Three Diet Rules for Fast Fat Loss

I’ve been studying diet and fat loss for over twenty years. I’ve experimented with “fat burner” supplements like the ECA stack. I’ve also tried everything from low fat to low carb to intermittent fasting with varying levels of success.

Here’s one thing I’ve noticed: successful diets usually have three rules/factors in common, each starting with the letter “C”

I’m hoping this short post will help you cut through some of the hype about losing fat. What I’m about to share isn’t new—it’s just my simple way of expressing some basic things about diet and fat loss. Let’s move on to the three “C’s.”

Rule #1 CALORIES: burn more than you consume

Yes, you guessed it—all successful diets are based upon a negative calorie balance. You must be using more calories than you consume in order to lose fat. Everything else is secondary.

Example: A few years ago a nutrition professor at Kansas State University decided to try to lose weight on a “Twinkie diet.” Two-thirds of his caloric intake came from junk food (snack cakes, etc.), but he made sure to eat about 1,800 calories a day (about 800 less than the usual intake for a man is age).   As a result he lost 27 lb. What may surprise some is the fact that other markers of health (blood lipids, etc.) improved.

I’m not suggesting you go on a junk food diet. But the story proves an important point: the number of meals you eat, the supplements you take, and even the types of food are not as important as the overall calorie balance as far as fat loss goes.

Here’s a general guideline for daily calorie consumption:

10-12 calories x body weight (lb.)=weight loss

15 calories x body weight (lb.)=maintenance level calories

16-17 calories x body weight (lb.)=weight gain

You will have to adjust these numbers to your particular situation.  Those with higher activity levels may need to raise these numbers a bit.  Those who are obese would probably need to lower them.  But what I’ve shared here is a pretty good general rule.

Rule: #2 COMPLIANCE: find a diet that you can/will follow

The second rule fat loss is compliance. In other words, you have to find a diet plan that you can stick to long enough to see the desired results.

Example: I know some trainees who regularly eat six meals a day. But most of them are competitive bodybuilders, trainers, or professional fitness models. Their lives (and salaries) revolve around their physiques, so it makes sense for them to invest a great deal of time into meal planning. But frequent meals are not necessarily better, so you don’t have to eat this way to get lean. This is good news for people like me—I’m not interested in preparing that much food (and even spending that much time eating) on a daily basis.

I would encourage you to experiment and find something that works for you, remembering that you can’t escape the first “C” (calories). I really intermittent fasting, but you may find some other plan that keeps you within your caloric range. Choose a strategy that you can implement day after day, week after week–the most enjoyable or least “painful” for your specific situation.

Rule #3 CARBS:  Manipulate your carbohydrate intake

This third “C” is not nearly as important as the first two. Having said that, here’s something I’ve noticed: most people who get really lean do so by manipulating their carbohydrate intake.  Notice I said, “manipulate,” not necessarily “eliminate.”

Eating low/zero carbs can help optimize your hormones for burning fat. Here’s how it works: your muscles and liver contain glycogen (glucose in the muscles), which is used for fuel. Going without carbs will lower glycogen levels, encouraging your body to use fat as its fuel source (there’s more to it than that, but that’s the short version).

Most effective diets manipulate the effect of carbohydrates in one or more ways:

*Lowering overall caloric intake from carbohydrates and increasing the percentage of calories from protein and fat.

*The trainee eats most of his/her carbohydrates immediately before and/or after training.

*The trainee goes long periods without eating carbs, then refills glycogen stores over the period of one or two days.

*Carbohydrates are exclusively eaten in the final meal (or meals) each day.

*Carbohydrates are “cycled”—a set number of low carb days followed by days of higher carb consumption.

*Some  find that they do better by eating most of their carbs at night.

Final Thoughts:

Fat loss isn’t really that complicated. Follow these simple principles I have shared and you’ll have a much better chance at achieving the level of leanness you desire.

I haven’t said anything about exercise yet in this post.  I’d recommend a combination of weight training and cardio for best results.

Feel free to check out some of the recommended diet/exercise programs if you’d like more detailed information.

4 Week Diet Review (Brian Flatt)

I’ve had the opportunity to check out Brian Flatt’s latest program called the 4 Week Diet.  Flatt basically specializes in designing short-term diets (what some may call “crash diets”).   His first (and maybe most popular) program is the 3 Week Diet.  And he also has an even shorter version of it called the 2 Week Diet. Both of these are good, but later I’ll explain the potential advantage of a four-week plan.

Let’s think about the whole “crash diet” concept before we go any further.  You may think that it’s dangerous or unhealthy to lose weight quickly.  But losing weight quickly is not inherently bad for you if you are otherwise healthy.  Many who bash crash diets don’t really think about the devastating, long-term consequences of obesity.  In other words, the obesity epidemic in Western countries cost us billions of dollars, yet people panic when you talk about losing weight quickly.   Flatt goes into a lot more detail about this in his book, but it’s something you need to know going into this process.

4 Week Diet–Summary:

Now let’s look at the way this program is set up:

Here are just a few of the concepts that you’ll read about if you decide to invest in this diet:

Why 4 weeks?  According to the author, research has shown that it takes approximately 28 days to form a new habit/pattern.

How we get fat/thin: You may consider this self-explanatory, but Flatt goes into some detail that you will find helpful.

Micronutrients and Macronutrients: What the body needs for fuel.

The Indisputable Rules of Fat Loss:  This covers some of the caloric and hormonal issues that are essential to understand of you want to lose weight.

Intermittent Fasting:  If you haven’t heard about this before you are missing out on an extremely safe and effective strategy for reducing your caloric intake and optimizing fat burning hormones.

Reducing Carbohydrates: Lowering your carbohydrate intake is one of the keys for getting leaner–it encourages the body to burn fat for fuel.

The Truth about “Starvation Mode”: There’s a lot of misinformation about this and many believe that low calories (even for short periods) somehow damages the body’s metabolism. This myth is cleared up.

Exercise:  How to get maximum results in minimal time through the right kind of training.

Fat Burning Supplements: What works and what doesn’t.  Some of his recommendations may surprise you.

Note:  The author recommends quite a few brand-named supplements in his program (smoothies, protein shakes, etc.).  There’s nothing wrong with what he recommends but I’d shop around and see if you can find similar products for a lower price.  And remember that supplements don’t make that much difference in the big picture.

The Five Phases:

The first phase is eating a low carbohydrate diet in order to set up your body to burn fat.

The second phase is your first experiment with intermittent fasting.

The third phase is designed to build momentum from the previous phases–maximizing your fat loss.

The fourth phase is another short fast.

The fifth phase is designed for slightly more “normal” eating (but still involves a calorie deficit).

Following these five phases should result in a noticeable reduction in weight and body fat.  Flatt also explains how to keep from gaining it back.

The Activity Handbook:  This section is a general guide for exercise.  You’ll learn some basic exercises you can do and some general guidelines for putting together an exercise program.

What I’ve tried to do here is summarize the program.  It is by no means exhaustive.

REVIEW

First and foremost I would recommend you see your doctor/physician before starting a new diet.  Having said that, here goes:

There can be many reasons that someone may want to drop a few pounds quickly instead of using a slow/steady approach: an upcoming social event, sports competition (involving weight class), the desire to achieve a goal as quickly as possible, or the need to start a physical transformation with serious momentum.  I’ve written about this before on this blog.

There are two distinct advantages of the 4 Week Diet compared to Flatt’s other programs:

1.  All things being equal, the longer you stay on a diet the more weight you will lose.  The extra time spent in a calorie deficit will help you lose more weight (vs. 2 weeks or even 3 weeks).

2.  A month may be enough time for you to actually begin to change life habits.  I’ve heard different ideas on how long it takes to start a new habit.  But I’m willing to bet that after a month you will begin to get used to making better eating choices and exercising–both of which are essential for a true body transformation.

I think the 4 Week Diet would be a good choice for the following type of trainee:

1.  People with no serious health issues other than a desire to lose weight.

2.  A trainee with 10-20 pounds to lose that wants to make maximum use of one month.

3.  An individual who wants to start of his/her transformation with serious momentum (in other words, the long-term goal may take longer than a month, but starting the transformation with a “jump start” is appealing).

4.  People who prefer to just “get it over with” when it comes to losing weight.

5.  A man or woman who simply wants to lose the maximum weight possible in a month (for whatever reason: social event, etc.).

If any of these describe you then I think you’d be pleased with the 4 Week Diet Just CLICK HERE to order this program (or at least get a few more details).

How To Get Abs: Five Cold, Hard Truths

HowtoGetAbsMost young men walk in the gym with dreams of looking like a bodybuilder, NFL wide receiver, or maybe even a UFC fighter. Trainees may desire different levels of musculature, but most of them want the one centerpiece that all great physiques have in common: washboard abs, also known as a “six pack.”

Having shredded abs is an admirable goal. But there are some cold, hard truths you should embrace before hanging all your hopes and dreams on the status of your midsection. You’ll be much less frustrated if you keep some of these things in mind.

1. Diet is THE Key to Six-Pack Abs:

Some sectors of the fitness industry continue to perpetuate the myth that abdominal training is the key to having a washboard stomach. We’ve all seen that infomercial with the incredibly lean, tanned, well-oiled fitness model using some kind of gadget designed to train the abs. And you can look like him for a few easy payments of 20 or 30 bucks.

You might as well hold on to your credit card, because the key to having visible abdominal muscles is having a low percentage of body fat. And the key to having low body fat is diet. Yes, exercise definitely helps–I’d highly recommend lifting weights combined with some form of cardiovascular conditioning. But it is virtually impossible to do enough exercise to overcome a poor diet.

Getting really lean will require you to put as much planning in your eating as you do your training. There are several effective diet strategies you can use (I prefer an intermittent fasting approach), but all of them will require you to use more calories than you consume for several weeks (or even months, depending on your current level of fitness).

2. Genetics Play a Role in Visible Abs:

Like it or not, some guys will have a much easier time achieving and/or maintaining six pack abs than others. Some men have low body fat levels because of their parents–they are genetically “programmed” to be lean and can stay that way with minimal dietary adjustments. We’ve all met that guy who eats a steady diet of fast food, trains sporadically, and still looks incredible with his shirt off.

The role of genetics doesn’t stop at overall body fat levels–it also has a huge influence in where you store your fat. Men naturally tend to have more fat around the midsection (women tend to carry it on their hips/thighs). But there is great variation in the proportion of fat we store around our stomach vs. other parts of the body. Some men can be quite lean through the arms and legs yet have large waistlines. Others store fat more evenly. These differences in fat distribution mean some can have visible abdominal muscles with a higher body fat percentage than others.  Some will have to get their body fat level very low in order to have visible abs.

3. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Crunches:

Remember the picture of that bodybuilder you wanted to look like? Chances are he doesn’t look like that 99% of the time. Bodybuilders, fitness models, and even actors usually spend several weeks preparing for a single show, photo shoot, or scene. They undergo a strict diet and training regimen that, if properly executed, will get them to their desired level of leanness at the right time.

Hugh Jackman: Ripped and Thirsty
Hugh Jackman: Ripped and Thirsty

The “shredded” look often requires more than getting lean–subcutaneous fluid/water has to be carefully manipulated to make muscle definition more visible. Hugh Jackman began intentionally dehydrating himself 36 hours before his shirtless scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Bodybuilders often resort to using diuretics drugs, sometimes with fatal consequences.

To summarize, the strong physiques you see in magazines and movies are often temporary illusions–you may be looking at someone who is weakened by dehydration and calorie/carbohydrate restriction.

4. Getting Shredded May Lower Your Testosterone:

Here’s something else you should know: extremely low body fat levels (or the process required to get there) can have disastrous effects on testosterone levels. One study followed a natural bodybuilder as he prepared for a contest. He began with 14% body fat and worked his way down to 4.5% body fat over a period of several weeks. His testosterone went down 80% by the time he had reached his goal–80%!

It is incredibly difficult to naturally maintain strength and vitality when body fat drops into the lower single digits. This is one of the many reasons anabolic steroids have such great appeal to those who get ripped for a living. These synthetic hormones help offset the body’s natural response to several weeks’ worth of calorie restriction.

It is possible to diet and train your way to 5% body fat with no “pharmaceutical assistance,” but be prepared for a serious drop in testosterone.

5. Women May Not Care:

Let’s just assume you are able to get completely shredded without losing your interest in the ladies (remember that testosterone thing). Chances are they will not be nearly as impressed as you had planned. Yes, most women appreciate a lean, muscular physique. But don’t expect them to line up just to look at your abs. It just doesn’t work that way.

GymExpectations

Attraction tends to be a complex thing for women, and most of them will simultaneously weigh several factors before giving you their attention. Personality, sense of humor, communication skills, success/ambition, and a long list of other characteristics are going to be more important to her than your shredded six-pack.

Wrap-up:

Believe it or not, I’m not trying to discourage you from pursuing physical excellence.  Find a good program.  Go to the gym. Clean up your diet. Lose that gut. Put on some muscle. Build some strength. Your genetic makeup may allow you to get a six-pack with a reasonably low body fat level.  But you may need to settle for a good shoulder-to-waist ratio and flat stomach.  Don’t despair: you’ll look and feel great at this level of fitness.  And you’ll be within striking distance of the “shredded” look if you decide you want to take it that far.