What I Learned Going from Fat to Fit
Back in January of 2013 I decided to get lean. Not just beach ready. I’m talking lean.
Here’s a photo that better illustrates what I mean:
The process took me around ~8 months and taught me a ton. Not only about my own body, but also about training and nutrition; specifically, debunking a lot of the (incorrect) beliefs I’d held for years about changing my body composition.
These are a few things I learned along the way.
1. Hire a GOOD coach to manage your fat loss.
When you start dieting, your mind will begin to mess with you, especially as you get leaner.
This leads people to make stupid decisions like, dropping carbs too low or adding in unnecessary amounts of cardio. Having someone else who knows what they’re doing manage your fat loss for you with an objective eye makes the process a lot easier on you mentally. Objectivity is important and having someone hold you accountable helps keep you on track and motivated.
2. Track and hit your macros
A lot of people begin by worrying about questions like:
(1) what time should I eat?
(2) should I have carbs pre-workout or post workout?
(3) six meals or three meals a day?
(4) should I eat carbs and fats separately? Blah blah blah.
Understand that the biggest key to your success will be hitting OVERALL calorie and macronutrient targets for the day.
– For fat loss:
Calorie Intake: simply take your bodyweight in pounds and multiply it by 10–12.
Protein intake: set protein to 1g/lb
Fats: set fat intake anywhere between 0.3–0.6g/lb (lower end if you prefer a higher carb diet, higher end if you prefer a lower carb diet)
Carb intake: set carb intake with whatever calories you have left remaining once protein and fat intake is set.
3. Keep lifting heavy and with intensity
I used to believe the nonsense I’d read in useless ‘fitness’ magazines: Change my routine to a high rep, low weight protocol in the hopes of getting leaner. This did the opposite and made me look even worse.
What I learned was that you shouldn’t digress too far from the programme you were using during your muscle gaining phase. This will ensure that you’re retaining as much strength as possible, which is a good measure of how much muscle is being maintained.
Lift weights to retain and build new muscle–let your calorie deficit handle the ‘fat burning’.
4. Measure Progress
‘You can’t manage what you don’t measure’ is an old management adage that holds true for physique transformation.
Now I know we all have that one friend who can ‘wing it’ and get away with not really tracking–understand that he’s the exception not the rule (majority of these people don’t have a clue what they’re doing either, it ‘just works’).
For you to be able to track and make intelligent adjustments you need data. This is what I was tracking:
- Daily weigh ins
Your weight will fluctuate day to day. Weighing yourself daily in similar conditions will allow you to take an average for the week, which will give you a better idea of the trend in weight loss for you to make adjustments.
- Strength / Workout log
There will come a point in your fat loss where calories will be low so energy will be low. At this point the goal isn’t to be setting new PRs. It is to maintain as much strength and muscle as possible. Tracking your training will allow you to see when this is happening so you can reduce the volume / make adjustments to your training when you reach this point.
Duh! *see point 2*
- Weekly photos
*see point 7*
5. However long you THINK you need to lean down. DOUBLE IT.
I thought i’d be shredded in 12 weeks (Hey, I was reading a lot of Men’s Health at this point in my life, OK?).
It took me around 30 weeks from the start of January to when i ended my cut in July. A lot of people (ESPECIALLY guys,go figure) seem to think they are leaner than what they actually are.
Be realistic with how much weight you have to lose and set a time frame that will allow you to lose the weight without losing your sanity and/or resorting to a crash diet *see point 9*
6. Follow a Flexible Diet
Before taking this step I was your typical ‘clean eater’. Six small meals a day, consisting of certain foods I’d deemed were ‘healthier’ because they were ‘clean’ and omitting other foods because I’d deemed them ‘bad’ but then going totally blowing my diet on the weekends in the guise of a ‘cheat day’.
Being flexible with my diet and fitting in foods into my allotted macros for the day allowed me to satisfy cravings for certain foods without blowing my diet.
I was also able to go out and eat with friends and family without getting neurotic or guilt trippin’ because I ate something that I thought was ‘bad’.
7. Take weekly Progress photos
When you see yourself every day it gets harder to notice changes, something tangible like photographs will help with adjustments, but more importantly looking back on the changes you’ve made will help motivate you to keep pushing when it begins to get tough. A few tips when taking your progress photos:
-Same time of day (best time will be upon waking, after using the bathroom)
-Same day every week (ideally)
-Use the same camera
-Take photos under the same lighting
Following these steps will enable you to see how subtle the changes are: taking weekly photos allowed me to track progress that I wouldn’t otherwise have spotted (Bro tip: checking yourself out daily doesn’t help)
8. Accept that you will get hungry
There comes a point in your cut where the hunger will become more prominent. This will vary from individual to individual. Some things that I found to help :
– Make smarter food choices
I’m all for flexible dieting, but if you are trying to fit in poptarts, ice cream and chocolate bars on a daily basis at the exclusion of more satiating foods such as vegetables you are going to struggle. Trust me on this one, i’m talking from personal experience. Foods such as veggies helped immensely with satiation and helped keep me feeling full between meals.
A couple of other foods worth mentioning:
- White potatoes
- Any type of Beans
- Zero fat Greek yoghurt
– Consider Intermittent fasting
I found IF (Intermittent fasting) to be extremely helpful at keeping hunger at bay. I would usually have my last meal around 7/8pm and then not eat the next day until around lunchtime (1/2pm). It was tough at first but after a week it became easy to just wake up, have a cup of coffee and get on with my day. It also meant I was able to eat 3 large meals which helped with satiety during my cut.
I kept the 3 meals around my workout to help with performance in the gym and forenhanced nutrient partitioning.
9. Realise that ‘slow and steady’ wins the race
Everyone wants to get lean YESTERDAY.
Hence why the majority will jump on some crazy crash diet, drop a lot of weight (yes, this includes muscle), feel like shit and then once they end their ‘diet’, if they even make it that far, binge.
I was that guy.
Don’t be that guy.
I was losing (roughly) 1–1.5lbs of weight a weekat the start of the cut, and then as I got leaner the fat loss was slowed to around 0.5lbs a week. This ensured that we were coaxing the fat loss and preserving as much muscle as possible.
10. Think: ‘I’m in this for the long haul’
When I realised that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, the constant wanting to get ‘shredded yesterday’ mentality went away, and I really started enjoying and appreciating the journey.
Too many people get hung up on the end result. Embrace the process and the end result will be achieved a lot faster and you will have more fun.
11. Know that getting lean Isn’t complex, but It Isn’t easy either.
I was that guy who would never track my food intake but read all the stuff on why I wasn’t losing weight due to a ‘hormonal imbalance’.
You will lose weight once you begin to burn more than you eat. The hard part is sticking to the plan once life kicks in.
Your homies are going out, it’s one night (“Ah fuck it…”), but then that one night turns into a week, then a month, and before you know it you’re right back to where you started.
Stick to the plan and trust the process. The results will come. Don’t try to overcomplicate the basics.
Also, life happens, that one night coming off of your diet isn’t going to kill your progres : jump right back on to that metaphorical horse and you’ll be fine.
12. Appreciate that your physique doesn’t define who YOU are
This was probably the biggest lesson I learnt. And if you take anything away from this article, please let it be this.
I always wanted to get shredded because I thought when I did I would get all the girls and get mad respect from the fellow Brosefs.
Guess what? Nothing really changed.
Yeah, I got compliments from people at the gym and a couple dozen likes on my photos on social media but this fantasy I had of becoming some ‘superstar’ (fuck me, right?) when I got shredded was just that: a fantasy.
Don’t start on your fat loss journey with an extrinsic goal or for the sake of pleasing others because I can assure you that cup will never fill and you will never be satisfied.
Do it because you want to do it for yourself. To be healthier? Be more confident?
Whatever your reason, but don’t let your physique dictate who you are or what you can be.
And for the love of God, don’t be an asshole just because you have abs now. OK?
That’s all folks!
Well, that’s it. These were some of the biggest lessons I learned. Hopefully, anyone looking to start their own physique transformation journey can take something away from here.
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