What you’ll learn in this blog post:
The most important factor in fat loss success is consistency. Random is NOT GOOD when it comes to nutrition
You cannot overlook the importance of protein and fiber
Switching from a calorie dense to a nutrient dense approach works wonders
You can still eat foods you enjoy if you follow the 90/10 rule
The exact diet I used with a client to drop over 13% bodyfat while gaining muscle mass
People as a whole tend to over-complicate things when it comes to nutrition. It’s common to make the jump from having no plan, structure or education to tackling the most complex and aggressive nutrition strategy we can get our hands on.
The problem is; that doesn’t work for most people, like 99% of us!
With clients and anyone else who comes to me for advice and coaching, I drive home the importance of two things: healthy and sustainable habits along with some planning and structure.
Habits help us to generally make the best decisions we can 90% of the time.
Planning and structure help ensure we have the best means of implementing those habits.
Together, this will take most people to their goal. But why do so many of us fail?
Failing to come up with a plan and then making sure you have the tools necessary to implement it
That about sums it up for most people. Maybe we decide we’ll jump right into a low-carb diet. We stop eating ANY and all carbs which basically means taking our current diet and removing at least 1/3 of what we normally eat.
For some that might be fine as they already eat lots of veggies and protein. For others who rely on lots of processed foods and carbs, might find themselves eating lunch meat, low quality cheese and diet soda. No plan and no structure might get a lucky few success but the rest crash and burn.
An example of near-guaranteed success from one of my clients
I was training at one of the gyms The Strong Kitchen provides meals for. One of the training clients had seen our advertisements and meal pick-up and was interested in getting some meals. However, since he didn’t know a ton about what we do, he approached me to ask a few questions and asked if we could schedule a time to sit down and discuss his goals.
Smart Move #1. This client decided to educate himself first and see if we were a good fit form him before simply ordering food with no idea of what we offered, portion sizes or how he should structure the rest of his meals
About a week later, we sat down to discuss his goals. This client expressed he was unhappy at his current weight and was training hard but not seeing the results he wanted. He was also dealing with some injuries so he couldn’t always train the way he wanted but I also knew improved nutrition would most likely improve his recovery and health. So even if he had to take time off, he could still work on his goals through healthy eating.
This client let me know he had a specific breakfast he liked and was willing to make some tweaks but didn’t want to compromise on it too much because he looked forward to it and it satisfied him. So a large part of our conversation was making sure his breakfast met some loose guidelines and then getting more structure at his other meals.
Smart Move #2. The client expressed his goals and also some of the hurdles he was facing. This helped me know the best approach to take. In addition, knowing he enjoyed a good breakfast and one of his choosing would help keep him on track, I didn’t want to over-restrict which usually leads to poor adherence. Building in thing he could look forward to ensured more motivation and adherence.
Once we were done talking, he asked for my recommendations. I told him for someone his size he could start at a Performance size portion for meals and then work down to a Fat Loss size once progress stalled. However, he wanted to be more aggressive and chose to start with the Fat Loss size for his meals.
To help ensure his own consistency and adherence, he pre-paid for a month of meals.
Smart Move #3. We discussed my recommendations. He had some feedback and thus some say in the matter which empowers him. Second, he committed long-term by paying up front. This automatically bought us a full month of working together which means I could be confident it was enough time to make progress. Often the biggest issue people face, as noted above is consistency long-term.
This client chose to purchase two meals a day. So he would make his own breakfast, eat a lunch and dinner from The Strong Kitchen and then we laid out some sample snacks.
Knowing that he ate lunch out pretty often and didn’t always know what dinner would be, his main issues were calorie control and structure. Bringing in portioned meals means his protein and fiber went up, calories went down and this removed a lot of stress and thinking on his part to create a whole new routine of shopping, prepping, cooking and so on.
Simply replacing calorie dense foods like full fat dairy, refined carbohydrates and processed snacks with nutrient dense foods like lean animal protein, veggies and high fiber carbohydrates means he could eat a decent amount of food while increasing nutrient intake and slashing calories.
We went over some snack options which included protein-dense snacks like low fat yogurt or cottage cheese, fruit, string cheese, protein shakes and possibly some protein bites from our menu as well.
Honestly the snack wasn’t the biggest issue since we already knew what breakfast would usually look like and lunch and dinner were planned. All we needed was a snack to hold him over between lunch and dinner and satisfy whatever flavors or textures he liked.
He was already drinking a ton of water daily, well over a gallon. I recommended around 100oz for him so he would be hydrated but not over-hydrating which can lead to electrolyte depletion, foggy headedness and water retention.
He liked drinking two sugar-free Rockstars daily. While I prefer the health benefits of black coffee, this was nothing I felt posed an immediate issue and told him to keep it in.
Dealing with injuries, inflammation and most likely reduced insulin sensitivity, I recommended 3-5g fish oil daily. It’s a fantastic supplement that works well for fat loss, brain health and joint health.
All in all this was a very simple and straightforward plan. He made breakfast, The Strong Kitchen provided lunch and dinner and then he would fill in snacks through our protein bites, Greek yogurt or some other protein-dense option. He’d hydrate well and take daily fish oil.
4 egg whites (including 1 yolk)
1 cup Fage Greek Yogurt 0 fat
1 small handful OF EACH fruit--strawberries/raspberries/blackberries/blue berries
2 slices Alvarado St California Style Sprouted (dry)
Strong Kitchen Meal, Fat Loss portion – 6oz lean protein, 1.5 cups non-starchy veggies and ½ cup starchy carbs
Protein-dense option: Yogurt, shake, Protein Bites, fruit or some combination of protein and healthy carbs and fat
Strong Kitchen Meal, Fat Loss portion – 6oz lean protein, 1.5 cups non-starchy veggies and ½ cup starchy carbs
We did not plan any cheat meals, we simply stuck to the plan and allowed one meal every week or two to be off the rails and fun. This is infrequent enough to have NO impact on progress while also providing a break mentally and physically and giving the client something to look forward to.
Some cheat meals included gigantic steaks, pizza, ribs or ice cream but it was not very often and based around a structured and consistent plan.
To know a plan is working, you need to measure. Every 2-4 weeks, my client stepped on an In-Body which reads body fat %, muscle mass, weight and even muscle distribution among limbs and torso.
Measuring meant we knew whether he was still progressing and if we needed to change anything.
Sometimes, you don’t need to change ANYTHING! If a program is working, keep it going. Being consistent and getting used to a new structure ensures you will continue to follow the plan. Changing things too often usually means burn-out, getting overwhelmed or losing focus.
A work in progress
So far we have been working together about three months. Eating relatively consistently the above diet the entire time. Breakfast of his choosing, two portioned meals and a protein snack.
There have been weeks he could not train because of his injuries yet he still lost body fat. Remember my previous article on exercise not being the end all be all of fat loss? This shows that nutrition, above all, has the largest impact on fat loss.
The commitment he has shown is nothing short of impressive. He decided to educate himself on a plan and what I could offer him. He decided to pay up-front each month so he was “locked in” as he calls it, and then simply DO the plan 90% of the time.
No magic, only one supplement and lots of real food including carbs and even fat! (woohoo)
On occasion, he said “dude, I am hungry”. It’s important to note that on a fat loss diet, you WILL be hungry at times. Not everyone needs to be as aggressive out the gate as he was, but in the end hunger is OK.
The main thing here is not letting hunger derail you. Maybe you’ve been training hard and just need a day off from the gym. Maybe you need an extra snack. Maybe you just need a nap! There are plenty of options to get you through the hard times, but know that they pass and as progress comes, the motivation to push through grows.
I am a big believer in not guarding information when it comes to helping people. Besides the recipes I use for The Strong Kitchen, I’ll tell you as much as I can. The reason is that if coaches ACT like they have a secret, you will believe there are secrets holding you back. This perpetuates the myth that you need some special program, supplement or routine to reach success.
That’s just marketing and egos misleading clients and I hate that.
In addition, if someone isn’t making progress, this opens the door for them to avoid accountability and blame their gap in resources, knowledge or special program for their lack of success.
I also don’t mind telling you that this client used a product I sell (prepared meals) as part of his success. This is for the transparency that solid nutrition can be simple. We aren’t adding Testosterone, Human Growth Hormone or Ephedra to our meals to create artificial results. Believe it or not, supplement companies used to do that!
Success in this case came from communication with a coach and service provider (me), education on what was being offered, creating a plan that was sustainable and offered things to look forward to and then committing long-term to give the plan enough time to work. We created structure and accountability and the rest is just showing up and eating the meals.
Three months to cut body fat almost in half. Anyone can do this. But you need to be mentally and emotionally ready and willing to be honest with yourself and sometimes do things that aren’t fun or convenient. It’s OK to think it sucks sometimes. Everything sucks sometimes…..work, bills, exercise, cleaning the house, making dinner, the final season of Dexter. But it gets better and you will never regret the results.