In my previous article, I gave you all a brief introduction to the FashionBeans x Maximuscle Blogger Project, told you a bit about myself and gave you a clear indication as to my own body type before I embarked on a mission to get as close as possible to a cover model body in 12 weeks. If you missed it, I encourage you to go read it straight away: FashionBeans x Maximuscle Challenge: Introduction.
This next article is going to be all about HOW I am going to achieve my personal fitness goal – to get that lean definition I have always been striving for.
Initial Maximuscle Consultations
After a few weeks back and forth with my dedicated Maximuscle nutritionist, Gareth, I had set clear goals for the project: I want to be lean and defined, but at the same time sacrifice as little of my current size as possible. I am not particularly big or ‘hench’, as my girth measurements from yesterday will attest to, but I can fill out my clothes nicely and would consider myself above average when compared to most of the males at my gym.
What I am trying to get at is that I didn’t want this to just be a strict reduce calories diet in order to get a ‘skinny’ body. There is a huge difference between being skinny and ‘cut’. I wanted my muscles to pop, rather than me just wither away back into the ectomorph I really am.
Together, we decided that carbohydrate cycling (or carb cycling) would be the fastest and most efficient way for me to drop weight, without sacrificing my muscle mass.
Carb cycling is dieting technique professional bodybuilders and those in the know have been utilising for years. It is way too complex a topic to go in to detail with without being an expert, but I will be providing you all with the key principles in this article today, should you wish to follow a similar diet or are motivated by my results in the long run.
Before we get into the nuts and bolts, there are a wealth of articles out there on the subject – just search for them on Google. Many have the same information and ground rules, although each site will tweak the concept for what works for THEM. You need to do your research and find which concept and technique would work best for your lifestyle and body type.
The VERY BEST article I found on the subject – and what I based my own nutritional/training plan around – was at Bodybuilding.com and you can read it here: Carbohydrate Cycling: What You Need To Know | Part 2. It is a long read, but is worth your time if you are considering undertaking a similar diet plan.
The Basic Principle
“The aim of aim cycling is to provide a hypo-caloric (restricted calories) status but to maintain muscle mass. The basic principles are to combine a restricted calorie diet, aiming for weight (fat) loss, with a high protein diet, to maintain and build muscle mass. The diet revolves around altering your carbohydrate consumption to reflect your daily requirement and improve your insulin sensitivity which is crucial for both weight loss and muscle building.”
That extremely efficient explanation was sent to me by Gareth and describes succinctly what carbohydrate cycling is. In simple terms (i.e. mine) this means:
That you should vary your carbohydrate intake dependant on the day while keeping protein intake high at all times. On the days where you train hard (legs, chest/back) you increase your carbohydrates so you can cope with the stress it puts on your body and to ensure that you have the nutrients you require to repair/grow your muscles. On the smaller/lighter workout days you reduce this carbohydrate intake to lower levels, and on rest days you cut carbohydrates out completely in order to increase your fat burning potential.
Ideally you rotate your High, Low and No carb days in a 3 day cycle: High, Low, No, High, Low, No etc. This ensures that your body is always kept guessing and optimises your fat burning and muscle building. You could alternatively opt for a 4 day cycle of: High, No, Low, No – although this is obviously much harder to do and should probably be used if you are not seeing results on the 3 day cycle or if you want to take your plan to the next level.
As previously mentioned, it would be wise to read the suggest articles above to get a fully rounded idea of how carb cycling works. However, if you want to see whether it is for you, the key principles are below:
- Rotation of high, low and no carb days (3 or 4 day cycle).
- Eat 6 meals per day.
- Consume a minimum of 0.8g up to 2.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
- 10-15% of your total calories should come from fat; be strict with saturated fat.
- 1-2 protein sources should have a higher fat content (~20-25% of the total calories), remaining protein sources should be lean or supplements.
- Consume fish oils (omega 3s) daily. Use a supplement to top up if required.
- Drink a fast acting whey protein shake immediately after every workout.
- Drink a lot of water throughout the day.
Before you all run off and pretend it is a high carb day, you should know that there are strict guidelines to follow when it comes to carbohydrates. You can only eat carbohydrates from an approved list of food sources and suffice to say, you are not going to find any old favourites such as pizza, chips or even white bread on it!
Here is the total approved list:
- Brown Rice
- Sweet Potatoes
- All Bran
- Starchy Veg (corn, peas, etc)
- Beans and Legumes
And the limited list (only to be included in one carb meal on high/low carb days):
- Whole wheat pasta
- Whole grain breads, wraps or pita’s
My Starting Diet & Training Plan
So, for my initial starting diet plan, I decided to go on a set day carb cycle (same days each and every week rather than a 3 or 4 day cycle). This was because it works with my training much better than a random cycle, because I like to train on the same days each week. With this in mind, here is my initial plan:
Monday (Chest/Biceps): High Carb
Tuesday (Back/Triceps): Low Carb
Wednesday: No Carb
Thursday (Legs/Traps): High Carb
Friday (Shoulders/Abs): Low Carb
Saturday: No Carb
Sunday: Low Carb
The more observant may have noticed that there is no cardio in that workout split whatsoever. This is because I HATE cardio, with a passion. I know that it is the only way you can truly lose weight extremely fast and get to the holy grail of 4% body fat, but I am not a bodybuilder and within my current lifestyle I often don’t have time to fit in any more exercise than my lifting splits above. They take priority.
However, what this does mean is that this whole experiment will be a true test of the effect that diet alone has on your body shape. I have never been dedicated to my diet before, but this will hopefully open my eyes to the huge difference eating right makes to your physique and overall health.
Note: Although Sunday is a low carb day for now, I could always change it to a no carb day should I not be seeing results as fast as I would like. I may also alter my training days to coincide with a 3 or 4 day cycle for the same reasons, such is the beauty of the diet plan.
Personal Daily Limits
In terms of where I have set my personal carbohydrate and protein limits for each type of day, it is all relevant to my starting weight and basal metabolic rate (BMR). Currently my weight is 84kg (~185lbs), height 6″0 (~183cm) and I am 29 years old, which means my standard BMR is 1935.75. I then utilised the Harris Benedict Formula to determine my true daily BMR based on how much exercise I do a week. Hence, we multiply the initial figure by 1.55 as I would class myself as ‘moderate’.
Therefore, my total calorific expenditure on average is: 3,000 kcal
So, how did I set my own personal carbohydrate and protein level?
- Carbohydrates (High Day): 1.5g x per lb body weight = Keep total under 280 grams
- Carbohydrates (Low Day): 0.5g x per lb body weight = Keep total under 95 grams
- Carbohydrates (No Day): Keep total under 10-15 grams
- Protein (Every Day): 1.5g x per lb body weight = 280 grams
- Calories (Every Day): 20% reduction of BMR = 2,400 kcal
Now these are all approximate values based on research from around the web. Some encourage more carbs, some encourage less protein and the calorie total is simply based on the fact that we do need a percentage reduction from my BMR in order to lose weight and expend more calories overall than we are consuming.
All these figures are subject to change based on how the diet is going and my body is responding. In 4 weeks time I might have completely re-evaluated my approach but it is a continuous process and is determined by how YOUR body adjusts.
High Carb Days
Here are some generic guidelines I will be trying to stick to for high carb days:
- 4 meals should be high carb, from the approved list
- All 6 meals should contain at least 20g of protein
- Eat a piece of fruit with each meal
- Your meal before and after training should be high carb
Low Carb Days
- 3 meals should contain carbs, all from the approved list
- Eat a piece a fruit with the carb meals
- All other meals should be predominantly protein with a small amount of fat
No Carb Days
Are pretty self explanatory, but you have to realise that even in whey supplements there are a couple of grams per serving. That’s why, even though it is supposed to be NO carbs, I have set myself a daily limit of just 10-15g.
Example Meal Plan
Gareth was kind enough to send me an example meal plan (which includes the supplements in the section below) for high, low and no carbohydrate days:
The Maximuscle Supplements
Now the good part. As Maximuscle are sponsoring the project, they are providing us with the right supplements in order to help achieve our goals. Due to me undertaking a carb cycling diet plan and trying to keep my lean mass, I was initially given 4 specific supplements (which you can see below) that Gareth and I thought would help me hit my required protein levels daily as well as maximise my fat burning potential:
Promax: Maximuscle’s best selling protein shake incorporates everything you require to feed your muscles when they need it. Fast acting whey protein, BCAAs and a whole host of other ingredients should help ensure I keep as much muscle mass as possible. It also contains only 2g of carbs and 2g of fats per serving, so it is perfect for supplementing my diet on low and no carb days in particular.
Progain Flapjacks: I am a big fan of protein bars because it actually feels like you are consuming food (physiological effect) and so Gareth recommended me these prograin flapjacks. They are packed full of high quality carbohydrates and calories, so they are strictly for use on high carb days, but also contain 22g of protein per bar AND a healthy dose of CLAs and creatine. Overall, they taste superb and make a nice change on high carb days when you cannot be bothered to prepare yet another meal in the middle of the day.
Maxiraw Casein Sustain: This is a casein protein powder that was specifically given to me for use before bed or when I want to spread my protein intake longer over the day. The casein ensures the nutrients within the shake are released slowly over time, almost like drip feeding your muscles consistently. As you can imagine, this is great during the night when your body grows the most and you are in starvation mode. I have also found that I like to use this as an accompaniment to my breakfast meal on some days so I get even more protein throughout the day.
Thermobol: Finally, my own personal request. I wanted to try Thermobol as I have always heard good reviews about it from magazines, friends and the like. I am not expecting miracles, but I am hoping the blend will help increase my fat burning potential and I will even be able use them just before training as a type of pre-workout pill (due to it containing caffeine amongst other things). I’ll probably utilise two of these a day – one at breakfast to kick start my metabolism, and the other before my workout.
So there you have it, a break down of the diet plan and supplements I will be utilising over the coming 12 weeks and the reasons behind it all. I will provide updates at least once a month in order to keep you up to date with my progress and the challenges I have had to overcome, and hopefully it will inspire some of you to also go on your very own journey with me.
I would like to thank Maximuscle for considering us for the project, and I look forward to seeing the effects diet really does have on your physique.
As I mentioned yesterday, any specific questions you have you can drop in the comments box below, and I will endeavour to answer all of them personally to the best of my knowledge…