Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Weightlifting: Low Carb Dieting

Actually, this is pretty accurate.

Everybody wants to lose weight. Except weightlifters, in most cases. For powerlifters, in particular, weight gain is seen as the objective, which is why most of them are on the see-food diet, that is, see-food, eat-food. Body composition is secondary, although elite lifters are usually ripped to shreds in order to maximize muscle mass at a given weight class. I started my weightlifting career in the Starting Strength school, which means that I never really gave my diet the proper attention it deserves. I work a manual labor job, and I lift very frequently (unlike Rippetoe-derived programs), so I figured any excess calories I consumed would be burned off by my constant exercise. Well, I was wrong. Bulksgiving came around this year, and I stuffed myself, and I eventually tipped the scales at 212 lbs, which is a record for me. I was under the impression that most of that extra weight was muscle. It wasn't. Love-handles formed around my waist, and a nice little paunch grew around my stomach. I was getting fat, and I needed to do something about it.

Low carbohydrate dieting was the first strategy I tried, since I like to eat meat, and I like to eat fat, and I figured it would be easy to kick bread. Protein, of which meat is really the only decent source, is essential in building muscle, and fat serves to regulate hormonal functions, where carbohydrates are only used as an energy source. What happens to extra carbs when you don't burn them? They get stored on your waistline as fat. Our modern lifestyles, where physical activity is limited while carb-heavy food is not, essentially facilitate one getting fat very easily. Rather than count calories, I decided to keep my carb intake around or under 130 grams a day. Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, not exactly.

Here are the carb contents of several healthy foods:

Apples: 25 grams

Banana: 28 grams.

A bowel of cereal: 28 grams.

A serving of pasta: 14 in 2 oz.

A slice of bread: 28 grams.

Add all of that up and you get 123 grams, and who eats just 2 oz. of pasta? I didn't include any soda in this list, or beer. A coke contains 46 grams of carbs, and a light beer has 13 grams. One in five Americans drink a soda a day. That's 16,790 carbs in a year. Well sure, that sounds huge, but that's over a year, right? Taking into consideration that most people aren't getting most of their carbs from the above healthy sources, when you factor in the soda consumption, it's no wonder most Americans are one doughnut away from losing the ability to move without the aid of a Rascal.

Hey, I bet that guy can walk!

So I decided to kick the sugar! But not entirely. Unless you're a sedentary office worker (and if you are, that's fine), going really low carb is not going to be feasible. 130 grams allows me some flexibility for an apple or some pasta in order to replenish my glycogen stores, which give my muscles fuel. My diet is currently around 45% protein, 35% carbs, and 20% fat. In the less than three weeks I've been on this diet, I've went from 210 to 201. I can see my abs again! I feel pretty good, too, though I'm achy in the morning from work (excessive carb consumption probably helps aid recovery, and there will be an adjustment period where you'll feel shitty because your body is used to eating sugar all day).

Here's a basic example of what I eat during one day. This might seem like a lot, but keep in mind, I'm a weightlifter trying to keep my muscle mass rather than some cyclist trying get down to 145 lbs.

Breakfast: 3 eggs cooked in butter, one Greek yogurt, 24 grams of protein powder in my coffee, sometimes a cup of oatmeal with low-carb milk.

Lunch: Cold cuts and cheese, another yogurt, maybe an apple or more cheese.

Second lunch (hah): More cheese, another cup of coffee with 24 grams of protein.

Dinner: Steak with salad.

If you're going to try this, just be aware of the carb content of what you're eating. Don't count calories, but eat as much meat and cheese as possible. Most vegetables are low carb, and contain essential nutrients, so don't skip on the green stuff. Also, if you're a beer drinker, switch to whiskey, which contains zero carbs. Just make sure to mix it with water.

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