Moving from a Maintenance Diet to Fat Loss

Q: Hi Shane… Following our discussion 6 months ago in which you suggested I work on good eating habits and to try to make better bad food choices when I can’t make a really good food choice, I’ve dropped probably about 10 lbs of fat, and gained pretty close to that in muscle weight as the scale hasn’t budged, but I’ve dropped two pants sizes. Before my goal was just to drop all the extra weight I was carrying, and just get healthy. But as I’ve been progressing, my goals have changed, and now I’m interested in really getting leaner. A six-pack would be great!

The problem is that I can’t seem to lose any more bodyfat. I’m training with weights 3 times per week for one hour, and I’m doing 3 cardio sessions per week of walking for 1 hour on the treadmill.

My diet is as follows:

Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup milk, 1 fruit
Mid-morning: 1 fruit, handful walnuts, 1/2 cup Liberte organic yogurt
Lunch: spinach salad w/chicken, cherry tomatoes, onion, carrots
Mid-afternoon: 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1/2 cup blueberries
Dinner: 4 oz meat, loads of veggies, 1/2 cup brown rice or 2-3 oz potato/sweet potato
Evening: 1 cup plain popcorn, 1 glass milk, 1 cup grapes

I have tried cutting out the popcorn and grapes at night, but I didn’t feel like it was helping me lose any more bodyfat.

What can I do?

Thanks!

Chris B.

A: Chris, your diet is great! And dropping two pants sizes, while maintaining scale weight is evidence that you’re boosting your metabolism with strength training.

The reason you’re not dropping any more weight despite your “sometimes” efforts at cutting back a bit more on carbs at night is because you’re reached a new equilibrium where your body has matched it’s energy expenditure with your energy intake.

So you have two options now. You can either cut back a lot more on your energy intake, which would result in further fat loss, but it would also cause you to lose some muscle mass as well. The drop in muscle mass would then help your body to reduce its energy demand to your new lowered energy intake.

So the better option is to use a carb-rotation. This is a modified version of what I do with my competitive athletes.

When you reduce your carbohydrate intake (keeping protein and fat unchanged), for a time your body will burn more fat. But after a short while it adjusts the metabolic rate to compensate for the drop in carbohydrate and overall energy. So a carb-rotation diet simply keeps your body’s compensation mechanism off guard slightly by giving you carbohydrate and calorie boost every 3rd or 4th day to prevent a reduction in metabolic rate.

So here’s how your menu above might look. I’ve listed the changes as to the base food plan you’ve been following:

Day 1 (no change)
Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup milk, 1 fruit
Mid-morning: 1 fruit, handful walnuts, 1/2 cup Liberte organic yogurt
Lunch: spinach salad w/chicken, cherry tomatoes, onion, carrots
Mid-afternoon: 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1/2 cup blueberries
Dinner: 4 oz meat, loads of veggies, 1/2 cup brown rice or 2-3 oz potato/sweet potato
Evening: 1 cup plain popcorn, 1 glass milk, 1 cup grapes

Day 2 (change in evening only)
Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup milk, 1 fruit
Mid-morning: 1 fruit, handful walnuts, 1/2 cup Liberte organic yogurt
Lunch: spinach salad w/chicken, cherry tomatoes, onion, carrots
Mid-afternoon: 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1/2 cup blueberries
Dinner: 4 oz meat, loads of veggies, 1/2 cup brown rice or 2-3 oz potato/sweet potato
Evening: glass milk

Day 3 (change in both dinner and evening)
Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup milk, 1 fruit
Mid-morning: 1 fruit, handful walnuts, 1/2 cup Liberte organic yogurt
Lunch: spinach salad w/chicken, cherry tomatoes, onion, carrots
Mid-afternoon: 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1/2 cup blueberries
Dinner: 4 oz meat, loads of veggies ( yeah.. just meat and veggies)
Evening: glass milk

Day 4 (change in breakfast, mid-morning)
Breakfast: 2 eggs, 1 cup oats, 1/2 cup milk, 1 fruit
Mid-morning: 1 fruit, handful walnuts, 1/2 cup Liberte organic yogurt
Lunch: spinach salad w/chicken, cherry tomatoes, onion, carrots, 3 small red potatoes
Mid-afternoon: 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 2/3 cup blueberries
Dinner: 4 oz meat, loads of veggies, 1/2 cup brown rice or 2-3 oz potato/sweet potato
Evening: 1 cup plain popcorn, 1 glass milk, 1 cup grapes

Repeat…

So beginning with Day 1, where you follow your normal meal plan, you move to Day 2 and Day 3 where we remove successively more carbohydrate, and then on Day 4 add back all that was removed and then give you some extra to help boost your metabolic rate.

Now even if the average calorie load was to be exactly the same over the four days as the original meal plan, the work required to store the additional calories would create a deficit of some sort. So even at worst, you’ll be ahead by staggering your caloric intake.

This is a fairly straight-forward example of rotating your carbohydrate intake. But it would be a good starting point for you Chris.

I would also suggest changing up 1 or 2 of your walks on the treadmill for some interval sessions. Originally when we first spoke, you had some pain in the arches of your feet, and hence my suggestion for easy cardio. But with that cleared up, moving into cardio intervals will help increase the number of calories you burn over steady state cardio.

Essentially it’s the EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) that we’re interested in raising. When you engage in very rigorous exercise you create a large oxygen deficit. The restoration process is costly from an energy standpoint, consequently with your goal of increased fat-loss, I strongly recommend it.

Write me back in a few months. I’d love to hear about your progress!!

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Shane

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