Before I begin, I’d like to point out that this piece is not a comprehensive dieting protocol such as Twin Peak’s Carbohydrate Cycling or Lyle McDonald’s UD2.0. I’m not going to give you meal plans, suggested foods or calorie intakes. What I will do, however, is show you how to get started towards your goal of fat loss, and how to ensure progression towards this goal. There are many ways to skin a cat, so obviously this advice may conflict with what some dieting protocols recommend, but realise that these guidelines can be used in conjunction with whatever dieting protocol you adhere to. This is aimed more towards the less experienced, although veterans may still benefit from little tricks here and there.
Setting Goals and Timeframes
Firstly, it’s always a good thing to set some goals. Whether this is a certain body fat level, a particular amount of weight loss within a certain time frame or simply just sticking to the diet for any given period of time (the key to any diet), it’s always beneficial to be aiming towards something – even a combination of all three if you prefer. Remember not to set your goals too far from reach. For example, don’t say that you want to drop 8% of your body fat within a fortnight (unless you’re currently ~30% and male). A more reasonable approach would be to set your target of dropping from 15% to 10% body fat within your given dieting period (females add 10% to these figures).
What I like to do personally, is set myself a dieting timeframe. This can then be renegotiated depending upon the success of the diet at the end of that period and my mood at the time. If I think another fortnight (Editors Note: For us Yanks, that’s another two weeks) of dieting is warranted, I’ll do it. From personal experience, dieting with nothing in sight can lead to loss of motivation and lack of results.
For the sake of this article, I’ll implement my own (imaginary) dieting strategy in order to illustrate the suggested methods. So for my diet, I’m going to set myself a time frame of ten weeks before I want to begin a lean bulk. Say I’m currently sitting at about 16% body fat; I’d like to hit 10% so my lean gains are easier to assess during my next bulk. I’m not aiming for competition levels, so any lower isn’t really necessary and potentially overly uncomfortable to reach and maintain. I’d also like to set some weekly targets to aim for as far as my weight is concerned. So for example, let’s say I am 210lbs. Let’s do some quick math.
Since I don’t want to drop any LBM, I want this figure to remain at 176.4lbs when I hit 10% body fat. Therefore, since I want to drop just under half of the body fat I have during this diet (16% to 10%), I want to reach approximately 195lbs. If I like, I can also now set weekly targets to meet in order to reach this weight by the end of my diet. But remember that I’ll likely drop a lot of water weight in the first week or two, and that diets slow down quite significantly after about 4-6 weeks. Again, for examples, let’s say:
I now have a target weight to go with my ten week time frame and checkpoints to reach at regular intervals. It took only a few minutes, but can make a huge difference in the long run.
We’ll start basic – the (very) general guideline for any diet is 12 calories (kcal) per lb of bodyweight. Since we’re going to regularly gauge progression, we’ll stick to this.
Therefore, I should be aiming for approximately 2500kcals per day while I diet.
If you’re currently bulking on about 4000kcals per day, you don’t suddenly want to just step into 2500kcals or else you’ll basically feel like crap, and there’s a good chance your body might not react favourably and you’ll lose a chunk of muscle. It’s not guaranteed, but I wouldn’t take any chances (unless you’re doing a very short term re-composition or something similar).
I’ve set myself a ten week dieting timeframe, but I’m also going to need a 2-4 week transition period where I gradually lower my calorie intake every few days in order to gently ease myself into it. Obviously, the higher your calories, the longer you’d need, but I doubt anything longer than four weeks is warranted. Some people may not find this necessary, but I find it helpful. Eventually, if you get into the habit of scheduling particular timeframes for your bulks and cuts, you’ll come to include transition periods at the start and end of each without even realising that you are doing so.
For our example, I’ll say I’m currently on 3200kcals/day, so I’ll only need a fortnight at the end of my present bulk in order to get down to 2500kcals smoothly. My plan would look something like:
By day 15, the “official” dieting can commence. At this point, I suggest you perform a “baseline” weigh in so you know your starting bodyweight. It may have changed slightly since you performed your transition, but it’s not going to be massively different. Even if it is, the Ensuring Progression section in the next installment will allow you to ensure you get back on track quick enough
Selecting Your Diet
Honestly, I couldn’t give a shit which diet you swear by. It comes down to whatever works for you—especially whatever you can stick to. Personally, I dislike low carb diets, so the Atkins plan is out. I dislike having to imprison myself in my house over the weekend in order to carb myself up into a sugar-induced comatose retard, so CKDs and TKDs are out. I like to train heavy at all times, so Lyle’s UD2.0 is out (note that for getting to sub-10% body fat levels, these types of cyclical diets are almost mandatory for most people).
Cyclical carb diets like Twin Peak’s Carbohydrate Cycling, or Rob Faigan’s Natural Hormonal Enhancement diets yield merit, but I’m too meticulous with my calories and don’t trust myself not to count them. Plus I’m no fan of low carbs, so tend to shy away from these types. Call me dull, but I go for pretty much an isocaloric diet of 33.3% carbohydrate, 33.3% protein, 33.3% fat (and 0.1% dust). This means I get my daily “fix” of the carbs I so adore, and the refeeds I despise don’t have to be as large.
Therefore, my daily breakdown is as follows:
Now, I’m not that anal enough so that my diet will get these exact figures, and knowing me, I’d want to reduce some of the fat in order to increase the protein and carbs somewhat, but these give you the basic gist of what I’m getting at.
Personally, once I know my daily figures, I draw up a diet that fits these figures for 5-6 meals and I stick to this diet day in, day out. This does not have to be the case with you as there are several ways to approach this.
A lot of people, particularly those who keep online journals on the various weight lifting message boards utilize something like FitDay in order to track their calories each day as they consume them. By the end of the day, they should be around the level of calories they require. This allows them to basically choose their meals as they fancy them.
Another option that a close friend of mine employs is to workout your calories and macronutrient figures for the entire day and then match them into overall food intake. For example, 300g oats, 200g rice, 3 tins of tuna, 4 chicken breasts and 10 eggs over the course of the day. He splits them up into meals each day as he sees fit, but regardless of order or sequence, he consumes the same amount of calories daily.
If eating the same meals at the same time each day begins to take its toll, another method is to plan 10-12 meals of different variety that all make up the same or similar macronutrient breakdown. Therefore each day, you merely have to select 5-6 of them to eat that day, so each day may not necessarily be exactly the same as the last.
But like I said earlier, this doesn’t bother me; I just stick to the same diet each day. So to continue, I have my diet planned out – I’m eating 6 meals spread out over the course of the day, all with carbs, protein and fat and it’s coming out at the end of the day at about 2500kcals. I’m not going to give you any example diet plans or foods – this is not that type of article.
We have now set up a diet, set some goals and timeframes and determined how to schedule meals. The next instalment of this article will discuss methods for ensuring progression throughout your diet and means to overcoming sticking points during the process.