The biggest problem with the “calories in/calories out” crowd is that they miss the real magic. There’s no question that calorie counting is a great tool for making people more aware of how much they do and how much they eat. But if you keep banging that same “do more/eat less” hammer, your body will simply adjust (i.e., down-regulate). In a moment, I’ll tell you how to fix that cycle and see long-term results using your Fitbit. But first, a warning: It will probably scare the hell out of you and most people will never even try it.
In my last article, I talked about how most people are using their activity trackers wrong. Basically, without normalizing and then increasing your calories and weight strategically, you will hit a wall. You have two options when it comes to busting through that wall. Option #1 is to further reduce calories, lose sleep, decrease performance, and stress yourself out mentally and physically. Option #2 is the one we recommend, and it’s the method that gets you results that show up in the mirror AND in the gym. You strategically normalize your intake and get your hormonal/metabolic math in line again.
Here’s what’s interesting about Option #2. Fat loss can stall when you reduce calories, but a period of normalization (i.e., eating what you burn) will often lead to fat loss. Let me explain why.
Diet Breaks Gone Bad
It’s well-known within the scientific community (and doesn’t take much common sense, really) that you can’t just starve yourself without some negative health consequences. I also like the saying, “You can’t hate yourself lean.” So what do you do if you have fat to lose but you don’t know the best path to get there?
First, you can sign up with Eat To Perform and we can walk you through a sustainable, patient approach to fat loss. Let’s face it, what you did in the past was probably more aggressive than it needed to be, and in the end, probably landed you with more fat than you would like.
We can reverse that, and here’s how. We walk you through a gradual process of stabilizing your food intake for long enough so your body remembers what it’s like to eat a normal amount of food. If you have been dieting for the last 25 years, this is probably the only process that will ever show you real results that last. The caveat is that you have to be patient. One of those negative health consequences I mentioned earlier is that it will take some time to reverse out of years of restrictive dieting, and I’m going to challenge you to change your way of thinking a bit.
There is good news! This process of normalizing your food intake will also result in fat loss. The reason is simple. If you were deficient in calories, carbs, fat and protein, then finding balance makes sense. A lot of those “naughty” foods (potatoes, rice, even bread) are exactly what you can add in for some energy density. All that food (energy) can be converted into lean mass with the appropriate amount of training stimulus.
This doesn’t mean you need to kill yourself in the gym. In fact, that may be more of the problem than you realize. I will explain in a bit.
Dealing with Diminishing Returns
We work with all different body types at ETP. Folks with more fat to use tend to need to focus on establishing better habits and finding some structure. Leaner folks often have the opposite issue, and nutritional deficiencies are usually the reason they’re hanging on to some extra belly fat.
Let me offer a quick word about what I call “uninformed Paleo”. This is where you eat mostly whole foods, keep carbs low, and eat a good amount of fat. The fat intake might be the problem. We certainly aren’t “anti-fat”, but when Eat To Perform members get help from our coaches and start to track their intake, they are often astonished at how many of their calories were coming from fat. I’m not telling you to avoid fat, but some level of balance makes sense (and no, I’m not referring to The Zone Diet).
Minimal Effective Dose
Dr. Mike T. Nelson (my co-author of The Wave Method) refers to the minimal effective dose. When my calorie burn got too high, there was a point of diminishing returns. For instance, during my recent 8-week period of performance focused fat loss (PFFL) when I burned 1000 more calories than I ate, I would often struggle to sleep and it would carry over to the next day. When I stayed around 500-700 calories under what I burned, that was the sweet spot for me. I say “for me” because we are all individuals. I’ll give you another example in a minute where people actually get leaner while maintaining their weight or potentially gaining a few pounds.
Too much of a deficit for too long will work against you in the long run. If you are trying to do this on your own without the support of a coach, this is often the failure point for a lot of folks. You can easily set yourself up for failure by trying to achieve unreasonable goals in an unreasonable time frame, and it’s one of the reasons our solution is more gradual.
Our Solution: Eat To Peform’s Wave Method
At its heart, the Wave Method is pretty simple. You eat the majority of your calories on the days around your workout. Your full TDEE (the number of calories you burn in a day) is the same as your Wave Numbers. The magic isn’t in the PFFL phase where your calories are going down. The magic is normalizing the majority of your life so your periods of focused fat loss are more effective.
When we talk about metabolic rate, it’s not unicorns and fairy tales. It’s dependent on the amount of muscle on your frame. That’s how your basal metabolic rate (or resting metabolic rate) is determined. You think your metabolism is broken? Eat an appropriate amount of food for your activity level and that almost always fixes the problem. Most of our clients would rather seek out a solution than assume they are either broken or the exception to the rule. I know that was the case for me — I just wouldn’t give up. In the end that’s what landed me where I needed to be.
Performance Focused Fat Loss
Like many of you, fat loss eluded me for a long time. The only thing that seemed to work was eating almost nothing or doing a ton of work at the gym. At my lowest, I got to 149.5 pounds. Within 3 months, I weighed 165. Why? Because my body didn’t want to be at 149.5 and that’s a bit of the secret for a lot of you. You have this ideal body fat percentage or weight “magic number”, and all it’s doing is keeping you from getting to your optimal body composition, where you perform well and thrive.
With our periodized approach to fat loss, you gradually lose fat during both periods of the Wave Method — when you’re eating your full TDEE/Wave Numbers AND during the PFFL period. It’s the idea of losing a lifetime of excessive fat in 5 minutes that keeps people from seeing real results.
What does that mean for you, specifically? If you are a 350 pound male with more fat to use, your intervals between PFFL periods might be shorter. If you are a 110 pound female, you might never need to do PFFL. Ultimately, it can be customized for anyone, and this is the point. “One size fits all” dieting is a myth. Everyone needs to get a little specific to see real results. Long story longer — if you are using your Fitbit as a way of creating a deficit, you may see much better long-term results by eating what you burn, because that’s the way your body wants to work.
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