I came across a question on Quora today and I felt compelled to answer it. I don’t write as much fitness content these days as I find it to be boring and repetitive.
But the sense of urgency here made me want to write an answer that might inform the person and point them in the right direction.
I also decided to post this question and answer on my blog and across other mediums because it is important to nail the basics.
The person who asked this question stated they have been starving themselves and training two times a day. That right there is enough to insure someone is going to gain massive amounts of weight over time.
In this answer I provide one of the most important missing components to weight/fat loss that many seem to either ignore or just don’t know about.
“Before I go into the information I want to tell you kudos for staying consistent with working out 2 times per day. That is going to help you once you’ve applied this information in addition.
Ok the first thing I want to get you to do is to reset. Completely forget about everything you think you know. Diets, eating healthy, pills exist in the realm of marketing and really have no long lasting effects. The information I’m about to provide you is the opposite. It’s centered about information that has to be applied, tried, re-configured, etc in order to reap the results.
Working our two times per day(which you’re good at) in combination with this information will help you in the long run. You’re not so far off from your goals.
Read this whole answer because I’m presenting a whole guide on how to help you make progress. There’s an essential part that presents itself within the context of everything and explains why you’ve stalled over the years(or atleast with the information you’ve provided is a hint as to why you couldn’t make the progress you wanted to.)
I’ll also explain the reason why you’re getting heavier.
You must strategically restrict your caloric intake below your TDEE which is the amount of calories you need to maintain your current weight. By restricting BELOW this number, you will be on track to weight loss. This is one of the keys to this weight loss journey. You must use caloric tracking as a way to keep you in check. Without it, attaining your weight loss goals will be akin to searching for a light switch in the dark.
You can track your calories by using TDEE Calculator: Learn Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure or MyFitnessPal | MyFitnessPal.com. You also want to keep a notebook and pen handy so that you can truly get intimate with the details of your weight loss journey.
*Note: you can choose to keep reducing your calories every week by 100–200 calories but make sure it’s below your maintenance calories or just follow the guidelines of the calculators and the apps that you use.*
Once you have your caloric tracking plan down pact, you need to track your weight loss. Note that weight loss is different from fat loss. Weight consists over bone, muscle, fluids, and all the other mass that your body contains. During your weight loss tracking you will notice that you will have jumps and dips in your weight. It will be because of fluid loss and FAT LOSS. It will be hard to tell the difference between the two unless you use other measures such as using tape measuring for body measurements. I.e., hips, thighs, etc. To tell if you’ve loss fat you can also use body calipers. I’m getting beside myself so let’s continue.
It’s a great measure for how well you’re RESTRICTING CALORIES. They go hand in hand. You need to be tracking your weight each week. Set up your macro and calorie plan via food choices and measures, etc then week after week, check the scale. If you’ve gained weight, don’t make any assumptions!(I say this for morale reasons, stay practical) Keep a pragmatic mind set and reduce your calories then weigh the next week. If you’ve lost weight, good! Weigh again next week. If you’ve lost more weight good! Keep going. Weigh again next week. If you didn’t lose weight, reduce your calories again.
You want to keep working consistently to check your weight loss. It’s going to be some trial and error and a bit of a learning experience but as you go along you will understand your body and align it with these methods. This is going to take consistency and discipline! It won’t happen over night.
You’re going to have to do some sort of exercise. Start off with just taking 30 minute walks at a brisk pace everyday. Enough to work up a sweat. Each day challenge yourself to walk fast. Simple. Then as you get more experienced and consistent, try resistance training. You can do push-ups, crunches, pull-ups, dips. All of this can be done within your home with minimal equipment. Do it. See what happens. Keep doing cardio everyday. Just take walks at a brisk pace. If you want you can jog or sprint. Just get moving. This is important because it insures you’re in a caloric deficit. It’s also essential the next part I’m going to talk about and it is another huge key that you may of missed which stalled or prevented your fat loss progress! So keep reading please!
This is the missing key to consistent, substantial fat loss. It also explains why starving yourself actually makes you get HEAVIER. Diet periodization is the process of fluctuating your caloric intake during prescribed periods of time to avoid metabolic adaptations.(These periods of time are called diet breaks) Metabolic adaptations in your case occurs in the form of slowing of the metabolism which by definition puts you in a caloric surplus which means you’re going to gain weight no matter how much you starve yourself.
In other words, your body was designed to survive during times of famine. Extended periods of caloric restrictions fool the body into thinking it’s in a famine. It conserves energy by slowing the metabolism. This is why you get heavier despite restricting calories.
How To Do Diet Breaks
Now that I’ve explained all of that, I’m going to tell you how to use diet periodization and diet breaks to help you maintain fat loss. This is going to utilize all of the previous concepts that preceded this section.
You take a 7 day diet break every 4–6 weeks of caloric restriction. In other words, if you’ve been on a diet for 4–6 weeks, at the end of that 4–6 week period, take 7 days off from your diet. But what do you do during those 7 days.
During those 7 days you’re going to eat maintenance calories. How do you do that? You’re going to take your LAST weight and do a TDEE calculation for it. Once you get your maintenance calories, you’re going to eat at those calories for 7 days. So if you last weighed in at 180lbs on the Saturday before the beginning of your 7 day diet break you’re going to eat at 2500 calories(not an actual measurement) for those 7 days.
In addition to this, you’re going to dial back your cardio by 50%. This means if you were doing 30 minutes of cardio, do 15 minutes instead. Or half of whatever intensity you were doing previously.
You’re going to notice that you’re gaining a bit of weight. Don’t worry! It’s more than likely water weight from the increased carbs and sodium through your diet.
The importance of diet breaks goes beyond the biology. It’s the psychological break you get during this 7 day period.
When this 7 day period is over. Weigh yourself. Whatever weight you’re at, use that to calculate your maintenance calories then eat 300 calories below that, restore your cardio to what it was before the diet break for the next 7 days then re-weigh again. If you lost weight, cool, keep going until the next weigh in. If you gained weight, reduce another 200 calories and keep going until the next weigh in. The whole idea is to get back into caloric restriction.
Once again, you can choose to keep reducing your calories every week by 100–200 calories but make sure it’s below your maintenance calories or just follow the guidelines of the calculators and the apps that you use.
Diet periodization by way of regular diet breaks have the long reaching implication that you will consistently lose fat over time by offsetting metabolic adaptations. You’re assuring your body that you are not in a famine by taking breaks from diet. This is the key that most people neglect. They think that if they just restrict their calories into oblivion that they will lose weight. This makes sense but we have to remember that the body is crafty at staying alive.
Use everything above to help you reach your goals. Another important key to remember is that you have to stay consistent and discipline. It’s a lot of upfront work but once you implement it on a regular basis it will become second nature. So let’s review.
• Restrict Calories(Consume less than your body needs to maintain your current weight)
• Exercise. Get some sort of exercise everyday.
• Take diet breaks every 4–6 weeks of sustained caloric restriction.
I want to add that you should have a little cheat meal ONCE per week. But I want to caution you, don’t over do it because it can become a slippery slope back into weight gain. The idea is to keep yourself sane. Also, during caloric restriction, split your calories up amongst 3–5 meals per day. Don’t NOT eat one meal a day. Don’t even eat 2 meals per day. 3–5 is psychologically ideal.
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