I am starting a new series here I’d like update perhaps once a month or a little more. I am an EXPERT not because of a medical background (I’m not a doctor, go talk to one), but because I actually DID lose 175 pounds over the span of 3 years and improved literally every number you can track. I used a ridiculous amount of medical research and learning all I could. Essentially, I used my “big brain” to solve a problem I had my whole life.
I know many of you out there struggle with weight loss, and I hope over the next year or two you subscribe and come on the journey with me.
For a preview of this, I did a “quote tweet” of a thread I read a few mins ago from a medical professional. He is giving the best medical information I have seen on the internet regarding running. Take a look at his thread and my responses.
Big picture goals for the next few years…
2023 goal – 80 pound loss for a cruise late October
2024 goal – hit 175 and begin training for Olympic triathlons. Try and start with a sprint Tri early in the season and an Olympic later in the season. Late season do a lot of 5-10ks.
2025 goal – enter and finish my first half ironman in Atlantic City, NJ. Olympic tri earlier in the season, one mid season, and half ironman late season.
Maybe you see these shredded people everywhere who tell you to buy their plan so you can look like them. I don’t begrudge anyone from doing a hustle. But many of these people may never have actually BEEN overweight in their lives. Some have. But you get the idea. In this post, I want to tell you the methods out there, and why they worked for me – and what issues I had along the way. Likewise, I have to also confess than since my low weight in 2019, I have gained about 90 back in 3.5 years. And – why that is, and want I’m going to do about it.
I’m going to talk roughly about two particular methods I used. I am then going to try and evaluate these methods, and what is good and not good. First, we need to start with some basics to conquer. Everyone wants to jump right into the deep end without reading the warning signs first.
Before we go into the methods, the big finding I have here has to do with hunger and hormones. I’ll give you a test then to replicate this. In my “research” of losing weight, I stumbled upon a major, major finding. That is, the ROOT cause of weight gain is excessive calories – DUH – but that is because we are hungry. If you solve the hunger problem, losing weight is much easier than constantly starving yourself. You literally could have an excess of 100 pounds, or 350,000 calories – and be so hungry you want to eat your foot. Why is that?
Many of those buff people then look at you like you have a character flaw and you need to put down the twinkie. But what if I told you things you eat, or don’t eat, trigger hormones in your body to make you hungry? Think about it. You are 100 pounds overweight. Your body has enough calories to last it perhaps 6 months if you ate nothing. Why are you hungry? Many of them could have grown up eating meats and vegetables, and people like you and I grew up eating processed foods that were inexpensive. “They” see someone not being able to put down the donut as “weak”. Little do a lot of people realize we are sort of a slave to our particular hunger due to our vitamin/mineral deficiencies and our gut flora.
The hunger hormone ghrelin sends out signals for you to eat. Why? Well, a variety of reasons. Ever wonder why after eating a big meal of Chinese food an hour later you are hungry? Not only had I heard that the MSGs suppress leptin, but the insulin spike you just had now dropped your blood sugar which may send out hunger pangs. You are stuffed, yet hungry at the same time. Leptin is also a hormone that is sent out by your body to tell it that it is “good to go” which gives you a need not to eat. If you are sitting there with a tanker full of fuel, why is your body telling it to gas up all the time?
Consider the fuel tanker analogy. The truck may have a gas tank to drive it, and consider the tanker is holding candle wax. Gasoline causes explosions and nasty byproducts into the atmosphere. Candle wax burns slowly and stable, and while it releases some fumes, you would consider that very clean considering the exhaust in your car.
At main issue here is your body runs on different fuels for different activities. Your “gasoline” in the gas tank may hold 2,000 calories in your liver, but your muscles all over your body also store a form of this gasoline. When you are working out, sprinting, etc your gasoline is used. Likewise, perhaps overnight when you’re not eating, some of the stored carbs in your liver turn to blood sugar to get you through the night.
But the question is this, if your body is telling you that you are hungry, you want to eat. You crave certain things. I would get so ravenous that I would ingest meals without ever thinking of the consequences until afterwards. Then, you are saddled with regret. Big picture here is certain foods may spike insulin, and with this, as your insulin levels go up – cells open their doors to plug in as much glucose as possible into them to store for later. If this is locked in the open position, how do you ever get energy OUT of the cells to create that deficit? Ghrelin then comes by, detects low blood sugar, and tells you to eat. If you could control these impulses, you can perhaps change the behavior. As we speak right now, I’m really hungry, but I have also correlated my hunger pangs my “zero sugar” 7Up I have here next to me – and just about any diet drink for that matter. They are zero calories – but man do they get you hungry an hour later. If you just drank water, and not this, you would not feel this pang I have now. Only after a ton of trial and error over the years did I understand this.
The question then becomes, overall, how do I stop being so damn hungry and make better decisions? The answer here lies mostly with the quality and makeup of your food – and drink. I lost weight several different ways, which I will outline below, but there are some common items between many dieting that need to be addressed.
- Drink plenty of water. I used to constantly crave pasta. I had once read that hunger can sometimes be a way your body tricks you into getting certain needs. When I was craving pasta, I was perhaps drinking two cups of coffee and 2 diet cokes a day. Zero water. I craved pasta all the time. Turns out, when I started drinking a ton of water, those cravings went away. With the above – stay away from diet drinks, as they will indeed be zero calories, but your body is tricked – and an hour later you are hungry as hell.
- Balanced diets – you may find yourself at times craving chocolate. This could be your body needing magnesium. It knows chocolate may be a good source of this. You can find that a lot of the foods you crave at times may be due to underlying deficiencies with nutrients. For example, you might be craving a steak, and it could be low iron. You get the idea. Most people have zero idea how much they need to pay attention to electrolytes – as this makes your heart tick. Here are the six, but the most attention I’d give back in the day were to magnesium and potassium. Magnesium acts opposite of calcium, and potassium the opposite of sodium. Hard plaque building in arteries might be due to a lot of calcium and not a lot of magnesium. Likewise, you see people exercising to death that don’t have a proper balance of sodium to potassium, which could possibly lead to cardiac arrest. So these people that go out and run for an hour, they pay very careful attention to what goes into their bodies. High blood pressure could potentially be as simple as low levels of magnesium or potassium – but this is something you want to discuss with your doctor. Most likely if you have elevated blood pressure, he or she isn’t going to ask about your diet, they will prescribe you a pill. My blood pressure has usually on the low end my whole life.
- Fiber – while this might go without saying, foods that are fibrous have great levels of satiety with them
- “Processed” foods – are garbage, have tons of garbage added to them, and add temporary levels of satiety without much nutritional value, with high levels of calories
- “Simple” sugars will spike your insulin and over many years, can lead to a type 2 diabetes. My mother had a sweet tooth, and when you ingest sweets, your pancreas has to work overtime to keep pumping out enough insulin to shuttle the glucose into the cells. Over time, you can get “insulin resistance” and your body needs more and more and more insulin to take care of all of the glucose. She eventually got stage 4 pancreatic cancer, years after she developed type 2 diabetes. People like to tell those with type 2 diabetes to lose weight, then they point them to plans that have high levels of carbs and then tell them to take insulin. Well – the best way to prevent insulin resistance is to avoid a lot of simple sugars.
- If you do have carbs, make sure you are an active person and balance the meals with fats/proteins. Your body reacts differently to the foods you provide it. If you have a big pasta meal that is 90% carbs, then want to work out afterwards, you will feel sleepy, groggy, and want to take a nap. This is insulin taking all of those complex carbs you just ate and getting as much of this glucose out of the blood stream as possible. You might also realize after a big meal like this your athletic performance suffers.
- Not all fats are the same. When people tell you a food is high in fat, this makes you immediately think of some obese person eating “fattening foods” like donuts. The thing is, you can go the rest of your life not eating one gram of carbohydrates and your body will be fine. However, you need proteins and fats. In the early 90s, I’d do those “low fat diets”. Maybe 5-10g of fats a day, high levels of carbs. I’d be hungry all the time. And – I had a bit of a nervous breakdown after months of this. Fats are needed also to produce hormones. Your brain is made of cholesterol. Your body PRODUCES a lot of cholesterol per day and is NEEDED to live. Eating an avocado is NOT the same as eating vegetable oil.
- Stay away from foods with high omega 6:3 ratios. I touched on vegetable oils above. Naturally, you should have a 4:1 ratio of what you would eat with Omega 6s. These are inflammatory. This is great to help you with a cut. But omega 3’s are needed as anti-inflammatory. When people talk about the miracles of the Mediterranean diet, they are essentially talking about the omega 3s they get from their fish. Fats are great for satiety and required to live. At issue is the QUALITY of sources. If your beef is eating grass in a pasture, and if your chickens are eating bugs and worms – the QUALITY of these meats will have lower omega 6:3 ratios than the cattle and chickens fed “feed”. My grass fed/grass finished beef is about a 4:1 ratio, and your Walmart beef that is cheaper may be 20-25:1. Maybe look for foods with really good ratios which give you higher QUALITY fats.
With my tinfoil hat, I had postulated over the years that:
- Those healthiest cultures in the world were always near sources of water to eat shellfish/fish and keep a good omega 6:3 ratio
- Inflammation is a big source of disease in this country. Think about what smoking, drinking, and eating fried foods does to your insides
- “Metabolic disease” is sort of the gateway disease to alzheimers, cancer, diabetes, stroke. When people see obesity, it is usually conveying a message to someone that they are not healthy, at a biological level.
- If you want to eat carbs, ok – you must just be a very athletic person
- Not all calories are created equal. Meaning, I can have you eat 2200 calories and make you hungry as a hostage, or I can devise foods for you to eat where you will have a problem in a day eating those 2200 calories.
I have about 137 writings about my entire trip from morbidly obese to in some pretty damn good shape, so check them out. I am 100% cognizant of what is going on in my life currently that has caused me to gain 90 pounds over 3.5 years. It might shock you to know that I didn’t change my calorie intake, a ton. What has changed was a severe lack of exercise compared to before. That’s going to change, a lot, but let’s now discuss calories – as this is ultimately what determines how we gain/lose weight. The MEANS of how you consume these calories can then determine your deficit or excess. I lost most of my weight never counting calories. You can as well, but below I need to explain what they are and how this plays into everything.
A calorie is a unit of heat. What we call a calorie is, actually, a kilocalorie. Not important, but let’s just do some calorie math here for a second. One pound is equal to roughly 3500 kilocalories – but for now on, we will just stay with calling them calories to not confuse you.
If you consume in excess of 500 calories every day for a week, your body could store all of those calories as one pound of fat. Likewise, if you have a 500 calorie deficit every day for a week, you will lose 1 pound. My biggest mistake in years of dieting was to be too aggressive with this, with not understanding the food on the table that needs to be eaten. I thought I should then eat 1400-1600 calories, run, workout, and keep doing that at 300-350 pounds. In the short run, it worked. But I was hungry – ALL THE TIME. Likewise, after 1-2 months of all of that activity, with a lack of protein, my body would get an injury.
Now – in 3.5 years, I gained 90 pounds. That’s 2.14 pounds a month. That’s .49 pounds a week. If a pound is 3500 calories, that is a 1750 calorie surplus a week. That’s 250 calories a day over. Wow. A 20 oz soda per day, extra, led to that weight gain. It adds up!! In reality, this could be one bad weekend a month.
There’s a saying – “you cannot outrun a bad diet”. I was so focused on calorie math, many times over. I was a picky eater, and only ate several types of foods, so that was also against me.
When I started day 1 of my 175 pound weight loss, I was 372 pounds. 3 years to the day later, I was 197 pounds. How I did it will be detailed below. However, my trainer started me off at 2600 calories and told me to do “40/30/30”, which is one of the two items below I’ll discuss. She said I should take these calories and do 40% carbs, 30% proteins, and 30% fats. 25 years ago I counted calories. Now I had to do it again? What I IMMEDIATELY noticed was how high my carb intake was, then fats, and proteins were at the bottom.
Overall, the first month I lost like 12 pounds.
One other thing that anyone needs to be aware of, is that your body will retain and flush water, depending on your food intake. Higher sodium foods and drinking a lot of water when you are on a 40/30/30 may have you gain water weight those first 2 months. You are dieting so hard!! But weight is not coming off. The flaw to your thinking here is that you want the number on the scale lower. What you should be focusing on is the body fat percentage as lower.
It is POSSIBLE your first month that you can burn 8 pounds of fat, add 1 pound of muscle, add 3 pounds of water for a net weight loss of 4 pounds. You get dejected. But you keep that up for three months, and you lose 24 pounds of fat, add 3 pounds of muscle, and perhaps add another several pounds of water. Your scale may be down 12 pounds, but your clothing now fit a lot better and you can see a major difference in the mirror. Your calorie math and high levels of exercise took off some fat quickly, but your body starts to adapt to you eating so few calories. Maybe it then starts to make you tired. Slow you down. You feel sluggish. My “recommendation” here is to shoot for roughly 1-1.5 pounds of fat loss per week. If you do more than this, you end up paying up down the road.
But how many calories should I eat? This is the unique question for each person. A BALLPARK estimate is take your body weight and times it by about 10. If you are a 300 pound man, 3000 calories would MAINTAIN your body weight. To lose 1 pound of fat per week, you would ingest 2500 calories. But, with anything, there’s nuance here. Are you HIGHLY active? Are you sedentary? Perhaps if you have a ton of muscle, this might be a 11-13x. Very inactive, maybe an 8-9x. The GREATER this deficit you create, the more your body will fight you. At 372 pounds, I was still extremely active. I was walking miles a day. I was a runner. Still, at that weight. When my trainer told me to eat 2600 calories and not 1800, I was blown away. I was perhaps burning 3500-4000 to maintain, so my 2600 calorie DIET deficit was maybe a 900 deficit per day. I was also walking and working out, so maybe another 200-300 in exercise. So each week, for the first month, I was losing a lot of weight!!
The trick here is – how many calories does your body need to MAINTAIN its weight? Start with the 10x, and go from there. You might also want to talk with a nutritionist to get on a fancy scale that can tell you your body fat percentage. If you look at a 300 pound NFL lineman who can bench 450 pounds and is highly athletic, he might be able to eat 4,000-5,000 calories per day and maintain. If you are an office worker who can’t walk a half mile and you are 300 pounds with not a lot of muscle, you might maintain at 2700.
My trainer BEGGED me to stop running when I started. I gave up running for awhile. At issue is this – while running may create calorie deficits, running like this tends to eat muscle mass from your body on these long runs. Look at long distance runners. They are skin and bones. They have lean body mass – but a different type of muscle – a slow twitch type. Weight lifters build a lot of muscle mass and have the “fast twitch” muscle types. What I did for the first year was pay attention to what was on the plate, and worked out with weight training once a week with the trainer. That’s all, and I lost 72 pounds.
When most people say, “I want to lose weight”, they start to fail, by failing to plan. They know that they have to just be active and stop eating, and they will get to where they want to go. But, that will set you up, very quickly, for exhaustion and ultimately, failure. When you add “lean body mass” through lifting weights, you have the immediate effect of burning some calories, yes, but the real payoff is the 2-3 days of recovery afterwards when your body is repairing this tissue. It requires calories and protein to do so. A lot of what I did that first year was leg training and chest – it was a form of “muscle confusion” as my trainer called it, but essentially, I was building up my largest muscle groups – my legs, chest, and core – to then ultimately do two things – burn fat, and add muscle mass to keep the amount of calories my body would burn at rest – called Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
When I started at 372 pounds and 2600 calories, about a year later I hit 300 pounds and while eating 2400 calories, I was maintaining weight. I needed to do one of several things – cut calories, or increase my weight training/exercise. My trainer said that you should exercise a muscle group 1-2 times a week, that’s all. I was doing 30 minutes with her, to start, for all around stuff, on Sat mornings. I then added a Wednesday to this. I liked the all around workouts, and with this, it didn’t take a ton of time per week.
Many of these people who want to lose weight, announce to everyone, “I’m going to join a gym!” Then they go every day for a month or two, get hurt or burn out, then never go back. The mistake here is overworking muscles.
Example of what you COULD do?
- Full body workout 1-2 times a week 30-60 mins at a time
- Split workouts to target specific groups – perhaps day 1, “push”, day 2, “pull”, day 3, “legs”, day 4, “rest”. With this type of split, you could workout every day except day 4. However, I would recommend most start at 1 above, do that for 1-2 months, then consider adding on based on your time.
Walking to me is probably the best way to create the calorie deficits, as opposed to “jogging”. Walking is low impact, and in theory, should help you drain some of the fat stores based on the “substrate” you use for the exercise. For example, you might think of walking as the slow burning of candle wax and sprinting on the other side of that burning rocket fuel of carbs. Walking can be really great – walking the dog or kid, headphones in, enjoying the outdoors. It can be brutal with 20 degree northeast temperature with high winds, snow or ice – and this leads to a lot of people staying 100% indoors over the winter.
Pro tip – I fell in love with hiking years ago. I’d get bundled up, head out for a 3-4 hour hike with headphones in. Music was a way of calming me. Introspective times. But the hills you hike also tap into the “rocket fuel” substrate when you are walking up hills. I could burn 800-1200 calories on these hikes, according to my fitness watch.
Biking was something I loved as well, and I have flat “rail trails” around here. At my peak, I was biking 45 miles at a time, over about 3 hours and 15 minutes. This past summer I biked 20 some miles a few times, even at my current elevated weight. What was interesting with this, is that my times for the 20 some mile bikes were beating my best times 90 pounds less. Why? My legs have a lot more muscle to support my higher weight. When you take off a lot of weight, you can lose a ton of muscle mass and power. I’m going to have my “plan” at the very end which can take a lot of lessons learned to get where I want to be.
The truth here is that if you aren’t an active soul, start slow. Talk with a doctor. Understand your cardiac situation. If you have all kinds of electrolyte issues and are very deprived of potassium, the last thing you want to do 100 pounds overweight is to go try and jog/run for an hour. I had been an athlete most of my life, so exercise was something I enjoyed, in context. The first 2-3 weeks of getting active again, hurt. Then, your body adapts, and you CRAVE the activity.
Pro tip – 50,000 years ago, please try and find where ancient man got carbohydrates in his/her diet. Man was eating bugs, crickets, snails, worms, and then used tools/weapons to hunt rabbits, bears, deer, etc. We may have ingested a lot of berries during warmer times, but where did ancient man get berries in winter? Were they eating 6 small meals a day or perhaps feasting once every several days on a kill, but eating grasshoppers until then? When man first did agriculture and domestication, that’s when you can see our ability to grow food/carbs happened. Even then, they weren’t eating 6,000 calories a day in breads. In reality, man can go many days without eating, just fine. You are programmed to eat 382 times a day. But ask yourself why, when your biological history didn’t account for this?
Another observation – in this country, 100 years ago, the avg height was like 5’6″, and today it’s closer to 6′. In 100 years, man just grew that much here? 120 years ago, diabetes was perhaps 1 in 5,000, heart disease was rare, and 1 in 30 died of cancer and today it’s 1 in 3. What all has changed? We found cheaper ways to get our population calories to grow, but it comes with a cost. Many ingest all of these calories not understanding the hormonal effects of them, and how this has led to rampant obesity in the West.
Below – we will discuss the two primary diets I used, then at the end I will have the lessons learned and what I want to do going forward.
Diet 1 – low carb
This goes by a lot of different names. Keto, Atkins, etc. The general idea is that carbs are evil and if you remove carbs from your diet, you will lose weight. I lost 105 pounds with this method. If you are strict with this, you WILL lose weight.
How it works – have roughly 10% of your calories as carbs. So if you were to eat 2400 calories in a day, 240 would be carbs. Each carb is 4 calories, so this is 60g of carbs per day. When you start these diets, there’s an “induction” period to get into “ketosis”. Most rubes confuse ketosis with “ketoacidosis”, which are two different things. Likewise, if you are diabetic, of sorts, and you don’t know much – you could cause severe damage, so discuss with your doctor before you do it. When you starve your body of these carbs, you are also releasing a ton of water stored. This water also has a ridiculous amount of electrolytes stored. Meaning – when I was on these diets, I always supplemented with magnesium. Also, salt intake doesn’t seem to matter, at all, as your body doesn’t retain the water it did. I needed to be careful to eat enough potassium.
Why it works – the types of foods you eat are mostly fats, followed by proteins, then carbs. I was somewhere like 60% fats, 30% protein, and 10% carbs. IF you eat the right way with this, you will understand in about 2 weeks why it works. First of all, when you deprive your body of carbs, your glycogen stores empty. This then forces your body to convert fats to glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis. Likewise, your body can also do this with proteins, but it’s not as efficient – and I noticed this with “ammonia-like” smells I had after intense workouts on keto. When this diet is executed correctly – your appetite will mostly disappear. I was able to EASILY do what’s called “OMAD” or “one meal a day”. I would have a GIANT salad with romaine, tomatoes, cheese, avocado, olive oil, and 3/4 to 1 pound of chicken. It would be in my biggest mixing bowl I had. It might be 1,000-1,400 calories, but that was essentially all I was eating in a day. I might have had some stuff after this, like peanut butter or chocolate that was low carb but high cocoa%. Overall, I’d eat maybe 1600-1800 calories a day. With this type of diet, I used to also do “fasting Fridays” where I would eat my BIG meal Thursday evening, then skip eating anything on Friday, then have a protein shake or eggs Sat morning.
When I did this for 2 years, I was pretty much eating a MASSIVE dinner each day, coffee with fake sweetener in the morning, skip meals on Friday, and eat two meals on weekend days.
Why it worked for me? In my work situation being in the office every day, I did a lot of walking around and would not take lunch. I had started this effort by doing green tea over lunch, and the hot liquid and caffeine would help with the appetite. Because I had been strictly dieting for a year first, implementing this was easier than if I just jumped into it.
What are some issues with it? You have to be SUPER strict. I did this after 1 year of a 40/30/30, so I built discipline prior to starting this. Most have zero understanding how strict you must be with this. Most people that told me they were going to do it, I knew before they started they would fail due to the lack of discipline they had. I would recommend the 40/30/30 below FIRST for a period of time.
What are some good ways to implement? Basically, I was able to make up salads that were healthy and MASSIVE during the week. So I would have 4 types of salads, which essentially had minor tweaks to each other. A base salad of romaine or iceberg, cheese, tomatoes, avocado, meat. This could be a philly cheeseteak salad, cheeseburger salad, taco salad, or chicken and salad. The meats I used were, for the most part, grass fed/finished. The chicken I could not afford “organic” so I had to use my local grocery store chicken. At $2 a pound for chicken breast, this was a very affordable diet.
Misnomers – when you hear people that want to cut on this diet, the first thing they do is talk about heart attacks and bacon and sausage. The truth was, that the fats were extremely healthy fats. I was having olive oil, avocadoes, etc – and you had saturated fats in cheeses, eggs, and meats. However, this is where I differ from your mainstream brainwashing. For the most part, the meats were all low omega 6:3, and my eggs were the free range ones where you can see the difference. My butter was Kerrygold from grass fed cows. These fats are DIFFERENT from deep frying things, vegetable oils, etc. I am not a huge bacon or sausage fan, so my protein sources were mostly things like chicken, ham, beef, and eggs.
Ways to screw this up – having too many carbs is the first way. But a dangerous way could be too high of a percentage of meats. I know now the rage is the all meat diets, but that can also put a lot of stress on your kidneys. The all meat diets also use all kinds of organs as well to get a lot of nutrients. If you think eating hamburger work for you all the time, you are missing a lot a vital nutrients. Once you are a pro at this, I would do one day every 2-3 weeks where I could eat more carbs than normal. So it doesn’t mean you cannot ever have carbs again, but it means that you might schedule a “cheat” day on a date of your best friend’s wedding or something. IF you go over your carbs, you will know. Your will get really, really thirsty, and you will put on 5-7 pounds almost immediately of water weight. The good news is within about 4-5 days of this, you will have peed out all of this and you will be back on schedule. This is why I might do this once every 3 weeks and not every week.
Benefits – I believe, in my heart, this is how we are supposed to eat as we were designed in the factory. Once you are on this for a few weeks, you will notice your sleep is fantastic. Your hair gets a sheen to it. I believe this, with the proper meats, can prevent metabolic disease, and everything that comes from that. I never got sick on this, at all. Ever. When eating “normal” foods with higher carbs, my creativity with writing and thinking is DEEP, but my recall is fuzzy. Meaning, I could writing these amazing doctoral thesis-like things, but it was hard not to stumble over my words when saying a sentence to anyone. My brain would be so deep with connections that everything gets fuzzy to talk. This, to me, feels like a form of dementia I’ve had since I was young when eating high carb diets. My recommendation is that those who are more sedentary to be in a keto type of state longer. Those like me who love exercise, you start ketosis for 2-3 weeks to re-train your body to burn fat FIRST, then add carbs around high intensity training sessions. For example, an apple or banana 2 hours before a run can get you 20-30g of carbs, but it is rocket fuel for a workout. MOST of my workouts with keto/low carb were zone 2, and when I wanted to dial up intensity, you supplement a LITTLE bit of carbs. It’s funny – doing an intense run, you can then eventually FEEL when you tapped the limits of the banana you just ate, and with this, you can dial back to zone 2 no prob for a long duration.
Costs – this can get pricey if you are trying to live the “3 squares a day”. Meal prep isn’t easy. Lots of cooking – unless you did what I did. After lots of meals with eggs, I leaned on that salad, in some form, nightly. Once a week I’d get the lettuce, avocados, cheese, and tomatoes. I’d prep 10 pounds of chicken at a time. I’d eat one meal a day and twice on weekends. That would be a total of 8 meals a week. Yeah, this can be inexpensive when done right.
Physical performance – when done right, I lost almost all strength, immediately. The glycogen stores in your muscles get drained. Prior to this I might have benched 225 3 times, and a month into this, very strict, I was having a hard time benching 95 pounds 5 times. Your body eventually sends glycogen back out, but it takes time. In 2019 during the summer, I did a triathlon. With keto, you don’t “hit the wall” that you do when you are strictly trained to use glycogen. I had that happen to me a few times. This is why runners or bikers may feed during races. Their bodies cannot carry enough glycogen to complete the race. The “carbing up” the day before the race is trying to fill your glycogen gas tanks. When you are trained on keto, your body isn’t using glycogen. It uses your fats, efficiently, and this allowed me to tap into the tank full of wax I was dragging along with me. Once you train to access these stores, you can rapidly rip the fat off of your body. This, to me, was ideal when I was running for an hour every Sunday morning. LOVED it. The problem is, you don’t have that “top gear” for racing. Without that rocket fuel, you are Pepe Le Peu for long distances, but you have no substrate of rocket fuel. What you LEARN to do, IF you are a massive athlete, is to have carbs before an intense workout. Your body will be able to tap this for rocket fuel, BUT you also have the wax tanker behind you that your body is trained to now use. Meaning – I would say that sedentary people who only really walk would be great for a keto type of life long term. Those like me that liked athletics can learn to do “low carb” and target carbs around highly intense workouts. This might have taken me from 50g of carbs per day to maybe 125.
The problem is, if you are having 20-25% of your carbs without keto in your life, you run into this situation where your body doesn’t have enough carbs to maintain your glycogen, and isn’t really good with tapping your wax factory for energy, so you can get tired and run down. Which has you snacking on shit foods. IF you are NOT an intense athlete, 10% or so of your calories with carbs are pretty good.
Pitfalls – where I eventually made the worst mistake ever was mentally telling myself I could eat low carb ice cream routinely. I was having these 1400 calorie salads, and mentally justifying eating the pint of low carb ice cream at 600 calories. But what starts to happen is a lot of these processed foods trick your body’s hormones. Eventually, you can become pretty bent on trying to maximize the carbs you can, without crossing a line. As long as you are highly active, you are usually fine. But the artificial sweeteners in “zero sugar” drinks can make you STUPID hungry within an hour.
How I eventually failed – I hit 197 in fall of 2019 just as my mother was at the end of her life. I pretty much dropped everything to help care for her. My sleep was non-existent. I was eating snack foods at 3AM at a gas station between her house and my job I was driving to. My routine up until this point was degrading – my last 28 pounds or so, I wanted to get under 200, so I abandoned strength training mostly in favor of ridiculously long runs, bikes, and swims. While my triathlon was August 2019, I had been mentally having a lot of issues dealing with the end of my mom’s life, which led me to need to exercise a LOT. Like 15-18 hours a week. I would do 3 hours biking, come home and run 4 miles, then walk the dog 2-3 times a day. When I DID hit 197, I had lost a lot of my muscle mass in those last 28 pounds. Like, a LOT. When I was 225, I was benching 225 3 times again. By the time I hit 197 2-3 months later, I could not bench 95 one time. All of that muscle mass I had built over 3 years I starved off of me in 2-3 months between barely eating and eating my muscle from 3 hour bike rides. Additionally, immediately thereafter COVID hit and I was home. Whle I kept up with the walking, I was now eating lunches here with the wife. A few months later, my 2 and a half year old was born, and my exercise time just about disappeared. Likewise, I started with severe back issues as my muscles I had to support my intense training were gone, and this led also to shoulder issues. I had to stop running. I had tried a few more times and after a few weeks, the back issues started and would persist for months. Now I was eating more, and while I was still “low carb”, my calories were creeping up. While I was still eating the big salad and ice cream – for my 2000 calories, I was now eating perhaps 600 calories for lunch and no longer lifting/running.
Me at about 200 pounds
This was me at about 200 pounds. What you are NOT seeing is the last 25 or so pounds I lost I sacrificed 3 years of muscle building for a number on the scale. My mom was dying, and this was fueling a lot of 5-7 mile runs and 2-3 hour bike rides to keep my head on straight. I hit the number, but wrecked my metabolism.
Here was the before picture, at 350ish after I lost a bunch of weight. I had joked I wanted to write a book called “half the man I used to be”, where I literally lost half of my weight. I have 140 blog posts on this and I think I have a book in there – I want to get through the upcoming financial crisis first and target the last 3.5 years of neglect to my body – which was focused 1000% on understanding money and how to protect myself.
I was a really good baseball player, played some college tennis, played football – and always biked and ran. At 330 pounds I’d be out running 2 miles. Maybe it was an 18 min mile, but I was out there 2-3 times a week in August at 8PM on a track. I LOVED exercising. I just had no clue why I was always overweight.
In April of 2022, I stopped the “low carb” and switched back to a 40/30/30 as I saw inflation taking off and stocked up on a lot of grains/beans. Problem is, the first thing that happened was my body put on about 15 pounds of water the first 2 months. I was eating 2200 calories, but we’re talking rice and chicken/broccoli, oatmeal, beans, etc. While I was dejected the scale was moving up, it was mostly moving from one diet to the other. But now, I’m also eating JUST a little worse. The bad habits are coming back. I’m eating more “bad meals”. I’ve been sick 5 times the last 2 months that derailed any working out. Will I use keto again??
How it works – I will keep this one shorter than the above. This essentially is calorie counting. But the quality of food you eat with this is your big deal here. I used to do a LOT of meal prep with this for lunches at work. Lots of chicken/rice/broccoli meals. As I mentioned above, I had started at 2600 calories with this, and after a year had lost 72 pounds or so. When you balance your fats and proteins with quality carbs with fiber, you tend to not get the insulin spikes you would if you had eaten a candy bar. When you can balance these macro nutrients you are getting the fats and proteins you need, with a limited number of carbs that can aid in high performance exercise. Too many carbs, you are spiking insulin, getting tired, sluggish, and gaining weight. Too little carbs, you may feel under the amount of energy you need for working out.
Why it works – Because you can literally eat anything with this. I would recommend anyone who wants to lose weight to start this first, as this helps you understand what macronutrients foods are made of, and aids you a ton if you ever want to do the keto route. What I would do is that I might have a “cheat dinner” on a Sat night. Perhaps I wanted pizza. I’d take the wife out, order two slices of pizza, fries, and drink a diet pepsi. What I had done the day before was program that in there, and this then allowed me to plan lunches/breakfasts properly. Perhaps I was allowed to have 2400 calories that day. Perhaps the 2 slices of pizza and fries were 1600 calories, give or take. Higher concentration of carbs and fats. My lunch might have been a lean steak or a ham steak or something like that which would be higher in protein. I was able to plan meals out in advance with MyFitnessPal.
Why it worked for me? I was a rather picky eater, and telling me I cannot eat burgers, pizza, or cheesesteaks for the rest of my life was silliness. Pasta for me was a food group. The 40/30/30 helped me understand how many calories that plate of pasta was, and how skewed towards carbs it was. Perhaps I would do a baked chicken parm (not fried) with a side of pasta in its place. I was able to boost the protein content of the meal, and reduce the carb content while also reducing the calories for the meal. THIS diet, I believe was the gateway to understanding macro nutrition for me.
What are some issues with it? When I started this, I was eating 3 cheat meals a week. Meaning, I would consider McDonald’s drive thru “cheating”. I’d get the quarter pounder with cheese, double cheeseburger, and french fries with a diet coke. 1400 calories. Again, I’d ensure my lunch/breakfast combined were no more than 1000 total. After a month, it was 2 cheat meals a week, then one. Then 5 months in, no cheat meals, ever. How I FELT with removing the garbage from my body was FANTASTIC. I then saw when I DID eat a “cheat meal” I’d wake up the next day almost “hungover”. I didn’t like that feeling for athletic performance. At about a year in, I was starting to crack around the holidays with chocolate and family dinners where I’d lose track of calories. I mostly stopped eating out 100% and did ONLY home cooked food because I didn’t want extra calories added with butter, etc. If I could not track it, I didn’t put it in my mouth. Needless to say, this isn’t sustainable with a family who is not as meticulous as you, as they want to go out to dinner or get ice cream once in awhile. Calorie counting can become arduous and time consuming to track everything.
What are some good ways to implement? Meal prepping with this was nice. I’d be able to make a month’s worth of lunches/dinners and freeze in 2 hours on a Sunday. I used a lot of overnight oats kinds of things. Exercise with this was easy, and fueled you well for intense weight training.
Misnomers – that 40/30/30 is “healthy”. It is, if you don’t eat processed foods or seed oils. You might deep fry mozzarella sticks and estimate that to be 600 calories. But the grease it was fried in is highly inflammatory to your body. Stay away from the interior of a grocery store for this diet. Go around the outskirts. 200 calories of cheez its are poison to you, but 200 calories in bananas/oranges are much better for you. I learned a LOT about inflammation with keto, and if I was doing 40/30/30 over again, I would consistently eat highest quality meats/fresh produce with this.
Ways to screw this up – I used to say with this that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. My wife has the best intentions with things, but planning her meals out might be her weakest thing. “How the hell do I know what I’ll be hungry for tomorrow at 5”. This is the thing. If you are waiting for your body to tell you it’s hungry for a specific thing, your body is telling you that you are deprived of something. You make terrible choices when hangry. I would plan the next few days ahead in MyFitnessPal so I had a schedule of food to eat. It wasn’t waiting until 4:30 to decide what to eat. It was, “this is my plan for today, I need to execute”. Execution via planning takes practice. Instead of telling people you are going to the gym, and going to the gym for an hour each day for a month and stopping – spend time meal planning, cooking, and do perhaps 1-2 full body workouts a week that are 30-60 mins each. Spending time in the kitchen and planning is how you lose weight with this diet.
Benefits – You have extreme flexibility to eat whatever you want, as long as you stick to 40/30/30 and your calorie limit for the day. You will start to feel a calm after about a month after you flushed the processed foods out of your body, and your blood pressure will be lower as your heart rate lowers with routine exercise and plenty of water.
Costs – with this, I was eating more meals than with keto, but rice, pasta, and oats are relatively cheap compared to a 24 oz steak. Overall, where things add up is “grass fed/finished beef” or “organic chicken”. Look, maybe you cannot afford that. Eating just regular chicken breasts is far more healthy than McDonalds. What you will find is that this is HIGHLY friendly to your wallet because, if done right, you won’t eat out barely ever again. I started my 40/30/30 in 2016, and to this day, I might eat out once a month, if that.
Physical performance – I didn’t know what I didn’t know until I did keto and what that did to my strength and speed. If you are highly active, this is probably a really good diet for you because you will have enough carbs to workout, run, bike, and chase the kid around. When I was on this, I was not running – only lifting weights. I built up quite the strength in a year with this.
Pitfalls – you need to really dig into what your foods are made up of. This can be time consuming to track meals and recipes, but you start to understand little things before that added up that you never knew about. When I went 7 months or so without a single cheat meal, this led to me falling off the wagon December 2017. For Christmas, my mom got me a fancy box of peanut butter eggs, my favorite. Within 18 hours of getting it, the box was gone. ENOUGH. Keto came into my life after that, it was sort of like a low for me that pushed me into being more strict.
How I eventually failed – The peanut butter egg incident of 2017 is the low for me, where after 7 months of rigorous dieting, the wheels started to come off. My trainer had suggested “keto”. I had done Atkins 15 years prior and taken off weight a few times. While I was somewhat dismissive of her with keto prior, I was now leaning in as I needed to hit that next gear in weight loss.
What works for me might not work for you, but I have observed a lot of lessons here with weight loss, injury, stress, lack of time – and wanted to wrap this up in a bow for you about how I’d like to live my life, for where I’m at, and perhaps think this is this perhaps the way that most people should live – in my situation. Also, below this, I have a PLAN for the next 9 months I need to EXECUTE.
Given I live in the northeast of USA, we have some harsh winters with low temperatures. This means from probably late October until late March, it’s REALLY cold and windy here. This type of weather might lead me to do hiking while bundled up, and weight training. What I will PROBABLY do is the day after Halloween, begin 2-3 weeks of keto. Take a few days off around Thanksgiving, go back on “low carb”, take a few days off over Xmas, and then stay on it until mid-march. If I can walk the dog, great. One meal a day would be optimal. Probably 1600-2200 calories a day, lots of water. No diet drinks, as they made me really hungry. I can probably do a push/pull/rest rotation here with maybe 20-30 mins a day at most lifting with moderate to heavy weights.
I believe our bodies are designed for this for harsher times when there are no carbs to be found. But I’m also so damn active during the warmer months than low carb doesn’t quite cut it.
I feel that during the warmer months, I want to run, bike, and enjoy the outdoors. Hiking in summer with bugs sucked. I may want to run some 5ks. Maybe do a triathlon again. With this, I can do a lower carb diet up to a 40/30/30. However, right now, I have a decent amount of weight to lose. I will put the running on hold probably until I’m down another 50-60. Even then, I have to be careful. I was running 5 miles a time at the end there, and the yar prior to this I used to routinely to 2 mile runs 3 times a week for maybe 20-25 mins at a time. I think for me, I need to build up my core, legs, and focus on building more lean body mass before I run again. While running CAN obviously create calorie deficits, what I noticed was that it hurt my back a lot. I believe that if I’m a trim 160 pounds, running 5 miles is fine. At 197 pounds, I think I pushed my frame too hard.
Therefore, my goal will be looking to do a solid 175-180 at 5’9″. I DO want to eventually get to a point where I do half ironmans. I believe I can physically do it. My FAILURE at the end was sacrificing all of my muscle for a number on the scale. Right now, I have a ton of grains here. Essentially, there are two months before I would do a 40/30/30, but I CAN do a keto for 8 weeks, drop 20 pounds, and this might help me reduce my inflammation and clean up my diet again.
PLAN – If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
1/23-2/11 – keto for 3 weeks. Drop 15-20 pounds. Lots of water weight lost, but I’m not running now so I should not be consuming carbs like this. 2x 30 min full workouts a week. Walk dog when possible. Work for OMAD and big salads. Hiking. 1600 calories a day, maybe 2000.
2/11-2/13 – off for super bowl, wife’s bday
2/14 – 4/6 – Low carb. Roughly 60-70 carbs per day. 2000-2200 calories. Bike rides, walks, hikes, push/pull/legs/rest.
4/7 (about) – cheat day for son’s bday.
4/7-10/15 – 40/30/30 – 2000 calories per day. More walking than normal. Continue workout routine. Continue biking. At 40-50 pounds loss, introduce light jogging again.
10/15ish, cruise. Yeah, gonna cheat then.
After cruise, 2-3 weeks of keto, then low carb over winter.
My goal for the next 9 months for the cruise is 80 pounds of loss, which is….aggressive, to say the least. Problem is, you have no idea how active I am, as long as I’m not injured. Calorie math tells you this…
80 pounds = 280,000 calories. 9 months is about 40 weeks. That’s a deficit of 7,000 per week. Or, 1,000 deficit per day. Between walking/lifting/hiking and eating 2,000 – I’m in the ballpark for this. I could see some days with the long hikes and long rides having a 1,500-2,000 deficit.
Now, I need to execute my plan and stay injury free. My plan to avoid injuries here is to avoid high impact things like running until perhaps August or September. Build up my core. Ensure I am getting .6g of protein per pound of bodyweight.
After the cruise, you then look to the plan to get the next 40-60 off over the next year to hit your 175ish goal. Once I hit my 175 goal, then we look to the half ironman goals 1-2 years out from there. The longest I’ve ever biked is 45 miles, and the longest I’ve ever run was 8 miles. I’ve had no problems swimming for an hour straight. The half ironman is 56 miles bike after 1.2 mi swim, then a 13.1 half marathon at the end. I would have ZERO problems, with minimal training, to complete a sprint tri today. When I hit 175, I will train for an Olympic distance tri – which is 24 miles biking, 6 miles of running, give or take, with maybe 800m swimming. With a few months of training, I could complete an olympic tri today.
My LIFE goals are to spend my late 40s through 60s doing long distance training until my body cannot take it anymore. I don’t enjoy weight training much, but it will be a tool to get me to a solid 175 to then be able to train long distance without girth on me. In the off seasons, when it’s cold, I will weight train. When nicer, not so much. I would love nothing more in my life than to be able to run and bike for hours at a time. I love it. I miss running so bad, but I pushed myself too hard with running. It’s hard to see at the time, but you are completing 5ks in personal records, and then….the back hits you.
Post notes – you do not NEED carbs to run or bike. Ever.
I saw a post from a recent new friend on Twitter this morning where this person is an avid runner, but may be looking to be pre-diabetic. This potentially has a lot to do with insulin resistance. The constant pounding of carbohydrates into your body requires the pancreas, over time, to produce more and more insulin to shuttle the glucose into cells. Remember, we are machines designed to gorge on berries when we see them to top off our glycogen tanks. We are not designed to eat 400-500g of carbs per day. So your runs can perhaps burn a lot of these carbs off, in theory, but your body is still taking in a ton of carbs. What I did for my triathlon was low carb for years – and around times where I needed to competitively train or do higher intensity workouts, I’d up my carbs just before one of these events for rocket fuel. MOST of my training was done in zone 2, but anyone who trains for these types of things know that you not only train for distance, but speed, and closer to the events you are doing different types of workouts that CARBS ARE NEEDED FOR.
What will blow your mind, perhaps, is that I was full keto/low carb when I did my 8+ mile run and my 45 mile bike ride. When your body is trained to directly burn this fat, you have an endless reserve of calories. At issue is – that this is like burning fuel oil as opposed to gasoline. IF I was racing, which I had done, about two hours before the race I might drink a gatorade or have a banana – or even eat a bowl of oatmeal with fruit. At peaks of my racing, when you need to dial it up, your body NEEDS this carb rocket fuel. However, for 90% of you training, you can literally have 0 carbs during the day and do spectacular endurance events.
For this particular person – and those who do a lot of running, I would talk to your nutritionist about low carb training or “carb cycling”. With what I did, you get the best of both worlds where you AT MOST have 125g of carbs a day AND can exercise for many hours during that day. Even if you have a 20% BMI, you may have literally 20-30 pounds of fat with your body. You obviously need SOME fats, but each pound is 3500 calories. You are sitting on a reservoir of 70,000 to 100,0000 calories and you need to eat 500g of carbs per day? No.
What happens is this consistent carb intake leads to insulin resistance, and eventually, you may need external insulin injected into you to control your blood sugar, which most type 2 diabetes people have. “Cutting the sugar” can lead then a lot of people to be in this “dead zone” I call it – say you eat 20-30% of your food in carbs. If you usually had 300-500g of carbs (4 calories each) and now are at half that, your body doesn’t have the fuel it needs to do the running at zone-3/4. Ideally, you do a 2 week induction into keto (maybe 30-50g of carbs a day), get into ketosis, and do a lot of walking and zone 2 HR training. Very quickly, your body then switches from carbs to fats as the main substrate. Your body eventually learns how to refill your glycogen stores, so for about a month you might suffer with runs. After that – you can literally have 20g of carbs a day and run for hours without stopping. That being said, you need to be careful to ensure you have proper electrolyte balance with potassium and magnesium. Most foods that used to be rich in magnesium no longer have it. So IF you are doing low carb, please ensure you get enough potassium with salads, chicken, etc, but also supplement magnesium.
Recommended books and reading
I have probably read about 1-2 dozen health books on a lot of this, so my references are deep with doctors and clinical trials for this sort of stuff.
For understanding pitfalls of high doses of carbs for ironman training – “Primal Blueprint” by Mark Sisson
Understanding hormones and metabolism – “Why We get Fat” and “The Case Against Sugar” by Gary Taubes
Zone 2 training and proper training methods – “80/20 triathlon” by Matt Fitzgerald
Long distance marathon runners on low carb – “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” by Volek and Phinney
Eating properly and understanding calories from a 50,000 ft view. Where I got my giant salad from “The Calorie Myth” by Jonathan Bailor.