How We Are Similar

Diurnal Endocrine Rhythms Affect Us

We can't escape the clock, as hormones and blood constituents rise and fall throughout the day, as does our glucose tolerance. In fact, glucose tolerance can become so poor in the evening, researchers have related it to Type II diabetes!(13)

One reason is that glucocorticoids (cortisol) eventually induce glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and higher free fatty acids (FFA) in the bloodstream.(37) And eating fatty meals early in the day doesn't help, either. FFA increases over the course of a day can themselves have a relationship with poorer carbohydrate metabolism.(9) Clearly then, breakfast – and a "second breakfast" consisting of low-fat, higher carbohydrate feedings are important. It's at this time of day that FFA concentrations are lower and our muscle's ability to take up blood glucose is best. Carbs at nighttime just aren't metabolized as well – at least in non-obese persons.(13, 19, 22, 38)

This effect is so large as to probably be discernable even with a home test glucometer. Diurnal hormonal rhythms, reduced (non-exercise) muscular activity and meal selections are a few reasons why.

But back to breakfast. Eating carbs upon waking not only replenishes an overnight-depleted liver, but breakfast boosts mental and physical performance later in the day and many of us have even heard how it can improve fat/ weight loss in general. Ingesting one's carbs during these hours of higher muscular activity helps, too. (Recall that muscle contractions alone induce glucose uptake from the blood irrespective of insulin.) So, if the goal is to get carbs into one's muscles, the morning hours are a good time to do it.

Okay, so breakfast is a necessity. Again, however, eating fat for one's AM meal isn't a great option if an individual plans to eat carbs later. Here are some specifics: Frape and colleagues (1998) clearly demonstrated how a higher fat breakfast (26g fat) retards glucose tolerance for about 6 hours compared to a low-fat one (6g fat)! It was concluded that the higher FFA concentrations following the higher-fat breakfast were responsible. These researchers have also presented data that a 33g fat breakfast (compared to a 6g fat version) results in higher plasma glucose responses after a fatty lunch – further suggesting that poorer carb handling remains until midday.(9) So why not ditch the fat and focus upon breakfast carbohydrates at a time when our hormonal milieu and our increased muscular activity will induce its uptake anyway?

And there's still more temporal evidence suggesting the benefits of carbs in the morning. There are data out there suggesting that subjects fed a higher-fat diet (45% fat, 40% carb, 15% protein), with meals every four hours, exhibit the lowest fat oxidation and least heat release (i.e. thermogenesis) in the morning.(14)

Other than perhaps the lower-protein content, this diet is not unlike what many dieting bodybuilders eat. One might then speculate: why not go ahead and eat carbs if (non-exercise, post-prandial) fat oxidation will be reduced in the morning anyway? This idea is corroborated by data from the same study that showed the lowest FFA levels (good for glucose tolerance) and lowest daily blood glucose in the morning. Hence we see more potential reasons to consume a protein/carb (low fat) breakfast. You can see the evidence starting to mount that the adage "morning carbs and evening fat" makes sense.

Yet there are other ways in which Father Time tampers with a dieter's goals. Did you know that satiety (a sense of fullness) fades at night? It does.(5) This helps explain why many of us start eye-balling that gallon of ice cream in the freezer before bedtime. It's strange, isn't it? We didn't care for it at noon so why are we jonesing for it at 10:00 PM? Perhaps our bodies are preparing for the overnight fast. In any case, eating protein and fat (e.g. beef, chicken, and olive oil, etc.) along with fibrous veggies looks like an advantageous dinner – and supper. It's time to exercise some discipline and try to keep that stomach full without lending the same favor to your love handles.

Truth be told, it's not so much that fats are perfect choices at night; they just don't fit well into the AM feedings – and immediate post-exercise feedings – of most athletes. Rather, we've simply got to add the fat in somewhere during the day to maintain T levels, get in omega-3s, maintain compliance with tasty meats and oils, etc. In fact, with evidence that at least 100g per day maintains Testosterone levels and functioning,(8, 30) we might even consider fat just as "fixed" as our protein intake – leaving only carbs to vary regarding body-weight goals.

Exercise Maximizes Our Muscle Glucose Uptake:

Post-workout carb uptake is one of the biggest temporal issues for athletes. The effects are abundantly clear in the literature (16, 18, 27, 31)... providing eccentric muscle damage isn't present. Thus, twice daily exercise sessions (often via a minor bout of aerobic activity) have been advocated by some to provide twice as much "nutrient readiness." Doubling the duration of one's daily post-exercise nutrient window does seem advantageous providing overtraining is avoided. And as many readers know, glucose and maltodextrin are good post-exercise carb choices.(18)

Eating carbohydrate prior to and during-exercise has advantages as well, such as reduced stress hormone and catabolic cytokine responses (see Muscle Masochism) and performance enhancement during longer sessions. This, however, becomes goal-related as pre-exercise carbs can blunt fat oxidation (1, 4, 25). Therefore, leaving pre-exercise carbs for mass building cycles seems best.

Pre- and Post-Exercise Protein Enhances Anabolism

Along with carbohydrates, a frequent supply of amino acids before, during and after resistance exercise is advantageous for growth and recovery. This additional "para-exercise" nutrient delivery has an ever-growing body of literature supporting it.(2, 20, 29 35, 36) It doesn't take very much protein to be advantageous (just a few grams) although there seems to be a dose-response effect (more is better, up to a point), in part due to insulin action. As many T-men realize by now, rapidly-acting proteins like whey isolates are good choices at this time. We again see clearly that food choices and amounts, in temporal relation to exercise, are a big deal.

Eccentric Exercise Raises Metabolic Rate

Injury raises metabolic rate. All I want to say about this is that it's a heretofore under-appreciated part of energy expenditure in self-abusive, eccentrically training athletes. When calculating one's energy (calorie) needs, a bodybuilder should consider this "hidden" mechanism of energy expenditure that could account for an 11-24% elevation in resting metabolic rate.(7, 24) This is significant since it's actually similar in magnitude to elective surgery!(7, 23, 24)

Meal Size and Energy Balance Affects Us Metabolically

A greater carbohydrate and kcal load at a given meal increases the insulin response to that meal.(17, 32) The excess substrates – yes, even dietary fat – will be stored. Hence, overeating itself, regardless of macronutrient profiling, can make one fat. This sounds like a throw-back to the age old "calorie counting paranoia" so prevalent in women's magazines but it is basically true.

We cannot forget that some control over portion size must be factored into our meal planning. The addition of low-cal "fibrous" vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, mushrooms, and others can be utilized as filler throughout the afternoons and evenings. Sugar free gelatin and occasional sugar free-fat free pudding (the latter with protein powder substituted for about half) can help with sweet cravings. And soluble fiber, as in oat products, helps slow gastric transit – beneficial during morning carbohydrate consumption.

Calorie needs must be estimated to get a handle on daily intake and (by division) per-meal serving sizes. Very roughly, 30-50 g protein at each meal with either 30-50 g carbohydrate (mornings) or 30 g fat (evenings) is common among many dieting bodybuilders in the 80-90 kg range. Doing the math, you'll see that this is based upon a range of about 2100- 2600 kcal over six meals. It depends largely on body size and muscle mass, as we discussed in Part I, but these numbers should be a few hundred kcal below the usual intake for many athletes.

An estimation of your resting kcal needs can be as simple as multiplying 1 kcal per kilogram of body weight each hour for men (0.9 for women) x 24 hours per day. (We'll assume here that this RMR accounts for some thermic effect of meals.) That's roughly 1920 kcal resting needs for an 80 kg (176-pound) male with an additional 30% for daily activities like lab work, office chores, etc. (2496 kcal total) or 50% for those who have work involving restaurant activities, carpentry, garage work, etc. (2880 kcal total).

Then let's not forget to include a conservative 10% for muscle soreness/ microtrauma (see above), making it 2745 kcal (for the office worker) to 3168 kcal (for the light laborer). Add in perhaps 250 kcal for a weightlifting workout and 350 more for "cardio" and that's 3345-3768 calories needed for maintenance. Of course, dieters don't want to maintain their present state. Thus, if we divide our estimated kcal needs by six meals for simplicity's sake, we see per-meal calorie counts and macronutrient amounts somewhat above our "dieting" meal level of 30-50 g per macronutrient. In other words, by eating 30-50 g of a given macronutrient at each meal, we're restricting perhaps a third of our maintenance needs. That's a lot!

Overall, don't think that macronutrient manipulations and meal timing – whether they're diurnal or in relation to exercise – remove all consideration of total energy intake. Energy balance isn't the end-all-be-all that it's historically been touted as, but it's definitely part of the picture.

Fatty Acid-Carbohydrate Insulin Synergy Affects Us:

Regardless of whether insulin has an impact upon fatty acid uptake/ usage at the cellular level – as has been debated in the lay bodybuilding press – it's true that adding fatty acids to carb meals increases the insulinogenic effect.(3, 6, 28) This doesn't look good for those trying to moderate insulin concentrations throughout the day and seems doubly bad if the additional fat interferes with subsequent glucose tolerance as stated above. This is a primary premise for avoiding all-inclusive protein/carb/fat combinations at any given meal. When placed within the context of the 24 hour clock, with carbs being better morning foods than fats, the resulting protein/carb OR protein/fat combination approach indeed seems natural.

Nighttime Feedings May Help Reduce Catabolism:

The general premise that protein needs increase during conditions of dieting lends some credence to nocturnal protein feedings. Muscle mass is indeed at risk during weight reduction. The early morning hours (about 1:00-3:00 AM) are well into the fasted state, when the protective (anti-catabolic) effects of insulin and substrates are withdrawn.

Research into clinical 24-hour continuous feedings versus cyclical (e.g. daytime) ones is equivocal and hard to extrapolate to bodybuilders. Still, it seems logical that if preservation of muscle tissue is a goal of the dieter, then any small reduction in fat oxidation ("burning") during this period of very low-energy expenditure would be acceptable. This temporal issue may become particularly important for those dieting bodybuilders who find themselves losing more than 2 pounds per week consecutively or have body composition assessment done that reveals muscle loss. A small drink of 20g casein between 1:00 and 3:00 AM could be advantageous for such individuals.

Protein Provides More than Just "Building Blocks"

Any bodybuilding diet plan worth its salt is going to include a steady (well, actually pulsatile) ingestion of protein. It's simply a must every 2-3 hours. As many of you know, protein tends to stabilize blood sugar,(21) reduces hunger / increases satiety(21, 33), is most thermogenic among macronutrients – when intake amounts to at least 20% of kcal ingested (11, 12, 26, 34), and is certainly important for tissue building and repair in athletes, especially those on calorie-restricted diets.

For those clinging to the old mantra that "a calorie is a calorie," all I can say is, show me an overfeeding study in which individuals became equally fat on high-protein versus high-refined-carbohydrate overfeeding. And while you're at it, also explain how to account for the energetic cost of the urea cycle (removing all those little nitrogens), the higher satiety value of protein and the insulin-antagonizing effects of (protein-induced) glucagon. Huh? Huh?!

Alright, I'll get off my soapbox now.

Okay, So What Has Been Done?

Having reviewed some physiological differences and similarities among us, let's take a whirlwind look at some approaches to dieting that bodybuilders have tried. Not all address the needs of athletes – let alone bodybuilders of various training styles – and not all consider natural 24-hour changes in metabolism...

Manipulation

Effects

Positives

Negatives

Straight kcal restriction

Doesn't work

None; a false sense of progress via water and lean tissue loss is fleetingly satisfying

Metabolism gets crushed down to field mouse status; "active" thyroid (T3) formation slows

Fat Avoidance (a la "Pritikin-like" diet)

Works well for some

Glucose tolerance is not inhibited by otherwise ingested fatty acids; glycogen stores remain pretty full; kcal reduction is large

Low fat diets can depress T levels; all fats should not be collectively avoided; avoiding fat is psychologically rough; limited dietary variety

Carb Avoidance (a la "Atkins-like Diet")

Works well for some

Ketosis or near-ketosis is not necessarily a bad thing (but can be dangerous in some persons); carb essentiality has itself been questioned; GH: insulin ratio increases.

Athletes need carbs to optimally replenish muscle glycogen stores and reduce catabolic cytokines and hormones; low fiber can be a problem; carb avoidance is psychologically brutal

Weekend Re-feeding (or "Cyclic Ketogenic Diet")

Works well for some

May keep metabolism up; muscles get replenished with glycogen; helps maintain "sanity" and compliance

Ketosis and fatigue are not well-handled by some individuals; carb avoidance for several days can be grueling

Exclusive per-meal energy source ("a la "T-Dawg" and "Massive Eating")

Works well for many

Avoids potential fat + carb insulinogenic and lipogenic synergy; provides both fats and carbs resulting in better variety/ compliance with diet

There is criticism that fatty acids are taken up by fat cells irrespective of insulin (regarding protein/ fat meals); see Massive Eating for commentary

Temporal Nutrition (a la "24-hour Approach")

Works well for many

Follows natural bodily rhythm, avoiding potential fat + carb insulinogenic and lipogenic synergy; accounts for training style, provides both fats and carbs for better variety/ compliance with diet

Similar to Massive Eating; requires some portion control (as with most diets); can be overdone with excessive AM carbs or PM fats and mishandled with less-healthy carb or fat types

Why 24-Hour Nutrition Is Not New

That's right: this stuff is not new in many respects – at least not as an application to one's lifestyle or a new "diet" per se. Consider it parallel justification for TC and Chris's T-Dawg Diet 2.0 or John Berardi's Massive Eating if you will. And let's face it, no dietary approach is perfect; any that claims to be is conning you. Like we've said, getting lean is partly self-discovery.

For me, roughly ten years of laboratory experiences regarding sports nutrition and 20 years as a bodybuilder have led to a pattern of eating not unlike other dietary approaches you've seen here on T-mag. Although I've approached it from a different angle, with training-specific and time-of-day modifications, I still consider total calories (subtracting 25-35% for fat loss), keep protein regular and fairly high (about 1.0 g/lb.), minimize refined carbs and undesirable fats, typically choose a single energy substrate (carbs OR fat) at each meal, emphasize post-workout (even para-workout) nutrition, and employ frequent portion-controlled meals with fibrous vegetable fillers. So you can see that "24-hour Nutrition" is in agreement with – and indeed has been incorporated into – other diets you've seen on T-mag.

For those who missed my Guest Forum recently and want a typical day, I personally do the following:

That's about it. Mostly by varying carb intake by 200-300 grams daily, I can gain or lose weight and maintain a body-fat percentage between 5% (after a diet) and 12% (mass-building) throughout the year.

I can't tell you how motivating it is for a geek like me to watch years of coursework become real world effective. Although there's no data specifically looking at calorie-matched comparisons between temporal nutrition and any other dietary approach, you can still see a ton of evidence presented here. You can also see what a bacon, egg and cheese biscuit for breakfast, skipped lunch, and huge pasta dinner does for your neighbors.

Enough said.

References

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