The 4 Hour Body slow-carb diet (despite what many people have said) is, or rather I should say can be, a ketogenic diet. I have documented this many times in my patient population using Tim’s protocols (i.e “The Five Golden Rules”).
In the most general terms, a ketogenic diet is any diet that causes ketone bodies to be produced by the liver, shifting the body’s metabolism away from glucose and toward fat utilization. More specifically, a ketogenic diet is one that restricts carbohydrates below a certan level (usually 100 grams per day), inducing a series of adaptations to take place.
Under ‘normal’ dietary conditions, the body runs on a mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat. When carbohydrates are removed from the diet, the body’s small stores (in the liver and muscle) are quickly depleted. Consequently, the body is forced to find an alternative fuel to provide energy. One of these fuels is free fatty acids (FFA), which can be used by most tissues in the body.
The brain and the nervous system are unable to use FFA for fuel but can use ketone body’s. Your brain get’s these ketone bodies from breakdown of FFA in the liver. These ketone bodies then accumulate in the bloodstream and cause the metabolic state known as ketosis.
On a side note: It is a theory that it is the brains conversion to use of ketone bodies for fuel which accounts for the “state of euphoria” (for lack of a better term) that people feel while on a carbohydrate restricted diet.
Simultaneously there is a decrease in glucose utilization and production. Also there is a decrease in the breakdown of protein to be used for energy. Thus ketogenic diets are perfect for those attempting to lose body fat while sparing lean body mass.
As with any fat-loss diet, exercise will improve the success of the ketogenic diet. However many people who have been using the 4 Hour Body slow carb diet encounter a problem when trying to maintain a state of ketosis (with a diet devoid of carbohydrates) and sustain high-intensity exercise (*such as P90X). Although low intensity exercise may be performed usually without problems.
For this reason, individuals who wish to use the 4 Hour Body slow-carb diet and perform high-intensity exercise must integrate carbohydrates without disrupting the effects of ketosis.
Although the 4 Hour Body slow-carb diet does alternate periods of ketogenic dieting with periods of high-carbohydrate consumption (the binge day) this “refilling” of the body’s muscle glycogen stores may not be enough to sustain a week long high intensity workout program. In this example I am thinking of a car that sometime around mid-week runs out of gas and is left puttering into the station for a weekend refueling.
This is not good for your automobile and is also not good for your body.
In Lyle McDonald’s wonderful book “The Ketogenic Diet” (which was recommended briefly in the 4HB) he talks about the targeted ketogenic diet. Which basically say’s this:
- Individuals following the cyclical ketogenic diet (Tim’s slow-carb diet) who want to perform high intensity activity will absolutely have to consume carbs at some point around exercise. The only difference is that calories must be adjusted to account for the carbohydrates being consumed around training.
- The safest time to consume carbs, in terms of maintaining ketosis, is before a workout and ketosis should be reestablished soon after training. Depending on total training volume, 25-50 grams of carbohydrates taken 30-60 minutes prior to training seems to be a good amount. The type of carbohydrate is less critical for pre-workout carbs but quickly digested, high GI carbs seem to work best to avoid stomach upset.
- If more than 50 grams of carbohydrates must be consumed around training, it may bebeneficial to split the total amount, consuming half (25 grams) 30 minutes before training and the other half (25 grams) at the beginning (or during) of the workout.
- If post-workout carbohydrates are consumed, an additional 25-50 grams of glucose or glucose polymers are recommended. Fructose and sucrose should be avoided as they can refill liver glycogen and interrupt ketosis. Additionally protein can be added to the post-workout meal to help with recovery. Dietary fat should be avoided since it will slow digestion and could lead to fat storage when insulin levels are high.
- If post-workout carbohydrates are not consumed, taking in protein only can still enhance recovery as blood glucose and insulin should be slightly elevated from the consumption of pre-workout carbohydrates.
In my opinion (as an avid runner) this is the only way to successfully use the 4HB slow-carb diet and continue to train without “bonking”. The P90X routine (mentioned in our competition) is no different. High intensity training requires glucose be readily available to be used for fuel. While “slow carbing” you are quickly burning your muscle and liver stores of glycogen and then you must convert fat to energy. This will not keep pace with your workout routine.
I would highly recommend using targeted carbohydrate consumption as described above for the best success. You will still be able to maintain ketosis and burn fat (which is the goal)!
4 Hour Life Quick Tips:
- For every 2 sets performed during weight training, 5 grams of carbohydrate should be consumed to replenish the glycogen used.
- The method described above is for individuals who want to perform high intensity activity, which may or may not include weight training. If you are on the slow carb diet and using Occam’s Protocol you should not need to ingest extra carbohydrates in relation to your workout as long as you have a cheat day! which should allow for sufficient restoration of your body’s glycogen stores.