Fat loss is a fickle beast. Sometimes you get lucky, but most of the time you want to smash the mirror into the toilet…
Or maybe I just have anger issues.
Some people claim it’s as easy as calorie in calorie out which is true…to a point. But for most of us who aren’t eating 6000 calories a day and subjects on My 600lbs Life that’s more than likely not the case.
All I have is anecdotal evidence, but in talking to people in the Aesthetic Physiques Community, I’d be willing to say 90% of people fall into the other category which is why fat loss seems as likely as seeing Jesus Christ water ski across your front lawn.
I too am in that other category, let me tell you a story about how I cracked the code.
Pssst…Do you want to get my cheat sheet to hack your diet? To take from my years of experience, download 14 Ways Your Screwing Up Your Diet and How To Fix It:
In March 2015 I competed in my first (and last) bodybuilding competition. This was the second one I had prepped for because the year prior, I was two days out when my spine gave me a giant middle finger and herniated for the fourth time in 11 months.
My second prep, was a colossal waste of time. I followed the same diet, started at the same time, my workout was almost the same minus the squats – but my results were not even close to the year before.
The first year I had abs, lower ab veins and a smug look on my face when taking bathroom selfies. By all accounts, it looked like I knew what the hell I was doing.
Year two, well…it proved I didn’t.
I was frustrated, my progress was not following the pictures from the year prior and I didn’t know how to fix it. I was eating healthy, cutting calories and intensely working out 7 days a week.
By all accounts I was doing everything right.
During my post competition analysis while downing two bacon cheeseburgers and a large fry from 5 Guys I cracked the code. (That was actually my post-competition meal. How I didn’t stroke out right there is a medical mystery.)
I had a 0% chance of succeeding in the second show from the get-go.
It wasn’t my workout.
It wasn’t because I was older.
It wasn’t because of genetics.
It was because I didn’t enjoy the holidays.
The first year I was trying to add muscle so I was consuming north of 3000 calories for the holidays. Then starting Jan 1st, I slowly lowered calories to about 2200 until my abs popped in March.
The second year I was under eating to the tune of 2000 calories because I was so afraid to gain access fat. Come Jan 1st, I lowered calories to 1600-1700 right out the gate and my progress stalled right there.
This prompted me to experiment once more. I upped calories again, to about 2800 post-show and slowly lowered calories to about 2300 so I could cut for summer. To mine and my wife’s enjoyment, it worked like gangbusters.
So what can you learn from my mistakes?
Fat loss is easy when you have calories to cut and
slow and steady wins the ab race.
The calorie portion is a paradigm shift, believe me on this. Here’s how you can finally start seeing fat loss results.
ARE YOU EATING ENOUGH?
Barring you get a good night’s sleep, are you tired throughout the day?
Are you dropping heat (pooping) only 1-2 times a week?
Have you tried restricting calories but the scale doesn’t move?
If you answered yes to any of these there is a good chance you aren’t eating enough. To confirm that, do something I ask all of my coaching clients to do before we start. Track your calories for 3 days.
Anything you eat or drink, put it into an app like MyFitnessPal. It’s super easy to use and you can get a good baseline on how you’re doing.
Your aim should be in the 14-15 calories per pound of bodyweight. So for me, being 185 lbs, I should be eating in the neighborhood of 2600-2800 calories a day to maintain my weight.
But Dave if I eat more, I’ll get fat!
This is the paradigm that needs to go away. I still struggle with it everyday. If you’ve struggled to lose weight for a while I suggest you try my method.
Worst case scenario go back to the way you’ve been doing it.
WHY YOU NEED TO EAT MORE
Food affects everything from how big your muscles are to hormone levels. How your body looks and feels is directly related to how much and what you put into it.
Are bodies are built for survival. When food becomes scarce things start slowing down. This is called metabolic adaptation.
This is why during my second prep and most people’s fat loss efforts crapped out. Our bodies adapted and slow everything down.
Calories go to the essentials – your brain and heart. Everything else takes a back seat.
Testosterone and sperm production drop, metabolism slows down, increasing strength is almost impossible and energy gets lower. Testosterone, growth hormone and your metabolism are the three things you need on your side to lose fat.
No man likes being the shell of his former self.
Metabolic adaptation is the reason cutting calories for long periods of time is not the answer to fat loss. Cycling calories is the only true way to successfully lose fat. That can be achieved through reverse dieting.
WHAT IS REVERSE DIETING?
Reverse dieting is the process of ramping calories back up to optimal levels without gaining it all in fat. Like your metabolism slows down when you cut calories, it also speeds up when you add calories back in.
Personally, I found that ramping up by 100-200 calories per week to be the best way to mitigate fat gain. Some people recommend more but I like to play it safe, if it takes me a few weeks longer then so be it.
Here’s what it might look like if I were eating 2000 calories per day and wanted to ramp up to slightly higher than maintenance (16 calories per pound).
Week 1: 2200 / day
Week 2: 2400 / day
Week 3: 2600 / day
Week 4: 2800 / day
Week 5: 3000 / day
Each day in Week 1 I’d aim to add 200 more calories. Which is about 50g of protein. I suggest going with protein for Week 1 just to make sure you’re hitting the 1g per pound of bodyweight.
If you’re already there, another 50g will help add muscle. If you are way off base on the protein intake, just up it by 50g every week until you hit the mark.
For Week 2, add 200 more calories. This week would be of either protein, if you haven’t hit the 1g per pound mark, or add about 15-20g in fats through olive oil, coconut oil, whole eggs, nuts or avocados.
Week 3 is going to be 50g of carbs. A cup of rice or oatmeal or a medium sweet potato.
Week 4 add another 50g of carbs.
Week 5 add another 50g of carbs.
This slow increase in calories will go a long way in your fat loss efforts.
Now a word of warning, depending on how low carb you were before you began, you will experience weight gain. Don’t automatically equate weight gain to fat gain.
Carbs retain water, so a gain of 5-10lbs might be in the cards. Not a big deal. Sacrifice the short term mental anguish of weight gain for the glorious fat loss benefits later on. Play the long game and trust the process.
HOW TO ACHIEVE EPIC FAT LOSS
Once we ramp up calories through reverse dieting, stay there for a few weeks. Really let your body adapt. It’s a whole lot easier to lose fat when your body is working with you rather than against you.
A good indicator to know if your metabolism is working for you is to take your temperature as soon as you wake up. If you’re below 98.6 your metabolism could be still lagging, if you are at or above 98.6 then you’re good to go.
This is a quick indicator because one of the functions of your metabolism is to heat your body. Not eating enough sometimes causes people to feel cold more often.
If you’re below the 98.6 threshold, try upping calories weekly, like we did above, until you get there. If you reach the 16 calories per pound of bodyweight and you still are registering below 98.6 then maybe you just run cold. Go ahead and follow the rest of the schedule.
Once you’re ready to go we’ll just reduce calories by lowering calories in a stepwise fashion.
Here is the whole fat loss timeline:
Week 1: 2200 / day through protein
Week 2: 2400 / day through protein or fat
Week 3: 2600 / day through carbs
Week 4: 2800 / day through carbs
Week 5: 3000 / day through carbs
Week 6: 3000 / day
Week 7: 2800 / day remove 50g of carbs
Week 8: 2600 / day remove 50g of carbs
Week 9: 2400 / day remove 50g of carbs
Week 10: 2200 / day remove 15-20g of fat
Week 11: 2200 / day with cheat meal
Week 12: 2200 / day with cheat meal
Once you’ve been down at 12 calories per pound of bodyweight for 3-4 weeks – which we are at Week 10-12 – start ramping back up again to 16 calories per pound.
Remember that metabolic adaptation thing.
Depending on the diet you chose this can vary greatly. Here are a few staples:
Grass Fed Butter
Rice (brown or white if with other food)
Potatoes (avoid the type baked potatoes)
Bread (on occasion)
This is by no means a be-all-end-all list. Basically, if you can get it on the outside aisles of a supermarket, go for it, otherwise steer clear for the bulk of your meals.
DON’T TAKE OUT THE GOOD SHIT
A knee jerk reaction in fat loss is to go on a bodybuilding diet. Cut out all things that have taste by sticking to boiled chicken and brown rice.
That is a horrible way to lose fat. I’ve done it and it blows.
It’s not sustainable because the only thing you’re going to think of is chips, pizza and fries. In order for this to work you need consistency.
Consistency to your calorie allotment, consistency eating good foods and consistency when you’re out with friends. This all comes down to how much your diet is right for you and giving yourself cheat meals.
For example, forcing yourself on a high fat diet, like keto, when you typically eat low fat is going to lead you down a road of frustration. Not to mention making it damn near impossible to eat out. Most restaurants are not keto friendly.
Most people like carbs. They are tasty and sometimes I’d be willing to say they make you feel happy in the pants. Why deprive yourself of feeling happy in the pants? Plus, it makes going out to eat a whole lot easier.
Carbs are not the enemy, nor is eating fat. Eating like an asshole is the enemy. Keep it in check and you can eat anything you want.
The main thing to do to make sure your fat loss goals stay on track is to eat right 90% of the time and the other 10% eat what you want within reason. Downing 6 beers and 30 chicken wings and a basket of fries is not a recipe for fat loss. One beer and 6 wings can be.
The end game is to keep your calories in check each day. If you can do that and have a beer and wings 1-2 times a week be my guest. It’ll make the whole process alot easier.
CHEAT MEALS ARE YOUR FRIEND
A well executed cheat meal is a work of art. It gives you something to look forward to – which is critical by sticking to a diet – and it makes you feel normal – also critical for sticking to a diet.
In the final 2-3 weeks where you are down in the 12 calorie per pound range is when fat loss can stall. Calories are low so things start slowing down.
Enter the cheat meal.
This well placed cheat meal can help up calories to tell your metabolism, “We OK, keep doing work.” Thus, enabling more fat loss.
Without it everything slows down and you won’t get your optimal results.
WHAT TO DO WHEN A CHEAT MEAL TURNS INTO A WEEKEND
Shit happens. Sometimes a beer with friends while watching the game turns into a drunken night and you wake in a mulch bed.
We’ve all been there.
After a wild night out or a crazy weekend, I like to follow it with a little fasting to mitigate some of the fat gain.
So say one Saturday night my wife and I go out for dinner. We order some fine Indian food and indulge a little with some Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream in a waffle cone and wash it down with some white wine. Because we fancy.
For all intensive purposes, this is about as wild as weekends get for us now. But that doesn’t change the fact that I am well over my calorie allotment for the day and killing my fat loss.
On Sunday, I’ll skip breakfast, eat a light lunch (200-300 calories, probably just protein) and eat a reasonable dinner or meat and veggies. So on the day I’ll only consume 1200-1500 calories, thus mitigating the fat gain.
One day will not slow my metabolism or kill my gainz. Just like one day at the gym won’t make you jacked. It takes time.
The big thing to worry about is total calories per week. That’s where the progress or regression will happen. To figure that out, multiply your daily maintenance calories by 7. As long as you can hit that number you’re good.
Social events are going to come up and avoiding them won’t make this process any easier. Go with the flow and use fasting the next day as your ace up your sleeve.
WHAT ABOUT RATIOS?
Getting hung up on ratios is a fool’s game. It’s like worrying about how to perform the perfect drop set before you can hit a proper squat.
The only one I would focus on is protein. Hit the 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight and let carbs and fats fall where they may within your calories.
I have gotten lean eating high carb and low carb. Likewise with fat.
Eat a way you can stick with and go with it.
BRINGING IT HOME
Fat loss is easy in theory but not in execution. The only way that has worked for me is to keep it simple and cycle calories.
I’ve tried fad diets, severely restricting calories and pills which all that lead me to aggravation and not losing a pound.
- Find a diet you can stick with
- Reverse Diet
- Slowly reduce calories
- Repeat step 2-3
That is fat loss in a nutshell, the rest of the crap is just noise.
P.S. I’m opening up a few spots for online coaching. If you’re interested check it out. If not, I still love you.