Cut fats, lift weights and get leaner!

Recently I’ve dropped over 3kg (half a stone) within just four weeks. Read on to find out how and why I did this…

 

After finishing 9th at the English Weightlifting Championships at the end of this January, I decided to look into whether to drop down from the 85kg to the 77kg category to become more competitive.

I find that naturally, my bodyweight sits around 81-82kg (pretty much bang in-between the two categories). I had to eat over 4000 calories a day, just to get up to 83.8kg which is what I weighed in at on the day of the competition. All things being equal, the heavier you are in strength sports, the stronger you’ll be (within the weight category).

My coach, Cyril advised that I get in touch with Sports Nutritionist, Dave Rogerson who works at Sheffield Hallam University. His advice was not what I expected, but it was simple: cut down on fat intake, keeping carbs high and to do it slowly over time.

I tracked my normal food diary, calories and macros using MyFitnessPal and my fats frequently took up over 40% of my macros!

So what did I do? Firstly, I identified the foods which were very dense in calories (which also tended to be very high in fats): coconut oil, peanut butter, whole milk, full fat greek yoghurt, salmon, avocados etc. All very good quality, nutritious foods; but I was taking onboard these types of foods way too frequently and and in great quantities. This was great for bulking up towards 85kg but if I’m going to cut to 77kg, I had to start cutting down on these foods!

So, I started off by eating these foods still, but having only half of my normal serving. I added more carbs, so more potatoes, sweet potatoes, porridge etc. So, I actually dropped this body weight by eating more carbs than normal!

Let’s look at why this approach worked for me:

  • Firstly, I lift heavy weights up to six times per week which means my body demands a lot of carbohydrates for fuel. Plus, my job is very active as I spend a lot of my time either on my feet demonstrating exercises, carrying weights around or loading weights on to barbells etc. Would eating a tonne of carbs be a good idea for someone who doesn’t train much and sits at a desk most of the day? Probably not because the fuel requirement wouldn’t be close!
  • There are 4 calories per gram of both carbs and protein, but 9 calories per gram of fat. I was eating a lot of fats. A LOT! Half a jar of peanut butter in a day in a day wouldn’t be a problem. Tablespoons of coconut oil with most things I cooked etc. It’s now easy to see how many calories can be cut from the diet by restricting intake of these foods. Yes, they’re “healthy” foods but it can be very easy to overdose on them!
  • I was used to eating around 4000 calories a day, so to cut down to around 3200 per day was a massive cut in calories for me. But it didn’t feel like I was cutting many calories as I was eating more carbs and always eating when hungry, so I was always full. But I was full on foods that were much less calorific! I also kept protein intake pretty high to help with my recovery from training.

 

 

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Left: 83.8kg (the day after competing at the English Weightlifting Championships). Right: 80kg (after four weeks of doing minimal cardio, eating lots of carbs, but cutting my fats down and continuing to lift weights!). No massive transformation here, but not bad for four weeks!

 

Summary:

  • Track normal food intake, calories and macros using MyFitnessPal to establish habits.
  • If fat-loss is the goal, reduce total calories by a few hundred per day. We need to be in a deficit of calories to lose weight. If you already eat a lot of fat calories, cutting these down will result in a massive drop in calories like it did with me!
  • Add more carbs and calories into your diet on training days but on rest days, keep carb and calorie intake relatively low.
  • Train by lifting heavy weights frequently: your body will need and use the calories from carbohydrates, instead of being stored as body fat.
  • Keep an eye on fat intake and minimise for fat loss. Fats are essential and vitally important for optimal health so they shouldn’t be cut out completely. Frequent small doses are best.
  • Keep protein intake moderate to high, especially on training days to help with recovery.
  • Cardio isn’t essential for fat loss! I’ve just proved it! I do no cardio training whatsoever, with the exception of three 45-minute games of tennis (moderate intensity) between the two photos! Nutrition is king and strength training is queen! For non-strength athletes, cardio fitness will be vitally important. For the rest of us who just want to look leaner (or are cutting down a weight category), working on better nutrition and lifting weights would be the priorities before worrying about cardio training.

Hope you enjoyed reading and will keep you updated on my journey down to 77kg!

Sam