Weight Loss Simplified
The science of losing weight is a simple equation.
Calories in < Calories out = Weight Loss
This means, by burning more calories than you’re consuming, your body is forced to look for energy from other sources in order to meet its own demands for proper function.
Simply put, this means that fat is nothing more than energy or fuel used by the body. When food intake (external energy) is restricted, the body resorts to its own reserves.
Not quite, there’s a hard part to weight loss too.
One of the most difficult things to do whilst in a caloric deficit is to maintain muscle tissue. When calorie intake drops, the body becomes catabolic. This means that it resorts to what it has on reserve for energy and even though fat is an energy source for the body, it’s the body’s secret weapon against starvation. This means that it will opt to use this option last unless special provisions are made.
First, ensure that you're consuming adequate protein (roughly 0.8-1.2g per pound of body weight) so that your body has the tools it requires for muscle repair. When looking to lose weight, it’s generally thought that keeping your protein on the higher side of what you think you need is probably best. This is due to the thermogenic and anabolic effect of protein intake but this is for another article.
The second thing you must do to maintain muscle mass in a deficit, is to be sure to incorporate heavy training sets or “density sets” into your training program. This goes with the saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” The heavy sets create a strong stimulus that tells your body it needs to hold on to this muscle since it's constantly under a specific amount of stress.
You always want to aim to lose weight slowly. Ideally, losing somewhere between 0.5% and 1% of your body weight per week is probably best but consistently shooting for 1.5lbs to 3lbs of weight loss per week is standard. You will always lose weight faster at the beginning of a diet, as you continuously diet, weight loss will slow and certain tricks may need to be implemented if weight loss stalls but more on this later.
If you aren’t losing weight, then you’re eating too many calories to allow for it to happen. Consider further reducing your intake, increasing your activity levels or incorporating a combination of both until you alter the caloric equation enough to continue losing weight again.
Now, read that above sentence again.
And One more time for good measure.
As far as your other macros are concerned, so long as you're consuming at least 0.3g of fat per pound of body weight, they can fall in line with personal preference. This staple of keeping up on 0.3g of fat per pound is the most neglected part of most diets… most dieters tend to avoid fat like the plague.
The problem with avoiding fat is that ALL of your hormones are created from it, including testosterone which is the most anabolic of all hormones. Testosterone helps maintain many systems of the body but is most known for helping people maintain muscle mass which, as we talked about already, is something that’s already difficult to do in a calorie deficit.
If you follow all these instructions and you’re still not losing weight then you’re simply not in a calorie deficit. Outside of medical issues that can only be assessed and treated by a doctor, there is ONE and only ONE exception to this deficit rule.
During extended periods of calorie restriction (6+ weeks), the secretion of a hormone called leptin slowly starts to decrease. This is important because leptin is secreted primarily by fat cells (also stomach, heart, and skeletal muscle) and is directly connected to the hypothalamus area of the brain. It is a messenger hormone that lets the brain know when there’s too much fat or too little in the body. As you can guess, this directly impacts hunger and in turn, metabolism.
Though the effect on metabolism isn’t well known and somewhat speculative, it has been shown that heightened leptin levels serve purpose in progressing weight loss. When leptin levels are high, hunger is suppressed and the metabolism is raised to an extent. As leptin levels drop, the antagonist hormone, called ghrelin which is produced in the lining of the stomach is raised and in turn, the hunger response increases and the metabolism slows.
I bet your wondering what to do when leptin levels decrease and weight loss stalls huh?
Well, you cheat on your diet of course!
No, not really… what you actually do is implement a calculated “refeed day." This is not a cheat day. Cheat days normally consist of loads of fat laced, sugary treats or extremely excessive calorie intake which can actually unravel days or in some cases, weeks of hard dieting which is completely counterproductive. Instead, plan a refeed day where you eat “simple carbs” in excess but spread out evenly throughout the day in a calculated manner.
Studies show that leptin levels increase most drastically and efficiently when supersaturation is present which means that an extra 300g-400g+ carbs spread out with your normal meals is most optimal for leptin recovery. The most satisfying part about this day is that the carbs should be primarily simple sugars because they create the biggest insulin spike which drives the effect. Sugary non-fat candy, jelly and rice cakes, or even juices are good. Ideally, white rice is best for tracking purposes but source doesn’t make a huge difference.
You also won’t have to worry about fat gain because all of these carbs will be shuttled into your muscle to replenish your long-depleted glycogen stores. Your muscles will soak up all the carbs like a sponge and following this day, you may even notice that your physique looks better than it has throughout the whole diet thus far. This is because super-compensation (or saturation) is actually a form of muscle manipulation that can be used for special events. I'll explain more about this in future articles.
From a training perspective, you should be much stronger after a refeed day because your muscles will have much more energy to burn through and the pump from the workout should be much more prominent. This is due to the fact that every 1g of carbs shuttled into the muscle pulls 2.7g of water into the muscle with it as well.
You can imagine how that feels!
It isn’t unheard of to get stronger when dieting either, however you may find that at some point during a "cut," strength does diminish, so think about increasing volume through additional sets, reps, sessions or frequency rather than worrying too much about lifting more weight and breaking personal bests.
Still remember though, to keep those density sets in the routine, even one exercise per muscle group, per week would be sufficient. This will help to trick your body into thinking it needs to hold onto that muscle. I mean after all, the body is all about self-preservation so it'll do what it needs in order not to be crushed by the weight you're throwing at it.