We all know that there’s different nutrition methods out there for fat loss, one of your friends might be following intermittent fasting, another friend is following a low carb diet and another one is counting their macros celebrating how much dirty food they can fit into their protein, fats and carbs.
Ask them how it’s going and they’ll all say the same thing.
“It’s going great! You should try it, it’s the best thing ever”. So you give it a go, you get some results and similar to your friend all of the sudden results stop. You can never manage to lose that little bit of stubborn fat around your stomach, hips or get your legs leaner.
Weight loss results is great, stubborn fat loss is a different ball game.
If you want to look average the best thing to do is follow only one system.
If you want to look optimal you want have different systems and switch between them depending on what your body needs.
Your body is an adaptive machine, whatever you put in front of it it’s going to adapt to it. Once it adapts, it’s in it’s comfort zone. There’s not much of a reason for it to change. Below I’m going to show you how you can implement different nutritional methods to achieve stubborn fat loss results. At the end I’ve written a step by step plan for you to lose those last 5-10 kg’s.
First let’s have a look at the good and bad of some of the different nutrition systems:
Here’s your typical Jenny Craig and Weight Watches model where you get certain points for a day or number of calories to not go over.
The Good – It teaches portion size and if you’ve worked out the right amount of calories you need to be having each day to lose weight it’s a good way to keep yourself accountable and to stay on track. If you’ve got a lot of weight to lose, eating less is going to work.
The Bad – It requires a lot of self discipline and doesn’t take much else into consideration other than your overall calorie intake for the day. When it comes to stubborn fat loss macronutrient timing and macronutrient splits will be important. If most of your calories are coming from sources that aren’t the right fit for your body type than discipline is going to be harder to execute as you’re working against your hormones. A bowl of cornflakes in the morning is still going to make you feel sluggish around 10am and work against your fat loss goals even if you are still under your calorie intake for the day.
Counting Macro’s (Protein, Fats & Carbs)
Commonly found in the health and fitness industry where you would calculate your daily requirements of protein, fats and carbs according your goals. This also takes into account your overall calorie intake for the day.
The Good – You’re not just counting calories but also your three main macronutrients, protein, fats and carbs. All have very important roles to play in our health, longevity and performance. It’s a good way for people to ensure they’re getting in all their macronutrients.
The Bad – Some people take this way too far and disregard quality of nutrition. Macronutrients from a protein bar is not the same as macronutrients from grass fed beef, organic butter and sauteed vegetables. The only people that I really find can get away with this is people who literally have nothing else to do other than train, basically low stress lifestyle individuals. The less stress you have the less stress you’re putting on your digestive system meaning that you’re more likely to get away with the poor quality of food you’re putting in. It would be interesting to see their blood markers even if they are looking fit on a macro plan filled with Mars Bars.
Low Carb & Ketogenic Diets
After the popularity of low-fat (which has done more harm than good to people – have a read about Ancel Keys cherry picking 7 countries study) came low carb, paleo and ketogenic diets.
The Good – If you’ve got a lot of weight to lose, looking to reduce inflammation, improve your bodies ability to utilise it’s stored fat as energy and better manage your blood sugar a low carb or ketogenic approach is very beneficial. If you’re combining this with a macro plan where you’re having the right of nutrients for your body you can certainly strip a lot of weight and body fat in the initial stages whilst still having great energy levels throughout the day. When you restrict carbs you’re also restricting things like refined sugars and foods that are common to cause inflammation.
The Bad – Long term it’s no good for athletic performance and if you’re training regularly. As you get better with training your body gets better at using glucose (carbs) for energy. If it’s not there because you’re on a low carb diet than you’re not going to have the strength and energy in training to take your performance to another level; which in turn will take your body composition and fat loss results to another level. It’s common to see people on low carb and ketogenic diets as “skinny-fat”, skinny limbs and fat belly. That’s because their body is under stress from not having carbs for all the training that they’re doing.
There are a lot of intermittent fasting protocols out there and a lot of books written about it. There are obvious benefits to it but are people fasting for it’s health benefits or are people fasting so they eat whatever they want when it’s feasting time?
The Good – Improves insulin sensitivity and restricts the amount of calories you can consume on a fasting day. This can be good for someone who is already overweight by more than 10-20 kg’s from their ideal weight and is looking for initial results.
The Bad – Similar to the low carb and keto approach, long term we don’t see it as beneficial to training performance for ongoing body composition results. Let me know if you’ve ever heard of an Olympian or powerlifter use intermittent fasting as their main nutrition system. It can be better implemented as a reset to improve insulin sensitivity and even then it would be once a quarter or something like after a holiday.
More familiar to bodybuilders and athletes, they use it in accordance to support their energy output and recovery whilst maintaining their required body composition for their sport.
The Good – You’re not restricting yourself from carbs, you’re having them dependant on your activity level for the day. Training day will have more carbs and on a rest day you’ll have less carbs. This is great for improving someones training performance and building up their metabolism as they’re able to utilise carbs as an energy source. As your body gets more efficient at using carbs as energy the more carbs you can have whilst still keeping your body composition at respectable levels.
The Bad – You have to be patient to see stubborn fat loss results when combined with training and when you’re in a calorie deficit. When you’re having carbs and then you stop having them you’re going to see your scale weight change however that doesn’t mean that it’s fat, it could just be a loss of glycogen and water stored in your muscles. That’s why people get so excited initially over a low carb and keto approach. When you’re shredding whilst still having carbs you have to be extremely patient.
Putting it All Together:
The above are only some of the nutritional methods out there to strip body-fat, there are lots more at your disposal. They key is to know what your body needs at this very moment to burn more stubborn body-fat.
It’s a case of knowing when to push hard and knowing when to pull back, managing your stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline. If you keep pushing hard with dieting and only apply one nutrition method you can only do more of that one method.
“I can only reduce my carbs even more, I can only do more IF days, I can only drop my calories lower”.
If you’re doing that you’re eventually going to burn out the building blocks of your hormones that produce fat burning. When your body is under stress the last thing it wants to do is burn fat, it does the opposite and wants to hold onto it.
You have to manipulate and trick the system with periods of getting your body in a healthy state ready for fat burning, burning the stubborn fat and implementing periods of resting where your body feels happy.
Here’s How To Lose Your Next 5-10kg’s of Stubborn Fat:
When people come in to see us for help with training and body composition results most are either under eating or somehow their body isn’t ready to be in a fat burning state, e.g. low calories and carbs for too long. One day their energy is good and the next their energy is off, it’s never really consistent. The first thing we do is to get them stubborn fat burning ready.
You do this by getting your body happy and healthy.
Step 1: Fix Digestion, Reduce Inflammation & Carb Cycle
If you’ve been under eating for a long time or if the quality of your nutrition isn’t as on point as you know it can be then there’s a good chance that your gut health and digestion isn’t working optimally. Under-eating and malnourishment is stress on the body and the last thing your body wants to do when it’s under stress is digest food. A caveman with food in his hands crossing paths with a lion, will it want to eat or will it want to run and survive? Today the stress doesn’t have to be this dramatic. In our everyday lives today there is a lot of subtle and beneath the surface stress (malnutrition, lifestyle, work, money and relationships) which causes a stress response in our body to happen.
To improve gut health and digestion:
- Reduce stress to promote the use of parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest system). You don’t want favour too much of either your sympathetic (too much Crossfit) or parasympathetic (too much Yoga) nervous system, you want to condition and train them both.
- Carb cycle and more specifically we like to utilise carb back loading in the initial first 2-3 weeks as more protein and fats during the day help to better manage blood sugar. For a man this could be 50-100g of carbs split between last 2 meals and for a woman 30-60g of carbs split between last 2 meals.
- Good gut bacteria and digestive enzyme support to break down and absorb nutrients from food.
Here we’re building up your bodies nutrient and hormonal reserves to be in optimal stubborn fat burning condition. Why stubborn fat loss for people seems impossible is not due to lack of effort but due to lack of nutrient reserves to produce the required hormonal responses. They’re always in fat loss mode depleting their nutrient reserves making it harder to produce fat burning hormones such as adrenaline.
They burn out and all they want to do is stay in bed.
Step 2: Macro Plan with Quality Nutrition
Once your digestion is in a good place and your inflammation and stress is down we want to build your metabolism with a macro plan ensuring you’re eating enough calories, protein, fats and carbs for your training days and rest days; not too little and not too much.
Here the goal is to build your metabolism through training.
You might track your weight and body composition every week and add an extra 100-200 calories every week or two. If you find your weight doesn’t change, gets less or your body composition is still in a good state that’s a good sign as your body is learning how to use energy more efficiently.
Your thyroid hormone is also a master regulator of your metabolism. If you’re eating enough calories through quality food your brain will produce a hormone called TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) which acts directly on your thyroid hormone to stimulate the production of T4 which gets converted to active T3. T3 then binds to receptor cells in your body to regulate your metabolism.
In times of stress however (when you drop calories too low for too long) less T4 gets converted into T3 and more gets converted to RT3 (reverse T3). The problem with RT3 is that it isn’t active and also binds to the same receptor cells that T3 binds too making it hard for T3 to bind. This overall makes it harder for your body to utilise carbs and fats as energy. That’s why your metabolism slows down during long periods of dieting or aggressive dieting without the nutrient reserves.
This step is reverse dieting and your body can still strip stubborn fat in this phase because after all it’s in a happier and healthier condition to do so. Not to mention you have more energy to train harder which helps to create a better fat burning response during training.
Step 3: Apply More Aggressive Approach (Depletion & Re-Feeding System)
Now that your body is digesting food optimally, your metabolism is firing and you’re having protein, fats and carbs according to your training and rest days you can experiment with a more aggressive approach to your stubborn fat loss and training.
Here a method we commonly utilise is a depletion and re-feed system.
An e.g. of it can look like this.
Monday to Friday – Depletion (30-50g of carb w last meal)
Saturday & Sunday – Re-feed (100-200+g of carbs throughout day) Enough to replenish glycogen stores, create a happier environment for hormones and and not store excess body-fat.
We know that if you’re having a generous amount of carbs everyday, you’re in a healthy state and then all of a sudden if we pull pack those carbs, your body is going to get leaner, even if initially it’s going to be through a depletion of glycogen.
Another approach you can take is reducing the amount of overall calories you’re having each day by 10-20% every 2 weeks. Here you’ll have the benefit of still having more carbs on training and rest days compared to if you were depleting yourself for consecutive days. As I said before though that this approach requires a lot of patience. From personal experience this yields the best body composition results whilst maintaining good energy throughout a shredding phase.
Step 4: Repeat Cycle (Steps 2 & 3)
An aggressive approach to your stubborn fat loss can only be maintained for a certain period of time. You have to know when to come out of it to make your body happy and healthy again before you repeat the cycle.
This can be dependant on your goal, lifestyle, what you’re willing to do and knowing your overall stress tolerance.
Here are a few ways you can cycle:
- Monthly – 1 month focusing on nourishing for performance followed by 1 month focused on stripping body-fat. This is good for a more long term say 6-12 month approach.
- Bi-Monthly or 3 Month Cycles with Short Periods of Re-Feeds – A more of an aggressive approach when it comes to strippind stubborn fat in a short period of time which requires more discipline for that period of time (photoshoot, wedding, fitness model).
- Monday to Friday for the Weekend Warrior – For someone who is already healthy and in optimal body composition this can be a good approach to get the best of both worlds as long as they don’t compromise their gut health.
- Long Term Health Focus – You might only want to focus on Steps 1 & 2 and get into great condition through steady results and improving your training performance. In the back of your head you’ll know you’ll only need anywhere between 6-8 when you need it to get into optimal body composition. This is not a bad place to be.