Before I crack into the post I want to thank folks for their patience in me getting back to questions and comments. I am barely staying on schedule for the book…when I prioritize that project everything else goes out the window. I’m thinking about moving a kitchenette into the bathroom so I can simply eat, sleep and defecate without leaving the room! Funny, I think this is how Greg Everett rolls…
As an aside: If you want a good chance at getting an answer to a question, it needs to be along the analytical side OR something health related. I simply can not help folks tweak their Zone blocks…there are adequate resources for that or you can schedule a consult with me. Between the CFJ 21 , 42 ways to skin the Zone, and the cyclic low carb article you should be set!
So, Pat had a great question on the Zone protein prescription and some attendant issues. Here is that comment he originally put in The Road Forager 2:
I am looking forward to hearing you lecture in Chicago and here is one the questions I have about “zoning” paleo. It just seems to fit with this comment.
Is there too little protein on the zone? You are at 17blocks (the same Rx as me), but after “skinning” it to your “zone”, it is now about 8 CHO, 17 PRO, 40+ Fat. Is that enough PRO (119gms/day)? I asked because you comment that your strength has gone down on zone portions (versus unlimited PRO and Fat on paleo) Is that a factor of loss of overall bodyweight? leaning up? not enough PRO? or other things?
Greg Everett commented that there is not enough PRO on zone for weightlifting athletes (I assume power athletes too), is he correct (if I miss quoted, please correct me)? Would most of us going for that balance between being as strong as we can be, but as lean as we can be, do better with the old 1gm PRO/lbs BW? Then adjusting CHO based on trial and error where there is CHO enough to fuel training, but insulin control is still maintained?
Thanks, looking forward to seeing you and your new book.
This is a great question that begs another question: Enough protein for what? Pat alludes to this with regards to strength athletics, in particular Olifting. Well, when John Welbourn was getting ready for the Crosfit Games he was eating nearly 50 blocks of food! 50x7g= ~350g of protein. This seems like enough protein for many small nations. I think he was at 5x fat so it was also a truck-load of calories. So, the blanket statement “It’s not enough protein” is a bit narrow. The Zone can be tweaked for any occasion. In my mind the Zone is simply an accounting method with an eye towards hormonal balance/optimization. Said another way, one can certainly get big and strong on the Zone, you will simply raise your food intake to a level that is consistent with desired goals.
In Greg Everett’s situation, I think he’s had low stomach acid and some issues absorbing fat. The 5x fat Zone was a “messy” affair. He has been tinkering with some digestive support, zinc supplementation etc so it will be interesting to see how that goes.
So what about MY situation? I was upwards of 35 blocks, 5x fat on my mass gian experiment. I gained 25 lbs in 3 months, added some serious weight to my lifts…got amazingly fat! I have been leaning out on 16 blocks, 1/2 carbs and base fat. It sucks. I’m cold, tired and lethargic…I’m calorie restricted! This should not be a surprise. I had my back squat up to 380 (high bar OL style) at my heaviest. I just did 8×3 @ 345 the other day and am running ~180 and MUCH leaner. Absolute strength has gone down a little, my relative strength is getting much better. Some of this is due to intra-muscular fat. Fred Hatfield wrote about this a good bit and the essence is that higher fat stores in the muscles can improve the leverage of the contractile elements. Good for a fatty, not much help for a skinny guy. Some of the shittyness is just the fact of calorie restriction. My body is not super stoked about the shift in weight. The desire to be lazy, not train and just conserve is very strong. Once I bring my fat up to 3-5x (likely 3x) I know from experience I will feel much better and have more pop for my training. When It’s all said and done I will likely see a 10-13lb BW increase after the mass gain and subsequent leaning out.
Amidst this whole thing I have consistently pushed my base lifts: BS, cleans, presses, weighted pull-ups amidst the met-con. What if I’d simply done this from the beginning? It is interesting that discipline in training and food often roll together. It was hard as hell for me to stick with a basic linear progression prior to the mass gain. It is such an obvious benefit that I will always have this as some part of my training.
This still does not address the basic question “Is the Zone recommendation enough protein?” I remember John Berardi did a pretty exhaustive review of protein needs in hard training people. His finding? Active people need less protein than inactive people! Now this is not necessarily GAINING, simply performance. Interestingly however, his solution to this was to recommend MORE protein…encouraging “G Flux”…the turn over of tissues, more substrate for building, and T-bag products! At the end of the day I’d have to say calories are king in the mass gain dealio. Too much protein actually has enough thermic effect and offers enough satiety to make huge eating a little more problematic. You also have the issue that the body will use whatever fuels are in excess. It seems like the Zone has an interesting place in that it provides enough protein for growth and recovery IF adequate cals are supplied by fat and carbs. Keep in mind the Athlete’s Zone is ~60% fat and this has a potent protein sparing effect. Dave Tate is a pretty good example of this scenario in action: 10,000cals of junk food, heavy weights, some anabolics and not too much protein.
Steffan Landburg’s work indicates humans have an enormous plasticity about what levels of protein, carbs and fat ratios they can run on. Optimization may be a different matter, but we usually have a pretty good idea on close starting points (Zone, Cordain’s Paleo recommendations).
Here is a way to couch this whole thing, whether we are talking protein intake for groth and maintenance or carbohydrate intake to replenish glycogen for another hard training session: If you need to rely on processed foods to supply your needs you are likely stepping down a road that is not healthy in the long run. It MAY be necessary for adequate performance in your chosen endeavor, but we will likely start seeing biomarkers of health go south. Examples of this? 300g of protein from whey protein isolate. Is something like this potentially necessary for someone to get to NFL lineman size? Yep, without a doubt. Is it ultimately super healthy? Perhaps not. How about the need to fuel a triathletes level of training? You might be dipping into the carbs more than is good for the long term, and it may be wholly necessary to succeed in your sport.
This stuff is all economics…what are you willing to trade to achieve a given end? In practical terms what does all this mean? You will likely find your optimum running level at between .7-1.0g/lb bw. The main issue is keeping track of what you are doing, changing variables and then making honest assessments to plan your next move. This really is the power of the Zone. You have a real picture of where you are going and can thus make informed decisions instead of simply floundering about.
Andy Deas says
Well said – In the end, pretty much everything is economics.
Glad you were able to take time away from your Internet pissing contest to write this post! 🙂
I allocate 5 min per week to providing slap-downs to clueless wankers. It’s a public service I take seriously.
What it do robb?
Concerning the “I’d have to say calories are king in the mass gain dealio” i had read another article else where that a good way to add some of that to daily requirement for growth, if you can swallow it, is a shot of extra light olive oil in a shot glass 3x’s daily. word in the herd is it can add 900 cals extra a day. What is the doctors recommendation?
Sneaky way to really get in the cals. It’s rough…I’vew wanted to yack it up occasionally!
Robbie – When i firs did the calculations for my zone prescription I came away with 50 blocks at 1x fat…i was more concerned with protein than anything. But i also didnt understand the roll of fat in my diet. My rule has always been 1 gram of protein per lb of body weight. I was weighing about 312 lbs at the time so I figured i could up the protein to try and pick up some more muscle. At the time i was about 10-11% bf and had never been above 280 lbs of lean body mass. I was trying to break that barrier of 280 lbs of lean body mass. After we became friends we went down to 40 blocks at 5x fat. This accounted for my protein needs getting me about 280 grams of protein daily. And I played with it until I found what worked for me. I ended up with a strange bastard version of the zone where I was eating about 42 blocks of protein and 30 blocks of carbs and 35 blocks x 5…the calories were upwards of 6 k a day. Some may say that is a lot but my basic metabolic rate when tested was about 4000 cals. That is the amount of calories my body uses to function without exercise. So if you figure if you train 3 x daily. One oly/power lift, one run workout and 1 CrossFit you can burn a lot of calories. What i found worked for me was playing with the diet by pulling things out and putting them back in. I found that my body doesnt do well with grains…go figure…and i do well drinking olive oil more so then nuts. So i ended up drinking most of my fat through olive oil. At 14 grams per tblspn you do the math. I eat spinach at every meal and the broccoli most days and fruit and berries. I get a lot of carbs from whole milk. So my diet is close to the paleo with the exception of dairy. Most people really dont understand the commitment that it takes to not only gain big weight but to keep it on. And not just muffin tops…but big mass and maintain it. It is full time job and if you take a week off you have to start over. Since i was 14 years old i have always working to get bigger and it has become a way of life.
On a separate not I like the new improved blog Rob! It is awesome!
Great insights on this. I think this does show the power of tracking nutrient intake. One can make some informed decisions and keep making progress. Thanks for the GFY props!
Greg Everett - Catalyst Athletics / Performance Menu says
The obstacle I encounter with folks is simple… In order to get the number of calories needed to support larger bodyweights, and what I’ve seen as minimum protein intake for strength athletes, you either end up with an obscene amount of carbohydrate (i.e. far beyond what’s necessary to support activity that’s predominantly phosphagen fueled with some aerobic refueling), which porks folks up unnecessarily, or you, if you’re clever like me, simply start replacing carb blocks with protein and fat blocks… and wind up eating something that’s nothing like the Zone aside from the fact you may still be thinking and measuring in blocks.
Zone seems to work fine for CFers and the typical generalist who is spending plenty of time working the glycolytic machinery… but for those of us for whom “cardio” consists of 3 reps, a 40% carb/30% protein strategy is, well, silly.
For me, at 231 lbs, I’d need just under 33 blocks of protein to meet that 1.0g/lb/day guideline (which I like, by the way). If I stuck with Zoner proportions, I’d be then doing 297 g/carb/day. As much as I’d like to pound 300 g worth of pizza every day, it seems apparent to me that this is a touch beyond beneficial. At this block RX, I’d be looking at ~3000 kcal/day, which for me is likely not enough to maintain my bodyweight. I burn that just rolling over in bed (the EPOC on that movement for me is stunning). Sure, I could jack the fat blocks up along with some ox bile, but I’m still left with that 300 g of carbs doing nothing for me but tasting delicious and giving me diabetes.
Finally, I think the Zone just makes already crazy people fucking certifiable, and once they’ve crossed that line, it’s impossible to retrieve them. They’ll be counting calories for a long time, and losing hair over it, EVEN when their discipline is demonstrably failing to produce much result at all.
But considering I get all my nutrition info from Robbiekins, maybe I need to change my position.
No position change, you have just found what works. At the end of the day the two approaches converge on the same thing. Delete carbs, add fat/protein and you are running.
You bring up a very legit downside of the Zone. I have launched 2 clients into straight up food melt-down with the zone. They both had eating disordes in the past, started weighing and measuring and they were seriously fudged up from the experience. This IS why I generally recommend basic paleo eating. It delivers 90% of the Zone with virtually no hassle. Thanks for the reminder on the G.
nancy boy fellows says
Squire your ‘pubic’ and civil duty is a testament to what Jesus said that his followers should and must infact do…………….. ‘
“Cast thine out, yee the pullers of the pud, for they shall smite, blight and make uptight yee who follow the way of the good, the righteous and the Paleo-inclined”
or as Legendary North YorkshireIndian ‘Eavy Metal Dj’s Des and Mick Bailey sayeth ‘Rock not pop’ !
Christ Fellows! We will get shitt-faced together in either Seattle or VC!
Jeremy Jones - Diablo CrossFit says
Granted I haven’t weighed an measured my food in over a year, so when I use words like “zone proportioned” it is through my ‘most likely’ sick and twisted version that I have made up since. (Yes it is probably time for me to zero my scales once again. . . but I really don’t want to spend the time).
Since giving up grains in earnest back in Nov, I have seen serious benefits in the ways of BF reduction. I went from a fairly lean 205 down to 190. The problem was that there was a total bw loss in the form of “I better not anything that I know isn’t grain free” (i.e. major caloric restriction). And I can also attribute some of that to weight lost from the stress of moving the gym. I ran with the anabolic diet for about 4 months last year, and had mixed results (to much Metcons, not enough sleep and heavy lifting), but I did learn how to get the protein and fat in. I just didn’t have the time to do it right.
I had no less than 5 people say to me at the last CF event I was at “Hey Jeremy. . . Oh shit, what happened to you?” (most of them hadn’t seen me since the games when I was pushing 220, I was sleeping about 5-6 hrs a night from working 3 jobs, and drinking even more alcohol than I do now). This was definitely a wake up call to spend more time eating.
I keep trying to sneak dairy into my diet (adding milk here and there, downing some hefty cheese when I can), but my gut can’t be fooled. I knows, and my wife pays the price in auditory and nasal offenses.
I am almost back up to a solid 200lbs while still maintaining a vein or two at the belt line below the belly button. I have done this by downing my sweet potatoes or fruit (and basically most of my daily carbs) PWO. Eating at least 6 eggs a day (usually 8 or more). IFing only when I am not hungry, and when I don’t feel ‘run down’. And by drinking a whey isolate shake if I can’t get at least one huge chunk of meat down my gullet that day.
Most of my meals are high protein / high fat when it comes to Zone proportions (see, I told you I’d use that phrase), and carb low. The next month or two should help me stabilize and find out what bodyweight this maintain. . . and honestly I don’t care as long as I get my squat/deadlift numbers up and my 400m/100m run times down.
When it comes to recommendations, I send people down the Paleo Path first. It is stuff that most people can get conceptually (I can convince them that meat and veggies are good for them). Once they have cut out sugar and the other refined poisons, I can see where they are at and how to get them where they need to be.
Biggest complaint from people after asking people to eat more Zone-ish after a month or two of going Paleo: “It is too much food! I can’t eat enough fruit and veggies to get all my carb blocks in.”
Good stuff. The ONLY benefit I’ve found with Zoning over basic paleo is I run leaner. I’ve had a 2:58 fran, 304 diane, 295 clean & jerk on Paleo. Obviously people are doing better numbers than those now, for me…that was pretty good.
It’s been a while since I have had the opportunity to post on here, but I dig the new site, and have enjoyed the “on the road” meals. However, this topic has hit an issue I have been dealing with in my attempt to prepare for the upcoming games. I think you and I have very similiar body types in that, if I don’t work at it, I drop lbs and strength rather than get fat and weak. At my bastardized version of the Zone, I am at about 185lbs. I basically make sure I eat 3-5 blocks protein/ meal and a little less than that in carbs, and a lot more in fat- using paleo food.
Now to my question:
I feel like I need to up my baseline strength in order to make the biggest improvements in my overall performance (and as such have started the CrossFit Strength bias program)- sounds like you were able to do that but also increased you food intake by double. In your experience with the mass gain, do you think this (the mass gain route) is the best way to efficiently increase overall lifting strength- when incorporating more heavy lifting, or is there a middle ground between that and what I am doing now? I don’t think at this stage in the game, I have time to do a mass gain program before the games, but would consider trying it afterwards. I am playing with using my current ratios and simply increasing the numbers (calorically). Any thoughts.
If this is too personalized a question, e-mail me and I will set up a time with you. Just thought it fit the mold of this discussion…
You are right, given the close proximity of the games/quals it would be ill advized to start a mass gain experiment. I would however drop in some simple linear progression ala- the CF strength bias program. Low volume, high intensity, shifting when thigns stall. Rutmans ME-Black Box is excellent for this endeavor as well.
As to strength gains while at calorie excess: It is easy and very gratifying. What sucks is leaning back out, having no met-con and also feeling your strength diminish. That’s why I alluded to the notion I might have been better served just pushing my weight up and being moderate in the eating…but then I might not have stuck to it! What would be interesting is doing a significantly higher volume of work than starting strength, but at the mega-cal input. Maybe I’ll try that this fall.
It’s pretty interesting of late how there have been several top CrossFitters who have found they are much happier dropping carbs and replacing with fat – Pat Sherwood’s Zone Chronicles video springs to mind.
Coach Glassman mentioned in one of the early CFJ’s about running the Zone “hot” with lower carbs and more PRO and FAT, which back then I though was pretty interesting. Glad Robb came up with detailed plan!
My Zone Rx is 13-14 block and I’ve been runnning at 16blocks PRO, 8 CHO and 48 FAT for a little while now and I’ve been feeling pretty good all-round. Zone carb levels leave me really spacey. I’ll likely up the FAT to 4x soon.
I have to agree with Greg though that once you start doing that, you’re not really doing Zone. I personally like the Zone accounting system, but I’ve learned not to go OCD on the stuff and it actually gives me some mental freedom knowing that I’m getting in what I need (if I don’t do it and eyeball I always go too high carb, not enough fat).
Cool insights from Greg and Welbourn.
Robb, this post came at a perfect time. I have recently decided that I want to be bigger than I am now (5’9 135#) and have started a slow bulk up. I am just aiming for a pound a week until I get to around 160# and then I’m just going to try to maintain. As such, I have been taking in large amount of protein on a daily basis. Around 150g from solid foods, 50g from a pwo whey isolate shake, and another 50g from whole milk. I eat this much protein Mon thru Fri, with 2x as much fat as protein, and then drop protein down to 200g on the weekend (I dont have a pwo shake) and drop fat down to 1x the amount of protein. I dont really watch carbs, but its a lot of veggies and fruits. Broccolli, peppers, cucumbers, apples, berries, etc.
I’ve been on this for a week, and have gone up to 136 as planned, but I am getting horrible stomach aches every morning around 8, and they last til around 12. Occasionally I get them right before bed too. My question is: can these stomach aches be caused by too much protein?
I really dont like being so small, and I really dont like feeling like this, but I dont know where else I can get some cals, because I cant handle a lot of fat without getting messed up, and lotsa carbs make me fat.
Any information you can give me is really appreciated.
Not sure what the stomach issues are other than packing in food is NOT a comfortable thing. Also, to some degree you are going to gain fat…that needs to be of no import if you are going to be successful. What I;d recommend is make your food more calorie dense, ditch most of the veggies, stick with fruit, yams and sweet potatoes for carbs. Nut butter, olive oil and coconut milk for fat. Add in a gallon of milk. You will get chubby, but you will make that shift to 160 quite quickly.
Robb, I am just coming off a round of starting strength and am back on the zone… I am 6’3 and my bodyweight went from 195-215 in 6 weeks eating everything and drinking lots of milk.From bodyfat testing about 8-9 lbs of that was lean and 11-12 lbs was fat.
I was at 17 blocks pre starting strength and was leaning out, but wanted to put on some muscle mass. I am back on the zone @ 18 blocks for 2 weeks doing crossfit again (no more SS) and I am down to 210. From bfat testing my lean mass is pretty constant and I am losing mostly fat, so that is good. Do you think I should up the protein to help maintain my lean mass? 18 blocks * 7 grams = 126 grams / day, well short of the ~200 grams I get with 1 gram / lb of bodyweight. I am losing a little bit of lean mass and would like to hold on to as much as possible!!
Also, when do you think I should add fat blocks? I am at ~18% bodyfat right now, id like to be significantly less. Would adding fat blocks (or replacing some carb with fat) now help performance or would it be better to wait until I leaned out to 10% or so?
Keep pushing the liner loading on squat, a press and pull ups. Once per week is plenty amidst your met-con. You could add a block, cut the carbs in half. You will loose a little leaning out but it need not be much. Get as lean as you want, then ratchet up the fat.
Adam Lambert says
Not sure what the stomach issues are other than packing in food is NOT a comfortable thing.”
I have had similar stomach aches in the past, to the point of salivation and nausea. After ditching gluten and dairy from my diet those aches and nausea went away. I have been able to down goats milk without any adverse affect but have recently added a whey protien isolate shake twice a day and have noticed a resurgence of stomach issues. After minimal investigation I deduced that my chosen “protien isolate” had a significant dose of maltodextrin in it. If I were you I would check out either goats milk or alfalfa fed whole milk (costco) and examin the contents of your protien drink for wheat based invaders.
My $0.02 on olive oil: eat it, drink it, bathe in it, just make sure its actually olive oil. About the only way to be sure is to buy 100% california olive oil certified by the California Olive Oil Councel. Otherwise it is most likely second rate, rancid, oxidized, and imported in a rusty tanker formerly used for linseed oil.
As usual, so much great info from CF’ers and RW alike. As I read these latest posts, I realize my ?’s are similar. As a chick, my effort to get stronger (bust 500 TOTAL from current 470) and remain as lean as possible has been tricky. I go 12P-5C-2xF/skin zone. The effort to ‘get stronger’ started in Dec and looked like a bump to 3x fat and less metcon, more weight work (I was about 130lbs bw, lean enuff). That quickly turned into increased kidney/belly fat and an unhappy girl….BUT also 1RMs becoming 3-5RMs. Since Feb, pulled it back to 2x fat because I felt the need to ‘lean out’ a little. I do PWO carbs only about 1d/wk, after my triple mod WOD, salmon and yams, 3B C here since my total daily is 5B’ish…and am into about the 4th week of IF’ing 2d/wk, compressed 15-17hr. Belly fat has been haaaard to get rid of. So far the leanest I have ever been was when I was running 3-4d/wk on top of daily WODs, feeling pretty shaky and weak….hence, the effort to get stronger. I realize you’re slammed, and maybe this is too ‘figure your own zone shit out’ for you to bother with….if so, ignore and I’ll re-read more info…..
How is your sleep? I’ve noticed it’s been a bear to lean out this time…but I was super chubby! Everythign looks good, just keep chugging.
Truman Burroughs says
Just switched to hemp from whey and the biggest effect was on my mood. I was always irritable and tense with whey, but with hemp, my breathing is slower and more comfortable (post workout) and I feel more relaxed and content. I also feel bigger and have better drive than before.