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.