I realise the headline here is reminiscent of a dodgy click add selling a magic potion or pill, but that’s exactly what’s happened in my last 8 weeks and I can’t be happier.
First up, while it makes a good headline, I’d imagine at least a kg or two of that weight loss was fluid (which tends to happen when you drive carbs), however even 5-6kg of genuine fat loss in that time was great.
While it hasn’t been an absolute piece of cake, it’s been much easier than I expected, however I must admit this is only realistic as I’ve had so much time off and my condition at day 1 was pretty terrible.
Not training regularly in 7 years and virtually none at all in the last 5 means I’m effectively a newbie with some muscle memory. Probably the best combination for getting results in a very rapid period of time. Muscle memory is a term which used to be used a lot. The theory is, if you were previously stronger / larger, getting back to that point is much easier.
While there’s not a lot of science behind it, biologically it makes sense (as the body searches for homeostasis) and certainly there’s masses of empirical evidence out there for it.
Basically after starting training for a few weeks I figured there’s no better time than starting a diet. As I’d been eating relatively badly for quite a while, I knew weight loss would be quite easy and my initial muscle gains would be solid. While I had promised not to do anything radical, I simply started a basic keto type diet, trying to stick to three meals a day where possible. In the past I’d literally eaten whatever, whenever I wanted, in fact it wasn’t rare for me to make a couple of peanut butter sandwiches as a nightcap!
The plan was simple, don’t eat anything high in carbs, and eat no junk food. Remove any beverages that contain calories (apart from coffee) which leaves diet soft drinks and water. Aim for 50g of protein in each meal and minimal carbs (so a minimum of 150g a day is consumed) and ensure a decent supply of fats are consumed – which I believe are very important for anyone training and dieting “naturally” who rely on all their testosterone levels to be as high as possible.
While I’m sure that a small amount of junk food and cheat meals are fine, this comes down to self control and temptation. My self control isn’t bad, but I figured it’d be easier to simply eat no junk than to factor it into my diet, and administer plenty of self control each time I dished up a (small) serving of that said junk!
An example of my food is that my breakfast would consist of eggs and a bit of bacon, and perhaps some yogurt, lunch would be a 50g protein shake or 50g of protein by way of tuna, as well as some veggies, with my evening meal being the most normal, here’s where I get a decent serve of veggies and a decent portion of meat / fish / chicken. I did need to ensure I ate a bit of fruit as well as a decent amount of veggies a day (evening meal usually) which sees me regularly munching on fresh carrots / bananas.
The biggest surprise about this plan is that after a few weeks had passed I started finding it surprisingly easy. Less frequent meals and low carbs means I didn’t have blood sugar issues. I got virtually no “cravings” for food and I saw very steady progress. I’d say the first few weeks was the toughest, as before I literally ate what I wanted, when I wanted so self control to not eat on impulse was required for a while.
If you are a believer in the theory that 5-6 meals a day increases your metabolism and allows you to burn fat faster, or somehow makes it easier to lose weight I would seriously urge you to look into this more. There is now a lot of research (and general info) that disputes these theories and it’s sadly a great example of bro (or perhaps “sista”) science that was perpetuated for so long with virtually no basis. Not only do I believe 5-6 meals a day is no better, I actually think it makes it harder for many people to lose weight, due to the hunger issues frequent feeding creates.
Hunger control is without a doubt a key factor for weight loss. I’ve included some interesting links at the bottom for those wanting to read more.
The negative with dieting is that I am drinking more coffee than before (2 cups a day where in the past I’d have less than 1, however this is well and truly in a normal range).
If your body is in a less anabolic state you can’t simply “train harder” to make up the difference. In fact it’s much more likely to lead to fatigue and possibly injury. With natural hormone levels, it’s very unlikely training is the restricting factor here.
By keeping my volume lowish, I’m still recovered well and most sessions I got stronger. This is of course due to muscle memory, as well as the fact while my diet is restricted, I’m eating better food and more protein than before.
Another thing people do is to reduce their weights while increasing reps, which I think you really have to question. By this logic, people are reducing their training effect in exchange for the belief that longer sessions will burn more fat. I kept my weights up with my volume low which seemed to work a treat, the opposite of what bro science may suggest.
By the end of the diet my lifts were up 15 – 20% compared to when I started 8 weeks ago. Now I’ve finished Im not doing a “bulk”, instead just introducing more healthy carbs which are more conducive to growth.
Regarding my strength, on my CNS days I’ve gone from doing bodyweight chins 4 x 6 reps to a similar rep range with 20kg hanging from a belt. My dips have seen a very similar increase as I started on bodyweight and I’m also using 20kg of extra weight now for sets of 8 reps.
My bench has gone from sets of 3 reps on 75kg, to 6 sets of 3 on 90kg, and I’m squatting 6 sets of 3 on 105kg too.
Note, my squat is down as I’m doing quite an upright squat with a very high bar position. This means dropping the weight back, but it’s much better for my back due to previous back issues.
I’m doing racked deadlifts at 180kg, 4 sets of 4, however as I’ve been travelling a lot, the position of this ” racked height” changes a lot! One annoying thing about using different gyms all the time is that if makes it very hard to ensure you’re making progress. Different weight bars, higher benches, lower benches, just minor stuff can throw your plan out.
Before I forget, I basically did no cardio during the cut. I’m introducing that now I’m back on a regular diet for fitness and performance reasons, rather than weight loss.
I’ve spent a lot of time reading about the effects of cardio on weight loss, or more so muscle mass, and this experience has been a real eye opener for me – it’s perfectly backed up what I read.
I’ll talk about this more in my next blog and explain why I left cardio out altogether, and why I think it’s worked so well for me.
As for now, I’ve got my weight loss goals, my strengths going steady and I’m rest to aim to get back to peak strength.
Rather than add a few unconnected links to research papers, I think this article (which has many links) written by Martim Berkhan of “Lean Gains” is brilliant.
If you’d like to really look into the many myths on eating and meal frequency that exist, it’s one of the best articles I’ve found.