Last year, I learned that fat loss isn’t such a difficult thing – and I learned that the all too common advice of losing fat in the way of “slow and steady” isn’t necessarily the best advice.
I’m not against losing fat slowly – I just no longer believe that “fast fat loss” is a bad thing and for those who really are trying to sculpt their bodies, willing to push it a little more in the way of sacrifice and looking for a shortcut (of sorts), I think fast fat loss is actually ideal.
So what do I mean by fast fat loss?
If you’ve read my blog before, you know that last year (2013), I did a full seven day fast, drinking nothing but distilled water. Several of the conclusions I drew from that experience were surprising – even to myself.
The biggest takeaway from the experience (from a fat loss perspective) was that I lost very little muscle. I expected a lot of muscle loss – but it simply didn’t happen. I still believe that I was able to maintain muscle because I kept working my muscles – kept adding heavy resistance. I didn’t do full workouts – I did one set that hit a different muscle group once every few hours – throughout the entire first 6 days of the fast (I simply didn’t have the energy on day 7).
The results of my fast has changed my entire approach to fat loss this year. I’ll probably get some disagreements to this approach and quite honestly, I’d love to hear the argument against it, if you believe it’s just plain ol’ stupid.
Before I go any further, be aware that I’m not advocating anyone else do this. I’m notorious for doing some rather extreme n=1 experiments to gather data that helps me achieve my fitness goals. I enjoy sharing the results and hope others can take something away from reading about these “adventures”.
Here’s where I’m at…
Instead of a slight deficit in my daily caloric intake (the most often recommended approach and the one I’ve used for the last two+ years), I’m going to try a new strategy – huge deficits for short windows of time.
I think it’s become a pretty well accepted in the world of fitness that a drastic deficit is a bad thing. As an example, if someone requires 2500 calories a day just for maintenance, getting 800 a day is generally thought to be a horrible idea.
Because usually, it is a really bad idea. I’m guessing that just about every time someone presents this as the new diet plan, s/he is thinking in terms of going weeks or months on an extreme diet – kind of an “all or nothing” approach that warrants criticism.
Metabolic damage happens. Some people still dispute it but I’ve lived it. I’ve felt the effects of maintaining an 800 calorie a day diet for several months. I’ve seen the effect of rapid weight gain when upping calories back to normal maintenance. I’ve read too many stories of professional body builders (females especially) who did cardio 2-3X a day and ate less than 1,000 calories a day – and the price they paid for it.
Short windows though?
I’m thinking that severe calorie deficits can accelerate fat loss if done in bursts – upping the calories again before the hormones can negatively respond. Our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for. I don’t think there’s any hormonal alarms when a person just goes a few days without food. I believe that the negative hormonal responses start occurring when the body starts thinking that the long-term food supply is being threatened – due to extended low-calorie eating.
Advocates of intermittent fasting often argue about the amount of time when metabolism starts to decline when going without food. Some believe that 16 hours is the magic number and others believe that 36 hours is when metabolism starts to decrease. I used to participate in this argument but now, I realize that’s it’s absurd to worry about this.
During my seven day fast, my metabolism dropped a lot! During day seven, I was having trouble walking without breaking here and there. I had to focus on a person to understand conversation. But through it all, I kept losing weight – kept burning fat. Who cares if 16, 36 or 72 hours is when the metabolism starts to dip? You’re still burning fat. I was still losing weight on my seventh day with no food.
So what kind of windows am I going to test this with? I’ll probably experiment with several different windows and try to get a good feel for how my body responds, both in the way of energy and fat loss. I did my first whole day fast of the year today and who knows how long I’ll go tomorrow without food. I’ll certainly be well over 40 hours without food. I plan to hit the weights and do some more cardio though, while probably getting 500-800 calories for the entire day.
For this first window of experimentation, I’ll be going a full week on extremely low calories. The trick is to keep hitting the weights while doing this. It’s every bit as important as the calorie deficit. I am certain I would lose muscle, quite rapidly, if going on extremely low calories and skipping the weights. And like I did when I fasted, I’m hitting some extra sets throughout the day. I’ll have my normal hour-long session earlier in the day and then keep doing body exercises every few hours.
After the week, I will go on maintenance or slightly above for the next week. I’ll be pretty particular about the diet again – mostly protein and spreading the rest out in fat and carbs. I don’t care if I gain a couple pounds in this second week – it’s more about refueling the hormones. I’m looking to drop 5-10 pounds in week 1 and then add back 2-3 in week 2.. then I’ll update you with my progress and let you know if week 3 will be a repeat of week 1 (what I’ve tentatively planning).
Today was day 1 of the new diet for me. I have a lot of new body fat to test with. You might be surprised at how much weight I’ve recently put on.
For the last half of November and all of December, I pretty much ate anything I wanted. I must confess that I’ve gained a lot of fat. I just needed a good, long break from the months and months of rigorous dieting. I kept working out the same – just quit worrying about what I ate.
How much fat did I add? Well.. I’m up from my normal 165 to 196, as of this morning. My fat calipers show 20% body fat now. I had been hovering around 10-12% the last couple years – so a substantial amount of body fat has been added! It’s also worth mentioning that I finally got my legs back into a routine. My squat is back up to 315, with a nice, deep bend. That’s nowhere near what I did in my twenties but it’s 80 pounds more than I was doing all year long, when I kept trying to get back into legs and re-injuring my hamstring. The extra calories have definitely helped me to add leg muscle again and my jean size is up from 29 to 31 in the waist.
So anyway.. my recent eating binge – No regrets. I enjoyed this last month more than I care to admit – so much so that I think I’m going to make every December my “eat anything I want to eat” month. Why not? It’s the perfect time of year to gain a bit of weight with plenty of time to lose it all before shirt-shedding season is upon us. I really loved being able to go to all the family occasions and indulge every time. And the fact is, I now believe that I can lose fat much faster than I had ever previously thought possible. If I’m wrong and I don’t feel ripped in the Spring, I’ll have no problem admitting it and throwing this whole experiment out of my fitness lifestyle.
I took a new picture this morning and I’ll show you the before/after later this month. I was going to post it in this article but looking at it, I just can’t! I really gained more than I realized.
So here we go again! 2014 is upon us. As of today, I’m rededicated and ready to rock – excited even. I’m hoping you do the same. I’d love to eventually hear some stories about the strategies you’re employing – if you’re among those of us trying to get exceptionally lean.
Swing by on and like the Lean Gains Group on Facebook. There’s actually a lot of interaction there and I’ll be posting a lot more this year.
Best of luck to you. Here we go!