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Snack: The Meal Misnomer

Weakness is a disease and food is the cure.

When meat heads aren't talking about shaking weights, they are indeed discussing meat...and  nutrition in general.  It's the primary means for recovery and we know that intelligent caloric intake is oftentimes the difference between riding the bench and starting.  So, whether we are at PAHQ, in the airport, at a restaurant, or a social gathering, we are constantly bombarded with questions about our diet.  It's unavoidable in this line of work as it is a major component to every person's daily life and for better or worse it is a reflection of their priorities.  Inevitably, the conversation always reaches the million dollar question: "What about snacks?"


 Snacks are for toddlers.

Without fail, one of the most common nutrition questions is regarding that mini-meal that people sometimes consume between actual grown-up meals.  Physically, emotionally, and sexually mature men and ladies alike are shamelessly inquiring about adorable bits of food they refer to as "snacks". What the shit is a snack and what is our preoccupation with them? As far as I'm concerned there is no such thing as a snack, nor should any adult male be nonchalantly throwing around the term.  Why, you say?  Because toddlers snack. If you are hungry enough to eat food, it's a "meal" and the sooner you wrap your mind around that concept you'll be able to step up your nutrition game.

You see, when people use the term "snack" they have a tendency to pick foods that are most commonly associated with the word.  Unfortunately those foods have been steadily marketed to us by companies who stand to gain quite a bit by our consumption of seemingly "healthful" mini-meals.  Whether conscious or unconscious, our brains have linked the idea of snack with prepackaged, no prep needed, preservative laden treats.  Usually this falls into the dried fruit, nuts, seeds, bars, whatever category (note: those are the less threatening choices). Ultimately, this translates to a less than optimal macronutrient balance (Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins). "Snacks" can be extremely calorically dense, which is not always a bad thing depending on your goals, but those calories could be lacking the ideal fatty and amino acid profiles which promote recovery.


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A strength and conditioning coach since 2009, Cali has worked with numerous athletes spanning from rugby players to cross country skiers.Almost immediately after finding CrossFit in 2010, she was introduced to a program that better suited her athletic goals.With her existing background in powerlifting and football, she became a natural devotee to CFFB/PowerAthlete and testament to it's effectiveness.In 2012, she left D.C. and headed for the state named after her to be a part of the CrossFit Football Seminar Staff and a Jedi of Power Athlete HQ. Cali currently resides in Seattle where she works full time in law enforcement.

Posted in Blog, Nutrition & Recovery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

14 Responses to Snack: The Meal Misnomer

  1. Cali,

    Are you an advocate of John Kiefer’s carb backloading protocol? In short, put off breakfast 3 or so hours after wake up, protein and fat only throughout the day, after 6pm go to town on high GI carbs for dinner and the meal before bed such as white rice, sweet potatoes, gluten free pizza, and even ice cream. His research shows that individuals who are doing heavy concentric loading have a different insulin response in that any glucose intake is stored in the muscle tissue as opposed to adipose tissue for use in the next days workout. Off days there is no back loading. Thoughts? Thanks for any and all feedback


    • Jake-

      Although I’m no expert on Kiefer’s complete protocol, it’s my understanding that he doesn’t put emphasis on food quality which is a HUGE red flag for me. This is what @shebeast (Paula) was referring to. Also, a lot of his “research” and “findings” are predicated on the time of day that you workout. He is a proponent for eating carbs at night with the implication that one is training on an empty stomach in the morning. We realize that life is more complicated than that and that different athletes have different practice/training schedules.

      And, not necessarily directed at you Jake, but what the fuck does “heavy concentric loading” have to do with anything let alone an insulin response? I mean, is he, or you, suggesting that no eccentric loading is being done..or that it’s somehow a different load? Are we talking about exclusively doing bottom position squats and pin presses? Because that does not sound accurate.

      In any event, admittedly I haven’t bought his book but I know he relies heavily on what worked for himself. One thing that actual substantive research has found is that the body loves change. Virtually any change. That could be one reason that people see success in varying nutritional protocol – regardless of what it is (changing foods, times, quantity, etc.) Just as an aside, it’s also speculated that the body, if not prompted by active change by an individual, can create the necessity for change by becoming sick or developing allergies.

      In short, following the general nutritional guidelines we provide is an excellent baseline. Some days maybe play with eating more carbs at night if you know you have a big morning the next day. I remember once I stayed up all night drinking RBV’s (redbull vodkas), slept for literally 40 minutes, and then competed in 3 workouts. I smashed it that day but would I make a habit of training in that state? Definitely not. Just some “food for thought”.

  2. Heard Kiefer speak at length at the Paleo Fx April past. Interesting concept, would love to hear Cali’s thoughts on it. I have played around with it (minus garbage foods) and have had some good results.

  3. Thanks Cali, I do train early in the day 9:30 to 12 ish but not on an empty stomach, could be one reason the carbs at night help. And there was definitely a “huge red flag”; anyone that would stand up and promote eating Hostess cherry turnovers caused me to doubt them. He even told one gluten intolerant presenter that the reason he had problems with it was that he needed to “build up an immunity” to it by “periodically eating a little bit”.

  4. Cali-

    Thanks for getting back to me. I would recommend reading his backloading protocol, in terms of ‘crap carbs’ i do agree with you and paula, however, i use calorically dense/ carb based nighttime meals if I feel im at a caloric deficit with good results, especially during training the following day. In regards to your question about insulin effects from concentrically loaded movements that is where I would recommend reading the book. Kiefer’s research is based off of working with Type II diabetics. He found that heavy lifting, concentric movements primarily, actually made Type II diabetics insulin sensitive. This is where he ties in his research regarding insulin shuttling glucose into muscle tissue as opposed to adipose tissue if one is to consume nighttime carbs. Kiefer is NOT a proponent of empty stomach morning workouts. Its cited many times his book that after 5PM is the ideal time for optimal strength work. Morning is the second best, with noon workouts being the least effective for carb backloading to work. Thanks again for your response, I cant cite all of Kiefer’s findings without rewriting the whole book. I am however a little bothered by his comment regarding gluten intolerance if those were in fact his words.

  5. He also recommends training at night. 5 pm is the optimal time. And definetly not fasted. Just protien and fats before your workout. Then after training have your days worth of carbs in the past workout meal (s). It’s in essence a carb cycling program with high carbs on your training days and less then 30 grams on your off days. I’ve been using it for about a month and been enjoying it.

  6. John and co. discussed carb loading during the last podcast (61)

    Haven’t read the book either, but you hear “profound” findings from people like this:

    “He found that heavy lifting, concentric movements primarily”

    And they attribute it to some magic recipe.

    Most heavy lifting and common training practice include eccentric and concentric muscle contractions, minus *effective* O lifting. My guess is the Type II diabetics aren’t efficient o-lifters.

    To me, based of synopsis provided, the findings are that people who have shitty lifestyle who decide to get off their ass and train improve insulin sensitivity.

    No fucking duh!

    Consistency with food quality is paramount. Meal timing and carb loading are 3rd tier objectives for most people:

    Tier 1 – Consistently train, hydrate, and restrict your foods to the eat with abandon list
    Tier 2 – Get your sleep and recovery in check
    Tier 3 – Tinker with supplements, meal timing and other shit like carb loading

    If you haven’t tackled tier 1, then why the fuck do you even worry about the other two tiers?!?!

  8. Luke,

    This is why I brought it up, for feedback. I wasn’t implying that lifts don’t include concentric and eccentric movements. Kiefer just keys off on the concentric portion of lifting. I’m just the messenger. Thanks for your input.


  9. AJ

    Hey Cali,

    Quick question I was thinking about this weekend. What are your recommendations for when you are busy and miss some meals on your off day, but you’re also stuck in a bind food wise? In those cases, which is less harmful to your training long term; trying to stay with healthy foods that may not put you near your energy needs for that day, or making sure you get adequate protein and enough food (but may be lower quality and mixed macro) to recover?

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