Adequate protein — & a protein-sparing crash diet

Two additional things I’ve learned from Lyle McDonald & his Body Recomposition website so far, that are having a pretty immediate effect on my nutritional planning:

First, he’s convinced me that “dieting by percentages” — that is, figuring out my nutrition based on macronutrient percentages — doesn’t really make a whole lotta sense (see “Dieting by Percentages, part 2”). Mainly because if I’m going only by the percentages of carbs, fats, & protein I’m eating, I can really screw up on how much protein I should really be eating. Too little protein is bad, too much protein is bad too. Basically, what I need (or anybody else needs) is adequate protein. I don’t think I was probably getting quite enough before I started doing any meal tracking; but I’ve also got to be careful that I’m not getting too much. So my protein intake should be defined more by my overall activity level than by its percentage of my diet — it should for the most part be a constant. Which is why the real changes are between low-carb/high-carb & hence also between high-fat/low-fat (or moderate levels of each). Since I’m going low-carb, that by definition means that I’m going to be eating, percentagewise, a “high-fat diet” (healthy fats, of course). Okay, now, doesn’t that go against the long-lived “fat is evil” propaganda that’s been going around the past three or so decades? And a fat lot of good its done for us too. (Literally. The dominance of the “low fat” mantra has correlated quite closely to the rise of the obesity epidemic that we hear so much about these days.)

Second, & more radically, McDonald has convinced me that it is possible to do crash dieting in a safe, healthy way. The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook: A Scientific Approach to Crash Dieting. I’ve already have this book in hand (or rather, computer), since it was available for purchase via electronic download at McDonald’s website. With all the reading about nutrition I’ve done over the past couple of years — this stuff makes sense. Basically, this diet is his version of a protein-sparing modified fast (PSMF) — a low calorie “crash” diet which avoids muscle wasting by providing those calories that are eaten mostly in the form of dietary protein, with the addition of essential fatty acids (omega 3s) & nonstarchy carbs. How exactly to do it depends on one’s body fat percentage — obese people with high body fat percentages (which I qualify as) can afford to use this diet for a longer period of time than people of middling body fat percentages or people who are fairly lean (e.g., bodybuilders on a pre-contest diet). (This accords with stuff that Tom Venuto has said: that people with high body fat percentages can afford much higher calorie deficits than people who are leaner, though Venuto overall would not recommend a PSMF diet.) McDonald’s got built in free meals, refeeds, & two to three-week diet breaks in order to prevent metabolic slowdown & boredom.

I think what I’m coming to is an understanding that:

(1) Yes, my overall changes in how I eat — which started with my dietary overhaul two years ago after my mother’s death — must by necessity be a permanent, lifestyles changes in how I eat. No way will I will ever go back to the vending machine diet I was on before). But —

(2) There is also a certain science to “dieting” that I can make use of — techniques, like this protein-sparing modified fasting “crash” diet, that of course are not sustainable over the long haul, that by their nature must be limited in duration & scope, but which can nonetheless be extremely helpful for the shorter term.

So, yeah. I’m gonna give a try to this over the next two or three weeks. Actually, someone with my body fat % can, according to McDonald, go for as long as 10 or 12 weeks on this diet before a two-week break from it (including two “free” meals per week during the diet itself), but I think it’s better to try it out for a shorter time first, especially since I’ll be traveling down to Seattle & Eugene for ten days at the end of the month & will need more flexibility about what I’m eating then.

One of the effects this will have on workouts is that because the PSMF diet is by its nature ketogenic, it cannot sustain too much cardio & definitely not high intensity intervals — because there won’t be enough glucose in my system to turbocharge my muscles for those kinds of workouts. So, Turbulence Training is on hold for the moment. What I can do is moderate straight cardio, & I can do traditional strength workouts.

So that’s basically the plan through about May 21 or 22. I fly down to Seattle on the evening of May 23, so on the 22nd or 23rd I’ll start increasing my caloric intake to more “maintenance” levels, chiefly by adding more healthy fats into my diet but also probably some low glycemic carbs.

I’m not actually fully on the PSMF diet yet, but approaching it — eating very few carbs, & lower amounts of fats. I do want to make use of the apples I’ve got at home so they don’t go bad. But after they’re eaten… well, we’ll see how it goes.

I’ve considered this pretty carefully, & will be watching myself carefully too to see how it goes. Please believe me that I will up my intake if anything seems to be going wrong. I expect by the nature of ketogenic diets that my energy levels will go down a bit as I transition from burning glucose to burning ketones, & also that I’ll initially have some hunger; but hunger pangs are reported to disappear in the absence of carbs, & my energy should improve after a few days too (except not to the point of sustaining high intensity workouts, which require the turbocharging provided by glucose).

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