Okay, so losing that much weight in a short amount of time is not easy. And unfortunately, there’s no way to explain every detail of the processes that got me there. However, here I’d like to overview the low hanging fruit, which allowed me to see success while dieting for the bodybuilding competition I competed in this past summer.
The interesting thing about this diet was the definitive end date. By the time I had decided to compete, I recognized the short window of opportunity I had to lose quite a bit of weight. I had to be very regimented and precise. But before precision came the big stuff. I’ve boiled that portion down to 3 major topics.
How Much Did I Eat? (Part I)
What Eating Strategies Kept Me on Track? (Part II)
How Did I Track Progress? (Part III)
First…How much food did I eat each day?
Something I’ve written about before is the magic of a Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) Calculator.
TDEE is the sum of all energy (calories) your body burns through each day. It’s made up of three distinct parts: (1) energy to keep you alive, (2) energy to digest food, and (3) energy for movement. This metric is important for the simple fact that it’s a number we shoot for, or under for that matter.
But how do we find it? From my experience, you can pick just about any TDEE Calculator online and it’ll spit out a fairly reasonable number given your current stats and lifestyle. Boom. There's your target.
At 217 pounds and ~17% body fat, my TDEE was ~3300 calories, meaning that if I ate 3300 calories every single day, my weight would chronically stay the same. At least, that’s the idea.
Given that I only had 16 weeks to lose quite a bit of weight, I needed a large caloric deficit, but how large?
It’s been long realized in literature that consuming 3500 fewer calories than you burn equates to about 1 pound of weight loss. So, if I ate 2800 calories each day, I’d lose ~1 pound per week.
7 days x 500 calories below TDEE = 3500 calories of net loss per week.
I started at 2300 calories per day because that’s still a reasonable amount of food, and I could start by losing 2 pounds per week. My body doesn’t naturally enjoy sitting at a number so high like 217, so the first 10 pounds flew off the shelf.
Life was peachy.
You might be thinking, well that’s not too bad. 2300 calories each day for 16 weeks and you’re right on track for a total of 32 pounds of fat loss.
Of course, nothing is ever that easy.
As I got deeper into the diet, my body started fighting back against this purposeful and slight form of what it perceives as starvation. It suppressed itself in many areas it deemed less important to survival. As an example, I monitored my resting heart rate throughout my preparation for the bodybuilding contest. It was pretty crazy.
Day 1 of the Diet: 68 beats/min
Day before the Competition: 39 beats/min
Of course I was dieting very hard, but the point is that the body can cut some seriously crazy corners, so we probably ought to keep it otherwise as healthy as possible.
Remember a few hundred words ago when I defined TDEE? Unless you’re an exercise fanatic, the largest portion of your TDEE simply comes from calories used to keep you alive, such as to beat your heart. Well, it takes less energy to beat a heart 39 times as opposed to 68.
So how did I continually adjust calories?
I used the TDEE calculator to redefine maintenance every couple of weeks. I shot for ~1000 calories below maintenance for as long as I could take it. I’m a real person, not a robot, even though I tried to adopt a robotic mentality. As I got deeper into the diet, my body became more and more resistant to weight loss, so 2 pounds per week became unmanageable.
For reference I was consuming ~1900 calories per day by the end of the diet. That was an absolute slog.
If I could go back in time, I would’ve given myself 24 weeks instead of 16. Losing the weight slower could’ve kept my TDEE higher throughout the process and given me a few weeks of eating maintenance levels of calories to refuel my mind and body.
You may have noticed that this entire process is predicated on tracking calories. For someone who’s never done such a thing, that task can be scary. If you’d like to learn more about the ins and outs of tracking calories, I recommend tapping this article.
There you have it. Part I is in the books.
Articles like these are great because they can get you in the ballpark of weight loss, but there’s so much more to this puzzle. If you want to lose weight and look awesome, I recommend visiting the SERVICES page of my website.
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