Written by Nate Winkler
An Interview with Author Kiefer John
At Juggernaut Training Systems we deal with an array of female athletes, regardless of their performance goals, personal backgrounds, or fitness level, one goal is constantly voiced: ‘How do I lose…I don’t like this part of my…’. Because of this I have spent endless hours reading through 1000’s of pages of medical journals, nutritional articles, and books this past year trying to find the most proven, all encompassing diet method for women. While experimenting with the research I was collecting from the medical journals, I began reading and following a controversial nutrition expert named John Kiefer (who prefers to be called just ‘Kiefer’) and many things came together for me. Kiefer, oddly enough, a physicist, has spent the last 20 years experimenting on himself, and working with clients that range from figure athletes, to strong man competitors, to Ironman competitors, to soccer moms. The only constant in Kiefer’s life is results. Any advice he gives is being filtered through 40,000 articles of medical research knowledge. Having the opportunity to interview Kiefer, author and creator of ‘The Carb Nite Solution,’ is something I’ve been after for quite some time.
Juggernaut: It is overwhelming the number of questions we get stemming from mainstream media’s influence on women’s wellness. What are some of the misconceptions surrounding women’s nutrition and performance that you see?
Kiefer: (laughing) Where do I start on that one? The whole idea that if you are an endurance athlete you don’t have to worry about your calories and carbohydrates as much. That’s just not the case. You actually pointed out in your article on EliteFTS.com, that it’s well documented that women burn fat when they work out but, don’t burn a lot of carbs. When women feed themselves with carbs that’s not really the most efficient fuel for them. Many female athletes will start first thing in the morning until they go to bed, worrying if they have eaten enough carbs. The result of doing this is actually the reverse of what they need. Carbohydrates only make fat cells more efficient at storing fat. For female athletes, ironically, this excess fat is often stored in their hips and thighs. (He pauses) For women it almost all boils down to misconceptions surrounding carbs.
“Most of the recommendations women read in mainstream media are actually recommendations for male athletes that are blindly carried over and applied to women. That’s a huge problem.”
Juggernaut: What about the emphasis being placed on Antioxidants?
Kiefer: There’s definitely too much emphasis on the number and variety of antioxidants. Whey protein will increase cellular glutathione levels, which is your main antioxidant mechanism, and Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. If you are taking these two supplements you don’t need to worry about other antioxidant supplements.
Juggernaut: Many times we have athletes that have eaten a ‘healthy’ fruit smoothie for breakfast and almost pass out during their mid day training. What morning and midday nutrition will promote the highest performance?
Kiefer: If you look at smoothies and even Gatorade drinks, they have large amounts of fructose in them which can cause glycemic distress, which occurs when insulin levels rise and blood sugar levels decrease. You get this scenario where you’re feeling fine from the insulin bump the fructose created but you have no blood sugar to back it up. Because the fructose is often stored as fat. When this happens your performance tanks, and it tanks fast. Many athletes say they ‘hit a wall’, but what they don’t realize is that they’ve set up the perfect nutritional situation so that they have no choice but to hit the wall. The easiest way to solve this problem is to not eat any complex carbs within an hour of your workout. If you have to eat during your workout the best energy source is going to be rilose or glucose, not Gatorade.
“…it’s well documented that women burn fat when they work out, they don’t burn a lot of carbs…carbohydrates only make fat cells more efficient at storing fat.”
Juggernaut: Another piece of advice women’s magazines are giving females is that cutting calories is the best way to lose fat. This creates a situation that you discuss in your book where you must then continually cut caloric intake in order to continue losing weight. If our athletes are being demanded to focus in class, practice, and homework, 800 calories isn’t going to cut it. What’s the best way to have high energy and performance?
Kiefer: That one’s actually really interesting. The main source of energy in a diet low in carbohydrates must be fat. They’ve got to eat enough fat in order to maintain metabolism and energy levels. Women burn triglycerides (fat) for energy rather than glycogen (carbs) unlike men during exercise. That’s where this whole misconception concerning carbs originates. Carbs make the body more efficient at producing quick energy, so you don’t need to eat as many calories as a fat and protein diet. With a high carb, low calorie diet you create this horrible hormonal situation where the body feels like it’s going into starvation. Then you get into quick energy deprivation where the body stops increasing strength levels, it shuts down your ability to repair muscle, and reduces endurance. What I normally prescribe to very active female athletes like the ones you’re working with is simply this: considering a 2000cal/day diet, at maximum they should be eating 100g of carbohydrates daily. At maximum.
“That’s a huge misconception, ‘if I need to lose weight, I need to run more, or be on the bike more, or get more cardio’, for women, it’s the total opposite this will make it much, much, harder on themselves.”
Kiefer: Many female marathoners that I’ve worked with have been able to take 30 seconds to 1 min off of their mile pace for an entire marathon simply by removing carbohydrates from their diet. If endurance athletes are able to respond that well to reduced carbohydrates, that shows you how unimportant carbohydrates are to female nutrition as it applies to endurance performance.
Juggernaut: So would you say that the common advice given to women to have carbohydrates with breakfast is wrong?
Kiefer: Oh yea. That’s a misconception for everybody. The hormonal situations occurring when you first wake up creates an optimal environment for fat burning, the moment that you eat carbs this environment is ruined. That’s why I always tell everyone, ‘as soon as you get up, bacon and eggs, bacon and eggs’.
Juggernaut: And the idea surrounding calories, burning more than you eat is the key to losing weight, that’s a myth too?
Kiefer: Everyone says, ‘energy in, energy out’, loosing fat is not about burning more calories than you put in. The body doesn’t quite work that way. The body is too complex to think that it will adhere to such a simplistic model. Food is functional, it’s a powerful drug and not understanding how to use it correctly is what’s created a lot of these misconceptions. It’s not calories in, calories out. Most of the recommendations women read in mainstream media are actually recommendations for male athletes that are blindly carried over and applied to women. That’s a huge problem.
Juggernaut: Many women turn to intense cardio training because they feel that lifting weights will make them bulky. How do you approach this fear?
Kiefer: (Laughing, as he is far too familiar with this question) First of all, it’s nutritional status- what you eat- that makes you ‘bulky’. If you are eating intelligently, meaning correct macronutrient [carbs, fats, protein] ratios, it’s impossible for men or women to gain weight. Secondly, women have much lower testosterone levels than men, which greatly reduces their ability to stimulate muscle growth. Third, and most importantly, in men, resistance training down- regulates myostatin [a gene in the body] which means more muscle growth can occur. In women, resistance training does not deactivate myostatin, therefore it’s difficult for women to get bulky at the genetic or cellular level. What happens is the muscles appear more dense because they are firing more fully due to increased nervous system activity.
Don’t fall under the misconception that high endurance activities will keep your metabolism high either. That is completely backwards. For women in particular, one 45 minute bout of cardiovascular exercise at a heart rate above 65% will shut down the major metabolic regulator, T3 [Thyroid hormone] for about a week. So one day of over doing it, and you’ve shut down your metabolism for a week. This is unique to females. That’s a huge misconception, ‘if I need to lose weight, I need to run more, or be on the bike more, or get more cardio’; for women, it’s the opposite. This will make it much, much, harder. My figure athletes never believe me when I introduce this. I will take their cardio down from 10- 17 hours a week, to about an 1 1⁄2 hours per week, and all of a sudden they start losing fat again. With this I have them increase their resistance training. Like we talked about previously, muscles fire more fully and therefore they burn more calories. Resistance training is the number one way to keep your metabolism up.
Juggernaut: Your Book, The Carb Nite® Solution, details the most effective dieting method for those with fat loss goals. Athletes with an increased cardiovascular component to their sport and training find it difficult to adhere to this method because of the carbohydrate depletion that occurs. What method of dieting do you recommend to female athletes that want to improve their body composition and performance simultaneously?
Kiefer: To be honest, a Mediterranean Style diet is still the best out there, with a couple tweaks. Try to keep carbohydrates low in the early part of the day, then at lunch time you start eating ‘healthy’. High fiber grains, whole grain breads, sweet potatoes, and rice if your body is telling you that you aren’t eating enough carbs. Every athlete wants strict guidelines, but it’s different for everyone, you know when you need to eat, and what your body is missing, it’s almost intuitive. This will help keep blood sugar levels high without completely stymieing your body’s ability to burn fat, and prevent an athlete from crashing during exercise. The great thing about a high fat, high protein diet is that you can increase strength levels while burning fat. So if you’re dealing with someone who has let herself go, she doesn’t have to sacrifice performance as she loses fat.
“Many athletes say they ‘hit a wall’, but what they don’t realize is that they’ve set up the perfect nutritional situation so that they have no choice but to hit the wall.”
Kiefer: I have figure athletes all the time that are near 20% body fat when they start and they will add a 1/4” on their shoulders while losing the fat on their hips. When you take carbs out of your diet your body actually sees your body fat as an energy source. When this is environment is created, fat loss is sure to follow. If you are someone who’s performance is being greatly impacted by excess body fat, I would remove carbs from your diet, strip off the weight first, then when you get back to a desired body fat percentage you can really ratchet up their performance abilities.
Juggernaut: For someone wanting to start a high fat, high protein diet, what are some of the best foods they can be eating?
Kiefer: Salmon, steak, chicken, cottage cheese, nuts, eggs, a lot of the fibrous vegetables, cooked lightly in some oil or butter, it’s that simple, energy dense with a lot of fats. In a 2000 calorie diet, 1900 of those calories should be coming from proteins and fats. Women shouldn’t be fearful of food allergies or things of that nature. There was a recent study conducted on tens of thousands of people to see what kind of food allergies people thought they had, and what kind of allergies they actually had. Of those claiming to have a food allergy, only 1% actually had an allergy to anything. The whole allergy thing is pretty much crap, the only substantial food allergy out there is gluten. So, if you’re eating pastas and bread and are feeling bloated, lethargic, and having weight control issues you may want to avoid those foods. Food allergies play a minor role in causing weight gain in comparison to other dietary factors.
Juggernaut: Closing thoughts?
Kiefer: Women just can’t be afraid to eat. You can’t get into the downward spiral where you just don’t like the way you look, so you cut calories and increase exercise, and that doesn’t work so you cut calories even more. You’re basically shutting down your metabolism and you’re in a no win situation. You’ve got to find someone who is going to put you on a proper training routine, who’s not killing you every day, and that you can trust. Find someone who’s getting results for people and stick with them.
**Post Image courtesy of www.stumptuous.com