Over the past month (before my vacation that is) I challenged myself physically and mentally, trying to lose as much body fat as possible, as fast as possible, while retaining the muscle I had gained the previous 9 months. I have listed my thoughts on extreme fat loss below: when it is a good, when it isn’t, why it might be good for you and why it might not be. But, first I wanted to give you an idea of what my 4 weeks from mid February to mid March looked like.
Why did I do this? I wanted to push my body and discipline to it’s limits to see how far I could go. I definitely didn’t need to do this physically, but my clients are working hard every day getting out of their comfort zones and I need to set an example and do the same. This was very much out of my comfort zone. I might never do this again…or maybe I will again next year. Who knows.
In week one I cut my calories from 4500 per day to 3000 per day. 3000 calories is still a very good amount of food, but relatively from 4500 it is felt like nothing. I was hungry within 36 hours after starting and never really felt completely full for 3+ weeks..that is soooo tough! Scale weight progress came quick though; I lost 5lb on the scale the first week, though some of this was water weight. Remember, carbs are water so when you go on a low carb diet a lot of the initial weight you lose will be water weight. To continue losing body fat, you must remain in a calorie deficit (eating less calories, then you expend), not necessarily completely cutting carbs out.
Every week going forward I cut out 150-200 calories per day, 7 days per week. Notice I said 7 days per week, not 4 days per week. I wanted the fastest and most results possible so there was no room for a cheat meal, let alone a cheat day. A 4000 calorie day of pizza and beer on Saturday would have negated some of the progress I saw Monday-Friday. I wasn’t going to waste my time after working for 9 months to get to this point. I was all in 100%. No alcohol as I wanted every calorie I was eating to help fill me up….alcohol would have only made me more hungry. In week 4, I was eating 2100-2200 calories per day.
Typical day looked like this:
Wake at 5am: drink water
7-8am: 1 Greek yogurt cup
10-11am: 12 almonds + banana
Post workout snack: 1.5 scoops whey protein in 8oz almond milk + 1/2 cup oatmeal + 1 tablespoon agave
2-3pm: 6-8oz chicken breast OR 99% ground turkey + 1/2 cup rice OR no rice + 1 sweet pepper + 2 cups snap peas
4-5pm: 12 almonds + apple
7-8pm: 4oz lean sirloin steak + 1.5 cups sauted mushrooms + 1/4 red onion + 1 teaspoon olive oil
9-10pm: 1 scoop whey protein in 8oz almond milk + 1 rice cake + 2 tablespoons Skippy Peanut butter
That was every day for 4 weeks……
….yes I was ready to be done…
….it was NOT fun at the end…
….but it is doable
I cut down on the carbs I was eating, but was by no means on a “low carb diet.” I was still eating healthy carbs like oatmeal, white rice, fruit and green veggies, but I was just eating less of those carbs then before. I also took out nearly all processed sugar and carbs such as chips, Clif bars, candy, ice cream, pretzels etc. After two weeks I was literally thinking about food every other thought. Not something that is going to be sustainable for very long, even for people with great self discipline. Part of dieting is limiting your carb intake, but usually that means still eating healthy carbs like I listed above in the amount that will give you enough energy to continue working out while also seeing the fat loss progress you want to lose. But, to lose weight very fast (in a 4-6 week window) you will probably have to push your limits with restricting carb intake.
I kept protein intake exactly where it had been the previous 9 months to help retain as much muscle as I could. My goal was not to look like a marathon runner. My goal was to more or less look lean while keeping upper body muscle. Like a dude on the cover of Men’s Health, minus the photo shop, tan and steroids. This takes a lot of exact food and calorie tracking. Everything I ate was weighed or counted. EVERYTHING. All cooking oils. EVERYTHING. Is this sustainable for the rest of your life, every single day? Probably not if you want a life. I have talked to numerous individuals who want extreme results, but don’t know that extreme results take extreme measures and usually those extreme measures out weigh the importance of the results after really thinking about the sacrifices it will take. That is totally OK, that was the point of me doing this, to give an example of the sacrifice it takes. I talk more about this below.
After, almost 4 weeks of extreme dieting I took some pictures to see my progress then ate a 14 inch pizza and had a couple beers. I was pretty happy with my results, but I think there is always room for improvement with any journey. After my pizza and beer I left for vacation and currently don’t look nearly the same as I did 10 days ago. I was happy with the results, knew they weren’t sustainable and moved on. That is what fitness and lifestyle changes are all about; there is no such thing as a “closed book” with your health, there can always be something else to strive for.
Here are my thoughts if you are wondering if extreme fat loss is good for you:
Thought #1: Taking extreme measures to lose a lot of body fat and scale weight in a short period of time (4-12 weeks) can give you amazing results if done correctly.
Thought #2: Those amazing results won’t be sustainable. Trust me, there is a reason it takes a large amount of self discipline to get very lean or to lose 15lb in 4 weeks. Now, some of the results you will see could very well be sustainable, but probably not all of the results.
Thought #3: If you embark on a “fast” fat loss protocol for a vacation or wedding or just a random day-drinking day on the beach you must go into with the right mindset. The mindset where you will happy with the results, but also prepared to potentially not keep all those results for longer than a day or two. HERE is a blog post I recently wrote about this type of thing.
Thought #4: I really like the idea of “fast” fat loss protocols for some people. The type of individual who won’t discouraged by losing a bit of progress when you fall back into more of a “maintenance” period of time. These extreme fat loss periods can really push your body and self discipline to it’s limits…challenges that I think more people need to try.
Thought #5: I also don’t like the idea of “fast” fat loss for other individuals. Some people just do better with slower, steady progress and this totally OK. Are you self aware enough to realize what works best for you? I help my clients find out what path is better for them, but that can take some time and experimentation.
Thought #6: Just because you get super lean or lose a lot of weight for a wedding day doesn’t mean you will be happier. You might be happy how you look, but that won’t guarantee happiness. You might actually be less happy because you didn’t have much of a life while trying to get to the body you wanted for a few photos. I am very happy with my 4 week EXTREME fat loss phase, but overall I am not happier than a month ago. I didn’t have much of a social life, which really sucked.
Thought #7: Do you have a lot of self discipline? Like in other areas of your life like with work, sleep, personal care etc? If you don’t think you do, then extreme fat loss might not be for you…again this is OK. You just have to give yourself extra time to prepare for that wedding day. Instead of 12 weeks maybe start preparing 24 weeks out and go a bit slower with more flexibility.
Thought #8: It is a weird feeling, but I think it is pretty cool to know you are doing something other people aren’t. I like the challenge of challenging my body and my self discipline. If you enjoy challenging yourself, extreme fat loss might be for you.
Thought #9: It is worth it. It might not always be fun, but results from hard work are ALWAYS worth it.