"Hey, just read your post on paleo carb refeed.
How did it go for you? I am trying to find a program that will help me lean out. I have been doing paleo for a year and zone for 3 months now and my progress is quite slow! I also do Crossfit most days. "
Tiffany's email is a good set up for my 2 to 3 part series about carb refeeds and ketosis. If you want to know more about the carb-refeed protocol is talking about read this post first. There are actually two questions in her email and I will have to rephrase the latter at a bit. I will go through one question in each part of the series.
1) How did Paleo Carb Refeed go for you?
2) I am trying to find a program that will help me lean out while still being able to perform in CrossFit which I do most days.
The reason why I emphasized the Crossfit nuance in the second question is that there are easier ways to improve body composition if it was not for that performance bit. Nothing against CF, it could also be training for a triathlon or being an MMA athlete. There are easier ways to shed fat if it was not for also for being very active and improving in one's glucsoe demanding sport of one's choice
We are herewith now leaving health nutrition land and entering the realm of sports nutrition. In my opinion sports nutrition focuses on improving your performance and is not necessarily healthy. Health performance focuses on improving the quality of life and longevity but does not necessarily improve your PR of a 50k race. So depending on how rigorously you want to improve and regulate your performance sports nutrition often cannot be 100% Paleo.
Remember I'm not telling you how to eat or that you will make the same experiences when you follow the Carb Nite protocol.
In a nutshell: Good and bad and then very bad. In this post I'll explain where I'd go wrong and why.
The Good: I started refeeds because I increased my workout load. My weekly workout schedule at that time looked like this: 2x powerlifting, 1x CrossFit, 1x HIIT session, 1x Power Yoga, 1x bouldering while still training other people.
It was not overly crazy but still more than the average Joe would do. Felt that my moderate carbs Paleo diet was not cutting it any more.
At some days I would just feel sluggish. So I decided to go for carb-refeeds to be able to recover quicker and see good results fitness-wise.
So for 6 days of the week I would be very-low carb and in the late afternoon of the 7th day I would try to eat 100 g of digestible carbs (meaning without the fiber). That amounts to lots of paleo (friendly) food.
During the first month I saw good results with Paleo friendly carb-refeeds. I leaned out, did not particularly loose much weight, and improved my strength numbers. I could keep up during CrossFit and recovered fairly ok from workout to workout.
The Bad: The first two refeeds were fun. The following refeeds were a hassle. Based on the CarbNite protocol women have to adhere to the 6 hour feeding window. Finding "good" carbs and eating them around that time frame was getting a wee bit tedious especially after I added another carb refeed day into the week. It's a sh*tload of food after all. Also after each refeed I would experience a carb hangover. I felt a bit bloated and sluggish.
The Very Bad: On stressful days I would also get sugar cravings and once in a while I would fall off the Paleo wagon big time and eat a gluten-free muffin although it was not a refeed day. The wheels came completely off when I was in a hassle and annoyed. I then passed a cafe which smelled of waffles. Still had enough willpower to pass by.
Fifteen minutes later I missed the bus because the woman in front of me couldn't navigate her trolley which was the size of a minivan. Frustrated I suddenly found myself in 7Eleven buying a puff cake, a Twix bar and crisps. And I ate them all. Incidents like that would happen around 2 times a week for two weeks ruining my diet entirely. I had was hooked on sugar and even worse gluten again. Took me 1 and half weeks of disciplined Paleo eating to get through that carbs hangover and then carbs withdrawal.
What exactly went wrong there? How could a slip up lead to me ending up in sugar craving ditch?
Mistake number 1: Too low on fat.
On low carb days I neglected the fat. Although I knew good fats are good for me I subconsciously was still trying to limit fats. That only left me with protein. Too much protein for my needs and I that left me on low energy.
Mistake number 2: Too much protein.
Because of the high protein lowish fat intake my body was forced to convert some of the abundant protein in glucose through gluconeogenisis. I believe I was never in ketosis but rather stuck in this low blood sugar limbo and I never managed to enter ketosis. And presto: Cravings!
Realization number 1: My liver can't take it
Like contrast showers can be too much for some people's circulation the constant switching from low-carb to super high carb was too much for my system. I just could not recover from the refeeds well. Sometimes it would take me 3 days until I felt right again but then I had to stuff my gob again. Research shows that carb-refeeds can strain the liver. My liver has never been very resilient since I suffered from acute hepatitis B years ago.
Realization number 2: I'm still a recovering sugar junkie
I realized that my brain reacted to high GI carbs too much like a junky. Some people can snort a line and never be affected afterwards. Some people are immediately hooked. Concerning sugar I probably the latter. I personally could not do even high carb Paleo refeeds without getting sugar cravings later on and ODing on carbs.
Does my tale of woe mean that refeeds should be avoided? Not really. Many people have reported good results with refeeds. Even refeeds with carby junk food seems to work for some. So after I got over my own little carb-tastrophy I did some more research, did some tweaks and went at it again and it worked for me. More on that in Part II of the series.