I wrote about this topic a little over a year ago, as I was eager to share the results I got while doing Scott Abel’s Metabolic Enhancement Training (MET) while basically eating as many carbs as a I could. It worked. It was also totally and completely grueling and left me with some serious aches and feeling pretty burned out. I knew from the beginning that MET was unrealistic for the vast majority of people. It is complex, complicated, grueling, and, when performed as Scott Abel directs (75+ minutes 5 days/week), overwhelming and impractical.
Lately we have been discussing pancakes, pizza, ice cream, chips, and other highly palatable foods for raising metabolism. And I have had dozens of people report very high temps (over 99F), often achieved from the 96′s, in as little as 2 weeks. I think the Hot Chick’s Club has tripled since January. But I really wanted to try this out for myself. I have reservations about advocating overfeeding on these types of foods, for obvious reasons – the least of which is having all the health nerds of the world call me a douchey quack McFatty. I actually kind of enjoy that part.
But I’ve eaten plenty of those type of foods over the past year and the only thing I’ve noticed is improvements in health – including even stronger, whiter teeth with no tooth sensitivity. No bleeding gums anymore. Chest pain has gone. Pet allergies have improved (spent a couple hours in a house with 8 cats the other day without so much as a sniffle). And I feel free.
I’ve watched a friend of mine stop having seizures, grow out cracked, mangled fingernails into nice, shiny pearls, and quickly overcome a serious oral infection that she’s sought medical treatment for 10 YEARS (it took only 4 weeks before her docs told her it was all cleared up). Although she’s far from being in perfect health, these health improvements – enough to baffle the medical doctors treating these conditions, has been achieved on a diet built mostly around French toast, pizza, and Coca Cola. The calorie was the missing link in this case. And “health foods” like fruits had to be eaten in moderation to avoid the episodes of frequent urination that coincide with the seizures. We almost learned this one the hard way.
All that aside, even though I felt a little like Cartman during the whole ordeal, I wanted to try overfeeding specifically on these foods for myself - to satisfy my own curiosities. I was also interested to see what doing some weight training while overfeeding would do to my body temperature, body composition, and how it would affect the metabolic rehab process. Here is what I found…
As is well-known and understood, the calorie is the most important dietary factor when it comes to gaining muscle mass. Eating hard - specifically of highly-palatable “unclean” foods (because it’s MUCH harder to achieve a calorie surplus eating whole foods) and doing some hard weight training (described later in this post), is a pretty unbeatable formula when it comes to strength and muscle development. Here is a video of mine, plus two others, that speak to the importance of hitting the calories hard for gaining mass. Screw Lyle McDonald. If you want to gain mass, you are better off consulting with Ronald McDonald (no offense Lyle, just sacrificing your name for cleverness).
Muscle gain was obviously very rapid, and I gained substantial mass in all regions. I tend to gain muscle much easier in the lower body than the upper body, but everything grew a lot during the first 6 weeks since I have been overfeeding and weight training. Strength improvements were dramatic too. Weights that felt heavy were light by the very next workout. I’ve never experienced such rapid strength gain, and its actually got me quite enthused about continuing my weight training (unlike MET which, although it made me stronger and fitter, eventually made me contemplate suicide every time I was about to walk into the gym). My training volume was extremely low by most standards too, and aches and pains that I had starting out have all lessened or gone away completely.
My Mass-Gaining Workouts
I have come to really appreciate simplicity, especially when it comes to dishing out something that a noob can go out and put into practice without being overwhelmed or intimidated with complexity. So I split a full body routine into 4, 20-minute workouts.
Workout 1: Squats and calves
Workout 2: Chest and upper back (pushing and pulling)
Workout 3: Deadlifts and core
Workout 4: Shoulders and Lats (press up and pull down)
For each workout, I would perform as many sets of 8-10 repetitions as possible in a 10-minute window. Each set would be taken close to failure, so a weight I could do for 10 reps in the first set would be too heavy to move by the 5th or 6th set. In other words, I used lighter and lighter weight each set. Rest periods were kept to 30-45 seconds or so in between sets. This is important specifically for muscle growth, because you really don’t want to rest enough for your ATP to be fully replenished in between sets. That’s great for strength development, but not muscle development which is not the same thing. As discussed in and old post, low reps with heavy weights and lots of rest in between sets is best for strength gain. Muscles grow in response to extreme energy and oxygen deprivation, which happens when you are breathing hard and fatigue your muscle until you can hardly move a pencil with it. Higher reps (8-12+) with less rest in between sets works better for growth.
So, after 10-minutes was up, I would rest for a few minutes and repeat another 10-minute battle with a different body part – never more than two major muscle groups per workout. Thus, my workouts were basically 2, 10-minute “drop sets” (sort of) per muscle group. And I would get through my 4 workouts once every 10 days. While 10 minutes per muscle group every 10 days may sound like nothing, in hindsight this was actually TOO MUCH. 5 minutes would have been plenty. We’ll also talk about High Intensity Training and Body By Science next month, which utilize a similar style of training but cut the duration back to less than 2 minutes per week per body part. For those that wish to exercise and gain muscle during RRARF, this is probably the best type of exercise. I’m finding MAX interval training as described in Diet Recovery to actually be pretty metabolically-costly in terms of its body temperature lowering effect (according to individual reports).
Anyway, this load of training, as expected, did keep my body temperature a little bit lower. I had pretty severe muscle soreness all the time in some body part. My sleep suffered from the workouts as well (which adversely affects body temperature). I’ve cut way back as I continue to eat as hard as possible until May, doing a more Body By Science-inspired weightlifting routine.
It’s hard to say what effect this exercise had on how much body fat I gained during overfeeding, but I don’t think it prevented much fat gain. I still gained a pretty substantial amount of fat in addition to the muscle gains. I do feel pretty damn good and can’t say there’s much of a reason for me to personally fear white flour, white sugar, or highly palatable “junk” like pancakes, pizza, burgers and fries, and ice cream.
For those interested most in body composition, this approach shouldn’t sound unfamiliar. In fact, this is the STANDARD approach to body composition improvement amongst the bodybuilding elite – body composition improvement defined as a an increased ratio of muscle mass to body fat. Muscle mass growth is extremely slow if you are not gaining a little body fat. While gaining body fat, it’s virtually impossible not to gain lean mass, even if you aren’t even exercising. And for some, a whole foods diet simply will not enable one to eat and metabolize enough calories for efficient growth. Refined foods work better for that, and their “supranatural” properties probably can be used to our advantage – even with body composition.
And so, as always has been suggested by the smartest people in the fitness industry, if you want to look better – put all the emphasis on gaining muscle and increasing your metabolism first. Then, as you lose fat, keep your weight training going and you’ll keep most of those muscle gains. Most importantly, look at an effort to change your body composition as a long-term, cumulative effort. Really changing your physique in a permanent way is, at minimum, a 1-2 year project (it’s pretty easy too I think, you just have to be patient and do it in the right sequence). Gaining muscle mass and ramping up your body temperature/metabolism in the 98′s and 99′s (over 37C) is a huge asset - totally worth it in my opinion even if you do gain quite a bit of fat in the first few months.