It’s not that I like doing it. Without dieting, however, achieving maximum contest definition is practically impossible. Restricting calories, carbohydrates and fats is certainly not fun, and you can do it only for a specific period of time. Diet too long or too strictly, and adverse side effects can occur. I’ve certainly experienced them, and I’d like to offer some hints on how to diet so as to minimize undesirable consequences.
The diet I’ve had the most success with over the years is sort of a modified Atkins diet, but my version is higher in carbohydrates and lower in fats’and I increase carbs periodically. Now, people who have been on the Atkins diet will tell you it works, but I’ve found that when carbs are restricted for too long, unpleasant things happen’dehydration and flat-looking muscles, muscle atrophy, lack of a pump in workouts, forgetfulness, bad breath, constipation and fatigue, to name a few. Carbs are the brain’s preferred fuel. It’s true that the brain can run on ketones, the metabolite of fat breakdown, but it really prefers carbs. So does the rest of your body, but when carbs are high all the time, the body fuels itself from them, and unless your activity level is high, not much fat gets burned.
My technique involves eating about one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, with 25 percent of my calories coming from fat. Carbs are held at about one-third gram per pound of bodyweight for three days in a row, and on the fourth day I increase them to one gram per pound of bodyweight in order to reset my metabolism by boosting glycogen stores in the muscles. I usually have my increased carbs on the day before my biggest workout so I can get a great pump. My daily totals might be 180 to 200 grams of protein, 80 grams of carbs and about 40 grams of fat. On the fourth day I bring up carbs to equal my protein. Here’s how I diet and why:
When I get up at around 6 a.m., I take six free-form amino-acid capsules and a multiple vitamin, and I eat half a grapefruit and drink some carbonated water. I swallow one teaspoon of L-glutamine powder (about five grams) by placing it on the back of my tongue and washing it down with water. I first started using glutamine in the early ’70s, long before it became as popular as it is today. What I found was that it increased alertness dramatically and helped me get a better pump in my workouts. It has other wonderful properties as well, like enhancing the immune system, but the main reason I use it is to minimize the loss of lean muscle mass. After about 10 hours of not eating’which could easily be the length of time between your last meal of one day and the first of your next’your body starts to cannibalize lean muscle tissue, sucking nitrogen in the form of glutamine from the branched-chain amino acids in muscle tissue. So I give it a head start, then take my 19-amino-acid capsule mixture with a small amount of fruit, to secrete a little insulin, which will push the glutamine into the body and brain.
An hour later, at about 7 a.m., I eat a small breakfast of three soft-boiled eggs, half a grapefruit, vitamins and minerals and six ounces of black coffee. That small feeding keeps my waist from distending and is enough to prevent me from being hungry during my workout a few hours later. Within a half hour after completing my workout, I take 15 amino-acid capsules (including 500 milligrams of L-tryptophan), 250 milligrams of niacin, a vitamin-mineral capsule, one aspirin and four glucosamine/chondroitin sulfate caps. I use carbonated water to swallow all that, then share an apple with my dog. Also, right after my workout, especially if my legs are fatigued, I take five grams of creatine, which boosts my stamina.
Then comes lunch at 2 p.m., which is typically a mixed green salad with about 12 ounces of chicken, ground turkey or 93 percent lean ground sirloin, broiled on a George Foreman grill with two slices of Alpine Lace Swiss Cheese melted on top. I take my supplements with carbonated water between bites of food. If my day permits, I take a one-to-two-hour nap, or I do some kind of deep relaxation. When I wake up, I have my 5 p.m. snack, which is two tablespoons of egg-white protein powder mixed with three frozen strawberries and six ounces of peach diet Snapple (24 grams of protein and 10 grams of carbs).
I wait until I start to get hungry, which is usually around 7 or 8 p.m., and then I eat a light dinner, usually whatever’s left over from lunch’about half the portion size, no vegetables, with vitamins and minerals. I’ve found that eating small meals late in the day, ones low in carbs and high in protein, goes a long way toward getting me lean. Then at around 11 p.m. I have a small piece of whatever fruit is in season (no dried fruit or high-glycemic stuff like pineapple or bananas), with about 10 milligrams of melatonin.
But before I retire, I look up my daily totals for protein, carbs and fats in a concise little reference book available for $5 at most bookstores, Dr. Atkins’ New Carbohydrate Gram Counter. My low-carb days (200 grams protein, 80 grams carbs and 44 grams fat) average 1,500 calories. Not a lot, but enough to kick the body into a short-term fat-burning trend. Then on the fourth day, when I have the extra carbs (200 grams protein, 200 grams carbs, 44 grams fat), the total goes up to almost 2,000 calories and gives me enough energy to keep going’barely. I’ve noticed that my body needs to run on about 3,000 calories to feel good, so I work that into my schedule if I need to diet for more than eight weeks. It works, and as long as I feel okay and get a good pump in my workouts, I’m happy.
Of course, none of that is written in stone. Your carb intake will vary, and that’s where you need to experiment. Hint: If you already have good definition, don’t go too low with carbs. It’s probably best not to go under one gram of carbs per pound of bodyweight. I feel pretty good when my carb grams equal my protein grams, and that’s my practice when my bodyfat is at acceptable levels. Write it all down in your food journal. Remember: If you eat it, you must write it down. Keeping records will give you more information on what to do in the future.
Editor’s note: For more information about Frank’s diet and training, visit www.FrankZane.com and consider subscribing to his excellent Building the Body training magazine. You can read the first four issues online. IM