Børge Fagerli’s Advanced Concept Diet v2.0
The goal of many trainees can be simplistic summarised as “less fat, more muscle”. Many people have walked this path, some to success and others to failure. Yet far too many trainees stumble along with an unstructured and untested plan that ultimately leaves them nowhere.
After more experimentation, dialogue with the “The Four Horsemen” (Martin Berkhan, Lyle McDonald and Alan Aragon) and the interpretation of additional research, we present a powerful tool to help you achieve your goals.
We present the Advanced Concept Diet – v2.0.
Before you continue reading, I assume some basic experience with managing your diet, preferably having followed the Health & Fitness Concept over a few weeks.
With that, you should have established a caloric “baseline” – a rough indication of how many calories you should consume.
With those caveats aside, let’s begin.
The critical anabolic trigger – Training
An accepted truth is that you should eat carbs and protein right after exercise for optimal recovery and growth. However, is it necessary to consume 100g of fast-digesting carbs after a workout consisting some benching and some bicep curls? No, not necessarily.
Much of the research on glycogen needs is derived from studies on endurance athletes and not strength training. In the strength training context, Lyle McDonald estimates that about 5g of glycogen is required for 2 sets of 10 reps. This, of course, varies with the nature of exercise (isolation vs compound) and the rep-range used (higher reps => more glycogen used). However, it is representative of the sort of carbohydrate requirements for strength training. With that, a typical strength workout rarely requires more than 30-60g of glycogen. 
Having low glycogen stores is not conducive for strength gains or muscle growth. Hence, low-carbohydrate or ketogenic diets are not optimal when you want to build muscle. This is because glycogen status in the liver and muscles provide a number of key hormonal signals that promote anabolism over catabolism.
In this regard, both research and practical experience indicates that the majority of your daily calories should be focused in the period after exercise.
Right after exercise is when the uptake of carbohydrates is at its peak – a result of increased insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake by muscle contractions via GLUT-4 receptors. Insulin sensitivity is a measure of how efficiently food is absorbed in the cells at a given insulin secretion. In this case, having high insulin sensitivity in your muscle cells, with lower sensitivity in fat cells, preferentially shuttles calories for recovery and growth rather than fat storage.
In other words, with good insulin sensitivity, we achieve favourable nutrient partitioning.
Interestingly, avoiding a high-carbohydrate intake post-exercise and sticking to protein and fat can maintain this increased insulin-sensitivity for about 12-24 hours. However, do note that increased insulin sensitivity per-say does not increase muscle-protein synthesis (the mechanism of growth).
On the contrary, we see many more benefits to replenishing glycogen stores after a bout of exercise. One of these benefits revolves around AMPK inhibition. AMPK, which was mentioned in Part 1 of the Myo-reps series, is an “energy sensor” that increases during muscle contraction, more so after endurance training. AMPK in turn inhibits mTOR, which is the primary signal for muscle growth.
By training sensibly and avoiding excessive training volume ( auto-regulation ), and by focusing food intake post-exercise, we can decrease AMPK and increase mTOR, favouring muscle growth.
While a lower intake of carbs increases fat oxidation , this does not seem to be affected if one takes carbohydrates in moderate amounts. (as opposed to chugging down that dextrose mass-gainer with 100-200g of carbs)
Another protocol that has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity is Intermittent Fasting. This involves daily periods of fasting, from 12 hours, up to 16-18 hours. There are evolutionary reasons why people should not start the day with a hearty breakfast, and it isn’t uncommon to hear people complain about lethargy and sluggishness after their morning meal.
That said, this protocol takes some getting-used-to, especially if you’re a habitual breakfast-eater. The hormone Ghrelin, which is associated with hunger, tends to be entrained to a specific time period. If you habitually eat breakfast at 7am, your ghrelin is likely to be above baseline at that time, leading to a hunger response.
The good news is that ghrelin is flexible, and after a while (usually 1-2 weeks), it re-aligns itself with your new routine.
Of note, Martin Berkhan of leangains.com has a brand of intermittent fasting which he and his clients use to maintain low body fat all year round while building muscle mass and increasing strength. Leptin also seems to be affected positively with periodic fasting, and may explain why one can maintain low body fat without the typical side effects.
Contrary to the myth that more meals stokes the metabolic fire, there are in fact several benefits to a lower meal frequency, which we will touch on later.
Composition of Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat
I have developed a model based on metabolic typing that I use when I set up diet and fitness programs for clients. An article is in the works, but here’s a short summary.
Most pertinent, is to recognise that who you are as a person will decide how your diet should be set up. We can thus split people into 2 types: sympathetic-dominant (S), and parasympathetic dominant (P).
Before we delve into that though, keep in mind that like all models, this is designed to be general. And while you may gravitate towards one of the types at present, the ultimate goal is that through smart planning and execution, you can naturally switch between the two at will.
Traits of the sympathetic-dominant (S)
high insulin sensitivity with controlled and mediated oxidation of glucose. Literally gets warm and has stable, high energy after a meal with lots of carbs
higher endurance with the ability to withstand a lot of training, but can be burnt-out with a combination of high intensity and high volume training
usually an analytical, logical, detail-oriented perfectionist who loves to plan and be prepared for all eventualities. comment: watch out for paralysis by analysis
wakes up early in the morning, and prefers to snack often rather than have big meals
tends to keep it light on salt and fat. consuming salt and fat (like nuts) can lead to a “trigger” which makes it hard to stop eating
some research indicates a relationship between sympathetic-dominance and likelihood of contracting an eating disorder
An important factor to note is that the sympathetic-dominant tend to have lower serotonin levels and high cortisol production. Consuming carbohydrates increase serotonin and reduce cortisol, which explains their contextual preference. The corollary is that such people don’t do well on low-carb diets.
High amounts of exercise, especially cardio, will also result in increased cortisol levels. This in turn results in water retention. To the frustrated dieter, this present a lot of psychological stress, which paradoxically, they respond to by cutting calories (and carbs) further and exercising more.
Hence, the low-carb + high cardio approach is ill-suited to the sympathetic-dominant person.
Traits of the parasympathetic-dominant (P)
often powerfully built, and with lower insulin sensitivity
often tired and bloated after a meal with lots of carbohydrates
explosive, with low stamina, and must build-up exercise tolerance over time. Likes lifting heavy, but can be burnt-out with a lot of maximal lifting and high training volume and high training frequency. Auto-regulation is almost necessary for this type
impulsive, likes change, seeks action and excitement, and seeks reward in the form of results. Will soon get tired of following the same routine
tends to look at the big-picture, and gets overwhelmed or loses interest with too much detail
likes to stay up at night and sleep throughout the morning
likes to eat big meals, and sleeps better after a heavy meal before bed
prefers salty and fatty foods. Eating sweet foods, sugar and carbohydrates, especially wheat products, can lead to a “trigger” that makes it hard to stop eating
Dopamine levels are low and/or dopamine receptor sensitivity is reduced in parasympathetic dominant folk. Protein is the nutrient that stimulates dopamine secretion best, and hence a higher protein diet would suit such people best.
This personality type is unfortunately mis-diagnosed as ADHD in children, when it could simply be a sensitivity to sugar, wheat and carbohydrates. This is a case where changing the diet may in fact, result in a radical (positive) change in behaviour.
Instead, fat is a better caloric source, and it also helps reduce blood sugar fluctuations. This should be controlled according to activity levels and total caloric intake.
Such people generally fare well on low-carb diets and ketogenic diets for fat loss. With higher training volume however, carbohydrate demands may increase, and regular carbohydrate refeeds should be part of the overall strategy.