By Scott Canatsey – Lead trainer at the Parrillo Performance training facility
If you have been following Parrillo Performance for a while, you have surely noticed that we are not ones to push low calorie dieting (below 2000 calories) as a means of losing fat. Dropping calories haphazardly will just slow the metabolism. John Parrillo’s methods are practical science that have been proven time and time again. John devised the Body Stat method for monitoring fat loss or gain, and lean mass loss or gain. Parrillo also advocates keeping track of food and supplement intake as well as training to see how these variables all work to bring the individual into a “sweet spot” where fat is being burned and muscle is gained, or at least maintained.
There are certainly different strategies that work better for some and not so much for others. One of the commonly used strategies in the world of fitness is commonly called carb cycling. Carb cycling is merely manipulating the amount of carbs each day to elicit a better fat burning response, or to fill out depleted muscle. At Parrillo Performance we utilize multiple strategies of this type. I believe it’s better to look at the thermal effect of the carbs that are eaten. When the body temperature rises and sweat begins to pour from eating, this is the thermal effect of feeding. The metabolism is flying! No time to slow it down. This response means fat loss and/or muscle gain is happening. Let me give you a couple of examples from my latest experiments. It should be noted that every person is an experiment unto themselves.; people may be similar, but not exactly the same when it comes to metabolic function.
Seth Drake is currently preparing for the Ohio State Championships in September. We began preparing 13 weeks out by starting up fasted cardio, and taking his diet to a very low fat and moderate carb, high protein regimen, at a body weight of 215 and body fat around 10%. This gives us a starting point to begin to make adjustments to start the fat burning process. We use the body stats to give us the insight we need for course correction week to week. In this first month, Seth was able to drop 2% body fat and 6lbsto get within striking distance. Then it suddenly got tough.
At 9 weeks out, we saw Seth adding muscle and losing fat even though we reduced calories, fat and some carbs. We then reduced carbs a bit more and increased intense post training cardio, by 10 minutes daily. To our surprise, Seth dropped 1lb of fat the next week but also gained 2lbs of lean mass. Making the light-heavyweight class was beginning to look less likely to happen; we still have 14lbs to go and he is gaining muscle. Seth certainly could have worse problems, but this is really skewing our plan. With lower carbs, Seth was sweating less when eating even with 15 tbsp of CapTri® C8 MCT. That indicated his metabolism was slowing. At 8 weeks out from show, it was time for a strategy change.
At 8 weeks out our next adjustment was to increase calories by 300. We added 50g of carbs pre and post training. The bulk of the insulin release is kept around the workout. More nutrition is driven by putting carbs at this particular point in the day. Glycogen binds water at a 3:1 ratio, so the weight will drop by default if carbs are so low that the body is really depleted. We do not mistake that for fat loss, as we are able to monitor body composition by performing weekly body stats. By making this adjustment, we yielded a better result in our quest to burn fat, drop weight and lose no muscle. Seth lost 2lbs of fat and only gained 2lbs of muscle with this adjustment. Now at 8 weeks out, Seth is still sitting at 213lbs. We are keeping the carbs steady, and added 6 capsules of Parrillo Evening Primrose Oil™ daily for EFA’s, as he is eating no salmon.
At 7 weeks out we began putting in 300g of complex carbs (never processed foods) on Saturdays and 200 on Sunday only. We dropped carbs back to 75g daily as peri-workout nutrition ( just before and after training). Seth was feeling pretty rough during the week, but really came to life and looked amazing on Saturday night through Monday evening full, hard and vascular. But he gained another pound of muscle and lost 1.5lbs of fat when we checked his body stats. The thermal effect of the carbs did as I suspected. This is only the third prep for Seth and he is considerably larger than last time which was 2 years ago. This is all trial and error or success and adjusting accordingly.
At 6 weeks out we kept it steady. We added 5 minutes to each intense cardio session. This increased the fat burn a bit. He was sweating harder this week too which is a great indicator that his metabolism was speeding up. He was also clearly adding muscle and it was really starting to separate well from more glycogen. Seth’s body fat was reading 5% on calipers.
Coming into 5 weeks out, we are posing a lot. This helps to sharpen the physique even further. Morning fasted cardio going strong, hard training daily and another cardio session at night. Seth had absolute tunnel vision at this point and meaner than a snake! The confidence was going through the roof as his physique is shaping into a piece of sculpted marble with the beautiful shape and line of the “David”. This man has the most beautiful physique I have worked with.
Suddenly, at 4 weeks out things came to a stall. It’s not uncommon for this to happen which is why we do not use all of the ways to burn fat at once, so we have somewhere to turn if we run into a stall or slow down. In order to continue progress, we switched to just oats for carbs and added 50g to the day. Remember, cutting calories is the worst thing you can do, for fat burning, when the body stalls or plateaus. We see this happen time and time again when trainers do not use some way to measure body fat and lean mass. If the scale doesn’t move, “just cut some calories” is the battle cry of the unseasoned or unskilled dieter or trainer when the fat loss stalls.
At 3 weeks out we made a couple more adjustments. We added some more carbs, strategically and increased the overall carb intake up to around 150 per day. We took out the Saturday carb load and kept Sunday at 200 carbs for the one heavier carb day. We dropped 350 calories out of the diet by dropping 3 Tbsp. CapTri® C8 MCT which puts us at 12 per day. This little shift yielded a quick result, which I had anticipated. Seth lost almost a pound. Also, the only starchy carb is oats now. We are keeping most of the carbs in the peri-workout scheme.
At 2 weeks out we increase the carbs incrementally. The fat is off that we needed; now we have to dial it in with water and carbs. These carb shifts and changes definitely elicit a positive response. The last shot of carbs are in the final meal of the day now which helps Seth to sleep a bit better from the serotonin release and a little more insulin to drive more nutrition. Carbs at night on leg day are important at this point. The leg training especially can really take it out of you when you are a bit depleted. Refueling and recovering from legs is tough when riding the calorie deficit line. But this was the last leg session before the show.
Peak week! During this experiment I have learned that by changing the carb strategy at the right times actually speeds up the metabolism. It is akin to putting paper in a blazing fire; it flashes hot and raises BMR to the point of obnoxious sweating through the night as your body burns up the carbs. This happens when a person becomes very insulin sensitive by keeping the carbs low (under 75g) for a few days. After several days of very low carbs, we have found repeatedly, that a 200-300g sudden influx excites the metabolism to a point of burning like a bonfire, but that is only good for 1 day. Then the body typically will begin to store the carbs which works for most people—not everyone. But it is a good strategy to try.
Seth is vying for the Title of Mr. Ohio which will be fun to witness. He is a finely tuned machine and we see the effects of the shifts in nutrition and water daily now. I will be giving the results of the Mr. Ohio next month.
If you want to try to use this method there is no set way to do it. Just track the food daily and increase the carbs every few days for a day or two and see what happens. Use Parrillo body stats to check for the fat loss weekly. This plan will yield changes week to week. Give it a try! Let us know how you do.
To see the final month unfold, follow Seth @parrilloprotege or Parrillo Performance on Instagram.