Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Size Matters

I recall a conversation while watching an old training video of Ben Moon and Jerry Moffat that went something like this.


Makes me feel like training.


Makes me feel like not eating.

In gravity sports weight is key and there’s no way to beat around the bush about it. Sure, there’s an occasional mutant who climbs hard without a totally lithe frame (see most of the WFH pics as examples) but it’s far from the norm. Gravity ensures that no amount of muscle strength can offset the power and endurance increases that you make when you lose weight. We see a more telling example in linear sports such as cycling where technique is not as varied. When roads are flat heavier riders rule. But as they turn upward weight becomes more and more of an issue to the point where the fastest times up mountains are from men who often resemble elves. There’s a simple reason why no one wins the Tour weighing more than about 150 pounds and it’s the same as why no one could keep up with Legolas on a three day run: size matters.

In any training program for climbing weight should come into play at some point. Like cyclists, runners, boxers, and wrestlers, most of us don’t walk around at fighting weight. And it’s not just because we like to drink beer and eat ribs in the offseason. These sports require us, at our best, to weigh less than our bodies naturally would.

The strategy for how to lose this weight is tricky. When doing high volume training it’s easy to lose weight but, if you are trying to increase muscle mass at all, it’s impractical to under eat because you risk not recovering from exercise and, thus, wasting the time you’ve been training. Therefore, I always target weight loss while I’m power training.

Overview note: this is only if you are already at your natural weight. If you have excessive weight to lose it should be done during all phases of your program, as far away from your actual competition dates as possible. This type of weight loss should be slow, steady, and accomplished by eating clean and exercising. Today’s example is how to get down to fighting weight only.

Anyways, so why during the power phase? Because power training is lower volume and higher intensity than any other phase. This means that you aren’t as hungry as when your body is altering its amount of muscle mass. Thus carbohydrate consumption can drop without your brain going into full revolt (your brain functions primarily on glycogen). In short, the power phase is the best time to streamline your diet to recover from exercise and feel good.

I began the WFH at 173. After the hypertrophy phase I’d creeped up to 178. After three weeks of power I’m at 165. I accomplished this without a lot of suffering or going into nutrient bonk. My technique is a combination of the Shakeology Cleanse, zig zag dieting, and an old trick we used to call the egg diet.

The egg diet was a ridiculous Atkins-stage-one-type of thing where we’d eat a ton of eggs (for protein) and little else to boost our metabolisms. My current plan used only used one aspect: eggs for breakfast (3 eggs with some diced veggies). My next meals are Shakeology, sometimes with some added fruit. Shakeology shines here because it’s so nutrient dense, or high in nutrients while low in calories. Dinner, also a-la the Shakeology cleanse is a salad or something similar, like a veggie dish. I allow any healthy additives: nuts, seeds (always chia for me), legumes, more eggs, balsamic/olive oil (no meat). Overall calories for me on these days is low. I don’t count but they’re in the 1000-1500 range.

Finally, I enact zig zag principles, eating one to three days per above (three to four days per week total) and normal on the other days. This way I stay strong and energized and can continue this diet for as long as it takes to get to where I want to be. Each week I tweak it slightly, based on the prior week’s success, until I’m ready to rumble.

vids: another option for weight loss is to simply watch vision quest, exercise like a madman, and not eat. “why do you want to get smaller and wrestle a small guy?”


Ben said...

That sounds like a great training plan, but how do you keep from losing muscle and performance by eating only 1500 calories or less? I know the zig-zag dieting is for this purpose, but it seems like after gaining muscle, you would lose some by not eating so much. You would still obviously be increasing muscle cell recruitment and strength, but the capacity for your strength would seem to be less since the hypertrophic progress you made could be slightly reversed.

Steve Edwards said...

You can minimize how much muscle you lose by how much you eat on your zag days. For me weight is key so I'm ok losing some size here. Since my training is specific, and nutrient needs prioritize (meaning they will take sides on what gets repaired first) you should keep all of your sports specific muscle. But, as I said, by zagging bigger you can keep all of your muscle easier (somewhat like the ABCDE diet--search my blog if you don't know it).

Reedster said...

Great videos. I think I'll strap Levi in the stroller and go for a quick run.

Steve Edwards said...

It's almost impossible to watch that without wanting to do something. I'm going to smoke a pipe and talk to the Everywhere Spirit. On a Vision Quest, man.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post Steve. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart because I have such a tough time staying lean. For some reason, I have always been passionate about strength to weight power sports but I struggle to keep my body in check. It seems as if even when I am eating perfectly, I just carry more fat than most people.

I would love to hear some other strategies you have. October is my power month and I am getting started with my program on Monday. It seems like the perfect time to drop some of this extra weight before I peak for Nov/Dec.

Thanks man!!

Steve Edwards said...

Zig zagging is the most consistent stategy I've found. Search the blog and read about the ABCDE diet. It's principles can be used to lose weight as well.

Steve Edwards said...

Another great easy weight loss plan is to go on the road with very little money, climb all day long, and not eat a lot. Read Jerry Moffatt's Revelations for more on this.

Anonymous said...

Just read this. Seems that Zig Zag Diet is promomoted by several sources at the moment. One question though: when do you eat normal? Is it on the training days or rest days?

Steve Edwards said...

While zig zagging you train right through it. The only time I would adjust this is if you're doing endurance stuff where you're out for hours. In this case you need sports nutrition and those days caloric intake should almost always be quite high. But the point of zig zagging is to make your body train on less fuel than it needs, which will teach you where your numbers really are because all of those calculators, trainers, and nutritionists out there are only going to give you ballpark numbers. How much you actually need to eat comes down to your experience with your body.