This blog post and its' sequel, are going to be two of the most important…
Note: The most important part of this article is near the end. This will give you what you need to know in terms of lowering your body fat. Whatever you do, don’t miss the end.
I was always an absolute pig by nature. Granted, I’ve never been fat, or even overweight, but the only reason for this was the outrageous amounts of cardio I always used to perform as a kid, and maintained right throughout my teenage years and early adulthood.
I do a lot less now, but I do enough to maintain a decent level of cardiovascular fitness, high levels of energy, and other general health and longevity purposes. I no longer need it for sports performance reasons so it’s not as high of a priority.
By the way, in terms of a little general background reading for you, check these out:
Anyway, I was always a greedy little shite. I remember coming home from school every night and stuffing my face with whatever I could get my hands on. This was just before dinner. Then later on in the evening, I would down a protein shake (after whatever dinner was), and then a whopping bowl of cereal. Or two. Each bowl would have at least 5-6 weetabix. Yeah I was greedy.
I also added sugar to each bowl of cereal. This is why when I say that you can’t regulate your appetite properly when you have decent levels of sugar in your diet, this is where it comes from. Sugar prevents your normal hunger hormones from giving you accurate information. Adding sugar to your diet in order to increase your appetite should only be a last resort. Obviously it’s bad for your health, and should only be done if you’re emaciated. Doesn’t apply to many readers.
It was an effective strategy for muscle gain, and it was great to see my strength shoot up. But before you say “you were just another lucky, skinny teenager who could eat five million calories per day and nothing would change, but I just have to look at a dohnut and I blow up” etc. etc. etc., just hold on. I did gain fat. Which is why guys with “high metabolisms” get no sympathy from me; they just don’t want to gain muscle badly enough.
I went from about 12-13% to about 17-ish%. So I did gain quite a bit of timber. It was fun while it lasted. But the problem, as we all know, is that you pay the long-term price for this. For me personally, this came in the form of years trying (and eventually succeeding) to re-discipline myself. And lower that body fat set point back down to a respectable level.
The reason it took years, is because true discipline does in fact takes years to build. But also, I kept trialling different diets and kept failing to try anything sustainable. As you may have guessed by now, this included Keto and other low-carb diets.
I’m trying to save you from the same bullshit. I made these mistakes so you don’t have to. I could have probably lowered my body fat set-point in about, I dunno, maybe 18 months to 2 years? Instead it was about 4 years.
But, I will give you some interesting information and some recent findings that I have discovered since lowering my body fat set-point.
If I was to pick the biggest success factor in getting my body fat set point down to the lowest it’s ever been, I would say it’s time. Specifically, taking your time – taking it slowly. This is not done overnight. This is why it doesn’t sell particularly well in adverts, magazines etc. but this is the truth.
As always we want to look at the world objectively to see how this stuff really works in real life, rather than how we would like it to work. If you want to permanently be leaner, it’s going to take some time. Unsexy as hell, but I don’t care. Time and hard work, same with anything worthwhile really. Granted, I wasted quite a lot of time by screwing up multiple times, but whatever. I got there in the end.
Adding to the time element, it also requires long periods of maintenance calories for your physiological systems (hunger hormones) and psychology to adjust and adapt to your new bodyweight. If you do everything too quickly, you end up pushing yourself too far and you swing back in the wrong direction just as hard. The secret is to push yourself enough to get the ball rolling and actually make progress, but without crossing the line.
Not only is it going to take time, but there is some experimentation for you that needs to take place. I realise that my recommendations aren’t going to be universal, and you will need to figure some of this stuff out for yourself. But, on top of time, I would recommend the following, as they worked very, very well for myself:
- Intermittent Fasting
- Higher carb diets (than most)
Outside of taking things slowly, I would say Intermittent Fasting has had the biggest impact. There is an initial adjustment period, but once this is over, you’re flying. It has permanently lowered my appetite. This is due to the smaller eating window, larger meals, and morning coffee also plays a role in this. I just have no desire to eat in the mornings at all. I do get very hungry in the afternoon, but not hungry enough to take me over 2800 calories which would put me in a solid calorie surplus.
After this dieting structure, I would say the composition of my diet was the next huge success factor. I tried low-carb stuff, and it just makes you weak and miserable. Higher-carb diets keep you happier, give you higher energy, and are better for muscle and strength maintenance, since it isn’t that difficult to meet your protein requirements in reality.
Okay, time for some specifics. This is the most important part, listen up.
Prior to trying to lower my body fat set point, I was eating well over 3500 calories. No problem. Really, really easily actually. For most of my time spent dieting, I was eating under 3000 calories. As I started to get lean, this number was in the low 2000’s. This is just what happens eventually as you become a lot lighter, and your metabolism starts to adapt.
Hunger was a regular problem for me. I was hungry all the time, irritable, pissed off and weak. To be fair, I managed this with periods of maintenance calories, but during the process of actually leaning down, it was difficult.
Each year, I got a little leaner. By the fourth year, I got down to 9-10%. I dipped a little lower than this temporarily but struggled to maintain it at the time. Alcohol, social life etc. were contributing factors.
Then, I maintained this for over 12 months. It was more like 16 months, actually. Then I decided I wanted more muscle and strength, and now I’m currently lean-bulking. Now, here’s for the interesting part:
I was living in Spain for a handful of months not long ago, and this was where the lean-bulking process began. Sitting at around 10%, I got my ass into a small calorie surplus. And my body was loving it. For a short while.
Until I started struggling to eat more than 2500 calories.
I thought I was ill (I was genuinely ill for a couple of days around that time, but not for that long). Or had food poisoning. Or something. I didn’t get it. It was about 2 weeks later when I realised (yes it took me that long – you dumbass Alex!) that this was what was happening.
This is the same guy who was easily demolishing 3500 calories a few years ago. Now I was a pathetic mess, stumped by a mere 2500. Useless. It’s laughable really, but I genuinely struggle. This is what appetite manipulation is all about, and this is why people who moan about “fast” or “slow” metabolisms get zero sympathy from me. I’ve proven a couple of times now that you can manipulate the outcome, and all else is just excuses.
It’s not easy, but it’s perfectly possible.
I think deep down I always knew that this was how it worked, but it just shocked me how powerful it was. Greedy me was now struggling to eat 2500. What a joke!
Anyway, what’s the point of all this?
My point is this:
You are perfectly capable of doing this too. I can assure you I’m not some genetically gifted guy, I’m really not. It just takes time and hard work. You can lower your body fat set point forever. This example for myself over the past few months simply reinforces what I’ve been saying for a while. You will be hungry whilst dieting, but if you maintain your new bodyweight over time, everything adapts.
I will admit that it’s a pain in the arse when you feel stuffed all the time, and you know you need to eat more. But I have plenty of tricks up my sleeve, including not drinking coffee any more, taking time away from IF until it’s time to lean down again etc.
Using the tactics bulleted above though, consistently over time, will lower your body fat level permanently. There’s nothing magic about this, but when you compare it to your typical diet that 97% of people end up bouncing back from, it might as well be magic.
The power is in your hands. Go forth and eliminate the fat.