the page: I won’t pretend that I can tell anyone else how to get lean.  I’ll write about how the things I’ve tried have shaken out for me.  You might be able to apply some of it — maybe even all of it — but don’t blithely accept anything I claim as typical or universal.

Update: Digging around a bit I found this article on meat toxins by SilverHydra (you know, “meat slop guy”).  Turns out that the Maillard reaction, which is responsible for that delicious brown crust on meat, produces “advanced glycemic end-products”, which appear to be (at least in part) responsible for the horrors that a diabetic body inflicts upon itself.  So getting lean means being able to eat more tasty meat.  (That article’s also great on its own merits, and follow through to the one on aromatase too.  That’ll come up when I tell you to eat yer fuckin’ veggies, just like Mom said.)


Outrage fatigue II: And your little dog too

I have a great idea for a series of posts, if not a whole website.  Titled Goalposts, it would chronicle the continuum fallacies perpetrated by people I don’t like* who insist that since a bad thing (e.g. warrantless wiretapping) isn’t immediately a much worse thing (e.g.Stasi-like police state), the first bad thing isn’t actually bad at all.  (“If it’s not the worst thing ever, it must be okay” is the continuum fallacy in play here.)  Then, when the much worse thing they dismissively toss out as an unthinkable absurdity actually happens, I dance my little I-told-you-so jig, post an amusing image macro, and record the new location of the unthinkable-absurdity much-worse-thing goalposts.  “Banning trans fats isn’t an infringement of liberty!  All we’re doing is regulating a chemical that’s well-known to be toxic in humans.  Quit talking about Prohibition; it’s not like we’re banning large sodas or something asinine like that!”

Unfortunately, I can’t bring myself to document the process of the world going to hell in quite such real-time obsessive detail.  I’m slowly trying to build myself a beautiful bubble, and to my pleasant surprise I’m actually making progress and feeling more optimistic less carnassial as a result.  I’m unlikely to improve the state of the world by blogging about outrages or by chronicling the mendacities and idiocies of the politicians and parties for whom I might vote (or for that matter by voting) nearly as much as I might by doing my job well, being nice(r) to people, and maybe even writing some useful software on my own time.

I doubt very much that I’ll give up ranting about stupid shit entirely (I didn’t last time, and neither has Bryan Caplan), so at some point in the future you’ll probably see more vitriolic rantage.  But until I start feeling less like a pale shadow of Kafka and more like a pale shadow of Voltaire, politiblogging can make its dick like a Klein bottle and go fuck its own pisshole.

That doesn’t mean I’ma quit blogging altogether, though.  If nothing else you’re probably going to read a bit more about my continuing quest to get jacked.  Presently I’m trying to get lean as fuck, which is boring as hell so I want to do it in a hurry, and I’d really like to do it without losing appreciable amounts of strength.  Sound unlikely?  Yeah, me too, but so far I’ve tried a couple of Lyle McDonald’s diets (targeted ketogenic and Ultimate Diet 2.0) and seen some encouraging results.  I’ll probably write about those soon.  I’m also gearing up to give Kiefer’s Carb Backloading plan a try, which looks a hell of a lot like Cheat Mode on steroids (perhaps a poor choice of metaphor, that).

I’m also likely to keep ranting about stupid nutrition tricks.  On which note, PopSci recently(ish) debunked eight ridiculous nutrition myths which, like most ridiculous nutrition myths, were largely debunked by mid-century physical culturists (who in turn were largely written off as idiotic and dangerously unbalanced meatheads until the paleo movement rediscovered them within roughly the last decade).  You could just flip through my blog archives, I think I’ve covered all of these, but PopSci has new and different citations which is always cool.  Too bad they didn’t bring up breakfast.


* I’m an equal-opportunity misanthrope, so this includes pretty much everyone

anarchocapitalist agitprop

Be advised

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