- Sleep, Still Fixing That
- Optimising The Diet
- Mindset - The Real Challenge Of Lockdown
- Keeping Up The Training Spice
The Biggest (Or Fattest) I’ve Ever Been
Before you go getting the wrong idea, this is all part of the plan. When I first stumbled on carnivore, around 9 months back, I’d already reached the tail-end of the summer shred. A few weeks in, I weighed just over 12 stone, soaking wet. There was no point in digging any further. The only way was up. So I’ve been stacking the calories since then, and I’ve run up eight months of carnivore bulking.
The Rate Of Progress
- 172lbs – 205lbs = 33lbs
- Over 32 weeks
- 1.03lbs per week
Now those stats are a little smudged by the fact that I was pretty dry when weighing in at the end of the diet. Otherwise, gaining 1lb per week at my training age, would be a little unrealistic.
There’s also the fat that’s piled on along the ride. Things aren’t as lean as they used to be. It’s an inevitable part of weight gain. Even on a carnivore diet that naturally protects against growing a paunch.
But I’ll take it. It’s still lifted to me to what is, I’m chuffed to announce, my highest ever bodyweight. Gravity has never had a better friend.
If you haven’t read my self-posts before, they are basically my attempt at following the Apex Blueprint, a lifestyle template I made for carving out transformations at the best rate possible. So these little diary entries can be a good way to see those apex levers in action.
Sleep, Still Fixing That
It’s been two months since my last progress update, which you can check out below.
To give you the cliff notes, I was having a ball, while doing my best to ignore the elephant in the room. The cortisol dilemma. I seem to save most of my adrenaline for when my head hits the pillow. My oura ring archives can trace a ruthless decline in sleep after the first month of carnivore.
Right around when the gyms reopened and I could finally resume throwing weights again. This may point to a shortcoming of a pure carnivore diet. It’s our evolutionary diet, meaning we were hypercarnivores for the biggest chunk of our existence. So it should logically be perfect for protecting us against threats like nutritional deficiencies and chronic disease. But the stress bonanza of modern living is a whole different beast that evolution simply hasn’t prepared for.
Here’s how that could play out. A pure carnivore diet raises cortisol. That in itself isn’t a problem. It’s a vital part of what makes you click in the morning. It’s the jump start we all need for a day of productivity. But then you pile on all the cortisol triggers you encounter on a daily basis.
Lifting weights? That raises cortisol. Not a bad thing, just a reality of mechanism.
Talking to strangers, bracing for the alarm, thinking of that time in high school, there’s a recipe for a cortisol spike that the body can’t clear out by bedtime. Hence the sleep woes.
That’s my theory at least. It could just be that I’ve run up a calcium deficiency and the body’s stuck in crisis management. But I don’t think that’s the case. I’m the good boy of dieters. I take my electrolytes, stay hydrated, eat the organs, and turn off the lights after sunset. As far as I know, there aren’t any glaring gaps to fill.
With that being said, I have recently started to include low toxicity carbs during training and later in the day. Which hasn’t quite worked, and I’m still having trouble bringing that heart rate down in time for shuteye. So the cortisol dilemma is still running untamed.
Optimising The Diet
What I have done since the last update, is pull the feeding window earlier in the day. It may seem counterproductive to fast at all during a bulk, since it’s usually used as a weight-loss tool. But as I’ve written in an earlier article, fasting has a cluster of health benefits that make it useful across all seasons. And more importantly, a carnivore diet isn’t like the others.
You’re not stuffing your face to get the calories in, because they come tightly packed. Fats just don’t take up much space. Plates never stack up that high. You don’t have to add an extra portion to make up for all the nutrition that skips your digestive tract. You don’t get bloated to the point you get sick at the thought of another meal in five hours. It’s all pretty routine, and that’s what’s sold it to me.
But back to the window chat, I’ve been fasting more or less daily for three years now, and I’d normally push the first meal back to around midday. The last meal would typically be around 6pm. Well I’m back to breakfasts again, and the first meal comes in at 6 am, wrapping up by 2 pm. It’s an abrupt change, but I think I can handle the chaos.
So far, I might be onto something. The body certainly seems to be winding down earlier than usual. And if we could bring this back to the evolutionary lens, our hunter ancestors would have been out on the prowl in the early hours of daylight. They would have had breakfasts.
Functionally, the first meal of the day activates the circadian rhythm, much like sunlight would. Letting the two switch sync up makes for a powerful morning boost.
I’m not saying breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I may have treated it too harshly in the past.
The sleep issue itself isn’t exactly breaking me down. Once I get over the dismal oura score, I feel pretty great during the day. I’ve been adding more ammunition in the meantime by making a big effort to put more organ meats on the menu.
Brain, heart, liver, kidney, oxtail, I’ve been running the gauntlet. Brain is a little tricky to get hold of, so I save it for special occasions. Whereas I usually have 100 grams each of heart, liver, and kidney every day. As I’d like to call them, the trifecta of apex nutrition.
With liver, I fill up on any critical nutrients that brisket isn’t giving me.
Heart provides important compounds for mitochondrial function, and therefore energy.
Kidney ensures my digestive system can handle the heavy loads of steak come in.
They’re each, easy to find, and taste absolutely fine. You just have to be wary of overcooking them. And give the tastebuds a few attempts to get acquainted. The first time I tasted liver, I had to fight the urge to gag. Then the second, the third, but eventually, it became sweet. It’s more or less carnivore candy for me at this point.
Kidney still needs some work, but I’m well on the way.
Mindset – The Real Challenge Of Lockdown
Much of my training ethic is in pushing forward, one little step at a time. It’s basically an exercise in persistence warfare. I don’t have to turn up every day and take on all challenges. I just need to put in the effort and get uncomfortable. This strategy kind of bit the dust once the lockdown struck back, because life lost its novelty. There weren’t many ways I could challenge myself over the course of groundhog day #128. My motivation sputtered to a halt at this point. It was tempting to just sack it all off and wait for reality to return.
After a few spills, I’ve doubled down on getting key habits done every single day. Activities that I could still do, that enabled me to push on.
- Cold shower
Most importantly, these are all exercises in mindfulness. Anything that gets me out of the monkey brain is going to get marked down as a plus. I’ve talked about dopamine before at greater length, but the idea is simple enough to put into a few sentences.
Dopamine is the molecule that makes us want more. It’s the driving force of a fitness transformation, or getting anything done for that matter. And then it has to meet modern reality, filled to the brim with triggers that short-circuit the dopamine response. The brain gets desensitized to dopamine, motivation hits rock bottom.
We need dopamine. But it’s being suffocated by the monkey brain. To really feel the thrill of completing mundane tasks, day after day, we need to pull back on those short-circuiting triggers. Social media, browsing, video games, streaming, you get the idea.
I’m not trying to become a monk. I just want to improve my quality of life, while pursuing a few overarching goals. If dopamine isn’t firing, I’m not making any ground, because I’m not making the most of the process. Dopamine is the process.
Brain chemistry put to the side, by giving myself a to-do list, I’ve been able to tone down any residual anxiety from being in the midst of an emotional pandemic. Like most people, I like order. I’ve even given training a regular 10 am slot. No matter how I’m feeling, I get on with it.
Keeping Up The Training Spice
When this lockdown began, I decided I didn’t want to go through another potential 4-6 months of inventing random band exercises. So I ponied up for a pair of adjustable dumbbells that capped out at 40kgs. It still sounded like it wouldn’t be enough, but two months later, I can barely shift them up for floor chest presses. Even with rows, the reps don’t get too silly. As for legs, there’s no chance I can hit 40kgs with Bulgarian split squats, so I’m pretty safe.
The real bummer is in the time it takes to switch plates during a session. I’d rather not have to warm again, and I’ve taken to picking a weight and keeping it across the session. When I need variety, I add in band exercises, or even bodyweight shenanigans.
It’s still difficult to go all out intensity without it becoming a CrossFit session, but that was the case even before the lockdown. Carnivore just has an annoying habit of giving me a bottomless pit of energy. Coming in after five hours of sleep barely changes that. As far as performance goes, this diet works.
In any case, making gains doesn’t come down to brute force, or weight for that matter. The key player is tension, the force that’s actually allowed to make it through to the muscle. My training is always focused on slow, deliberate reps that move the muscle through contracting and stretching. It sounds routine, but when this ends, just pull up a seat and watch anyone in the gym.
The Bulk Must Go On
Sleep aside, the whole routine is working in sync right now, and I fancy my chances of pushing the weight dial a little further to the right. I don’t intend on doing any summer cuts anytime soon, not till next year at least. The best I’m going to get is the odd 2-3 week mini cut here and there. I love dieting down, but I have a hunch that 3 years of constant 18-23 hour fasting has pushed the body into a stressed state. Cycles of famine need to be matched by episodes of feeding. Fasting gets treated with feasting. Like I’ve said, quality of life is a big goal post for me, and I like to keep things in balance.
As for how heavy I could get from here, who knows. Without any carbs, I’d almost certainly be capped out at this point. With a few strategic power carbs, free of toxicity and all that evil stuff, I could push this another few pounds. At least.
To read the rest of my self updates, head here.