Facebook just showed me this photo. It was from five years ago. I remember thinking at the time, “Getting a bit tubby there. You really need to lose weight.” Apparently I didn’t take that advice for a long time. Now, as I come to the end of the first phase of my body changing journey, I’d like to reflect back on some lessons that I’ve learned along the way and let you know my plans for the future. Hopefully you can learn something from my experiences that will make your own journey even easier.
Progress so far
I started this journey around 212 pounds and am, as of this morning, 167.4 pounds (45 pounds for those of you bad at math). It has taken exactly 7 months and 4 days to get to this point. Most of my progress was made on the Kinobody Aggressive Fat Loss (AFL) program. I have very strictly monitored my caloric intake and tracked my protein, fat, and carbohydrate intake. I’ve worked out three times a week (45 minute weight workouts) and walked on the off days. I haven’t done any running or high intensity cardio workout except for recreational (riding a bike with the kids) or situational (sprinting to get out of the rain).
As for the 45 pounds, I’ve actually lost more than 45 pounds of fat, because I’ve added some muscle along the way. For example, today I did 6 chin ups with 50 pounds attached. When I started I could barely do four bodyweight chin ups. For the purposes of this post, I’ll guesstimate five pounds of muscle for a total of 50 pounds of fat gone.
It’s Wednesday night as I type this, and on Friday, my relationship with Aggressive Fat Loss will end. I am officially going to lean bulk. This means that I am going to eat in a controlled caloric surplus for the express purpose of gaining muscle. And that’s where the topic of superstitions comes in. I don’t mean fear of black cats or bad luck for breaking a mirror. I’m referring to the psychological term superstition. It refers to the belief that if success is accompanied by a random event, the person (or animal) will associate the event with success. (Also works for bad things too.)
This is the product of our own brains working against us. Our brains are designed to recognize patterns. We are hard wired to learn from our experiences and continue what has worked in the past. This is known as heuristics. Unfortunately, our brains can also recognize patterns even where none exists, and this is especially true when it comes to losing weight. Losing weight is a very long, intentional process. Even though it all comes down to a caloric deficit, there are a large number of variables to account for, and the research is often controversial with multiple credible researchers lining up on opposite sides of a given issue.
So when a person successfully loses a lot of weight, they become highly attached to any behavior or action that occurred during the process, even if the action had no or minimal effect on their weight loss. When I first started AFL, the recommendation in the program is walk 45 – 60 minutes on the days you don’t lift weights. It just so happens that 3 laps around my neighborhood takes about 55 minutes, so that’s what I did four times a week for several months. Then, midsummer, I participated in a steps competition at work (team with the most steps after eight weeks wins a Fitbit…most inefficient way in the world to win something if you ask me). Toward the end of the competition, I was doing 5 laps around the neighborhood. Even though it was miserable, took too long, and my feet hurt and got blisters, once the competition had ended I was actually afraid to go back to only 3 laps. “What if my weightloss stalls? What if the only reason I was losing weight was the extra calories of the extra two laps?” You get the idea.
What about this bulking thing?
Most people who begin this Kinobody journey by cutting a lot of weight don’t plan to simply get thin. Once they’ve lost weight, the goal is usually then to gain muscle mass. The problem is that after months of working hard to lose weight, they become afraid to eat more. When you’ve deprived yourself for seven, eight, even 24 months to get thin, the last thing in the world you want to do is get fat again.
The problem of, course, is that it’s impossible to build a significant amount of muscle while maintaining a deficit. Heck, it’s practically impossible to build muscle while eating maintenance calories. To grow muscle, you really need a surplus. So the one thing that a person needs to do in order to build muscle is the one thing that person is afraid of—even when they know better. I’ve seen it dozens of times on the Kinobody Facebook group. I’ve even experienced it myself even though my plan was always to bulk after losing the weight, and even though I’ve been far more successful losing weight than I ever thought I could be. After all, my weight trend has been up for the last 15 years.
Casting out fear
So let’s run some numbers and see just how silly it is to be afraid of bulking. The Kinobbody Greek God program recommends a lean bulk of about 1900 extra calories per week. On the Facebook group, there is a current controversy over whether beginners and intermediates should follow that recommendation or do a slightly larger bulk of 3500 calorie weekly surplus (500 extra calories per day). Now if you remember your fat math, one pound of fat is 3500 calories. So if every single calorie of surplus went into fat, I’d gain one pound of fat per week. It would take me 50 weeks (an entire year) to gain all that fat back.
Let’s say, just half of the surplus calories get funneled into fat, then in one year, I’d gain 25 pounds of fat. And if just a quarter of the calories go into fat, then I’d only gain 12.5 pounds of fat in a year’s time. Now I’m only planning on bulking through March (7 months), so in that time, assuming 25% of the surplus going into fat, I could expect approximately 7.5 pounds of fat. From my experience with AFL, It should only take about 2 months to lose those 7.5 pounds of extra fat.
So don’t fear the bulk. Embrace the bulk. Seven months of eating 3000 calories instead of 1925 calories. You get to eat that way all through Thanksgiving, Halloween, and New Year! You even get to eat that way for Valentine’s Day. If you really want to go to town, save 200 calories each day, and have an extra 1200 calories for an epic 4200 calorie day (a solid Thanksgiving plan).
Don’t cut too long
The decision to stop cutting and start bulking is complicated. The general recommendation is cut until you’re about 10% body fat, and then bulk until you’re about 15% bodyfat, and then lean down again. I’m only about 13-14% body fat, and I haven’t quite hit my leanness goals (as defined by waist measurement and having a six pack). So why am I bulking? Three reasons.
The longer you cut, the harder it becomes. I’ve been cutting for 7 months now. At first my daily calories were 2000, and I lost almost 2 pounds a week. Now my daily calories are 1815, and I lose less than half a pound a week. As you lose weight, your body doesn’t need as many calories. That makes it progressively harder to keep losing weight.
Cutting is stressful—quite literally. Your body thinks you’re going to starve to death and tries to mitigate things by losing excess muscle. So you have to do heavy strength training to convince your body to hold on to muscle and lose fat instead. This causes your body to be stressed. Eventually, your body will adjust hormonally to reduce your metabolic rate. This was the subject of the Biggest Loser Study that I discuss here.
Cutting is also stressful mentally.
Bulking gives you a mental break and resets your hormones. Most importantly it allows you to gain muscle. At my current weight, I probably would have to lose 7-8 pounds of fat to achieve a 10% bodyfat. I would look ridiculously skinny at 160 pounds, and it would probably take 3-4 more months. By lean bulking I’ll add hopefully 10-15 pounds of muscle in the next seven months with only a small amount of fat. Then when it comes time to lose the fat, I can do so at a higher (more enjoyable) daily calorie intake, and it won’t take as long to lose, so it won’t be as stressful. So that’s the plan.
I had already been considering pursuing a lean bulk when Greg came out with this video, confirming my decision.
Why do you keep emphasizing lean bulk?
A lean bulk is a controlled bulk. In my case, 500 calories over maintenance, or about 3000 calories per day, while maintaining an appropriate macronutrient balance. The traditional way of bulking is just eat a lot, which is of course how I got into this problem in the first place. So don’t just bulk. Lean bulk!
In my last post on diet, I talked about how I found the Atkins diet and later the Kinobody diet. I did Atkins for 3 weeks before switching to the Kinobody Aggressive Fat Loss program. As of today (7 weeks and 2 two days total with 4 weeks on Kinobody), I have lost 20 pounds. I’m now 192 pounds, down from 212 pounds on January 27. My pants are practically falling off me. By my birthday in May, I hope to be back down to 175 pounds. I haven’t been that light since 1998.
But isn’t Diet just Die with a T?
Contrary to Garfield’s opinion, the Kinobody diet is quite enjoyable. Believe it or not, with the Kinobody diet, I get to eat cookies and chocolate, and ice cream (albeit in relatively small amounts). Sometimes I actually have to force myself to eat enough food. In fact, you should eat food you enjoy every single day. If you don’t, you won’t want to stay with the program. Here’s a great video by Kinobody follower, Radu Antoniu explaining why.
Okay so how exactly does this diet thing work?
Basically, you just figure out how many calories you should be eating to lose weight. Figure out how much protein you need to not lose muscle mass, and then just eat that amount.
Figure out your calorie needs for maintenance.
Figure out your deficit (500 calories per day for 1 pound of fat per week)
Figure out your protein needs
Track your macros (I use myfitnesspal app)
Intermittent Fasting. (Skip breakfast)
Do strength training 3 times a week
Do 45-60 minutes of walking or other light/recreational cardio per day
Track Progress and make adjustments as necessary
Umm, could you be a little more specific?
Okay, you want some details. Although there are lots of complicated ways ways to calculate your maintenance calories, there’s an easy way to estimate it.
If you are reasonably active, your maintenance calories are around 15 x your bodyweight in pounds. So if your goal bodyweight is 175 pounds, your maintenance calories are approximately, 15 x 175 = 2675 calories per day. If your goal weight is 130 pounds, then your maintenance calories are approximately 1950.
If you are more than 20 pounds above your goal weight, you should take things in 20 pound increments. So if you’re 200 pounds and your goal is 165, calculate for 180 first, then 165 once you get to 180.
The cool thing is that if you are heavier than your goal weight, if you just eat at maintenance, you’ll slowly lose weight. But who wants to take several years to lose weight? Let’s kick things up a notch.
Calculate your deficit
This is one of those Goldilocks things. If your deficit is too small, it takes too long to lose weight. If your deficit too big, then although you may lose some weight quickly, you probably won’t stick with the plan long enough to make your goal weight or be able to keep the weight off.
A pound of fat is 3500 calories. So to lose a pound of fat a week, you need to eat 3500 calories less per week. Conveniently, 3500/7 days = 500 calories per day. You could just take your maintenance calories and subtract 500 or subtract around 20% of maintenance.
So for the 130 pound goal weight, 1950 – 500 = 1450. (If you want a short cut, this turns out to be about goal bodyweight x 11.)
What’s a macro?
Macro is short for macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates). If your goal is to lose fat, and not muscle, then you need to make sure that you eat enough protein, somewhere between .8 and 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. So for our 130 pound goal, the protein intake should be between 104 and 130 grams. This means that your protein intake should account for between 28% and 36% of your daily calories.
The rest of the calories should be more or less balanced between fat and carbohydrates, but it can vary from day to day, so one day you might be 20% fat and 45% carbohydrate, and on another, you could be 35% fat and 30% carbohydrate. You don’t have to obsess. Just make sure you’re around your target calories and minimum protein.
Here’s another video from our friend Radu explaining it with that cool Romanian accent.
How do I track all this stuff?
The short answer is, “There’s an App for that.” The two most popular apps are myFitnessPal and myNetDiary. Both are available for Android and iPhone. I started out with myNetDiary, but switched to myFitnessPal. The two reasons I switched are: my University’s cafeteria food is already in myFitnessPal, and you can modify your macronutrient goals without having to pay.
There’s a bit of a learning curve to it, so I’ll post a step by step guide in a future article.
But aren’t you starving all the time?
This is where intermittent fasting comes in. Basically, you skip breakfast. By eating fewer meals, you increase the number of calories you get to eat at your remaining meals. So if you eat 1450 calories for the day, at three meals each meal is less than 500 calories. If you skip breakfast, you can have two 725 calorie meals.
If you don’t mind different sized meals, you could have one 1000 calorie meal, and a 450 calorie meal. Which one you eat first is completely up to you. Or you could have a 1000 calorie meal, and then have 450 calories of chocolate instead of dinner. The choice is yours.
You might at first be hungry at first in the morning, but within a week or three you’ll actually feel better. As for, me it wasn’t a difficult change at all, because I don’t really like eating breakfast most days. It really helps not to be around food, so going to work, and well…working, I usually don’t feel hungry until around lunch time.
And some more of our friend Radu explaining how he does intermittent fasting.
Do I have to fast?
No. the fasting is really just a tool to make calorie restriction more enjoyable. It also has the added benefit of reducing insulin, which makes it easier to lose fat. But reducing insulin alone won’t make you lose weight. You need the calorie reduction.
Personally, i think fasting makes enormous sense for most people, and especially for females in the dating game. Men do judge you by what you eat. I can’t speak for all men, but I think most men don’t want delicate flowers who can only eat 400 calories. They think you’ll be trying to get them to eat 400 calories. If you can pack away a 1000 calorie meal on a date and still look great…well that’s that stuff guys dream about.
You mentioned “reasonably active” earlier. What does that mean?
One of the things that I truly appreciate about the Kinobody approach is the diet first approach. Although programs like P90X and Insanity include diet plans, they are primarily billed as workout programs. I’ve done those programs without modifying my diet, and yes, you get more fit and lose some weight, but you won’t see real results unless you change the way you eat.
Kinobody puts the emphasis on diet immediately. Most people can lose 4-8 pounds per month whereas most people can only gain 1-2 pounds of muscle per month. So if you want to see fast results, losing fat is way more effective. In my own case, after losing 20 pounds in 2 months, people are constantly telling me how much better I look. (Although I notice they were polite enough not to call me a fat pig until after I lost the weight.) I’ve never had similar results with just working out.
And speaking diets, most workout programs’ diets seem to consist of, “eat sawdust.” With the Kinobody diet and intermittent fasting, you can eat some truly epic meals. A classic in the Kinobody community is a triple steak bowl from Chipotle. It’s 1000 to 1100 calories depending on whether you get rice or not and is incredibly filling. This was my dinner last Friday and the inspiration for the title of the post. It even looks like a happy face. (Steak on the side to make sure they don’t short you on steak.)
There’s NO way you lost weight eating a 1000+ calorie Chipotle bowl.
For Jen’s birthday I had half a Captain Jack’s Buried Treasure from the Palm Beach Alehouse. It’s an Oreo/Heath Ice Cream Pie served over hot fudge (750 calories for half of it; Jen and the kids had the other half.) I’ve never lost weight so easily and felt great and satisfied. Most nights I finish my eating for the day with a 100 calorie chocolate/crunch wafer and a glass of whole raw milk. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Don’t do a Cheat Day; Refeed instead
One of the major mistakes a lot of people make on their diet is a cheat day. I know people who have eaten 4000 plus calories on their cheat days. That undoes an entire week of dieting. Instead, you should do a refeed day. On the reefeed day, you increase your calories by about 500-600 calories. Most of your calories should come from carbohydrates. First, this feels (and tastes) awesome. Second, the increased carbohydrates support leptin production by fat cells. Leptin is a hormone that promotes satiety and encourages fat cells to give up fat instead of storing it.
Umm, The exercise?
Right. So, reasonably active means you do some physical exertion at least six days a week. If you have a strenuous day job (e.g., construction, beach attendant), you don’t really have to do anything else. Ideally you would do a strength workout 3 days a week for 30-45 minutes, and then do some light/recreational cardio on the off days. For me, this means walking for about an hour on the days. I walk at night after the kids are in bed and listen to podcasts or play Castle Clash.
Some people are a little more addicted to excercise and want to do something higher intensity. High intensity Interval training (HIIT) is a good choice for these people. Sprints, Hill sprints, BIke sprints, jumping rope are good HIIT activities. The key is you don’t have to sweat much if you don’t want to. 45 minutes of walking will do you just fine.
How long will it take to see results?
The answer is it depends. If you have 60 pounds to lose, you’re going to see faster and more dramatic results than if you only have 10 pounds to lose. If you’ve already been dieting, it might take longer to lose weight. If you’re coming off a low carb diet, you’re actually going to gain weight at first while your body restores it’s glycogen storage.
If you’re completely out of shape, you’re going to actually build some muscle, so you might not see your weight go down at first, but you may notice that your clothes are looser. It’s a good idea to measure waist, biceps, and neck circumference for a men and waist, hips, thighs, and bust for women. Before and progress photos are also helpful.
If you’ve already been dieting and losing weight, it’s a good idea to eat maintenance calories for two weeks to kind of reset your metabolism and hormones before going on the calorie restriction. In my case, I had only been dieting for three weeks, so I went straight into the Kinobody diet, but because I was on the Atkins (low carb) diet, I gained 3-4 pounds and then dropped 8 pounds in the next 2 weeks.
So in general, if you’re starting from nothing, you should see pretty good results within 2-4 weeks. If you’re not seeing anything at all within 2 weeks, try lowering your calories by 200 a day for 2 weeks. If you’ve already been dieting/working out, things may be slower, so give it four weeks before you start mucking around. If you’re consistently hitting your calories and protein, and are reasonably active, you’ll lose weight.
Where can I learn more?
I’ll be posting updates over the next few weeks and months as I continue this journey to buffness. If you want me to e-mail you updates, just fill out the form below.
Subscribe for Free Updates
Learn how you too can be buff for the beach.
Congratulations. Now check your email to confirm your subscription.
Thank you for enrolling.
If you want to learn more about the Kinobody programs, use the links below (I’ll get a small commission if you buy anything).