I have set myself a goal over the last four weeks, and that is to find out whether slow and steady is best or whether the fast and furious approach could be an option.
Before I get into any details I want to make it very clear that I’m not promoting this method of dieting, selling a bullshit product or trying convince anyone to crash diet. Also, I would like to point out that the results you see are based on my body, not yours! I have been training with weights for 12 ish years, have a good relationship with food and had a decent diet to begin with.
I have been eating around 1500 – 1700 daily calorie target which is a 1000 kcal + deficit for my bodyweight/activity levels. I have attempted to keep protein intake as high as possible, with a large source of protein with every meal. I have hit this target 90% of the time with a planned increase of calories of 3 days in the middle. I have hit over 10000 steps every day, which is easy for me chasing my son around the house all day.
I have lost a total of 15lbs in bodyweight over the last weeks, which I can assure you is not all bodyfat. This number will be made up of muscle glycogen (stored carbs), water, poop and some body fat/muscle. I feel and look visibly leaner, which is very motivating, and it is has only taken me a short period of time. I can confirm my muscles haven’t shrivelled away and I don’t feel like I have lost loads of muscle. In reality, I have no way of telling as I don’t have an accurate way of measuring this.
It’s easy to look at the time frame and end result and say “that’s it, I’m starting this on Monday”. Before you throw out all of your tasty food, read about what I have learnt during this process.
As you can imagine, I have been hungry over the last four weeks. I don’t just mean, a little bit peckish, I mean hunger pains going to bed hungry. For someone that rarely gets the feeling of ‘full’, this was difficult. From someone that eats 3000 kcals plus most days (due to my activity levels and bodyweight), I am used to eating regularly and a lot of food.
Clock watching until my next meal and listening to my body a lot more has been an eye opening experience. I noticed that hunger comes in waves. Around certain times of day when I would normally eat, hunger would kick in hard. If I was to distract myself, use a couple of hunger tactics (see below), the hunger would usually dissipate. This gave me confidence that the hunger was more likely habit based rather than me really ‘needing’ food. After a couple of weeks the hunger did die down, but it was still present like a little niggle in the back of your head.
To combat the hunger I used a couple of tactics:
- Chewing gum
- Diet Coke (0 kcals)
- Coffee (false sense of energy)
- Distracting myself
- High veg intake (increased fibre)
- High protein intake
My workouts have reduced in volume (reps x set x weight) dramatically. There is no way I am going to be able to train to the intensity I used to train at. My workout regime consisted of a push/push/legs split repeated over an 8 day period. My workouts were very simple, made up of around 6 exercises, 3 sets of around 8-15 reps. It was a case of dragging myself around the gym, hoping I could make it to the end. This challenge was never meant to be performance related, it was purely atheistic (I know, how vein of me). The purpose of the workouts were to retain as much muscle as possible, they were never designed to increase or even maintain strength.
With a combination of low calories, increased hunger and shitty training sessions, I have hardly been a delight to be around (ask my wife). It’s been difficult to find the motivation at times to get to the gym and my mind has been fixated on food. I have tried to avoid social situations, as I know this would be difficult to avoid food and alcohol. I have controlled my environment as much as possible, which has helped at times. No distractions in the house, no sweets or chocolate laying around and Sarah (my wife) has been supportive with her food choices. This process has made me appreciate food more. It is not just fuel, but certain foods do bring a smile to your face, enable you to get involved in social situations and enjoy time with friends and family.
My plan moving forward is to maintain my new lower body weight and increase calories up to my perceived maintenance. This number will be lower than my original maintenance due to a few factors (BMR, NEAT and carrying less weight around). I am going to have to work hard not to stuff my face or just eat for the sake of it, I am going to carefully control this part with calorie counting. This next phase of training will be key to maintaining my results and ensure I don’t bounce back to my original weight.
Pros and Cons
As with any diet or dieting strategy, there will be ups and downs. I want to share my experiences of this diet protocol and let you make your own minds up.
It’s motivating to see the scales drop off quickly
It’s only a short period of time
I look visibly leaner
Not very social
Would I recommend this method or use it on any of my clients?
The only answer I can give to this question is “it depends”. If you are just starting out training, no experience of calorie counting, have a bad relationship with food or have had any experience of binge/restrict diets before, then I would definitely rule out this option. Building long term habits and exercising regularly should be the goal for most.
If you have counted calories consistently for a decent amount of time, train reguraly and have a healthy relationship with food, then I would consider this option. I would use it as a short burst to either get started in a long term fat loss plan, or at the end to give you that final push.
This fast fat loss approach was never designed to be sustainable. It was designed to get me to a goal very quickly, and it worked. By attempting this approach it has opened my eyes to losing weight fast versus the slow and steady approach. Imagine if I had gone for the usual 1lb a week approach, I would still be going for another 10 weeks! Instead I can increase calories, regain any lost muscle (if any) and maintain my bodyweight. I have become more aware of the feeling of hunger in my own body and how this affects my mood and performance. I don’t think I will be dishing this method out to clients any time soon, but I may implement more restrictive periods to get to a goal faster. Slow and steady is an option, but it is not the only option. The fast approach is by no means the ‘easy option’ and should be carefully considered before attempting.
The brains, brawn and beauty of Dackattack (basically it’s just me). A personal trainer with a private gym in Norwich, dedicated to giving out simple, actionable advice that will give you outstanding results.