Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Glut4 and Caffeine Cheat Code

The human body does all kinds of crazy impressive scientific stuff that is very hard to explain, if it can even be explained at all. For example, in regards to exercise, there is a phenomena called DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Pretty much everyone who has done intense or high volume physical work has experienced this. Simply put, it is getting sore up to 2-3 days after cessation of the physical task. Science offers a wide array of explanations for this strange happening but nothing 100% conclusive. Personally, I think it is a survival mechanism that we, as hunter-gatherer humans, have adapted over thousands of years of sprinting after and killing our food or sprinting away from becoming food for something else. Think about it. If you started getting sore the moment you started running after your dinner, you would slow down, fall down in excruciating pain, and then your dinner would turn around and eat you. Our evolved ability to not get sore for a couple hours to three days after strenuous physical work has kept our species alive long enough to not have to worry about survival induced DOMS as much. Also, it has kept us alive long enough to enjoy the sweet deliciousness of whatever the hell this is:

When DOMS happens in your arteries, it's called a heart attack.

So, you may ask, why do I need to care about any of this fancy science stuff? Well, you hillbilly, some book learnin' might help you drop a few pounds, get lean, and improve performance if you are an athlete.

This post is going to basically outline a cheat code to trick the crappy foods you eat actually work for you. Will this help you keep weight off during your month long McRib bender? Absolutely not. And you need professional help because those things taste terrible. Yea, I said it. What the following suggestions will help you with is those little cheat meals you slide in while already eating, mostly, like an efficient human being.

Here is a scenario:

You have been eating clean and making very good food choices all week. Saturday night, a Friend calls you up and says, "All you can eat pizza, wings, and all you can drink beer all night for $10 at (insert local establishment here)." Turning this down will make you less of a human but you do not want to feel guilty about all of the good work you have done since your last Miller High Life and stuffed crust binge. If only there were a way to control where this bountiful meal is being stored in your body and a way to use all of these calories to help you lose fat, build lean body mass, and not eat yourself into a coma/some horrible-crap-food-walrus-with-diabetes induced disease. Hmmmmm...

Part 1: Controlling where the food goes.

The only places you need to worry about where food is stored in your body is in your muscles and in your fat cells. When/how much you eat during the day combined with your daily activities determines where the extra stuff gets stored. Everything you read about exercise tells you to eat as soon as you can after your workout and to eat higher glycemic foods paired with protein. Why high glycemic? Because they digest and absorb faster than low glycemic foods. This means they get to the muscle faster, restore spent energy (glycogen) faster, and, when paired with protein, slow down the rate of muscle damage and begin the recovery process. During this time period, most of what you eat is sent directly to your muscles due a a protein inside your muscle cells called Glut4 (hey, that's in the title of this post!). Glut4, when activated, moves to the surface membrane of muscle cells and opens the flood gates for nutrients to be absorbed and stored inside.

Two things activate Glut4. In the time period, up to 4 hours, after exercise, Glut4 is activated by the muscular contractions that occurred during the workout you just completed. This is how your body knows that your muscles just incurred some damage due to physical work and that they are in need of nutrients to begin the recovery process. So, most of the food you eat in the time after contraction induced Glut4 is activated is sent to your muscles for storage rather than your fat cells. Pretty cool stuff. While I explain part 2, keep in mind that Glut4 can be activated via muscular contraction.

Part 2: Not going into a diabetic coma.

Every time you eat anything, but especially crappy food, your insulin goes up. Insulin is one of the most anabolic, building up and storage hormone, compounds in your body. The problem with insulin is that it stores the byproducts of the food you eat wherever it can, which will mostly be fat cell and maybe muscle via the pathways discussed above. Insulin activates Glut4 proteins as well. The problem is fat cells also contain Glut4 and are exclusively activated by increased insulin, since you can't "flex" fat. Eating a butt load of crappy food=giant insulin spikes=being a fatty.

This begs the question, How do you activate just your muscular Glut4 protein while keeping insulin low in order to control where the all night wing, beer, and pizza fest ends up in your body?

The answer is coffee and muscle tension.

Coffee (well, caffeine) actually LOWERS insulin sensitivity in normal, healthy people. This means eating, even some crappy foods, will keep your insulin levels lower than if you didn't have any caffeine. The only problem with this is the amount of caffeine is enough to kill a horse. 400mg to 1g seems to work. Keep in mind the half life of caffeine is 5 hours in most people. So, if you ingest a gram of caffeine at one time, don't plan on going to sleep for a while.

Now that you are all jacked up and your insulin is all jacked down, how the heck do you get those Glut4's activated in your muscles? Like a buffalo in a small kitchen with a midget, here is where things get awkward.

He might just be sitting down and not actually a midget. Either way, this would be awkward to walk in on.

Tim Ferriss (4 Hour Body guy) recommends 60-120 seconds of exercise should be enough to activate Glut4 proteins in muscle. The keys are to do big movements (squats, push ups, dips, lunges), keep tension on the muscles for the full 60-120 seconds, and for God's sake, don't let anyone see you doing this stuff. You should do these immediately before gorging yourself to near death with food and then 1.5 hours after you take your first bite. So, sneak off to the bathroom, do your exercises, come back to the table, go nuts on your all you can eat, and return to the bathroom 1.5 hours later and repeat your exercises... which should be pretty interesting after 38 of the all you can drink beers.

To recap:

-400mg to 1g of caffeine about an hour before you head out on your maximum food mission to lower your insulin sensitivity
-Immediately before eating- 60 to 120 seconds of constant tension exercises
-1.5 hours after your first bite, repeat the exercises

These little tips should help you get the most out of your "cheat" meals with the least amount of guilt and fat accumulation. No, you can't do this every time you eat and just eat crap all the time!!! Get your life together!!! These are for those occasional gigantic food and beverage outings that we all need every once in a while just to have some fun and keep our sanity intact.

Just remember you are what you eat. So, eat a bunch of crap and you'll be a bunch of crap.

Sprint. Kill. EAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  1. lurker here..
    very interesting read.
    definitely give this a go during this winter.