The first part of this article dealt with getting started on the diet—on setting goals, organising timeframes, transitioning between bulking and cutting and scheduling meals. I will now discuss methods for ensuring progression throughout your diet and means to overcome sticking points during the process.
To ensure progression on any diet, you need to continuously eat fewer calories as your bodyweight decreases. As you reduce your calories, your body burns up its stores of fat and your bodyweight goes down, along with your BMR. If you don’t amend your diet, eventually you’ll reach equilibrium and weight loss will cease.
A lot of mistakes are made here by overestimating just how much to remove. You’ve heard it before no doubt, but aim to drop approximately 0.5-1.5lbs of weight per week (Note that this only counts for those up to about 15-18% body fat. Those at around 20% and above can drop upwards of 4lbs per week until you get to about 15-18% body fat [add 10% on to those figures if you’re female]). Granted, the weekly targets you set earlier may fly in the face of this, but again, remember that you’ll drop a lot of water in the first few weeks as well as fat since your metabolism should be still running optimally.
Because of the loss of water weight and usual initial accelerated fat loss with diets, I’ll give an example of ensuring progression for (approximately) week 4. Say I’ve dropped 0.5lb in the past week. I’d like to ensure that by next week at least another 0.5lbs is down on the scale so I need to remove some calories from my diet. As noted earlier, people tend to remove too many calories. You don’t need to take out a straight 200kcals per day in order to drop more weight. I simply remove about 5-10g of carbs or fat from my diet (I tend to leave protein as it is for the most part). Sure, this is only 20-90kcals per day, but you’d be surprised at the difference it can make. Obviously, you’d take off the 10g (in this example) if you’ve only dropped 0.5lb that week, and take off the 5g (in this example) if you’ve dropped 1-1.5lbs. The general gauge for calorie amendments is as follows:
So obviously, as you take calories off, your daily calorie intake will be lower, but you will still be eating around about the 12kcals per lb mark. For example, I started at approximately 2500kcals per day and I dropped down to 205lbs. To ensure losses, I removed 50kcals from my daily diet to bring my intake down to 2450kcals. This is still approximately 12kcals per lb. Even when I’m down to 195lbs and my calories have dropped down to about 2300kcals, I am still in that range range.
Also note that the general 0.5lb-1.5lb rule doesn’t apply to those making use of drugs such as anabolic steroids (or prohormones) and/or drugs such as T3 etc… These change the picture completely and much larger drops in bodyweight can be managed without any loss of muscle (one can potentially even gain muscle).
You must also be aware when assessing your progress that scale weight is not always 100% accurate. A lot of people advocate weighing yourself everyday, but I find that this approach can lead to a loss of motivation if the scales aren’t moving in the direction you want as frequently as you’d appreciate. At most, I’d say weigh yourself twice weekly – once on your scheduled weigh in day (under the same circumstances that you recorded your “baseline” weight), and the other the morning of your refeed or close to 3-4 days away from your scheduled weigh in day.
Water retention is the beast usually most responsible for giving distorted weight readings. Be aware of when you may be retaining more water when you weigh yourself.
Changes in eating can also do this. Personally, I plan my diet and eat the same foods day in and day out so this is not a factor for me, but others prefer to “mix and match” and eat foods each day in order to make up their calories. This is fine providing you’re not regularly exceeding your daily calorie requirements too often. Obviously refeeding can affect both water weight and food weight in your gut, which is why I recommend you weigh yourself the morning of your refeed, or wait a couple of days after it (but still expect some muscle glycogen to obscure your weight somewhat).
Sticking points on a diet are irritating as hell. You’ve made the calorie amendments and yet you’re still sticking. This section is a bit of a lead-off to the remainder of this article as the follow sections are all means by which you can overcome sticking points.
Really, you should include a refeed at least once a week from start to finish of your diet, becoming more frequent the leaner you get. However, depending on how lean I am when I start, I usually do one after the first fortnight (Editor’s Note: For us Yanks, that’s after two weeks), then one ten days later, then one every seven days until I decide it’s necessary to do them every six or five days. For myself, I’ve found that performing refeeds more frequently than every five days and I tend not to make progress, although others have found that they need to do a refeed every other day in order to make progress, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
We all know why you should include refeeds, and if you don’t, set aside a good few hours and read the Leptin Series in Mind & Muscle and all will be revealed.
I’d like to make some further points regarding refeeds that I’ve found relevant for myself, which may also be relevant to you also.
- Keep them as clean as possible. Annihilating bars of chocolate, biscuits and cheesecake tends to undo your dieting more than aid your progress. By “clean”, I mean keep fat intake at a minimum, apart from SesaThinTM and fish oil. Avoid processed and refined sugars. Realize also that a lot of people do fine refeeding on cereals and such, so again, experimentation is the order of the hour.
- Start with high carb liquids and gradually phase over into whole foods. You’ll find it a lot easier to get down enough carbohydrates this way without feeling nauseous after dominating a few hundred grams of oats (or cereal etc…) and not wanting to continue.
- Keep protein intake low during your refeed – preferably none at all. Although when I drink maltodextrin or glucose, I sometimes throw a scoop of whey in with it for taste, or use fruit juice for a home-made energy drink (God bless Vimto). Don’t worry about “not taking advantage of the anabolic effects of the carbs” by eating just as much protein as carbs, you’ll only take up valuable stomach space that should be saved for carbs, make yourself feel bloated and uncomfortable and most likely fart incessantly.
- This is purely my own technique, borrowed from a similar principle in Faigan’s NHE diet, but I strategically plan my refeeds as half-day/evening events. The day of my refeed, I stick to my diet as normal, although I tend to lay off the stimulants a bit as these affect insulin sensitivity. I usually begin my refeed after training in the evening, or at about 7-8pm and end it around 11-12ish.This may sound strange, but if I was to utilize the entire day for my refeed, I find myself gorging on a lot of food, including junk food. By giving myself only a few hours at a time, I stay away from “unclean” foods because my stomach is full of “clean” foods (oats, rice, grains, potatoes etc…) I’m also in bed asleep by the time my blood sugar levels begin doing hula-hoops so I don’t crave junk food. Since I don’t employ a low-carb approach and eat carbs daily I find I don’t need as long a refeed for glycogen replenishment, although I still manage to get a lot of carbs down in a small space of time.
Your Supplement Arsenal
Little tricks for beating sticking points may lie in your regimen of pill-popping and lotion-rubbing. A lot of people tend to jump straight into stimulants and fat burning supplements from the get-go of a diet. Really, this is not necessary. I find it more beneficial to save the addition of supplements into my routine until they’re required – just like pulling a wild card. For example, why jump straight into a stimulant/partitioner/appetite suppressant like ephedrine (or H.E.A.T.TM) when you’ll drop fat for the first few weeks regardless. I would save it until I feel I need to control my appetite more or keep my metabolism up somewhat.
The same can be said for other supplements. However, I would say that SesaThinTM should really be considered more a staple of your diet (finances permitting) than part of your supplement regime and LeptiGenTM and Lean XtremeTM both yield benefits from day one, so are worthy of being early inclusions (again, finances permitting).
Some would say you don’t need it, most despise it, but additional cardio work on top of your weight routine can be implemented to aid in overcoming a sticking point. Much like the addition of various supplements, I don’t think cardio is required from the start. It should be added as you see fit.
Also, I wouldn’t suggest suddenly starting cardio four times per week for however long you do it for. I’d suggest starting at maybe twice per week, 10-20 minutes of regular cardio or 5-15 minutes of HIIT cardio and building up duration and frequency as you see necessary.
Yup, you read right – “dipping” calories. This is nothing new; it’s just a phrase I’ve used to describe large sudden drops in daily calorie intake that can be utilised in order to keep fat loss rolling along. I realize this conflicts with what was written earlier about making smaller calorie amendments week-by-week, but there comes a time when doing this can be really helpful for shifting stubborn fat. You don’t need to employ this method early on in a diet, only when fat loss begins to stick. However, this is not something you want to do continuously each week for several weeks or you will most likely notice a drop in workout productivity, increased lethargy and a general all round shitty feeling – not necessarily with increased fat loss.
When I say dipping calories “significantly”, I really mean dropping from, for example, 2500kcals down to 1000-1500kcals per day. You’ll most likely need to make use of a good appetite suppressant during this time such as ephedrine, hoodia, H.E.A.T. TM or nicotine in order to keep yourself from suffering painful hunger pangs. Filling up on green vegetables is also recommended.
The best way to implement this idea isn’t dropping calories significantly and trying to sustain for a full week. A better option is to drop calories for a couple of days at a time and then resume your original calories for a couple of days, repeating this cycle. It is definitely a good idea to increase refeeding frequency during this time, or to have a day or two of calories above maintenance level. Using LeptiGenTM would also allow you to extend your “dipped” days slightly, but it is still beneficial to refeed regularly.
This is quite a long-winded way of explaining something very simple, but you’d be amazed at how many questions are asked by the less experienced unless a complete picture is painted for them. If you’re employing a particular diet like the ones mentioned earlier, the same simple technique for progression can be applied to ensure the diet continues to be successful. It really is a case of getting started and repeating the basic steps until your goals are met. Best of luck.