“So, how did you lose all that weight?”
“Well, first I failed a lot. Then I had moderate success until I hit a sticking point. Then, after researching my ass off, I found something that works for me and can be sustained for a long time.”
“Get to the goods then!”
“Nope, first you must hear how I failed, then how it happened.”
I went the traditional route; high amounts of cardio, low carb, low fat, six meals a day etc. Over 8 months this produced some results. My starting weight was 196lbs packed into a 5’8″ frame. It was not pretty.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to write this to make it engaging or funny but informative. I’ve been racked with guilt by promising to write it then not having time to adequately do so. Then today I had an epiphany. It doesn’t matter how I write this. It’s not my job to write this. I can’t make you read this just like I can’t put in the work I’ve put in to accomplish what I have. Around 7 or 8 people have asked me for the cliff notes version to digest while I scribe this tale and around none of them have gotten past the starting phase of cliff notes version, instead, opting to find reasons why they won’t get past the initial stage. So if I look at it like that, then my job is to tell you what I found out and nothing more.
I can’t do any of this for you. What I did isn’t sexy, or a magic pill, or some food hack. It was hard work and a lot of attention to detail, which is why a lot of you will find reasons not to do this. I get it, no worries. It’s not for everyone. Not even close.
That being said, here’s what I did.
I started out going to the doctor and complaining about sleep apnea, which was observed in me, and the effects of low testosterone. Doctor wanted me to lose weight and said he’d put me on a program with weekly shots and pills.
“No thanks, I got this.”
I’d done it before; super low carb diet mixed with amphetamines and lifting weights. However, this time I couldn’t take amphetamines or work out with heavy weights like I’d wanted. I needed an intermediary device. My knees and lower back were trash, so the first thing I did that had an effect on my overall ability to work out was DDP Yoga. I’ll be using some form of abbreviated yoga from now on for flexibility and general well being. It got me to the point that I could work out like I wanted to, so I am thankful for that. However, I was doing so much cardio that it was affecting my ability to lift weights at the intensity and frequency I wanted to. It took a conversation with a bar guest to get me out of doing that, as he pointed out that I was injuring myself and fatiguing myself beyond my body’s capacity to recover. I was essentially hurting my knee every week and never letting it heal. My strength workouts were maybe once a week outside of cardio. There was no way to progress fast enough that way. His talk about not doing cardio got me looking into bodybuilding forums to search for exercise routines.
On the diet side, I thought what I was doing was effective. I know now that it wasn’t. 30lbs in 8 months seemed great, but the other 30lbs came off in 9 weeks. The hardest 30lbs at that. What changed? I stopped with all the bullshit theories I’d heard and read about. Meal frequency, food combining, eat for your blood type, paleo, south beach, vegan, juicing, 30 bananas a day…more bullshit theories than I can remember. None of it had a huge impact, none of it works long term in my opinion.
On one of the forums a guy opened his drop box up with several samples of tomes inside, one of them being the Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler and Lyle McDonald’s “Ultimate Diet 2.0” which I remembered was a follow up to Dan Duchaine’s stab at an ultimate diet. I read the sample portion, found copies online to purchase and read through them and I found it to be too difficult to follow, but Lyle’s site bodyrecomposition.com lead to to the biggest break in the code: Lean Gains and Martin Berkhan. The rabbit hole had been opened. I tell people that lean gains and Intermittent Fasting are what got me to 10% body fat, but there’s a lot more to it. I went down this hole, hard, and amassed a lot of subsequent information from rippedbody.com and Andy Morgan. That got me reading Greg Nukols and stronger by science. That got me reading reddit and quickly realizing that there’s only so much noise you can handle before you have to shut it out. I read Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon and decided that I’m sticking to people Andy Morgan reads and recommends for most things, with the chance to read new people whenever, but filtering it through the approach and lens that the people around ripped body use. It uncluttered things.
So that’s a lot of info, right? Here’s a breakdown though…
1. I eat 8 hours a day, sometimes 9 if I have to get my calories in. The rest of the day and night, I do not eat. However, I lost weight while “breaking the fast” with celery and other veggies all the time if I kept it under 50 calories. I truly feel like you can have up to that amount and not see a difference in your weight. This applies to beverages as well, like Crystal Light. Total cumulative calories in the fast equal less than 50, you are good.
2. I counted every calorie for a month, using a food scale, Cronometer.com and my phone. If you want to lose weight, you simply must count calories for a month. After that, you can feel what makes you heavy and what doesn’t, so you can eyeball portions and be a bit more relaxed. I thought for years that I was eating a sensible diet. I wasn’t. I thought I was low carb. I was not. I really only was low carb in the late 90’s when I simply wasn’t eating. You truly have no idea what your caloric intake is and what it’s made up of unless you count calories. It gets easier, but it’s necessary.
3. I eat a lot of the same foods, but I can eat just about anything I want, in moderation. Look, cheat meals, cheat days…all utter bullshit. Work the food into your routine and counting, and see for yourself. I set my macronutrient percentages based on goal; cutting for 9 weeks, now I’m on a 5 month bulk. I ended my cut at 129lbs and 10% body fat. My goal is 160lbs at 10% body fat. I will accomplish this.
4. I figured out my TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) and how many calories I burn by weighing myself every day nude, in the morning, and logged every activity I did for a month. Now, I know. I used all kinds of calculators online and spreadsheets and came back to counting what I ate and logging my activity. I still weigh myself every morning, but I know the numbers don’t mean as much as people think they do. Here’s some online resources: If I could do it over again I’d use the Joy app instead of Cronometer, but I have too many recipes in Cronometer to start over. Don’t cheat yourself by skipping this if you try any of these IF techniques. I actually smirk when someone tells me that they started a diet and lost x amount of pounds, because short term fat loss means you lost water weight because you restricted your caloric intake, nothing more. Keeping it up is the actual battle, not starting it.
5. Food is fuel. Nothing more, certainly nothing less. I eat pizza, burgers, wings and more, but my cholesterol has gone down, my blood pressure is 128/75 down from 170/90 and I feel great. I don’t exclude foods, I include heathy options. There is no inherent bad food in and of itself, but a bad pattern of eating only certain foods is. As long as I am eating 75% so called “clean foods”, it doesn’t seem to matter, as long as the calories and macros match up. I make most of what I eat and use a recipe maker in Cronometer to tell me what I am eating and it’s easier and easier to fit whatever I want into my diet and account for it.
6. I work out religiously. RPT has been a godsend to me. During my cut I worked out 3 times a week, once per body part and used RPT to hit PR’s during a caloric deficit. I lift weights and lift heavy. Right now I’m working out 4 times a week and slowly gaining strength and size. I use a power rack and free weights and made my own cable pulley system for isolated exercises. The power rack I’ve had for years and it’s still the best investment I’ve made fitness wise. I can lift heavy, by myself, at home. I’m realizing now that I’m coming off very conceited here, telling you all this like it’s the only way. But stay with me, the real “have to’s” of this for me may not be for you at all. This, however, is one of them, especially for guys who are aging. You have to lift weights to preserve muscle mass and stay lean. Not endless cardio, but caloric strategized diet and lifting heavy weights. You can lift heavy well into your 70′s, it’s been done, you just have to stretch and keep a healthy diet with protein intake at your highest and take care of your body. I’m not trying to be a jacked up 250lb muscle beast, I just want to look good naked, because that feels good.
7. I still drink beer. A lot. But, I limit the days I do drink and I eat less on those days than days I don’t. Your body is very efficient at processing calories. I still contend that fat loss is easier if you don’t eat carbs when you drink, but if I account for the calories and macros, it seems to work fine. Drinking lowers inhibitions, sure, and that can lead to over eating, but if you have a mind to watch what you eat, it’s not a big deal.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel, though, because when you reach your goals, you can settle into maintenance calories and you shouldn’t gain or lose weight. I don’t think it’ll be that hard; restricting the time you can eat has really shed some light on how much or how little I eat and it can be a hassle sometimes to get all the calories I require in. So I sometimes fall short, but it doesn’t matter. One day, or one week won’t matter. I relaxed in St Augustine last week and dropped everything, IF, counting calories, working out…and at the end of it I’d gained 7lbs, and it’s all gone 4 days later. Mostly water weight from eating more carbs than usual and processed foods with it’s sodium. But, it’s all gone now, and I’m glad because taking a break is necessary to me. That being said, I can’t wait to get back into my home gym tomorrow and resume working out after taking the week off.
You don’t have to do any of what I did to get into shape except, in my mind, count calories, establish your TDEE and Macros according to goals and workout. Anything you can adhere to long term is better than what you can’t. IF works for me because I actually like being in the fasted state during the day and eating late into the night. All that talk about 6 meals a day, portion size, protein uptake being small, eating late at night will make you fat…it all went away.
When I was in my 30’s, I was in about the same shape, but I did that through the use of androgens, pro-hormones and what are now considered illegal designer steroids and a high protein diet. I wasn’t doing the workouts right or eating right but the exogenous testosterone I was taking did a lot of fixing that for me.
For the first time I believe I’m using an effective work out and progression routine along with a sensible diet. For the first time in my life, I truly think I understand why I am doing what I am doing. I won’t say here what it was, but I did take a SARM during the last of the cut to help with preserving muscle. You don’t need to do any of that, I was in a hurry and had a mental deadline to reach. Any effective routine you use that you progress with instead of using the same weights for months will work for you. I’m an extremist, you don’t have to be. I actually found it hard to stop losing weight towards the end. That 30lbs in 9 weeks was a rocket ride and I wanted to stop at 135lbs but got down to 125 for a bit, then back up to 129. I had to really eat to stop losing weight using IF.
I got my bloodwork done through this, so I am okay for those of you that want to lecture me on using chemical enhancements.
When I get to maintenance, I’ll probably use Brad’s Eat Stop Eat as my IF for a while. Lately I’ve been reading Greg O’Gallagher as a more relaxed version of Lean Gains. Or this guy Pete. I’d advise anyone to read through the links I’ve provided thoroughly and decide for yourself what the best course of action is. I love IF and it works for me as a window of eating and a window of not eating, but that may change, who knows?
It’s a year later, and my doctor chided me on losing so much weight so fast because he’s an idiot who only noticed the last 30lbs (but let’s be honest, most people did as well) but my testosterone was still low, even after a month of maintenance calories. So I’m on TRT. That 160lbs at 10% body fat is looking closer and closer.
Don’t just believe me, and don’t believe the fitness industry. Read pub med, read examine.com and do what you think will work. Eat real food, lift real weights, be happy.