A lot of people get into fitness to control their weight. There are two major parts of weight control and those are diet and exercise. While exercise is an important part of controlling ones weight, it is not the only thing. Diet, in my opinion, plays a bigger role in weight loss or gain than exercise alone. I hope to focus your efforts more closely by helping you learn from my mistakes during my first cut.
I recently completed a 10 week cut. A “cut” for the purposes of this blog is defined as a period of time in weeks where energy expenditure from exercise is greater than the amount of energy consumed via food. Think intake (Food) less than output (Exercise) resulting in weight loss. At the on set of my cut (05/25/18) my goal was to train for a marathon and lose 10 pounds in the process. I had recently graduated and was in limbo between undergrad and physical therapy school. I had plenty of time to devote to exercise, meal preparations, and recovery. My training regiment consisted of exercising 5 out of the 7 days of the week with two weight lifting sessions on Monday and Friday and intense distance running on the days in between. My diet consisted of mostly plants with fish and dairy as the major sources of protein. I ate to a surplus of 500 Calories on my lifting days and to deficit of 500 Calories on my running days. On weekend days, when I was doing less exercise, I was at a deficient of 1,000 Calories. On lifting days I also cycled carbohydrates. This means I ate more starchy carbs on Monday and Friday than the rest of the week which was actually designed to be low carb. All in all I was at a deficit of 3,500 Calories per week which, ideally, results in 1 pound of body fat lost a week. I concluded my cut recently on 07/20/18.
At end end of week 1 I was down 6 pounds, quite a bit faster than my goal of 1 pound per week, and honestly I was feeling really great! By the end of the following week I ran into trouble though. At the cessation of this week my mental state lay in ruin with my new cut. I vastly underestimated the brain energy required to be successful at the next level of school. Coupled that with my intense training and we have the makings of an unsustainable cut. With the short week and a half between my undergrad and grad programs, I had enjoyed a wonderful level of mental health. I was very happy. But as the second week came to a close I felt worse and worse. My next challenge was cutting at a family event.
My Mother’s side family reunion was set for that weekend. I was worried about both losing some studying time and not being in control of my food over the weekend. I’m sure your family, like mine, eats very well when they get together. This week was definitely over Calories too. However, it was really nice to see all my Aunt’s and others. I was very glad I went.
After stress eating my way through the first half of week 3, I decided I needed to change things up. I reduced my running to 30 minutes a day and added a medley of seed grains in the morning. To make up for these changes I reduced the amount of nuts I had at lunch to half.
I did really well for another 2 weeks bringing us to the half way point, week 5. I had made it back to where I have been at the end of week 1, down 6 pounds. This was the week of my early Fourth of July celebration. I had known for a couple weeks that my cut would suffer yet again this weekend. I celebrated with family, drinks, and wonderful barbecue. I flew in that next Monday to a quiz waiting for me. No way I made Calories this week.
After another three weeks passed I had dinner with my long time friend to send her off to her first big girl job. I actually did well at the meal considering we ate out. We ate at a local fish raw bar. I had oysters, salad, and a few drinks. By this time I was getting the picture that maybe a cut was not the correct way to meet my goals.
I finished out the last week eating what was remaining of my groceries as I was moving to a new place. I finished my cut down 6 pounds. I used a bio-electric impedance machine to calculate help estimate my body fat percentage. When I compared my results pre and post-cut they looked very significant, but I have data from a year prior as well. This data showed that I weight the same amount, but had a much lower body fat percentage, 9% compared to my current 15%. I attribute this finding to large amount of weight lifting I was doing in the prior year. I conclude that my body is in the form that makes it harder for me to sustain a low body fat percentage, which is my goal, with a low percentage of muscle mass. My next experiment is to try to increase my muscle mass or take on a Bulk. This will be the subject of my next post. I fell a little short of my goal, but I learned several very important things about cutting. I will highlight them below.
My weight fluctuated vastly between the weeks
Everyday my weight would be different, and sometimes it would even change a large amount during the same day. If I got off track, even a little, my weight would shoot up. My body was really fighting to maintain weight.
My advice is to be as dispassionate about the scale as possible. Take down the weight everyday if you want, but only really compare the numbers every couple of weeks. Also try to take the measurement on the same day of the week and at the same time of day. If my reference day was Thursday, but I was comparing my weight on a Friday where I ate more; I would get a skewed sense of where I was at weight-wise.
Mastering your hunger is a skill
When you are cutting to lose weight there will be times that you feel hungry. That is just part of cutting, and that was big challenge for me to come to terms with. There are also a lot of different ways to trick you body into believing you’re less hungry out there. Water helped me. I would drink a full glass before each meal, and drink a full water bottle every hour. This helped me feel more full even though I wasn’t actually eating any additional Calories. Another tip I read was to do a set of push ups every time you are about to eat something. At the end of your set you may find that you are less hungry, or the push ups may be a deterrent to getting up and prepping food all together.
Balance is Key
I got to a point in the second week where I could not sustain my plan. I waited until the second week to be sure that my body couldn’t handle the strain. We are very good at adapting to the situations we put our bodies in, and I wanted to see if I could pull out of the slump. When I realized that I needed to change, I did so little by little. You want to try small changes, one thing at a time, so you know exactly what works and what doesn’t. This helps you tailor your cut to you, and makes it easier to recreate results for next time.
Balance is the most important thing I learned during this experience. There is no one size fits all approach to meeting your fitness or general health goals, and having an appropriate level of mental health is sometimes more important than working your plan. I was really invested in my plan, and it led me to feel really bad at times. In the end I was able to get close to meeting my goals after several weeks of lapses. I was only 4 pounds off. In the future I will plan around family events and celebrations as to minimize my slip ups. Know that no one is perfect. There will be times when something come up. You can’t get to your prepped food or you can’t make it to the gym. These things are just part of life. Don’t get to the point where you hurt your mental health to maintain or better your physical health.
Going forward, I will use the cut in short bursts. Because it is so hard for me to maintain a cut with my lifestyle, I think short 4 week stints are the best option for me. My next experiment is to go the other way and attempt to gain weight. I think if I have more muscle I will be able to drop my body fat percentage down more quickly. I plan to bulk for 8 weeks and a follow it immediately with a 4 week cut. I will post the results of my bulk and subsequent cut in later posts. I’m proud that I was able to learn of few things about weight loss, and I hope you gained some knowledge yourself. Please use the “Contact me” portal if you want more specifics about my exercise, diet, or have questions in general. Until next week.
In the name of health,