T Nation

To Joel Marion -- No Progress on Meltdown

Hi, Joel. I’ve got two weeks of Meltdown under my belt, but things don’t seem to be progressing (from a fat loss perspective).



Going through my records, I’ve lost no weight in the past two weeks. Haven’t gained any, but haven’t lost any. Looking at my BF numbers over the last two weeks, that doesn’t seem to have changed either. Today I was a half a percent higher (29% 2 weeks ago, 29.56% today). I use J. Norcross’s method of taking five readings on a bio-impedence scale, dropping the first reading and averaging the rest, so I’m pretty systematic and familiar with the daily fluctuations. Nonetheless, I’d say two weeks, no BF lost.



I love the Meltdown workout, and I’m building strength, improving my numbers (going up in weights and down on my assists). I work the circuit with as little time in between exercises as possible and a short rest after my A4 exercise. It’s definitely challenging. I sweat, and I can’t say that my old routine caused me to sweat.



I’m definitely getting in my cardio. If I do cardio on weight-workout day, I do 70% of MHR for 30 minutes. If I do it on a non-weight-workout day, I usually do HIIT for 30 minutes, with a short warm-up and cool down. I’ve limited cardio to 4 or 5 days a week. I also do some ab work; i.e., Thibodeau’s (sp?) five- exercise circuit once or twice a week.



Within the last few days I’ve started cutting my calories slightly. I was eating just under 1,700 calories per day. Now I’m eating just under 1,500 calories per day. Here’s my dilemma. I’ve brought my caloric intake as low as I’d like to. At sub-1500 calories, I take in just on the underside of 100 carb grams per day. Based on my LBM, I’m taking in 1.5 grams of protein per pound per day (154 g). Fat I’m taking in about 45 grams per day, but 25g of that is my high-dose fish oil and tuna combo. Other than dropping protein from 1.5g to 1g of LBM, there’s nothing I want to drop. Yet to lose a pound a week if I’m at maintenance calories, I need to create a 500-calorie per day deficit. That would mean I’m back to about 1,000 calories a day. That’s where I was three months ago, and I was just miserable. In fact at sub-1500 calories per day, I’m dealing with the fact that I’m hungry again. Not cravings, hunger. And since my overall progress seemed to suffer when I did a cheat meal, other than one indulgence of some tuna/salmon sashimi I’ve not been allowing myself a cheat meal.



My diet is tight, eggs, tuna, chicken breasts, cottage cheese, oatmeal, LC Grow, Surge, oatmeal, swiss chard, broccoli, spinach, blueberries, all P+F and P+C meals, with my P+C meals coming after my workout, 5 or 6 meals.



FYI, I had my RMR tested. 1,667 (the sub-1700 calorie number I referred to above) is 85% of what is supposed to be maintenance calories for me, with the exercise I’m doing creating an additional deficit.



What I’ve read is that I shouldn’t do more than four 30-minute cardio sessions per week. But since I’m not making any progress I’d like to create my deficit with cardio, an hour a day. What say ye? And anyone else that has maybe been in my shoes.

Try this. Next week switch things up to a strength training regimen w/ 3 HIIT cardio sessions. Measure progress after a week. If this doesn’t work, I would then say to go ahead and drop carbs down to ~50 a day (which is neccesary to deplete glycogen) and then start implementing some controlled, strategic carb refeeds. Because of the glycogen depletion and the absense of fat in the refeeds, fat gain should not occur and it will allow for continual fat loss and boost you over this plateau. Maybe once every 5-7 days.

I had trouble i.e. no results, from melt down draining. I switched to gvt 2000 , greman volume training 2000. It worked alot better

Just a few quick questions to clarify:


  1. When you say “switch thing up to a strength training program,” you’re talking about your RR&D 5x5 program?



    2)If the answer to the above question is yes, you’re recommending 3 days of strength training and 3 days of HIIT cardio, done on separate/different days?


  2. Could you elaborate on what you mean by “controlled, strategic carb refeeds”? Do I refeed when I see my workout strength is starting to suffer, or do I just plan on a refeed once a week?


  3. Regarding the carb refeed, how many carb calories/grams, or are you just recommending a P+C cheat meal after my workout where I don’t count calories/grams?


  4. So the bottom line is, keep protein & fat the way they are, cut carbs by 50 grams (if it comes to that), which is essentially cutting my intake by 200 calories a day to sub-1,300 calories a day?



    Just as a test this coming week, I’m going to cut out all dairy (i.e., cottage cheese and the half & half I have with my coffee) and the blueberries I eat since fructose and galactose restore liver glycogen and not muscle glycogen, though I would have hoped that a cup of blueberries and a half a cup of cottage cheese were not excessive or counterproductive.



    Thank you, Joel, for your advice. Let me say that without a food diary and particulars on exactly how and what I eat, trying to lose BF would be like trying to aim at and hit the bulls eye blind-folded.

I appreciate the input. It’s always helpful to find out how others did with different programs, diets or supplements.



I really love the concept of using compound, multi-joint exercises and focusing on the larger muscle groups. Meltdown was a necessary progression for me, as I was doing way too many sets per week, most of them isolation exercises.

its your diet. most of the time it is what you put in or don’t put in your mouth.

the training programs on this sight are awesome, easy to follow, but the food issue is another question.

I am curious how you got your RMR tested? You describe what happens to alot of people when dieting. It’s most likely caused by various levels of certain hormones going to crap which can often be remedied by boosting leptin back up. Follow Joel’s advice and start incorporating refeeds and this should help get things going again.

i like joel’s idea about changing the nutritional balance and using HIIT training. heres another point i’ll add. You need to be in shape to do Meltdown training, both I and II. Your body might be adjusting to the routine and thus you need to keep improving your poundages and rest periods. You have to kick up the intensity to above what your body is normally used to. Do the HIIT training. that will definitely have a great affect. I also think that your carbs might be too high. Substitute some protein for carbs. laters pk

I say just do more cardio. You say you’re doing 120min cardio per week? Try doing one hour cardio every day, that comes to 420min a week. Make sure to up your calorie intake proportionally to increased calorie expenditure in order to prevent muscle wasting. This way you not only get to eat more, you’ll be in better shape, and probably this will work better than dieting. I’ve read somewhere that creating a caloric deficit through exercise will have effect on your cellulite (visible fat), whereas creating a caloric deficit through diet is more apt to decrease your inner fat levels. Also, make sure to mix up the cardio. i.e., 15min running, 15min cross-trainer, 15min cycling, 15min rowing. This way you use all your muscles and will be in better shape all over.

You don’t need to cut out your blueberries. And the thing about galactose and fructose being stored as liver glycogen is kind of off. The sugars are broken down to glucose by the liver which acts as a packaging and transportation warehouse. It either sends the glucose back into the blood supply to be utilized, or it will convert the glucose to glycogen and store it. The sugars are converted to glucose, glucose if stored is then converted to glycogen, if the stored glycogen is needed the body releases glucagon to release glycogen stores by converting it back to glucose.

With all that training and such low calories, you should definately consider a visit with a Thyroid specialist for some testing. If everything checks out normal (I doubt it), take a week off training while eating your normal diet, then start training again and raise your calories by at least 500 for a few days, taking in some quality soy protein and plenty of flax and olive oil. Doing all of this will help to reset your metabolism higher. Afterwards, eating a few hundred extra calories even just one day a week will help to maintain a higher overall metabolic rate. But definately get yourself checked out, bro.

I’ll post some more specifics as soon as I get the chance. Still in FL right now and dont have adequate time to respond.

Consider this quote from “Massive Eating II”

In my experience, individuals who have high insulin sensitivity maximize their muscle to fat ratio on diets that are high in carbs and lower in fat (50% carbs, 35% protein, 15% fat). Those with moderate insulin sensitivity tend to do best on diets that are more isocaloric (30% carbs, 40% protein, 30% fat). And those with poor insulin sensitivity do best on diets that are low in carbs (50% protein, 35% fat, 15% carbs).

A few questions come to mind:

  1. How long have you been at this caloric intake? If you’ve dropped from the 40% range with this intake, it could just be a matter of compensatory metabolic slowdown. Bringing calories up for a little bit (or just adding in some higher calorie days) might be the best way to get the ol’ metabolic flame burning as hotly as ever. Joel explains the importance of these planned refeeds in “The Cheater’s Diet” very well.
  2. How long have you been doing meltdown? You could just be adapting to your current protocol, in which case some low rep work might do the trick.


    Also, I agree with the HIIT suggestion. Lower intensity cardio has its place in a cutting cycle, but I think that you would benefit from jacking up the intensity a bit to get your RMR going in the hours after the training session.


    I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend that you go to 2g protein/lb LBM. It’ll up the TEF, fill you up, and help to prevent catabolism. Try reading over the “Poliquin-style Diet Support Group.” I’m willing to bet that getting all your carbs from greens and then having a carbup every 7-10 days would do the trick.


    Other than that, the only thing that I can really suggest is to be patient. Chances are that you didn’t get to ~30% overnight, so you won’t get shredded overnight either. Keep plugging away, and you’ll get there! Let me know if there is anything else I can do to help.

First off, thank you everyone for your thoughts and your support. This has truly been the battle of my life. It’s really an act of faith and trust to share your failures and ask for help.



In response . . .



To Scratch:


I would agree that it’s 70 or 80% diet when it comes to dropping body fat. My diet is tight. I have great control, make good choices and know down to the calorie and the gram what I put in my mouth every day. The Meltdown program is awesome. I love what it’s doing for my arms, and I sweat as if I’m doing HIIT cardio. I’m maxing out.



To Kelly:


I got a BodyGem/MedGem test. It cost me about $50 and takes about 7 minutes. My maintenance calories are supposedly 1,962. There’s info here on this site if you do a search. Taking that test is the only thing that gave me the courage to up my calories from 800-1000 per day to 1,668. I have one month of great success under the belt. BF dropped from 32 to 29%, BW dropped from 152 to 147. My progress came to a screeching halt when I started Meltdown two weeks ago. Diet hasn’t changed. But you have to understand that when I switched to Meltdown, I cut cardio from 4 1/2 hours per week to 2 hours. And I cut my sets (lots of isolation exercises) from 135 per week – can we say “overtraining”? – to 50 or 60. Not the same amount of work being done. However, the transition I made (at Joel’s encouragement) was a necessary one.



With the BodyGem test you’re supposed to go in every 5 pounds or 5% of TBW lost. The reason for that is that hopefully most of the weight lost is BF, but a portion, nonetheless is LBM. Going in for a new test every five pounds or so allows you to recalculate your numbers; i.e., usually a lowering of your caloric requirements. And yes, I am giving serious consideration to cheat meals/carb refeeds in conjunction to a slightly lower daily carb intake.



To pkradgreek:


I’m probably in halfway decent shape, but Meltdown definitely kicks my butt. Joel promised it would. I sweat more and breath as hard as I do when I’m doing HIIT cardio. Can’t quite improve my poundages yet because I picked challenging weights and come pretty close to failure by the last set. Take my word on this one.



Joel had recommended 4 cardio sessions at 70% of MHR, but on the days I don’t do weights and do do cardio, I’ve been doing HIIT. I’m able to work above MHR and do when I’m doing HIIT.



I really like the idea of cutting carbs slightly. I’ve been doing that for the last few days, about 25g short of my normal 100g.



To Harkonnen:


John Berardi recommends that women create their deficit with exercise and men more with diet. FYI, I’m female. I like cardio and used to do 2 hours a day. The reason I asked Joel is because there’s data that suggests that up to four 30-minute cardio sessions enhances weight loss and more is counterproductive. I definitely come from the “if a little is good, more has got to be better” school. I’m trying to exhibit a little restraint until Joel responds. If it comes to it, I would STRONGLY prefer to increase cardio over cutting calories. And yes, diet causes one to lose visceral fat (the fat around the organs) and exercises causes one to lose subcutaneous fat. That part of the equation is working fabulously!!!



To Renegade Chef:


Thank you. I follow what you’re saying. I guess you could say my blueberry theory was half baked. (grin; pun intended) However, I have to tell you that one day without fruit or dairy, and I’m down a pound. Additionally I cut carbs from 100g/day to 84g/day. Maybe dairy (and/or blueberries, though I doubt it) just somehow doesn’t sit well with me. There is a percentage of the population that is “sub-allergic” (made up word). Let’s see what tomorrow holds and what another week holds. My promise to myself when I started this is that I would stay with the program, not freak out on a daily basis if I didn’t seem to be making progress, and that if I really did make no progress after two weeks that I would make SLIGHT, subtle, fine-tuning-type changes.



To Brian:


I’m actually more a sis than a bro. And the only reason I mention that is that 1,500 or 1,700 is probably not that low for a female 105 pounds of LBM. Women just need less calories than men – even with the same amount of LBM. (Why IS that?!?) The 800-1000 calories I was doing three months back really was too low. When I incresed my calories to 1700 I thought I had died and gone to heaven . . . and then to top it off, I started losing weight again !!! I’m probably slightly hypothyroid, but even more, genetically I know I’m carb intollerant. Both grandmothers died from complications of diabetes, and my mother (who was terribly overweight all her life) is fighting it too. I’m convinced that carb control is critical to my progress, and forgive me for being stubborn, but I just don’t want to use my thyroid as an excuse. However, at a certain point, I will do what you suggest (i.e., go to an endocrinologist). Have been awfully close a couple of times. But would prefer to do this with tight dieting and strategic cardio and weight training. BTW, I take high-dose fish oil and flax, so thank you; I do have that going for me.



Sorry, folks, for this long reply. Just trying to respond to everyone. All your thoughts and ideas have given me quite a bit of food for thought (oops, wonder if “food for thought” is on my diet) and reinforcement. I’m not that far off the mark.



To Harkonnen:


Let’s just say that I’m carb insensitive. The odds are good that that’s the case. I remember reading that, and looking at my food log, mostly good fat is about 30%, protein is about 40%, and carbs are in the high 20s. Going forward, since my energy level is good and my workouts strong, I’m going to cut carbs slightly (to the numbers you see above.)



To Eric Cressey:


Re the cheat meal, I think I agree. I read Joel’s article. And since I’m cutting carbs slightly, I’m going to bite the bullet and enjoy myself once a week. I’ve tried it a couple of times, but it really did slow (as in not enhance) my progress. But with bringing carbs lower, I can see a need and a benefit.



In answer to your question, I upped my calories and started JB’s Don’t Diet diet on October 1st. I started Meltdown the very last week of October. And I do remember JB saying that women usually need to bring the numbers (i.e., their caloric intake numbers) lower than men usually had to. My progress has been right at a pound a week (until I hit this wall). Even though you see a large deficit, my stomach and body thought I had died and gone to heaven.



In answer to your question, I’ve been doing Meltdown for 2 weeks. If you read what I wrote above, of which I have no doubts, there’s a change in the amount/volume of work done that may have contributed. That’s what I thought, anyway, but kicking this 'round the way we have, a few other possibilities have come to mind. I will be starting Joel’s RR&D, 5x5 program December 1st, alternating back and forth between the two every month.



Re the HIIT, I like it. It just about kills me, but I like it. I do 3 HIIT sessions on days off and 1 or 2 cardio sessions at 70% of MHR. But I’ve been doing that all along.



I really, REALLY like the idea and your logic behind upping protein to 2g per pound of LBM per day. Hadn’t thought of that. If I’m going to cut carbs, I’ll up my protein. GREAT idea. Someone else mentioned it above, but I forgot about the TEF. And at this point, I’m getting all my carbs from spinach, kale, swiss chard and broccoli. So that fits right in.



That’s it folks. Thanks again for all your thoughts and ideas on the subject and for your patience with this long post. I got some really great ideas. I’ll report my progress back in a couple of weeks.

I believe your taking your calories to low. Once your body sees that you are in a starvation mode it will automatically start to hold on to all the fat it can. It is always better to burn the fat than starve the fat. Any time you reduce your calories it also slows down your metabolism. Also don’t be afraid to bump up your carb intake, just choose natural unprocessed carbs. Bumping up your carb intake will also give you more energy for your Meltdown training.You might also want to try a carb up every 3 days. This method will trick your body into thinking it is not in a starvation mode.

I think that Mike hit the nail on the head. Meltdown is a intense program, and you need to take in enough calories or your body will go into starvation mode. You are falling into that “starve yourself, and workout lots” trap that so many find themselves in. Pick up your calories, and do not go overboard with the cardio. Joels 5X5 is a great program for dropping BF yet staying strong. I would do a forum search, i used(meltdow diet), and Jason Norcross’ Alessi thread should come up. Read through it, there is alot of good info there.

Mike & Ko, my maintenance calories according to the BodyGem/MedGem test I took is 1,962. John Berardi in his Don’t Diet diet says to create an 85% caloric deficit (with weights and cardio creating an additional deficit), which is 1,667 for me. In a subsequent article on women and the Don’t Diet diet, he says that women need even less calories than men and to create an 80% deficit, which is 1,569 calories/day for me. I take in something between those two numbers. According to John’s directions, I’m not too low. Do you have any reason to believe otherwise? I’m asking you sincerely. I’ve tried to take all emotion and all extremism (a fault of mine) out of the equation and play by the rules.

Since your maintenance kcal came out to 1962kc lets say 2000kcal. Base your diet off of this number as your total daily kcaloric intake. This will give you more energy and the macro/micro nutrients your body requires to maintain itself especially with the added demands of training. Assuming your doing your workouts with average to above average intensity with a total time length of 60-90 minutes a day, youre going to burn the 500+kcal per day from exercise alone, so don’t try and do speed things up by creating the additional kcal deficit from your diet, for now rely on the expended kcals. Also for various reasons, I’m not a big fan of the extreme low carb diets. So increase your carbs to 45-50% of your total kcaloric intake with protein being 30% and fats the other 20%. For carbs stay away from the high glycemic carbs and processed carbs. Stick with fresh green veggies, oatmeal, yams, moderate amounts of fruits for their micronutrient contents, and any other lower glycemic carb that you prefer. The exception is first am meal and post-workout meal where you want high glycemic carbs to raise blood glucose levels and insulin levels to help replenish depleted glycogen stores.

There are lots of “rules” in this game. That being said, they do not apply to everybody. For instance I stay around 8-9% with no cardio, and a high amount of carbs. In other words you need to tweak it to fit you. Try going maintenance cals (or gradually ease up to it) and see what happens. If that does not work, try dropping some cardio(or add some). You have to play around to find what works for you.