Monday, November 30, 2009

Interview with Kristine Weber: Part Two

Part two of my interview with nordic body fitness champ and intermittent fasting user Kristine Weber.

Me: Could you describe your training routine - for example, do you have a preference for lower or higher volume, or lower or higher rep ranges? Do you stick with the basics or do you include a lot of assistance movements to target smaller muscle groups?

Kristine: I like to variate my training when it comes to volume and rep ranges. I have stuck with a 2-split since I started and it works good for me. I prefer lower reps with higher volume, so I often train a 5x5 program. Then I usually go over to high reps with lower volume, I try to have a period of 3-4 weeks before I change it around again. I have since the summer trained after something called "myo-reps" and it has worked very well. It emphasizes the importance of increasing volume after every pass - it is easy to forget sometimes, routines usually take over. I like the combination of both basics and assistance, but my priorities are basics and free weights.

Me: I see. I like the fact that you're currently doing 5x5 and not some foo-foo routine. Might set a few of my female readers on the right path. Make them steer clear of the usual pump 'n tone bullshit. You've called yourself a perfectionist. How does this quality affect your training? Does it cause stress? If so, how do manage your stress?

Kristine: I call myself a perfectionist, yes. That can work as a motivation, but be careful not to let it bring you down. I always want to be the best I can - and when I reach a goal I set another one almost immediately. I have always wanted to do things in my own way, and I don't like asking for help. I like it tough and independent. I love training, especially when I experience "good" stress and I often feel strong because of the pressure I put on myself. That is what has brought me to where I am now, hard work and no breaks.

I have also experienced a lot of bad stress, the kind that will eat you up inside. That is why I emphasize the importance of having a balance in life. As long as you're aware of it you can do something about it. And part of having a good balance is knowing that everything will fall into place if you give it some time. Some things are more important than others, so pick your battles wisely.

Me: Wise words. I know what you mean. On to something completely different. Obviously a very sensitive topic, but how common is steroid usage among your peers?

Kristine: I have chosen to follow my own plan and as a result of this I have very little to do with the environment, therefore I don't have much insight as to how common usage is. I do know that it is more uncommon to not use. I have taken a stand and I am proud to say that I'm not even close to ever consider it.

Me: That's a very healthy and sound mindset to have. Glad to hear it. You've had a lot of success in a short amount of time: what else do you desire to achieve in the sport?

Kristine: I have achieved more than I could dream of in this short period of time, it gives me motivation to continue. I would like to compete in figure, USA some time in the future. My physique is not only more suitable there than in Europe, but it's also my ideal and what I want to accomplish body-wise.

Me: Excellent. I wish you all the luck in the world. Finally, what are the three most critical pieces of advice you have for the female reader that wants to lose fat and gain muscle? Diet, training, attitude, anything you can think of.


Training: Don't be afraid to train hard! Girls have to lift those heavy weights in order to see progression. I also recommend cardio in your everyday life, it doesn't have to be for hours or in the morning - do it whenever it fits your schedule.

Diet: Learn as much as you can about your own body; when do you like to eat, how much do you like eat in a meal etc. The main key is to eat 400-500 kcal less than you use every day, when or how you eat is not important. In order to lose fat it is important to eat clean, high-protein food and always a lot of vegetables. There are a lot of healthy desserts you can make as well.

Don't overanalyze everything, keep it simple and fun.

Attitude: The only person who can change your life, body and mind is you. Find out what kind of changes you want to make, learn about all the healthy foods out there and get in to it. The first step is always tough, but the sooner the better.
You have to believe in yourself, we all have willpower - more than we might think.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Interview with Kristine Weber: Part One

Andreaz Engström wasn't the only one at the Nordic Championships using intermittent fasting to take first place in his category.

Norwegian beauty and body fitness gold winner Kristine Weber is a big fan of the approach as well.

Me: Tell us a little about yourself - anything at all you'd like to share with someone that doesn't know you.

Kristine: I am a goal-oriented girl who works very hard to achieve what I set my mind to. I never give up and I prefer to do things my own way - this means that I proudly can thank my own determination and knowledge if it goes well, and if it doesn't I only have myself to blame and can and will learn from my mistakes. My training is my passion, and my main motivation is good health and just enjoying life with a fit and lean body. I work as a controller in finance and I love cats.

Me: Sounds like you have a solid mindset. I like it. How did you come across intermittent fasting and for how long have you been using it - you've mentioned that this eating pattern came naturally to you, and that you've never been a breakfast eater?

Kristine: Breakfast is something I eat occasionally on sundays or whenever I'm staying at a hotel, because I do enjoy a good breakfast - just not in my everyday life. Since I went to junior high I have prefered to skip breakfast, I've never felt a big hunger sensation early in the morning. Finally I got so fed up with eating just for the sake of it, so I began to eat my first meal at lunchtime - sometimes even later. I started to have this as a routine when I began to work after my studies, mainly because I get up at 5 am in the morning and the last thing on my mind at that time is food. I enjoy eating later in the day, especially after I come home from work and training. I first started reading about fasting/IF and all the benefits concerning this for over 2 years ago when my better half, David* started posting articles and research done on this subject. I was very glad to find out that I could continue my diet the way I had been doing for almost 10 years without any concerns about "your metabolism will slow down if you don't eat every third hour" and all these myths, in addition this way of eating has a lot of benefits for me.

* I helped David Höök get started with intermittent fasting a few years ago. He later went on and took first place in classic bodybuilding (Loaded Cup -07, Denmark). You can find him in the testimonials section (second from the top).

Me: Needless to say, I'm not much of a breakfast eater either. Could you describe a typical day in terms of diet and training?

Kristine: A typical day goes like this

5:00 - get up and get ready for work
6:15 - at work
9:00 - have had 4-5 cups of green tea by now
12:00 - a big tuna salad for lunch if I'm hungry, otherwise I'll have a fruit (before a competiton I almost always skip lunch).
15:15 - at the gym; weight training (2-split) and cardio (I always do my cardio workout in the afternoon, besides the weekends)
17:00 - at home, a post-workout meal is usually cottage cheese with protein powder + some cereal, protein pancakes or an omelet
19:00 - dinner is usually fish, ground beef, pork and always with lots of vegetables.
21:00 - a small meal which is often similar to the one at 17:00, f.ex cottage cheese and some nuts
22:00 - good night, sleep tight

Me: Cool. So that's a nine hour feeding window, which is fairly close to the ten hour feeding window I usually recommend for women. You've only been training since 2007. What resources did you first turn to?

Kristine: I have danced ballet since I was a little girl, so just over 20 years now. I joined a gym for 4 years ago because of a heart diagnosis, and that is one of the best decisions I have made. I started doing cardio and I went to many of the group lessons: aerobic, easy weight training, bodypump and so on. I did this for about 1.5 years and I transformed my body in a way I didn't think was possible. I realized by now that I had to lift heavier weights on my own in order to continue my good progress, so I did - in Aug 2007. I started eating more vegetables and more proteins, and 7 months later I was ready for my first figure competition.


This concludes part one of the interview. Stay tuned for part two where we'll talk some more about training among other things. Kristine will also share some valuable advice for female readers out there. In the meanwhile, feel free to check out Kristine's blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Questions & Answers

It's time for another Q&A session.

Intermittent fasting and women

Q: I'm a bit confused. Some people say I should do 16 hours of fasting, while others say that you now recommend 14 hours for women?

A: Females do 14 hrs fasting by default. The fast typically lasts 16 hrs, and is usually initiated in the evening. So in practical terms you might have your last meal some time between 8 and 10 pm in the evening and break the fast around noon on the next day.

But for women my default approach is to actually start off with 14 hrs and see how they do on that before eventually moving them to 16 hrs. When you look at the studies on gender and fasting, you tend to see that women may have slightly more adverse reactions to fasting than men, such as some degree of irritability and increased attention to food cues. 16 hrs is hardly prolonged fasting, but I like to play it safe, so that's why I have female clients fasting for a shorter time at the beginning.

Intermittent fasting at higher body fat percentages

Q: All the guys I've read that have tried this, are all lean, I mean, if you're that lean already, going on a keto diet would do exactly what intermittent fasting would do to YOU. Id like to see someone over 20% bodyfat share his experience.

A: Not at all. I have many clients with 20% body fat or more and they are doing great. Some of them are, for the first time in their lives, finding that they can show 100% adherance to a diet protocol.

I modify the caloric guidelines and macros depending on body fat %, as my first priority is always to lean people down if necessary. Besides that, I don't see how body fat would play into making or breaking an intermittent fasting diet.

There are many psychological sides to eating. I think smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day, even if they are low carb, may be a bad choice for some people; acting as a trigger for cravings or increased appetite, for example. A conventional high frequency "nibbling" approach is working against their weight loss efforts. It's often counterproductive.

But knowing that you can have a substantial meal after the fast makes dietary adherance very easy according to many of my clients. In my experience this is one great benefit to intermittent fasting that caters specifically to people with a higher body fat. They are big eaters, so they like to eat big. Intermittent fasting fills that need.

Intermittent fasting, mood and appetite suppression

Q: I remember you saying something about a minimum time for the fast ... like 12 hours ? After that point "stuff" started happening ?

A: Hours 8-12 are pretty neutral. Not noticing much. Sometimes I get a short hunger pang, which disappears rather quickly and is replaced by total absence of hunger.

Hours 12-16 I get a sense of focus and wellbeing. I feel inspired and involved in whatever I'm doing (usually working on consultations or writing articles). Call it wired if you will. The thought of food remains unappealing until the very last hour. Most people experience the same effects in the same time interval.

Intermittent fasting and regular meal patterns: mixing it up

Q: What's peoples experience with intermittent fasting on the week days and a "regular" diet on the weekend or something like that? I think that would fit my schedule perfectly, especially since i am much more active on the weekend and play sports/do cardio sometimes multiple times and very spread out.

A: Eating on regular intervals each day has it's benefits. Breaking the pattern may screw a bit with the ghrelin pulse. Ghrelin is a hunger hormone which rise in anticipation of a meal and is in tune with your day-to-day meal pattern. This is also part of why you can go for 16 hrs without getting hungry once you get used to it.

Practically, this might mean that it could be a bit harder to get back to fasting when you break the pattern (weekends). On the other hand, I've done it personally many times and I haven't experienced any problems at all. Fasting is still very easy after a day of more regularily spaced eating. It might take several days of a new meal pattern before a new ghrelin pulse pattern develops, so go ahead and try it.

On breaking the fast

Q: I break the fast with a large bowl of oatmeal and a whey shake, and have noticed I get a bit drowsy shortly after the meal. Any suggestions?

A: While I don't know the particular macros of your meal, I would wager it's fairly insulinogenic and provide a substantial glycemic load - and that may be the problem. Ditch the whey shake for whole food protein such as meat or eggs, and oats for something along the lines of veggies, beans and lentils (or other lower glycemic index foods with a decent amount of fiber). If you must, you can have your oats and whey post-workout instead.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Do Not Cheat on Tom's Challenge

Or I'm going to be in trouble. I just spoke with Tom and you should use the book for your diet and training.

My offer still stands.

500$ cash prize

to the winner as long as you use the link in this post when you make the purchase. Nevermind the part about two to three meals a day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cheat on Tom's Challenge

My good friend Tom Venuto has thrown out a Holiday Fitness Challenge to his readers.

Some might recall my discussion with Tom a while back, where I confronted him on his views on meal frequency. To my disappointment, he ended up agreeing with me on the issue that a high meal frequency does zilch to boost your metabolism.

To be honest, I was secretly looking for a fierce debate. But Tom is one of the few gurus out there that actually cares about being scientifically correct and updated, which is a rarity in the fitness industry. For that he gets my respect.

His book is also the most complete package about weight training and nutrition that money can buy. You can read my review here.

I'll pay you 500$

For those motivated, I encourage you to go and cheat on Tom's challenge by using a low meal frequency diet of two to three meals a day. I know Tom is a fan of higher meal frequencies, and it would be sweet if someone won the challenge by not using the higher meal frequency approach suggested in Burn The Fat.

The registration has just opened and the winners get a trip to Jamaica.

On top of that, I'll personally reward the winners with a 500$ cash prize if the following conditions are met:

1) Eat two to three big meals a day (instead of smaller, more frequency meals).

2) Register and make the purchase(s) via the links in this post. The name on the credit card owner is what makes you eligible to receive the 500$ cash prize* from me.

* transaction via PayPal.

...And one more thing - I will not be available to coach you during the competition, so please do not send me e-mails asking for diet advice- that's what Tom's book is for. You'll also get even more great information from Tom if you sign up for an Inner Circle Membership.

This should be fun. Good luck.

P.S. Registration is open until November 25th.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fasting and Metabolism

Made a few short comments in response to a blog post I just saw on The Fitness Spotlight.

The post is here and below are my responses to some of the claims made.


Just a few short comments on some claims here. Sorry if this has been covered somewhere among the comments, I haven't read through them all.

"Liver glycogen levels are depleted within 8-10 hours. Muscle glycogen falls by 50% over 24-hours, even without exercise. "

False on both accounts. Liver glycogen is completely depleted in approx 28 hrs (Cahill et al). And the second statement is also incorrect. In humans, muscle glycogen is barely affected at all after 24 hrs, assuming no strenous activity.

"After depleting glycogen, amino acids are recycled to be broken down for glycogen through gluconeogenesis. "

This is an ongoing process, but liver glycogen does not need to be depleted in order for amino acids to contribute to the maintenance of blood glucose. The longer the fast, the greater the contribution - for example, after 16 hrs, aminos will start contributing more than 50% to the amount of glucose in your blood stream. After 24-28 hrs, 100%.

"We see increases in three of the four hormones driving lipolysis, indicating a propensity towards fat burning. Somewhere around 12-18 hours, lipolysis becomes a major energy pathway, producing energy from body fat. "

Yes. In fact, after an overnight fast, 2/3 of the energy burnt are free fatty acids. Eat breakfast and you'll be putting the brakes on this process, of course.

"T3 levels fall slightly, indicating a slightly lower metabolic rate. Urinary nitrogen excretion falls, indicating less catabolism of muscle proteins. "

No. Are you looking at rats now again? Because the downregulation of T3 takes more than 72 hrs to occur in humans. A short fast in the 16-24 hr range certainly doesn't impact negatively.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Questions & Answers

Quite busy lately, therefore the lack of posts. But I'm still alive and here comes some more questions & answers.


The window of opportunity

Q: Understanding that a caloric surplus is required for muscle building, is there a window post workout where nutrient partitioning is greater towards muscle building? I would think that the nutrient partitioning "curve" would ultimately swing back to muscle maintenance or fat gain in the absence of muscle stimulus, but the question is how long after that stimulus?

A: Have a pre-workout meal, train, go home and fix yourself a big meal. No need to count minutes or stress about this stuff. The 1-3 hours figure is for fasted-state training and not applicable to how most people go about their diet and training*. The 'window of opportunity' for nutrient partitioning post workout is much longer than a mere 3 hours.**

And since this question usually comes up in this context, never train completely fasted. Have some BCAAs/whey beforehand.

* Protein synthesis peaks acutely 1-3 hours post-workout and it is advantageous to have amino acids circulating in your blood stream during this period. Studies show that participants ingesting protein during this time frame gain more muscle - but these studies are performed on completely fasted individuals. For someone ingesting protein through a pre-workout meal or other source of protein pre-workout, those amino acids would be used for protein synthesis (making it less essential to stress about the post-workout shake).

** Protein synthesis is elevated above baseline for at least 24-36 hours after weight training.

Late night hunger

Q: It seems like lately, I have been getting a case of the late night (around 9pm or so) munchies. I usually eat dinner around 5:30 everyday, but I always seem to get hungry around the same time. I have always heard that you shouldn't have carbs within a few hours of bedtime, is there any merit to this?

A: One of my biggest downfalls before coming up with the 16-8 system/IF was late night hunger. The best solution was the simplest one, which meant eating a lot more before bedtime. Irrational fear of fat gain, much a consequence of the don't-eat-carbs-after-x pm-bullshit-myth, held me back from doing it in the past. I did my reading, figured out there wasn't much to it, and decided to try a different approach. Finally got lean as hell eating big in the evening, sometimes way past midnight. Lesson learned. Hope that answered your question (hint: a big fat no).

Catabolic cardio?

Q: Is there any way to perform cardio in a way that limits its catabolic effects? Is their any benefit to doing submaximal intervals vs. steady state?

A: The type of cardio that has the least impact on your recovery capabilities/gym performance will be the least "catabolic". If your conditioning is not adequate, don't play around too much with HIIT. Go with low impact cardio performed for duration rather than intensity if you want to play it safe, and if metabolic conditioning is of a lesser priority than fat loss.

Sodium and weight loss

Q: When I used to have to cut weight for wrestling I would eliminate sodium content about 3 days prior and see a nice drop. Also, drinking about a gallon of distilled water always makes me eliminate a lot of water retention(yes more than just chugging tap water)... purely anecdotal I realize and of course that might just be for the lack of sodium in distilled water. Any truth to this?

A: Yes, cutting sodium, or rather reducing it compared to your daily baseline intake, will cause you to shed water. Reduce sodium for a day and odds are you'll wake up a little lighter - but you'll bounce back on day 3, since this only works in the very short term. The hormones regulating water balance adapts rapidly (and you need to reduce sodium further to drop more water). And you're right on the other claim, as tap water usually contains (very) small amounts of sodium.

Fat loading

Q: Basically, we all know about carb-loading. This author promotes fat loading of 12-24 hrs, saying it will jack up the enzymes involved with burning fat. Drop the dietary fat back down low, and the enzymes will remain high for several days, helping to increase the rate at which body fat is burned. Thoughts?

A: Let's see

1) IMTG stores are extremely small vs glycogen stores
2) dietary fat has much less of an impact on leptin vs carbs
3) excess dietary fat gets stored efficently as adipose tissue vs carbs

Yeah, sounds like a great concept. Like carb loading, without any of the benefits.

Lyle McDonald chimed in:

Everything I"ve seen shows that the increase in fat use for fuel has everything to do with reducing carbs and nothing to do with increasing dietary fat per se.
Consider that the body will shift to using fat for fuel under the following conditions

1. lowcarb/ketogenic diet
2. protein sparing modified fast
3. complete starvation

What's the commonality? The lack of carbs. NOT the presence of dietary fat.

The bottom line is this, ingestion of dietary fat has very little impact on the body's use of fat for fuel and this has been shown endlessly.

EFA and growth hormone

Q: I was arguing with my friend regarding this issue. He stated that EFA (Essential Fatty Acids) slowed down the release of GH (Growth Hormone), however, i disagreed with him. We had this bet over it and i was wondering whats the truth behind this?

A: Eating anything affects basal levels of GH. Starve and you'll have high basal GH all the time. However, diet does not interfere with the nocturnal and the two daily pulses (though they are augmented with fasting). I am unaware of anything specifically related to EFA* and it's probably bullshit, as I have looked into this quite a bit.

* I would expect EFAs to affect GH no differentely than any other fatty acid, which is by lowering it.

My name is Martin Berkhan and I work as a nutritional consultant, magazine writer and personal trainer.

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