>> …Yesterday in Part 1, I concluded by saying that “in Part2 I’ll be talking about cheat days, refeeds, alcohol, liquid calories and all the other evil things that are screwing up your weight loss efforts, and what you can do to right the ship!”
And that is exactly what I’ll be doing. See we set out with the best intentions in the world, but inevitably we sabotage ourselves worse than an asian sports betting ring. We don’t MEAN to be idiots, but it just happens.
So in this post we’ll follow up the icecream and cookies diet with some common problems when trying to lose weight, and what to do to avoid them so that you don’t end up aboard the fail boat.
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight before, you’ve probably struggled with one of the following.
- plateaus / stagnation
- refeeds / cheat days
- sugar cravings
What I want to do is break them down into “real world” speak so that anyone can understand them, because this article certainly isn’t just to earn me a pat on the back from other personal trainers (…have you noticed how many trainers do that btw?!)
Plateaus / Stagnation
I need to start this one by asking a question – have you REALLY stagnated? Or did you just not watch your macros / calories all that carefully last week? Because the amount of times I’ve got into a convo with someone who says their weight loss efforts have stalled, only for them to precede to tell me about their procilivity for snacking….
See, here’s the thing – if you can’t tell me what you ate last Tuesday between 2pm and 6pm, I’m calling bullshit on your “plateau”.
I’m not saying you have to weigh and measure everything you eat every day, but when you’ve made great progress, and are getting into better and better shape, the low hanging fruit has already been picked. Cleaning up your food (assuming you’re 90% ‘good’ here) will get you so far, but after that you WILL need to do a bit more.
….and remember, it’s taken you YEARS to become overweight, don’t be disheartened if after 6 weeks progress slows down. So, with that. Some guidelines:
- Losing 0.5 – 2lb per week? Great, you’re on track. Don’t change a thing
- Losing 0.1 – 0.5lb per week? Track your food next week and hit your macros // or if you’ve been tracking and can honestly say you’re doing a good job – drop carbs 5g/ day and fat 3g/ day
- Lost no weight, or gained some? Have you tracked food and hit your macros? // or if you’ve been a good boy/girl and are still struggling – drop carbs 10g/ day and fat 5g /day
Refeeds / Cheat Days
With total confidence I can say that your weekends and “cheat days” are probably what are keeping you fat and unhappy **OH SNAP – James just got controversial**.
But I say it because it’s true.
Think about it this way – you eat to plan Monday to Friday consuming 2,000kcals per day (…and even saying eating to plan on a Friday is generous cos most don’t). Maintenance for you is 2,500kcals, so you created a 500kcal deficit daily. That’s 3,500kcals under for the week so far.
The weekend comes (…and I’m DEFINITELY understating from here on in, because the reality is usually much worse) and you eat “as normal” on Saturday, but you also have 6 pints and a pizza.
A pint “costs” about 200kcals each, so that’s 1,200kcals from beer alone.
Your pizza’s probably worth another 2,000kcals.
With just a couple of drinks, and a cheat meal, you’ve COMPLETELY erased the deficit you worked so hard to create for the past week. And that’s not even a FULL cheat day!!
…and that’s assuming the rest of Friday, Saturday and Sunday are perfect. Because if they’re not, now you’re into a calorie surplus and will actually start to GAIN weight off your “diet”. And that just sucks.
Do you see how easy it is now for that to happen without you even realising?
So again, let’s create some guidelines;
- OPTION 1: include alcohol intake in “carbs” for the day. So if you’re allowed eat 200g of carbs (800kcals) for the day and a single pint is 200kcals, that means you get to have 4 pints and for the rest of the day you’re eating meat and veg […that’s actually alright eh?]
- OPTION 2: plan your cheats better…. skip breakfast, have a small lunch (500kcal of chicken and veg) and then have a big oul dinner (1,000-1,500+kcal). That means you’re still at your macro target for the day, but you get a ‘treat’.
- OPTION 3: on “cheat days” control your intake by increasing your days calorie allows to “maintenance” levels (for most, that’ll be approx. a 500kcal increase) and eat those extra 500kcals in the form of carbs, beer, win, icecream or whatever takes your fancy. But for the most part, stick to the plan other wise
All of this stuff is INCREDIBLY doable, it just takes 5 minutes of intelligent thought and planning the day before. Are you REALLY telling me you can’t do that?
Sugar… what’s the bitter truth? The truth is, it’s actually not that bad. Sure, it doesn’t really have any nutritional benefit (in that it doesn’t deliver vitamins, minerals, fat or protein). But like most things, when consumed in moderation, it’s not the devil. The REAL problem with sugar is that it’s just sooo easy to over-consume it that people are usually better off avoiding it altogether. But if you’ve some “planned” sugar consumption – it’s not the end of the world.
Consumption is ok, binging is not!
Here’s the rub with sugar tho – when you eat it, you experience a very quick rise in blood sugar levels, a state your body doesn’t particularly like. So it does everything it can to clear that back to normal by releasing insulin. Insulin helps remove glucose from the blood (…and hopefully store it in the muscles). However like everything else your body does, it over reacts, so instead of just clearing out a bit of the sugar and leaving your with stable energy levels, it pulls it ALL out and you end up crashing.
Quickest way to feel normal again? You guessed it… more sugar. And then the cycle repeats on and on and on…
So that’s why you can’t have TOO much sugar. Having a little bit is ok, once everything else in your diet is good. But living from one sugar high to the next is a pretty grim way to be.
But since this is supposed to be a helpful blog post, let’s talk about how to manage it;
- Keep a food diary – establish the times when you “crash” and eat something sweet as a result. For most people that’s around 2.30pm and 6/7pm. So if you know your blood sugar levels are going to be low then, and that you won’t be able to resist temptation, take it off the table. Have a healthy snack half an hour BEFORE you normally get hungry (even if you’re not hungry at the time) because it will stabilise blood sugar levels, give you a slow steady energy bump, and remove willpower from the equation
Anyone who trains in RevFit, reads my daily emails or follows anything I put out on social media will know that I think most supplements are a big crock of shit. Don’t get me wrong -there’s some great ones out there that are very effective. But for most people in the real world they won’t make ANY difference until day to day eating habits are addressed (…why is it that trainers on the internet forget people don’t live in a lab?!).
What DO I rate?
- whey protein – must be at least 80% by volume
- a good multi vitamin (just to be safe)
- ZMA 45 minutes before bed
- creatine monohydrate @ 5-10g/day if performance based goals apply
- beta alanine @ 2-4g /day if performance based goals apply
….and that’s about it, because if I wrote down all the stuff that COULD work or I’ve used with people in the past under certain circumstances, you may as well just write a blank cheque to your local supplement shop.
Random Thoughts, and Other Things To Share Which Don’t Go Anywhere Else
For some reason, while doing my research and notes for this information article, I ended up jotting down a load of random thoughts and ideas, and since I’ll probably lose my notes about 47 seconds after posting this bad boy up, now is the best time to share them;
- When dieting or trying to lose weight, you’re going to end up hungry at SOME point in the cycle. It shouldn’t happen from day 1, but if you start to drop decent levels of body fat, eventually it’ll get to the point where your body fights back and tries to make you eat. That’s neither good nor bad, you just gotta manage it smartly (yeah, smartly).
- If you control for calorie and protein intake, meal frequency and timing is entirely irrelevant. INCREASED meal frequency is a good thing for some people because it means you’re more likely to feel full for longer, and since there’s less time between meals, you’re less likely to binge. Just like breakfast, it’s a tool to control cravings and increase diet adherence. Nothing more. Nothing less.
- Being consistent is better than being perfect.
- You can “earn more” calories and carbs each day by upping your training frequency (…but only to the tune of 200-400kcals per day). Which is exactly why exercise on its own will NEVER deliver you to your goals. It’s hella important, especially if you want to actually look good after losing all that fat, but an element of dietary control is needed too.
- Flexible dieting IS NOT a “diet”. It’s a way to live your life day to day while getting to eat the foods you love, and attain your goals at the same time. It works really well once you’re not an absolute lunatic with the cookies and icecream.
- You might want to experiment with intermittent fasting (IF) and meal timing to see if that makes your life easier. You don’t HAVE to eat breakfast, in fact a lot of people do really well off skipping it and having a bigger lunch and dinner. Again meal frequency and timing are irrelevant once macro intake is consistent.
- If drinking fancy coffees like lattes and cappuccinos, make sure you include those calories in your day. Same goes for bullet proof coffee and condiments. The quality is important, but the calories count!
- IIFYM / Flexible Dieting is about macro nutrient intake, not calories intake. “Macronutrient intake” because if you focus on getting enough good quality fat and protein in, you won’t be able to eat junk food. And if you DO get the correct protein and fat levels in, you’re less likely to even want to because you’ll already be feeling full and happy.
That’s it for this 2 part series on how you can eat whatever you want and still lose weight. Remember, you can go back and read part 1 here. And if you want to get more stuff like this straight to your inbox, AND a free 6 week training program which I’d normally charge €124 for…