As I’ve mentioned here before, I went on a diet for around 10 weeks recently where I dropped 16 lbs., but basically kept (or even improved in some cases) my strength levels. It was a pretty interesting experience because I have not done anything approximating a formal diet for a very, very long time. However, I felt sluggish all Fall in soccer and just did not want to go through that for this upcoming Spring. So, I hired a nutrition coach (the excellent Shelby Starnes) to guide me to a lean, mean and uber-sexy new me. Now, I plan on writing a longer piece on this and maybe (just maybe) showing the before and after photos, but I cannot say I am super excited at the prospect of dropping my shirtless self on the Internet for all to see… at least not when I have a full-time job for a conservative Fortune 50 company. 🙂
But I did feel like there were a few quick hitter items before the longer piece, mostly because I notice I tend to write rather long and wordy blog pieces. So here are some things I learned along the way on my diet odyssey:
- Earn your carbs. This one is just something that makes a lot of sense once you give it a moment of thought. My diet was one of carb cycling, which meant I would have certain days of high carb intake, certain days of medium carb intake and certain days of low carb intake. The high or medium days would fall on days I was lifting… in other words, on days I was earning those carbs. On off-days or pure cardio days? Low carb all the way. This is a very simple change to make to your diet, but it works incredibly well.
- Carbonated drinks are a godsend when you are hungry. Shelby helped out on this one because he suggested having sparkling water drinks with Splenda because the carbonation made your stomach feel fuller, especially between meals. If you are concerned about artificial sweeteners, just use some kind of flavored seltzers. I mean, those taste awful to me and Splenda really doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
- Lift weights. This is not so much something new I learned, but I cannot think of how many people I know for whom a diet is cutting way back on food and then doing a ton of cardio. I can pretty much guarantee they will fall into a yo-yo trap with their diet and their weight will go back up when they finish. You should be lifting weights regardless for a lot of reasons (strength, bone density, improved lean body mass, better posture, etc.) but you need to maintain the good (lean muscle) while ditching the bad (body fat). So for the love of God, do some lifting when you diet. It’s a better long-term route to leanness.
- Weight loss is not linear. This is pretty much a direct quote from Shelby, so I am not taking any kind of credit for it. The point is that you may lose 3 or 4 lbs. one week, 1 the next, stay static and then boom! Lose 3 more in a week. It’s a rather unpredictable thing, so it’s critical not to lose hope when you are not losing the exact same amount of weight every single week.
- Create accountability. This can take on a variety of forms. For some people, it works well to tell family and friends so they will keep you on point or remind you when you slip. The idea is that the more public you make it, the worse off you will feel if you slack off. For me, it was hiring Shelby and it’s something I would strongly recommend to anyone. First, you have someone who will answer your questions and steer you back into line if you begin to veer off the path of positive progress. Second, it’s a little hard to claim the diet is “too hard” when you are dealing with someone who is a competitive level bodybuilder and who has eating discipline light years ahead of your own. Thankfully, Shelby is a reasonable guy and understands his clients have lives, will mess up at times, etc. I have hired coaches before on a distance consulting basis (for training, not a diet) and they tended to suck because they had such machismo issues, if things did not work as perfectly as they planned for you… well… then clearly you are not worthy of their time or their AWESOME level of knowledge. Give me a f-ing break. Obviously, this is not Shelby.
- It will be hard. Nothing too radical there, eh? You will be eating less than you are used to and there is little fun about that. For me, the hardest part tended to be less about my eating plan and more about the mind-numbing boredom of the cardio I was doing. Towards the end of my plan, I was doing 60 minutes of cardio 6 times per week. Now, if we are talking about playing basketball or soccer for an hour? Sweet. But grinding away on an elliptical machine with your stomach growling and the sick freaks in your gym leaving on a giant TV screen to the Food Network? Decidedly less than good times.
- You don’t need supplements… but they can be helpful. You don’t need to get too crazy. Fish oil is great for a variety of health reasons and a nice protein powder blend is handy, especially when you are in a bind for a quick meal.
So there ya have just a few quick points to ponder.