First Responders and Tactical Athletes don't have a problem losing weight. Every January, thousands of first responders start dieting.
The majority are successful at shedding a few pounds through February/March! But.. by April many of them are starting to struggle with their weight-loss and begin adding the weight they all worked so hard to get off at the start of the year.
They get frustrated and blame themselves for a lack of "discipline" or blame their "bad genetics" for their inability to reach their goals.
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1. Detoxes are not detoxes. They are often extreme hypocaloric diets (low-calorie diets) that are not sustainable for longer than a few days. They often involve drinking vegetable and fruit juices a few times a day and skipping meals. They are not recommended for the masses. Instead, just eat more vegetables and fruits EVERY day.
2. Fasting has no advantage over separating meals out evenly over the day. Some evidence suggests that those who fast my have better satiety signals (feeling fuller) after meals (due to the meals being bigger). So if you struggle with feeling hungry throughout the day, this may be a great option for you.
3. Low carb/high-fat diets (keto) and high carb/low-fat diets show no significant difference in weight loss after 6 months. Initially, low carb diets see a bigger change in weight due to the water-binding affinity of carbohydrates. If you like high fat and low carb, go for it, but it is not better than a normal diet that has a matched amount of calories.
4. Crash diets are not sustainable. Ideal weight-loss should be around 1% weight-loss per week for sustainability. If you are dropping more than 1%, you are at a much higher risk of burn-out, binges, and slowing down your metabolism.
All diets work by putting the body into a hypocaloric state. This means the body is consuming fewer calories than it is using on a daily basis. The body then must pull from its own stores (fat and glycogen) to power the body throughout the day.
The fad diets above do a great job of putting you into a caloric deficit, but often the deficit is too large, too fast.
Again, the ideal weight-loss per week is 1%. If you start a diet and you are losing more than 2lbs a week for a long period of time, this is unsustainable and will lead to a slower metabolism and burn out.
The key is looking at diet from a long term perspective. Almost like a "season" for a sport. You have an "in-season" period where you are dieting hard for 12-16 weeks. During that time you are strict with your food. You are not going out, drinking, etc. You are dedicated to improving your health and are making lifestyle changes.
Then after that, you work to get your metabolism back up with minimal weight gain for 4-8 weeks. Then after that you can choose to go into another "diet season" or you can go into the "bulking season".
All the dieting phases should last 2-4 months each. You need time in each phase to maximize your body's ability to metabolize food and turn it into fuel efficiently.
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Recent research coming out of the University of North Carolina’s Exercise Science Department is finding that the amount of weight that is put back on after dieting is lining up very well to the amount of lean mass loss during the weight-loss phase.
Lean mass is EXPENSIVE! The body does not want to lose lean mass. It is hard to gain, and it does not want to lose it. Which is good.. because we don't want to lose our gains either!
So... when dieting, it is important that your workouts and dieting principles support maintaining lean mass.
If you lose weight excessively fast (often happens with fad dieting), you have a higher likelihood of losing more lean mass than you would if you dieted slowly.
If you lost an excessive amount of lean mass, when you finish your diet, your body wants to regain that lean mass. It increases your hunger signals and encourages you to eat more and more until you get that lean mass back.. and it does not care how much fat mass it accumulates along the way.
While it is impossible to limit weight loss to just fat, there are different training strategies that can maximize your potential for holding onto lean muscle mass.
Researchers at UNC are finding that strength training and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) along with proper nutrition has shown to decrease the amount of lean mass lost during a diet phase.
Strength training and HIIT interval training stimulates large muscle Type II fibers and uses the glycolytic pathway. Slow and steady long-distance work stimulates Type I fibers and uses the aerobic pathway.
If you aren’t familiar with these pathways and fiber types, don’t worry. I’ll make it simpler. Look at your long-distance marathon runner and compare them to a world-class sprinter. You will see the sprinter is JACKED while the marathon runner is thin. This is because to be good at endurance running you need as little amount of body weight as possible to run. You don’t want big muscles that make you heavier and make you work harder to go long distances. Sprinters need to create POWER. Power comes from muscle!
When trying to lose fat mass and spare muscle mass your training needs to have an emphasis on strength training and HIIT training, not doing lots of long-distance/time cardio.
Research has shown a similar level of that compliance and perception of enjoyment with HIIT training in overweight and obese clients compared to moderate continuous. It also takes less time to complete than slow and steady.
It is appropriate to introduce long slow steady training when you are already strength training or doing HIIT training 5 days a week. At this point, you have accumulated enough fatigue that adding more HIIT sessions is not recommended.
In summary, don't spend hours on the bike, stair stepper, treadmill, etc. Instead, train with weights or do some HIIT sessions. If you are already training 5-6 days a week, then feel free to add in some long slow steady.
Type of Exercise: Row, Run, Bike, Jump Rope, Stairs
10 reps of (30 seconds -1 minute of activity), (30 seconds – 1 minute of rest)
5 reps of 2 minutes on (hard), 1 min of rest
3-4 reps of 3-4 minutes on (moderate to hard), 3 minutes of rest
This can be done 2x a week and with 4x being the upper limit to allow your body to fully recover.
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1. Average weight loss should be bout 1% or less of your bodyweight per week. This is sustainable and will minimize lean mass loss. Weigh yourself every 1-2 days and start tracking the averages per week.
2. Dieting should not last longer than 12-16 weeks. Chronic dieting slows down metabolism, therefore you want to diet hard for 12-16 weeks, then take a break for 4-12 weeks before going into another diet.
3. Eat more protein! Eating 1g per pound of lean mass is appropriate to maintain lean mass. It also increases satiety or the feeling of "fullness".
4. Eat more carbs. Yes, eating more carbs as your diet does have the ability to preserve lean muscle mass!
5. Eat as high of calories as possible as you diet. If you are losing just 1% per week, you want to keep your calories as high as possible to maintain a healthy metabolism. Dropping them too fast leaves you nowhere to go as you continue to diet.
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It has been shown time and time again, that dieting is not the hard part.. The hard part is keeping it off.
The best way to keep it off is to plan your diet appropriately.
- Don't be too aggressive with your diet (be slow and eat more)
- Train with lifting weights and HIIT to maintain the muscle you have
- Surround yourself with a community of people that will support you along your journey
The Effective Fitness program uses these methods in our training. Rarely will you see long slow steady run cardio.
We lift heavy. We rest between sets. We do interval training. We do circuits at the ends of the workouts for conditioning.
With the Effective Fitness Membership, you get access to a 50-page ebook that dives deeper into nutrition principles you can begin to use today to get you to achieve your goals faster and more sustainably.
If you are interested in learning more about the Effective Fitness Program, click below.
Thanks for reading!