Patience is fleeting for all of us.
When we want something, we want it now. Our society has become inundated with the me-first style of thinking which practically infests our mind with the idea that we should have it all. Right now. Not in ten minutes, or ten weeks, or ten months. But now. Fitness and diet are not exempt from this style of thinking.
I suffer from it, too. I’ve been engaged in the system of intermittent fasting for well over a year. Around a year and a half or so has passed since I actively began skipping breakfast and first started to track my macronutrient intake. I’ve made a lot of mistakes.
I’ve had periods where I’ve eaten too much and gained weight. I’ve had periods where I’ve eaten too little, and lost weight too quickly. I know that may be a misnomer, after all, how is it possible to lose weight too quickly? Well, maybe for some people, you simply want to be thin. Personally, when I look at the general physiques of marathon runners and anorexic women, I get disgusted. Do I want to have less fat on my body? Sure. But at what expense? This ain’t the 90’s. A muscled, 200 pound physique at 12% body fat looks exponentially more impressive than a thin, waif-like 140 pound physique at 8% body fat. The Kate Moss look is out. Strong is the new thin.
I’ve had quite a few inquiries from people who have began this journey. I’m elated. I’m genuinely happy people are reading this site and using the information to better their lives. I’ve even had a few people who have lost a modest amount of weight already. Pretty cool considering this website is still in its infancy.
If this includes you, guess what advice I have for you? Be patient and continue the course. Don’t mess with it when it’s not broken. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. The absolute most you can hope for is a two pound per week weight loss. Are you there? Are you losing, on average, two pounds per week? Then leave it alone. Stop going for instantaneous gratification. Have patience. The weight will come off.
This way of eating is truly a lifestyle. It’s not a quick fix. It’s not a prescription to be followed for “x-number of weeks” and then return to your old habits. That sort of a thought needs to get thrown out the window. In future posts, we will discuss how to slowly transition out of the obsessive tracking which can plague intermittent fasting. I agree that nobody wants to track each and every macronutrient for the rest of their lives. But if you simply stop and return to your old ways, your old pounds will creep back on. 100%, without a doubt.
But again, therein lies the beauty of the program. The sustainability of this program is what makes it so impressive. You might feel some hunger. But you should never feel deprived and the program can be easily manipulated in such a way that it can be followed indefinitely. And why would we want to do that? I’m assuming once you reach a level of leanness you are satisfied with, you want one of two things:
1. Maintenance of said level of leanness. or
2. Additional muscle mass to improve body composition.
And of course, we will talk about how to accomplish each of those goals.
So, what CAN we change? If for some reason, we aren’t happy with our results, how can we shake things up? Before we start to discuss what we CAN change, I’d like to look at a short list of things you SHOULD NEVER change. And trust me, I’m speaking from experience…………………
……..1. Your fat and protein consumption. I know it seems like a good idea. If you’re already eating low carb, and you want to increase your progress, and you want to accomplish this through your diet, your fat and protein consumption are the only things left. So, you decide it’s a good idea and you start to slash one of the two remaining macronutrients. DUMB IDEA. Less protein is going to equal a loss in muscle mass. While there is no additional benefit as far as muscle retention to eating more than 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, as soon as you begin to dip below that number, your muscle will begin to be stripped.
If you could choose between losing 50 pounds and having 10 pounds of the weight loss be muscle, and losing 40 pounds of pure fat, losing 40 pounds of pure fat will look better 100% of the time. Don’t be in such a rush to see a certain number on the scale. Go check out some of the success stories on intermittent fasting which are floating around the internet. Many of the before and after shots have around an 8 or 9 pound net loss on the scale. But the pictures look DRASTICALLY different. That really says something.
Shortchanging your fat requirements will open you up to a myriad of problems as well. Men, it will decrease your testosterone. You will find it more difficult to lose weight, to gain muscle, to have energy, to fight off sickness, to (ahem) perform, etc. As stated, I’ve made this mistake. I was low-carbing and I would throw in low-fat days where I ate all chicken and veggies, too. My strength took a massive dip, I felt lethargic and tired constantly, and I got a sinus infection that lasted around 8 weeks until I finally realized I was destroying my body by reducing my calories. Trust me. Don’t do it.
……..2. Your fast duration. Me-first, me-first, me-first. Please resist this temptation. You think to yourself, “Hey, 16 hours of fasting works great! I’ll throw in a few 24-hour fasts on my rest days! That’ll speed along the fat loss even further!” Another DUMB IDEA. You’re trying to take the best from two different protocols. Eat Stop Eat calls for maintenance calorie consumption every day. Then you throw in two 24 hour fasts twice per week. This will give you a “buffer” of around 3,000 calories or so from the two fasts. Theoretically, this should result in around 1 pound or a bit more of weight loss per week. Leangains calls for a general calorie restriction combined with a daily, 16 hour fast. Since you are restricted in your calories to begin with when using Leangains, if you start throwing 24 hour fasts into the mix, hormonal patterns will get all screwed up. Muscle loss will follow quickly. I tried this for around 3 months. I’ve never seen my bench press plummet so damn quickly. My 1RM went from 290 to about 250. I’m literally still trying to recover my bench press from that dumbass move, and I corrected it in November 2012.
Please refer to the previous comment about a 40 pound fat loss being more aesthetically pleasing than a 50 pound weight loss if 10 of those pounds are muscle. Preserve your muscle at all costs.
……..3. Your exercise types. How on earth can less be more? Lots of people I’ve worked with, after a few weeks on this program, come and ask me this question: “Are you sure I shouldn’t be doing more in the gym?” That’s after a two-week weight loss of around 8 pounds and an increase in strength in each of the Big 3 Lifts (squat, deadlift, and bench).
My answer is always: “What on earth are your goals if you haven’t beaten them with what you’ve seen already?” The HOLY GRAIL OF THE FITNESS COMMUNITY is considered to be simultaneous strength gain and fat loss. If you are getting stronger and you are losing fat at the same time, you are achieving what very few people hope to achieve: Muscle gain and fat loss together. This is newbie magic. It won’t last forever. Once you become a seasoned lifter, it will be extremely difficult to accomplish this feat. So enjoy it while you can.
If you took a look at my minimalist routine from Lesson 4, and you decide you want to do a bit more, then go for it. But remember a few things:
A. Always do your exercises in the same order, starting with most important. Squats, deadlifts, and bench press are your most important.
B. Make sure anything you add is a compound movement with a barbell. Otherwise, you are flat out wasting time. Throw in some overhead presses, bent-over rows, or power cleans if that’s your thing. Just don’t be a jackass who runs for the curl bar.
C. Don’t you dare touch a machine.
D. When one of your main lifts goes stagnant for the very first time, throw all of the accessories for that day out the window. Once all three main lifts go stagnant, it’s time to eliminate everything but the basics. And
E. If you have a belly, and you are doing ab work, you might as well be pissing into the wind. Just sayin’.
……..4. Going to failure more often. This phenomena is often observed in novice lifters. Like the guy who gets on the bench and says to his “bro”: “Dude, I’m gonna get like 3 and then I want to do 5 negatives.” And then he proceeds to get two and his buddy gets a nice set of upright rows while spotting him. Going to failure should be done very seldomly. Going to true failure on any lift will fry the central nervous system quickly. And a shoddy central nervous system takes a while to recover. And since we are in a calorie deficit and lifting three times per week…….well, you can do the math.
If you’re following the training schedule from Lesson 4, your “max set”, or your first set of each of your main lifts, is the only set that should be taken to failure. On the 90% and 80% sets, stop before you reach true failure. If the rep is going to be “iffy”, I always rack the weight, personally. Grinding out more reps while in a calorie deficit is a surefire way to accumulate extra stress you don’t need.
I heard it put this way: In basketball, do you practice missing free throws? In football, do you practice fumbling the ball? In baseball, do you practice swinging and missing? Why is it considered good practice in weight lifting to fail at something? You are conditioning your body to fail at an endeavor you want continued success in. It simply doesn’t make sense.
……..5. Cardio. If you don’t know why, then you really haven’t been following along. Refer to previous lessons.
Now, there are a couple variables you can manipulate to hasten success. Two, actually. And they are truly the only things you want to mess with in order to improve your success rate. And they are…………
……..1. Carbohydrate consumption. If you truly want to speed along fat loss, and you have lots of weight to lose, you can lower your carb count, particularly on workout days, where your carbs should be higher, relatively speaking, than your rest days. Even this variable shouldn’t be manipulated for too long. If you maintain a prolonged low-carb diet, you are putting your body at risk for a decreased leptin count, which will eventually damage you metabolically. The internet is full of stories of contest bodybuilders who are putting in 20-25 hours per week in the gym, and sub 1,000 calorie/day diets who can’t lose any more weight. For those people, they have been so damaged metabolically for being in a deficit for so long that their hormones are making it impossible to lean out any further. But for those with excessive weight to lose, going almost zero carb for awhile can really speed things up from the start.
You may recall that when you are losing weight, your body will pull its energy from two sources: your fat and your muscle. And it will pull from whichever source is more abundant on your body. So, if you’ve got a significant amount of weight to lose, and you’re lifting hard, the odds you will decrease your muscle mass from decreased carbohydrate intake is low. If you are going to go zero carb for a substantial amount of time, you probably will want to begin to incorporate carb re-feeds into your routine. These should be done NO MORE than once per week and should consist of large amounts of carbohydrate dense food. Bagels, cereal, bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, etc. Please keep in mind that fat NEEDS to remain low during the re-feed. Since your body will be in a major surplus for the day from the carbohydrates, any dietary fat will go directly to your gut.
Personally, I was around 13% body fat or so during the holidays. I wanted to get down to around 10% or under. I set my carb count at 200 grams for workout days and as close to zero as possible for rest days. Many people told me I was going too low. I lifted hard the entire time, and maintained my bench press while increasing my squats and deadlifts significantly over a period of around 16 weeks. I lost in the neighborhood of a pound a week and I achieved the desired result – a sub-10% body fat. On a side note, since that experiment, I have increased my carb number to 375 since I have leaned out to where I was satisfied. And I’ve lost another pound and a half over that time. Would my results from the 16-week “lower carb” experience have been even better if I had kept my carb consumption higher? Maybe. Shoulda, woulda, coulda. I’m simply using myself as an example to show you that muscle mass can certainly be preserved even during a decently long stint of relatively restricted carbohydrate intake.
……..2. Rep ranges. Rep ranges vary greatly from person to person as far as how an individual’s body can adapt to the exercises. The rep ranges I have given have been found through trial and error. They are optimal for me. I tend to do better on an 8-10-12 scheme in upper body exercises and a 5-7-10 scheme in lower body exercises. At times, when a lift goes stagnant, I’ll drop the rep ranges down even further on the lower body exercises in order to continue to make weight increases on the bar. A 5-7-10 scheme can easily become a 3-5-7 scheme if you find yourself unable to hit your “5” for a few weeks in a row.
Deadlifts and squats, due to their difficult and intense nature, lend themselves to lower reps. Deadlifts, especially. I generally make some of my biggest gains when my normal 5-7 deadlifts become 3-5s and eventually 1-3s. I recently upped my deadlift PR from 415 to 430 by dropping reps and continuing to make progress. You may have to mess around with your reps a bit to find what works for you. But in the gym, quite literally, your rep ranges are the ONLY things you want to mess with.
So, there’s your list.
Our next lesson will include how to progress in the future. I will provide instructions on what to do once you’ve hit a level of leanness you are finally satisfied with.
And a forewarning: Once you’re at a level of leanness you are satisfied with, this diet becomes very, very fun.