You’ve probably done this before. You diet hard, get really lean, then when you reach the limits of your willpower you crack and proceed to shut down every all-you-can-eat buffet in town. A couple weeks later, you find yourself fatter than when you started dieting.
This is the bodybuilding version of yo-yo dieting and anyone that has been in the game long enough knows that it gets harder and harder to diet down and get leaner. You will have found that you need to do more and longer cardio sessions while also cutting your calories further and further. I call this brute force fat loss and it is dumb way to get lean.
The problem with brute force fat loss is that you get lean while working against your body. Modern Dieting is all about getting lean while working with your body. This means taking advantage of the hormones that are released from your fat cells to encourage fat loss using the window of time that exercise gives you which supercharges your muscle’s ability to use carbohydrates while enhancing the efficiency of your metabolism for a leaner body all year round.
Traditional Approach to Energy Balance and Fat Loss Diets
In order to lose fat you need to create an energy deficit, in that you need to be eating less calories than you are expending. Traditionally, we have just used equations to calculate our estimated daily calorie needs, and then by subtracting 500 or 1000 calories from that number, you have the number of calories that you should eat each day to lose fat.
- Daily calorie needs = 2500 calories
- Create the needed calorie deficit by only eating 2000 calories per day.
The problem with this approach is that it sets you up for fat loss failure right out of the starting blocks. When you begin restricting calories, your body instantly takes steps to become more efficient with the calories that you are giving it (e.g. you are able to do more work on the lower amount of calories). This makes fat loss harder.
While your previous calorie needs were 2500 calories, they soon become only 2300 calories (due to increased efficiency). Your calorie deficit is now only 300 calories. You will need to eat another 200 less calories to achieve the 500 calorie deficit making your daily intake 1800 calories.
A Modern Look at Energy Balance
Instead of creating your energy deficit from eating less, create the deficiency by burning more calories during the day (e.g. more resistance training and/or greater intensity, but not steady state low intensity cardio). This protects you against calorie cutting-related down regulations in metabolism and helps minimize changes in muscle efficiency that lead to decreased calorie burning.
- Daily calorie needs = 2500 calories.
- Add 200 calories per day of extra calorie burning.
- Continue to eat 2500 calories per day and you will have a fat loss hormone-optimized deficiency of 200 calories/d.
Due to the limitations in our ability to accurately measure calorie burning from exercise, the extra 200 calories you are burning each day are more likely closer to 300 calories. You will start losing fat without having to cut calories. The goal of Modern Dieting is to eat as much food as possible while still dropping fat. The approach creates a large capacity for fat loss as you can diet for longer periods without having to resort to starving yourself. This allows for better long term success rates with regards to keeping the fat off once you have reached your goal.
Modern Dieting Action Steps
- Keep a food log to determine how many calories you are eating each day to maintain your weight.
- Don’t create an energy deficit by subtracting calories, but instead create an energy deficit by adding exercise to your week.
- Get your baseline exercise time to 5hrs per week (primarily from resistance training) and eventually, move up to 7hrs, as needed. If you need more than 7hrs of training per week, you aren’t training with high enough intensity.
- You will start dropping fat, but don’t decrease your calories more frequently than every 2 weeks and only by 100-200 calories at a time. Whenever possible, increase your activity time or the intensity of your training instead of cutting calories.
- Losing fat at a slower rate is preferred. The longer it takes you to get lean, the easier time you will have preventing that fat from ever coming back.
The Truth About Modern Dieting
The information provided in this article, as well as this web-site blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice for any condition. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. By reading this disclaimer, you hereby agree and understand that the information provided in this column is not medical advice and relying upon it shall be done at your sole risk.