Fat loss is easy – eat less and do more, right?
Well, in most cases – YES. But I’d be willing to bet that if you are reading this blog, you have repeatedly tried “eat less, do more” and it simply hasn’t worked.
So the real question is WHY?
Are you the one outlier in the world that this doesn’t apply to? Hmmmm…..I’m guessing NOT!
What if I told you that you are likely doing TOO MUCH?
OK OK – you probably knew that too.
To be fair, the notion of excessive caloric deficits is gaining a lot of popularity – and for good reasons. But we need to go deeper.
The aim of this blog is to help you understand HOW to achieve your goals by using the success of iN3 coach Amanda Barelli.
Over the last 18 weeks we have achieved her best physical appearance in her adult life, as well as the lowest scale number in her adult life – but HOW we did it might fascinate you, and hopefully make you think about your approach a little differently.
BACKGROUND & GOALS
When Amanda and I first started years ago, she was dealing with several things – most notably having been told to under eat and over train, as well as previous body image issues.
Additionally, her goals were very similar to the majority of people that come our way – “perform better and look better.”
Now to her credit, Amanda is a phenomenal athlete. She qualified for CrossFit Regionals several times individually and was repeatedly asked to be on a team.
Ultimately over our first two years of work together, Amanda chased “the unicorn.” She attempted to stay as lean as possible with the desire to continue to pursue her athletic pursuits.
Each year would be relatively the same – love how she looked in the summer (off season), maintain most of it through fall (pre season) – hate how she looked in the winter (season), and really hate the majority of the spring (end of season/off season).
Finally, this year it was time to choose ONE direction.
Enter PERFORMANCE TO AESTHETICS.
When deciding to go ALL iN on aesthetics this year, we had to take a step back and analyze what was previously holding Amanda back from achieving her best physical body:
- Overtraining/inflammation (this is necessary for high level CrossFit, this wasn’t poor programming)
- The need to overconsume carbohydrates to create an adequate environment of recovery for the above training
- A subsequent inability to live in a caloric deficit long enough to create peak cosmetics
- Underlying HPA Axis disruptions from having over reached so frequently
Then, we had to fix these things!
We gave ourselves 5 months – 20 weeks to do something relatively dramatic.
To be honest, I was a bit nervous – the timeline was aggressive given how we had seen her body respond to caloric decreases in the past (not favorably at all).
When you review the reasons above that Amanda had previously been unsuccessful in achieving peak cosmetics – you can deduct one common theme: CONTROLLING INTENSITY.
The biggest shift we decided to make was to REMOVE ALL CROSSFIT.
Shocking – I know!
While most people think that the solution to better body composition is to eat less, do more, and do it with more intensity – we did the COMPLETE OPPOSITE.
Instead, we DID NOT reduce calories, we trained LESS, and with FAR LESS INTENSITY.
Bryan Boorstein created a body part split program for Amanda to begin following, and together he and I worked on the cardio component.
THREE PHASE DIET
My plan with her nutrition was to break it into three phases.
I knew that initially she needed to overcome a recovery debt. This meant that even though we were drastically reducing caloric output and CNS stress, I was NOT going to decrease her calories.
The first 8 weeks we made ZERO CHANGES to her diet. This allowed for her to feel good, enjoy training in the gym, and hit some PRs in her lifts – but most importantly it allowed time for her to RECOVER.
Because Amanda and I have worked together nearly 3 years now, I have a lot of data that suggests she has a highly adaptive metabolism, and that her body had not previously responded very well to caloric decreases. If we wanted to get her shredded, we would need a better response this time, and that can only come from a fully recovered body, metabolism and hormone profile.
Around 8 weeks in, we began creating a caloric deficit.
We were not overly aggressive, but we weren’t conservative either. We dropped about 20% of overall calories from maintenance, and created a training day/non-training day macro set up.
We also began carefully managing output. Her cardio was all low-intensity, steady-state (LISS) at a fixed number of minutes per week, with 2 high intensity sessions at a controlled number of intervals. The high intensity sessions were TRUE SPRINT intervals – combining max effort work with recovery to 60% of max heart rate.
Controlling the output also meant that we could control the hormonal response, and given Amanda’s background this was CRITICAL to her success in this endeavor.
Phase 2 lasted about 6 weeks, and yielded approximately 5lbs of weight loss – not much to most people, but plenty for Amanda.
Around 6 weeks out we secured a shoot date – it was time to GO ALL iN on finishing this journey.
This is where we saw the fruits of our previous labor. Because Amanda had taken the first 8 weeks to truly recover, we knew we could push her hard. And because phase 2 was aggressive but controlled, we still had plenty of moves we could make.
Phase 3 involved a relatively drastic cut. I don’t know the exact percentage off the top of my head, but I remember sending Amanda a text that we would be dropping 40g carbs and 10g fat. (I actually felt bad sending it)
However, even with this caloric drop, we were still well above what most clients would be need for fat loss – this can be attributed to 3 years spent together of building metabolic capacity.
Along with a huge calorie drop, we also switched from training/non-training day macros to a carb cycle.
Amanda had 2 high days per week (back to back), and 5 lower days per week. Over the 6 weeks of this phase, this evolved to 3 high days and 4 low days based on the feedback we saw with her physique and biofeedback.
When you finish a cosmetic endeavor with a photo shoot, you certainly want to ensure you hit your peak and look your best.
Typically, this is something we like to practice, but given our approach to Amanda’s diet, we didn’t have time for that.
However, I was looking at pictures up to 4 times per week, so I had a good idea of how her body reacted to carbohydrate loads and depletions – and could make an educated guess.
Around 10 days out we made our final carb decrease. My initial plan was for this to last until one day out at which point we would load her up to fill her out.
Unfortunately, her body responded TOO WELL to the decrease, and was very flat at 5 days out. While flatness is absolutely part of the depletion process, going too flat can leave you with the inability to fill out, or can trigger the body to begin fighting back resulting in zero progress.
(note – this is why nutrition COACHING is critical – had I not been looking at her progress daily, and communicating frequently, I never would’ve known this – no templated approach can account for actual physiology)
At this point we called an audible, and gave her a high carb day.
We went right back to “depletion” the next day, and by the final day she was right on track.
The day before the shoot we loaded again, using a standard high carb day for her. This came to 6 meals of 40g carbs each.
We were VERY strategic during this load – monitoring pictures 2 hours after each meal, and checking blood glucose to ensure she was not taking in more carbs than she could handle. Precision is key during this phase.
As you can see in the pictures above (actual waking picture of her), we nailed it.
I can’t give you all of our secrets, but the day of the shoot involved more fats than normal, and some sugars – I believe Sour Patch Kids were Amanda’s choice of sugar 🙂
We also began a water load 4 days out. Originally this should’ve been 5 days out, but I didn’t think that drastically increasing water with a high carb day was a good idea, so I held off one extra day.
For Amanda, her water load was 8 liters daily.
Water was never decreased until the actual day of the shoot, at which point we used precise amounts with meals to ensure she stayed dry, but also full enough for muscles to “pop.
Once again, this came down to frequent communication and looking at pictures.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
As you can see, the process is simple, but not easy.
Amanda worked her ass off, and made a lot of sacrifices.
Because she was no longer drastically over reaching, she could not afford the casual Friday or Saturday night of overeating and/or drinking.
EVERYTHING was calculated, and needed to be.
However, what was once a scary proposition of not “feeling dead after training” has not become something she embraces. She actually feels good entering and leaving the gym, and her biofeedback has gone through the roof.
She sleeps better, has better hormonal physiology, has a more positive mood more frequently, and has more energy than she ever has.
Ultimately this process was successful and eye opening for her.
As her coach, I could not be more proud – and want to take a moment to say THANK YOU for trusting me in guiding you in this journey!
If you read this lengthy blog, you likely know that something you are doing in your physical pursuit isn’t working.
It’s time to take a step back, and truly analyze the situation.
Are you over stressed? Remember that training volume and intensity are two of the biggest stressors that we can control.
Have you been over stressed for a while? If you have over trained and under dieted for some time – you need a brief phase of recovery before you begin aggressively pursuing fat loss.
Is fat loss really your goal? Are you ready to make the necessary changes to get lean, IN A HEALTHY WAY. (note – anyone can starve themselves into leanness once – I prefer keeping health as a foundation of success)
It’s time to take control. You now have the education, and you now need to make a CHOICE.
CHOOSE to GO ALL iN on your desired results – and as always, I am more than happy to help 🙂
You might also enjoy Three Reasons to Not Follow a Plan