Long post alert!
Many of you may not have realised (as I have not) that this blog has become one of the most Googled sources of fat loss info in the web.
Oh, sorry! I had initially set for this intro to the post to appear in 2025, so let us not move that far ahead. Restart (not you, moron)!
I am writing on fat loss because of the insistent demands of many of my wild-eyed fans like her. “Rambodoc”, they say in different accents, “When will you shine the light on my fat? When will I lose that handle around my
waste waist so that I can start looking as young as you, you delishius hunk of meat, you..” And many, many words to that effect. No, Rads did not say any of this, but we can all expect her, as a mark of her eternal gratitude for this post, to send me one of her used 7-series BMWs or, if she feels cheap, the keys to a property in Manhattan (such low prices these days!) or somewhere. Anywhere, actually.
Okay, let us now get serious here. Restart.
Fat loss stops after the initial effort in a program of diet and/or exercise. This is common knowledge. Let us first see what are the reasons for the fat loss plateau:
1. You are not working out the right way.
2. You are working out the right way (maybe you even have a great coach) but you are not eating right.
3. You are eating less calories, working out long, but your metabolism is too slow, i.e., your body burns calories slowly. A common ‘note to self’ by women, men, older men and women, hypothyroid men and women, post-menopausal women, and some other groups we may have forgotten about.
In the next few thousand words (kidding!) I will give you the juice from the research of around 935 (again!) research articles without boring you to death with the sources.
(Fat people are easily seen everywhere even in India)
Let us simplify issues: if your body needs 2000 calories as its basic metabolic demand (known as BMR or Basal Metabolic Rate), and if you spend another, say, 400 calories in your activities, then you would need to eat less than 2400 calories a day consistently to run a calorie deficit. Right? Many of us know that you will lose a kilogram of fat if you run up a calorie deficit of around 7000 calories. So, a 500 calorie deficit a day should result in the loss of one kilo of fat in two weeks. A pound a week. Clear?
There are lots of compounding issues to this simple equation, but you still have to keep touching base with this simple reality to achieve fat loss:
Calories burnt must be greater than calories eaten.
The most important way to accelerate fat loss is to eat less calories. Not in working out. Trainers are fond of saying that “you can’t out-train a bad diet”. Very true. Unless you are Michael Phelps who, at last Census, was not known to have met a fat loss plateau.
“Oh, no! He is going to talk of diets? Not again?!” Was that you saying that? Can you see me nodding my head sympathetically, like a politician at election time?
Some more basic truisms:
All diets work. But only for some time.
Diets don’t work by themselves in the long run.
What do we do then? Studies show that only 5 percent of people on a supervised diet manage to sustain weight loss. The rest fail. That includes you and me. Let us, therefore, rephrase this:
Diets don’t work; lifestyles do.
If you do lifestyle, you never feel that you are doing something special or stressful. It comes naturally.
What is this stupid, airy, hair-splitting, you ask?
(a typical dinner of mine, and ALL mine!)
Many people (author included) follow a lifestyle where you mimic the lifestyle of primitive man (an animal who probably did not have obesity). Which means:
* Eat whole foods that are available in nature.
* Don’t eat processed foods (meaning colas, diet colas, bread, cake, pasta, noodles, biscuits, etcetera).
* Avoid grains (rice, wheat, corn, etc.) and artificial sugars.
* Don’t eat meals at a religious rhythm (like 3 meals a day or 6 meals a day).
* Mimic the movements of primitive man (imagine Caveman Rambo with a pointed object hunting a
bore boar): sprinting, waiting, sprinting again, crawling, pulling, pushing (imagine wrestling the boar before killing it finally), lifting heavy weights (taking the hunt back to the cave) and then eating it. If he fails to kill it or find some other source, he starves till the next time.
How will you do this in your 9 to 5 life in the US, UK or India?
Easy. Try these:
1. Don’t jog or walk. Sprint (as if chased by a wild dog in heat) for a few short seconds (take 20-30). Rest for a while (as many seconds as you ran or even a minute). Repeat ten times, or six, depending on your ability. That, ladies and gentlemen, is called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or the Tabata workout (Tabata kept a work:rest ratio of 2:1).
In other words, stop wasting time on those cardio machines in your gym or at home. Four to twenty minutes of hard effort (including the rest periods) is enough cardio for you. A month into this, watch yourself improve your stamina and reduce the inches gradually (remember, you have to give your body time- think of one or two years, in many cases).
2. Push or pull your body weight in major, compound exercises like pull-ups (most women I see are unable to do this unless they are well advanced in fitness), push-ups (keep doing ten more than yesterday), squats, and burpees (the best of them all, I think).
3. Stop doing machine-bound training. In other words, don’t waste time in isolation exercises like biceps curls, preacher curls, pectoral decks, ab trainers, etc. You are not going into a bodybuilding competition, are you? If you want maximum bang for your buck, do the bodyweight exercises above, and also do weight training (squats, deadlifts, or anything that involves pulling or pushing a free weight against gravity).
4. Don’t waste time on ab exercises. Do a couple of planks, holding on till you die. You will have done more than enough for your abs and core stability.
5. Didn’t I say ‘crawl‘?! Yes, I did.
You can do mountain climbers, which is not really crawling, or you can actually go on your hands and feet and climb the stairs, first straight up (head first) or reverse (feet first). This would double as a great cardio workout as well.
Anything else about these exercises? Lots, but suffice it to say that you should train harder than you think possible, and not merely go through the motions. Only then can you see results! Each workout should have a decent volume, which means you could do, for instance, three sets of ten reps for each exercise, with 30-60 seconds rest in between sets. Be strict with the rest periods, avoiding chatting and vacantly meditating.
Let us now move on to nutrition, the cornerstone of fat loss management.
Most people are eating way too much to see results. They are also not eating enough proteins, which reduces their muscle building abilities.
One way to address a fat-loss diet is to cut down on carbs (carbohydrates). This is one of the most tried and tested ways of achieving fat loss. Most of the benefits of a low-carb diet accrue from a total caloric deficit. If you are given the liberty of eating loads of fats and proteins (as in the Atkins diet), you won’t be able to eat all that much for too long. Result: lack of variety in foods leading to weight loss. Someone even lost weight on one month’s continual fast food (McDonald’s, etc.) diet!
Low carb diets are often difficult for many people to follow, for cultural and habit reasons. In such a scenario, losing weight is more difficult, but a caloric deficit needs to be created.
Eating six meals a day (a popular advice for most people) is largely impractical in the long term, not least because designing a diet with such low calories is difficult. Imagine a meal with only 300 calories, for example (if you need to eat six meals within a caloric budget of 1800)! In this regard, a more doable lifestyle is IF: Intermittent Fasting.
In IF, you fast through the day, and then eat within a four hour window. You can choose to fast once a week, or every day, for 15 hours, or 24 hours. Your choice. One of the big things going for IF is that celebrities (like myself) endorse it. I fast for 24 hours once a week, and 15 to 18 hours one or two more days in the week. IF is a lot of posts on its own merit, and check my resources at the end of this
chapter post, if you want to learn more. Suffice it to say that it reduces blood insulin levels, is a great way to eat ‘normally’ and yet maintain a caloric deficit. I have found that on the days I fast and then eat in the four hour window, I can’t exceed 1400 calories (I don’t pig out with junk food)!
Does when you eat matter in your fat loss plateau?
Is fasted cardio better than cardio in fed state?
Is breakfast the best meal?!
Dinner is the best meal, and you should avoid breakfast like the plague!
Controversies, controversies! Forget all this, and stick to the basics:
eat clean, work out hard, and be happy. Get enough sleep. Drink less. Be active physically. Read fitness articles and blogs. Enough!
So, if we can sum up, how does one overcome the fat loss plateau?
Reassess your diet (definitely keep an online food journal like FitDay), start IF, train harder than you ever have, change the way you are training, avoid long duration aerobic cardio in lieu of High Intensity Interval Training. Take adequate rest and get enough sleep.
Blogs on Fitness/ Primal Living I silently follow (in no particular order at all):
1. Turbulence Training
2. Fitness Black Book
3. Brian Devlin
4. Health Habits
5. Tom Venuto
6. Caleb Lee
7. Straight To The Bar
8. Mark Sisson’s The Daily Apple
9. Muscle Hack
10. Go Healthy Go Fit
11. Alwyn Cosgrove
12. Son Of Grok
13. Robertson Training Systems
14. The Nate Green Experience
15. Gym Junkies
1. Brad Pilon
2. The IF Life
Science-based Nutrition/Fitness sites (heavier stuff):
1. Lyle Macdonald’s Bodyrecomposition
2. Alan Aragon
3. Dr. Michael Eades
I heartily recommend any and all of the above, and I think they contribute hugely to the needs of the public seeking help over the internet. I am also very grateful to them for their advice and availability for people like me and you. I am quite sure I am missing out on some of the others I read, but I hope I can include them later.
Disclaimer: I am not a Fitness or Nutrition guru. I use my medical knowledge and apply it to my personal quest for health and fitness. If you feel the need to heed my advice, you are welcome to, at your own discretion and risk. If you suffer from any physical or mental disease or infirmity, please consult your doctor and get properly (mis)guided!