Yo! Last time on the blog, we kicked things off with a quick rundown of just how important calories are, the role they play in weight loss and weight gain exactly why there is no such thing as a good or a bad food.
In case you missed it, you can read through Part 1 of ‘The Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started RIGHT HERE.
3. Cheat Meals Can Make You Fat
One single meal can’t make you fat.
But, if you are having regular cheat meals, then there is every likelihood you are shooting yourself in the foot unknowingly, and leaving your progress to chance.
Losing fat (or building muscle) all comes down to calorie balance over a period of time, as we discussed last week.
You won’t change that much in a day, but you can change a lot in several weeks and months.
See, plenty of people who believe in the ‘clean eating’ way of doing things (so, basically the guys and girls who fall for mistakes 1 and 2 from last week), think they can get away with a massive weekly cheat meal/ binge, and stuffing their face with as much food as they possibly can, providing they are on track for the other 6 days.
As great as this theory may be, it just doesn’t work like that.
You see, it is entirely possible to eat back not only the calories you worked so hard to burn off during the week, but enough to take you from a calorie deficit and send you into a calorie surplus for the week, meaning not only will you not lose weight, but you could even gain some.
Let’s say your daily maintenance calorie number is 2,500, so if you ate 2,500 calories every single day (barring any fluctuations in water weight etc.) you would stay the same weight.
Monday to Saturday, you eat 2,000 calories, so a daily calorie deficit of 500.
500 calories x 6 days = 3,000 calories.
It takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat, so in that time, you’ve nearly lost a pound.
On Sunday, you have a ‘cheat day’.
Obviously what constitutes a cheat day is going to vary wildly from person to person, but as an example, let’s say you have-
- Pancakes with bacon and syrup for breakfast. (~1100 calories)
- Half a pizza for lunch (~800 calories), followed by several bags of chips and a few bars of chocolate/candy in the afternoon. (~1,000 calories)
- A burger with fries, and a large shake for dinner. (~1,900 calories)
- A tub of ice cream. (~700 calories)
That’s a daily total of roughly 5,500 calories, so 3,000 more than your maintenance level and in all honesty, the calorie estimates for those foods were probably on the generous side.
Going 3,000 over on this one day completely wipes out the 3,000 you were under over the course of the other 6 days, which gives you a grand total of zero weight loss.
Some people might be more restrained on a cheat day and only have 3,500 calories, but still, that takes your weekly deficit from 3,000 down to 2,000, which almost halves your rate of weight loss.
On the other hand, some guys and girls might go even crazier, and put away 8-10,000 calories, so that one day of eating is putting them into a wild surplus by the end of the week.
When you add in the incredible guilt, bloating, and sick feeling a cheat day often brings, it doesn’t really seem worth it any more, does it?
Don’t worry – I’ll cover what you can do instead a little later, meaning you won’t have to forego some of those delicious meals you love.
3. Supplements Alone Won’t Make You Jacked
Full disclosure – I like and use a fair few supplements.
I’m a big fan of whey protein and creatine, I like BCAAs, I’ll sometimes have caffeine, or fish oils, and there’s nothing like a pre-workout formula to give you a boost before a brutal squat day.
But supplements are exactly that – a supplement to an already well balanced, and thought-out approach to nutrition. When it comes to the nutritional hierarchy – i.e. the order of importance relative to other aspects of nutrition – supplements are at the very bottom of the list, behind calories, macronutrients & fibre, micronutrients & water as well as nutrient timing & frequency, but more on those that I haven’t yet covered a little later.
For now, go back and read number one again – because if you aren’t eating the right amount of calories with your goals and activity levels in mind, no supplement or magic formula is going to be able to bridge the gap for you. You can’t shortcut that, no matter how much you spend on supplements and fat burners, and if you’re searching for the magic supplement that gives you a 6-pack and doubles your biceps, you’ll be looking for a hell of a long time. Make sure you let me know if you ever find it though!
I used to chop and change almost on a weekly basis, hoping that the ‘latest and greatest’ formula would take my training and nutrition to the next level. No doubt you’ve likely tried a number of products already, but after 10 years of being involved in the industry, these are the ones that I stick to, year-round, that I have found to be the very best bang-for-buck & worth their money.
Now, that isn’t to say there aren’t others out there which can have a brilliant impact in their own regard, but given the average punter doesn’t have hundreds and hundreds of dollars to splash on supplements each month, I’ll touch on the most important two bang-for-buck items.
• Protein powders – find one that you like the taste of and that can easily fit into your daily energy/macronutrient requirements. Some products contain carbs & additional calories, whilst others don’t, but at the end of the day, protein powders and protein shakes are a convenience food, designed to make your life easier. They aren’t essential, nor do they absolutely need to be consumed after a training session – the important thing is that you consume enough protein in general (we’ll also get to this later), and if drinking a protein shake helps you do that, then brilliant.
• Creatine Monohydrate – the original, most superior version of creatine. It is your body’s main source of fuel for explosive, forceful, short-term contractions, and can supply energy for between 2 and 10 seconds, which means supplementing with this can directly improve your strength and ability to build and retain muscle mass. There’s no need to ‘load’ it as once thought – simply taking between 3-5g per day on a consistent basis will be enough to elevate your creatine levels (it is already produced in the body) to supplemental levels and for you to reap the benefits.
The best thing you can possibly do is find a protein powder and incorporate anything else into your routine in line with personal preference. You’d probably be wise to take creatine too – because of all the supplements out there, it has the most research and science behind it and if building or retaining muscle and strength are on your list of priorities, it’s a must have.
My picks and staples now that I know what I know:
• Standard Whey Protein
• Standard Pre-Workout
• Creatine Monohydrate
3. Being Lean All The Time Doesn’t Feel Good
When I first got into my best shape ever, I was convinced I was going to look that way until the day I died.
Well, I hung around there for a while, then realised it was just too damn hard to maintain.
Sure, with flexible dieting you can theoretically eat any food you want, but to get super lean, and have the kind of physique where you can step on the fitness model stage or be the dude or chick on a magazine cover, you have to be so strict with your tracking and your monitoring, it can end up drastically affecting your life.
You can more or less forget going out to eat, having a few beers, or including any fun foods in your diet. You’ll be on low calories and cutting back on your carbs and fats, which makes it seriously difficult to get foods like donuts, cookies, peanut butter and pizza into your macros.
Gaining strength is virtually impossible, your libido is through the floor, you’re constantly tired and you are hungry every waking minute.
Hardly living the dream, is it?
Can you be in very good shape year-round?
Sure, you can be strong and lean and feel just fine, but very few people will be able to stay around the sub-8% body fat levels for long without going into full-on zombie mode. If you’ve ever been reasonably lean or hit the stage before, you probably know exactly what I mean. Dieting & operating at low body fat percentages often comes at a price – life is all about priorities & if you’re in a position to prioritise your fat loss above all else for a period of time, then the conditioning world is your oyster. The thing I’ve realised more and more over time, however, is that while getting lean or losing some weight might further contribute to a happier, more confident you, it’s unlikely it will ever be enough on it’s own to truly make you happy.
Like everything else in life, sustainability is key, so understanding the role that getting lean can play in the above as well as the impact it might have on your life given your goals at the time will probably allow you to be far more content with your pursuits.
• Why Fasted Cardio Isn’t Better or Necessary At All
• Why Body Part Splits Don’t Cut It
That’s it for part 2. Next week, we’ll take down the topics above on the way to getting through the biggest lessons I’ve learnt over time when it comes to getting leaner & building muscle.
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See you next week!