Self-Experiment | LEARNING HOW TO CLIMB | PART 5 | NUTRITION: THE DIRTBAG’S GUIDE TO EATING CLEAN

So you’re starting your new *insert desired goal-orientated* program. You know what you gotta do, why you gotta do it and how you’re gonna do it physically.

But what about fueling?
In my understanding, food comes 3rd in the line of existential importance;

First, Breathing. Learning how to breathe changes everything.
Second, Hydration. Loading your system with enough water is vital.
Third, Food. Learning how to fuel your body perfectly isn’t too complex.

So how are you going to fuel your new program?
Spaghetti hoops and pizza? Beer and beef? Veganism!? God forbid…

This is a photo from week 9/16.
DCIM101GOPRO

I’m learning to rock climb, starting at a beginner’s level, aiming to move to an advanced level in just 16 weeks. Climbers are renowned for eating crap and being cocktail-stick skinny, yet somehow maintaining a mean bodyweight-strength ratio. They are an anomalous collection of tanks when you consider just how strong these guys are.

Let me take you through the Dirtbag’s Guide To Eating Clean and give you the resources you need to fuel the beast…

We’ll look at when to eat, what to eat, why you should eat shit and even post some picture results to see just how lean of a machine I’ve become in 12 weeks…

WHEN TO EAT

I first heard of my source on this subject from Steve Maxwell in an online interview where he spoke about his nutrition program. This dude is like 62 and chiseled, so I paid attention.

He spoke of this hero, Martin Berkhan, a Swedish fitness model who, when you click on his site, your primal reaction is to curse loudly. That was enough to get me digging through the intranet to find out more…

Founder of LeanGains.com (my largest source of info for my nutrition) Martin advocates a protocol for timed eating known as Intermittent Fasting; to know more, click here for an awesome guide to IF.

Essentially, I spend anywhere between 16-19 hours not eating, and 5-8 hours eating in any one 24-hour period.

Before I climb, I’ll have my BCAAs. After I’ve finished, to break the fast, I’ll dose the protein smoothie a.s.a.f.p. then 30 mins later have a proteins + greens meal.

Until November 2012, I’d spent my whole life never once thinking about meal timing. I don’t know how I had overlooked it. Since I have begun paying attention to the timing of my fuel, my output and fat loss has been ridiculous.

Sequencing (click here why/how to sequence)

     AM

  • Wake-up and hydrate with 600ml – 1l of water
  • Bulletproof coffee
  • Fast for 4 more hours; keep active during this time (doing shit, stretching, climbing, conditioning, etc)

    Afternoon

  • First meal of the day (largest meal if training fasted or resting, small if training in the evenings) including supplements

    Evening
  • Activity/ Go to Work
  • Eat during this time, high protein

    Shutdown

  • Last meal, small, healthy, clean protein (cottage cheese, eggs or fish and greens)
  • Sleep(Note; for fat loss, condensing the eating window from 8 hours to just 5 hours with 2 meals was very effective, here’s more.)


WHAT TO EAT

Paleo-style food during the week; high protein, high fat, medium carbs
Weekend; more carbs, including alcohol

The secret is to limit food types, not amounts. I’ll let myself have as much green veg as I want at any meal time, but I’ll refrain from the grain unless it’s a cheat day.

Tim Ferriss recommends eating the same few meals over and over again to get successful results.
Here are a couple of examples of mine:

To Break the Fast / High Protein dose after training:

2 large scoops of Whey Protein Powder
300ml semi-skimmed milk
1 banana
1 tsp Coconut Oil

Easy High Protein Meal:
Meat – Fish, Chicken or Red Meat
+
Kale, Spinach and Broccoli flash-fried in coconut oil, garlic and ginger

High Protein and Healthy Fats Dessert:
Half tub cottage cheese + mixed fruit and nuts + honey

These have been pretty much the template meals I have returned to, and used, again and again during the 16 week experiment.

WHY YOU SHOULD EAT SH!T

This “Cheatday strategies for a Hedonist” pretty much tells you why I might consume up to 15 slices of pizza, 16 cookies and some doughnuts into a single 8-hour window..

Essentially, high-carb refeeds  promote leptin production which leads to downstream effects on fat oxidation, thyroid activation and dopamine and testosterone secretion.


RESULTS

From November 2012 – January 2013 I had followed the IF timing protocol only, not the bit about taking BCAAs or doing any kind of regular exercise program. I probably cut around 2 kg as a result of doing this alone, but then reached a lean-plateau and saw no more progression.

I really started to notice the leanness refining and the metabolism ramping at around week 8 of this climbing experiment.

I found the secret is only buying healthy food from the store. If I have healthy in stock, I’ll eat it. If I don’t, the temptation to eat shit before it’s cheat day can sometimes become too strong. The secret is in the preparation.

Hydration was underrated, too. If you fuel with water taking priority over food at any given time, you’re on to a winner.

By week 15, the craving for the junk on cheat days had subsided substantially – cheat days gradually evolved to just eating larger portions of still healthy stuff.

By week 3, you REALLY notice an increase in appetite and metabolism.

SUPPLEMENTATION 
Cosume all with a liquid, (try doing it without!), or with first meal of the day.

Why?
This is a list from LeanGains you might useful (reading time 10mins)

Essentially;

  • High dose glucosamine: for the joints.
  • High dose Omega-3: for natural inflammatory purposes.
  • High dose Vitamin D3: for maintaining healthy tissues and sanity 
  • Branch Chained Amino Acids: pre-workout protein increases metabolism
  • Whey Protein: to increase protein in my diet.

Glucosamine Sulphate 1500mg – average 1 tablet a day

Omega-3 1000mg (EPA 180mg + DHA 120mg = ratio 3:2) – average 5 capsule a day

Vitamin  D 2500iu – average 3 capsules a day

BCAAs – average 2 tsp’s in 150ml milk + tsp drinking chocolate powder 10 mins before training in a fasted state.

Whey Protein – average 2 x 50g scoops a day, with:

  • 250ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 1-2 bananas
  • 1sp coconut oil
  • 1 cup frozen berriesBlend into smoothie.

CAFFEINE


Love it. I drink it strong, every day, average 2 cups a day
(Strength – 2 espresso bullet shots plus water, each time)

Every cup is made with coconut oil and grass-fed butter. Watch this to learn more; Bulletproof style grass-fed butter coffee, with Dave Asprey (1.5 mins)

There’s the crash course. I’m at my most shredded, strongest, and fastest healing state.
I eat a savage amount of fat in a short period of time, and it WORKS.

I encourage you to try for yourselves… and let me know what tricks and tips you use to get lean as a bean in the comments section below.

Harry Cloudfoot is a self-experimenting writer, documenting his revelations here online. You can follow him on Twitter and say hello on Facebook.

Other articles in the Learning to Climb series:

Some more articles you might find interesting:

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31 thoughts on “Self-Experiment | LEARNING HOW TO CLIMB | PART 5 | NUTRITION: THE DIRTBAG’S GUIDE TO EATING CLEAN

  1. Question. How often should I eat crap? I’m also doing IF + Paleo
    This post was really helpful since I’m starting out doing Paleo diet

    • Hi Kat,
      Thanks for getting in touch,

      I would recommend eating the rubbishy stuff just once a week – choose a day when you’re workouts are light – it’s not wise to try and perform on a ‘heavy’ day when you’re full of junk…

      What you’ll find is, around week 8 or so, the cravings for the rubbish foods will subside, and on cheat days you’ll want to eat healthier stuff but more of it.

      Hope that helps and best of luck with your goals,

  2. I have followed an approach almost exactly like yours and yes it is by far the most effective way of getting lean real fast. A lot of people really ought to try and free themselves from needing food every two to three hours. It’s so liberating being able to perform without having to worry about food and energy levels all the time.

    I enjoyed this post. Found it through Martin Berkhan’s feed. Looking forward to seeing more from you.
    – Nicklas Kingo

  3. Hey man, great article, really inspiring stuff!

    I’ve been on a LeanGains diet for a while now. I was combining it with a Paleo diet for a while, but I was finding it hard to get enough carbs into me after a workout, so I started eating brown rice and quinoa on workout days. Do you recommend ditching them for something else?

    • Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for getting in touch man, glad you liked the post!
      I recommend sweet potato as a starchy carbohydrate.
      It’s pretty much my default. All my other carbs are just vegetables, in large amounts.

      Post-workout I eat BIG; lots of protein, good fat and I go to town on the sweet potato…seems to work pretty good!

      Hope that helps,

  4. I really liked how you broke down the feed.I have been doing leangains for a couple months but found in the begining that was eating way to many carbs or just the wrong type (bread, pasta and pancakes) I really didn’t lose weight like I thought I would in fact I was gaining, I was actually eating healthier when I was eating multiple meals….I just started looking into more of the paleo or low carb meals but I find it hard to figure out the exact micros even when I looked at Martin page. I also only have the option of working out at home(p90x) since I have a young child. I am goin to try and eat a lot more veggies on rest days and better carbs on training days. I have one question if I can’t find time to workout for a few days do I keep the carbs low or do I alternate them as if I was train every other day? Hope this makes sense…..

    • Hi hkasz,

      Thanks for getting in touch,

      It’s a simple formula – if you’re training hard, eat high protein and carbs after your session.

      If you’re not training for some days, don’t eat starchy carbs – just stick to high protein and loads of veg.

      Hope that helps,

  5. Thank you, this is so helpful. Do you have a heavy cheat day once a week? That’s one piece of info I could never track down on Martin’s site. I never know how often I should just go to town.

    • Hi Chris,

      You’re welcome, thanks for reading.

      Yes, I do. I go to town on the cheat day eating whatever I like on Saturdays.

      I am now at a stage where my body is in fact craving more healthy foods in larger amounts on a cheat day, but I can’t say I don’t like a good slab of cheesecake!

      Hope that helps,

  6. Great info Harry and good luck in your quest. I’m curious as to which time you have your bulletproof coffee in the morning and the amounts of butter / coconut oil you have? Also, doesn’t this technically break the fast? I have come across some studies which suggest injesting fats only increase fat oxidation so wondered if this assisted, increased or blunted the fat burning in this sequence

    • Hi Leighton,

      Thanks for getting in touch –

      So, bulletproof timing – I drink one cup of bulletproof when I wake up; between 9 and 10am, after drinking 600ml – 1l of water.
      And yes, you’re right – ingesting healthy fats doesn’t store as much fat as you think, but in fact burns it! Crazy, huh? It’s the shitty carbs that store more fat…

      All I can say is I recommend you try this bulletproof method – drink it 3-4 hours before you break fast – you should feel your metabolism raging and your body burning like a beast.

      Hope that helps,

  7. Yes, I’d be interested in that too – I know Martin normally says that anything over 50 cals is breaking the fast, so why have the bulletproof coffee? For the number of calories you may as well just have breakfast (unless, as Leighton suggested, you have reasons for this). Thanks a lot.

    • Hi James,

      Yes, see my response to Leighton – essentially I want to improve cognitive function by dosing my brain with good fats, and combined with the coffee, I’m burning fat and stoking my metabolic fire.

      Try it, you’ll love it 😉

  8. I’m interested in what you said about breathing taking priority over food. When I set out on my own path of fitness my first goal was to learn how to breath well in everyday life. Two years later I’m strong, wiry, and vascular but I still haven’t gotten around to learning optimal breathing. Do you have any reading/viewing suggestions on the matter?

    • Hi Nam,
      Funny you say that, a reader sent me this link to a TED talk on hacking the breathing process for optimal performance… well worth a watch, and if you don’t learn anything else, the breathe in for 4, out for 6, will do you good.
      You can check that video here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_fFattg8N0 – watch the talk, then watch it again but only follow the screen prompt for the breathing rate by putting the video on mute…you’ll feel good very fast.

      I would also recommend doing some research into Pranayama, or yogic breathing. The correct technique used for breathing in Classical Pilates is also technical and sorts you out real good.
      Essentially, the full yogic breath and the breath of fire (kapalabhati) are the two breathing techniques that will teach you to control your diaphragmatic muscles and how to split your breath between chest and diaphragm. Have a read around those techniques, there’s a couple of good youtube videos that teach you those techniques… only do pranayama on an empty stomach though (perfect to coincide with Intermittent Fasting!)… start with 5 mins, working up to 20 over a couple of months. Failing that, join a yoga class that contains Pranayama practice, or Pilates.

      Hope that helps, let me know how you get on!

  9. Rock climber here, also a follower of leangains for the past 3 years. A few comments.

    -You should be able to progress rapidly through the first grades of bouldering, probably up to V7 without to much trouble as you appear to be quite strong, your dedication to technique will take you there much faster then others who climb casually.

    -Beyond V6/V7 finger strength and body weight began to play a big role I find. The movement becomes much harder and the holds are very small, this is where progress slows down and good training becomes important, being able to control bodyweight is crucial at this level.

    -In addition to learning technique from your friends, learn what type of climbing your body type lends itself to, and what your prefer. I myself am a bigger guy 80kg (big compared to most climbers), I am especially strong on routes that require compression, tension, and slow controlled movement. I am weaker on routes with small crimps and very dynamic movement, hence I spend a large amount of my time in the gym working on these types of problems.

    -After your first 6 months of climbing, be very aware of how your fingers are feeling. You will have enough strength in your fingers at this point to start pulling on small holds, and your susceptibility to injury will go way up at v6-v7 an extra rest day vs. climbing day will benefit you immensely.

    -Become familiar with the common elbow tendiopathy symptoms, if you are truly going to climb as much as you listed, it is almost inevitable that your elbows will start complaining. Dave Macleod has some good info on his blog on these issues.

    -On the dieiting side, I have found overall weekly calorie consumption plays a bigger role in recovery and weight loss then my timing, but I still do follow the meal timings of leangains.

    Good luck, I am interested to see how this goes for you!

    • Hi Kerwin,

      First off, let me thank you man for instilling your belief in my project! Much appreciated – lots of unbelievers out there, really stoked to have you leave your comments – got me psyched when I was reading them!

      Wise words you’ve written there, thanks for the advice. I will check MacLeod’s blog and check the elbow stuff – stretching the wrists and fingers almost daily has been my saviour, along with super high doses of fish oil, no doubt.

      Really stoked that you’re a climber AND on the leangains tip, too. That’s awesome. Interesting what you say about overall calorie consumption for the week – I will start paying attention to that, as I have definitely had weeks of higher performance levels compared to others…

      7a project is getting tried today… fingers crossed, or should I say, locked!

      Thanks again Kerwin, your positive comments are highly valued.

  10. alright i apologize beforehand in case you already covered this and i didnt go back and read but are you doing any kind of weight training?

    • Hi Allen,

      Once a week I do a conditioning session that incorporates gymnastic calisthenics and some dumbbell work. I use resistance bands to warm up and warm down with.

      There will be a post dedicated to the conditioning side of my experiment coming very soon.

      Hope that helps,

  11. What’s up Harry? Just found your blog and it’s way interesting to me. I’m looking to start the Leangains as a way to drop a few more % BF in order to climb a bit better. Right now I’m ~11%, but at 6’2″, 193# it makes it difficult to hang onto those small crimps 🙂 Anyway I’ll be checking back to see your progress and wish you best of luck on your journey.

  12. How Mate:)! I am an experienced Swedish climber and I liked these articles. Tell more about your progress and when the next part will come?

    • Hi Marcus,

      Thanks for getting in touch – glad you like what’s up so far!

      So, to come – There will be a post on the conditioning programs I used for my climbing experiment… and then to finish that series, there will be a BEAST post to summarise the 16 weeks of learning to climb, with loads of free resources and info, plus video! I’m just waiting on a new computer so I can edit the footage!

      So stay tuned Marcus, this should all be coming in the next 4 weeks or so,

      Cheers,

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