The amount of food (and more important calories) just creeps up on you ever so slowly. Breakfast, morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, desert and something before bed, not to mention snacks such as biscuits (or cookies for you Yanks) and milk. Hold on though, I was eating 5-6 times a day just like you are supposed to for fat-loss. Yeah but it was crap. Soft drinks, sweets, meat pies and butter on my bread to name but a few things.
Anyway after my last season of rugby (to date, I hope to resume playing next year) I got serious about the iron and started to improve my diet. My self-esteem increased and I felt better about myself. Today, my body fat levels are around 10-12% and I have done bulking phases and such so I'm pretty happy where I am. This article is the first in a two part series explaining how you can achieve success like me. Part 1 (this article) will deal with diet, and Part 2 will deal with training, both cardio and weights. Don't worry if you have never trained properly before either because I'll explain how to get started.
When trying to loose weight, diet is the most important aspect. You could run 2 hours everyday but still get fat if you eat 10,000 calories. The following are some great tips and advice I have picked up along the way.
1. The Clean Up
This is without a doubt the most important part of your efforts and probably the easiest. What is the clean up? Quite simply it is getting rid of all the crap. Replacing and eliminating fats and sugars. Other carbs and protein are important too must you must worry about fat first. How do I clean up? Well it really is simple. For example: Replace full cream milk with skim or no-fat milk and white bread with brown or whole meal bread. Eliminate cheeses and butters. No more cookies or cake, ice cream or other sweets.
"Well Callum, that's easier said than done."
Yes it is. And also no it's not. Lots of people won't drink skim milk because they don't like the taste, I know I was one of them but now I cannot stand the taste of full cream milk. It just takes time to adjust. A tip is to mix full cream and skim in the one glass. Start off 75/25, then after a couple of days 50/50, the 25/75 until you get to 0/100. Now skim will probably still take a while to get used to but it will become normal. The butter and margarine situation is even easier, just don't do it. Don't put any on your bread or toast - simple!
The hardest part for most people would be the sweets. I initially had that problem too but I used a little will power to overcome it. Next time you are confronted with a chocolate bar or such just say- "Sure that will taste great, but when I finish it I won't be tasting it and all I will get is the empty calories." I don't need to do this anymore, I no longer crave sweets at all. Another explanation though is the great tasting protein powders out now. There is nothing better than a serve of chocolate protein powder mixed with dry oats and a little milk. If you cannot say no to sugars and fats and make this effort you don't deserve abs.
2. Eat more often, 5-6 times a day
You might think that if you want to lose weight you should eat less. Well yes, but you should also eat more often. Every 2.5-3 hours in fact. By doing this you will rev your metabolism and ensure that your body doesn't go and break down proteins, leveling you with less muscle and a lower metabolic rate.
When you need to eat 5-6 times a day you could eat 3 meals and 2-3 snacks, making sure they are high in protein and low in fat. Or even better than meals and snacks is to eat 5-6 identical (in macronutrient) meals per day. I will explain more on this shortly.
3. Up your protein
As you will read in the training part of this article a muscle at rest burns calories, so the more muscle you have the more calories you burn. You need to do 2 things to increase your muscle mass. Firstly, weight train and secondly increase the amount of protein you eat. Try to eat protein at every meal. This should ensure you do not reach a catabolic state in which muscle is burnt for fuel.
4. Get your macronutrients right
You can make quite good progress without monitoring your calories and nutrients to a great extent, however at some point you will plateau and will need to pay closer attention. The are many different theories around such as 10 calories per pound of bodyweight per day and then divide those into the desired numbers. One theory I recently discovered was by a Brisbane contest prep guru, who have been involved in many transformations of regular people as well as competitive bodybuilders and he also owns a chain of supplement stores (that has no relevance nor is it particularly interesting). He suggests to lose weight you need to eat 2g of protein per kg and 3g of carbs per kg. He also claims the numbers of calories per day are irrelevant if you get the macro's right. As vitally important as the ratios is that you consume them evenly over your 6-8 meals. Here is an example for a 80kg trainee trying to lose weight.
[Editor's Note: 1 kg = 2.2 lbs]
Protein requirements= 80kg x 2g = 160g per day / 6 meals= 27g of protein six times a day. Carb requirements= 80kg x 3g = 240g per day / 6 meals= 40g of carbs six times a day. So you would eat six meals with this ratio of nutrients a day. I have used this method during my last cutting phase and must say it really works well. The numbers are a little lower than most would recommend but if you plateau give it a go.
5. Don't try to bulk, if you feel you are very overweight
My motto is it is better to get rid of what you don't want first, then worry about what you want. If you try bulking with a body fat over 20% or even sometimes 15% you will probably just blow up even more to unhealthy levels. Drop your fat and then worry about building up those muscles. You will also have the illusion of looking bigger anyway when you have a lower body fat level.
This is a personal choice. I don't think there is any need for thermogenics especially when you could just have a cup of coffee before you train. ECA's are illegal in most parts of the world (and there probably are reasons for this) so the choice is yours. I don't recommend any of these products. However, I do recommend multi-vitamins and protein powders. Getting enough protein can be hard without them, especially if you are just having protein with no carbs such as before bed. You could have a can of tuna (!) or what I do is put a serve of a protein powder in a bowl, add a very tiny amount of milk and mix until I get a gooey pudding like consistency, too much milk however will ruin it.
Also, I have discovered pure whey proteins don't mix well in this method. The best are casein and whey or soy, egg and whey combinations. Besides which you should not be having a pure whey shake before bed, you need a slower digesting protein. I'm not sure of any good international brands which make such proteins but in Australia choose something like Vital Strength's Total Protein, it my favorite and the cheapest.
There you go, just a few handy strategies which helped transform me into an almost unrecognizable character to me before. Part 2 will discuss training methods both weights and cardio and maybe anything I left out of this. If you have any questions feel free to email me and I will happy to answer them to the best of my ability.
So until part 2,