An engineers approach to diet and work-outs (part 3)

This is my third blog post series on my attempts at fighting obesity through the means of applying control theory to dieting and working out. Control theory is an interdisciplinary branch of engineering and mathematics that deals with the behavior of dynamical systems with inputs. In my first post in this series I discussed the Generic Body Health Index based on body fat percentage and relative bodily strength. In my second post, I discussed the importance of working out both as a way to improve health and a way to measure the appropriateness of your diet. In this third post I shall be talking about our inputs, the macro nutrients: protein, carbohydrates and fat. Much of what I will tell you in this blog post will, combined with my previous posts make some of you feel like I am advocating the absolute reverse of what you have been convinced dieting is about. I already tolled you that gaining weight can be a desired outcome. In this post I will tell you two more things that may sound like craziness if like me , you have bought into the different diet fads in the past. The diet I’m proposing may feel like the opposite of a normal diet. A reverse diet.


I am going to tell you to eat both sugar and fat and to possibly gain substantial weight while doing so. But please bare with me, it will all start to make sense soon, and you to may start to see that my reverse diet is something that can greatly benefit the body compositional aspects of your health.

We are setting out to apply control theory to exercise and diet and create a control system with your body at the center.

In order to keep our control system simple, and a system with 3 independent inputs is not that simple, we could make the mistake of thinking that calories are a usable simplification of our system. If we only look at the total calories, we could use that number as only input and ignore what sources of calories are used. We could also try to simplify our system by as some suggest, almost completely taking away one of the inputs (either fat or carbs depending who you talk to), use a fixed amount of protein (somewhere between 1g and 3g per kg of fat free body mass depending on who you talk to) and use the remaining macro nutrient (fat or carbs) as our single input variable.

We shall take neither of these strategies and I’l start off explaining why.

Lets start off by looking at two sets processes in our bodies. Synthesizing fats from other types of molecules is called lipogenesis, and breaking down fat for fuel is called lipolysis. Its easy to think of dieting only in ters of these two processes, but there is also Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS) and Muscle Protein Breakdown (MPB). Ideally we would like to combine lipolysis with MPS, exchanging body fat for new muscles.  Given that we are creating a control system using our own body, its important that our system has some stability in it. We don’t want it to end up oscillating between lipolylis+MPB and lipogenisis+MPS.

For decades the lipid hypothesis had health experts convinced that fat was bad, and even today many people still advocate low fat diets for health reasons. These low fat diets need to get their calories from somewhere, and there is only so much protein the body uses, so the obvious candidate was carbohydrates. As many who like me have tried to loose weight on low fat diets can affirm, you can loose much weight on a low fat diet. Problem is, you will also go straight into MPB on such a low fat, high carb diet. You will loose muscle mass, your bodies BMR will go down, and unless you start starving your body even more, your weight will come up again and in the end you will have traded muscle mass for fat mass, exactly the opposite of what you set out to do. After having tried to apply control theory on a low-fat high-carb diet, I came to the conclusion that, at least for me, my lipo equilibrium lies way below my muscle protein equilibrium. So the basic conclussion is, forget about low-fat high carb for a control system, the best you could do with it would be to use it in a bulk/cut cycle like body builders do, but when aiming for a smooth curve, low fat is not sufficiently stable to work with.

On the other side we have the low-carb advocates. Carbs are basically all just sugars, sugars raise your insulin levels and   insulin will stop lipolysis and stimulate lipogenisis. So the low carb peope have you eat more fat and a minimum amount of carbs. No sugar, no grains, and no taters or starchy vegetables. The low carb diet does absolute wonders for couch potatoes, but remember we are trying to combine diet with serious work outs. Using fat for fuel is a good idea, but your body does not really keep up when you are doing a 90 minute intense workout. Your muscles need sugars to fuel your work out. There are glycogen stores in your liver and muscles, but these won’ t last a full 90 minute or 100 minute when you are trying to have a good workout. If you can’t complete your workout at full strength, your strength will diminish and you may even possibly trigger MPB. So strict low carb is not going to help us that much either.

So in the end, neither the low-fat nor the low-carb approach is going to be the one for us. We have to find some middle ground. After trying different relative percentages, I found the following to be one that works best for me. I am able to complete my workouts, and the system does not suffer from osculations.

We shall define our input in chunks of 10g of macro nutrients. Each chunk in this case represents 55 calories.

  • 3 grams of carbohydrates (12 calories)
  • 3 grams of fat (27 calories)
  • 4 grams of protein (16 calories)

Our single input variable shall be the amount of 10g chunks. But before we look at our control system and at just how many chunks to start with, we shall look at each of the 3 components separately.


Looking at the carb part of our chunks, we start off by stating that, like low carb people advocate,  there is absolutely no need for grains, taters or any other starchy non-vegetables. Unlike what most dietary experts state however, we shall be adding sugars to our diet. We shall look separately at our workout days and our non work-out days. On days we don’t work out, we shall not waste any of our carb quota on sugary foods. No sugar, but most definitely also no fruit. Try to get most of your resting day carbs from:

  • nuts
  • vegetables

On workout days, you really need to spare your carbs for your work-outs. Try to get sufficient of your carbs from:

  • berries (pre-workout)
  • isotonic drink (during your workout)

Less vegies and nuts on work-out days and no fruit on resting days.  When eating fruit, try to avoid low fiber fruits. Berries IMO are probably your best bet.


While you will be getting much of your calories from fat, in grams its not really that much. While according to the low-carb school, the lipid hypothesis has been falsifies, it may still be a good idea to stick to non suspect fats as much as possible just in case. Avoiding trans fats should be obvious (not even the >0.1% on the label is ok, trans fats should be considered toxic).  Avoid vegetable oils, sunflower oil, and fatty meat. Fatty fish is great, olive oil is great, and most nuts. Diary is a tricky one, pick high protein dairy products like parmasan cheese, and watch out for to much lactose eating away from your carb quota.

  • Fatty fish
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Nuts and peanut oil
  • High protein diary products like Parmesan cheese.


Now for our proteine. We have seen with our ideal GBHI curve that we may want our GHBI to move in one of 3 general directions or quadrants:

  • major decrease of body fat, slight decrease in strength
  • major increase of relative strength, slight increase of body fat
  • moderate decrease in body fat, moderate increase of relative strength.

Each of these 3 goals  will call for extra focus on different amino acids, I will discuss these in an other post, for now lets just state that we should use a wide range of proteine sources to get sufficient amounts of the different types of amino acids:

  • fish and other sea food.
  • nuts
  • beef
  • high protein dairy
  • eggs

how much

In a follow up post I will be working with you on how to implement your control system based on the 10 gram chunks of macro nutrients described above. When you have started with your work outs on a regular basis, I would advice to start just looking at making sure you are taking your macro nutrients in the proper relative proportions. Try to listen to your body, don’ t eat unless you feel like it and never allow yourself to feel hungry. Try to find a good starting level based on what feels comfortable for you. Give yourself two weeks to figure out a level you feel you could stick with. Once you have your starting level down, we can start with our first 12 workout period. Don’ t change your diet in this period. We are going to use our 12 workouts to measure how well we are doing and to determine afterwards what to adjust. Dont try to intervene prematurely, your body is adjusting and needs some time to show conclusive measurements. stick to the levels that felt comfortable. The workouts should all end with one of the big 3 strength training exercises. At each workout, take the following as measurement:

  • Your body weight
  • Your body fat percentage
  • Your top big-3 performance for that day.

In my next post we shall be discussing how to interpret your measurements and how to adjust your diet accordingly.

I hope that after reading this you see at least some sense in my reverse diet. A diet that tells you to eat relatively fatty, tells you to consume  sugar and a diet that tells you that gaining weight in many cases is quite OK.


One response to “An engineers approach to diet and work-outs (part 3)

  1. Pingback: Gain Muscle or Lose Weight » Advertise2win

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