So, I workout at a CrossFit gym and this means that ALL the CrossFit principles are recommended for everyone to some degree (which is good, because it's a good system, I think).
One of the things that I don't buy, however, is their diet, the "Zone Diet." The owner of my gym, however, is really big on it. I told him I'd look into it more, and then did, and then thought it sucked. He's in Iraq, so I e-mailed him and explained why I thought this. He wrote a pretty long (good) response. I don't really buy it, however. I think body composition at the semi-elite level is all about diet, and when you look at CrossFitters vs bodybuilders, the bodybuilders are simply bigger. Anyway, I think this exchange is good, and any commentary from you guys would be interesting:
Now that I took the time to read over your zone diet BS, there is absolutely no way it's a more effective approach to acheiving my goals than what I eat right now.
Let me be clear on how I eat:
10-12 or so meals a day, relatively balanced
Breakfast is protein + carbs and a little bigger meal
Meals throughout the day are protein + vegetable + healthy fats (33% omega monounsaturated, 33% polyunsaturated, 33% saturated by the end of the day)
Pre-workout is fibery ****, protein, and sugary ****
Then during/after workout I eat really fast disolving carbs with protein
And for 2-3 hours after my workout I eat lots of protien + low GI carbs
From there until I go to sleep I go back to protein + vegetable + healthy fats
I carb cycle too, so on days I don't work out I don't eat the carbs.
On workout days I get like 40% carbs/35% protein/25% fats and on non-workout days I get like 15% carbs/45% protein/40% fats (with less calories overall).
I only take in carbs when my energy levels are really high (mornings and after I workout), so I'm burning through them for energy anyway, and all the carbs are going (with the protein) directly to my muscles.
This is all recommended by John Berardi, who the people on CrossFit like anyway. But yeah, pretty standard bodybuilding stuff.
I'm trying to get bigger and stay lean. I don't think there's any way this 5 meal block plan **** is going to pack on as much muscle. The timing is all really bad and so you don't get to benefit from the anabolic window when your muscles are willing to take in a lot of protein/carbs. This diet seems like it was designed for a sedentary person, rather than someone who can power clean 275 lbs (me).
And the way you explained it is a lot different than the way I udnerstand it now. I thought you were eating protein + vegetable + fat all day. But, you're really eating balanced meals with significant amounts of carbs in every one. That probably does make you feel reasonably decent all day long, but you don't peak for your workouts. And, you're mixing carbs and fat all day, which is bad, and you probably store a lot of those carbs as fat because they're coming in at bad times. And, at the same time you're not benefitting from carbs when you're supposed to.
This Zone diet is a lot better than stuffing Big Macs all day, and I don't doubt that the diet works kind of well (40/30/30 is always good), but I really doubt that most people can get the same results with the Zone diet as they can with Berardi's diet advice.
The diet thing is always debatable. Everyone has a theory on when/what to eat. Your dedication and commitment is what gets you your gains, not breaking your diet in micro sections and anabolic windows. Ofcourse, I'll never convince you otherwise. That will come with time. You're smart, hopefully it won't take you as long as it did me.
I promote The Zone as a base. It works for everyone, no matter a persons fitness goals. Since you read about it, you know it's more about controlling insulin levels than performance. So it does have to be tweaked for an athlete. I eat more protein the they suggest. Most CF'er/tri guys/athletes in general should.
The bottom line is this, I've tried the carb loading, carb cycles, post load simple sugars for increasing insulin to exploit the "anabolic window" at the end of a workout. I've done the priming diets where you starve your body of carolies for a week to reset it's primal adaptations of survival, then over eat to create an anabolic environment.
The fact is, I've never made more gains than when I quit eating sugars and carbs that spike insulin. Spike is the important word here. All carbs per weight cause the body to release the same amount of insulin. Some just faster than others. And some even faster than that.
Bobybuilding, and therefore popfitness rhetoric is that this spike is anabolic. The problem is, insulin is not an anabolic hormone.
Anabolic is defined: the building up in the body of more complex substances from simpler ones. Insulin facilitates glycogen storage, right? That, in and of itself is not anabolic. Does this mechanism support some anabolic actions in the body by helping create a state in which the body is more prepared to rebuild and recover from intense trainig... yes.
The problem is, the body cannot absorb and assimilate but so many carbs by weight in so much time. So, you spike your insulin and take in "x" amounts of carbs in hopes your body crams it's muscle cells full of gycogen.
It doesn't work... it's not how the body works.
First off, it is simply an overload for the body. Before the body is done digesting those simple carbs, converting them to glycogen, uptaking it from the blood, and assimilating the glcogen into the submyocellular components, the insulin you've spiked and hope to use to exploit this imaginary "anabolic" window, is gone from the blood stream.
Basically, the body reuptakes the insulin faster than your body can convert the carbs to glycogen and store it in your cells. If everything has an equal and opposite reaction... then the spike of insulin is taken away just as fast as your body created it. It's your body's way of protecting itself from insulin resistance.
So now that insulin is gone and you've got all these carbs being release into the blood... where do they go? The liver? No way... it's full. It's the last to be depleted of glycogen. The liver is the glycogen bank... you could not eat for 3 days and you wouldn't start tearing into those glycogen stores.
So where do they, those carbs go? They are processed as waste in the renal and lymph systems and secreted promptly.
What does work is eating slower digesting carbs that do not spike insulin and therefore do not cause a drastic reuptake of insulin. So now, as your carbs are digested there is enough insulin available to transfer and put them where the body really needs them.
Secondly, and way more importantly, most of us never deplete our muscles of glycogen to any measurable levels. In anaerobic and glycolytic training the muscles do not use glycogen as a fuel source. It's ATP the muscle uses for contractual mobility functions.
Glycogen is used mostly for myocellular functions, not contractions. So you're not using up glycogen in your workouts.
And since insulin plays no part in the production of ATP, what's the point in trying to spike it. Again, I know, you're trying to cram glycogen into the muscle... but it does not need it. The bodybuilding/carb/insulin manipulating diets are not based on how your body actually works.
Most of the time I've found the bodybuilding community is right... about half of the **** they say. Like in this case, they talk about how sugars cause and insulin response. And yes, at first it sounds really good... especially to young inexperienced athletes looking for an edge, but they do not carry it to the end of the body's actions. They didn't follow the body's mechanisms to the end. Therefore, it's only half right. The other half is why it doesn't work.
From release to reuptake, the insulin response is more damaging than it can ever be "anabolic".
There's only a few hormones that are truely anabolic and most of them have nothing to do with muscles or increasing human performance... the word you should look at is androgenic.