The Dark Secret of Occam's Protocol
While we’re all throwing a parade for the fat loss success of slow carb, and we’re lauding the minimum effective dose workouts of Occam’s Protocol, there’s a dark figure lurking in the shadows.. and we’re not all ready for him.
For many readers, fat loss has been inevitable, as you follow the slow carb diet principles, eat your beans, chicken and spinach every day, and not blink as the inches or pounds fade away.
This is a wonderful way to lose fat, however, it does, to some degree, lul us into a false sense of security. All is not well in the world of fat and workouts, when it comes to Occam’s Protocol.
This workout series is the most well-defined, and most manageable of all that are explained in the book. Geek to Freak is, quite frankly, an epic gym session, and some of the other workouts look stranger and more confusing than the first time I saw Chuck Norris on a Total Gym. Personally, I got the impression that without a trainer walking me through some of those workouts, they just wouldn’t happen accurately enough to get results.
So Occam’s Protocol is the workout chosen by many slow carbers when they want to build some more muscle – it’s the most favored, most simple, and I will agree, most effective of the workouts. I love that it reduces impact on joints, because it is a very short workout. I also like the gains that I got, both in strength, and muscle mass (and the weight that came along with it).
But what about those diet changes? Ever suspected there was something a little bit funny about them?
If your heart just skipped a beat, never fear. It is true, that Occam’s Protocol requires not just workouts, but dietary changes too. Depending on how you read the book, you’ll be adding brown rice, or quinoa, to 2 or 3 meals per day, in addition to your slow carb base. Now this is looking like a fairly carbohydrate-heavy diet.
Of course, the body needs the carbs to have energy, to rebuild, in using protein, and generally we feel more energetic when we’re pumped full of carbs (unless they’re junk like sugar, or white flour). True, the fiber content of the diet still holds up as providing a slower than usual energy spread across the day, especially if you’re eating 4 meals per day.
However, the dark devil is in the detail.
Although many people are going from slow carb to Occam’s Protocol, the book doesn’t actually specifically recommend this. In fact, it just so happens that the chapters are close together. Remember, the Four Hour Body is a reference manual, not a novel.
And that devil I mentioned?
The simple fact that Occam’s Protocol is a one-goal programme: it is designed wholly for fast muscle mass gains. That is it’s prime purpose. Want to gain 10lbs in a month? You can do it with Occam’s, just as Neil Strauss did in the book. There’s little proviso though, that not all of this is guaranteed to be muscle.
Occam’s Protocol is Tim’s Minimum Effective Dose (MED) version of the original Geek to Freak workouts he used to get, frankly, huge, in 1 month. The fact that he was regaining previous muscle mass made it easier for him to gain as much as he did, however there are some other differences between these workouts.
For a long time, I was looking at his result, which was around 34lbs gained in 1 months, and assuming that Occam’s was a watered-down version of this, an 80% version – and he even suggests you should get 2.5lbs per week gained, or you need to eat more. One key fact stood out to me – his bodyfat percentage actually went down over that month. So that made me all the more comfortable with getting going on Occam’s. I expect many people had the same thought – Occam’s Protocol = the MED version of Geek to Freak = similar but smaller results.
Well, over the 2 months I followed Occam’s Protocol, I definitely gained a good amount of muscle, however I did also gain back a little of the fat I lost with slow carb. I have since heard of a few people having similar results.
How could this be? I had followed the guidelines strictly, and had even erred on the side of too little food (as shown by a 1 week stall in weight gain).
Going back to the book, I re-read the Occam’s Protocol chapters, and found myself staring the cause in the face. As I was so overjoyed with the slow carb regime, and it’s 4-hourly meal schedule, I had maintained this, as suggested in the book, with Occam’s Protocol additions.
On re-reading, I saw the comment “It’s easy to lose a little extra fat later.” This sounds like it’s written by someone who expects there to be some fat gain with this protocol. This is not the programme I thought I’d signed up for!
Worse yet, after a couple of months on Occam’s, I was stalling badly in weight gain, and really was finding a ceiling, in terms of food volume (see my post on eating 25,000 calories in 1 week) and in terms of weight gain. Nothing seemed to tip those scales any heavier, and my concern was growing that the extra food would contribute to unwanted fat gain.
I wonder if you have experienced a similar situation?
Reality was that I was feeling sick from eating so much food, and couldn’t possibly imagine going beyond 3500 calories. I can’t believe Tim Ferriss is able to ingest 6000 calories in whole foods per day, as I couldn’t get near 3500 without using protein shakes.
On re-reading, I noticed a little line that I had previously not paid enough attention to: The choice is yours: eat big or eat often. Fat gain will be slightly more with the former, and inconvenience will be much greater with the latter.
The Dark Horse
And there is the dark horse. Occam’s Protocol is not necessarily a moderated workout and diet regime for the newly-thin slow carber, it is a separate program, unto itself, and one that really is recommended for those who have trouble gaining muscle. Moreso, if you choose the convenience of 4 meals in a day, you are likely to gain a little extra fat with your new muscle.
So where to from here? Do we workout on Occam’s, eat like a starving elephant, and then work on fat loss again afterwards? Many bodybuilders use this bulking-then-cutting philosophy, but I’m not sure I’m totally comfortable with that. At the same time, I want decent gains, because I’m putting in the effort at the gym, and in the kitchen.
Due to my daily routine, eating 8 times per day is quite frankly going to do my head in, and feels like I would need to be running a spreadsheet just to keep track of what was going on. It is, however, a viable option and one that will most likely result in lower fat gains.
So I looked back at Geek to Freak chapter, seeing it as a pre-cursor to Occam’s Protocol.
What was revealed was telling: when Tim did his incredible 34lbs muscle gain, 3lbs fat loss month, he used supplements. And I’m not talking about just creatine and glutamine, the supermarket stuff. He was using other supplements to control blood sugar, control insulin response, and highten workout performance.
The most ‘borderline’ supplement of the group, is the NO-Xplode he took every morning. I say borderline, because before purchasing a month’s supply on this product, I did some research online, and came up with enough disturbing stories about people feeling like they had taken drugs, were spaced out, dizzy, shaking, etc.. that I opted to stay away. Even Tim comments that “To give my adrenal glands and adrenergic receptors a rest, I didn’t consume NO-Xplode on Sundays.” The thing about NO-Xplode is that it does its job on the body very well, and it is a combination of caffeine and other elements that increase workout abilities. So, it’s favoured by a lot of guys lifting weights. That doesn’t mean it’s safe though.
Having checked other results, there’s quite a lot of proof of great gains, without fat gain, of people taking this supplement, and I wonder if this was one of the key ingredients to Tim’s results. I would love to see the same result created without including this particular supplement. I’m not prepared to test this out myself, so I’ve looked at alternatives to taking a substance that could make me feel like I’ve dropped a cap of speed.
My conclusion was that taking the supplements in Geek to Freak, minus the NO-Xplode, was a good alternative. So I started on Niacinamide (no Slo-Niacin in Canada), and Chrome Mate, plus Alpha Lipoic Acid. It’s quite the supplement regime, when added to Creatine, and L-Glutamine, plus Cal/Mag, Executive Stress B and Policosanol. To keep things mixed-up for my muscles, I stopped the Occam’s Protocol workouts, and went to the Geek to Freak, epic workouts, for 6 weeks, but that’s a story for another day.
If you’re considering Occam’s Protocol or you are currently working out and eating according to the book, remember that it is designed for large muscle gains, and that a bit of fat loss would be considered incidental to the result. If you’re more focussed on developing more muscle whilst maintaining your fat loss, consider altering the diet to include more protein and fats, and only include the rice or quinoa after a workout, and see if this affects your results. Or of course, you could reprogram your routine and do 8 smaller meals per day. Another alternative is to experiment with the additional supplements in Geek to Freak, and continue the same food and workout program.
The online world is full of suggestions for how to gain muscle without gaining fat, and a lot of them stink of sales pitches, and over-hyped marketing. Recently, I’ve found myself reading up on Hollywood’s action stars, and learning from their training. One thing is common – they tend to go high on protein and greens all week and then go nuts on the weekend. Most of them are training daily too.. I wonder what Tim Ferriss would have to say about that low-carb/high-carb cycle, and what looks like ‘overtraining’ when compared to the recovery days Tim preaches in the book.
What do you think? Is it ‘Occam’s Protocol for weight gain’ or is it ‘choose your own adventure’ when it comes to adding muscle after slow carb fat loss? Leave a comment below!
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