T Nation

Fine Tune my Cutting Diet


#1

Hey folks,

I'm in the middle of what I'm hoping will be my last big cut. Things are going well so far, but I'm three weeks in and I think it's time to stop, evaluate, fine tune. I'm going to lay out what I'm doing, and hope for some feedback. Again, I am not asking for a new diet, I like this diet, I'm just hoping that folks might see possible little tweaks that I've missed. I'm at the point where I'm starting to see the light on my physique goals and I don't want to miss any opportunities. Thanks in advance.

Background:
Started out 285 lbs +35%bf 2005
Currently 195 lbs~ (Last weighed 205.5 almost 3 weeks ago), visually estimated at 20-25% bf (in the market for a good set of calipers, recommendations?)
Goal 180 10-12% bf

Height 71 cm
Age 29
Sex Male

Training:
1.8 mile fasted walk every AM on a hilly dirt road, 30-45 minutes (sometimes I stop to watch eagles, swans, ducks, geese and herons fishing)

3x a week 3 way split - legs, push, pull
I alternate between strength, hypertrophy and endurance workouts, hitting all three each week. So the workout for each day is different each week. Make sense? I think it's called an undulating wave. All workouts are based around compound lifts and then 3-5 assistance lifts. Some isometric, some explosive, some machines, some free weights. I usually do 5-7 sets of each compound (1-3 depending on the day) and 1-3 sets of each assistance lift. I try to lift weights that I could hit 1-2 more with for a given rep range, 60-80% I guess? It sounds confusing, but in practice it's pretty simple. Workouts last 1-1.5 hours.

Also, I'm a student. My campus is small, but very, very hilly. I probably walk 2 miles on campus every day, most of it up hill or up steps.

Sample non workout day diet

7:30 AM
Cup of green tea

8:00 AM
Morning Walk

9:00 AM
Meal 1
3 whole eggs (fresh and local when I can get them, otherwise omega 3)
1 tbs butter
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 scallion
1/2 jalapeno pepper
1 large clove garlic

Salad w/
3/4 head of romaine lettuce
1/4 seedless english cucumber
1/2 cup chopped red cabbage
1 tbs avocado oil
1 tbs raw apple cider vinegar

1 tbs sunflower seed butter

3:00 PM
Meal 2
Beef Stew w/
chuck roast, oyster mushrooms
oat groats, hulled barley, brown rice
onion, garlic, jalapeno, bell pepper
corn, black eyed peas, cabbage, celery
turnip, sweet potato, carrot
butter, olive oil, red wine, black strap molasses, lemon juice

5:30 PM
Meal 3
same as meal 2

9:00 PM
Meal 4
2 pieces sprouted grain sourdough bread
2 tbs sunflower seed butter

11:00 PM
Meal 5
1 scoop low carb Metabolic Drive

fitday.com Cals/Macros:
Cals - 2200 kcal
Protein - 100.9 g
Fat - 90.6 g
Carbs - 139.4 g
Fiber - 29.7 g

Supplements:
multi b with meal 1, cod liver oil with meal 4, black strap molasses with meal 5, BCAA's peri workout, sometimes black coffee pre workout

On work out days I eat my two main meals at 1 and 2 hours post workout. I drink a shake 1 hour pre workout with 1 scoop of Grow! and the same immediately post workout. I take 3 Biotest BCAA tabs with all 4 meals peri workout. I sometimes eat a cup of freeze dried blue berries mid workout if it's a long one.

I drink at least a gallon of water a day, probably 3 on workout days. On hot days I add a pinch of celtic sea salt to my water bottle.

I eat the same thing every day but change my meals weekly, usually alternating proteins, carb sources and veggies.

I eat at will on the weekends. Usually I'll have one day with a lot of activity and very little eating and another day with very little activity and a lot of eating. There are usually hamburgers and ice cream involved.

That's pretty much it. I'm looking forward to any critiques, tips, comments, banter, whatever.


#2

You lost ten pounds in three weeks... that's progress. In fact, its really good progress.

What you're doing is working. Just keep doing it. As Shelby Starnes says, "Be patient. You didn't get fat overnight."


#3

Upon further reflection, I see a pretty huge hole in your training here.

You should never watch that many birds in one day. It's just too much bird volume. Realistically, you should include one major bird watch at the beginning of your workout, and then several smaller watches after that. For example:

Watch eagle 5x5
Watch sparrow 5x5
Watch chicken 4x10
Watch dove 3x15

Then follow up with some hummingbird or cornish game hen work.

Poliquin recently posted an article in which he reaffirms his belief in bird watching intensity for fat loss. So when you watch your eagles or geese, go really hard, then rest for at least two minutes.

CT is a huge believer in the swan/duck/heron method, but that's quite a bit to handle without some peri-watching carbs. You may want to pick up some Surge Watchbird Fuel for those heavy eagle and geese days if you decide to go that route.

As always, make sure to warm up. Start by watching some nice light goslings and eaglets before you get to the hard stuff!


#4

Lol, I knew I was pushing my bird watching volume. To be realistic I probably only see
2 or 3 of our various species on a given morning.


#5

This thread is for the birds.


#6

I'm thinking maybe I should ask more focused questions. Lets try this.

If I'm doing my math right, I'm living monday through friday in a pretty big caloric defecit, something like 800 - 1000 kcal on non workout days. As the diet progresses, I find myself having this (probably irrational) fear that I'm going to start losing my hard earned muscle. With that in mind.

1) are there any "why the hell aren't you already taking this??" sups that I should look into?
2) is there anything else I can do to optimize my peri-workout feeding? Particularly to assist recovery after my heavy day
3) is there anything worth looking into to help deal with lingering "stubborn fat" areas? chest, spare tire and low back just love to hang onto body fat while my arms and legs get ripped


#7

There is a lot wrong with your plan honestly but if you aren't looking for a new diet... I don't know what you are looking for from us. If your plan is working then don't change anything but if it's not(which I'm assuming it's not since you made this thread) you are going to need to make changes somewhere.

For your last questions

1) No
2) Eat better
3) Extremities are easiest to lose body fat on, the thing worth looking into is dropping considerably more body fat.


#8

More protein my good man! I seem to be getting good results from having just over 1g per lb lean body mass. This comes entirely from complete protein sources. Anything extra from incomplete protein sources found in veggies and the such is a bonus.

EDIT: This is as well as extra protein on training days with your workout nutrition.


#9

Wow, way to reward my curiosity.

Did you miss the part where I've lost nearly 100 lbs of mostly fat in the last 4 years?

I'm not new to dieting. I'm eating the way that I'm eating because it is the culmination of many things that I have tried, read and seen over the last four years. There is always room for improvement.

I like to get people's opinions on these sorts of subjects, hear out their ideas, compare them to my own and sometimes synthesize something cool out of it.

Sorry I've got it so wrong, but please, enlighten me. I asked for people's opinions, maybe I should have said specific suggestions?

How about this, I'll point out the principles that I'm working off of. If there is something that I am seriously overlooking, let me know. I'm seeing results, but if I can see better results, then fuck yeah.

  1. Maintain a caloric deficit - check, 800-1000 kcal below maintenance
  2. Protein with every meal - check, 16 - 20 grams every meal
  3. Carbohydrates mostly from vegetables - check, out of 149 grams of carbs, only about 64 come from non vegetable sources (whole barley, oats, rice and sprouted whole wheat bread, + some amount of sugar in sesame seed butter, molasses and protein powders)
  4. Lots of protein and aminos peri workout - check, 80 grams of whey isolate peri workout + 43.2 combined grams of BCAA's
  5. Lots of good fats - check, 94 grams including lots of monounsaturated, omega 3's, and saturated fats from grass raised meat and eggs
  6. Lots of fiber - check, nearly 30 grams of mostly soluble fiber from whole food sources
  7. Majority of kcals from whole foods - check, only drinking 110 kcals on off days, 330 on workout days
  8. Green tea on an empty stomach for thermogenic effects of caffeine and egcg - check, no food until an hour after drinking in the AM
  9. Fasted moderate paced cardio in the AM - check, every day come rain or shine 1.8 miles at a moderate pace
  10. Lift heavy to encourage muscle retention - check.

Edited for clarity


#10

Your macros and total calories do not add up:
100.9 x 4 + 90.6 x 9 + 139.4 x 4 + (29.7 x 4) = 1777 kCal (1895 kCall counting fiber as carbs)

I would also like to see the calculation how you are able to get 84 of carbs from vegetables.
Or do you view sprouted grain as a vegetable?
EDIT: Ignore the question. I forgot that sweet potato (that you put into your stew) is a vegetable.

You also do not help people by not including the protein from BCAAs (43.2g) and peri-workout whey (80g).

So I guess your total protein intake is 144g on non-workout days and 224g on workout days. Does not look bad to me.

At 20% body fat there is not much need to fine tune. You will be losing weight pretty easily. If weight loss comes to a stall, you will have to reduce calories furthermore and best cut some carbs. For example Meal 4. What is the purpose of this meal, anyway?


#11

Staying under maintenance for too long will kill off metabolism - have you considered working up to maintenance and sitting there for 2-4 weeks? Metabolism will be good to go and you should start seeing fat loss again with a noticeably smaller deficit and less lean tissue loss.

I would still love to see more protein... something in the region of 140-150g which wouldn't be a major increase.

Increased likelyhood to hold onto LBM as well as having a high thermic effect vs. carbs/fats should in theory be beneficial for your goals.

But then you probably shouldn't listen to me because I'm currently a fatass dieting down also :wink:

Congrats on your current progress mind.

EDIT: And if things stall perhaps consider dropping carbs to a 100g cap on non training days?


#12

Hey,

Thanks a lot for your replies. This is the kind of stuff I was looking for.

Chris666, you were dead right, my cals are way off. Apparently fitday.com double counts fiber as well as fats that are broken down by lipid type on food labels (poly, mono, saturated). Here are my correct macros for both workout and non workout days. The examples used are this past thursday (off) and friday (workout). I tend to be very consistent across the week so they should apply for any given day.

Off day
Kcal - 1776
Prot - 100.9 g
Carb - 139.4 g (total carbs)
Fats - 90.6 g
Fiber - 29.7 g

Workout day
Kcal - 2743
Prot - 208.5 g (counting BCAAs)
Carb - 242.7 g (total carbs)
Fats - 104.3 g
Fiber - 41.3 g

Aside from the added pwo protein, the only difference between the two days (which I forgot to mention in my original post) is one additional meal (beef stew) and an extra serving of fish oil on my workout day.

With all suggestions in mind, here's what I'm thinking. This week I'll drop the bread on my off days, and instead for a snack at that time have a can of sardines in oil. I think I'm also going to start adding about 80 grams of canned salmon to my morning eggs every day for an extra 17 or so grams of protein.

With those two changes in place my macros next week would look something like this.

Off days
Kcal - 1877
Prot - 124 g
Carb - 109 g
Fats - 105 g
Fiber - 26 g

Workout days
Kcal - 2853
Prot - 225 g
Carb - 243 g
Fats - 109 g
Fiber - 41 g

Better?

Also, starting a chellated zinc supplement this week. It's one of the only major minerals that I fear my diet doesn't contain a shitload of, and in a big caloric deficit seems like something I should probably make sure that I get enough of. I know it's a pretty basic supplement, but any thoughts?


#13

I assume you know your BMR since you say your in an 800-1000 cal deficit, I would say that 200-500 would be more reasonable. Also 1000 cals lower on non-workout days seems to low. How long have you been in a caloric deficit, sounds like you may have killed your metabolism by dieting to long.
More protein, add in another one or two met drive shakes. Whats your reasoning for not following your "diet" on the weekends; nothing wrong with burgers, but ice cream and not eating are defiantly not helping you shed any fat.


#14

I have some good guesses at my BMR based on averages from a few different methods I've found online. I should be at around 3000 on non workout days not factoring in stuff as ephemeral as calories burned digesting the shed load of vegetables that I eat every day.

I definitely have not killed my metabolism. I really need to get a set of calipers to start putting some numbers to changes that I am noticing in the mirror, but so far everything is positive. My arms and legs are noticeably leaner, in the last week I've begun to see pronounced seperation in my deltoids when I'm flexing, veins on my arms, legs and neck are larger and more numerous especialy post workout. My workouts are going REALLY well, I'm not trying to set any personal records but I have a ton of energy in the gym and at the end of some very long workouts I'm sweating bullets, feeling twitchy or 'electric' and looking my most muscular.

As far as the weekends, it's partly a concesion to other lifestyle factors and partly observation. After the first week of my diet I was totally exhausted, very flat looking and moody as hell. I had planned to give myself a few cheat meals on the weekend, but saturday turned into a day long feast as I ended up over at the house of some friends that I hadn't seen in a while who cook like nobodys business. Too engorged to move on sunday I gave my digestion the day off and just ate very lightly most of the day with one proper meal in the evening. On monday I felt rejuvenated. I looked noticably more muscular and felt great in the gym. So that's what I've tried to do every weekend since.

All that said, I know that I can't maintain a huge caloric deficit, even assuming your more modest guess for a very long time. I want to try to set some new baseline numbers next week in terms of weight and at a minimum some tape measurements to see where I'm at and whether or not I need to add more calories or keep rolling as is.

The one thing that I'm becoming concerned about is my recovery from hard workouts. I feel like it's taking me two or three days longer than I'm use to to feel totally recovered and DOMS can be REALLY intense especially after a heavy leg or pull day. I'm going to try upping my protein across the board, especially my off day protein and see if that helps any. Otherwise, this issue is going to force me to up my calories quicker than I had hoped.


#15

I just thought I would drop you my current thoughts on fat loss - based on accumulated knowledge from here... and some tweaks of my own. I've gotten down to 9% before which isn't exactly super lean... but a damn bit leaner then I currently am (in low 20's at present)... but the fat is melting off pretty quick.

---Diet
--Calorific intake:

Romaniellos formula from his recent nutrition article is fantastic IMO:

6%-12% 17 calories per pound of LBM (Lean Body Mass)
12%-15% 16 calories per pound of LBM
15.1%-19% 15 calories per pound of LBM
19.1%-22% 14 calories per pound of LBM
22.1% or above 13 calories per pound of LBM

This will calculate your MAINTENANCE intake - fatter people need less calories compared to a leaner individual of the same mass dammit! A mistake I tripped up on a bunch of times in the past.

This is the amount you will hit on your workout days (don't be afraid to round it up/down to the nearest 50 or 100 or whatever by the way).

Workout nutrition should be set to around 200-300 calories from simple carbs and rapidly absorbed proteins. I Prefer the higher end of that reccomendation personally. Proteins + simple sugars are cheap and enable me to lift harder/heavier to encourage muscle retention. Lifting sessions will last 45-60 mins for me so even with this 300 cal intake I should still be in a net deficit of a hundred cals or so... which is nice. But the bulk of the deficit should come from diet/the rest of the time. If you are super light feel free to drop towards the lower end of the 200-300 cal range however...

SO! For a hypothetical individual of 200lbs and 23% bodyfat...
200-(200*0.23) = 154lbs LBM

Over 22.1% bodyfat so...
154*13 = 2002... say 2000.

So workout days = 2000 cals

2000-300 for workout nutrition...
Non workout days = 1700 cals

Just so you know I would typically set up workout nutrition as about 25-30g protein and the rest from carbs and whatever tiny amount of fat appears in the product. I usually spread this over the entire workout... pre/during/post... but that is up to you. But I prefer the carbs to be consumed pre/during personally with little to none post.

--Macros!

-Carbs:
Considering how low I run calories and how fat I am (and therefore handle insulin badly) - I tend to aim to restrict carbs to 30-50g on non training days and keep it under 75-100g on non training days (I don't worry too much about exact amounts... it's not important as long as you are within the calorie range).

I try to aim for lower GI carb sources normally with a lot of fiber... oh and I DO NOT COUNT FIBER AS CALORIES. Only soluble fiber has any impact calorificly... about 2 cals per g as its broken down in the colon (I think?) but it's not worth counting on account of it as its broken down/absored as fatty acids and thus has a minimal effect on blood sugar.

Leafy green veg, celery, etc. can be eatn at will pretty much. Don't bother counting this. Very good for keeping regular and satiety.

-Protein:
Romaniello reccomends 1g per lb LBM when cutting. I take this as the goal for non workout days with workout days obviously being higher. I make sure that this figure is his from complete protein sources only (meat, true nuts, whey, etc.)... the proteins from peanuts, veg, etc. do not count towards this figure (but still count the contribution towards calories of course...). Any extra protein from these incomplete sources are a bonus.

Our 200lb, 23% example would have to eat 154g protein a day... say it ends up being roughly 155-160 from whole protein sources... but due to the mountains of veg or whatever he/she eats it may end up as a total of 170g or so. All calories are counted of course.

-Fats:
Generally I'm happy with about 50% of my diet coming from healthy (as possible) fats.

Fish oils are a must - 10g a day minimum (and count them as fat intake)... and if you can afford them try out CT's old reccomendation of 1g fish oil per % bodyfat. (23% guy would need 23g fish oil a day)... figures as fatter people need better insulin management generally!

--Structure:

You will find it easier IMO to come up with a diet that fits your off days requirements and keep that as a near constant. Workout nutrition is simply dumped on top of that when training. Simplicity helps a LOT.

I would split these meals over 3-5 feedings not including workout nutrition. This is pretty much entirely up to you. Personally I enjoy a protein shake and a couple of fish oils an hour before bed... but again - a personal preference. Try to spread these meals out as evenly as possible.

Typical training day for me might be:

Meal 1: Chocolate protein powder, mixed frozen berries, almond butter... BLEND! Follow up with green tea, fish oils, vitamins, etc.

Training... Protein shake with dextrose.

Meal 2-4: Lean steak mince with frozen veg - perhaps some more fish oils. Lots of bonus green veggies!

Meal 5: Protein shake + fish oils.

You don't have to eat this frequently - I just enjoy it.

--Quality:

Try to aim for as unprocessed foods as possible. I personally LOVE semi paleo style eating and have felt SO much better for dropping pretty much all grains/pulses/dairy from my diet (whey based shakes excluded).

I can't stress enough how much I feel unprocessed food items has improved my composition/health...

LOTS OF VEGETABLES!

--Drinks...:

Drink as much water as you can handle... rather than reccomending a specific amount... just aim to keep urine pretty clear for now.

Restrict alcohol consumption to 1 or less drinks a week.

Water or green tea only.

--Supplements:

I like to minimise my supplemental intake... for cost and because I feel it tends to discourage me from making better food choices.

Multivitamin
Fish oils
Protein Blend (for non workout nutrition if needed)
Whey protein/whatever (workout)
Dextrose/whatever (workout)
Creatine (optional but reccomended)


#16

Training wise I would be lifting about 3 times a week... still think I can improve my training methods further however. I usually do some GPP/energy systems works at the end of my training sessions also.

I typically wouldnt drop my calories any further than this full stop.

Once fat loss stalls (drops to almost nothing... or below 0.5lbs a week if im in a hurry) then and ONLY then would I consider increasing the deficit through activity, etc.

I would initially start off with added fasted walks on my off days... 30 mins or so.

If fat loss stalls... perhaps I could add in some evening walks (so as not to interfere with training) on my lifting days.

At most walking sessions would be extended to 40 mins or so...

The key is not to do everything at once like I have done in the past! I initially tried to throw in everything and before I knew it fat loss was stalling despite having a massive amount of daily activity.

Fat burners and the such are treated the same - I would only add these in once adding in walking on training/non training days has stalled.

As for total diet duration... I wouldnt like to spend more than 6-10 weeks on such low calories... after this point I would spend a week or two working back up to a new calculated maintenance and holding it there for a couple of weeks to help bump up the metabolism... would cut back on all additional walking, fat burners and the such again also so I can add them in again in the next round when absolutely required.


#17

Oh and every 3 weeks or so (as Im a fatass at present and can not handle more frequent feedings)... I will have a full out cheat day... followed by a day of fasting with maybe 1-2 small protein shakes at most... and perhaps some very light activity (as per Romaniellos reccomendation).


#18

These are my current thoughts and what I will be doing to get down to sub 10% again.

On another note when I drop below 80kg I will do some mass gaining... nice and slow to take me up to 85-90kg or so before I do another cut.

I have no intention of winding up TOO tiny when I finally get my abs.

Well thats my plan anyway... make of it what you will.

It took me bloody AGES to type up - hah!


#19

Awesome stuff, it sounds like you've been around the fat loss block a few times then. Maybe I should have stated this originally, but I cut down to 192 at around 20% bf last spring, that was my lowest adult weight ever. I stayed at that weight for a few weeks then worked back up to 205 at roughly the same bf % (I REALLY need to get a set of calipers). This current cut started after maintaining 205 for about a month. My end goal is to live at 180-185 with bf in the low teens.

The calorie formula you gave above is strictly based on your weight/bf% correct? How do you factor in daily activity and exercise? Based on that formula I am still in a good deficit on my off days (though not as severe as I thought), but may actually be in a surplus on my workout days. Factoring in exercise and daily activity I think that actually makes for a decent setup. I'm going to work on getting protein as a percent of my diet up, hopefully at the expense of a few carbs rather than fat, but overall I'm feeling pretty good about where I'm at at this point.

Do you have any thoughts on mineral supplementation? A lot of stuff that I've read seems to indicate that levels of minerals and fatty vitamins may really suffer when in a caloric deficit and training hard. My supplementation is largely based around this concept. Cod liver oil contains not only omega 3's in abundance but a large amount of the fatty vitamins D3 and A. Black strap molasses may be one of the best sources in the world for copper, manganese, selenium, magnesium and potassium. All I can find for zinc is pill form, but there don't seem to be any concerns about the bio availability of zinc as zinc gluconate.

Thanks again for your help and good luck with your own dieting.


#20

Minerals... I tend to knock back an abundance of red meat, veg, etc.

However I do occasionally add in:
Vitamin D3
Multivitamin/Mineral
ZMA (evening)

Sadly I haven't had blood work so I can't tell you about the effectiveness.

If I'm honest I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible... and as cheap as possible!

Once I stopped worrying about the little details and focusing on the bigger picture things seemed to pick up even faster... maybe it was all that cortisol :wink:

Molasses I imagine would be very rich in simple cabohydrates? Something I would generally avoid whilst cutting.

If it works for you - go for it! Let me know via PM about any success with vitamins/mineral supplementation.