I realise the headline here is reminiscent of a dodgy pop-up ad selling a magic potion or pill, but it's exactly what has happened in my last 8 weeks and I couldn't be happier.
First up, while it makes a good headline, I’d imagine at least 1-2kg of that weight loss was fluid (which tends to happen when you remove carbs), however even 5-6kg of genuine fat loss in 8 weeks is great.
While it hasn’t been an absolute piece of cake, it’s been much easier than I expected, however I must admit this is only realistic as I’ve had so much time off and my condition on day 1 was pretty terrible.
Starting from scratch: fixing my diet
I had promised not to do anything radical, so I simply started a basic keto-type diet: trying to stick to three meals a day where possible. In the past I’d literally eaten whatever, whenever I wanted, and it wasn’t rare for me to make a couple of peanut butter sandwiches as a nightcap!
My diet plan was simple:
- Don’t eat anything high in carbs,
- Eat no junk food,
- Remove beverages that contain calories (apart from coffee) from my diet (basically leaving diet soft drinks and water).
- Aim for 50g of protein in each meal,
- Aim for minimal carbs (so a minimum of 150g a day is consumed), and
- Ensure a decent supply of fats are consumed
The last point I believe is very important for anyone training and dieting “naturally”, who rely on their testosterone levels to be as high as possible.
You may think it is extreme to remove junk food entirely - and while a small amount of junk food and cheat meals are fine when dieting, it all comes comes down to self control and temptation.
My self control isn’t bad, but I figured it’d be easier for me to simply eat no junk than to factor it into my diet, and administer plenty of self control each time I dished up a (small) serving of that said junk!
Example foods: keto-type diet
Want to know what my diet looked like?
Well, my breakfast would consist of eggs and a bit of bacon, and perhaps some yogurt. Lunch would be a 50g protein shake or 50g of protein by way of tuna, as well as some veggies. My evening meal was the most "normal" -- a decent serve of veggies a decent portion of meat / fish / chicken.
I made sure I ate some fruit and a decent amount of veggies each day (the veggies I usually got into my evening meal), but it was a familiar sight to see me munching on fresh carrots / bananas through the day.
The biggest surprise about this plan is that after a few weeks had passed I started finding it surprisingly easy. Less frequent meals and low carbs means I didn’t have blood sugar issues. I had virtually no “cravings” for food and I saw very steady progress.
The first few weeks was the toughest, as before I literally ate what I wanted, when I wanted so self control to not eat on impulse was required for a while.
Less frequent meals vs. more frequent snacking
If you are a believer in the theory that 5-6 meals a day increases your metabolism and allows you to burn fat faster, or somehow makes it easier to lose weight I would seriously urge you to look into this more.
There is now a lot of research (and general info) that disputes these theories and it’s sadly a great example of bro (or perhaps “sista”) science that was perpetuated for so long with virtually no basis.
Not only do I believe 5-6 meals a day is no better, I actually think it makes it harder for many people to lose weight, due to the hunger issues frequent feeding creates.
Hunger control is without a doubt a key factor for weight loss. Definitely research this if you are wanting to learn more.
One negative I am finding with dieting is that I am drinking more coffee than before (2 cups a day where in the past I’d have less than 1), however this is well and truly in a normal range.
Starting from scratch: learning to train again
I haven't regularly trained in 7 years and, if I'm honest, I've done virtually no training at all in the last 5 years. This means I’m effectively a newbie with some muscle memory. This isn't a bad thing though, probably the best combination for getting results in a very rapid period of time. Muscle memory is a term which used to be thrown around a lot. The theory is, if you were previously stronger / larger, getting back to that point is much easier.
While there’s not a lot of science behind it, biologically it makes sense (as the body searches for homeostasis) and certainly there’s lots of empirical evidence out there for it.
My first step was to get back into a regular training schedule - the easiest part for me. I am lucky to have the knowledge to pull together a training program that suits my body and goals - if you don't know where to start, consult with a PT or professional.
My training plan for increasing strength while losing weight
I focussed on heavy compound movements with medium frequency and relatively low volume. And low volume is important here. I think avoiding low volume is a huge mistake many people make, especially when dieting. An example of my workout would be:
- Bench: 6 sets of 3 reps at 75kg
- Squats: 6 sets of 3 reps at 75kg
- Chin ups: 4 sets of 6 reps at bodyweight
- Dips: 4 sets of 6 reps at bodyweight
- Racked deadlifts: 4 sets of 3 reps at 180kg
And so on.
If your body is in a less anabolic state you can’t simply “train harder” to make up the difference. In fact, if you try, it’s much more likely to lead to fatigue and possibly injury. With natural hormone levels, it’s very unlikely training is the restricting factor here.
By keeping my volume low, I recovered well and most sessions I got stronger. Part of this can be attributed to muscle memory, as well as the fact while my diet is restricted. I’m eating better food and more protein than before which always helps.
Another mistake I believe people make is to reduce their weights while increasing reps, which I think you really have to question. By this logic, people are reducing their training effect in exchange for the belief that longer sessions will burn more fat. I kept my weights up with my volume low which seemed to work a treat, the opposite of what 'bro science' may suggest.
My training results - strength increased!
By the end of the 8 weeks my lifts were up 15 – 20% compared to when I started.
My strength results:
- Bench: Increased 15kg in weight, maintained reps
- Squats: Increased 15kg in weight, maintained reps
- Chin ups: Increased 20kg (hanging from belt) and increased reps to 4 x 8
- Dips: Increased 20kg (hanging from belt) and increased reps to 4 x 8
- Racked deadlifts: maintained weight, increased reps to 4 x 4
A couple of things worth mentioning. My squat is not where it might be, this is because I’m doing quite an upright squat with a very high bar position. This means dropping the weight back, but it’s much better for my back due to previous issues.
With the racked deadlifts, as I’ve been travelling a lot, the position of the "racked height” has changed a lot! This is one annoying thing about using different gyms all the time - if makes it very hard to ensure you’re making progress. Different weight bars, higher benches, lower benches, all these minor things can throw your plan out if you're not aware of them.
All my Hypertrophy lifts have increased by a similar amount, however when lifting in the 8 rep range, the weight I’m lifting is generally 15% lower than what you read here.
And I should mention - I pretty much did no cardio during my 8 weeks.
The end of 8 weeks: was it worth it?
Now I’ve finished my 8 weeks, I've transitioned to introducing more healthy carbs which are more conducive to growth and I'm adding in some more cardio now I'm back on a regular diet. Adding cardio back in is more for fitness and performance reasons, rather than weight loss.
I'm thrilled with the results, and these last 8 weeks have created a great baseline for me to continue my diet and training get back to peak strength.