If you have ever posted a question on your Facebook asking for advice on losing weight, you no doubt became inundated with a lot of answers. Everyone is quick to offer their advice. In the parlance of one Arnold Schwarzenegger, they’re giving you the wrong advices. Yet, it still works for a lot of people. What’s up with that?
While their answers are grounded in their own experiences and are technically “wrong,” there is a lot of science floating around that can answer this question.
But it all comes down to one thing.
Calories are a source of energy. In fact, a calorie is the unit of energy needed to raise the temperature of a gram of water by 1° celsius. So you spend this energy by your mere existence. Resting, breathing, things like that. We call this your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
Add in things like fucking your spouse, doing dishes, and sweeping the floor—or whatever else you do in a given day—you have your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). And this is what matters. To lose weight, you need to burn more energy than you are taking in. That is, take in fewer calories than your TDEE. So where does this nonsense advice you’ve been force-fed come into play? Well, let’s look at that advice.
No Carbs After Six
This makes a lot of sense when you think about it. And it isn’t because carbs are evil, or some sort of demonic presence dropping fatty deposits within you while you sleep. No, carbs are vital to your existence. And you can eat them whenever you want, as long as you are in a negative energy balance.
Let’s say you work a 9-5 job. You get home, you eat a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs while you watch Supernatural on Netflix. This is after you had a big ass bagel with a whole milk latte at Starbucks this morning. Did I mention you put a shit load of cream cheese on it too? Because you did. Because a plain bagel with nothing on it is no way to live.
Then for lunch, your office brings in assorted knick knacks to eat. Doughnuts, Chipotle with loads of rice, and little bite size wannabe Cuban sandwiches. So you eat a bunch of those. So of course when dinner comes, you’re starving and you want that big ass plate of spaghetti with meatballs.
When the time comes for you to say “I need to lose weight,” and your friend says, “Yeah cut those carbs out after six,” you are now deprived of your beloved spaghetti. Meatballs are still ok, though. Now, it is time to make that cut. By virtue of you eliminating the spaghetti, you have effectively eliminated a shit load of calories for the day. You have just made a negative energy balance. So while it doesn’t matter when you eat the carbs, the deadline you gave yourself worked its way into this bit of scientific delight. And hey if you like watching Supernatural while not eating, and it is working for you, more power to you.
Cardio Only Will Lead to the Gains of your Dreams
After a few reassurances that you are “fine just the way you are,” another Facebook friend is going to say you need to do cardio. Just go for a walk. Run (fucking gross). elliptical. Whatever. And cardio isn’t bad. It’s actually good for your heart. I hear you need that to function efficiently to live a decent life. But is it the cardio that is making the difference?
That depends. Let’s take the above scenario. Instead of cutting the carbs after six, you say ” I am going to walk for an hour after work.” Not only does this mean you are forgoing Supernatural, but you are adding to your negative energy balance. If your TDEE is a certain amount right now, before changing anything, and you don’t change anything at all, then yes the cardio made the difference. You added it in and burned more energy. Simple right?
Cutting Out ALL the Carbs
Solid gold, this one. Take your daily scenario. The theoretical one I described above. You take away the spaghetti, the bagel, the loads of rice, and you have put yourself into a caloric deficit. If you change nothing else but this, you will lose weight. This is also a recipe for rebounding and getting to a higher weight than you were before. Sometimes these restrictions can be too much. Then you might backfire by bingeing. And you don’t want that.
But if you can stick to this, so much the better.
While there is no such thing as a “clean” food, we know what they are. At the very least, we know what they are in a general sense. So in the morning you swap out your bagel and latte with black coffee and an egg white omelette with spinach. You pack your lunch with a can of tuna, an apple, and chunk of smooth Peter Pan Peanut Butter on a slice of Ezekiel 4:9 bread. For a snack, you have some almonds. When dinner rolls around, it’s “fuck off, spaghetti,” and you find yourself sitting in front of a plate of chicken titties and broccoli. And a nice little side of brown rice for desert. And of course, it works.
I actually like the clean eating model. I mean it is possible to eat doughnuts and lose weight, clean eating allows you to seek out some dope ass nutrient dense foods. And those are good for your health. Things like broccoli, spinach, and carrots are all good examples of nutrient dense foods with a low calorie content.
Also, while not impossible to do so, it is difficult to binge and overeat “clean” foods.
The Optimal Model
Of course, for a better aesthetic, better bone strength, and better longevity, these strategies fucking suck. Except for the cardio, these are just covering the wound. Do you think you can no carb diet your entire life? Maybe you can. I hope you don’t get invited to a wedding anytime soon. But they still can help with losing weight.
So how else can we create the negative energy balance you need? That depends on the road you travel. My friend and client Jim started at 500lbs. He knew he needed to lose weight. So he fixed his diet. It worked for a while. No lasting changes and a bit of a rebound. He knew it would be more healthy to exercise. So we worked together to make it happen. He still eats at a caloric deficit. Yet, he still enjoys foods like pizza. Angry Orchard ciders. Tacos and burritos. You know. All the fun stuff for a balanced life.
More important than that, he hasn’t succumbed to any unwanted bingeing in over six months. That’s a big win for a guy who has now lost 265lbs. Besides overcoming his food issues, he also exercises and walks sometimes. Not a bad combo. Here he is now:
Not only that, but having muscle mass is better than not having it. Muscles serve a purpose. They help you move, and building them makes you stronger. Both of which are advantageous to long life. Especially that movement part.
So the only thing you need to lose weight is a negative energy balance. That’s the one weird trick for losing weight. If you can follow no carbs, no carbs after six, or cardio, so be it. But, for an optimal life, throw some resistance training in there along with sensible food choices and you’ll be good to go.
Sign Up for more awesome shenanigans and free fitness related stuff: