Weight loss is pretty simple...
You just need to create a deficit. Done. Once a deficit (in calories) is created, you’re well on your way to losing weight.
Simply calories in calories out. That’s literally ALL that it is.
But as you know, if this was truly the case, I probably wouldn’t have a job.
That’s because weight loss, fat loss specifically (yes there is a difference), may be simple, but that by no means guarantees that it’s easy.
Fat loss and losing weight can be an incredibly tough process. You’re hungry all the time. You miss social gatherings. You are constantly fighting cravings. Maybe your energy starts to lag both in and out of the gym. Your sleep could suffer.
All of these are sure-fire ways to make sure you eventually binge and ruin all progress.
One of the biggest mistakes made is the statement I gave starting this article, “You just need to create a deficit.” Does that mean I’m wrong? Not in the slightest, but that there’s probably more you should be doing.
The most common mistake I see being made (because no one until now has told you otherwise) is that you just cut calories. All day every day. If your maintenance is 2000 calories, you cut to 1500 calories. Now this may work for some time. This is how every single fad diet works (Keto, fasting, plant-based – YES THIS IS A FAD, Paleo, carnivore, etc.). They just put you in a traditional linear-style deficit where every day is lower calories. Now, although this might yield results, a traditional linear-style deficit has a pretty strict timeline that you need to follow (that you likely haven’t...again because no one has told you otherwise). The problem with linear cuts is that your body likes consistency and LOVES adapting to its surroundings. Losing weight is a stress to your body. Many years ago, losing weight would have been a sign of danger and starvation, a threat to your body. To respond, your body ADAPTS to its new intake and resets your metabolism to a new lower intake. As we’ve evolved, our body still treats losing weight as such. When you simply just cut calories, your body will eventually slow down certain processes (digestion, sleep, reproductive & hormone health) to decrease your maintenance calorie expenditure. This usually starts at your 2-3-month mark.
Sound familiar? Most diets fail after 2-3 months because they become unsustainable. Most attribute this to “being weak.” In reality, it’s your body trying to protect you. This does a couple of things. First, it means to lose MORE weight, you have to create a new deficit. So if you cut at 1500 calories, you either have to increase your activity or decrease your food....and again in 2-3 months. Second, it puts you at risk of some serious health problems. Your digestion, sleep, metabolism and hormone health are taking serious hits. These are essential, not for survival but for thriving and now they’re starting to suffer. Lastly, third and most important, you start having some serious cravings and ultimately binges that will cause you to regain all of the weight lost and more.
Linear cuts, although proved effective in the past and by science, are not effective long term. The traditional way of dieting doesn’t take into account your dieting history, lifestyle, work, mindset, eating patterns, etc.
So is all hope lost?? By now you should know the answer to that is a hard NO.
Today, this blog article is going to teach you some NON-traditional fat loss methods. In my 2+ years of coaching, I’ve never put someone in a linear traditional cut. Again, not because they don’t work...but because there are more effective ways out there that almost make it feel like you’re not dieting at all. They improve adherence. They keep you consistent. They’re sustainable. They’re honestly fun. They match YOUR lifestyle and dieting preferences. They protect you and your health. SO let’s get into it!
NON-TRADITIONAL FAT LOSS METHODS
(in no particular order)
Carb cycling is my personal, go-to. Again, not because it’s better than the rest but because this is the diet I personally respond well to and the diet that I can follow for MONTHS on end.
In this style of cutting, you designate high calorie and high carb days and low calorie and low carb days. The high calorie/carb days are for training days and low calorie/carb days are for rest days. By training days, we’re talking weights and resistance training. The benefit here is that you don’t lose as much strength and you can prioritize gym performance with the high carb days and the low carb days are the days where we’re targeting majority of the fat loss. This is my personal favorite because I hate losing strength in a cut. This let’s me keep my strength up and feel like I’m crushing it at the gym, but I’m losing weight during the process. The high calorie days will give you the fuel and glycogen needed to push through a good workout, but we rely on depleting those glycogen fuels on those rest days by bringing carbs down considerably. This will encourage fat breakdown on those days.
Pros: performance doesn’t suffer as much, mentally need to push through 2-3 tough days and all other days are “easy”, you get some high fat days (and low carb), constantly changing calories (high and low), so harder for metabolism to adapt and slow down
Cons: 2-3 days/week are VERY low-calorie, have to follow a consistent lifting routine/schedule, best if you value strength and performance, weight will fluctuate so if you struggle with the number on the scale, either focus on average for the week or choose another approach, most rest days are on the weekends and if you struggle keeping intake lower on weekends you may need to adjust, also requires good memory and following the constant changes
How: Start with a 5:2 split (5 days high calorie, 2 days low calorie – for me Thursday and Sunday are rest days so that’s when I would eat low calorie). On your high calorie days, start either right at maintenance calories or right below. You will INCREASE carb intake and bring fats down to 0.2-0.25g/lb body weight (fat intake will be low!!). Create a 20-25% deficit for the low-calorie days. Keep protein the same. Have that deficit come from carbs and bring fats up considerably to make the calories workout. The fats will keep hunger at bay. For me, my high calorie days are 150P/225C/45F (2000 cals) and low calorie days are 150P/75C/70F (1500 cals). This won’t be yours necessarily, but hopefully you see how it lays out.
REFEEDS (6:1, 5:2, 10:3, 14:3)
Refeeds are essential for any successful non-traditional cut. The biggest struggle people have in their diets is their cheat days. Cheat days usually are treated as “failures” and require punishments in the days that follow. But here’s the thing... for most people, cheat days are inevitable. They are going to happen. SO you have two choices of action... You could either keep suffering through them because you’re not accounting for them and as a result keep failing at your diet OR you could intentionally plan them in a more structured way so they become allowed and encouraged and also keep you moving forward and seeing progress. Refeeds are simply planned and intentionally programmed high calorie days eating roughly at maintenance calories 1-2 days out of the week. Refeeds are effective at resetting your metabolic set point. In fact, I do have many clients that see weight loss AFTER their refeed days because they just remind your body “hey, remember that 2000 calories is our maintenance???” and your body goes “oh yeah, we’re still eating in a deficit, time to lose some weight!”
Pros: make most “linear diets” much more sustainable, planned “high calorie” days, can put on weekends to account for weekend binges and fun times...without losing progress
Cons: refeeds are NOT cheat days, they aren’t an excuse to go crazy and eat 4000 calories, they lead to more metabolic adaptation and may require future adjusting when reaching plateaus
How: Start with either a 6:1 or 5:2 split where 6 days out of the week (or 5), you eat in a 10-20% deficit (coming from a balance of carbs and fats) and 1 (or 2) days of your choosing, you eat back at maintenance. Most of the maintenance calories will come from carbs. Keep protein and fats roughly where they’re at. If I have a client who hates protein, I may use their refeed as a “sustainability” piece and bring protein down 10-15g so they feel like they have a break (ONE of the many reasons why having a coach put you through a cut to teach you all these things is so valuable). IF you start to plateau, you can lengthen the number of days in the deficit to 10, 12, or 14 days and add a refeed (so the 10:2, 10:3, 12:3, 14:3) approaches or start implementing some cardio.
The MATADOR diet is incredibly fascinating and highly effective. In this approach, you simply work in 2-week intervals. You go into a deficit for 2 weeks then spend a FULL TWO WEEKS back at maintenance. The beautiful thing about this approach is it almost never requires adjusting because your body can never adapt...because it’s always changing every 2 weeks. I get a lot of skepticism on this one, but it’s beyond effective and has some interesting studies backing it up. What matters here is NET calorie intake. Over the span of the month, you are eating in a deficit. Yes, two weeks are at maintenance but the other two were in almost double the deficit you’d make if doing a linear approach, so it all levels out at the same intake. Why not just cut daily calories? Because your metabolism will take a hit and for some, mindset here is going to keep them consistent and adherent long-term.
Pros: rarely do we see plateaus, can stay on this approach for months, mentally only need to “grind” 2 weeks at a time, great for maintaining metabolic health, good for people with a lot of weight to lose because you can simply stay in this cut for months with no adverse health effects
Cons: takes longer, 2-week deficit is pretty steep, weight fluctuations are common, best to measure TRENDS not daily weight, gym performance
How: Create your deficit macros/calories by cutting 20-30% of calories from carbs and fats. This is a steep deficit, but only for 2 weeks at a time. Every 2 weeks, you’re returning to maintenance. Again, mostly with carbs but can slightly increase fats during maintenance blocks if that’s what it takes to adhere.
This is the final one and is a continuation of the traditional MATADOR diet. This is usually my go-to if or when I see a plateau or mindset struggle following the traditional MATADOR approach. This is a hybrid of the MATADOR and the refeed approach. All we do for this one is remove a week of maintenance. You still get that interval, block-effect and all the benefits that come from it, but we basically cut out a full week of maintenance creating more of that deficit. Instead of a 2:2 (2 weeks on, 2 weeks off), it’s 2:1 (2 weeks on, 1 week off).
Pros: a good plateau-breaking strategy, good for people who struggle with MATADOR but find refeeds too short, protects metabolic and hormone health
Cons: more time in a deficit, may require frequent diet breaks when biofeedback starts to lag
How: Generally, I’m putting someone into this approach FROM the traditional MATADOR diet. Usually I’ll just keep macros mostly the same and remove one of their maintenance weeks. If that deficit looks pretty steep, I will either slightly bump up carbs in the deficit weeks if that’s what they’re struggling with or give them a few extra calories in their maintenance weeks. It really depends on THE PERSON and where they’re struggling and where they’re finding difficultly staying consistent and adherent.
*I currently have a client following this approach. Reilly was following the traditional MATADOR from August through November. She started to plateau, so I put her in this modified 2:1 MATADOR, and she’s lost 30lbs (from this approach alone) and has loved this approach because it works for HER lifestyle. We’ve spent time trying certain methods out and found that her body loves diet breaks and week-long refeeds and actually will come out of the maintenance week with more weight loss (even though we spent a week with higher calories). She started with me at 210lbs and now is down 50lbs and still counting.
Which one should you do? Whichever one sounds the most attractive and SUSTAINABLE FOR YOU! Factor in your lifestyle. Do you binge on the weekends? A 5:2 refeed is a good place to start. Do you not want to suffer strength in the gym? Start with carb cycling. Do you work better on short intervals or longer intervals? Carb cycling is better for people who work with shorter intervals and the refeeds or MATADOR is a good place to start for people who like longer intervals. Not one is better than the other, but one is probably better for YOU.
Not sure what that looks like or how to put yourself through a cut like this? Apply for coaching and let me put you through one so you can see for yourself HOW the process works!
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