You can’t FORCE the body
When working with clients, I am frequently asked “what is the plan for the next few weeks?” My response – “I don’t know.” Wow, some genius I am huh?! Well in all honesty, yes – the fact that I don’t have a “plan” is what sets me apart. True COACHES (note I did not say trainers) will react to the body, not force the body. “Force the body and it reacts, coax the body and it changes.” – I have heard this in variations from two people I have a ton of respect for, Chris Aceto and Scott Abel.
Think back to when you were a kid. Remember when you wanted something from your parents – maybe a new video game, new clothes, or just some extra money for the weekend. Did you just go to them and ask for it? Sometimes yes, but a lot of times you would just randomly do extra chores, offer to help them with things around the house, be extra nice, or anything else possible to get on their good side. Why? You were coaxing the response you wanted from them. You didn’t just go and demand they give you money, you buttered them up so that when you made your request there was no way they could say no.
Guess what, the body really isn’t much different. How many times have you heard about a person starving themself – surely we all know someone (if not yourself). Were their results good? Chances are their body either fought back and held onto fat or they just became emaciated and looked worse than they did initially. Conversely, think about someone trying to gain weight (muscle.) If they ate buffets non stop for weeks on end they would look like fat bastard, not Arnold. In both situations, its a classic situation of the body being forced, and fighting back.
Recently I had a client in this exact situation – see his story HERE
Lets look at the processes of forcing vs coaxing the body for fat loss.
Using the formula I have listed previously, lets start a person’s fat loss calories at Bodyweight x 12. For a 200lb person this will be 2400 calories. You start the diet, and you lose 3-4 pounds the first week – awesome. The second week maybe you only lose 1, thats still cool. You get anxious, you say well if my calories are 2400 and I’m losing, what if i only did 2000 calories – so you try it. Well you lose another 2-3 pounds in week 3 – cool. Then another pound in week 4 – man you are killing it. Now you are ready to suffer, so you drop the calories to 1600. End of the week comes and your weight did NOTHING. Thats ok, you are patient, you stay the course for another week. Weigh in time comes and you GAINED two pounds!!! WHAT?!?!?!? Seriously you just suffered for 2 weeks on 1600 calories and you gained weight, that can’t be right. Sadly it is, that is your body’s defense mechanism, and its in full force!
Now let’s go through what would’ve been a better approach. Your starting point is great, 2400 calories is a good place to stat. Obviously your macros are based on your body comp goals and body type, but thats for another article. Given that the first 2 weeks go smoothly, lets ride out your diet for a third. Chances are this is a time when you very little weight loss if any. Instead of trying to create a larger caloric deficit (via less food or more cardio), lets try to sweet talk that body into dropping fat – lets give it MORE food. I like to do this via a refeed. Refeeds come in several variations, they can be a cheat meal, high carb day, cheat day, or a high carb feeding post workout. How you implement the refeed will be largely dependent on your base diet plan and body type (this is where proper coaching becomes important). Now refeeds don’t have magical powers, so the scale will go up – thats ok, you can’t get fat in one meal or one day! The extra weight is water, just a small osmotic imbalance following the meal(s). Once the water is off after 2-3 days, the fat loss will resume. So at the end of the week, you are actually down another pound or two from where you were on the morning of the refeed. This pattern can be very useful of the course of a diet if used properly.
Now lets look at cardio.
I rarely start clients with cardio (unless they are already doing it, then its just adjusting it). Obviously by now you know my views on cardio, so I won’t go on another rant.
The dieting process at some point requires creating a larger caloric deficit, so yes cardio can be used. However, there is a point of diminishing returns. Week after week, I get people telling me they have increased their cardio to nearly 2 hours a day – WHAT?!?!?!? I’m not sure I even have time for that! So what do you do from there? Well its quite obvious that you can try to force more fat off by going to 3 hours a day (yes i’ve heard it done) or you can coax the body by actually eliminating cardio for a few days. Yes, I said it – DROP YOUR DAMN CARDIO for a few days. You will feel better, recover better and your body will cooperate. Now don’t get comfortable, there is a point of diminishing returns there too – so eventually you will have to bring more activity level back to your plan. However, I prefer it be something other than boring treadmill walks. My clients will attest – overall workload always decreases as the goal gets closer – for those that don’t understand that, go review human physiology!
So putting this altogether lets make this really easy.
The diet process should start simple, as you progress and the body is leaner it doesn’t want to give up that last bit of fat so we need to coax it off via the use of refeeds (and sometimes overall increased calories.) Use these techniques properly and results will follow.
In terms of training, the beginning phases should be the most intense. As you get closer to your goals your body fat is lower, but remember the body doesn’t necessarily like being that low on fat – it wants to maintain homeostasis. Keeping this in mind, overall workload and intensity will have to decrease if you want to continue your results. The take away from this – STOP THE CRAZY AMOUNTS OF CARDIO – sorry, i said i wouldn’t rant.
After reading this you probably think that it all seems backwards – it is. Dieting and training is largely opposite of what you would expect, embrace that and you are well on your way to having the physique you want