Weight Loss: Simplified
Hey there unsatisfied readers!
So…I’ve been gone a long time. Quite a lot has gone on since my last post. Reasons for not updating range from life-altering events to pure laziness, but I’m back! When I created The Real Nutrition Facts, I was pretty serious about my health, and also writing about it. Hopefully this gets me back into it for good.
Today I want to write about one of my proudest achievements, which was one of the main things that inspired me to actually start caring about my body and about my health. Now, I’m not by any means perfect when it comes to watching my diet or going to the gym. Right now I’m in one of my more determined phases, where I’m doing well with the gym and at least attempting to curb my portions and whatnot. But when I get into these modes, I can accomplish a lot.
About two and a half years ago, I was in the worst shape I’ve ever been in. I was about 245 pounds, didn’t even want to know what my body fat percentage was, and I felt like complete shit. I hated working out, loved to eat all things unhealthy, and it was affecting me. All of a sudden, I became determined to do something about it. I had a coworker that was pretty obsessed with keeping healthy, and between seeing his motivation and letting me borrow his copy of “The 4 Hour Body” by Tim Ferriss, I came up with the best program I’ve ever used in my life. Now, looking at my body today, I am nowhere near where I’d like to be. But what follows is what has gotten me started with what WILL end with me being in fantastic shape. I’m a work in progress, just like everyone else. (And for the record, I am about 230 pounds now with a decent BF% and more muscle mass/strength than I’ve ever had).
So from March to May of that year (exactly two months), I dropped from 245 pounds to 206. Without stepping foot in a gym. By the end of it, I felt phenomenal and the results were absolutely noticeable. Friends and family constantly praised how great I looked, and even so that my grandmother said I’d lost too much.
Now, as a universal disclaimer, and before I reveal the program, I have to explain what happened since then. I took those results as a learning experience. See, I wasn’t exercising during that time period, which explains the lightning-quick drop on the scale. By the time it was all said and done, I couldn’t maintain the weight I’d lost. I shot back up to 220 in about a month. And truthfully, I didn’t simply jump back on the fast food and beer train (such a delicious method of transportation that would be). The following November, I began working out for real, for the first time in my life. And I discovered the negatives of losing all that weight without exercising. And let me tell you, being the only dude in the gym that can only bench 75 pounds is fucking embarrassing.
So I want you to take from this that there are two ways to go here:
1. Don’t work out, see quicker results on the scale but sacrifice strength and muscle tone, or
2. Exercise (you should for your health regardless), and see slower weight loss but be happier in the end. Your choice.
So (drumroll), here are the rules to the program. Now, this is basically a modified version of Tim Ferriss’ slow-carb diet program, as his version involves cutting out all wheat and dairy, which I think is fucking impossible for any normal human being. Aside from the fact that whole grains are healthy (besides being carb-ridden) and dairy is loaded in fats (some good, some bad).
1. Your primary goal is to count protein and carbs. That is it. Forget about the calories, fat, or anything else. Calories in most cases only determine how much energy your body will have to burn from any given food/drink; plus, if you’re working out, you’ll need them. And watch your salt, obviously. That’s usually just a given. I’ve been watching salt in my diet basically all my life and my heart will probably thank me for it later.
2. Your protein goal should be your goal weight, but in grams (ex- I was shooting for 200 pounds, so I aimed for 200 grams of protein a day). Your carb goal ultimately is anything south of your protein goal, but you should be shooting for as little as possible. I had days where I finished at about an even spread (see exceptions, below), and I had great days where I ate less than 30 grams of carbs in an entire day and was completely satisfied. Your objective is to have as many of those great days as possible.
3. Rule of thumb: high protein, low carb meals. Pretty simple. Lots of chicken, tuna, cottage cheese, steak, eggs, bacon even. Any diet where you can consider bacon healthy is alright with me.
4. Consume four to six small meals/snacks per day rather than large meals.
5. This can take some getting used to, but your largest meal should be breakfast, and meals should get smaller as the day goes on. Your breakfast should be consumed within a half hour of waking. Yes, this means eating breakfast right when you crawl out of bed every single day. This is necessary and is an invaluable asset to your rising metabolism.
6. Breakfast should also be your heaviest carb meal of the day, getting smaller as the day goes on, preferably ending with a low-to-zero carb dinner. Protein is extremely useful while you sleep, so don’t sweat eating that 10:00 PM steak dinner on a late work night.
7. Structure your week as follows: six days on, one day off. Pick an off day and stick to it; you should always be going six days straight between cheat days. And on your cheat day, GO NUTS BRO. Binge on any and every craving that has tortured you all week. This technique works on a chemical level in order to prevent your body from falling into “starvation mode”, which aids weight loss. I like to think of the all-indulging cheat day as a great psychological tool for weight loss. You never have to look at a piece of cheesecake and think “I can’t have this.” Sure you can! Just not until Saturday. Or whichever day you choose.
8. For the sake of heart health, cook with nothing less than olive oil (no canola or vegetable oil, try grapeseed or coconut oil for heart-healthy fats). And as I said before, watch the sodium. And drink plenty of water, but that’s something everyone should be doing.
And that’s pretty much it.
Now a couple of exceptions/tips/bits of realism:
- You’re gonna eat something you shouldn’t on a diet day. It is inevitable. We are all human beings. Just keep this rule in mind- if you eat something that contains 50 grams of carbs, you’d better be taking in at least 51 grams of protein in the same meal. I would have days where I really craved cheeseburgers. I bet you’re thinking, “Why didn’t you just wrap them in lettuce?” Well, it’s because I don’t have a vagina. A burger comes with a fucking bun and nothing less. So if my burger buns had 50 grams of carbs in total, I shot for as much protein as possible. Three types of cheese, bacon, and enormous beef patties later, BOOM- 85 grams of total protein and 50 grams of carbs. Successful diet meal.
- Pick some lifesaver snacks, and keep them stocked in massive quantities. Soda is a killer for me, and I cannot drink water all day. I had to stock Vitamin Water Zero’s and diet soda (which I normally don’t condone, since artificial sweeteners are terrible for you. On the plus side, there’s a great natural zero-cal soda called Zevia, it’s expensive but tastes great and is becoming more available at food stores) like a madman. String cheese (0 carbs, 7g of protein per stick), pickles (0 carbs, just a little salty), and peanuts (7g of protein, 3g of carbs per handful) became great snacks that can keep you decently satisfied until you can eat something a little better.
- Don’t kill yourself trying to take it too seriously. Consuming zero carbs in a day is unreasonable, not to mention that your body uses carbs for energy. You’ll have good days and bad days, just be as diligent as possible and remember that with persistence comes great results.
- A tip: another way to maximize the results is to take in a sufficient dose of caffeine on your cheat day, as it speeds gastric emptying and prevents that keg of Heineken and entire carrot cake from ruining your Monday weigh-in. However, if you have a heart condition or have been recommended to avoid stimulants, try taking a multiple digestive enzyme supplement, as it contains no stimulants and can aid in a similar fashion.
- Another tip: hide the scale. Weigh in no more than once a week.
- Yet another tip: try keeping a diet journal. This helps to track what has worked and what hasn’t, and you can further motivate yourself seeing the results right in front of your face.
Now remember, results will definitely vary. If you’re not that heavy to begin with, you won’t lose as much. Women lose weight slower than men (sorry ladies! Women retain more water and are hormonally imbalanced by nature, which causes you to store more fat as a result of stress). If you’re working out, you’ll lose weight slower (muscle weighs more, and is also denser, so your body has a nasty habit of burning muscle off before fat when you diet. All that protein intake should help prevent that). But ultimately, your physique will be better than someone not exercising.
Everything being said, it’s all up to you. I’m confident that anyone can follow this regimen and lose weight at a pretty quick pace. So have at it. And if any of you guys have some success with it or have any questions, drop me a message!
Top 5 Supplements You Wouldn’t Expect to Use for Weight Loss
You’ve all looked at them in the pharmacy. Or seen them on television. Or heard about them from that friend at the gym. Diet pills. They generally have bright, bold names like MEGA BURN or THERMO FUSION, and the bottles generally contain some sort of really bold claim about how you could lose 185 pounds in just three weeks! or something like that. Some may even have some fancy charts on the side of the box explaining how a group of subjects in one trial lost more weight than those taking a placebo. Seems enticing, right?
You’d be correct in thinking that these may be a surefire way to increasing your potential for weight loss. But are they healthy?
Yes and no. When taken correctly, thermogenics (read: fat burners) can be pretty useful to lose weight if you’re working out. However, most of these products are loaded with stimulants and should only be used in moderation (and that’s for those who are already healthy, if you have any sort of heart/blood pressure/autoimmune issue you should absolutely stay away). For those of you who don’t know how to pick out common stimulants in a weight loss product, I’ll list the most popular ones here:
1. Caffeine (the obvious one, proven to be okay when taken in moderation)
2. Synephrine (sometimes also labeled as bitter orange extract or citrus auriantium)
3. Ephedrine (an outlawed ingredient- if your product contains ephedrine chances are it isn’t technically legal to sell)
4. Yohimbine (or yohimbe, a natural stimulant with common interactions with medications and other supplements)
5. Guarana (plant extract containing caffeine)
6. Yerba Mate/Green Tea/Black Tea/White Tea (all plant extracts containing caffeine)
7. Theobromide (found in cocoa beans and kola nuts)
Not that I’m saying these are “dangerous”, but it’s something to consider avoiding when shopping weight loss products. They tend to raise the heart rate, increase blood pressure, and give certain people “jitters” and sort of a shaky sensation after consuming them. If you choose this route, then simply make sure you follow the directions very strictly in order to avoid problems.
Now, the point of this article was to provide alternatives. The following are supplements found very easily in a vitamin/health store which have been used in conjunction with weight loss regimens. And the best part is, every one of these has other benefits in addition to losing weight. Here goes:
1. L-Carnitine. Derived from amino acids in the liver, L-carnitine is a compound your body is already familiar with, as it produces it in trace amounts. When you supplement with it, it stores up in fat cells and helps to metabolize fat as an energy source for the muscles to feed off during exercise. And for those of you who remember anything from biology in college, fat is more than twice as effective an energy source as carbohydrates and protein (which your diet likely consists mostly of). So you get an increase in metabolism, an increase in stored fat burned during exercise, as well as some other benefits: it promotes healthy circulation, helps stave off neuropathy in diabetics, and is shown to improve cognitive function. Supplement with 1500-3000 mg daily, best absorbed on an empty stomach.
2. Alpha Lipoic Acid. An antioxidant fatty acid also found in your system, it helps convert sugar into energy in the body. This can help in the dieting sense in making better use of your carbohydrate intake. The theory is that anything good for the metabolism can help with weight loss, as the faster your metabolism is, the more efficient your body becomes at burning calories. Other benefits to ALA: protects cells from free radical damage, assists anti-aging, good for diabetics, and protects brain and nerve tissue. Take 600-1200 mg in divided doses daily.
3. Protein. It’s thought by many that protein is only for bodybuilders and athletes looking to get “jacked”. Well, toss that misconception in the trash right now. Protein is a necessary part of your diet that frequently gets overlooked. Muscles are made up of proteins, and without adequate protein intake, your muscle mass cannot be maintained. Therefore, your body cannot burn fat as efficiently. The FDA says you should have 50-60 grams of protein daily based on a 2000 calorie diet. However, if you’re looking to lose weight and maintain muscle, your intake should be 1 gram per pound of body weight per day (based on your goal weight). Example, you weigh 180, and want to weigh 150, take in 150 grams of protein daily. Sounds difficult, doesn’t it? That’s where protein shakes come into play. Shakes are a very cost-effective and simple way to add large amounts of protein into your diet.
Most people just need to learn how to shop for protein. First off, if weight loss is your goal, skip the Muscle Milk. It has too much fat, too much sugar, and while it seems like the obvious choice because it tastes good and you can buy it anywhere, it’s not. Weight loss requires something much leaner. A good protein should have at least 25-30 grams per scoop, less than 5 grams of carbohydrate, less than 2 grams of fat, and little to no sugar. Look for whey isolate as the primary form of protein in the mix, as it absorbs quickly and is optimal for use after exercise. Avoid casein and soy isolate as they absorb slower.
When to take it is really up to you. The most important time is right after you work out, as your body needs nutrients to recover from the workout. You can also use it to complement a balanced breakfast, in between meals, or as a snack after dinner. DO NOT USE AS A REPLACEMENT FOR EVERY MEAL. Many people become obsessed with losing weight, that they replace every meal with protein to reduce calorie intake. Do not, as it is not only unhealthy to deprive your body of the nutrients you get from real food, it will in time reverse the effects of your weight loss efforts when your system goes into caloric shock and starts storing everything you eat. Other benefits: improved immune function, increased metabolism, and increased HDL (good cholesterol) production.
4. 5-HTP (or 5-hydroxytryptophan). An amino compound which acts as a precursor to serotonin in the brain. Aids in reducing stress levels, sleeplessness, and anxiety issues. Well, it’s also shown in trials to help with weight loss. How? Reduced stress = lower cortisol levels = weight loss. Everyone has some sort of stress problem, whether it be work, kids, money, or all of the above. Take 100-300 mg a day (if 200 or more, in divided doses). Avoid if you take antidepressants.
5. Cayenne pepper. An herb containing capsaicin, which aids in increasing the metabolism. Remember what I said previously, whatever helps with energy can help with weight loss. It is also shown to decrease appetite. You have two options for supplementing with it: buy the fresh pepper whole or ground up, or purchase in capsules. Either way can be effective, and it is shown to be very useful for weight loss when combined with a healthy diet. Other benefits: promotes healthy blood flow, increase in sex drive, and helps maintain blood pressure. Caution: it is a pepper, it is spicy, and it can burn going down and in the stomach, which is normal but may be unpleasant for some.
So there you have it. Just remember that diet and exercise is always important when it comes to weight loss, diet being of the utmost importance. The more you contribute to your weight loss, the better results you will get.