Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: South Wales - UK
Training Exp: 3-4 years
Training Type: Fullbody
Important Dieting Tips
Without going into specifics on actual dieting techniques, I will give some good general guidelines that are often overlooked, or simply not known. Here goes.
1. If you have a lot of weight to lose do NOT try and do it all at once. The maximal time I have trainees do fat loss diets are 12-16 weeks. And 16 weeks is the MAX. If you are not at your goal within 16 weeks, take 4-5 weeks and reefed. This does not mean eat all you want for the 4-5 weeks, it means add calories and perhaps carbs if doing a low/no carb diet and get your diet a bit over maintenance. This will allow your metabolism to rebound give you both a mental and physical break from dieting.
2. Crash dieting (extreme caloric restriction) rarely works. All it does is shut your metabolism down a very short time after you start the diet, and/or catabolizes a lot of muscle. Aim for a 400-600 calorie a day restriction, and along with reasonable cardio you will create a decent deficit. If you are already doing as much cardio as you can or care to, you may need a bigger caloric decrease. This all varies a LOT between people of different bodyweights and bodyfat compositions as well as the individuals metabolism. So while the suggested number will work for many people, it will not work for all.
3. If you are not weighing and logging your food at least some of the time, you are simply guessing about your diet approach. Guessing is fine I guess, if you want haphazard results. The average person is simply not good enough to “eyeball” their food and get it close enough. If you absolutely will not do this you had best ensure you eat the same basic things daily so if you are not getting the results you want, you can make changes at least off of a known quantity.
4. Be creative with your food and think outside the box when it comes to seasoning and food choices. So many people get stuck eating the same things that taste the same way day in and day out that it is no wonder they quit their diets. There will have to be sacrifices made, that is for sure. But you don’t have to make it so Spartan that the entire time dieting is an exercise in depravation.
5. Take your morning body temperate FIRST thing in the morning for 4 days in a row BEFORE starting a fat loss diet. This means BEFORE EATING and BEFORE ANY activity. Morning temp should be 97.5-98.1. If it is a bit lower that is fine. If it is consistently 96.5 or below, you should either postpone the diet until you get it back up by eating a bit more and if at all possible having your thyroid checked. Trying to start a diet with a severely slowed metabolism will make the diet a very difficult task. At 96.1, your metabolism is already slowed 15-25% for most people and to get at a number well below maintenance with your metabolism that dampened already will require a very low caloric and nutritional profile for YOUR body. Please take into mind that SOME people have a naturally lower basal body temperature, so what will appear as low for a normal person will be the norm for a person with the low body temperature type metabolism. These people are not the rule but the exception. Trying to diet with an already crippled metabolism rarely works and the calories and nutrients end up having to be so low that muscle is usually sacrificed. Continue to monitor temperature while dieting. If your body temperature plummets, you can bet your metabolic rate has also plummeted. Careful measurement can tell an experienced person when to either drop calories, or discontinue the diet for a short time to get metabolism back up and running correctly.
6. If you are not getting stronger while dieting—at least by small increases you likely have something out of balance with the workload, cardio, or caloric deficit/macro- profile. There is simply no reason to not be able to get at least a bit stronger unless you are at 8% or below, or are extremely advanced. Low and intermediate level lifters should be able to still make strength progress until about 8% or so bodyfat.
7. If you are dieting and do not do resistance training, you are much more likely to catabolize muscle tissue when losing weight. ANY type of resistance training including bodyweight exercises is better than none.
8. Unless you are doing circuit type training for overall conditioning and strength, using weight training to burn extra calories is misguided. People often go on cutting diets and increase their volume and frequency to “use more calories”. This is a very poor way of burning calories and the opposite of what should be done. Most people can use the same training volume they use when massing, others need to reduce it a good amount. Doing high volume/high frequency routines when dieting is a chief cause of muscle loss.
9. Train for strength when dieting. You are not likely to gain much muscle if you are on a cutting type diet opposed to a recomp. So doing hypertrophy specific type workload is not your best bet. A 10 x 10 may work well for size gains and some strength gains when massing, but is not likely optimal on a cut. Lower, to mid volume work with an emphasis on strength will allow neural gains to continue to occur thus allowing you to get stronger while dropping bodyfat.
10. Step diet when going to very low levels of bodyfat, or if you are a person who’s metabolism slows fast. Many people can start a diet at a reasonable caloric deficit and keep going a full 12-16 weeks and still drop fat the entire time at the same caloric level. Other people need to slowly adjust calories downwards every 4-6 weeks or so to keep bodyfat coming off.
11. If it “appears” that fat loss has stalled do NOT panic and drop calories drastically or increase cardio drastically. Most people’s bodies lose fat cyclically and also, at different stages of fat loss the ‘appearance” of bodyfat reduction “looks” more dramatic than at other stages. Wait at LEAST two weeks of no scale or mirror improvement to drop calories or increase cardio. This rule may not apply to people doing contest prep.
12. Fat loss does NOT come off most people in the areas they are usually most concerned about in the initial stages of a diet. For guys it typically comes off the extremities first and the waistline last. For most girls, upper body fat is lost first and lower body fat (thighs/butt) is the last place the body pulls from. Putting a tape measure around your waist for guys, and legs/butt for girls every week to measure fat loss will usually lead to a very frustrated dieter. As a trainer I have people tell me frequently they don’t think they are losing much weight during the initial stages of the diet, but after getting pictures or seeing them in person I point to their arms, legs (for guys) and face upper chest area and all of a sudden they notice all the separation and less fat in these areas that they failed to see before. People tend to just focus on the areas that they want to reduce while not understanding that the body sees the major fat storage areas as “survival” fuel and gives up that part of the bodies stored fat last.
13. Avoid stimulant fat burner supplements. These almost always produce an increase in stress hormone chemicals, primarily cortisol. High cortisol levels make it difficult for the body to burn fat, and tell the body to catabolize muscle tissue. There are plenty of non-stimulant based fat burning supplements that increase the rate of fat burning without promoting a stress response. Things like forskolin, TTA, and some of the mild thyroid boosting supplements along with ALCAR and other products that increase mitochondria output. Green tea has been proven to boost fat burning up to 4% by itself and has a wide variety of health benefits. Caffeine in reasonable quantities is acceptable even though it is technically a stimulant—just don’t go overboard with it.
14. Make sure you are getting a high dose of EFA’s (essential fatty acids) DAILY! This will help the fat come off faster, reduce overall protein needs a bit (difficult mechanism to understand so you will have to trust me on this) and ensure you remain healthy while dieting. 6 grams a day of fish oil should be a minimum.
15. If you are doing a diet that has a reasonable amount of carbs in it you can do HIIT cardio. If you are on an extremely low carb, or no carb diet you are better served by doing low intensity cardio. High intensity cardio requires glycogen for fuel. If you are already depleted on carbs the body will catabolize muscle to fuel your high intensity cardio sessions. You can bypass this to a certain degree by doing a PWO feeding after your HIIT sessions, but this is not really an option for the way many diets are laid out. BOTH methods work for fat loss—don’t let anyone tell you different. But they work by entirely different mechanisms and diet composition needs to be taken into account when planning cardio.
16. High impact cardio such as running is much more likely to result in muscle catabolism as the same degree of intensity done with low impact. Running while dieting is a poor combo for most people.
17. Once at a low caloric/nutrient level in the final stages of a diet it is often a better idea to increase low intensity cardio than to reduce calories.
18. When adding mass at least 1.5 grams per lb of bodyweight is needed for optimal mass gains. When dieting you can go as low as 1 gram per lb of bodyweight for guys, and .75 for girls. Going below this number is a primary reason why people lose muscle when dieting. If you are losing a lot of muscle when dieting, you are simply doing something or many things wrong.
19. Calories are NOT calories. You can gain fat while being on an under maintenance caloric level by simply having your macro nutrient profiles screwed up. I read a very well conducted study recently where they took over 1500 people and put them on a diet that was 1000 calories below maintenance levels and the primary macro-nutrient was fructose. The vast majority of the people actually GAINED bodyfat while eating 1000 calories less than maintenance levels. The scale weight went down, and when they tested body composition they determined the people had lost a lot of muscle while actually storing more bodyfat. Without going into diet details as this is not what this article is for, the simple take home message is carbs are not your friend on a fat loss diet. That is not conjecture, just basic physiology.
20. EFA’s and BCAA’s can be extremely helpful in muscle mass retention on a fat loss diet. That is an article unto itself. Do some research!
Hope this helps some people with their fat loss goals!