Believe it or not it is time to start thinking about next year’s beach season and the physique you wish to step out onto the sun-soaked stage wearing. I know I may sound like I am off my rocker, as summer is actually coming to an end, however, by the end of this you will come to understand what I mean. Ready to dive into my madness? Okay here we go…
Every year we humans go through this ritualistic cycle of gaining weight, stressing over it, depressing ourselves over it, taking action and then feeling good for the span of about 6-8 weeks only to do it all over again. It’s called the four seasons and to be honest, the human body is supposed to go through fluctuations, now there is a difference between a fluctuation and a dramatic change. This brings me all to
Point #1: Do not try to fight your body’s natural rhythms by continually trying to lose weight by caloric restriction (a.k.a Dieting.) The human body is one of the most amazing self preservation machines in existence, you may win the battle but you will most certainly lose the war if you do not know when to yield a bit. “Cool analogy Joe but what are you trying to tell me?” What I am saying to you might be slightly controversial and definitely (dare I say…) bodybuilderesque but hear me out. Instead of trying to continually lose weight throughout the year, instead try to maintain the progress you have made, maybe even put on some more quality muscle. The human body is the master of change in order to prevent change whether it comes from internal or external forces. An external force would be a person trying to knock you over whereas an internal force would be lots of sugar in foods we eat, as examples. In response to strong external forces (a judo throw, linebacker, or your favorite pair of dumbbells) your body builds stronger muscle fibers to help you continue moving on your intended path. In response to strong internal forces like prolonged caloric restriction, your body does just about the only thing it can to keep things as streamlined as possible, unfortunately for us that means a decreased metabolic rate. In layman’s terms that means your body is burning less energy doing the same movements that got you great results before, meaning you see less progress on the scale and in your measurements even though you may be working just as hard and being just as careful with your food. This article and the one that follows might help to explain things in more detail. This brings me to…
Point #2 Metabolic Damage
One of my favorite people to follow (Dr. Layne Norton) just so happens to also be a pro natural bodybuilder, but trust me he is a scientist and a really good one. You will want to learn more about Layne Norton, trust me. Layne (and others in his field) postulate that there is such a thing as metabolic damage, your metabolism being damaged and suppressed by both voluntary and involuntary actions done either by yourself or others. Your metabolism (metabolic rate) continues to drop and drop as a result of caloric restriction, carbohydrate restriction and other factors. This process makes it increasingly difficult to lose bodyweight/get in shape to fit into that dress you purchased for summer gallivanting. Layne talks about it in this video log, in a much more verbose and colorful way than I ever could. Do yourselves a favor and take a listen (be warned, he does use very colorful language at times so do not watch if you are easily offended.) Essentially what he is saying is be aware of your diet and how much you are actually eating; it is really easy to under eat when you are on a mission to slim down. This can lead to a common pitfall of eating too few calories to try and continue weight loss and the cycle continues. If your goal is to have an amazing physique come spring and summer then I have a couple pieces of advice for you which you can, of course, take with a grain of salt.
- Begin tracking what you actually (key word actually) eat for a period of one week. That means whether it was a nice wholesome healthy meal a bag of Famous Amos, put it all down on paper, get a journal or a food log, just make sure there is something that you are keeping track of things. Do not try to change anything yet take write it all down.
- Forget the calories for right now, take a look at your macronutrients, meaning look into the grams of protein, carbohydrates and fat you get in each of the things you eat throughout your day. Most people, myself included at times, under eat on the protein and over eat on the carbohydrates and fat and for good reason…carbs simply make us happy. Well, they make us happy while we are eating them, maybe not so much when we don’t fit into those jeans we did two years ago.
- Go to nutrition, health, or food tracking websites like MyFitnessPal, Body Media (which has some pretty cool devices which will actually track your daily energy use. For the more hardcore who know they will be capable of manually tracking things themselves there is a website which is near and dear to my heart, it is pretty bare bones and is all about macronutrient tracking for whatever your goal might be. It is called If It Fits Your Macros and though it might look like it is for meat heads it is really just for people who are going to take things a little bit more hands on. Check some of these websites out so you can get your nutrition on track. Take a look at what you as an individual should be eating in order to maintain (not lose or gain) their current bodyweight, you might be surprised.
- With the new numbers and motivation, start eating right, kick butt during your workouts and do not give up. You will gain more muscle which will in turn help boost your metabolic rate up, this way when it comes time to rock out for summer it won’t be quite as hard and you won’t need to restrict yourself quite as much as you may have before.
Point #3 It may seem like a lot but I will give you a summation of all I have put above.
- Stop trying to diet and definitely do not continue dieting through winter! If you have been watching your calories since this spring you need to take a break so your metabolism can recover.
- Track your food for the period of one week.
- Find out what your Total Daily Estimated Expenditure or TDEE is to maintain where you currently are.
- Start eating to that level by slowly incorporating more carbs each week, about 10 more grams each week.
- Work out hard.
- Once you have done all of that, come talk to me about next steps.