Alright, feeling relatively human today. Let's talk about: Weight loss.
First off, set REALISTIC goals. If you are able to do 100% of everything I list here expect to lose two pounds of fat per week starting on about the third week. This means that between now and the burn you could safely lose about 46 lbs of fat. A more modest goal would be to lose 1 lb per week (23 before the burn) and that still requires some changes and some effort. Attempting to lose any more than this will be extremely unpleasant, hard on your body, and will not give your skin time to tighten up leaving you looking like a flying squirrel.
So, the simple version:
1) Gain muscle through strength training
2) Manage your stress
3) Eat smaller portions, but eat more often
4) Eat fewer simple carbs
5) Drink more water
6) Get more sleep
7) Proper cardio (particularly High Intensity Intervals)
That's the short of it. Now I'll ramble on why these things matter and how to recognize if you're on the right track.The absolute bottom line is that you need to be operating on a calorie deficit.
You need to be eating less than you burn. I think everyone here knows that. In a perfect world for every 3,500 Calories you're short your body burns a pound of fat. The trouble is, to burn that many calories while having energy to function (and function well) and not feel completely miserable we need to burn them slowly and consistently
. If you're trying to lose 1-2 lbs of fat a week that means 3.5-7k Calories a week or 500-1,000 Calories a day. Better yet, think of it as 83-166 Calories every four hours.
Make sense so far?
Real quick, let's look at how your body stores energy. When you eat food there are two real ways to store energy for later use. They are:Glycogen (Glucose)
- Used by the entire body. Can be broken down with or without oxygen to rapidly provide energy to the cells. Glycogen is stored in the tissues that use it and there's a central store in the liver. Having ample glycogen means that you feel alert and energetic (provided you're well rested). Insufficient glycogen leads to feeling very hungry and feeling sluggish both mentally and physically.Fat
- Used by just about everything except the brain. Can only be broken down in the presence of BOTH glucose and oxygen. Provides energy very slowly but very efficiently. Utilized most when the demand for energy is only slightly elevated.
Basically, this is important because it highlights the two biggest pitfalls people run into. Namely, working out in a counter productive fashion or starving yourself. In both scenarios the glycogen stores are depleted too quickly. In the case of starving yourself it should be obvious why this happens. If you aren't eating enough to refill the glycogen eventually they will run dry and your body's ability to burn fat will dry up with it leaving you feeling incredibly sluggish and ravenously hungry. Not good.
Alternatively, if you're the kind of person who jogs for an hour or two you're going to discover that the intensity of the work you're doing is too high for fat to play a significant role but too low to generate many secondary metabolites (more on these later). As a result your glycogen is being tapped rather than your fat. People tend to maintain that level of intensity until they feel tired which is when your muscles' glycogen stores run low. Congratulations, your body is now very low on glycogen leaving you feeling tired, hungry, and miserable.
Let's avoid that.The absolute key to comfortable weight loss is keeping your body in a "steady state" Calorie deficit. This means fuel is almost constantly coming in but you're constantly burning a little bit more than you eat.
So, first and foremost, you need to eat regularly. How often? I recommend every three to four hours for my serious weight loss clients and it's what I'm following myself, though you make an exception for when you sleep for obvious reasons. These snacks or small meals need to include carbohydrates (glucose/glycogen), but complex carbohydrates are ideal. Fats and proteins are also good things to eat. The reason for this is this is that once you eat the food it takes time for it to enter your blood stream.
The longer it takes the steadier the flow of calories the more we keep our body in that "steady state" deficit. This is commonly measured as Glycemic index
. Google is your friend here. Lower GI means slower, steadier absorption meaning your body has an easier time dealing with it. Pick good foods. Nothing is strictly forbidden but the lower GI of everything you eat (particularly the meal you eat for breakfast) the better your results.
At the same time, we need to raise the rate at which our body is consuming calories but we want to do it in the same spike-free "steady" fashion. This part is a little bit trickier. The simplest thing would just be to be slightly active throughout the day. Walk more. Take the stairs. Etc. This is actually shockingly effective. It's also tricky to do given that most of us have jobs, hobbies, and projects that prevent us from gallivanting about to do consistent light cardio. So, instead we raise our body's "passive workload" in other ways.
Essentially you can think of it as giving your body an energy intensive side-project to work on throughout the day. The two best side projects we can give it are muscle remodelling and secondary metabolite remetabolism. In short, the process of making your muscles bigger and stronger is a slow, gradual process that takes about 48 hours to complete. Doing some strength training gives your body a slow, constant burn for those 48 hours. Alternatively, high intensity intervals in cardio (alternating sprints and walking) produce a ton of lactic acid and pyruvate which your body needs to remetabolize once you finish, a process that can take up to about 8 hours.
I'll talk more about strength training in my next post but the short of it is you want to find exercises to do that utilize BIG muscle groups (quads, hamstrings, glutes, pecs, back) and ones that are challenging to the point where you can do three sets of 12-15 repetitions with about 90 seconds of rest inbetween. Doing this every 48 hours will keep your body burning a little bit hotter, increasing that steady-state deficit a little bit more.
For the cardio, let me steal what I wrote earlier: This is a type of cardio training that involves what are essentially alternating periods of sprinting and walking. Usually you want somewhere between 3 and 10 HARD intervals with medium intensity jogging or walking inbetween. How many, how long, and how hard the "high intensity" portions are depends on your abilities. Same for the "medium intensity" recovery portions. In either case, give yourself at least 5 minutes of low intensity warm up and cooldown before you begin and after you finish. Remember, the goal isn't to go more than 20 minutes, it's to generate lactic acid and pyruvate by working at just shy of the highest intensity possible for 10-35 seconds at a time with a little bit of recovery time inbetween. Google can be helpful to find an interval training regimen that's appropriate to your preferred mode and ability level. If you need specific recommendations, PM me.
Now, doing just this (strength training every 48 hours, doing HIIT cardio 3-5 days a week, eating consistently throughout the day and avoiding foods with high GI) you'll have FANTASTIC results and feel much better doing it than you've probably ever felt while dieting. There's some additional fine tuning we can do as well, though.
Stress plays a major role in how your body decides to store food as well. Again, the options being glycogen or fat. The more stressed you are the more inclined your body is to make fat. This can be stress from biological sources (not enough water, not enough sleep) or lifestyle (work related, drama at home, etc). The more you can minimize this stress the less inclined your body will be to make new fat as you work through burning off the fat you have. This means:
Drink more water.
Get more sleep.
Relax whenever you can.
Have the occasional "guilty pleasure" that's been shown to lower stress including alcohol and dark chocolate.
Take the herb Tatonka posted about that I researched and vetted (Rhodiola Rosea 200mg-400mg).
You'll know you're doing it right if every 3-4 hours you feel just a little hungry. The "Yeah, I could eat" level of hungry not the "Oh fucking fuck why am I dieting why am I doing this to myself I will eat Fossa's soul!" level of hungry. The exception to this is 30 minutes after your strength training which is the one time you WILL feel hungry and the one time you can safely overindulge a little bit (glycogen supercompensation is awesome).
Looking over what I've thrown out there so far I feel the need to reemphasize how important strength training is. Yes, the process of rebuilding your muscles burns a decent amount of calories spread out evenly over the 48 hours. However, there's even more to it than that. Having lean muscle is one of the best ways to consistently lose fat and avoid becoming fat in the first place. The more muscle you have the higher your basal metabolic rate meaning the more calories your body burns at rest.
Most people start gaining weight as their skeletal muscle atrophies from lack of use over time. It isn't noticed at first because you don't change shape much, your composition just quietly shifts as muscles wastes away and fat replaces it. Then you hit a tipping point where you've lost so much muscle that the fat is coming on rapidly and in the end you feel like you balloon out in the space of a few years.
This is preventable and it is reversible. Strength training is the absolute keystone to any serious weight loss program. In fact, the longer you stick with a training regimen the easier it becomes overtime because the muscle you'll add will make it that much easier to maintain the steady calorie deficit. So yeah, I'll post more about strength training in my next installment. In the meantime, let me know if I missed anything or if anything doesn't seem to make sense. I do this for a living, but laying it all out in a linear fashion can be tricky since I normally don't think of it in those terms.