How many times have we heard someone say: “I have to go on a diet” or some derivation of that expression with the word “Diet” coming out like it’s something you should get your mouth washed out with soap for saying? How many of you in fact use the word “Diet” instead of saying: “Ruin my life and be miserable”?
I get asked a lot about how to lose weight. That might be due to the fact that I once used to wear size 48 pants and now fit quite nicely in to a size 34 but what surprises people most is when I tell them I still weigh within 25 pounds of the same weight when I had a size 48 inch waist. Yep, I used to weigh 275 pounds and I wouldn’t have been able to squat a kitten but I am now a healthy 250+ pounds, wear size 34 pants and I can squat 405 pounds.
Everyone seems to want to attribute my weight loss to diet and in a way, they are correct but it’s not really that simple. The mis-used word diet actually refers to what you eat and is not a fad protocol your supposed to get on to then come off of. A diet is simply what you choose to eat at the moment to achieve a specific result. It can be restrictive or it can be outlandish but what really matters is that you control it and should be using it to drive growth, lose fat or maintain homeostasis. So … While my diet did help me lose fat and get in to size 34 jeans it was more about the consistency and quality of that diet coupled with a specific fitness activity that drives persistent metabolic change. That specific fitness activity is weightlifting and the metabolic change was to increase it significantly even while resting but that’s a different article … Lets stick to the point here which is that you should be in control your diet and not the other way around.
Lets start by discussing a few examples of certain body types and how you need to “Diet” to get strong:
Needs to eat more
Lets say your one of those skinny, hipster, flannel wearing, coffee house misanthropes (Yes, I stole some of that from Grosse Point Blank but it’s an awesome movie so get over it). Your diet consists of environmentally friendly grains, mainly vegan protein and organic, free trade coffee. First off, I’m with you on the coffee but the rest is going to have to change. The vegan protein has got to go … Vegan proteins suffer from a few disadvantages but the two most important are: a) It takes far too much to get to an amount that would meet your caloric needs and b) Even then, the uptake per ounce; compared to animal protein, is significantly less. The main macronutrient that drives muscle growth is protein and without a sufficient amount of it, all the weight training in the world is not going to make you any stronger, so … I’m sorry about your feelings but you’re going to have to start ingesting dead cow, pig, muskrat, whatever … if you truly want to get strong. While this individual basically needs to eat a lot more, the specifics would take too long to explain in this already wordy article so I highly recommend you go read Jordan Feigenbaum’s To Be A Beast article and use that as your starting point.
Probably needs to eat less
How about a busy, overweight individual with an office job and a Herman Miller office chair. Awesome chair by the way but being in it for 8 hours a day is killing you. Now, if your significantly overweight, the likelihood is that your diet consists mainly of processed carbohydrates along with significant amounts of fats and very little protein. This is an easy conclusion to come to since any human eating an appropriate amount of protein (200+ grams for men and 140+ grams for women) isn’t likely to be hungry enough to over eat because animal protein’s and their associated fats are very satiating. Even when I was dieting hard (1800 calories a day), I had to remind myself to go eat or I would simply forget. Not that eating that way is going to get you strong but we all apparently have to learn the hard way … No? Anyway … Your dietary habits are also going to have to change but eating more may not be the right answer for you since your body is already in prime condition to get strong.
A quick digression … Sometimes I feel my writing is a constant digression but … I digress. It is a simple fact that to gain muscle you have to be in an anabolic state and to lose fat, you have to be in a catabolic state. While this is an unfortunate truth, it also doesn’t mean that the overweight strength trainee is screwed. You in fact can gain some muscle and lose some fat at the very beginning of your quest for strength. Now … It will not last very long but the constant increase in your resting metabolic rate will start to compensate and continue driving you towards your fat loss goals.
Your diet too, should consist of lots of protein (also read Jordan Feignbaum’s To Be A Beast article for specifics) and a healthy amount of clean carbohydrates (Brown Rice, Sweet Potatoes, etc…) to keep you amped up for your training.
You need to change your relationship with the word diet and learn to use it as a tool to drive the results you want.
I once got verbally beaten up for saying: “Losing weight is easy” but the fact is that it’s true. Here is the complex formula for losing weight: Eat a lot of animal protein (200+ grams for males and 140+ grams for females a day) and stop eating when your full. That’s it. No more advice needed and no more complicated than that. You will likely have to eat 4 to 5 times a day to get the protein in and you won’t be hungry enough to snack. My personal experimentation with myself and two other males was that even prompting ourselves to eat; with reminders set in our phones, was that we wouldn’t ingest much more than 2000 calories a day and those numbers got even smaller without prompting. No healthy, intact male that does even the least amount of physical exercise a week can be fat on those numbers.
So … Get your protein numbers where they need to be and adjust the carbs and fats to drive your goals. That’s how you take control of the word “Diet” and learn to use calories to create something you can use instead of something you should lose.