T Nation

Former Marine Gets Back In the Saddle

I am a 47 year old former Marine who is now a teacher and an coach of three sports. I have been lifting off and on for 30 years. I have never been a huge lifter nor have I ever been considered a skinny guy. I was athletic all of my life but I have suffered a couple of setbacks recently and it has become more and more challenging to continue with my athletic lifestyle. I had knee reconstruction a couple years ago and I also have a herniated L5/S4 (probably from squatting too heavy). Having said that I have been really good about lifting when I am not in season. Winter, for me, is easy…fall (football) and spring (track) are the challenging times.

I struggle with eating clean…the Italian in me likes to eat! :slight_smile: So I am heading back to the gym after a 2 1/2 month period off. My goal is to get back to about 15% BF. (currently I am about 23%, I will post an exact measurement later). I will begin my workouts with a one day on/one day off, push pull routine. I will implement cardio(@ 30-45 min)5 times a week which because of my knee will mainly be on the elliptical.

Here is where I need the advice…eating! I work from 7:30 in the morning until 6-7 in the evening (in season). I have a hard time planning and preparing enough food to carry me through the day. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke…my only hang up is Diet Pepsi! LOL So any advice would be greatly appreciated. I am considering following the Paleo Diet do any of you have feedback on that? Thanks in advance…I will post before pictures in the near future.

Semper Fi,

Two years ago in Cabo…

These two pictures are two yeas old and I am a not quite at this point any more but I figure this is a good base line…or reference to get back to.

First and foremost, thank you for your service. As for diet, have you considered some form of intermittent fasting (IF)? It might mesh well with your busy schedule and desire to eat big and/or ‘dirty.’ Would be happy to kick the idea around with you if it’s of any interest.

Eye Dentist, I would love to hear your ideas. It sounds a little outside the box…I am used to hearing “eat six times a day”! Shoot me some ideas I have an open mind. Thanks.

IF’d for 6 weeks… will go back to it again in a couple of months… It is really EZ compared to 6 meals + a day. It also gives you a little different “look” than the “usual” way. It’s a steady lean-out and a fuller, harder look (at least from my experience) than the normal way. Nothing works for everybody, but I like feeling full when I eat and not stressing over being in a position to eat every 3 hours.

I was able to eat more real food and depend less on shakes as well. I’m sure EyeDentist can give you much better details (he is much smarter), but the over-simplified version is to combine the 6 meals into 2 or 3 and eat during a period during the day no longer than 8 hours, thus fasting at least 16 hours between last meal and first meal. Macros don’t change from what your plan would be either way, you just get them in less meals. Like I said, oversimplified… but that’s what I used to set it up.

Lots of us old devil dogs around this place. Good luck and kick ass.

Yeah, the notion that you have to eat every 3 hours or so (~6x/d) is deeply ingrained in the BBing/fitness psyche. And there’s no doubt this strategy can work really well–a great many people have used it to get ripped. That said, there’s a lot of evidence (scientific as well as anecdotal/experiential) to suggest that the opposite strategy–ie, a few large meals consumed within a relatively short time frame–works just as well (and may even be superior in some respects). The point being, there’s no need to shoehorn a 6x/d eating regimen into your schedule if it doesn’t work for you. And that’s where IF becomes a viable alternative diet structure.

The basic idea of IF is very simple–all eating is done within a set time-window. One widely-employed feeding/fasting schedule is 8/16 (ie, you eat during a specific 8-hr period, and fast the other 16); 6/18 and even 4/20 are frequently used as well. Obviously, the fasting period will include the 8-or-so hours you’re asleep, and extend to some point in the afternoon. So if your last intake is at 9P, on an 8/16 schedule you wouldn’t eat again until 1P; on a 6/18 schedule, 3P; etc.

IF has several advantages over the classic BBing eating schedule. First, because fewer meals/day are eaten, those meals will be substantially larger in calories, and thus more satisfying in both volume and content. Consider someone on a cut who wants to eat 2400 cal/d. At 6 meals/d, that’s 400 cal/meal. Many find meals this small frustrating in that they don’t allow for either a significant volume of clean food (ie, high protein+carbs), and even less if you crave something dirty (ie, high carb+fat). Thus, for these people, the 6x/d schedule is a recipe for disaster because it provokes feeling deprived, which can lead to ‘falling off the wagon’ and bingeing. However, on an IF schedule, 2400 cal/d translates into three 800 cal meals, or one 1200 and two 600 ones. (Many IFers like to ‘front load’ the majority of their calories into their fast-breaking meal.) Meals of this size allow for a substantial volume of clean food, and/or the inclusion of a satisfying amount of dirty food. This would allow you to placate your ‘inner Italian.’

The disadvantage of IFing, of course, is going through a substantial portion of the day w/o food. In this regard, two notes:

  1. Coffee is a lifesaver–it suppresses hunger, and can thereby ‘bridge the gap’ between waking up and the first meal.
  2. With time, the metabolism gets used to eating later (secondary to a phenomenon known as ‘hormonal entrainment’), and the hunger pangs lessen in their intensity. In order to make the transition to an IF schedule more comfortable, some IFers start on a 12/12 schedule, and lengthen their fast by an hour or so every week until reaching their goal-schedule.

IFing definitely isn’t for everyone. For example, my wife feels ill if she doesn’t eat within a few minutes of waking up. Plus, she HATES coffee. (I don’t think I could do this w/o coffee.) There is NO WAY she could do this. In my limited experience, IFing works best for people who are very busy at work (takes their mind off their stomach), and who find eating small/clean meals day in and day out frustrating.

Anyway, that’s my $0.02. Sorry for such a long post.

(Thanks for the shout-out, notbig!)

You bet!

I’ll throw this in too. I feel like the BCAA’s are important from waking up to first meal as well. I have trained “fasted” for years because I have to go early in the morning before work, but have never supplemented with them until now. I switch from IF a couple of weeks ago because I want to put a few pounds back on and I don’t think I can eat anymore than I was during the window. I am still using BCAA’s pre/peri-workout and feel like I am better off for it.

I also started with a 24 hour fast on a laid back non work day to see how my body would respond to hunger. I really didn’t have much in the way of hunger issues (huge coffee drinker too!) on the 16/8 plan. I train at 5:45 am, would eat lunch at 11:45am and many times would get 3 meals and all macros in by 6-6:30 pm.

Don’t want to hi-jack your thread, but would like to hear your take EyeDentist on trying to bulk with IF. If I could get over the aforementioned hurdle, I would gladly go back to IF while trying to add some quality pounds.

Good Luck with whatever you choose to use DevilDog and keep us updated.

[quote]notbig wrote:
Macros don’t change from what your plan would be either way, you just get them in less meals. [/quote]

This is a really important caveat for anyone doing IF–you still have to hit the right macros, including (and most importantly, at least on a cut) total calories. IF won’t work if it’s run as ‘starve for 16 hours, then gorge on any- and everything for 8.’ You still have to hit macro and calorie targets based on goals and activity levels.

[quote]notbig wrote:
You bet!

I’ll throw this in too. I feel like the BCAA’s are important from waking up to first meal as well. I have trained “fasted” for years because I have to go early in the morning before work, but have never supplemented with them until now. I switch from IF a couple of weeks ago because I want to put a few pounds back on and I don’t think I can eat anymore than I was during the window. I am still using BCAA’s pre/peri-workout and feel like I am better off for it.

I also started with a 24 hour fast on a laid back non work day to see how my body would respond to hunger. I really didn’t have much in the way of hunger issues (huge coffee drinker too!) on the 16/8 plan. I train at 5:45 am, would eat lunch at 11:45am and many times would get 3 meals and all macros in by 6-6:30 pm.

Don’t want to hi-jack your thread, but would like to hear your take EyeDentist on trying to bulk with IF. If I could get over the aforementioned hurdle, I would gladly go back to IF while trying to add some quality pounds.

Good Luck with whatever you choose to use DevilDog and keep us updated.[/quote]

I think you might be interested in this topic too, DevilDog, so I hope you don’t mind me answering notbig on your post.

I like to train fasted (sort of–more below) as well. I work out in the mid-afternoon, and have no food beforehand. However, I’m convinced that weightlifting while completely fasted is not ideal, as a fasted metabolism is highly catabolic, and the inevitable cortisol spike provoked by weightlifting will render it even more so. (As an aside, I think low-intensity steady-state (LISS) cardio can and should be performed in a fasted state, so I don’t take anything prior to a workout of this sort.) Because of this, to alert my metabolism that it’s time to shut off catabolism and enter ‘anabolism mode,’ I take a small amount (~20 g or so) of hydrolyzed protein (including some BCAAs) about 30 min prior to hitting the gym. Further, once I get a pump going (~10 min or so into the workout), I’ll start sipping on a drink composed of leucine-rich hydrolyzed protein and cyclic dextrose. The idea is to dramatically spike insulin (and shut off cortisol) just as the muscles are getting stimulated, the hope being that an insulin spike at this juncture will preferentially shuttle/partition nutrients into the primed muscles (as opposed to indiscriminately promoting uptake into both muscle- and fat cells, which is what insulin does in the non-primed state). My first post-workout meal (eaten within a few minutes of getting back from the gym) is when I treat myself to some junk–two big donuts (man, do I love donuts!), or a double-doozy cookie (have one sitting at home even as we speak–I can hear it calling me), or several handfuls of chocolate kisses. This satisfies my sweet tooth at a time when doing so is least likely to damage my physique, and may even be helpful (ie, by contributing to the desired PWO insulin spike). I will have a clean-carb+protein meal an hour or two later, and after that I switch to clean-protein meals only for the remainder of my intake–I want insulin levels to taper off at that point in the day. So I hit my carbs + fat totals in the immediate peri-workout window, and my protein goal later in the evening.

To directly answer your question: As for bulking on IF, I’ve never tried it (assuming that by ‘bulking’ you mean running a significant caloric surplus). At this point in my life, given my current physique and age, I’m reluctant to run a chronic surplus–it’s just too hard to lose the fat that comes with it. Instead, I try to run more of a body-recomposition program–calories at about maintenance, while manipulating nutrient timing (as outlined above) in the hopes of simultaneously dropping a little fat while building a little muscle.

Great Points and well explained.

I also found that I didn’t have to eat as “low carb” all the time when IF’ing. I eat significant carbs and less fat on my “big training” days and low carb w/ more fat on the others. For me that is basically Mon/T/Th/Fri carb. up… Sat/Sun/Wed low carb.

Thanks, that is what I meant. I’m just gonna stick with going back 6-8 meals so I can get more calories for now.

[quote]notbig wrote:
Great Points and well explained.

I also found that I didn’t have to eat as “low carb” all the time when IF’ing. I eat significant carbs and less fat on my “big training” days and low carb w/ more fat on the others. For me that is basically Mon/T/Th/Fri carb. up… Sat/Sun/Wed low carb.

Thanks, that is what I meant. I’m just gonna stick with going back 6-8 meals so I can get more calories for now. [/quote]

Once again, you and I are on the same page. On non-lifting days, I go very-low-carb–incidental carbs only (usually totals ~20 for the day). I also let calories drop to about 2/3 of maintenance, in hopes of promoting a little extra fat loss.

Ok, tomorrow is the fist fast. I will go from 6 pm tonight until 6pm tomorrow night…water only. My plan is to try this once a week and try to clean up my diet outside of the fasting time a little. We will see what happens. I did my BMI last night and I am 193 lbs @23% body fat. 15% here I come.

I just wanted to say welcome, and good luck with tweaking your diet. As they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. The trick is finding the thing that works for you. As for the 24 hour fast, I think that would just make me mean. A hungry Puff is a mean Puff. :slight_smile:

You asked about people going Paleo. There have been some threads about that in the Nutrition forum over the past couple of years. You are probably familiar with Mark Sisson at Mark’s Daily Apple? That’s an interesting blog, even if you don’t want to adopt the whole lifestyle. Personally, I don’t follow a Paleo diet, but veggies, meat, and nuts do make up the bulk of my calories most days. I also include Non-Paleo Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, whey/casein, all good sources of lean protein, unless you have some problem with milk products. I know a lot of people are claiming sensitivity to gluten, but I read Wheat Belly and just didn’t find it compelling, at least for me. I DO think that limiting grains can be smart, particularly when on a cut, mostly because many of us tend to want to binge on bread (including pasta, crackers, and so forth in the bread category). There are certainly people here who feel that wheat in all it’s forms messes with their digestive system, causes inflammation, or causes insulin to go haywire. Personally, I think most of us can adopt some of the Paleo habits most of the time without giving up grains and dairy completely. That’s my strategy.

EyeDentist - I really appreciated reading some of the science and hearing about your experience with IF. I think I’m in the same camp with your wife, the people who probably shouldn’t go there. I do better with frequent small meals, but I can see the appeal. And your comment about eating a couple of doughnuts is just showing off. :wink: