Posted by: draknor | June 10, 2012

Debrief – Weekly Structure & Carb Refeed

Today’s post is going to be some reflections on the my attempt at introducing structure into my week, and my weekend diet.  Since the last few posts have been primarily on diet, I’ll start with the former topic.

As mentioned previously, I realized that my days & weeks have been lacking any kind of real structure, thus making it difficult to plan, prioritize, and actually accomplish things.  So I set about creating a weekly template — not as a schedule, per se, but more as a guide for how I want to spend my time during the week.  And this guide can provide transparency on what I’m trading / sacrificing when my daily schedule changes.  Let’s face it — no one “loses” time. We all have 168 hours every week.  The only variable is how you spend it.  So let me break down how I desire to spend my time:

     168 hours/week
 -    48 hours/weekends (not going to structure these)
 -   9x5 hours sleep (+morning/night routines) per night, per weekday
 - 5x3x1 hours per meal, 3x a day, every weekday
 -   3x1.5 hours workout/week (working out MWF)
 =   55  hours of "productive" time (rounding down from 55.5)
 -   10  hours of "personal time" for recharge, rejuvenation
 -   10  hours of "side project" time
=    35  hours of "primary work" time

And this is a number I feel content with, at least for starting out. Again, these totals represent ideals, but I recognize these ideals will not be consistently achieved. To paraphrase a famous quote — “No schedule ever survives contact with reality“.

Here’s the template I came up with (see right). 

So, with that in mind, how did this past week go? I didn’t keep track of my actual hours spent on each area this week (a goal/task for a future week), but I definitely observed some psychological changes in my behavior, and some flaws in my current plan.  Such as:

  • My goal is bedtime from 11pm-8am. Going to bed at a given time (before midnight) has eternally been a struggle of mine, and this week was no exception.
  • As a result, my plans for “side project” time from 8am – 9am every morning was generally usurped by sleep / morning routine.
  • I did okay with breakfast from 9am-10am.  This seems feasible, but I struggled last week to make this happen on Thurs/Fri due to morning commitments.
  • I am blocking off time slots from 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm for photography gigs — this seems smart and gives me a good structure for scheduling. The challenge is I don’t really have travel time built in to my template, so a 10am shoot means I need to leave home around 9:30am (typically), cutting into breakfast time.
  • I had intended for exercise times to be in the late afternoons (when I’m typically not very energized), but both Wed/Fri I ended up napping or otherwise “recharging”, so that pushed my workouts into the evening hours.
  • The good news is, with this kind of shuffling I’m at least now more aware of what I’m sacrificing or giving up.  In my case, I didn’t spend any time this week on “side projects”, so everything was either photography-related or “personal time”
  • Speaking of which, this also made clear the fact that I need to have clear projects & tasks segregated into “photography work”, “side projects”, and, “personal projects” — otherwise the differentiation in my template will be meaningless.
  • On the positive side, by having this structure in place it helped motivate me to accomplish some key tasks I had deadlines for this week, as well as catch-up on some key business stuff (eg invoicing) that I had been neglecting. All because I was at a time of the day that my idealized template said I should spend on work stuff, so I did.  Seems simplistic, but sometimes just having that little bit of a push is all it takes!

So my changes for this week:

  • Print-out for the week needs to have lighter colors/fonts, + space for “planned activity” vs write-in “actual activity”
  • Identify specific projects & tasks for each context (work, side project, personal)

Ok, so how about my diet?

I guess I didn’t write about this part, but a key component of the diet is a once-a-week “carb refeed”.  Basically, eating a high level of carbs (about 400-500 g) during a 5-hour time period, in order to refill muscle glycogen stores.  To quickly recap, the body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, and that gets stored in the muscles & liver as glycogen.  Muscle glycogen is used by that muscle, and liver glycogen is broken down as needed to maintain blood sugar.  A carb refeed is intended to refill those muscle & liver stores of glycogen, giving the body additional fuel for the upcoming week (and workouts), and sending a signal to the body that there is plenty of food, no need to slow down metabolism (nor preserve fat).

I read a great summary online about dieting that said essentially, the body will do everything it can to preserve fat – which is exactly what most of us don’t want in our modern, food-filled lives.  So we have to understand what signals the body uses, and send it those right signals, even though that may seem counter-intuitive at times.

All that said — I didn’t exactly follow my RFL guidelines for the carb refeed.  First, I was supposed to obtain approx 450-500 g of carbs in a 5 hour window.  I ended up splitting that over two days (Sat/Sun), because I couldn’t gorge myself enough on Saturday to do it.  Secondly, I consumed quite a bit of fat in those meals (much more than recommended), which probably was a primary reason for why I couldn’t get enough carbs in.

But most importantly, I did a 2.5 hr run on Saturday morning — not something recommended in RFL.  In fact, he advises against doing ANY real cardio work.  I did it because I have a parallel goal of running 10 laps around Lake Monona this season, and I also wanted to experiment with running fasted (eg before eating), on a low-carb diet.  Some stuff I was reading suggested running in this state forces the body to adapt to more efficient fat-burning for endurance events, instead of simply relying on the muscle glycogen.  My experience seemed to bear this out — while I ran at a much slower pace than typical (almost 13 min/miles vs my normal 10 min/mile), I felt surprisingly good for most of the run. I did walk for about a mile @ mile 9, but I attribute that more to mental weakness/fatigue than actual physical fatigue.

Time will tell how this impacts my progress.  I suspect it will now take a day or two to shed some of the water weight I obtained from all the carbs I was eating, but I expect by next Wednesday I should be at or below the 189.2 lbs weight I was at Friday morning (lowest point of the week).

The other failure of my carb refeed was protein – both days I only consumed <120 g of protein — 60% of my goal.  But I hit 3000 calories each day, thanks primarily due to ~150 g of fat, so my body should have plenty of signals that it can keep the metabolism going strong!  That, and my caffeine consumption.  I’m now drinking about 2 cups of coffee & 2 cans of diet coke a day, on average, with the intended goal of using caffeine to help keep my metabolism stimulated.  It’s going to be a killer withdrawal headache when I stop, I suspect — but that’s a few weeks off yet so I’ll deal with that when I get there 🙂  I’m realizing I need to keep that confined to earlier in the day though, as when I’ve had caffeine later in the afternoon / evening, my sleep is typically much more anxious, and its just harder to fall asleep (contributing to my late nights & need for afternoon naps).

Alright, that’s enough for one post!