The Comprehensive Guide To Lose Weight Without Tracking

The Comprehensive Guide To Lose Weight Without Tracking

Roy Ritchie

Coach | Nutritionist

Roy Ritchie

Coach | Nutritionist

The Comprehensive Guide To Lose Weight Without Tracking

You take a bite.  Log it in My Fitness Pal.

Preparing a meal.  Make sure that you have the measurement to the gram.

You take a sip of that sweet, sweet liquor.  Oh, don’t forget to enter the digits later.

I may be slightly exaggerating here, or am I?

Calorie and macro tracking is no doubt a sure way to get results, whether it’s for fat loss or strength and muscle gain.  But, it can take its toll.

A part of the process is to keep you as stress-free as possible.  However, if you live this way constantly then it can actually add to stress.  Limiting your overall progress.  Of course, this is counter productive to your fitness goals.

Food trackers such as My Fitness Pal have no doubt changed the game in terms of helping educate people and dial in results, but there does come a point where it can actually rule your life.

A dieting process doesn’t – and shouldn’t – be a 24/7 regimented elephant in the room.  The problem is that it can be whether you notice it or not.

A healthy dieting process needs breaks so that you’re able to keep touch with intuitive eating.  It needs to exist so that you’re not bound by dieting barriers within your mind.

Neither of these ever need to be an issue.

So how can you continue to get amazing results and without ever writing down that cookie you devoured?

 

INCREASE PROTEIN INTAKE

You would be surprised how often people just don’t eat enough protein in their diet.  I have to admit, if I’m on the go then I have to remind myself at times to favour these sources over simply throwing in an extra garlic bread.

Because protein is such a satiating macronutrient, it keeps you feeling more full for longer.  So by prioritising it, it’ll limit how much fats and carbs your add into your meals.  Keeping your calories lower without ever counting them.

A great tactic I also like is to aim for the protein source first when you’re sitting down for meals.  At least this way you can feel full quicker, and possibly limit your fat and carb calories at the same time.

Not only is protein important for recovery, building strength and muscle, it can also help you actually lose fat by burning calories as you eat.  You heard that right my friend.  This is because of the thermogenic effect of food (TEF).  Protein is made up of 20 amino acids which can take the gut time to break them all down for digestion.  This requires energy.  Resulting in calories being burned.  Sounds like a pretty sweet deal right there.

If you want to read more on protein then check out this article on macros.

 

DON’T FORGET YOUR VEG 

Along with protein, I’m also shocked at how many people just do not eat enough veg.

Sure, there is the classic stigma attached that they’re bland and boring.  Broccoli and cauliflower every day.  Don’t forget the cucumber.  I have to agree here.  When it’s laid out like that, then pass me the number for Papa Johns pizza now.

Of course, veg is like any other food.  It’s only as bland or tasty as you prepare it, so get inventive with condiments, spices, and sauces.  Of course, try out different types of veg and preparing them in different ways.

So why is veg so important?

Your body craves nutrients for overall health and function.  Veggies are stacked with all of this.  So by loading your plate of different types of veg, this not only helps all of this, but – like protein – it takes time for the body to process these foods.  Keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Score!

The other bonus you get from veggies is that they’re super low in calories.  This means that you’re able to load up on food, feeling full, and not have to worry about your calorie intake.  Not that you ever should.

Check out this article on low calorie and high nutrient density for more on this.

 

LIMIT LIQUID CALORIES

This can be one of the worst offenders to any weight loss goals.  Mainly because they provide all the calories, but very few – or none – or the nutritious returns that food can.

I even favour a food protein source over a shake every day of the week so that I’ll appreciate and enjoy it more rather than just downing a quick shake.  This will still leave me feeling hungry and wanting more.

If you head into the gym then you’re most likely going to see people with Monster, Red Bull, or other types of energy drinks.  All loaded with empty calories.

Even the marketers get in on the act with promises of healthier drink options such as vitamin waters and fruit juices.  What they don’t tell you is that they’re also carrying a shit ton of calories too.

This can end up leaving you wondering why the hell you aren’t losing weight and cutting out more food from your diet.  Instead, it should be these drinks.

No beuno my friend.

This is why I like to lean toward diet Cherry Pepsi Max (I know, I’m truly living on the edge) and coffee.  I love the taste and they easily keep my calories low.

These figures can vary, but here’s an example.

 

SNACKING

Like the liquid calories, snacking can be a pain in the ass.

The problem with snacking is that people who struggle with dieting just can’t stop.  Which ramps up their frustration and stress levels.

And when they focus too much on trying to stop snacking they take their eye off the ball in other areas.  All the while snacking still exists.

A dieting double-edged sword.

Instead of trying to simply stop snacking.  Replace the snack choice.  You see, snacking is habitual.  It’s a part of your life.  A part that you enjoy.  So when you try to eliminate a habit, it creates resistance.  More problems for you to deal with.

To make this easier you should aim to replace your snacking choices.  Rather than grabbing that slab of chocolate that’s on a deal in the supermarket which will leave you still feeling hungry – and guilty – afterward, aim for a protein source or a piece of fruit.

Not only will these snack choices provide you with even more nutritious value.  They will help keep you feeling full and your calories low.

 

THE MAGIC RATIO

Ok I may have tricked you there.  There is no magic ratio.  What there can be, though, is a ratio for your main meals to tick all the boxes of providing nutrition, keeping you feeling full, lower calorie intake, and be tasty as fuck.

Where people tend to go wrong is, for example, they’re preparing a pasta dish.  They throw in a few nuggets of chicken, half a jar of pasta sauce, followed by half a pan of cooked pasta.

I know.  I used to be that person.

A simple way around this is by looking at having a decent amount of each macro along with veg per meal.

Use this image as a perfect example.

Again.  It’s no magic pill, but it’s something you can eyeball no matter where you are.

 

LOAD UP ON WATER

This is another one that sounds like a no-brainer, but are you actually doing this?

You’d be surprised at how often you don’t prioritise water intake throughout your day.

Water has an insane amount of importance when it comes to your health.  When it comes to hunger, then it’s priceless.

We tend to panic at the feeling – or thought – of hunger.  Immediately reaching for food whenever the trigger strikes.  It’s worth noting that hunger isn’t a bad thing by the way.  When it does, then simply drink a glass of water.  This can eliminate whether it’s actual hunger or thirst.

If the feeling is still there after half an hour, then it’s likely that you are hungry.  Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

 

KEEP A CAP ON ALCOHOL

This can vary depending on your choice of alcohol of course.

You can easily reach a weight loss goal while still enjoying alcohol in your life, so try to avoid feeling that you must automatically remove it faster than you need to remove that one person that posts ten times a day about absolutely nothing on Facebook.

Alcohol is like the liquid calories I mentioned above.  It carries zero nutritional value.  Of course, you can view this however you want.  If you’re able to reach your weight goals while enjoying a drink or two throughout the week then there’s no reason to change that.

If you want to know more about how to set yourself up for weight loss goals while still being able to enjoy booze then check out my article on that here.

 

GO ON MINI FASTS

People tend to get caught up on what the best method of intermittent fasting is.  Just like everything else, there are various ways to go about this.  There is no one wizardry method to follow.

On certain days – such as a rest day – you can save yourself up to 400 calories by skipping breakfast and not eating until lunch time.

Although, if breakfast is your jam, then you can skip lunch or dinner instead.  It’s all about personal preference.  It’s your diet at the end of the day, so do what works for you.

Not only will this know off a chunk of calories from your day.  It’ll teach you more about hunger.  Why you shouldn’t sprint to the nearest Nandoes as soon as you feel your stomach rumbling.  That you won’t actually suffer and die if you feel genuine hunger for a period of time.

There are worse things in life.  Believe me.

An added plus point to going on fasts is that it’ll also teach you more about intuitive eating.

Stomach “I’m hungry.  Feed me”

You “Are you really that hungry?”

Stomach “Meh, I can wait”

You “Yeah you will”

Eating when you want, and when you need to.

 

DON’T BE BORING

It’s ok; I’m not saying you are boring.  That’s a little too judgemental.  I’m talking about your food.

When people think about dieting for weight loss they can go into autopilot.  Removing everything that they enjoy, or have deemed as “bad” food.  Only then deciding that veg has a place in life.  Posting on Facebook about how they can’t stop dreaming about the Dominoes pizza guy.  He’s all of a sudden more popular than Ryan Gosling.  Even to straight guys.

Food is more than fuel for your training.  To not be viewed as a cheat, or something to binge on whenever you get emotional.

It’s there to be enjoyed.  It’s a big part of your social life.  It’s freakin’ amazing if you allow it to be.

You fancy some of that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream that on deal at the moment?  Cool, go get it.

Got a craving for a Five Guys burger?  Hella yeah!

That bag of steamed broccoli not going to cut it on your cinema date? Bin it.

My point is, we all know about healthy living and moderation.  Applying it isn’t so hard.  We just make it so.

Thinking and living this way is far healthier than jumping on countless fad diets, only to continuously be left feeling more deflated than before.

 

SUMMARY

Increase Protein – Protein is more than just for training.  It’s an important part of a healthy diet.  It’ll keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Don’t Forget Your Veg – Like protein, veg is another important food source that is packed with nutrients.  Aim for 1-3 portions daily.

Limit Liquid Calories – Liquid calories can be easily over consumed on.  Aim for food over false marketing healthy juice options.

Snacking – Avoid trying to eliminate snacking.  It’s a healthy daily habit.  Instead, aim to replace snack options for more protein and fruit based ones.

The Magic Ratio – Instead of overloading your plate – ramping up your calorie intake – follow a simple ratio that will keep your meals highly nutritious and lower in calories.

Load Up On Water – Don’t confuse hunger with thirst.  Drink a glass of water whenever you feel hungry to make sure.  Also keep your intake high for health benefits.

Keep A Cap On Alcohol – Alcohol – like snacking – can be another habitual and social aspect in our lives.  It doesn’t need to be fully cut out for weight loss.  Just limited.

Go On Mini Fasts – Fasting for short periods of the day – such as skipping breakfast – will save you up to 400 calories without even trying.

Don’t Be Boring – Dieting for weight loss can be viewed as boring or restrictive.  Avoid thinking this way.  Learn to enjoy food and how it plays a part in your life. Keep moderation in mind.

 

P.S. So you enjoyed this, huh? We’ll if you want to find out more ways to diet at ease then check out my newsletter below.

The self sabotaging feedback loop

The self sabotaging feedback loop

Roy Ritchie

Coach | Nutritionist

Roy Ritchie

Coach | Nutritionist

The self sabotaging feedback loop

Have you ever wondered why when you get that draining thought or feeling.  The one that just won’t go away, so you avoid it. The one that leaves you rooted to the same spot for days, weeks, or even months?

You’re sticking to your diet regimentally each and ever day. Counting the calories and macros. Training five times a week. Eating as clean as you possibly can, but somehow each time you step on the scales, they don’t move. You look the same in every update photo. Your stomach just won’t lean out. You can’t seem to get past a sticking point with the weight you’re lifting.

You’ve been in this scenario. We all have. It must be what it feel like to have Nicolas Cage’s career.

He keeps churning out movie after movie, but they just keep getting progressively worse.  (Sorry Nic. I love you, but it’s time to be honest here. Just promise me you won’t make a Con Air 2.)

This is what is called the behavioral feedback loop.

 

LET US PICTURE THE SCENE OF DIETING.

As mentioned above. Your weight hasn’t budged in a few weeks. You have officially plateaued. But the problem is, you don’t know how to get out of it.

This creates frustration and stress.

“Ah shit I can’t believe my weight hasn’t budged again, I’m a total failure at this dieting stuff. I shouldn’t bother. Argh no way, I’m an actual failure for thinking I’m a failure at this stupid dieting. I really need to stop thinking I’m a failure. Balls, I’ve just thought it again. I must be a failure!”

 

What about your training?

You are trying to get stronger on a week to week basis, but not matter what you do you just can’t get past that specific bastardly number.

This must mean that it is you, who is the problem.

“Well, that was another poor workout. I actually think I’m getting weaker. This is annoying as hell. Stop getting annoyed at yourself, it doesn’t matter. Of course it does! Argh, now I’m getting annoyed because I’m annoyed at my training. Now I’m just completely annoyed at everything!”

 

IT’S OK TO THINK THIS WAY

This is simply a natural human behavior. It’s frustrating but natural.

The main issue is that we fall into a negative thought process far too easily.

“Madness is like gravity. All it takes is just a little… push.”

– The Joker

 

As mad as the joker is. He has a good point.

Other than the scales, the barbell, or any other feedback we come across on a daily basis.  What is this push?

Social media.

Whether we like it or not, we live in a world of constant comparison. This is mainly through social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. As soon as we wake up we reach for out phones to check out what the world is up to. Our brain is then processing all the super amazing things that every person and their dog are up to. Even stupid cat videos have it better than us all of a sudden.

Once Facebook is done with us we move over to Instagram.

No doubt we follow people that feed our interests, which means one thing. They are knocking it out the park on a second to second basis. Each time you refresh your feed someone else has lost another 2lbs of weight. Added another 10kg to their squat. Living it up on their worldwide travels. All the while you’re sat there wondering what you’re doing wrong.

Kind of depressing. Like being virtually kicked full pelt straight in the ball sack – or ovaries, and wondering “what the hell am I doing wrong?”

What you must remember is that social media is simply a highlight reel. It’s smoke and mirrors. Showing you only what people want you to see. And on the rare occasion, people are brutally honest about their hard times which is refreshing. Not that they’re going through hard times. Just that you can relate.

Of course, social media isn’t the only factor.  Your daily life in general is full of external comparisons.  Magazines, Tv, work, and friends.

 

ACTUALLY. YOU SHOULD CARE LESS

You know that you are placing way too much emphasis on a thought, experience, or action. But you are reliving it over and over. So… you really should just stop giving a shit.

Try to care less about the actual event itself and realise that it’s nothing more than a passing thought, feeling, or moment. The quicker you acknowledge it and move on, then you can start to make progress in what it is you’re actually trying to do.

 

TYPES OF FEEDBACK LOOPS

This all sounds like feedback loops are 100% negative and that you should avoid them at all costs. It’s ok, this is not the case at all. Like anything in this life, feedback loops can be split into two parts.

  • Bad Habits
  • Good Habits

 

Bad Habits

When it comes to bad habits we want to find a good balance here. Much like anything in life – such as our diets – we live in a thought process of everything in moderation. By automatically viewing something as a bad habit that is just going to cause stress and doubt. Look for that balance instead. Allow them to have a place to exist so that you know you can simply pick it up and drop it as you please.

Keep skipping the gym – Get up an hour earlier and have your bag packed so that you are ready to go as soon as you wake up.

Can’t stop snacking – Swap out your choice of snack to something that is still tasty, lower in calories and will satisfy.

 

Good Habits

The funny thing about good habits is that we know they make us feel happier. They have nothing but a great return. But somehow we find a way to do them less or drop them entirely. It’s like we love the idea of suffering. Humans are strange creatures after all.

Rather than look at balancing them out – like we do with bad habits. We should aim to reinforce them. Build on that good habit to further strengthen the habit itself.

Not only will this feedback bring a sense of progress, it’ll also bring a sense of optimism and happiness (even though we all get weird at the thought of happiness).

Examples of this are:

Dieting for fat loss – Preparing healthier meals ahead of time so that when there’s temptation at work – or when you get home from work tired – you know you have a tasty, filling, and lower calorie meal option at the ready. Doing this consistently will result in fat loss changes. This feedback will motivate you further to stick to this habit.

Going to the gym – Setting yourself a target of going to the gym at least three times a week at the times you know which will fit with your lifestyle. While going there, you’re progressing in your training goals each week. Keeping a record of your efforts to reinforce the feedback. Making you more likely to keep going, and looking forward to each workout.

 

BUILDING A FEEDBACK LOOP TO WIN

As easy as it sounds to fall into a negative feedback loop. It’s also just as easy to build one to succeed.

Action – This will always be a starting point. This is triggered by measuring up the data that you are consuming. Once it is consumed, it then elicits a change in behavior.

Reaction – Now that you have measured up the data, you need to compare it to something.

“My weight loss efforts are…”

This answer can be a result of where you currently are, and where you want to be. This comparison needs to be purposeful to what you are actually looking to achieve.   Not a reaction to something that isn’t.

Modification – Once you’ve measured up the feedback to your current goals. Make the relevant changed that are needed to progress. Don’t dwell too much on it as this can then fall into the negative space. Absorb, process, and adjust. The faster you action this then the more likely you are to stick to the habit.

 

SUMMARY

Of course, it’s important to understand that we don’t live in a world of eternal happiness where unicorns shit hot fudge sundaes and craft beer flows from the kitchen sink.

There are always going to be times when the wheels fall off and you feel like a failure. You’re not a failure. You are allowed these moments. This is where we learn.

Negative Feedback From Dieting – A thought of failure which adds another layer of failure, upon another thought of failure.

This Thought Is Ok – Failure is ok. Accepting it is important. But social media and other external factors can make it a whole lot worse if you allow it.

Actually. You Should Care Less – We say we don’t give a shit about things, but we don’t really believe this. We actually should care less, though. It will relieve stress and negative thoughts.

Types Of Feedback Loops – These loops are split into both good and bad habits. Knowing how to manage them is important.

Building A Feedback Loop To Win – Being aware of the process of feedback and how to control it to prevent being in a negative loop.

 

P.S. If you are currently in a negative loop of being controlled by the scales and poor squatting, then you should check out my newsletter below. If you aren’t, then you still should. It’s full of epic stuff and lolz

Your Metabolism isn’t slow. your neat is

Your Metabolism isn’t slow. your neat is

Roy Ritchie

Coach | Nutritionist

Roy Ritchie

Coach | Nutritionist

Your Metabolism isn’t slow. your neat is

“That guy is lucky.  He can easily eat anything since he has a fast metabolism.”

How many times have you heard that phrase in the past?

It’s usually followed up with “I have a slow metabolism.  I just need to look at food and I gain a ton of fat.”

The truth is, most of the time this isn’t the case.  There is nothing wrong with their metabolism at all.  It’s just an easy excuse because we heard –or read– it at work, in the gym, or on the internet.

Despite going to the gym a number of times a week while cutting calories.  They may still find it difficult and plateau which then results in frustration, which then leads to a panic decision, such as drastically cutting calories and working out even more.  And when this doesn’t fix things, what next?

I’m not dismissing that there actually are people out there that have hormonal issues which canresult in their metabolism being slow.  But it’s like I mentioned above.  This isn’t always the issue.

In these cases, it comes down to simply a lack of moving.  By moving I don’t mean training.  I mean basic, every day, moving.  This uses up calories too.  A lot, in fact.

This is where NEAT  becomes an important player in the game of fat loss.

First off, what is NEAT?

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.  It is the movements that we do in our daily lives out with sleeping, eating, and purposeful training.  It’s everything from walking, gardening, housework, and even fidgeting.

All these movements –and more– are keeping the body both consciously and subconsciously active.  Burning calories in the process.  So when people are becoming obsessed with the latest fat burning supplement (lol), superfood (more lols), or fitness gadget to fix their fat loss woes, it is more likely down to a decrease of NEAT levels.

 

HOW EFFECTIVE IS NEAT IN TERMS OF ACTUAL WEIGHT LOSS?

Your energy requires can be broken down into three areas.  Your basal metabolic rate (BMR), the thermic effect of food (TEF), and NEAT.

NEAT can account for as up to 50% of energy expenditure in people who are active, and as little as 15% for people who are more sedentary.  That’s a large range which highlights it’s effectiveness in weight management.

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the energy that’s expended to keep the body functioning while you are sleeping.  Breathing, blood circulation, body temperature, muscle contraction, brain and nerve control, and cell growth, to name a few.  This can account for 60-75% of your total daily energy requirements.

And lastly, you have the thermic effect of food (TEF).  This is the number of calories that’s required to digest food (yes, you burn calories while consuming food which is sweet!).  The energy required for this is withing a range of 5-35%.  This is down to the type of nutrient that you digesting.  Here is an example:

  • Protein – 20-35%
  • Carbohydrates – 5-15%
  • Fat – 0-5%

This is one of the main reason that it is more advisable to have a higher protein intake while dieting for fat loss.

So, for example, if you take a male who has a BMR of 2000, he is going to burn around 300 calories digesting his food daily.  Adding on to that, he may burn between 300-1000 calories by walking, gardening, playing accidental footsie with his boss, or whether he sits in an office all day to then go home to then sit on the sofa until bed.

This means that if this guy did no active training in the gym –or similar, and his NEAT levels were on the lower end of the scale.  He would be burning around 2600 calories each day.  However, if his NEAT levels were on the higher end of the scale then he could be burning up to 3300 calories daily.  That is a 700 calorie difference between losing, and gaining weight.

You could actually go to Burker King and place an order for:

  • Whopper Jr sandwich, without mayo (240)
  • Quaker oatmeal (170)
  • Garden side salad (60)
  • Apple slices (30)

Which all adds up to 500 calories.  Still leaving 200 on the table.

Not bad for simply moving a little more.

 

WHAT ABOUT YOUR SKINNY FRIEND?

We all have that friend who –like the example at the start of this post– seems like they could live on a diet on poptart sandwiches and Five Guys milkshakes and still walk around looking like a marathon runner.  Like anything else, you don’t know what their daily lifestyle is like.

The chances are they are naturally more active.  Even if they have a desk job, they will be moving around the office at any given opportunity.  Have various hobbies midweek while being on the go all weekend.  They aren’t lucky.  They just naturally don’t –or can’t– stop moving.  Subconsciously burning more calories.

Like anything else in this life.  Success leaves clues.

NEAT life for the win bro!

NEAT CAN BE ADJUSTED.

Although people can naturally have higher NEAT levels, this can naturally adjust, decreasing through the process of weight loss dieting.

When in a weight loss phase, your metabolism can slow down (This can also happen even if your weight has been around maintenance for over a year).

This does not mean that your training effort is any less.  You will be beginning to naturally move less due to the decrease of energy from the dieting phase.  Leading to your NEAT levels and overall physical activity unconsciously decreasing with weight loss.  Although you may be working your ass off in the gym to try and burn off some extra calories, you are losing out on up to 500 calories per day by simply moving less.

This can work in the other direction too.  If you start to diet back up and your NEAT levels don’t increase, then you can end up increasing your weight even quicker over time due to the lack of energy being used while there is more coming in.

 

Remember.  Although you may not naturally move a lot, you can still place down markers to purposely increase it.

  • Use a fitness tracker with the aim to hit 10,000 steps daily.
  • Use the stairs instead of the escalator or lift.
  • Park a little further from from or the store.
  • Walk and talk while in conversations, whether its in person or on the phone.
  • Take 10 minute breaks every hours to take a short walk while at work.
  • Perform foam rolling or mobility exercises while watching TV.
  • Have both a morning and evening routine of a 5-minute flow such as the ones on Max Shanks YouTube channel

You don’t need to do all these at once.  Just add in one or two a week until it becomes a habit.

Sure, your metabolism may be slower, but it isn’t set in stone.  You can adjust it with simple tasks over time.  There’s a reason that the skinny person who is always on their feet may be skinny.  Just the same reason that the overweight person who is always sedentary is overweight.

 

SUMMARY

Fast and slow metabolism – It isn’t as black and white as you think.  This can be adjusted by increasing your NEAT.

How effective is NEAT in terms of actual weight loss? – NEAT, BMR, and TEF all play a part in your daily energy expenditure.

What about my skinny friend? – Success leaves clues.  Their natural activity level may be different to yours.

NEAT can be adjusted – NEAT levels aren’t absolute.  They can naturally change through weight loss or weight gain.

 

P.S. Was this article NEAT enough for you?  (That was truly awful, I know) Then why not check out my newsletter below so that you don’t miss any more posts like this.

Training Deload: What is it? Do you need to do it?

Training Deload: What is it? Do you need to do it?

Roy Ritchie

Coach | Nutritionist

Roy Ritchie

Coach | Nutritionist

Training Deload: What is it? Do you need to do it?

I tend to be happy enough with my training.  I structure it in a way that it balances itself out while making progress in one or two areas at a time while supporting it with a generally healthy diet.

I say generally because in reality, who’s overall diet is 100% perfect?  Well, other than the “fitspiration” profiles on social media.

But that’s a rabbit hole I’m just not going down at the moment.

However, the other week I started to noticed a few things.  Despite everything being where it should be at the moment.

Business, lifestyle, training, finances, diet, family, and friends.  I noticed that there were a number of days where I just felt… off.

I wasn’t sleeping well and was lacking focus when I was doing simple day to day tasks.

My training also sucked balls.  I didn’t enjoy it, which wasn’t like me at all.  I stopped enjoying certain lifts and felt I was more in a routine than aiming for something.

Sounds like I’m about to start writing a script for the next Hollywood rom-com hit, but I’ll save you the emotional pull on your full sized aortic pump.

Well, as I was sat journaling, I was writing all the small things that had been happening throughout the previous two weeks (this is a great way to create clarity whenever you’re getting stressed, anxious, frustrated, or just simply enjoy that mode of output).  And it hit me.  I was burning out.  I needed to chill out a bit.  I needed to deload.

The reason I hadn’t noticed it before was because I program training for all my clients in a way so that deloading naturally occurs (more on this later).  And, because I focus more on them than on my own training, I didn’t take notice of how much overall training volume I was doing in each workout, each week.

A rookie mistake, I know.

There are a lot of myths and opinions on training deloads.

  • How often?
  • How to go about doing one?
  • Do they actually work?

All valid questions with mixed answers of course.  So let’s have a closer look at it all.

 

WHAT SYMPTOMS SHOULD WE BE LOOKING FOR?

  • Workouts are no longer fun.
  • Struggle to, or can’t finish a workout.
  • Strength is plateaued or decreasing.
  • Aching or painful joints.
  • Sleep quality has gone down.
  • You start to have a lack of focus.

Which then brings me to the question you want to know the answer to.

 

WHAT IS A DELOAD?

A deload is a purposeful training strategy that is used to reduce the amount of work we do in a week. Using less weight and/or doing less in a number of total sets.

The purpose of the deload week is to rest our joints, connective tissues, CNS (central nervous system), to give our body a break and enhance future progress and avoid injury.  We get to do this on a rest day, but in certain circumstances, the joints will require more time than the muscle to fully regain recovery.

Not only is it an opportunity for you to fully recover these areas, but it’s also a way to fully restore testosterone and cortisol levels.  So if you notice that you start developing some tendonitis along with major plateaus in your training progression, then this is simply your body’s way or telling you to take a timeout.

The main notion behind a deload comes from the law of supercompensation.

And no, that is not some sort or reject superhero.  Let’s have a look below.

Put simply, you get stronger while you recover.  This is why whether dieting for strength, muscle, or fat loss, there comes a point where you start making zero progress, or you start moving backward.

Training 6-7 times a week – sometimes twice a day – is not, and will never be a solution.  It leaves no time for recovery.

Training stimulus:  

This is where you are deliberately applying stress to the body through your working reps, sets, and overall workout.  Creating muscle damage and fatigue.

Rest/Recovery:  

This could be in a form of an active rest between sets, going for walks, or taking an entire day or week off.  Whatever you choose to do, fully rest.

Supercompensation:

Think of this as a rebound effect.  The body is primed and ready to take on higher training loads or increased performance.

 

This is where the problem lies.  We love the first part and feel like the Stifmeister on the last part.  But blatantly disregard the most important part.  Yup, the recovery.

 

Now, the recovery phase can be a deload, but it doesn’t need to be.  In fact, I’d avoid doing a full deload, ever.

In that case, this is where you might wonder what the hell happened to me.  I told you, I got sloppy.  These things happen.

 

HOW DO YOU DO A DELOAD WEEK?

First off, a deload does not need to be a full week.  It’s just a standard term that is used.  A deload can simply be for 2-3 days if that is all that is needed.

Here are a couple of standard options that you can apply:

  • 50-70% of the weight you would normally use.
  • 50-70% of total sets.

An example of this would be:

If you’re squatting for 4 sets of 8 @ 100kg, then instead perform 2-3 sets of 8 @ 60kg.

Although both of these methods work perfectly ok, I mentioned at the start that I tend to avoid these when programming for clients, and this is how.

I program in an introductory week.  At the beginning of each training cycle, I keep the training volume and intensity lower at around 2-3 sets for each exercise.  Especially the main exercises such as the bench press, heavy rows, deadlift, squats, pull/chin-ups.  This is a perfect way for them to be introduced to new exercises, training methods, and rep schemes.  Preventing a complete break and keeping the ongoing momentum.

An example of this would look like this:

  • Week 1:  Barbell Squat – 2 sets x 9 reps
  • Week 2:  Barbell Squat – 3 sets x 9 reps
  • Week 3:  Barbell Squat – 4 sets x 9 reps
  • Week 4:  Barbell Squat – 5 sets x 9 reps

 

While you are within a deload phase it’s beneficial to increase the amount of basic exercise such as walking, mobility work, foam rolling, stretching.  This will increase the recovery further, especially if these are areas that you tend to neglect, which we often do.

Alternatively, if you are simply getting real tired of the gym then just take a break.  Get outside.  Run, train in the pack, hike, do star jumps down the street after a turbo espresso, or just do something fun to create the spark that you need or get going again.  You can also use this time to realign your training goals and discover new ways to challenge yourself.  Maybe you’re just in a repetitive cycle because it’s what you have been doing for so long or have closed off your interest for other training methods which you might actually enjoy.

Maybe you’re just in a repetitive cycle because it’s what you have been doing for so long or have closed off your interest for other training methods which you might actually enjoy.  If you’re used to doing the 5/3/1 method or the couch to 10k, then you are likely to just stay there and think everything else is balls.

 

HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU DELOAD?

A standard rule of thumb is once every 12-24 weeks.  I personally don’t like this, however.  The reason being, if you are still feeling good and everything is moving in the right direction, then keep going, but be mindful.  Imagine if you are still heading to the gym each day with your progression on point and then your coach or trainer tells you that it’s now time for a deload.  You will be pissed.  Especially if that then breaks your momentum.

You’re pulling in for a pit stop when the car is running perfectly fine.

There is no need for this.  Which is why it’s only a basic rule of thumb, and one which you should ignore right this very moment.

Just follow the introductory method above.

 

DO YOU NEED TO DELOAD?

Ask yourself, are you an athlete?  Most of us aren’t, so you could always follow an autoregulatory method and play it by ear if you’re not following a specific program.

Think of it like this:

How do you feel?

-Awesome:  Keep it going.  Aim to progress in your training and possibly create some new personal bests.

-Pretty Good:  Keep going.  Aim to keep on progressing in your training, but be aware that you might be pushing it.

-Meh, ok:  Keep going.  Avoid doing anything stupid.  Focus on keeping your technique and form on point and avoid chasing wild numbers with the weight.

-Sucking Balls:  Either keep going but lower the weight and just focus on using some energy.  Or alternatively, do some short and light work while adding in some mobility and recovery work.

 

IS THERE A RIGHT OR WRONG?

No, but it’s also important to play it by ear (or body), and avoid being stubborn.  The gym won’t go away and you are doing yourself no favours by powering though.

A deload doesn’t or isn’t a major game changer like it is shown to be, therefore doesn’t need to be placed on the list of importance.

If you’re prioritising recovery, intro weeks, time off for holidays/weekends away/general life stuff then you’re good.

But, it is beneficial for…

-Competitive athletes:

They will be on a very specific training program to target almost constant progression.  To improve seamlessly requires just as specific times of rest and recovery.  Deloads are a must.

-Older people

When we start to get older, recovery becomes more and more a priority.  For training and nutrition to progress, the aging person needs to protect their energy more so that they’re able to perform at their best each time they do a workout.

When older people do a workout, it’s recommended that each workout is of the range of doing the least amount of work for the most bang for your buck.  2 hours of bicep curls are sadly out.

2 hours of bicep curls are sadly, out.

-People with recurring injuries

If you’re picking up injuries in certain areas then either cut out exercises that flare it up or reduce the effort when you do so.  Otherwise your body will simply accumulate more injuries over time due to wear and tear, and also other body parts overcompensating.

Take regular deloads to work around this.  Rest: improve.

 

SUMMARY

Symptoms for deloading  Look out for fatigue, aches and pains, lack of enjoyment, lack of progression, and poor sleep quality.

What is a deload? – A strategic period of time to allow the body to rest and recover.  There is no set time for this.  It can vary.

How do you deload?  – You can set program it within every 8-12 weeks, taking time fully off or reduce the amount of training you do.  Alternatively you can program an introductory week into each training cycle to allow working recovery.

Do you need to deload? – If you are an athlete, have recurring injuries, or are an older person.  If not, then simply be aware of the triggers.

 

Need to deload from all these nuggets of knowledge?  Feel free to check out my email newsletter below and get the stuff I don’t post on social media.  It’s magical and will melt your face off.

How poor sleep is blocking your fat-loss goals

How poor sleep is blocking your fat-loss goals

Roy Ritchie

Coach | Nutritionist

Roy Ritchie

Coach | Nutritionist

How poor sleep is blocking your fat-loss goals

Sleep deprivation is not good for you.  Neither is stress.

And that’s about it.

Ok, ok, I’ll go on.  However, I have stated the obvious.  You have no doubt heard this before, but this doesn’t mean that you are fully aware of how much it does, and in what way.

You see, we live in a glorious time.  A time where it is deemed cool to sleep less and #Hustle #Grind #NoPainNoGain and all these other false bullshit motivational cliches.  And don’t get me wrong, there are people who can function really well on 4-5 hours sleep a night, but these are outliers and will no doubt not be living this way all the time.  They just present themselves so.  At the same time, this does not mean we all can.  We just think that we must.  Whether it’s to succeed in our careers or just the same old “fear of missing out”.

Let’s not forget, on top of our working day we have out family lives, friends, social events, hobbies, scratching our crotches, and of course, training and dieting.

These all play a part in chipping away at your physical and mental reserves on a daily basis the second you wake.  The issue becomes that we blatantly ignore the red flags and push on.  Some of us claim that we function better this way in fear that if we stop, then we inevitably fail at whatever we are doing.

Of course, we all have different methods of dealing with stress.  Some of us enjoy a cold beer.  Some like to get lost in a book.  Some of us just fire up the ole’ Netflix and binge on the latest trend (which is secretly never-ending reruns of Friends).  And of course, some of us head to the gym to “crush” some weights.

I like a mixture of all –and more– depending on the day of the week, and whether I can simply be bothered shifting my ass in front of a barbell or flat out starfishing myself onto my Hugh Hefner type livingroom rug.

This is all helpful on the surface, but it is not tackling the overall issue.  By not doing this we are constantly overlooking the obvious culprit.

Sleep deprivation

So why is this such a major issue when it comes to training, dieting, and overall heath?

I’m mostly going to tackle the most common issue.  Fat loss goals.

By sacrificing sleep to get more done when we often hit a fat loss plateau.  Our instinctive first actions that we take are…

  • Drastically cut calories
  • Insanely cut carbs
  • Add a training day (or two)
  • Add too many intense cardio sessions (think 45-minute High-Intensity Interval Training….again)

Oh, and of course, stress ourselves even more.

The classic stress feedback loop that silently killing your fat loss progress.

There are a number of simple actions you can take to resolve this, but first, let us look at the potential drawbacks to burning the candle at both ends.

 

LACK OF WILLPOWER / SELF-CONTROL

We are all well aware of willpower and self-control and commonly blame them when we make a poor dieting decision.  We get a build up of immense frustration but we play it off as a joke while we say it with a wry smile.  Covering up the fact that we are pissed off at the decision we just made.  Whether it was pressing down that extra doughnut that you bought to enjoy knowing too well that you had zero intention of eating just one.  Or, because you know that you should have gone to bed at your standard time but somehow ended up staying up an extra hour scrolling through heavily filtered Instagram photos of #fitspiration profiles and now couldn’t get up to the gym the next morning, meaning that you will now be starting the day off feeling guilty.  On top of already feeling frustrated and stressed.

This filters throughout the day.  Heightening the chances of making poor decisions which are now almost a guarantee.  Draining away something which is just as important as your physical energy.

Decision fatigue.

I’m not shitting you, this is a real thing.  It just gets dismissed and pounded with stimulants such as bucketloads of coffee and any useless expensive training supplements that you just happened to have been suckered into buying that month.

You see, decision fatigue is the brain’s equivalent of physical fatigue.  It is working constantly while you are sleeping and awake.  However, when you are awake it is you who is now behind the steering wheel.  When we are in control, our personalities will dictate how much we abuse our brain’s ability.  Especially when it comes to an age old classic of multitasking.

This is where the kicker comes in.  Like our bodies, we only have a limited source of energy –or willpower– each day.  If we get up early to do a bunch of tasks before work and then head in to start trawling through the dreaded email inbox while being loaded with demands before we’ve had a chance to mold our ass’s into our chairs then we are already taking off huge chunks of willpower.  And our ability to make focused decisions.

Fast forward to the mid-afternoon when the day has really done a number on us and we are trying our best to stick to our diet.  Which we are.  But it is mainly because we have kept ourselves occupied with the routine of work and the fact we are now looking forward to getting home for the day

But first, we have the gym to get our workout in.  Which is now sounding like a challenge in itself.  Willpower is taking more hits than Johnny Depp’s movie credibility after yet another Pirates of the Carribean outing.  5 pm rolls around and we somehow make to the gym.  We enjoy it as we always do.  Now to head home, kick our feet up and chill out for the evening.  But first, dinner has to be prepared.

Fuuuuuuu….

Willpower is rock bottom now.  Decision fatigue is long gone.  But, we have one more major decision to make.  What food choices to prepare for our dinner that is going to fit with our diet.  Do we take the time to prepare something satiating, tasty, and will leave us feeling better about ourselves.  Or, do we go for the quick buck?  Grab the first thing to devour and end up feeling guilty the rest of the evening.  Finishing the day feeling like shit.

This is where preparation is key.  If we know what our daily routine looks like and how it makes us feel throughout, then placing small markers across our daily environment will help make these decisions easier.  Creating a path to dietary success.

This could be by preparing food and freezing the week or night before.  Packing our gym bag and taking it to work with us as a reminder to carry it out to after.  Setting timers to take breaks from your work to allow time for our stress levels to drop while we grab a drink, walk, and most likely a classic skive.

Basically, whatever works for you.

 

ARE YOU AWAKE LONGER?  THEN YOU WILL BE EATING MORE.  SERIOUSLY

I sort of just answered my own question there did I?  I need to stop revealing myself too quickly.  This is why I keep getting into more situations than a Charlie Sheen and Miley Cyrus hybrid.  Minus the illegal ramifications, drink, and drugs.

Anyway….

Of course, there is more to this.  People who tend to have broken sleep patterns due to being shift workers, new parents, or struggle with insomnia can find it difficult for a number of reasons (some which I’ll explain later).  Couple this with the ole’ decision fatigue, someone can all of a sudden find themselves with more time in their day.  And in this case, they will more often than not consume all their meals and snacks long before they head to bed –assuming that they actually do.  This then leaves a lot of time to fill, and it tends to be filled with trips to the kitchen to do some subconscious ninja style snacking, and we both know that nobody in the right mind has ever snacked on salads.

Which then means…

High fat and carb choices ahoy.

This is really where the first double-edged sword comes into it.  With this, it intensifies our brain’s salience network.  Think of this as our pleasure signaling system.  And like I mentioned above, when we seek pleasure we definitely do not stand at a kitchen counter throwing together a salad with a multitude of filthy thoughts going through our heads.

I have never once thought about eating a salad from Scarlett Johansson’s semi-naked body.  But fajitas and ice cream with a side of craft beer?  Where the hell do I sign up?

Alrighty then, let’s steer this awkward ship back now Roy.

Due to the heightening of this pleasure signaling we crave only one type of foods.

Highly palatable foods.  

These are foods that tend to be more calorie dense (high calorie), nutrient poor (low nutrition) foods such as fat and carbs, though it’s mainly fat.  Increasing malnutritional choices.  Ramping up the ole’ calories in quick succession.  The next issue is that these foods are often non-satiating.  Meaning that we just keep eating away and grabbing more choices in an uncontrollable manner.  Not even paying attention most of the time in a zombie-like state, until its too late.

This then leads onto what’s else is going on under the hood.

 

HORMONAL CHANGES

Yes, I said the H word.

I’ve mentioned above about the effects of stress which causes cortisol to max out for long periods, so now to get into the dirt of this.

Note:  High cortisol is not a bad thing.  In fact, it can be very beneficial for fat loss, muscle, and strength goals.  It is when it cortisol is too high for long periods of time that this then becomes an issue.  Think of drinking your car at 100mph for hours on end.  Something negative is eventually going to happen.

We are all aware of stress and the importance of controlling it for our health.  Well, it just so happens that it kinda plays an important factor in weight management too.  Especially when paired up with sleep deprivation.

If we are spending our days fighting off poor choices due to a poor sleep cycle coupled with decision fatigue then the natural result of this is, of course, heightened stress.  The thing is, we are aware of it but more often than not do we do nothing about it.  It is the old adage of humans preferring to live in a state of suffering than resolution and comfort (we are a weird race that’s for sure).

When we eat we stress.  When we train we stress.  When we go to bed late we stress.  Then, when we wake up, our stress levels are extremely high.  It becomes a cycle of a never ending fuck-ton of stress.  Maxing out cortisol.  Aiding in the storage of body fat.

Not only that, there are the other hormonal imbalances that tag along for the ride.

First up, leptin.  The hunger suppressant hormone.  This dude helps tell us when we have had enough to eat and are now satisfied, definitely something that we want on our side.  But there are two main factors that mess it all up.  One being dieting for extreme levels of fat loss (think stage competitions, photoshoots, or anything that requires a nice defined set of six-pack abs).  The other is, you guessed it, sleep deprivation.  With this, leptin has shown in studies to have dropped by around 19% and possibly more when it comes to chronic sleep deprivation.  Double this up with dieting for fat loss and it’s going to take more abuse than Donald Trumps Twitter account.

Next up, Ghrelin.  If leptin if the hormone that signals hunger suppressant, then take a wild guess at what Ghrelin does?  Yup, you guessed it.  This promotes the feeling of hunger.  All of those times that you think that you are hungry is simply ghrelin knocking away at your brain.  Teasing you to just take a bite of that icing dripping custard filled mouth porn style doughnut.  Oh, and you know what happens when you are sleep deprived.  Again, you guessed it, it skyrockets.  Causing hunger –or the feeling of hunger– all the time.

At this point, you will be feeling like Luke Skywalker when he clocks on that Princess Leah is his sister, and he gave her the ole’ tongue punching to the mouth.

 

Leptin is through the ground.  Ghrelin is through the roof.  Cortisol is all over the place.  It’s a no-win situation.  All because your sleep is a mess.

 

SO WHAT CAN YOU DO TO TACKLE THIS?

Prioritise Sleep – Obvious, right?  The thing is, we don’t.  We tell ourselves that we will make up for it in the weekend but then make plans which sometimes results in being awake even later.  Rolling back around to feeling even more shitty on Monday.  The old Monday hatred.

Can you go to bed earlier?  Even 30 minutes earlier each night.  This will help so much more than you think.  If you struggle to fall asleep at night then try taking a hot shower or use some Epsom salts and take a bath.  Both of these will help relax you and prime you for sleep.

Lower Training Intensity – I know I get it.  We want to keep crushing it in the gym, but sometimes it is too much.  Causing more physical stress.  Preventing the body’s ability to lose fat.

Either swap out a workout for some conditioning work, such as mobility stretches, foam rolling, or some lower intense cardio such as a walk or swim.  It doesn’t need to be forever.  Just until things start to improve.

I’ve broken clients fat loss plateaus a number of times in the past by reviewing the amount of stress at work, in the gym, all the while trying to bottle-neck their free time to be busy.  So by reducing –or changing– their training slightly then all of a sudden the scales started to budge.  Voila.

Increase Calories – Sounds counterproductive.  But if a part of your increased stress levels is due to dieting, then creating a calorie increase to around just below maintenance for a week or two can help alleviate this.  Allowing you to then work on other areas with ease.

If you try to do too much at once then you can stress even more, or flat out fail.  So make one change.  Assess it, and follow it with another if need be.

Remove Electronics – If you have any electronic devices in the bedroom such as a bright LED alarm, TV, lightsaber, or even your mobile phone.  This can disrupt sleep due to the bright lights –or that absolute idiot who text or calls you late at night knowing full well that people actually sleep.

Aim to stop using anything with a bright screen such as a phone, tablet, or laptop around 30 minutes before bed to allow the brain to fall into a relaxed state.  The blue screen effects trigger the mind into working extra hard.  Trying to process information at an accelerated state and preventing melatonin from increasing, thus taking longer to fall into a deep sleep.

Lower Temperature – If it’s too hot in the bedroom (not like that you filthy minded…) then it will become too uncomfortable to relax and sleep.

Drop the temperature and lose some clothes.  Allow for your body’s natural body heat to comfort you rather than the artificial heat caused by your home’s heating system and layers of clothes.

Go For A Walk – Or find any other way to get some headspace.  We will fill our days with almost anything we can latch on to, again, causing more stress and fatigue.

Take time to go for a walk.  Listen to music.  Read a book.  Have a conversation.  Anything that will occupy and relax your mind more.  You do not need to be physically and mentally active all the time.

Create A Routine – Creating a consistent sleep cycle is important, much like having a diet, work, workout, and… any other routine.  If your body gets into a sleep routine then it will be more compliant in its overall function (focus, hunger, performance).

With that, you can aim to create a bedtime routine.  Winding down in a consistent and specific way.  A fw things I like to do is start to dim down the light around my place.  This includes on any electronics too.  On my iPhone, I have the nightshift mode set to begin at 7pm while on my laptop I use an all called f.lux which removed the bluescreen effect.  Removing any strain and allowing your brain to relax more within the times that you set it to be active.

Calm Down and Switch Off – It can be very hard to switch off the brain.  It’s a bit of a scumbag that way, and we don’t help it in any way.  Two things I find works really well to help settle it down are first, having a cut-off point for stimulant such as caffeine.  I head to bed at around 10pm so 4pm is my cut-off point since caffeine stays in your system for up to 6-7 hours.

Second, I try to take some time to do some journaling.  Just dump my thoughts onto paper.  this is great for any stresses that you may have in any way.  You may think journaling is not for you but you would be surprised at how effective just clearing your head and organising your thoughts can be.  Especially for removing stress.  If this is not your jam, then try doing some light reading for 10-15 minutes before you head to sleep.  Again, this is great for settling your thoughts and allowing your brain to switch gears and read itself for sleep.  The annoying thing is that it’s always when you are really into a book and you can only get one page in at a time before dosing off.

 

SUMMARY

Lack of willpower/Self-control – Lack of sleep lowers our willpower and out minds ability to make a sensible decision.  Increasing the chances of snacking and binging.

Decision fatigue – Couples with the above, be aware that our brains energy depletes much like our bodies.  Increasing the chances of skipping the gym or eating more.

Sleep less.  Eat more – When we are awake more we will start to find things to do to occupy our mind.  Due to sleep deprivation, we tend to head to the kitchen or store.

Highly palatable foods – Sleep deprivation increased our malnutritional choices.  Meaning that we will automatically reach for high fat and/or carbohydrate foods.

Leptin decreases – The hunger suppressant hormone decreases.  Making it more difficult to be satisfied when finished.

Ghrelin increases – The hunger-signaling hormone increases.  Meaning that you will begin to feel hungry more of the time despite not actually being hungry.

P.S. If you are still awake after all that and fancy some super special private brain nuggets then feel free to enter your info below and you’ll get it straight to your inbox.  If not, that’s cool too.