If your car gets 20 miles per gallon and you drive 40 miles, how much gas do you need to keep your tank full? If you said 2 gallons, you are right! What if you only put in 1 gallon? You will be at a gasoline DEFICIT. And if you repeat that every day, what MUST be the result? You will run out of gas. What if you start putting in 3 gallons of gas every day but still only drive the 40 miles? Yep, you’ll have gas spilling out of your tank because you are putting in a SURPLUS.
If you come to me and say, Coach Wayne, every day I’m putting in 1 gallon of gas, driving 40 miles, and yet I have gas spilling out of my tank, then what is my response?? Simple! Either you are wrong about how much gas you put in your car, you are wrong about how far you drove, or you are wrong about the miles per gallon your car gets. You can’t be at a DEFICIT or your gas tank would be getting lower. It’s a simple law of nature.
The same goes for calories and weight. It may be a slightly more complex system, but it works the EXACT same way. We all have a daily calorie burn (how far we drive), we all have an amount of calories we consume per day (the gas we put in the tank), and we all have a weight that will be affected by how much we take in vs. how much we burn. If we take in LESS than we burn, it is a simple law of nature that our body will lose weight. If we take in MORE than we burn, it is a simple fact that we will gain weight. There are NO exceptions!
Now before we continue, you know that I hate using weight as a guide to our progress. We are not interested in WEIGHT. We are interested in BODY COMPOSITION (body fat vs. muscle). But with that said, there are some simple, physiological facts about weight that we can learn from.
So what then do I say to the person who says they have been running a calorie deficit and yet they have not lost any weight? Simple. They are NOT running a deficit! They may THINK they are, but they aren’t.
What could be the cause?
- Perhaps they aren’t counting accurately on their intake = They may be eating larger servings than they think. They may be snacking on small things and not tracking it. They may be overlooking supplements, cooking oils, sauces, condiments, etc. and not being totally honest with how much gas they are putting in their tank. My car doesn’t run on how much gas I SAY I put in the tank. It runs on how much gas I actually put in the tank.
- Perhaps their m.p.g. and distance traveled is wrong. If I make assumptions that are incorrect, I may think I’m at a deficit but actually am not. For instance, if a person thinks they are burning 600 calories during a workout, but in fact they only burn 300, that adds up. If they assume their base metabolism is 1500 but due to yo yo dieting they’ve slowed their metabolism way down, they may have a metabolism of less than 1000 cals per day. This factors into the daily calorie burn as well.
There are no ways around the simple laws of nature. If you are 100% certain that your daily calorie intake is exactly what you claim it is, and you aren’t losing weight, then you are wrong about how many calories you burn in a day.
I don’t say this to be rude, but I also can’t sugar coat it either. I get folks coming to me all the time, absolutely certain that they are at a calorie deficit, and yet claiming they have either maintained weight or gained weight. The simple truth is that they are wrong. They are not at a deficit or their body weight would drop.
Are there other considerations? ABSOLUTELY! There is measurement error – when you weigh, how hydrated you are, any monthly cycles that come into play, what you’ve eaten lately, when your last potty break was, etc. etc. Those can cause large variations from day to day. But if you are claiming to have been on a calorie deficit for several weeks and yet aren’t any lighter, something is going on!
All too often people will blame it on “starvation mode” and say that the answer is to increase calories. I’ve written about the starvation mode theory in my article “starvation mode” so check that out if you are interested, but study after study has shown that there is no such thing. Did you hear about the Army study where they did EXTREME calorie deprivation on soldiers who were already in good shape = These guys had about 10%-12% body fat when they started, and for several weeks they were rationed only 1200 cals per day while performing grueling exercise that burned over 6,000 cals per day. What happened? They all lost lots of body fat and weight (of course). None gained weight. None maintained weight. Also interesting was that none lost muscle mass either until they got below 5% body fat (blowing away the other common myth that if you run a calorie deficit you will lose muscle and hold onto fat because of “survival mode” or “starvation mode”). They didn’t start using up their muscle for energy until the body fat was in the lower limits that the body needs to function (“essential body fat” which is 4% or so in men and a bit higher in women).
If you run a calorie deficit long enough (over 6 weeks or so), the metabolism WILL SLOW DOWN, and this can make your body stop losing weight at a calorie level that used to be a deficit (because it’s no longer a deficit). The answer in that situation is to either drop the calories again to get to a deficit again, or to increase the calories to bump up the metabolism (although you will then need to either burn more cals or consume less cals again to get back to a deficit).
Another factor is the TYPE of calories you consume. Even if you eat junk food, you can lose weight if you eat less of it than you burn in a day. This leads to the lovely “skinny fat” look, where a person is soft, pudgy, and has zero muscle mass. They may look fine in clothes because they aren’t large, but they surely aren’t fit. This is what many dieters do when they don’t actually learn to fuel their bodies properly – they just eat less calories without exercising or doing resistance training. This is no good!
That’s why it’s important when learning to fuel our bodies (whether with a deficit for fat loss or a surplus for muscle building) to fuel it with the nutrients it needs to get the results we want. After all, it’s not truly about WEIGHT – it’s about BODY COMPOSITION. We want low body fat and we want good, lean, strong muscle mass to stay fit, healthy, and resistant to injury and aging.
So while I’ve written many times before about how the weight on the scale is just a number and not to focus on it, this article is necessary to help people realize that they can learn a lot about their intake / output by monitoring their weight. We can lie to ourselves, trick ourselves, and even make honest mistakes, but the facts are the facts. A calorie deficit ALWAYS leads to weight loss and a calorie surplus ALWAYS leads to weight gain.
Hope this helps gang! Keep bringing it!
Hey All, Can the math really be that simple? At least for me it is. I have been actively tracking and weighing my food since late January. I calculated my bmr (calories burned during the day) and record exercise calories on my smartphone. In February, It says I burned a net total of 30,455 Kcal. 1 lb of fat = 3500 Kcal so that should be about 8.7 lbs right? Well I lost 10.6. March I burned 41,413 Kcal so the calculated value should be 11.8 and I actually lost 12.2. I just love simple math!!!!
I also have a hard time estimating how much lean meat I eat. I know what 4 oz. look like but I don't actually weight anything. I might do it in the future just to be sure but I think estimating it's fine for now but if I ever run into a situation where my scale or BF is not going anywhere, I will definitely keep this post in mind. Thanks.
Great post and I tend to agree. I have a hard time counting calories accurately and it's not because I am eating things and not counting them but it's just some things are hard to put into the counter. Condiments, etc... I am still learning but I try to assume an 200 calorie error. And I am running a deficit till I get my BF to where I want it. My scale keeps saying that I am losing 1-2 a week so I am pretty sure I am running a deficit. I also use a HRM to track how many calories I burn during exercise and it seems to be pretty accurate so that helps. Thanks for writing.
Hey buddy...great site. Quick question...When calculating your prot/carb/fat ratio for the nutrition plan, should I count the 66g of "carbs" I'm consuming in my 2 scoops of creatine per day (since I'm starting to cycle with creatine). Just curious, because it is throwing off my percentages a bit when I factor in that large amount of "carbs." Thanks, Jon.
Hey Jon, if you are going to use the creatine that is mixed with sugar, then yes you'll have to count the cals from the sugar. I use creatine that has zero calories. I don't like the mixes that have a bunch of sugar with it (the thought is that the sugar helps the creatine absorb better, but that's debatable and it sure isn't worth it to me to consume massive amounts of sugar just because it "might" help the creatine absorb better). Read my articles "The scoop on creatine" and "creatine revisited" for more details. Thanks and keep bringing it!
Hey coach, I was just wondering what you use to calculate your caloric intake because i feel like the p90x one isn't all that accurate and I was wondering what category of activity (low, moderate, very active) I should use for calculating my intake when I workout in the morning with p90x2 and I have either a basketball game (pretty intense usually twice a week) and moderatley intense practice the other three days thanks
Hey Dylan, if you are referring to estimating your daily caloric needs, there is one on the TBB website under the "get fit" tab, and there are several others online if you google "base metabolic rate calculator". However, they all use estimations and will only give you a ballpark estimate. The only way you will know you own needs is by trial and error. Pick a value and go with it and see how you do, then adjust up or down as needed.
Hey coach, Just wanted to know if I could jump back to phase 2 nutrition when I am fired up enough (currently 50 c/30p/20f), maybe even drop calories for the final weeks? Also, complex or simple carbs; which would be wiser to have after 1pm as to avoid fat storage? Appreciate it!
Yes Kimberly, you can definitely do that. Complex carbs are the best choice any time of day except post-workout, when simple carbs are best in a short window of time of about 45 minutes. Keep bringing it!!
"Makes a man healthy/wealthy and wise!" Lol coach! I hear u on that one! Thanks for advice, I'll check out the article. HNY and God bless.
Coach Wayne, I get sooo tired real quick these days. It's 11:43 and I'm out of gas. I've been on Phase 2 nutrition for a 1/3 of Training block 1 and all of 2, I'm a week into training block 3 (up to 1400-1500 cals for 40/40/20) ... still slowly losing fat and would like to continue but I'm so out of energy these days. Any advice?
Hey Kimberly! That's a tough one, and I experienced it too. Look at my article "energy balance" because you can increase the carbs if you want and you'll have more energy, but it's a trade off on shedding the body fat as quickly. BTW I was out of gas long before 11:43 last night LOL! I haven't stayed awake to ring in the new year in several years - I don't see the point -- early to bed and early to rise :-).
just clocked in at 205 lbs. from day 1= 217, I am on day 49/week7 and still bringing it till exhaustion. I will have to go with CW on this debate, if it can even be called a debate... as it is facts and science and not pixies and fairy dust lol. CW is the greatest magician if it is magic, btw. CW methods and techniques have worked for me perfectly as planned thus far. God bless this knowledge!
Wayne, due to a hectic school schedule (finals week), a new baby, and working 60 hours a week it is taking me 6 weeks to finish the first month of P90X. My question is, due to the constant interruptions, and chopped up weeks, do you A) Reccomend starting the program over completely B) Adding an additonal straight week of consistency (now that finals over, etc.) to the first 3 weeks or C) Skipping the recovery weeks and going straight into round 2 since there's been plenty of recovery time.
Hey Dustin, first of all way to bring it despite the hectic schedule! I'm proud of you. Second, I hope you've stayed strong on the nutrition every day, even if you couldn't get your workouts in. That's the key to progress! Third, don't start over. Don't skip recovery weeks. Don't add extra weeks. Just keep following the schedule, day by day. Bring it!! You'll get there!!
BANG ON COACH! TELL IT LIKE IT IS! Dispite my hard effortS i think/know I could have done better. I'm sad to say i have fallen into the "Skinny-fat" class with some deffinition and muscle but as my wife tells me..."You've had much more to loose than most of the guys on here and your almost 50, :-(... Is this just a cop out? i don't want to buy into this idea, as i don't think of myself as 50, but some times i have to remind myself i'm not 20-30 anymore although i feel i am thanks to BB and You and teamRIPPED.....Although no real/ripped deffinition i have never looked/felt better in my life. Thanks.....
Hey, coach! I'm on day 7 and counting. I'm 29% BF and still have a looong way to go but a friend of mine, who is a personal trainer, told me about dextrin and i started taking it during my workout. I'm tracked every gram of it to make sure it wasn't holding me back. And that's exactly what I want to know: will it hold me back on weight lost? Also, in one of your articles you said if we go on a low cals diet for longer than 6 weeks our metabolism will drop. I'll probably have to go over that time. Does it always happen? What should I do? Thanks!
Hey Ernest, I've never taken dextrin so I have no idea. What are you taking it for? If you are using it for energy during a workout, I'd recommend switching to something with a protein and amino acid basis rather than a sugar basis. I like Intrabolic and Purple Wraath. And as for the metabolism slowing, you'll have to cross that bridge when .... and if .... it happens to you. It doesn't automatically. I ran a calorie deficit for all 90 days and did fine. If you do plateau on the weight loss, there are lots of options (which I've discussed in my articles like "maximizing metabolism") but let's not get too far ahead of yourself just yet. Keep pushing play and keep focusing on results. Bring it!
Great debate on nutrition, but this is exactly why I'm not an active coach. Coach Wayne looks as good as anyone on the covers of the magazines maintaining a single digit body fat % for Almost two years and still people want to try and discredit his blogs. Where do these people come from? How do you take it Coach Wayne?
LOL Thanks Charley! I appreciate you sticking up for me. I honestly don't mind healthy debate as long as everybody stays respectful. And I am totally aware that there are many different lines of thought out there on nutrition and exercise. I'm here to help people learn what's worked for me, and now after nearly 2 years I have quite a resume of others who have benefited greatly by following that advice, so it speaks for itself. There will always be those who disagree with me. That's fine. They can do it their way and I'll do it my way. Keep bringing it Charley!
PLYOCIDE!!!!!! Ouch!.......But it hurts in a good way :). Woke up this morning and tried out plyocide. AWESOME!
coach, just ordered an extra shakelogy as gift and pull up assist for my wife. did u get the credit? also, did u start watching or experimenting with x2. yet?
CW, GREAT article and Great feedback from all. I can attest to what coach Wayne has said, as well as others. 35yrs old and at 188lbs for years, running, "working out" once in awhile... Bottom line, after 1 p90x round and halfway through the teamripped hybrid, at about 166lbs and I can finally see a six pack with the fat shredder plan. Mind you I didn't see the weight star to drop until phase 3 because I was not tracking, creating a deficit, following the fat shredder plan, nor dialing it in or really understood nutrition prior to that. As James said, everyone is different and the key is to find what works and as Coach Wayne says "dialing it in", as our bodies change we constantly need to adjust our diet according to our goals. Thanks to teamripped, I have found the help and tools to reach my goals. My goal.... Be ripped like Coach!!!! Burn the fat 1st, then build the mass!
boy hot debate but i got to go with coach on this...This man help take me from a 280 lb fat man to a slim and trim 209 lb guy thru 2 rounds of p90x.....I took all advice from him after struggling to lose 2lbs..This year
Coach! this was always going to be a touchy subject for some... but I have to agree with you, the simple fact of the matter is people gain fat because they intake more calories than they burn. No getting around it, that's just life! There are many ways to lose weight (low carb, low fat, calorie defecit etc.). The simple fact of the matter is that a moderate calorie defecit (up to 900ish calories) will lead to fat loss and negligable slowing of the metabolism! That's how i have lost 51lbs whilst getting stronger and fitter!
The first round, where fat shredder is recommended, seems like it is the one where you try the hardest: it's new to you, and you are committed to working out and start strong. That coupled with a diet you start strong with (which happens to be fat shredder) could be the reason for lots of weight loss, not necessarily the fat shredder diet itself. Additionally, as you become lighter, it becomes harder to burn the massive amount of calories you burned when you were pudgy.
I Agree with you Coach Wayne i got the best awesome results of my life following your regimen no one can tell me different.. <<>> BRINGS IT!!
Lively debate! I just thought I would jump in and throw in my two cents. I have to completely agree with Wayne on this one. I know someone who had LAP-band surgery a while back, and they have continued to lose weight. They haven't added much in the way of physical activity, but their calorie intake has definitely gone way down. The interesting thing is that they continue to lose weight, but the majority of their diet is junk food (ice cream, fried pork skins, cakes, and candies). It's all done in an attempt to eat at least 1000 calories per day as instructed by their doctor. Goes to show that you can and will continue to lose weight, even if you live off of nothing but junk, as long as calories in < calories burned. You won't be healthy or fit. In fact, I'm pretty sure it have the opposite effect of health and fitness, but the number on the scale will go down.
Ok 6 months ago I was at 245 and 28% bodyfat. Then got down to 198 lbs and 12% in 90 days. Then just around 90 days ago started a mass phase up to 209 and at 11%. Now comes the ripped Venom phase. Getting down to 198 shredding the fat and aiming for 8% body fat. At my wife's Christmas party I got tons of compliments from people who were floored by my change. My arms are huge and I was laughing when one buddy said I looked like a superhero. ha ha!! All of this success comes from my education on this site! PERIOD. I have now learned to master my caloric intake and maximize my workouts just by coming here and reading. Sometimes I have good days and sometimes I cheat and other times motivation is lacking but I am human. Not an excuse just accepting my limits. Everyone who comes here should trust the advice and push hard and if you are not seeing the results then get back to pen and paper and your tap n track and retool your plan! Good luck!!!
Coach Wayne, I know how awsome beachbody products are. I also know I can get a unbiast opinion from you. I reall need help with Nutrition input. There is a program called SoManAbolic. It claims you can type in your body wt. ht. and body type and it will tell you your specific intake and calories and carbs. Do you know any thing about this program. It cost 47 dollars and thats not bad. Does beachbody have anything that compares.
Hey David, BB has the club membership, which is similar, but I'd say save your money and look at my recent article "dialing it in". You will do better following those guidelines ... And they are free lol!
Love the post. Along with your zig zag article these are two posts that everyone who is trying to lose weight needs to read. As I started the Misfit Challenge there are few things I decided to tweak in regards to my nutrition and they go hand in hand with this article. First, I assumed that I was eating 10-15% more calories than I thought. I'm semi-OCD and track all food via my smartphone. But sometimes we just aren't 100% accurate despite our best efforts. That certainly was the case for me. So as I shot for an 1800 calorie count, I planned for 1600 or so. Second, I assumed that I was spending less calories than my best calculations. With my profession I'm sedentary 12-14hrs a day. And even with a HRM tracking my workout calories spent, I'm adjusting my daily calories spent down 10-15%. Finally, I incorporated a zig zag and carb cycle approach to my last block of training. So far it has worked. Many of you may be more accurate than me in calculating calories in vs. calories out. But for me making these slight adjustments has made a world of difference in my results this time around.
So after a few weeks of fat shredder diet and calorie deficit, I don't need to change anything to avoid starvation?
Hey Mike, it totally depends. By "Starvation", I assume you mean "a slowing of your metabolism"? When running a deficit, after a time everyone's metabolism will start to slow, and there are things you can do to try to counter that. Read my article "maximizing metabolism" and my "zig zag diet" for ideas. But for most, no, you can do a deficit for a few weeks and then go back to a maintenance mode and you'll do great.
I like the analogy However I don't take it to be 100% true Our body is a complex system I do believe if u run a deficit you will lose weight But you have to be careful Because our bodies release hormones which Could make our bodies hold onto calories Even if we are in a deficit. But we are all different and must find what works For our body Thanks for the greats posts I really enjoy reading them!!
I think we are in exact agreement James. What you are referring to is a slowing of our metabolism, which can definitely occur when we run a deficit for a long period of time (but in actuality it isn't that our bodies are holding onto the calories and keeping us from losing weight on our deficit ... it's that our deficit isn't a deficit anymore because our metabolism has slowed). I wrote about that in the article "maximizing metabolism" so check that out.
If we consider the p90x diet guide, the fat shredder phase is very low carb to see the max weight loss. Not saying all carbs are bad but certainly do not help with the weight loss.
In my opinion, the fat shredder is high protein because that keeps a person feeling full and satisfied longer, thus reducing the amount of food they crave (because the blood sugars remain more constant). I totally agree that carbs (depending on the source) don't help with weight loss. I wrote an article "good carbs/bad carbs" that goes into more detail on that.
You can still eat like crap on a calorie reduction and you still won't be healthy (although you may lose a minimal amount of weight). Additionally with a calorie reduction you have to assume that one will be reducing micronutrient intake as well. So less calories and less vitamins. Not healthy.
I agree with you about some of your points but the reason vegans stay thin can also be attributed to the low intake of simple sugars and high glycemic foods like you said. I just wanted to post a counter argument just to see what you thought. Personally I've followed the 'paleo' plan and seen steady weight loss and ability to maintain my current weight. However with the paleo plan I did not have to go on a calorie deficit because of the ways that fat and protein are digested by the body. I still eat 30 to 40% of my calories from carbs but the carbs are all veggie or fruit sources. I notice if I add in sweets (cake, cookies, ice cream, bread) I will surely gain back 5 to 10 lbs easy within the day to next few days. But again this is my observation. Good job for those who can handle a calorie deficit but what happens when you come off the deficit? Weight will come back and come back easier if you go back to your old ways.
Hey Al, many raw vegans eat tons of fruit which is full of simple sugars. Vegans are no more likely to be on a calorie deficit than paleo dieters. And as for what happens when you come off the calorie deficit -- you maintain! I ran a deficit in round 1 while going from 255-212 (ate 1900 cals per day, body fat went from 23% to 8%). Then I went to 3000 cals for maintenance and actually lost 4 more pounds in round 2 (body fat went from 8% to 5.5%). Since then I've been at about 3200 cals (both when I was still on a balanced diet of 40/40/20 and now on a vegan diet of 80/10/10 -- the 80 being carbs). And my weight and body fat have remained the same. Anyone who adds junk food to their diet will probably have a hard time maintaining a low body fat (you and I both LOL!) That has nothing to do with the fact that you are on a paleo diet and I am on a vegan diet.