We all have different reasons for doing our low carb high fat diet program. For me, one of the main motivators was the fact that when I eat in a low-carb high-fat way, my appetite is suppressed. Usually, when I’m eating without concern for what goes in my mouth, my appetite is a monster who has more control over my mind and my emotions than I would care to admit. But when I’m eating low-carb high-fat, I find that food becomes fuel for my body, and while I find many foods delicious, the cravings don’t dominate me between meals.
Reshaping Our Bodies
One of the conundrums about dieting is that many people diet specifically because they want to change the shape of their bodies. The very best way to change the actual shape of your body, as opposed to the overall size, is to exercise. In particular, what we’ve found out over the years is that weight lifting, or resistance training, is the most effective technique.
With resistance training, you can target specific areas of the body, and reshape how they appear. If you don’t like how broad your back is, do some more like pull downs. If your legs are skinny compared to your upper body, do more squats. (In general, I recommend just about everybody always do squats. Engaging the huge muscles of the legs in the active way is one of the best ways to get your body working.)
The problem is that when you’re dieting the way we’ve always been taught a diet, with my carbohydrates, low fat, and limited calories, you’re essentially starving your body of critical nutrients, and limiting your overall intake of protein. On a program like that, it’s very difficult to tell the body that what limited food you are taking in should be targeted at growing new muscle tissue. The body is actually more likely to scavenge the muscles and organs that you have in order to supply its needs than it is to grow healthy new muscle tissue.
However, on a low-carb high fat diet, there’s the opportunity to get more healthy protein into the body, which is just what it needs to build muscle. Of course, the topic of nutrition for bodybuilding is much more complex than just getting protein to the body. There’s a way broad literature about supplements and nutrition balancing associated with weight training that I won’t even pretend to be an expert about. I’ve done my research, and I know what works for me, and at the end of the day, that’s really what matters for each of us.
How Slow Lifting Works
And after a fair amount of research, there is a training protocol that I’ve been very curious about involving very slow movement, a limited number of repetitions, and only one 20 minute workout every week. The basic idea is that you do one workout a week, working very slowly for one set at each of five or six machines, and too concentrated effort on a limited range of motion with no stopping, you work your muscle just 10 seconds beyond the point of failure.
What this means is that you make sure that each rep, or each lift in a set, is performed over the course of 10 to 12 seconds, with a corresponding 10 to 12 second release. You try to do this as slowly as possible, and as smoothly as possible, so that you maintain tension and total control over the muscle at all phases of the lift and release.
What’s more, you don’t stop at the beginning and end, holding the weight still at any point. Muscles don’t have to work very hard to hold a weight in a single position, but they do have to work very hard to move that weight one way or another. At the end of a set, you know you’re done because the muscle reaches complete fatigue. This should happen between one and a half minutes and 2 minutes after you start a set. And when your muscles reaches full fatigue, you keep pushing at that point, you don’t just release, and you don’t just hold the weight; you push actively without the weight actually moving.
And it is hard.
You have to keep pushing for at least 10 seconds, because this is the point at which the muscle is really breaking down the fibers so that they can be rebuilt bigger and stronger over the course of the week of rest that follows a workout like this.
Getting Professional Help
Since I’ve been very good to myself, I decided to treat myself to a trainer. Never having done super slow weight lifting before, I wanted somebody to show me exactly what was involved, so I signed up for 10 sessions at a local gym with a trainer who specializes in this particular protocol.
When I met my new trainer, we went through all the usual questions, and he flattered me that I look about 10 years younger than my age. Eating healthy will do that, I guess. We discussed nutrition a little bit, and I was happy to hear that he was following a program very similar to the program that I follow. It’s nice to know that in the health and fitness community, low-carb high-fat dieting has really caught on.
Then he took me over to the machines and walked me through a few exercises. First we started with a chest press. He looked me over, set the weight at about 110, and told me to move the bar as slowly as I could, maintaining proper form throughout the movement. I’ve been in the gym before, so I know about the importance of form. And we were at a machine, so unless you do something stupid, the form is almost taken care of for you.
My First Slow Lifting Workout
I pressed slowly, and I felt muscles respond as the weight started to move. It l was lighter than I was anticipating, because I’ve worked out on similar machines at higher weights before doing this particular movement. But I allowed that the slow movement and lower weight probably work together to produce the optimum results. Also, at lower weights, I know that you have better control over the movement.
After fewer repetitions than I expected, the slowness of the movement really took over. I was pushing very gently out for about 10 seconds, and before my arm fully extended he asked me to stop pushing and start releasing. And again, the point was to release very slowly. The movement back should be equally slow as the movement forward. And he kept reminding me to breathe. It’s surprising how easy it is to forget to breathe when you’re doing super slow movements. Having a coach really does help.
At the end of the release, he instructed me to begin pushing before I reached my starting position. The idea is that the muscle is only truly engaged during about the middle two thirds of full range of movement. If you let yourself go all the way back to the beginning, or all the way to the end, the portion of the movement at the extreme points doesn’t really have an effect on the muscle. And my muscle felt it. My body was telling me that it didn’t want to be doing this, but secretly, I know that it was whispering gratefully to me about how much it really did want to be doing this.
After about seven repetition, I noticed my muscles becoming completely shaky, and I felt that familiar burn that I used to get after multiple sets of the same movement At regular pacing. It was amazing how quickly and how effectively this type of movement wore out my muscles. I was feeling profoundly fatigued and very pleased with the whole experience in less than 2 minutes. In fact, that first exercise took one minute and 37 seconds. “Perfect timin,” my coach told me.
The coach explained that the goal of coaching for super slow exercise is to target the weight that will allow the muscle to reach complete fatigue when following protocol like this within 90 to 120 seconds, and stop the exercise if it goes beyond 2 minutes. And part of his expertise was clearly deciding on the appropriate weight to start me on, because as we moved from machine to machine he managed to get me in that range almost perfectly every time.
The one machine where I surprised him was the leg press machine. Maybe it comes from a lifetime of being a bit on the heavy side, or maybe I owe the credit to my genes, but I’ve always had very strong legs. He set the leg press machine to 240, and told me to follow the same pattern. After I got the movement started, I never fully extended my legs, and never fully returned them to the starting position. I pushed very slowly and evenly, and after a little more than 2 minutes, he stopped me. Clearly the weight wasn’t heavy enough to achieve the same effect, although I was definitely feeling the burn in my thighs and my calves. I took a little bit of pride in the fact that my legs were strong as they are, but I know the next time I go back to the gym he’s just going to set that weight high enough so that my legs reach the same level of fatigue as the rest of my muscles did on the other machines.
Getting Into a Routine
Because this was an introductory tour, process took a little over 30 minutes, but typically a workout like this will take about 20 minutes. That’s 20 minutes once a week, for a full body workout. And the expected results are as profound as going to the gym several times a week, and spending up to an hour or more each time working out the traditional way, with multiple sets and shorter movements.
After the workout, I was feeling a little bit hot and sticky, but not nearly as much as I would have been after an hour of multiple sets and a lot of extra reps. I even did this workout in my work clothes, and didn’t feel like I desperately wanted to change afterwards. Of course, at a 20 minute pace for the entire program, I might find the effect a little bit more sweat-inducing, but I guess I’ll find out.
Anyway, it’s good to know that the eating program but I’m following will support this kind of workout. Low carb high fat nutrition is perfect for bodybuilding, and it also encourages the body to get rid of excess fat, so those muscles will really show. I’m anticipating a positive response from my body. It’s been about a day since I worked out, and I can feel the satisfying ache but I’m used to from working out in a more traditional way. It’s profound, it’s deep, and it feels very healthy.