Reset. Resolution. Cleanse. Eliminate. Program. Discipline. Dedication. Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah! This is the time of year when the focus on such things intensifies. Here a few simple suggestions. Take them or leave them…either way you are still awesome!
But if you really do want to kick more ass, get in shape, restore your health, get leaner, and all that other good stuff…you may want to peruse this missive.
Tribe Talk. In The Lifetime Athlete Training Tribe (T2), our online group coaching and training community, we are making January a reset month. Nothing super drastic, just a chance to get back on track for anyone whose dietary habits got a little less than ideal over the past several months. We are going to mainly focus on diet over the next month and keep training light but hellishly consistent. We are not necessarily trying to blow everything out of the water and chase unrealistic goals in just a few weeks. We are merely reestablishing a great platform of dietary support for the upcoming year. In fairly brief format, here is the reset we are using in January. It’s a 5-week plan that gradually restores a healthy metabolism.
Week 1: The Planet-Based Diet (PBD)
- Start out by emphasizing whole, fresh, natural, and possibly local/organic foods. Stuff that doesn’t come in a package or have a food label or long ingredient list for the most part. Let’s call it the JERFMOTT principle. That stands for Just Eat Real Food (most of the time). This generally requires the infamous pantry cleanout. Donate or throw away the food you know to be unhealthy, junky garbage (use your own judgement). Or go on a bender and pound all of it and then don’t buy anymore (not recommended).
- You are looking to avoid the Evil Triad. Put simply these are excess sugars, refined grains and starches, and industrial seed (canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean, sunflower) oils. A little sugar is not a big deal, but high, chronic levels are undesirable. Some folks can tolerate a bit of grains here and there, but most will have at least some metabolic issues, even if they are not pronounced. The big thing is to watch out for those seed oils, which current research suggests is perhaps the worst “food” invention ever. Mainly, it’s the junk and fast food which is a combo of all three of these items (cake, chips, cookies, crackers, and other things that don’t start with the letter “C”). Avoiding the Evial Triad is as simple as observing the ESADM principle — Eat S**t and Die MotherF****R! Everybody dies, but if you eat enough of the Evil Triad for long enough, you will die sooner.
- Up the Pro. To hell with meatless mundany or other vegan propaganda. Most people don’t get enough protein and animal products are superior. The minimum for a Lifetime Athlete is 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day with no days off. If you want to build and preserve muscle mass and enjoy its performance and longevity benefits, this is fact.
Week 2: Elimination
- Pull the trigger. If allergies, rashes, eczema, itchiness, acne, gut problems, achiness or brain fog exist…you are eating something that is messing with you and causing an autoimmune reaction. It’s not just nuts, shellfish, and dairy…although those are problematic for many people. It’s probably lectins and phytates …plant proteins in grains, legumes, waxy skin nightshades like peppers, eggplant, white potatoes and tomato. Or you could be sensitive to oxalates in spinach, broccoli, and sweet potatoes. Hard to get your head around it, but “health” food and veggies can have a dark side. Find your trigger foods, and pull them out of your diet.
- Beef, salt, and water is the ultimate elimination diet but you probably don’t have to (or may be unwilling) to take it that far. Just recognize that if you don’t look and feel good (the natural condition for a human), something in your diet (as well as sleep, stress levels, and relationships) is hurting you and it’s got to go even if you love it or you believe deep in your heart that it is somehow good, righteous and necessary. Eliminate suspect foods and see if you feel better. Temporarily become a dietary minimalist. The whole concept of a balanced plate is a bullshit idea made up by lobbyists, politicians, industry, and either misguided or corrupt scientists. Stop being brainwashed.
Week 3: Compression
- Whether you like the idea of intermittent fasting or time-restricted feeding (people love to debate the definitions of such behavior), simply compress the window in which you consume food each day. Instead of eating over a 12-14 hour period (which is common), shoot for 8-10 hours instead. This is very doable for just about anyone. #noexcuses
- Eat when the sky is light, as this aligns better with circadian biology. Keep eating the PBD that has eliminated the trigger foods but don’t try to cut portions or calories yet. However, Let’s take it down to 2 meals per day. Make these generous and enjoyable meals and reacquaint yourself with the dining experience.
Week 4: Reduction (carbs)
- Since we are not training with high volume or intensity right now, and it is mid-winter, the potential need for lots of carbs (let’s say 200-400g/day) in the diet is nonexistent. I’m not saying zero carb or keto, but if you were eating 200g, eat 100g. If it was 100 eat 50.
- Make up your calories on the fat side of the macro equation. To explain further, protein never or rarely goes below the target we established, but if we cut carbs down, we may need to eat a little more fat. This actually adds to satiety and appetite regulation. It doesn’t take much and you don’t have to guzzle oil or butter. Careful with liquid calories of any type.
Week 5: Restriction (calories)
- OK…just for one week, since we are resetting the metabolism more than having a long-term shred focus, keep protein high, hold carbs low, and now shave a little fat off the deal. Bring calories down by about 25% so you are eating only ¾ as many as last week. For example if you were consuming 2800 calories in week 4, drop it to 2100.
- Notice that I’m not advocating for an extreme restriction like 1000 calories per day. We are just trying to get slightly hypocaloric in the active individual to improve metabolic efficiency…that’s all. Don’t worry, you’ll be fine. You are not going to lose muscle mass or develop any kind of nutrient deficiency in this short time frame. No need to fast because you are exercising (because you are a Lifetime Athlete) and it is an accelerant to autophagy and other metabolic processes that sedentary folks don’t have as readily available.
Long term view
You don’t have to be a stickler with this process. Historically speaking, neurotic perfectionists don’t fare too well in the long term. As a general recommendation, just go back to what you were doing in week 2 and use that as a baseline. That’s a sensible, healthy eating platform from which you can make some further adjustments like the following:
If you want further weight loss…
- Cycle through weeks 2- 3-4-5 for several months and work out consistently, but don’t train excessively. By repetitively cycling through those compression/reduction/restriction phases, you avoid metabolic slowdown and can more effectively burn fat for fuel. A good coach is helpful here.
- And by not training excessively, you don’t deplete your body extensively and have those rebound cravings and cramming sessions. Just work out lightly to moderately (mostly with workout duration and overall volume because you want some high intensity) to keep your metabolism idling along and not stalling.
- This is where the most common mistake in the diet/training relationship occurs. Weight loss pursuants who get into a big loser (think about the literal meaning there) beatdown workout model end up getting injured, exhausted, and burnt out because they are fighting biology. Those killer workouts actually stimulate appetite and cause compensatory “eatback.” This is natural. Eventually, you can’t win if you try to go against nature or your inner physiology. I also call this metabolic multitasking, and it’s just as ineffective inside the body as it is in the workplace. Your body likes to do mainly one thing at a time. Building fitness, muscle, etc is in relative opposition to reducing weight. This is the basic anabolism versus catabolism situation. Lose your weight first, then train hard.
If your bodycomp is where you want and you really want to get after harder training and higher performance…
- Eat more meals, calories, and carbs. See what works for your body in which it feels best and remains weight stable.
- This is where the second mistake in the diet/training relationship occurs. People think they can get better results or just be more worthy or virtuous by working out for hours a day and then eating only a skimpy amount. This is underfueling and undernourishing the body and often leads to eating disorders and injuries such as stress fractures. This condition has even been given a new name: Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports (REDS). It impacts both genders but probably affects females more than males. If you are building and testing a high performance race car, put the best fuel into it and do so in adequate if not slightly greater quantities. The dietary patterns used for losing weight or healing sick people (same) are not the same as for the Lifetime Athlete. Yes, they have the PBD and trigger pull in common, but that’s about it.
The Strategic Refeed
Better than saying cheat but maybe treat is OK…refeeding is when you bump up your calories or just have something that you crave or want. No matter where you are in these cycles, it matters most what you do (eat) 80-90% of the time. If you have a couple of meals or snacks in a week that had a dessert, or even just a smidgeon of junk or fast food, it ain’t gonna make that much difference in the long run. Sure, a healthier choice might be better, but if you want it and a little bit actually helps you to not feel deprived, go for it. Take away the self-loathing, guilt, and all-or-nothing mentality. Have that croissant (or glass of wine or nachos or …fill in the blank) and then get on with your life and maybe don’t have another one for a few days or weeks. Whatever it takes for you.
So that’s what we are doing in the Tribe this month in addition to our innovative and fun training and testing endeavors. Building a better human beast demands a healthy metabolism, and food is probably the most significant factor to manipulate, as long as sleep is good. We are supporting each other and working through the steps each week. Perhaps you can use this information to your benefit. Maybe start your own tribe. Or join T2 and let us help you to not only reset your metabolism, but to make 2021 your best year ever.