Wits & Weights: Strength and Nutrition for Skeptics

Ep 49: Q&A - Bigger Glutes, Insulin Resistance, Carb Cycling, Refeeds, and Fat Intake for Hormones

March 03, 2023 Philip Pape Episode 49
Wits & Weights: Strength and Nutrition for Skeptics
Ep 49: Q&A - Bigger Glutes, Insulin Resistance, Carb Cycling, Refeeds, and Fat Intake for Hormones
Wits & Weights: Strength & Nutrition for Skeptics
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Show Notes Transcript

This is another Q&A episode!

Today I’m answering five questions from members of the Wits & Weights Facebook community covering training, nutrition, and health.


  1. I want to build my glutes. How many times a week should I train them? Is once a week too little?
  2. How would you train and coach someone differently who struggles with insulin resistance?
  3. What do you think about carb cycling? Is it beneficial to load up on carbs and calories and reduce fat on the workout days (mostly before and after the heavy lifting session), and reduce carbs and calories a lot and increase fat on the non-lifting days, assuming you maintain protein and your weekly calorie deficit? I am aiming for body recomposition. Will I feel increased performance during workout and avoid metabolic adaptations?
  4. Are refeeding days okay when you are in a fat loss phase? Like one day a week when you intentionally eat at maintenance as opposed to a deficit?
  5. I have a client who has gastrointestinal issues from having her gallbladder removed and heard that fat intake shouldn’t be higher than 30%. The question is, how do I stay within that 30% if her body needs fat to produce hormones? She is suffering from poor digestion, falling asleep periodically and can’t sleep a full night. So I know there is a hormonal imbalance.

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Welcome to the Wits & Weights podcast, where we discuss getting strong and healthy with strength training and sustainable nutrition. I'm your host, Philip Pape. And in each episode, we examine strategies to help you achieve physical self mastery through a healthy skepticism of the fitness industry, and a commitment to consistent nutrition and training for sustainable results. Welcome to another episode of Wits & Weights. This is another q&a episode. And today I'm answering five questions from members of the Wits & Weights, Facebook community, covering training, nutrition and health. You can find the group linked in the show notes or just search for Wits & Weights on Facebook. All right, let's just dive into today's questions. Question number one is from Christine y, who asks, I want to build my glutes. How many times a week should I train them is once a week too little? Okay, so when I think of a specific body part, my first question is going to be are you already working on the overall basic human movements before we start focusing on a specific body part. And what I mean by that are using compound lifts, like the squat, and like the deadlift that engage your full range of motion in a natural movement, using lots of muscle mass, because that will build overall strength and size in parallel, and will start to I guess, even out the various muscle imbalances that you start with as a beginner, and help you build that first base of strength and size. And then is when I would start to add in additional accessory movements and isolation movements. And from a programming perspective, if we start there, your question was is once a week, too little. And the way I like to look at it is overall sets during the week, as well as frequency. So overall sets, we're looking at somewhere between nine and 12 sets a week per major muscle group. And of course, the glutes are just part of the hip musculature. There's some tie ins with the hamstrings, there's an aspect of your lower back involved, etc. And different angles that you can hit it. So if you could work out directly once a week and indirectly once a week. That would be from a frequency perspective, a pretty effective training program. And you would either get that through full body work, or you're hitting it two or three times a week anyway through big movements. Or it could be something like a four day split, where two of those days are lower body, and you can use one of those to be more targeted. As far as each of those workouts, I'd like to see one compound lift in the quote unquote strength range like the four to six rep range. And then one or two variants of the lift or accessory slash isolation movements. You know, later on in the workout, it may not be back to back with that first movement. It may be after some other big heavy movements for your overall training. But that's the way I would look at it. So what does that look like a compound movement would be squat deadlift, in the four to six rep range. For example, a variant could be a Romanian deadlift, or a different form of a squat that emphasizes the hips, or even something like a leg press Believe it or not, because we are getting a little bit more into the hypertrophy bodybuilding discussion when we're saying, Let's emphasize a specific part of the body. Now, there are plenty of accessory movements for the glutes. Some things that I like include, of course, the classic hip thrusts that we can do with the barbell, but I also like barbell reverse lunges, I actually prefer those over the forward lunges, I think you can get a deeper stretch and it's a little bit more of a natural movement. To do it up properly. I think the forward lunge, sometimes the the knee relative to the foot is isn't a bad place for people to get a lot of stress on the knee. So I like the reverse lunge with a barbell. I also like barbells step ups, just doing some really heavy barbell step ups to a box that's reasonably high but not too high, can really smash your glutes. And then when you get to smaller isolation movements, we're looking at things like heavy kettlebell swings, or even cable pull throughs where you have a cable in the low position, and you use the rope attachment with the two handles kind of what people use for tricep pushdowns and it's between your legs and you're basically just pulling it out and coming to an upright position so that you squeeze the glutes. So those are just a bunch of different movements. You could just search online for you know best movements for the glutes and you'll find I in 20, different things. But I would have a compound lift in the four to six rep range, and then one or two variants in probably the eight to 12 rep range. But you can mix that up, you could go, you know, four to six, six to 810 to 15, depending on your programming style, what you're looking to accomplish. And the most important thing with all of this, of course, is progressive overload. So whatever you select, stick with it for a while. And while it could be something like four to eight weeks in your training cycle, and make sure to increase the weight over time, when you're working in a rep range, you want to pick a weight that's maybe toward the top of the rep range, and then you go up in weight each session, the reps come down, and then when you get to the bottom of that rep range, then you decrease the weight to a little bit more than what you were able to get for the top of the rep range to begin with. So you're kind of going up, up, up, then you're resetting but not as far down as you started and go up, up up, and then you're resetting. So it's kind of this up and down, but gradually, gradually increasing your maxes for all of those rep ranges, if that makes sense. Okay, so that is my answer to building your glutes. And let's move on to question two. Question two is from Kayla H, who asks, How would you train and coach someone differently who struggles with insulin resistance? Insulin resistance is usually associated with metabolic disease, which is pre diabetes, and ultimately leading to type two diabetes. And this is where there's too much glucose circulating and remaining in the blood. And I'm going to assume for this question that this person has not yet developed diabetes. And I hate to say yet, we don't want to do that we want to reduce the risk or just altogether prevent it. And if it's not too late, then we can definitely do that. Now, almost all the lifestyle principles that I would use with any client who wants to improve their health, for any reason, still apply, and are in fact, the primary factors in reducing risk outside of don't smoke, and outside of whatever your genetics are. Let's start with nutrition. On the nutrition side, we want to have nutrient dense, high fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean animal products, we want to limit our saturated fat to maybe 10% of our calories, have plenty of protein, and limit our processed foods, we don't have to eliminate them, but somewhere between 10 and 20% of our overall calories. And these are just all the things that we shift toward when dialing in our macros, using a flexible dieting approach. And using strategies like managing hunger during a fat loss phase, that those things drive how we select foods, we don't use a, you know, good or bad food diet, we don't say this is excluded, we say, you know, enjoy the things you like, but limit them to 10 to 20% of the calories discretionary. And the rest is devoted to mostly Whole Foods, things that serve your goals, generally, animal sources of products for proteins, plant sources for micronutrients. And you limit things like saturated fat, and you're good. And this helps with everybody, including people who have an issue with insulin resistance. On the movement side. This is also extremely important besides the nutrition, we have, of course strength training, why would I not talk about strength training on this on this show, and going for walks every day. It's not just the step count, but making sure you get up and move every day, especially after you eat meals. Walking after a meal is highly effective for regulating blood sugar. So of insulin resistance, or the opposite of that, which is sensitivity, which is what you want, is a concern of yours than walk after meals, even for 10 minutes makes a huge difference. Strength training, of course, is also highly effective, because you add muscle mass and muscle mass increases insulin sensitivity. They're like your muscles are like a sink for energy. And building muscle is just one of the best things you could do for about just about every health marker you can think of, as we talked about all the time on the show. But even for insulin sensitivity, it's huge. It that combined with eating carbs regularly and throughout the day, actually will help with insulin sensitivity. Believe it or not, carbs are not your enemy in this regard. Now, here's another fun fact. High intensity interval training or HIIT can elevate blood sugar in the short term, but it actually lowers average blood sugar over the long term. So if you want to incorporate some hit sessions during the week as part of a cardio, slash calorie burn strategy, that's fine, you know, as we talked about on the show, don't overdo it with cardio, be strategic, limit it to that Less than half the time that you lift, but if you need it hit can be effective. Now, what's the common denominator here, that improving your body composition through training, movement, and a healthy dietary pattern are good for everyone. Whether you are at risk of diabetes, insulin resistance or not, it's good for everyone. And if you're not doing these things consistently, start there and then start to look at other things as needed. Okay, question three is from Christos D. who asks, What do you think about carb cycling? Is it beneficial to load up on carbs and calories and reduce fat on the workout days, mostly before and after the heavy lifting session, and reduce carbs and calories significantly and increase fat? On the non lifting days? Assuming you maintain protein and your weekly calorie deficit? I'm aiming for body composition, will I feel increased performance during workouts and avoid metabolic adaptations? Okay, I know there's a lot in that question. Basically, Christos is asking is Is carb cycling worth it? For performance, and to avoid adaptation? Okay, metabolic adaptation where our metabolism declines as we get further and further into a diet. So he's not asking about fat loss, we know that fat loss and weight loss are driven by your calorie deficit. And fat loss specifically is driven by the fact that you strength train and have sufficient protein, He's not asking about that, because if he were, I would say, there's absolutely no benefit in carb cycling whatsoever. He's asking about performance and adaptation. So the main reason someone would carb cycle, which is eating more carbs on Sundays than others is, all it is, is to stick to your diet. It's for psychological reasons for adherence. And carb cycling is just one form of a refeed, or what we call nonlinear dieting, where you just have different calories on different days, or different carbs in different days, or you take breaks, it's all really the same idea. Now, as far as performance, let's start there, the evidence, frankly, is neutral. So when you carb cycle, I want you to think about the overall effect on your week, when you're carb cycling, you're actually depriving yourself from the other days. So on your recovery days, where you're not training, you're now depriving yourself of energy, even though you of course have more glycogen and energy on training days. So because of that, there, it might be a wash, but you have to try it yourself, because for some people, there might be a small boost in performance. If you time it right, simply because you do have that extra glycogen uptake and storage from the carp. So it could help with performance, I'm not ruling it out, the evidence is kind of neutral. But again, n equals one, you've got to try it on yourself. As far as metabolic adaptation, there doesn't seem to be any benefit. Studies have looked at refeeds with the hypothesis that the extra influx of nutrition of energy would cause your hormones to readapt upward and this would shift your metabolism up and make you burn more calories. And then you can start from a higher starting point to continue a diet, for example. But it doesn't work. That way, it all nets out. When you go back to the diet, you readapt right back to where you were, there's only two ways to shift your metabolism, the permanent way to do it is to have more muscle mass. And of course, that takes time, the temporary way to do it is to burn more calories. But we want to do it strategically and intelligently with especially through walking primarily, if not a little bit of cardio here and there. But if you overdo it, you're gonna actually cause more adaptation. Anyway, having said all of that, there's very little upside. And it's probably neutral in terms of carb cycling. And the downside is the complexity is trying to track all of this and do it right, and then not only have the higher and lower days, but making sure they're lined up with your training days, which might move around depending on your schedule, and then what time in the day you train, it's a lot of stuff. If you want to experiment with it, this is how I would do it, I would just increase your deficit on low carb days. So make your low carb days even lower than they are today. And then your high carb days add more carbs in but still stay in a deficit. This is how you would have your your weekly calories overall, in the deficit you want to be without slowing down your fat loss, you're going to keep protein the same, you're going to keep fat around 25 30% of your calories. And then the rest comes from carbs. So when your high carb days, it's going to be like two to three times as many carbs as your low carb days when you do it this way. Now my clients pretty much do not carb cycle unless they just want to try it out for fun, or see if it helps their training as an experiment. Most of them do not and if they've tried it, they usually go back to even calorie distribution at the end of the day. I think that the timing of carbs is probably more beneficial than trying to cycle the them day after, you know, from one day to the next. And so making sure you have that pre workout meal in your system, or a decent amount of carbs at dinner the night before, if you train in the morning, I think is going to be more helpful for fueling that, that lifting session. Hey, this is Philip Pape. And if you feel like you've put in effort to improve your health and fitness, but aren't getting results, I invite you to apply for a one on one coaching to make real progress and get the body you desire. We'll work together to figure out what's missing so you can look better, perform better and feel better. Just go to wits & weights.com/coaching, to learn about my program and apply today. Now back to the episode. All right, let's go to Question four is from Carol ah, who asks, are refeeding days Okay, when you're in a fat loss phase, like one day a week when you intentionally eat at maintenance as opposed to a deficit. So yes, they are perfectly okay. And a refeed days, really just another example of when you're talking about carb cycling, and you're just choosing to eat more on one day. So this is a non light lunch, non linear dieting approach where the main benefit is psychological. But again, like I said, for carb cycling, it could give you a short term boost in performance, you'd have to try it out performance and recovery. Especially if the timing, you know if it's like right before your heaviest lifting session or something like that. It is another form of a diet break. And the way you could do it is either go to maintenance on that day and keep the rest of the week the same, which would obviously reduce your weekly deficit just a bit, it would slow down your fat loss a bit. Or you can reduce all the other days to make up for the increase on that one day. And this would allow for a high calorie day or two days in a row, which for a lot of people that might be Saturday and Sunday, right? If you have your lifestyles such that you really wouldn't just eat more on the weekends. And your weekdays are routine, they're boring, you're busy or distracted, no big deal. And you can have a lot fewer calories during the week, go for it. That's sometimes I have clients do that intentionally as a one off, if they have a big event or party or wedding coming up on the weekend. And they sort of bank the calories during the week. It's the same thing except you just be doing it week after week. Now when you do this, those extra calories on the higher day should mainly come from carbs. And they naturally will because you're keeping protein roughly the same. And you're just increasing your calories, which is going to come from a little bit from fats, but mostly from carbs. And that's again, because of the energy because of the recovery, because of the what we call anti catabolic effect the protective effect against muscle loss. But again, it doesn't matter if you do that versus have the same calories and carbs each day of the week. It's mainly for psychological reasons and a potential boost to performance. And then lastly, there's no metabolic or hormonal benefit to this strategy. Okay. And keep in mind, you're going to see larger swings in your daily weigh ins when you do this, right. If you have one day that's like a spike in carbs, you potentially could have a higher weigh in the next day or the day after that. You might not I mean, everybody's different, but just look out for that, and really stay focused on the long term. All right. Our last question. Question number five is from Travis a, who asks about a client who has gastrointestinal issues from having her gallbladder removed. And he heard that fat intake shouldn't be higher than 30%. The question is, how do I stay within that 30% and her body needs fat to produce hormones. She's suffering from poor digestion, falling asleep periodically and can't sleep a full night. So I know there's a hormonal imbalance. Alright, Travis, my first question is how she actually had her hormone levels checked to conclude that there's an imbalance because I actually see several red flags here that have nothing to do with the fat intake, for example, I see issues with food quality and fiber potentially, if she has poor digestion, she might have some sleep issues that come down to her activity and her sleep hygiene, like her pre bed ritual. You know, the use of screens before bed, things like that. And of course, whether she has strength training and walking regularly, all of which can significantly mitigate health issues before we look at other factors like a hormonal imbalance. You know, I usually like to deal with all of that with a client for about a six to 10 week period and get everything lined up nutritionally and movement wise, before I look at anything else, because generally that's where the answer is going to be for most people. The other question is, Is she eating enough? So if she's been in a diet for a while or been yo yo dieting and very restricted and adapted at this point. And then that definitely could cause issues with hormones, not a hormonal imbalance, just the downregulation that naturally occurs from not eating enough. And I would have read at maintenance for a few months, while putting in place all the things right the proper strength training, the movement, the sleep, self care, you know, self, self care, nutrition, and hydration. Now, the premise of the question, specifically is that intake below 30% of your calories as fat is detrimental to hormones, when in reality, the minimum intake is far lower, it's closer to 10%. And it's probably even lower depending on what calorie level you're at. But someone with an optimized diet can still be consistently around 15 to 20% of their calories from fat without any detrimental effects. This is both men and women. The studies have shown there's such variation between individuals that you can't distinguish recommendations between men and women. Long story short, the issue here is not insufficient fat intake for hormone health. It's all these other factors that need to be worked on. And I think that's where most people struggle to be consistent. You want to get her moving, because walking can be helpful for digestion as well. And definitely get her strength training, getting enough protein, selecting high quality foods for 80 to 90% of our intake all these other things and I think this quote unquote hormonal imbalance from fat intake would probably in mysteriously go away. That's my guess if you start there. All right. That does it for today's q&a episode. If you enjoy this episode, let me know by leaving a five star review with Apple or your favorite podcast app. If you're using an Apple just go to the Wits & Weights Show page scroll down to the bottom select five stars and tap write a review. And also here's here's a bonus I will read your comments on air in a future episode. If you go ahead and post a screenshot of your review to your social account of choice and tag me at Wits & Weights. As always, thank you so much for listening, and stay strong. Thanks for listening to the show. Before you go, I have a quick favorite ask if you enjoy the podcast. Let me know by leaving a five star review in Apple podcasts and telling others about the show. Thanks again for joining me Philip Pape in this episode of Wits & Weights. I'll see you next time and stay strong.