Why did you start your exercise regimen? Did you start working out to alter body composition? Did you want to lose some weight? Drop a few pant sizes? Was your plan to use weight training and running as the catalyst to get you to your body goal? Here is a fact that may be hard for you to believe, but it is the truth. You, my friend are a bodybuilder. Now not every bodybuilder gets on the stage in speedos and body oil, but every bodybuilder does do rep after rep, or sprint after sprint to alter their aesthetic appearance. Every bodybuilder does use exercise and nutrition to shape and mold the body they want.
As in every other area in life, your wellness journey will have peaks and valleys. At times you will be in your zone, watching everything you eat, feeling accomplished, and ready for your next challenge. Other times you will swallow two pints of ice cream whole before the commercial break is over.
Most athletes you see on TV and in magazines, and even fitness models are not that lean, chiseled, toned(insert adjective here) all year round. They are prime examples of embracing the peaks and valleys in life to get in the best shape they can. An athlete’s or bodybuilders peak is usually an event, the start of their particular sport season, or even a photo shoot. Your peak may be a little different than theirs, but you must own it and be prepared for it in a similar way to maximize your success. Maybe your peak will be a wedding, class reunion, awards ceremony, milestone birthday, graduation, summertime, vacation, anything where you will want to look back at the picture and say “Damn, I look good”.
Based off my personal experiences preparing to get on stage, it takes a dedicated 8 weeks to notice a real difference. Now I am not saying you can’t make major improvements in 4 or 6 weeks, but 8 weeks give you a little more room to fit in a cheat meal a week in and still be extremely successful. During the time in between shows (my peak), I like to follow the 80/20 rule (some weeks 70/30 when I fall off track). This keeps me at a comfortable weight and body fat. I usually eat 4-6 times a day, medium sized meals, and that includes the snacking. So, that gives me two cheat meals, for me and the family to go out to eat, and a snack or two per week. Since EVERYTHING else is already planned out, that allows me to enjoy the 20% without too much worrying. This is my healthy balance where I can enjoy life, and when it time for a personal peak, I dial in for 8 week. During this 8-weeks, my mission is to reduce as much body-fat, (not weigh) as possible and here are the top 5 things I do, that you can use to help you lose a few extra inches.
- Calorie Deficit
Some coaches and trainers in the fitness community are not into counting calories as a means of weight loss. But one thing I can say that all trainers and coaches do believe is that you cannot out -train a bad diet. If you do four hours on the treadmill, that can be cancelled out in 30 seconds by 6 oreo cookies.
My thought on calorie counting can be summed up by an old business quote I have heard in many different capacities, not sure who the author is, but it goes as follows “what gets measured, gets managed.”
No matter how hard you train, you need to burn more calories than you eat to lose weight. There are a few ways you can do this. Option one is to starve yourself. The end result of this will be losing the some body fat, and the muscle you worked hard to build, so that is not the best option. Option two would be to workout/move more. This is something I do suggest you do, but you don’t have to be obsessive about it and run on the treadmill for 8 hours a day. Option 3, the one I recommend, is to find the healthy balance of both option one and two. Start out by cutting around 500 calories a day. Since one pound is 3,500 calories (500 x 7 days=3,500), you will have subtracted a pound off your frame just from the food side of things alone. During my eight weeks of preparation, and the few weeks lead up to it, I religiously use the myfitnesspal app on my phone to track whatever I eat, this will give me a good estimate of my caloric intake.
Another method I use to assist me in this caloric deficit stage is buying smaller plates. I am not a fan of doing dishes, so when the family goes grocery shopping we buy paper plates, plastic utensils and cups. I buy the smaller size plates, and measure serving sizes off those as a way to eat less.
Another option for those that want to have no margin for error is a food scale. I was able to buy one on amazon for ten dollars. It tells me the exact number of grams of macronutrients something is. This, paired with the myfitnesspal app, make me feel like a mad scientist in a lab coming up with a new experiment.
I don’t expect anyone to weigh out every ounce of food, or track every calorie for the rest of your life, but once you do it a few times, it will give you a good idea of the portion sizes and how much you are really eating.
- Cut the Carbs/Sugar/carb cycling
Carbs are the most fun to eat; some of the best foods known to man/woman are in this macronutrient group. More than likely your comfort food, your favorite treat, breads, pastas, and ice cream are here. This is where serious discipline comes into play. This is the one that gets me every time, not so much because of my love for oreos, but because I love to season my food with different carb filled sauces and seasonings when I prep my food. When this part gets rough, which it will, just remember to keep your eyes on the prize, and not live for the moment.
As you may already know carbs are the main source of energy for your body, but what happens if you eat more carbs then you need? Once you digest them, the carbohydrates turns into glucose (sugar), which circulates through the bloodstream for immediate energy. Since glucose is a sugar, your body likes to keep the amount of sugar in your blood within a certain range. Excess glucose is pushed out the bloodstream to storage spaces by insulin, where it bonds together and form glycogen. Your body stores the glycogen to two primary places, the liver and muscle. After not eating for a few hours, the blood glucose level will be low, and the stored glycogen can gets converted back to glucose and used if necessary. So, the problem with glucose and glycogen arises when the blood glucose level is to high, and your storage space in the liver and muscle is full. Since that excess glucose has to be pushed somewhere out of your bloodstream, it gets pushed into the fat cells. The more carbs you eat that can’t be used immediately, the more a hormone called insulin pumps glucose through the bloodstream to those fat cells to store and expand.
This process goes on and on, and gives that sugar a home on your hips, or belly, or wherever else you may store it. This is how adipose tissue (body fat percentages) increases. What you want to do to decrease body fat is take in only enough carbohydrates for immediate use, so once those storage spaces are depleted, your body will start using that stored energy (body fat) for fuel. This is so hard to do because carbs are the easiest thing to find wherever you go. Amongst all the nutritional sabotage out there, start reaching for nutrition dense carbs over the processed ones first. By this I mean fruit over cookies, and veggies over bread, A few of my favorites are steel cut oats (the oatmeal you cook), and sweet potatoes, both of which digest slower and will help you feel full longer between meals. Another benefits of slower digesting carbs is that they won’t spike the blood sugar levels by immediately bombarding your blood with glucose, but instead sending it out gradually.
Since carbohydrates are the primary source of energy, cutting your carb intake will have a noticeable effect on you. There will be points in the day where you feel sluggish, or grouchy. You are now successfully depleting your stored carbs and your body in beginning to tap into those fat reserves. Carb cycling is a simple act of taking in slightly more nutrient dense carbohydrates on workout days, and less on you’re the days you don’t workout. With the help of myfitnesspal, I am able to track my protein/carb and fat intake on a pie scale.
- Hydrate with water
Liquid calories creep up on you, especially since there is sugar/carbs in most drinks, which will have the same effect as food carbs. I keep those calories out of my diet for the few weeks. 90-95% of the time I will be drinking water or green tea with freshly squeezed lemon. I will have my cup of coffee (only 8 oz. black) in the morning or to avoid a midday crash, but that is where it stops. Check my gallon a day blog post for more information on proper hydration.
- Move more
In order to burn those extra inches, you must move more. When it comes to burning calories and altering your physique, weight training is king, but cardio has its place assisting in that process. Aside from my time in the gym, I add more cardio sessions to my week. I add walking (3/4 days a week 30-45mins) at a brisk enough pace to sweat. So, grab the kids, the spouse or the dog and walk the neighborhood. I also add 2-3 days of HIIT training, (High Intensity Interval training). I like to switch these up between hill sprints, boxing, swimming, or jumping rope. After a nice warm up, I usually do 15-20 minutes of work tabata style. This is 40/45 seconds of all out work, followed by a 15/20 second recovery (rest), and repeat for that time. This is similar to what we do in class, and is extremely effective because of the “after-burn effect,” also known as Excess Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) is what makes this so effective. Your body goes into a state of oxygen debt (consuming more oxygen to restore and return to normal resting state Homeostasis), and has to increase your metabolism for up to 36 hours. This should carry you right into the next workout, where the process will repeat.
- Stop eating 3-4 hours before bedtime
Get in the habit of going to bed hungry, not starving, but a little hungry. This will assist you in being in a calorie deficit. During these 8 weeks, I consume all my calories between the 8am-7pm window. My biggest meal is breakfast, and my smallest meal is dinner. Why do I need a huge meal at the end of my day when I will just be around the house for the rest of the night?
In closing, using these strategies is similar to sprinting. You will not be able to sprint all out for a full mile, but with training and discipline, sprinting a portion of that mile is possible. It is extremely hard to continue this type of dedication to any cause year round, but in the short term you can harness the external motivation of whatever your personal peak is to get the ball rolling. Once you have successfully reached your peak, reward yourself. Take a day, two at most to enjoy the fruits of your labor, then get back to your healthy balance and embrace the 80/20 rule. This will keep you within a manageable range of your results. For the next peak, you should be able to take the results to the next level. Now to see the success, set a start date and finish date, and plan backwards. Let your clothes be the gauge of your success.
“Blood Sugar Levels: How High Glucose Levels Affect Your Body.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2017.
Cosgrove, Rachel. Drop Two Sizes: A Proven Plan to Ditch the Scale, Get the Body You Want & Wear the Clothes You Love! (Women’s Health) . N.p.: n.p., 2013. Print.
Jensen, Jørgen, Per Inge Rustad, Anders Jensen Kolnes, and Yu-Chiang Lai. “The Role of Skeletal Muscle Glycogen Breakdown for Regulation of Insulin Sensitivity by Exercise.”Frontiers in Physiology. Frontiers Research Foundation, 2011. Web. 11 Feb. 2017.