The Gradually Awesome Approach to Extreme Fat Loss

18 Mar

warning fat loss

We have added an additional Extreme fat loss class at 7 p.m. on Monday evenings.  This class is for people that have an extreme amount of fat to lose.  If you are a woman under 30% body fat or a man under 20%, this isn’t the class for you.  We also added a challenge specific to people with an extreme amount of fat to lose that goes for a year long in the Science Lab that is based on the concepts of this article.  If you want instant access to the class, you can purchase either the yearly subscription or the four payments option.  Here is a link that runs through all that you get (including the Metabolic Flexibility e-book from Mike T Nelson.)

I’m going to have to get Chris Spealler on video at some point, because something he said changed the way I viewed fitness forever and I am relatively certain it will change yours as well.  I am paraphrasing, but in the Level 1 class I attended he said, “If you think we are programming for CrossFit Games athletes, you are dead wrong; they are but a fraction of the people working out in our gyms.  What we do scales for the 70 year old grandmother as well as CrossFit games athletes.”

Wow.  I really hadn’t thought of it like that.  Before I heard him say that, I viewed CrossFit as a place where already fit people went to become more fit.  After all, that was how my journey went.  When I first walked into the gym to join 2 years ago, not only was everyone really welcoming, but they were also in really great shape.  Many were college athletes with years or decades of training; on the other hand, I had basically sat on my ass for 25 years until I reached an epiphany.

If you want the real truth, here it is:  I was tired of seeing pictures of myself with a double chin.  I was tired of not being able to perform as a man for my family; that includes everything from carrying my daughters up the stairs when they fall asleep in front of the television, as well as the connection that couples make to reinforce their bonds with each other.  I was sick and tired of being sick and tired; it finally occurred to me that being a functional human being mattered.

What About Our Obese Brothers and Sisters?

I wish there was a more delicate way to put this; I swear to you that I didn’t want to use the “O” word but “big” doesn’t quite describe the population I am writing this post for.  I don’t want to offend anybody, but I won’t dance around the issue because I’ve been there.  I had been on many deficit diets before I began my last round of weight loss and actually began studying nutrition.  Most of my attempts ended in failure and left me with cravings from being underfed all of the time.

One of the real advantages of being heavy is that your body actually has to add muscle to keep you alive, so some of our “biggest” brothers and sisters are also some of the strongest people in the gym.  They also get sick and injured more frequently; they end up leaving our gyms prematurely and I think I can tell you why.  There are huge pieces missing from the puzzle, like adequate nutrient intake and (to a certain extent) programming adjustments that account for their abilities.

While CF has its fair share of detractors who just don’t “get it”, a lot of the negative criticism is self-inflicted.  People are under the impression that our coaches just put something on the board and bark at us while we attempt to do things we aren’t physically capable of doing.  Part of the reason they think this is because people are uploading a lot of shitty videos that seem to imply exactly this; there are some great examples of CrossFit on YouTube, but they get blurred over by all the videos of people hurting themselves or training with no regard for form.

The Gradually Awesome Approach

As most people know, I have absolutely zero beef with either Paleo or The Zone Diet that gets taught in the level 1 certification classes.  Both are tools that, if used in the correct manner, can greatly benefit people.  However, if these diet methodologies are applied incorrectly, they can really do some harm.

That’s a bit what this blog is all about; making the pivot to show people how to use all the information I’m putting out there, regardless of where they’re coming from or where they want to go.  I get a lot of questions from people who think that this stuff only applies to folks who’re already ripped up and on the road to six pack abs.  When someone asks, “But what if I have a lot of fat to lose?” I tell them that the gradually awesome approach applies to them as well, just differently.  Allow me to explain.

Extreme Deficit Dieting and CrossFit Will Leave you Broken and Hurt

This post started because I had someone reach out to me that said they weighed 430 lbs. and after CrossFitting for a year, they could not drop below 390 lbs.  I get a lot of questions that really touch my heart that I don’t have the answer to.  I wish I did, but I don’t know everything.  However, this is a topic I know a good bit about and I would suggest that what I am about to tell you, you have never heard said quite this way.

When I weighed 215 pounds, I estimate that my body fat percentage was in the lower-to-mid 40’s.  By the time I’d worked up the courage to actually test, I had lost 30 pounds and was still 31.4% body fat.  After several years, I have been as low as 9% but I currently sit at about 12%.  I might not know everything, but I do know how to mobilize fat.  I am a “fatologist” if you will.

Basal Metabolic Rate, Total Daily Energy Expenditure and What it Means for People with More Body Fat to Lose

What I keep hearing when people run our calculator is, “Wow, that number just seems so big.”  Even though I’m presenting a really compelling argument for speeding up your metabolism by eating more, people don’t want to jump all-in.  I’m not exactly sure why that is really; I definitely understand the fear of getting fat and conventional wisdom surrounding nutrition makes it seem like the “eat more” strategy won’t work out all too well.  Here is the part I had wrong the whole time that I had to figure out for myself:  I didn’t have a nutrient density problem.  I had a nutrient deficiency problem.

All of the foods I was eating before I got healthy left my body wanting more food, even though I was eating a ton.  The reason was simple; I was overly-reliant on foods deficient in macronutrients (like processed carbohydrates) and I was underfeeding on things like fats and proteins.  I was also severely deficient in micronutrients (aka vitamins).  Obesity is, in effect, merely a symptom of malnourishment.

For most people, once they start to add nutrient-dense foods, they often complain of feeling full and that they can’t eat anymore.  It seems counter-intuitive to suggest that people should force-feed themselves, but in fact that is exactly what I am going to suggest (just probably not the way you’d think.)

In the email I mentioned earlier, the gentleman ran the calculator and came up with a number of 5,000 calories a day.  I am, in fact, suggesting that this person COULD be eating 5,000 calories a day to perform better, but he wants to LOSE fat I’ll go ahead and take off (10 to 20%) for the sake of presenting an example.  The point being that an extreme deficit isn’t exactly necessary because the actual energy deficit happens naturally as work capacity increases.  You simply adjust as you lose weight and the numbers from the calculator start to change.

Now, there are a lot of factors that go into this; I am not a doctor, nor am I a nutritionist.  This is not medical advice.  If you are curious as to whether or not what I am talking about is based in science, I can assure you that no concept related to human nutrition has been studied more thoroughly.  It is very well known that extreme hypocaloric diets cause more problems than they solve.  For your body to function at its best, regardless of where you’re at right now, it requires food.  If you deprive your body of food to try and repent for past misgivings, you aren’t helping yourself.  You are making your problems worse, inside and out.

Here are two examples of a nutrition plan for our friend.  Neither will be deficient in any macronutrient, but we will try to achieve some type of balance.  The first is a relatively high fat/low carb day:

  •  He’s a pretty big dude; weighs in at 390 lbs. and stands at 6’3″, so his frame supports his weight quite well.  We know his body fat percentage is 55%.  We can drop his calories by about 500 a day without risking muscle loss.  The more specific we can get, the more effective the plan will be, so I urge you to have a BOD POD or DXA Scan performed.  Until you can get a body fat test use “Moderately Active” on the ETP calculator as a way to be both conservative and adjust for limited work capacity.
  •  We’ll set his protein at 400g, or 1600 calories (each gram of protein equals 4 calories.)
  •  Carbs will be set at 200g, or 800 calories (each gram of carbohydrate equals 4 calories.)
  • Fats will round everything out at 150g, or 1350 calories (each gram of fat equals 9 calories.)  I would like to see most of these fats come from meats.  For more info on why check out this article.

To sum things up:

  • Protein:  400g/1600 calories
  • Carbs 200g/800 calories
  • Fats 150g/1350 calories

Total:  3750 calories

While I think there is value in counting calories occasionally, I am offering these numbers as a means of a more intuitive way of eating.  Many of the people reading this article are coming from a severe restriction model.  This is meant to just help them figure out what ballpark they should be in.

Now let’s take a look at a higher carb macro plan to get the metabolism rolling and help our example crush a workout day:

  • Protein we will keep drop to 300g/1200 calories.  This is closer to his LBM and will make room for more carbs but still gives him plenty of protein to build muscle.  Remember, the more information you have, the more precise you can be; knowing your BF% is extremely beneficial at any stage and provides for better calculations.
  • Carbs will increase to 400g/1600 calories.  Yeah, I said it:  400 grams of carbohydrates!  The added carbs will give a nice bump to metabolism.
  • Fats will drop to 100g/900 calories on these days to make room for the extra carbs.

So we’ve got:

  • Protein:  300g/1200 calories
  • Carbs:  400g/1600 calories
  • Fats:  100g/900 calories

Total:  3700 calories

Remember, this is a guide.  Your personal situation will differ and ultimately we teach you a way of testing that allows you to figure out what works best.  You can (and want to) play with the numbers for more balance.  It certainly seems like a big number, but you have to keep in mind that a lean 6’3″ person would also require a lot of food.

These protein recommendations are probably going to require some level of supplements.  We recommend mostly whole foods with Progenex making up the difference.

How to Apply This In Real Life

Basically, you just cycle the fat and carbs days around your workout days.  Our example tries to workout 5-6 times a week, and I have some thoughts to share regarding his training that I talk about in the “Coaching Adjustments” section later in this post.  Frankly, I like athletes to do what feels right; if the scale is higher, if you are feeling more watery/bloated, or if your performance is suffering, it’s possible that the carbs are getting away from you a bit.  While this macro plan isn’t an excuse to go back to the old habits you’ve put to rest, you are absolutely going to need some energy density in your food choices to fuel your activity levels.  Take it slow and make gradual changes to the way you eat.  What that looks like for each person is highly individual, but I can tell you that lean meats and veggies ain’t gonna get you there; eating like half the man (or woman) you are will stall your progress.  There’s no way around it; you have to Eat to Perform!

One thing I do like about starting at TDEE -10 to 20% is that for obese populations, there are a lot of medical and metabolic issues related to chronic overfeeding and inflammation.  Whereas most people do well eating at TDEE (and may in fact benefit from slight overfeeding), when you’re starting from this perspective the minus percentage actually acts as a bit of a hedge.  As these conditions start to recover, you can start to eat closer to TDEE.  Every month, just check in with the calculator and adjust your numbers to your new reality.  Things might be slow in the beginning, but more energy should equal greater output.  The biggest part is going to be figuring out how (and at which times) to eat wholesome foods that are good for you but also full of energy.

Another thought is that you want to get more aggressive with Control Days that allows for a few more days with lower calories/lower carbohydrates so you can clear out inflammation.

Coaching Adjustments

I think it should be obvious that these are special circumstances, so they require a bit more thought.  The box I go to has two locations:  one is strength focused and the other takes a slightly more cardio-centric approach.  This is a good starting point for this discussion because most people with a good amount of fat to lose want to soul-crush themselves with cardio.  Now, I could make a really strong argument for no cardio at all (ZERO), but I won’t.  However, if these athletes are finishing WOD’s in 35 minutes when the rest of the class is finishing them in 20 minutes; we are letting these folks down as coaches.

Being obese is extremely stressful on the endocrine system and adding to that stress with excessive cardio only makes the problem worse.  Combined with underfeeding (which is a big part of the problem), it’s no wonder so many of these athletes are holding onto fat.  Think about it; there’s no energy coming in but there’s plenty going out and the nervous system interprets this as an all-out assault on the organism.  The control center of the brain starts running the organism more efficiently by slowing down the metabolism and holding onto fat so that the energy doesn’t run out as quickly.  A great strategy is to have them on a time cap.  If you feel destroyed after 35 minutes, it might be appropriate to call it a day after 20, but this is up to the individual and their coaches.  Have the conversation and utilize the support that CrossFit offers to help utilize this technique.

Not only will a time cap help keep stress levels at bay, but it will also spare muscle  Overweight bodies carry a lot of muscle, so let’s try and keep it rather than tearing it down with a ton of cardio that does little to build muscle and pushes the stress response even harder.  This is where being big really comes in handy.  All that weight can translate into quick, brutal strength development, so another great strategy would be to modify workouts to focus more on putting up weight rather than conditioning.  As their eating patterns start to synchronize with their performance patterns, they will become more “right sized” and the cardio adjustments will come more naturally; as inflammation decreases, the heart, arteries and lungs will catch up.  At that point, you can begin focusing more on conditioning and really pound your cardiovascular system if it appears to benefit you.

Lastly (and maybe more importantly), a lot of obese people try to use exercise to quickly burn off the extra adipose tissue they added by spending years making bad nutritional decisions.  For most people, it just won’t work.  This is the opposing philosophy of what I refer to as the “earn your Snickers approach to fitness.”  Basically, these folks are wearing themselves thin and attempting to pay a debt related to previous bad choices; they look at their current body composition as a punishment that they must repent for.  This doesn’t just apply exclusively to exercise of course.  A lot of the time, they try to make amends by eating less.

The “Gradually Awesome” approach is the antidote to the “Gradually Awful” approach they were formerly utilizing.  Nobody became obese overnight; it usually takes years of mindless eating and sedentary living to add on hundreds of pounds and no amount of self-abuse through excessive exercise will change that.  In fact, it will make you sick and set you back.  Take my advice and chill the heck out!  Enjoy the fitness you’re developing; go hiking, have more sex, do anything if you feel like it but stop running yourself into the ground, it isn’t helping.

“What’s Your Four Minute Fran Weight?”

If you absolutely positively have to go to the gym, I have a great plan for those days.  This is taking constantly varied to a new level.  It’s a fun adjustment to make and you can use it as a finisher on strength training days.  Consider this:  “Fran” ends in 4 minutes.  What modifications can the athlete make to get there?  You could also do this with “Grace.”  “What’s your 3 minute Grace weight?”  Don’t stop there; what about Isabel or any of the “Gals” or “Hero” WOD’s?  For Fran, it might mean you’ll have to lower the weight on thrusters or do assisted pull-ups with a band, even if you don’t normally use one.  For “Diane” it might mean using 2 or 3 pads instead of trying to do hand stand push-ups as prescribed.  Trust me; people will love these days (even the WOD killers).

Obesity is linked to many of the leading causes of death in the Western world.  It can be extremely hard to recover from, especially when the standard prescription is to exercise more and eat less.  As we’ve covered in this post, depriving yourself of food is rarely the answer.  When you ask more of your body, your body asks more of you; when you become active at any body weight or composition, your nutritional requirements go up.  Eating to fit your lifestyle becomes more (not less) important.  Although an intelligent deficit strategy (like -10) can be an extremely useful tool in the fight to regain your health, extreme underfeeding in an attempt to render dramatic weight loss is going to be about as effective as extreme overfeeding to render dramatic weight gain; it’s just not going to work out how you’d imagine it would.

Once you’re exercising and eating to support your activity, your body will begin to heal itself, but this is a life-long journey.  It takes years of effort and commitment; there is no magic pill, but a gradual approach to nutritional modification and a sustainable plan that you can adhere to long-term will eventually take you where you need to go.

41 Responses to “The Gradually Awesome Approach to Extreme Fat Loss”

  1. Luigi almont March 18, 2013 at 11:56 pm #

    I weigh 245 now standing 6 feet 1. I need help with how many calories I should eat to gradually loose fat?

  2. 500poundbrent March 19, 2013 at 12:31 am #

    This was a great post! I needed it because I am THAT guy! You know the obese one this post is written for. As a former athlete I love the appeal of Crossfit but being 530 lbs …well let’s say it makes it hard to do handstand presses…..thanks so much for this blogpost….I have a question….When you calculate a persons calorie intake do you adjust it based on their body fat….( should a person that weighs 500lbs with 30% body fat eat more calories than a person that weighs 500lbs with 49% body fat … person has 350 lbs of muscle the other has less than 250..). Thanks again

    • Paul Nobles March 19, 2013 at 12:37 am #

      It would matter, try the calculator I posted in the other comment to see how the values differ.

  3. cvanthul March 19, 2013 at 12:43 am #

    I’m loving these blogs but having a hard time putting the eat more into practice. I consider myself below the moderately active level. I strength train 3-5 days a week at home for 30-45 minutes and do cardio for 30-45 minutes 3x a week, cycling right now as I’m dealing with PF. The calculator puts my TDEE at 2500. o.O Today my net is 1147, and I’ve been eating ALL day. And yes, most of it is fruits, veggies, and eggs/chicken, etc. I’m not a big fan of grain carbs simply because I feel so bloated when I eat them and I get lots of cravings. So, how does one eat more and what kinds

    • Paul Nobles March 19, 2013 at 2:09 am #

      FAT! It’s extremely rare for me to eat grains. Also add some starch to your evening meal. Have a dessert like my coconut milk smoothies. I’m all about nutrient density but a lot of Crossfit folks need more energy density too. Also don’t forget dark chocolate and a glass of wine. You are just eating too clean, it’s unnecessary and detrimental.

      • cvanthul March 19, 2013 at 2:48 am #

        I can def get behind some dark chocolate and a glass of wine! Thanks for your reply and your blog.

  4. SamaraSamara March 19, 2013 at 2:07 am #

    Yet again a wonderful, informative and easy to understand post. Thankyou!!! (It has only been 3 weeks since I even heard the word cross fit, and am already addicted… your posts make the exercise worth it!)

  5. Rodney March 19, 2013 at 2:09 am #

    As usual, this was a great post. I wish all my fellow athletes would read this and digest this plethora of fitness information.

  6. Crystal rice March 19, 2013 at 2:31 am #

    Thank you for putting such good information out there. I am wondering how you calculate for people so they can meal plan accordingly?

    • Crystal rice March 19, 2013 at 2:34 am #

      I just found the calculator! I also have the book..I have to read more into this/ good stuff!

  7. whatcanido? March 19, 2013 at 6:20 pm #

    would this approach be the same for someone who now only has nagging weight? well, fat..i can’t say weight bc when i started cf I was 115/120, now i’m 135#
    this seems so measley to anyone who has a greater challenge. I’ve hit a platue, if you will, for performance and loss.
    it may seem crazy to consider the need for fat loss at a weight at that, but its a result of super poor eating, then 3 yrs of prenancy, and the 115 was after I lost 25.

    • Paul Nobles March 19, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

      Simply put, yes, the actual revelation of this article was that an extreme deficit is detrimental. That applies to your situation as well. It’s really not the numbers or weight, you need to be mostly fed to increase work capacity and get gradual gains. It requires some tinkering but it’s the lifelong plan and I believe it’s the only thing that truly works because when you empty out your fat cells they are more inclined to fill back up easily. This is commonly referred to as rebounding.

  8. stle57 March 19, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    Thanks for all the great info that you have put out there. Lots of good stuff, and I wish all this information was out there a year or two ago. 🙂 Anyways, the one thing I question is the high fat. I agree that fat does not make you fat, but fat intake should be controlled right? You need fat for hormone stability, especially for women, but what if you are trying to just lean out. Get rid of the last 10 pounds. I’ve been trying FOREVER(2 years), and the only thing that sort of worked was 6 meals a day, high protein, mod carb, mod fat. Now, I said “sort of worked” because it worked for the time that I was doing it, 3-4 months, then I gained the weight back. Any thoughts?

    • Paul Nobles March 19, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

      Yes, the only thing that REALLY works is a high functioning metabolism possibly with a small deficit. Mostly though in a fed state work capacity increases, it can take a few weeks to really see the effects but working out fed can really change the calorie equation quickly and with carbs get your metabolism rolling.

  9. Dude March 20, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    It seems with the calculations, fat intake is based on the difference of protien calories and carb calories. How do you gauge what the starting point is for an individuals carb requirements? Does it go off of body weight or a TDEE? In the example in the article, he’s 6’3″ and 390lbs, on low carb days you have him at 200g of carbs, and high card days you have him at 400g. With me being 6’2″ about 225lbs and 24% body fat, my TDEE is around 3200. Should I be intaking the same amount of carbs and just adjusting fat accordingly, or does each individual have different carb requirements?

    • Paul Nobles March 20, 2013 at 11:09 pm #

      We did a cycling example. So applying his example to your example, you might go 2 highish fat days and 1 highish carb day. I would say I high carb day for you might be 250-300g but this is all very individual. You’ll have to put the pieces together just remember unless you want a severely repressed metabolism carbs need to play SOME role in the way you eat.

  10. Erika March 22, 2013 at 11:57 am #

    Love your blog! Your articles have been very insightful! I know I need to make some adjustments but not sure where. I am a 49 yo female. I have been eating a pretty strict VLC paleo diet for the better part of 3 years. I crossfit 4 days a week (2 days on 1 off 2 on) I also do a short recovery run (3 miles) on the middle day, a short tempo 3-5 miles on day 6 and take day 7 as rest. Needless to say i have not reached my goals with regard to being lean. My last bf test (2 years ago)was a DEXA scan ( that showed a body fat of 29.5, lean mass of 100lbs. total weight of 148m @ 5’4″. I have been eating basically the same diet since.i eat a 14 block Paleo/Sone plan converting allmmost all carbs to fat. Do you think CBL is a possible solution for me? Any suggestions you may have would be greatly appreciated!

    • Paul Nobles March 23, 2013 at 11:25 am #

      I know it is. I talked about this earlier, where you are stumbling is protein turnover to add muscle to allow fat to mobilize. For men this happens around 17-20%, women 27-33%. The missing element is the carbs and patience. Keep doing Dexa, it will provide you the path you need to go. Also you really need to think about Creatine, it can really help you get to that last part by preserving your muscle. It will be adding muscle and preserving muscle as well as a more active metabolism that will carry you through the next part of your journey.

      Check out those links and let me know if that helps?

      • Erika March 25, 2013 at 12:05 am #

        Thanks so much for your reply and pointing me to the articles. I have read and reread those and others and I have a couple more questions before I take the “leap” ;)Is it necessary to eat “jumk” carbs to be successful with CBL or can the carbs be consumed in clean foods like sweet potatoes and have the same results? Is creatine necessary to succeed? Thanks again!

      • Paul Nobles March 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

        Absolutely not, in fact, I talk about that all of the time and that’s pretty much what I do. You can totally rely on Paleo friendly stuff like sweet potatoes and ripe bananas and then the coconut milk smoothies.

  11. Susanne March 24, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Hi Paul,
    thanks for all your info. It really opened my eyes. I´ve got a long history of depriving my body of food(nutrients), restricting energie intake (or upping output like crazy), followed by periods of binging. I actually know a lot about nutrition but that didn´t keep me from making mistakes. Last trial was vlc paleo in February, which made me really tired. I´m eating paleo siince november 2012, but not very low carb, what turned out to be pretty good for me. I´m trying to do cbl in the evenings now, as you prescribe it. i have to admit, that reintroducing carbs again led me to binging a lot the last two weeks, which I kind of allowed myself, because i think during that vlc phase my body didi panic a bit, again…..

    I am moderately active. Not crossfitting right now, but doing strength training 3 times a week, working in a goats barn 4 half days a week, rest of days sedentary job.
    My TDEE is 2360, I´m 5´4´´, 163lbs, bodyfat 30 % (?). I don´t want to lose about 15lbs. But I decided not to stress out about it anymore, because this didn´t get me anywhere so far.

    Finally the question: What would you suggest, should I eat my TDEE amount for a while and see what happens? Just to let my body know that there is no reason for holding on to that fat I should maybe not restrict at all?

    Thanks Susanne

    • Paul Nobles March 24, 2013 at 10:54 am #

      Try minus 10 for a bit just as a fudge factor and adjust accordingly. The mirror should help you decide what is best as you gradually add more calories/carbs. Thanks for the post.

  12. Laurie March 25, 2013 at 1:37 am #

    I am new to the site and LOVE IT! I do CF 5 days a week and run an interval the the other day, off one day. I am 42 and have had 5 children. I was highest at 173 after my 5th child. I began to run and taking fat burners! I lost about 20 pounds…this was 4 years ago. I started CF last February and was at a weight of 154. I am now up to 160. My lean body mass is 117lb. I feel great and have been messing with low carb and every and any things out there to lower my body fat. It went from 31 to 26 currently, but the last year things really haven’t changed and I can’t lose the fat in my mid section. The last 2 months i have focused on eating protein as much as my weight and clean eating choices. My sweet cravings have subsided, I feel great, but I can’t lose pounds. I was following the deplete day of carbs on cardio days since January…as I plugged it into, I was still getting several grams of carbs…what is my problem??? I would like to see what a good ratio of carbs and fat are to my 150 grams of proteins…and leary about creatine….but sounds interesting! Thanks for your help!

  13. Jen March 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    Hi Paul. I have been reading and re-reading your articles as I try to “dial in” and practice patience for the gradually awesome approach. Like most of the other ladies who commented here, I am in the same boat of needing to shed fat (and a couple of vanity pounds wouldn’t hurt either). I definitely have muscles, but need to get rid of the fat around them so you can actually see them. 🙂

    Like Susanne, I got a little carried away this week and need to reign it in. I was low carb for so long that I got a bit crazy… I am back to my TDEE -10 this week which is what I did the week before and I felt really good at (1875 cals, 140g protein which is my weight, 100g carbs and 120g fat).

    I read the articles (again) about creatine and BCAA and I am thinking that it could be the missing piece. I WOD fasted first thing in the am (6:00) so would your recommendation be BCAA pre-WOD and creatine post-WOD? More than anything else, my goals are lose BF to see these awesome muscles I have built by doing CF. I am not looking for anything crazy here, but just some visible muscles and to lose the fat in my mid-section so I can feel good at the beach.

    My week looks like this: M, T, W – WOD 6am, R- Run HIIT 6 am, F- WOD 6 am, S- WOD 8:30 am, S- rest. Because of my morning workout schedule, I CBL the night before. I am at 29-30% BF, so I am not doing a post-WOD shake (per your recommendation).

    I bought both the BCAA and Creatine (which I hopefully did correctly through your site). Aside from this possible missing piece of the puzzle, am I doing it all right and just need to be patient? I am very new to this and I know dialing it in is a big factor, but am I at least on the right path here? I hope the addition of the supplements will help the “dial in” factor and I will start seeing some results with them.

    • Paul Nobles April 1, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

      this is really so involved I can’t possibly do it justice in comments. Can you hop in one of Science Lab classes, as I recall you are a member.

      • Jen April 1, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

        Yes, I am member. I will check out the times and sign up for one. Thanks!

      • stle57 April 1, 2013 at 2:19 pm #


        I am in the same boat as you! I was in the Sunday session, and it helped. Would like to know which session you’ll be in if you’ve signed up already. Maybe we should get a private FB group together to support each other in staying consistent, and jot change anything for a month. I would really like to hear people’s results using what Paul recommended. Thoughts Paul?

      • Paul Nobles April 3, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

        that might be a good idea but honestly it’s a long ways off. That would require a level of moderation I just don’t have the time to do but it could be a service we offer for science lab members. That’s actually a pretty good idea.

      • Jen April 3, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

        stle57- I am signed up for the Women’s Seminar tonight (Wed 4/3) at 8:30E / 7:30C. If you join the class tonight, we can def hook up and at least become FB friends so we can stay in touch. I would love to have another person to talk to about CBL and the journey.

  14. Jordan Chikalla March 31, 2013 at 8:29 pm #

    Hey Paul great article my question to this is. Will this work for somebody who only works out 2 days or so and that it might be strength training instead of crossfitting?

    • Paul Nobles April 1, 2013 at 11:45 am #

      It actually works better in that instance. Trying to kill yourself taking an overly cardio approach when you have extreme amounts of fat to lose is a mistake. Which is why I recommend in the article to modify down. You probably do want to adjust your TDEE down to “moderately” as an adjustment.

  15. Jason April 1, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

    Question, in the first example, you say “We’ll set his protein at 400g, or 1600 calories (each gram of protein equals 4 calories). This is based on lean body mass, which I am estimating at 55% of body weight. The more specific we can get, the more effective the plan will be, so I urge you to have a BOD POD or DXA Scan performed.” Now, 400g of protein appears to be based upon 390lbs of total body weight, so what does the 55% have anything to do with the numbers presented? I have read some who say 1g/lb and some who say 1g/lb lean mass, which is where i thought you were going, but in both examples, protein was 400g, and you simply grabbed a carb number out of the sky, and let the fat adjust as deficit. I’d appreciate it if you could be a bit more speciifc about how to determine where a good starting point would be for the carb number. I’ve read about 30g per day on rest days and 1g/lb of carbs on the CBL days (starining days), but I am trying to look at a less aggressive approach. If it matters, I am 215, about 28%BF, run 3/wk and karate 3/wk and strength train 3/wk. Thank you, and sorry for hitting you with so many questions in post.

    • Paul Nobles April 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

      For you I would suggest starting at 200g and potentially working up to 300g with occasional high fat control days. Honestly though, without a science lab membership this stuff gets confusing, so that is why I put that in place.

  16. blueovalbruin April 2, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    Hi Paul,

    Great stuff on your website. Very informative! I am a 30 year old 6’4″ 330lb (~33% BF) guy who does 4 powerlifting-style workouts a week and 3-4 CF WODS per week (often a short 6-8 minute WOD after I do my main resistance training). I started out with LC Paleo and CF ~15 months ago and have lost 90 pounds or so but lost most of it in the first 5-6 months. Progress has been more like 1-2lbs per month since then and it’s been from limiting total calories. Carbs have always been on the low side. I experimented with the zone for 6-8 weeks or so and gained 2lbs of muscle but lost only 2lbs of BF (I was at 28 blocks with ~120gr carbs per day). After reading your site and carb nite and the CLB book it seems my metabolism might not be in the optimal state. It seems my current maintenance calories is about 3200 calories or so, well below what it should be (~4200 or so).

    What can I do to fix my metabolism? I saw your post above with the 6’3″ guy at 390. I would imagine I could scale it for my own numbers. You mentioned a high carb plan to fix his metabolism. Would they be high or low GI? Would the carbs be eaten in the context of a CBL protocol? How long would one need to stay on that before they went to a normal plan? Would the plan be any different otherwise from CBL for someone looking to lose a lot of fat? I bought CBL through your site and joined your site a few days ago if you think there would be a better forum for this.

    Thanks Paul

    • Paul Nobles April 3, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

      Not a high carb plan, just a carb plan. Something like 250g would get the ball rolling. Low carb artificially represses insulin and leptin and down regulates your metabolism.

      No, I believe CBL is fine even in your case but you will need more high fat (control days) followed by carb days in the order of 250g-300g for your situation.

      You should really join the science lab for our extreme fat loss classes.

      • blueovalbruin April 5, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

        Thanks Paul,

        I signed up for next Monday night’s class. I’m glad you created that one because the Wed one could be tricky to attend with work. I’m looking forward to figuring out the best way to implement carbs because this low carb thing is killing my workouts. 13.5 yesterday was a disaster and the squats I did the day before were too.

      • Paul Nobles April 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

        Yes, the last class went extremely well, looking forward to working with this group.

  17. Beth April 3, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    I read articles like this all the time – eat more to lose weight. It really makes me frustrated because increasing my calories to what sounds like a reasonable level ALWAYS causes me to gain fat. According to conventional logic, that makes perfect sense. But articles like these makes me feel like I must be doing something wrong.

    I’m a 5’6, 165lb female, train for powerlifting 3-4 times per week and have a relatively active job as a personal trainer. Outside of that all I do is light recreational stuff, occasional hiking, walking, etc.

    By putting my info into the calculator you link to, with TDEE – 10%, it gives me 2,158 calories per day. To me, that is laughable. To lose weight previously, I’ve had to go down to 1,200 on a rest day, 1,500 on a workout day to continue seeing progress. I’ve since increased that, and, go figure, have been gaining weight.

    I have to wonder what I am doing wrong here. I eat mostly whole foods, once a week or so I go out to eat. Other than that I stick with a relatively Paleo diet. I’ve been adding in more carbs, and also adding on weight as a result.

    I’m just not sure where to go from here, because I have more weight to drop and going back down to 1,200 a day does not sound appealing.

    • Paul Nobles April 4, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

      your short term view is what is killing you. I suspect when your weight goes up it doesn’t go up a lot and you aren’t gradually adding in the food, you are probably starving and eat like mad and then wonder why things aren’t working out. We are adding in another extreme weight loss class on Monday nights (along with the Wednesday during the day). Stop in if you can, pretty sure I can point you in the direction of what you are doing wrong.

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