Time to Reset Your Relationship With The Weighing Scales
In this BREAK-THE-MOULD Body Plan you are investing in building a stronger, healthier and firmer body with shape and curves in the right places. Not to mention providing optimal nutrition to thrive, addressing symptoms of malnourishment from long sustained caloric restriction, and having great mental and physical energy.
Fat loss can absolutely (and likely will) be a goal that strongly features, but you need to believe in the process. The process of building your best body, that has a balanced composition of muscle and necessary body fat.
You WILL lose body fat – 100%! But that’s not the goal nor incredibly likely in the next eight weeks. It could happen for those brand new to proper strength training, but lets not be be too optimistic here. Body fat loss will come as we cycle in calorie restrictive cuts.
So, with a possibility of some minimal fat gain, combined with the extra lean muscle and stored muscle glycogen and water, the weighing scales WILL go up. There is no two ways about it. Combined with the monthly cycle weight fluctuations, the weighing scales will not be describing fat changes – but instead a whole host of other physiological changes.
That said, it is a good idea to keep weighing yourself daily/weekly, and logging those numbers in an app such as MyNetDiary or MyFitnessPal. The reason for this is to objectively measure the progress against the goal of lean muscle growth and to understand your monthly weight swings. For those who struggle with looking at bodyweight objectively, it may be wise to get the help of a PT or a partner, who can observe and make adjustments without the emotional knee jerk reactions.
Instead, Measure & Care About These Things
So if we’re going to de-prioritise the importance of the weighing scales, what should we focus on measuring to assess progress and being on track?
The answer is a combination of objective and subjective measures:
#1 – Strength Gains – this will be the most important marker of progress. Are you able to lift more weight or increase your volume (Weight x Reps x Sets) from one week to the next?
#2 – Firmness – Are you feeling greater density and firmness as a result of training and developing your muscles? For a newbie to strength training, the change should be pretty obvious.
#3 – How you look in the mirror – A month in, you should be able to see some positive changes in the shape of your body. Perhaps it’s a little more definition, stronger curves or improving proportions. Take a clothed and underwear-only photo every week, with the same lighting, underwear, stance, timing and location.
#4 – Sleep – it’s important to be rested to support your body and help repair trained muscle tissue. Is the quality (subjective) and the duration (objective) of your sleep improving? Aim for 7-9h a day. Read The Top 10 Sleeping Hacks article, as well as looking into sleep analysis apps/wearables such as Sleep Cycle or AutoSleep.
#5 – Energy & Mood – How do your energy levels feel? With sufficient and increased calories and nutrients, combined with strength training, you should have an upward trend in how you feel and perceived energy levels.
#6 – Suppressed Symptoms – Whilst this is a broad and subjective suggestion, have a think about how you currently feel physically. Gas, bloat, fatigued muscles, sensitivity to cold, skin issues etc. As a result of eating sufficient calories, micronutrients and macros, avoiding inflammatory foods, and having the benefit of purposeful resistance training, are you able to see in a reduction in some or all of your observed symptoms?
#7 – Nutrition – As par of the course, you will be measuring your food and calorie intake. It’s important to hit the target calorie goals set to within +/- 30 calories. Guesswork will take away from your ability to control the desired outcome and timing.
#8 – Girth & Body Fat Measurements – To be honest, this is optional, and suited for those who love to measure and monitor stuff. It can be a useful and encouraging insight. For example, perhaps you will weigh more, but your legs are looking a little firmer and athletic, and yet the thighs circumference is the same. For body fat measurement, callipers are good cheap tools to use, but you need to know how to use them, use them correctly on yourself, and most importantly be consistent with them. That can be a challenge.
#4 – STAGE 2 & 3 – Next 5 Weeks – Break & Fat Loss
OK, So I’ve Gained the muscle, the extra water and the fat. Now what?
STAGE 2 – Deload Week & Maintain
If (when) you get to this point, it’s time to celebrate! Well done. You’ve transformed many habits and have seen some great body composition changes already. You’re feeling good and enjoying the new way of life. It’s now time to take a quick break, and to familiarise yourself with your new calorie allowance to maintain your weight.
You’ve pushed yourself hard in the gym constantly for 8 weeks. So, for the next 5-7 days, it will serve your body and motivation to lower the intensity and demands on your body. Instead of the Stage 1 Training Block, here are some things you can do, so you don’t just veg out and potentially lose momentum:
- Increase your NEAT and just get more active in everyday life – More walks, more gardening, get some home blitzing/DIY done.
- Time to enjoy some new or infrequent active hobbies – Some leisurely swimming, frisbee with with the kids, golf, canoeing, rambling. Anything that you enjoy but haven’t been able to prioritise.
- Skill Work and Mobility – Maybe get in the gym (or at home) and work on your form, movement, range of motion. Not to sweat, but instead to improve skill and form.
- Train at 50% Intensity – By all means, you can get into the gym if you fancy it, but it’s not to get beaten up. Drop the weights by 50% and use the time to really connect with the exercises.
- Mindfulness Practices – Great time to get in a little more yoga, pilates or even commit to giving guided meditation a go. Headspace is a great British narrated app to try. Maybe get to the spa, or get a sports massage.
In terms of nutrition, it’s dead simple. Do EXACTLY the same as Stage 1 as it relates to food choices, meals, macro priorities, supplementation and tracking what you eat. The only difference is to eat at maintenance calories (i.e. your TDEE, with no surplus/deficit).
Re-calculate your TDEE based on current weight and revised deload activity levels and consume that value. We can assume a 100kcal increase in BMR, with perhaps a 200kcal TDEE adjustment if attempt to match calorie expenditure. If you wear a FitBit or Apple Watch, you can assess if you are matching your Stage1 activity levels.
I’d recommend just the one week Deloading, so you don’t regress in terms of strength, but you could stretch it out to a max of two weeks if there is a reason to do that.
STAGE 3 – Strip Off Some Unwanted Fat
It’s now time to specifically target some fat loss, dependant on whether you believe it’s necessary at this stage. You’ll enter into a calorie restricted cut, following the approach detailed in the Losing Body Fat For Good article.
I would recommend going on a 3-4 week cut where you put yourself in a 25-40% caloric deficit. This is a considered the maximum you will want to restrict your calories, to avoid being malnourished or losing the muscle you have just built. At a 25% calorie deficit from your new TDEE, this will definitely feel like a diet! It’s quite aggressive, so don’t go lower unless you are confident in managing your nutritional needs.
Again, your food choices, meals, supplementation and tracking does not change. This is not the time for punishment and being deprived of joy and flavours. You just need to eat less. Whether that be smaller portions, skipping a meal, cutting out the snacks, or purposely chasing the lower calorie AdapNation Food Diary meal ideas.
As already mentioned, the article Losing Body Fat For Good goes into the detail, but critically important to note now is this – push your Protein up to 1.2g per pound of bodyweight.
If it feels right, perhaps it would be a good idea to go on a 24h fast to mark the start of the cut. Fasting has some profound benefits to your health and longevity, and may feel good to give your digestive system a day off. You can hear more about the benefits and science behind fasting in the Fasting Masterclass AdapNation Podcast.
Of equal importance to the calorie and protein targets, STILL CONTINUE to weight train with the same intensity and style to what is described in this programme! Do NOT drop the weight training, or lower the relative intensity.
You need to send a strong signal to your body that it’s important to hold on to the muscle you have by using it whilst in a catabolic state.
If you don’t do this, you will lose an undesirable amount of muscle in addition to the fat, with the potential to put yourself back to where you started. That would make this process a BIG waste of time.
You can continue with the Training Block detailed in this Plan (AUG-18 #HyperWorkouts Female Edition), pic an alternative #HyperWokouts Training Block, or opt for another traditional strength training programme.
Then, Lather, Rinse And Repeat
Once the cut is over, you should be looking great, will be happy with the overall body composition progress, and will be looking forward to eating more food!
Perhaps go into a 1-2 week period of eating at maintenance calories, to allow your body and metabolic processes to return to a good healthy place. From there, depending on your goal, you may wish to once again cycle through the Surplus (Stage 1), Maintenance (Stage 2) & Deficit (Stage 3) in order to continue developing your desired body of strong curves and healthy levels of leanness.
It’s a beautiful approach, that will continue to give and give.
The eating approach is sustainable, delicious and focussed on you being your best.
There are a million ways to alter strength training programmes in terms of exercise selection, reps, sets, rest periods etc, meaning you will never get bored or stagnate in terms of progress.
And the approach to being in a calorie surplus, followed by a week of maintaining weight, followed by a deficit, reaps all the benefits of metabolic improvements, muscle building, fat burning and periods of lowering the pressure.
All that is left now is for you to go build that body and vitality you deserve. You’ve got this! Can’t wait to hear your progress and story. 💚
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