Great squat/leg day and my current diet strategy

This week my home gym, the Oakville YMCA, is closed for renovations.  This should be a good thing as they are getting at least one power rack and new bench presses.  While waiting to see if the new 'wellness centre' will be conducive to smashing weights, I traveled down the QEW to the Burlington YMCA.

The Burlington YMCA is a little older and alot less chichi than the Oakville YMCA.  Maybe that's not good news for Oakville soccer moms looking for new age fitness (a workout without sweat or effort) but for a lifter, it means an old-school power rack and those familiar, old, metal, clangly plates.  Not quite dungeony but about as good as one would get south of the QEW and miles from the border of the Hammer.

Today was scheduled to be my volume leg day or the day where I pre-exhaust the quads prior to doing my work sets in the squat.  The Burlington Y has an old Nautilus branded leg press.  I'm not familiar with the lines of  equipment Nautilus made after their classic cam and chain driven machines but this leg press didn't have chains or any evidence of a cam.  It did have some kind of hinging foot plate that amplified the effort and changed the leverage to keep stress on the knee extension part of the movement.

In any case, this leg press machine was very efficient and after a warm up with 4 plates a side, I did two work sets of 10 with 5 plates a side.  

I then went to the power rack and worked up to my projected work sets with 405.  I did 5 sets of 2 and felt very strong at the end.  I definitely feel like I've improved the work capacity of my quads with these pre-exhaust workouts.  

I then had the pleasure of bench pressing on a proper bench press.  A flat bench pad and bar supports that weren't designed for a 7-foot basketball player greatly reduced the stress on my achy right shoulder.  I was able to do my speed work with 225 with little complaint.  I finished up the workout with db rows with the largest dumbells they had, lowly 100 lb'ers.  Like I said, the place had a dungeony look but was still missing some key ingredients--heavy dumbells being one of them.

My energy levels have been very good for the past few workouts and I'd love to give some of the credit to the latest dietary strategy I've adopted but that would be hype.  Still, I've been pretty happy with how it's gone for the past two weeks and it gives me some hope that I'll be able to continue paring off bodyfat gained  during a period where I just didn't care.

Whenever friends or acquaintances have asked my opinion on this or that diet, I've usually refrained from recommending any of the fad diets.  The problem isn't losing weight, it's keeping it off and virtually all fad diets do nothing to really address the issue of long-term compliance.  While physical culture hobbyists can adhere rigidly to the bodybuilder's special of chicken breasts and steamed vegetables for months at a time, most 'normal' people have no desire to plumb the depths of orthorexia.  Still, those bodybuilders (and now fitness competitors) do have some method to their madness.  

I do alot of reading on obesity, both because I struggle with it myself and because I want to be able to help others.  One of my favourite resources is Dr. Yoni Freedhoff .  He recently wrote a blog post titled, "10 useful Twitter sized weight management truisms".  The first one was, "If you can't happily eat any less, you're not going to eat any less."  That fits me to a T.  It also matches up very well to a theory about a significant factor in obesity called food reward.  A scientist blogger named Stephen Guyenet has written quite a bit on the impact of food reward on obesity in his food reward series of posts as well as an overview of obesity that includes factors other than food reward.  I'd do him a disservice to summarize his articles but suffice it to say he makes the point that the body is designed to seek out foods that 'reward' and that part of the challenge in today's world is the vast amount of processed foods that are designed specifically to trigger the 'reward' centers with the obvious goal of encouraging greater consumption and thus greater purchases.  He talks of the concept of 'hyper-palatability'.  Something I know very well as I've been known to polish off 10 or more of these potent calorie bombs at a single sitting.
I've also been known to polish off one or both sides of the menu at McDonald's and most would argue that McDonald's is hardly hyper-palatable.  Yet, the fact remains that I deal with the ticking time bomb of over-eating on an on-going basis.  Which brings me back to my original point of choosing a diet strategy.  The diet I've been utilizing and one that I recommend to people that ask me is the very simple and relatively uncluttered by pseudo-science slow-carb diet from the book "The 4 Hour Body".  In a way it's ironic that the diet I like the best is part of a book written by one of the most prominent promoters on the internet, Tim Ferriss, but the diet itself is simple and it doesn't need to sell you any supplements to be very effective.

There's a good summary of the diet here.  What I like about it is it's not dogmatic in the way either the Paleo cultists or the Taubes' anti-carbers are.  It allows for structured cheating and it does an excellent job of re-training or re-calibrating one's food reward settings.  The basic plan is no 'white' carbohydrates.  While that does mean no cereal, sugar, fruit, pasta, rice or bread, it does allow for liberal carbohydrate consumption via lentils, beans, or vegetables.  In addition, all meats and eggs are encouraged.  Dairy is out but with the exception of cheese, that's not a great loss for me.  Besides, if I really have a jones for it, I can eat it on the scheduled cheat day.  

There is also a small window for 'fast' carbs right after an intense workout.  A nice way to kill one theoretical bird and one real one with the same stone--modern exercise theory suggests eating simple carbs after a workout replenishes muscle glycogen without being stored as fat; at the same time getting to eat something sweet is a nice incentive to get active and have a tough workout -- a different kind of food reward than what Guyenet describes.

Going back to the food reward theory, my experience with the 'slow carb diet' is that the diet is not necessarily bland but because it is devoid of processed, hyper-palatable foods, it isn't prone to over-eating simply because it's hard to overeat the foods allowed on the plan.  On the seventh day, when cheating is not only allowed but encouraged--the premise includes stuff about up-regulating the metabolism but the pragmatic reason is to encourage long-term compliance, remember that part earlier about happily eating less, everything is a negotiation--I've found that when eating things like donuts or ice cream, that the 'hyper-palatability' is very evident and once identified, easier to control.

So far I am encouraged by the positive changes I've experienced with respect to impulse control.  I know if this strategy is successful with moderating my life-long tendency to over-eat, I'll be on my way to finally gaining some control over my weight future.



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