Why I'm eating half my food today

Well it’s late in the week, and it’s been a busy one. Launching our Couples Challenge meant a couple of late nights, and some crossed eyes, as I tried to figure out what was happening with our Facebook page. It’s a lot of fun so far, and we’re hearing from some really great people! It’s going to be tough to choose!

So today, I find myself in an unusual position – I am feeling hungry.

That’s right, hungry. Of course, this goes against all my new instincts that I have built over the last 3 months, on the slow carb diet to lose fat, and using Occam’s feeding, to gain muscle. So it’s a bit difficult to sit with, however I know it’s just for a day.

So why, you may ask, am I sitting around and not doing anything about it? Why am I not going and cooking up some beans, some chicken and some spinach? There’s a good reason for this hunger, and it is in fact by choice, not due to me being stuck away from the fridge, or in a place with no good food options.

The reason is based on a couples of blog posts I read on Tim Ferriss’ website the other day. I should say, re-read, because I read these back when they were new, 4 years or so ago.. so why was I reading posts this week that are almost 4 years old? The first answer is that good information doesn’t get old, and the second is because these two posts were the first look at two of the most important chapters in The Four Hour Body – Slow Carb Diet and Geek to Freak.

Between these two posts, the slow carb diet is explained, and Tim’s experiment to gain 34 pounds in 1 month. Reading these got me eating lentils back then, though I didn’t continue to do so every day until this January. But there’s details in them that make a lot more sense, in the context of the book.

But why am I hungry today?

Answer: To gain more muscle.

Between the photographs that show a huge change, and the references to weird training experiments in Colorado, is this little bit of information: “Eat enormous quantities of protein (much like my current fat-loss diet) with low-glycemic index carbohydrates like quinoa, but drop calories by 50% one day per week to prevent protein uptake downregulation.”

And there is it. Simple and easy to understand. It is also discussed in the book, though for me it got lost amongst lots of ‘what if’ scenarios and suggestions of how you could do this (ie maintain calories, but drop protein down to only 5-10% of total food).

Having been stuffing myself full of protein in the last few weeks, in an effort to get through my weight gain plateau (with good results – see this article), I was wondering about what this was doing, endlessly filling myself with food. And I thought, maybe at some point there’ll be a switch that just flicks, and my body won’t be taking in as much as it was a few weeks back, when this much protein and food wasn’t ‘normal’. And then as if by magic, I reread these posts, and the answer was there. Doing this sure didn’t seem to hurt Tim’s ability to gain muscle over his experimental month.

So I choose to just eat half. Eat half of each meal. That’s taken the form of cutting out the starches, so I’m back to 100% slow carb, and drink half as much protein shake too. Though not officially ‘calorie cycling’, it is a new adventure into testing the body’s reaction to food intake.

Though I was quite concerned about the effects it might have, I seem to be progressing through my day quite fine. I do wonder about muscle recovery effects, however I’m already a few days after my last workout, so muscle growth isn’t as big an issue as it might be if I had just trained at the gym yesterday.

My mood hasn’t been effected like I thought it might be, and my concentration is still solid. So perhaps there is something to this. I know I’m going to eat again in an hour or so, so I’m not concerned with my hungry feeling, I am just noticing it. And tonight, I will have a regular slow carb meal, with smaller proportions, and be ready for tomorrow.

Have you experimented with calorie or protein cycling? I’m interested to hear from people who might have tips or advice for us all!

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10 Responses to Why I'm eating half my food today

  • Justin says:

    I generally eat less carbs on off days, although I am not doing strict tracking but I try.
    I am actually doing the reverse of what you are doing though. I eat really limited calories and carbs and once a week do a refeed and eat lots of carbs. Kind of like a cheat day.

    I know the hungry feeling, as I am doing intermittent fasting. My solutions for that have been water, coffee, and work.

    • Luke says:

      Hey Justin, Nice suggestions for getting through that hungry feeling :) Work! I find hot water and lemon juice works well too. Your method sounds interesting.. how are your results?

  • AndyDJ says:

    I tried the Leangains intermittent fasting as suggested here: ( http://www.myfourhourbodydiary.com/2011/03/04/is-there-a-diet-better-than-the-slow-carb-diet/ ) for a few days but i felt it was hindering with muscle gain, especially after i read your post on not getting enough calories and missing out on gains There seems to be a bit of conflicted information on the eating soon as you wake up.. i think the rule should be modified to “make sure your first meal you eat is mostly protein” would make for a better rule and one i am sticking to. (I usually have a full protein shake made with semi-skimmed milk and/or 3 egg spinach and turkey wafer scrambled egg)

    • Luke says:

      Hey Andy, thanks for your comment.
      I think getting a lot of protein in the morning is important, like you say. For the time being, I’m only testing 1 semi-fast day per week, and just seeing how it goes. The main thing is that, having gained 10lbs, I need to make sure I can continue to gain as I continue to train. Most likely that will involve an off-week fairly soon, as I’m approaching 8 weeks of training. So fair its been an interesting learning experience.
      Your breakfast sounds awesome! :) My usual is eggs and spinach, plus red lentils. Love it! All the best.

      • doug sheehan says:

        Do you think drinking a protein shake for the morning meal is sufficient? I have been drinking Optimum Nutrition 100% Casein Protein in the am only to experiment. What are your thoughts?

        • Luke says:

          Hey Doug,

          Protein shakes aren’t part of the slow carb program, so if your aim is to lose fat, they could slow that down. Try to focus on convenient, fast to prepare whole food meals – like using canned beans or precooked lentils, precooked eggs and frozen spinach, thrown in a microwave for 3-5 mins.

          All the best,

          • doug sheehan says:

            I have to wake up at 2am to drive 30 minutes to work. It has been my experience to eat eggs and beans in the car. It’s been dangerous driving and eating, so I have been drinking a shake. It has been working on curbing my appetite because the next meal I eat is at 11:30am.

          • Luke says:

            Hey Doug,
            To be perfectly honest, trying to exist on that schedule isn’t going to contribute to building health in the long term, more likely it will detract. With 9 hours between meals, you have a huge gap between meal times. I accept that with this routine, you find a shake to be a better solution, and probably I’d agree with you. But the routine itself isn’t likely to support fat loss efforts, or great health.
            All the best

  • glenn says:

    Hey Luke,

    Almost done with my Pre-hab. I’m on pace to start Occams next week given that my strength imbalances are corrected. I had a question. On the first day when you’re determining what weights you max out at, do you count that as your first day of workout A and/or B? Or is the first day of each workout when you determine your max weight and reps considered a “practice” day?


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