How To Know When You Are Ready For a Fat Loss Phase

 So… you want to diet? 

Great! I think going into caloric restriction has an insane amount of benefits, both from a physiological, and psychological standpoint.

I am a considerable proponent of challenging yourself and putting yourself into uncomfortable situations.

The more comfortable we get with the uncomfortable, the more we grow as humans. So from that standpoint, taking on a goal such as fat loss, and caloric restriction can have massive benefits. 

Because dieting, and being hungry, is well, uncomfortable. 

Having to track your intake, and plan your day ahead of time, is uncomfortable. 

Needing to explain to your friends, family, and co-workers that you have a goal which supersedes their internally projected pressures in the form of break room doughnuts is uncomfortable. 

Lets first talk about the health benefits of caloric restriction! 

  1. First, it reduces free radical production or the production of highly damaging forms of oxygen, and the second is that calorie restriction increases the resistance of cells to stress. 
  2. Improved cholesterol levels, and glucose variability – Insulin sensitivity 
  3. Autophagy 
  4. Reduced systematic inflammation 

The issue is, our bodies are adaptive. So we can’t merely restrict calories forever, especially if we have a physique related goal. 

We’re ultimately going to see different metabolic adaptations occur, which in the long run can have adverse health outcomes. 

ESPECIALLY as an athlete, or someone who relies on performance. 

How do these adaptations take place? 

1. Lets first look at total daily energy expenditure, which is made up of so… 

2. BMR – Existing – even our brains are burning calories. Mostly genetic, as well as the amount of lean body mass/ muscle you have. – Fat-Free Mass is actually the largest determiner of BMR. So when we are in a fat loss phase, we’re going to lose tissue, ultimately reducing our BMR. 

3. EAT – exercise activity thermogenesis – again this is reduced because as we’re going into a deficit, we have less available energy to produce. Along with our bodies ability to provide ample ATP at a more efficient manner, means less overall calories burned while training. Also – as we get deeper in a fat loss phase, the volume is often reduced to help with recovery. Intensity and loads should be a focus on remaining constant or trying to improve to prevent excess muscle loss. 

3. TEF – Thermic effect of feeding – around 10% – Protein, and Fibrous carbs both being a higher TEF. As food is reduced, so is the amount of calories burned to reduce that no longer their food. 

4. NEAT – Everything else, such as fidgeting….. This often is reduced also just due to less overall energy and active behaviors. up for success.

We’re also going to see things take place, which are going to limit our ability to continuously lose body fat. 

Such as…

  1. Rise in adrenal hormones
  2. SNS dominant shifts, estrogen dominance 
  3. Digestion disruption as a result of this
  4. Mental and physical energy slows, as a result of less energy availability 
  5. Changes in leptin and ghrelin affecting hunger significantly 
  6. Changes in sex hormones and thyroid function, therefore, reduced overall expenditure 

So, with that said, let us look at the PRIMARY questions we need to ask, once all of these baseline points are considered. 

Rule of thumb: it’s individual, so it depends. But for generality sake, here is a checklist before entering into a “diet phase”

This is my “dieting checklist” I run through with clients.

  1. Are you prepared to sacrifice? 
    1. As much as I’m a flexible dieting advocate, there will be trade-offs. 
    2. Are you prepared to say no to things like a happy hour? 
    3. Wine Wednesdays? 
    4. Ben and Jerry’s (I get it, this one is tough)…
    5. Although we can fit “fun” foods into our regimen, it doesn’t mean you won’t need to struggle some and sacrifice. 
  2. Current Kcal’s: Are you in a position metabolically to sustain a deficit. 
    1. Most likely, the body you want to change was not appropriately fueled for quite a while, and it will take time to reverse and improve the situation.
    2. We need a base to be able to pull calories from, so if there isn’t enough “room” to create a lucrative deficit, we need to create room via reversing up. 
    3. Most likely the body you want to change was not appropriately fueled for quite a while, and it will take time to reverse and improve the situation. 
    4. You can’t expect to be a 155 lb female, eating 1600 kcal’s a day, to start a cut, and everything magically respond. We first have to do the work before the diet, to diet. 
    5. Make sure you’re maintaining your weight at a healthy intake, matching your TDEE.
  3. Diet history:  When was your last diet? 
    1. Three months or less? Hell no… 
    2. Within 6 months? – maybe, but more questions are needed and bio-feedback assessments. 
    3. Close to a year, or more? Yes, we’re good to go.
  4. Muscular Development: are you skinny fat?
    1. If so, and we go into a diet phase after you’ve been lifting for a year, and barely eating, do you really think you’re going to come out of that looking like the IG model you idolize? 
    2. Growing muscle takes a long time. Much longer than you think. Can you cut? Sure… but you’ll probably come out of it disappointed in your look. Like a “melted candle” as they say. 
    3. If you’re skinny fat, and diet, now you’re just skinny, not toned Brenda. 
  5. Biofeedback: This is arguably the most important. 
    1. Sleep, stress, digestion, menstrual cycle, mood, energy, strength and gym performance, digestion. 
    2. Is it great? Good? Or dog shit? 
    3. If great, we’re usually in a good spot. 
    4. If good: we need to assess response at maintenance for a few weeks and ask questions. 
    5. If it’s shit, we likely need to pull output down and bring calories up. 
  6. Other considerations: A lot of people want to drop kcal’s when starting a diet immediately. Sometimes we can create a net deficit with other markers such as…
    1. Actually tracking ALL the food that goes in your mouth, not just selectively.
    2.  A lot of times we’ll see clients report a certain intake, BUT this is alongside multiple free meals or bites not accounted for, or relying too heavily on “bar code” food, rather than whole foods which will lead to more accuracy. 
    3. Usually in this scenario, we see an environment in which the metabolism is under-utilized for the majority, with HUGE influxes of calories at random times leading to higher propensity to store and cause hormonal swings.
    4.  We see that by simply by getting reigns around the nutrition variables, will result in fat loss without a significant “drop” in kcal’s. 
    5. Better managing stress; both intrinsic, and extrensic, such as life stress, or training/ cardio stress. 
    6. Training intensity, and NEAT
    7. Micronutrient density

So… are you ready to do this?

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