Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Approaching a Ripped Body?


This post is more personal than most of those that go up here.  I wanted to give an account of my diet over the last 6 months or so and how I've made an attempt, with some help, to achieve what I'd always struggled to attain in the past - visible abs.  I'll talk about the diet, the training and the coaching.

I've been training with weights since I was 15 initially obsessed with bodybuilding, reading voraciously and studying all aspects of diet and exercise with the aim of getting big and ripped.  My body was never built for that though - tall and skinny no matter how hard I tried.  I was a bit disillusioned with the whole thing as my own efforts and dedication got no where while I saw people with less effort grow like weeds due to superior genes or often steroids which in the gyms of the 1980s and 90s were pretty common.

I kept training, encouraged by Stuart McRobert's Hardgainer magazine just to focus on getting stronger on basic exercises and eating lots of food.  It worked to an extent.  I hit 17 stone at one point, but I was fat.  Getting a 38" waist was not part of the plan!  Also while my training was pretty sound I picked up some injuries, particularly a dodgy lower back.

Gradually my focus changed - when I was about 30 I started to slim down.  I had started to do more hillwalking and was just not fit enough.  So I tightened my diet - basically adopting Clarence Bass diet, lots of fibre, veggies and fruit, fairly low protein and lower fat.  I was jogging too and did a few 10k races.  Via Clarence Bass I also learned about interval training and started doing lots of sprints.  It all worked too and I came down to about 13 stone.  I think I lost a bit of muscle in the process too however I think.  Then came paleo....


Hardgainer magazine had featured a series on diet by Stephen Weadon - a diabetic who had controlled his condition through a low carb diet.  He also pointed towards Nourishing Traditions - the Weston  A Price cookbook.  The internet was just coming into its own now around 2000 and so I started searching about this new information.  Also through Clarence Bass I read of Art DeVany  and so was exposed to evolutionary fitness and paleo.  That was it then for the next 10 years or so.  Fuelled by the internet I was off and running into this paleo stuff. If you have followed this blog for long you will have noticed that it for a long time had a low carb / high fat slant.  The blog started back when there were fewer blogs and I was linked to by lots of low carb / paleo leading lights.

My diet was low carb.  I came totally off wheat - and so I remain I can't cope with it any more.  But dairy was different!  Following Peter I gorged on double cream and lots of butter.  I kept blogging  -  all this was ever meant to be was a record of things that I found interesting, a set of bookmarks if you like, but people started to like it and think I know what I was talking about.  Even Jimmy Moore asked me to do an interview but I refused, having nothing to say.

So there I remained, relatively happy but also quite evangelistic about my low carb high fat "paleo" fasting template diet.  But something was up.  (This is just thinking about diet by the way.  On the training front I also got exposed to and distracted by many crazes....kettlebells, functional training, Pavel etc).  Something was up - I was still a bit fat....and getting fatter.

Work had become stressful too as I got promoted beyond what felt comfortable and lots of days started to end with glasses of wine to relax.  Gradually I came round to the idea that carbs were not the demonic foods that I had thought.  Carbsane, Stephan and others began to point out what I should have know for a long time from my earlier gurus (McDonald and Bass) that calories count more than carbs.  one of the things that tipped me was something that I read from Don - the idea that we produce something called amylase an enzyme that is there to digest starch.  I remembered that from school.  We are built to eat starch.

Ok I understand that gluten is a problem, but I could no longer reject spuds.  Or indeed rice as I started to read material from Paul Jaminet.  Somehow the basic low carb high fat template was not making so much sense.

Then there was my gut.  I was starting to get fat.  On holiday in Spain in 2010 I saw my belly lying on the bed I decided that it was time to do something about it.  I was over 13 stone and getting fatter, despite this perfect fatty low carb diet.  Ok the wine had a role, but not a big one. So it all got tightened up.  But still it didn't get me ripped....

The Catalyst

So that took me to earlier this year.  I was eating real food to satiety basically:  breakfast of eggs, bacon and veggies.  Lunch of  baked potato and meat.  Dinner of meat and rice.

Then I read a blog post from Jeff Erno.  I'd followed Jeff for a few years.  He'd been on a similar journey - HIT/Body by Science training and a paleo diet.  He explained how he had started to seriously track his diet on Leangains principles.  Now a bit of history here.  I'd been following Martin Berkhan's writings since the beginning and had actually become a client back in 2008.....but I had not followed the diet because it was not paleo enough for me......I had not understood so much!

In a superb blog post Jeff explained how he had come to see how important calories were and how the indiscriminate eating of fat was throwing him off track.  I was inspired to try this myself and began to record my diet.  I worked out what I should be eating in terms of protein, carbs and fat - using Lyle's articles - and used MyfitnessPal to track my intake.  There was no fasting at this point, just 3 meals a day tracked on my iPhone.

And it started to work.  I was leaning out.  But I wanted more

A Coach

I started thinking about the idea of a diet coach.  I'd read a lot about the importance of a coach - it may be placebo, but if you believe in what a coach tells you then you are more likely to succeed.  Jeff had pointed to the site Ripped Body and as I read through that site I was more and more impressed with the approach of Andy Morgan, the young guy working through the site.  He offered consultancy and so I decided to take the plunge and take him on as a coach.

Here is what I commented on his site after the consultancy was over - 3 months of dieting.

“I chose to work with Andy because I decided that I wanted a coach.  At 44 I had started training at 15 and had kept studying the subjects of exercise and diet ever since.  With my frame and genetics I was never going to be Mr Olympia and my focus had been on keeping fit for my hobby of hillwalking in the Scottish mountains.  I’d also picked up a few injuries over the years via squats and deadlifts so had been limiting myself to bodyweight moves in recent years. 
I still had a desire to be leaner though, just to get my abs.  No matter what I’d done in the past I’d never quite got there.  Working with Andy gave me a very simple and straightforward template for my diet.  Becoming a client also gave me the motivation to stick to the plan and simply to put my trust in what he told me.  To be honest I knew all this stuff already, but putting into place this athlete / coach relationship meant that I did not have to worry about what I was doing, whether it was right or wrong.  It was his responsibility so I just stuck to it and didn’t mess about swapping from one approach to another.  Having a coach took the stress away – I just had to apply the guidelines. Andy’s take on this way of dieting is so flexible that it becomes easy to apply. Of course you still need to do the work, apply the discipline, but this is not too tough.  During the 3 months of the consultancy I lost my Dad and that knocked me off course in some ways, but it was easy to get back on track with the flexible approach that Andy recommends. 
Looking back I now have what I have never before possessed  - some abs.  But I also gained something more important: an understanding of the process and the tools that have got me here. I know where to go next, what to do to get leaner or to add some bulk.  All this information is out there – on the interwebs or in Lyle McDonald’s or Alan Aragon’s writing – but believe me it becomes real and simple when you commit to it and become a client. If you are considering taking that step I would certainly encourage you to do so.”

That was the key idea - accountability.  I could have worked out the diet for myself, but paying money for his advice made me stick to it.

The diet was pretty straightforward.  Intermittent Fasting - there is a lot about that on my blog if you look for it! - each day, so I basically skipped breakfast.  Then calorie and carb cycling.  Rest days were lower calorie, low carb, high protein and moderate fat.  Training days were high carb, high protein and low fat.

I ended up training once a week with weights on a Wednesday and then treating both weekend days as training days when I was out in the hills for walks.


So how did it go?  Everything was tracked  in terms of weight and measurements each week and I also got into the habit of taking photos after my gym sessions - hoping no one walked into the changing rooms as I was taking photos in the mirror!

I was on a recomposition diet and it worked.  My weight stayed the same, maybe lowing a couple of pounds, but I leaned out my waist coming down a few inches.

 OK, I am not ripped but I am leaner than I have ever been in my life and I finally think I understand something about diet and losing fat using s simple approach.  Food quality matters - I know that from my paleo years - but quantity of food matters too.  Calories count and it is far too easy to squander calories on fat rather than carbs or protein.

Also, somewhere in here my Dad died and for a few weeks nothing mattered, least of all diet.

Anyway, here are the photos.


This was in February.  I was smooth!  You might not have even known that I trained much.

This is from April just when I started to work with Andy.  I'd tightened up a bit but still had a way to go.


So these are the after shots.  Still some way to go, but I am getting somewhere now and will continue to  progress:

There is a vein in my oblique....

getting leaner

Starting to add some muscle?
Abs and obliques coming in

Abs ....and some loose skin too

Abs...and legs but I was never Tom Platz
So I am getting somewhere.  OK, I am not ripped to shreds yet, but I have added some muscle and stripped off a bit of fat.  It was not paleo that did it but just tracking my calories a bit.  With the IF / Leangains approach it was also pretty easy with big meals especially on training days.  There is not such thing as feeling deprived.

There is still a way to go to get to where Clarence Bass was at my age:

But it is something to aim for and I know how to get there now!


Having a coach helps - there is much value in the coach / athlete relationship.  It removes stress if you simply put trust in a coach and make yourself accountable.  It forces you to stick to the plan which in itself is most of the battle.  Andy at Ripped Body was a good choice with a good simple approach.

Calories matter - ultimately you lose fat when you are in a calorie deficit.  That has to happen over the piece to make a difference.

Macronutrients matter - protein is satiating.  Carbs and fat give you energy.  Get lots of protein - maybe 1g per lb of bodyweight and then enough carbs and fat.  Carbs are not poison but are essential for function.  They are natural.  Wheat is a problem for me and for many but do not let that scare you away from tubers or rice.

Patience - at 44 I can still improve.  It just takes time and persistence.


Just to mention training, I basically trained once a week on a full body HIT style routine - as in my book Hillfit - using mainly calisthenics / bodyweight exercises:  wall sit, pushups, chins, bridges etc.  My training style is very much John Little / Doug McGuff inspired.   I would love to deadlift and squat heavy but I've hurt myself too often.  Weekends usually featured a walk or run in the mountains and sometimes some practice of deadlift form to work on my hip hinge just for the movement skill.


Steve Parker, M.D. said...

Well-written and inspirational, dude.

Lots of people have those six-pack abs, but you can't see them through the covering layer of fat.

I wonder if simple calorie restriction would have revealed yours.

Anyway, congratulations!


Anonymous said...

Excellent article. Like you, I followed a similar journey from what was essentially Paleo\Low Carb to what we knew all along - Calories count! I was too focused on carb restriction and fat intake and missed the mark on getting calories and macro nutrients right. Like you, I'm back on the right track and seeing results.

I suspect many low carbers will discover this stuff the hard way.

Unknown said...

I'm with you on the wheat, it messes up my guts something awful. I would eat it if I could eat it without ill effect but I'm kind of Paleo by default due to my intestines rebelling at too much wheat. I've been mostly going with rice on account of it's easier for me to eat a lot of it, than to eat a lot of potatoes. Been hitting the fruit pretty hard too.

John said...

This is an interesting story, but to be honest, it's unfortunate that people still have to say things like, "Calories count." It's an analytical truth that calories count in terms of weight, but that statement provides no physiological insight.

The goal should be to further understand what causes fat storage, loss, etc. Eating an enormous amounts of fat and protein can cause fat storage, but it's not because the calorie number passes some sort of inherent boundary. It's entirely possible to build muscle, lose fat, and gain weight at the same time; just observe an inactive fat person over the course of 6 months while he eats better and works out. Or observe a steroid newcomer inject test enanthate and winstrol. VMH-damaged FIRKO mice eat 2-3 times normal without any fat gain.

Of course the difficulty increases when you're dealing with a lean person who chooses not to use steroids, and practical advice may include, "Control calories." But that doesn't mean that statement has any true explanatory value. In a way it is working by accident. People like Lyle Mc and Colpo don't seem to get this, while Peter Dobromylskyj does; that doesn't mean, however, that his current diet is the one that optimizes body comp. It just means that his ideas may advance/refine future practical advice.

js290 said...

In a "calorie deficit" how do you know it's fat being burned for fuel and not glucose via gluconeogenesis?

Anonymous said...

"In a "calorie deficit" how do you know it's fat being burned for fuel and not glucose via gluconeogenesis?"

He has plenty of muscle and very little body fat? That's how you know :)

Chris said...

@js290 - some confusion here I think - gluconeogenesis is the creation of glucose from protein. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluconeogenesis

If you mean was I burning fat or carbs sometimes then that is different.

At any point of course I couldn't say that I was burning carbs or fat, but the proof is that over the period I got leaner.

Chris said...


I've been reading Peter's Hyperlipid for years and find it fascinating even if I don't always understand it! For a good while my diet was based on his and my understanding of Jan Kwasniewski's approach. However to get lean I had to be very simplistic - up the protein, control calories and cycle carbs. This is not a criticism of Peter.

Andy Morgan said...

Interesting to read the background to all this and click through the links Chris. Thanks for being a great client. - largely placebo I'm sure.

Chris said...

Cheers Andy. Of course it was not placebo- your diet and especially the simplified macros were key to all this.

Ondrej said...

Awesome post!
I came to similar conclusions through your page, other pages like bradpilon.com, rippedbody.jp, baye.com and other...you know them all.
The problem I see: you still look for scientific explanation and this kind of complicates what you call "simple" routine.
Training: HIT works. Once a week, good form, no rest between, I do it with dumbbells and although the gain is "slow" as any method, I'll continue.
Diet: As you know, 70 percent of results. BUT? I believe it can be even less complicated. I got good results when I believed in paleo and later even better with very low carb. Now I lose weight very quickly on Eat Stop Eat. I wouldn't even call it diet. I realized I can't control variables. There are only few worth it. I simply don't think that tracking calories is necessary and for me, it's a huge time and attention waster.
But still, my program in the end works with the same principles as yours:
calorie deficit - checked through 2 24h fasting periods.
"carb cycling" - I am not sure if this works. For me it's just ani illusion of control. But if you think about it, I eat less carbs on my 2 fasting days, therefore less carbs during my "not training part of the week" - 6 days, and more carbs on training day.
Protein intake:
I check my protein intake by eating 25-30g of protein per main meal 4x a day, on fasting days it's like 70g for 2 meals (I fast from Monday to Tuesday and from Wednesday to Thursday) This means I am in the region of 70-120g a day which, after reading How Much Protein, is what I believe to be optimal.

I go for a walk for 30 minutes a day.
Sleep: 22:00-7:00 in theory. Yesterday it was 1 AM:-)
I don't even follow these rules 100%, but I already had to buy smaller clothes even though I started as normal, kind of skinny fat: 179 cm, 80 kg, weak. Now I am still weak because I follow all this HIT stuff for pretty short time, but at least I am 71 kg. I want to go up through muscle mass, let's see if HIT is sufficient. I should note I am 22 which means my metabolism is willing to support me.
1x HIT
2x IF 24h
Sleep 8-9 h.
Protein 70-120g.
((30 minute walk a day))

Could it be that simple? Do I miss some key element of Your approach?

Ondrej said...

I forgot that I started creatine monohydrate supp. 2 weeks ago. 5g a day, as everyone recommends these days. Only supplement I tak, although I used to take multivitamin and fish oil.

Aileen said...

Now translate this into menopausal women in high workload high stressed jobs and I'll be really impressed. My issue is consistency. I don't have consistent training because I don't have a consistent job. And the wine.:-)

Ben said...

great story!

so for carbs, then, you'll have potatoes and rice?

Stuart G said...

This was one of the best blog posts that I have ever read. I love this site and Critical MAS, as the pair of you are not scared to chronicle directions that you have taken which have ultimately led to a dead end. This is how we learn. i've lost count for example of the many dead ends I've gone down in my years of training and the amount of money I've spent on training approaches, later abandoned. ( I would be very interested to read a similar approach on the evolution of your training, which you briefly touched on here )Like yourself my training approach has been similar. Instead of a bodybuilding start, mine was initially running, sprints,leading on to distance. Then I got into weights, and discovered Stuart McRobert early on. Having bought most of his books and magazines, ultimately his approach did not work for me ( I was too scared to back up the training with the large amount of eating recommended, never understood the rational behind bulking ) and the heavy training led to injuries and constant aches and pains throughout my body, including my lower back, which won't go. I have to thank Stuart though, because ultimately through him I've discovered others that have led me to where I am today. Without his approach to training, I may well have given up many years ago. At 45 my training is a hybrid of ideas from Richard Winett, Clarence Bass, sprints and slow movement from Mark Sisson ( liked his ideas on exercise...similar in nature to what Bass and Winett prescribe, but I could never get into the full Paleo thing of eating )...and I mainly use a weight training routine inspired from Bill DeSimone, who's books are what I consider to be severely underrated in the exercise field. In recent times I've just got into dietary advice. I was always fairly lean...( I'm currently 5'7 and 157lbs )..with thin skin, so I've always had abs to a degree. I've looked at the paleo angle, but it doesn't make full sense to me. From an evolutionary standpoint ( which they use often ) we are a very adaptive species, otherwise we could not have colonised the extreme areas of the Earth that we do..and cultures around the planet thrive on very different diets. I think on an individual level that we can react differently to various nutrients as we can to various drugs...it's personal experimentation..find what works. I will borrow bits from Paleo..but I won't take it all, you're right carbs are important and not just an after thought.I like the common sense approach to diet ( and exercise ) outlined by Franny Goodritch in his book. Ultimately the sage advice offered by your mum was probably the best..." a little bit of what you fancy" and "everything in moderation"

FeelGoodEating said...


This is wonderful of you to share with everyone!

You know my feelings about it as I went on a a very similar course over the last 7-8 years. Ultimately, it was getting intimate with my calories that did the trick to get me the body composition I was after.

Real food only of course, delicious and satiating meals with a "normal" calorie count for the individual involved will give you the highest percentage success rates.

I remember Jeff E and I talking a few years ago and I was always saying, calories DO matter...
As much as we love bacon and butter and cream...we've got to watch our calories.

Lastly, some personal speculation.
My old martial arts teacher used to tell us years ago (1992) that you need to change how you eat as you age...different stages of life have different requirements. I have not read much about that anywhere but i'm convinced that our food intake needs to change as our body ages. Not just our calorie intake but also the type of foods (macro/micro nutrients) we eat. Look how many people don't eat certain foods when they are young but then develop a taste for it as they get older....and the same for the reverse. There is a clue there in my opinion. I'm not a scientist, researcher or Doctor...so like i said, just my own musings :-)

One of the best posts I've read in years Chris!


js290 said...

@Chris, your ability to burn fat has nothing to do with "calories." As john pointed out, "calories" is necessary effect, not the cause.

What if you can create a deficit by eating more?

Chris said...

@js290 - I have no idea what you mean. Can you try to explain your point a little more please?

I never said that my ability to burn fat was due to "calories". My ability to oxidise fat operates through a series of metabolic pathways in the various cells of my body. Calories / joules are a measure of energy.

"calories is necessary effect" Agan I have no idea what you mean.

You point to Ned Knock's piece - this actually supports what I've been doing - calorie and carb cycling mixed with intermittent fasting.

What is your point?

Chris said...

@ Steve

Thanks for the comment Steve. I appreciate your support

Chris said...


Thanks for the comment, but again I am not sure I really understand your point. Metabolism is complicated - I agree. But the idea of calories in vs calories out as the basic equation is pretty straightforward.

I've done my yeas of reading Taubes and Groves et al but some of the related arguments now just seem like sophistry

Chris said...


Thanks for the comment. If what you are doing is working then keep going. My principles are pretty simple in general - eat real food, do some weight training, keep generally active and get enough sleep. Getting very lean needs a bit more application but the basics don't change. IF / carb cycling / particular macro ratios / creatine etc are just icing on the cake

Chris said...


you sound like my girlfriend. I think there are perhaps hormonal issues for women as they get older that can make fat loss harder. However I think the principles are constant. Real food, strength training, staying active, enough sleep.

Tracking calories through MyFitnessPal might give you some motivation and make you conscious of your food intake? Worth a try?

Chris said...


Thanks. Yes - potatoes, sweet potatoes, white rice, rice noodles. Also fruit - bananas, apples, berries. As long as they fit the macros. I don't eat wheat because it ruins my digestion but rice and tubers are fine.

Check out Andy's site


There is loads of help there.

Ondrej said...

thanks for answer. It has worked so far, but I am kind of beginner. I just want to avoid things like counting and anything that interferes with daily life. Basically, I want to absorb the knowledge, apply it, back off, be patient and get the results.

I try to do the basics you mentioned and actually use the icing without making it too complicated, for which Eat Stop Eat, checking protein intake and creatine will hopefully work well.

Chris said...


Thanks for the comment - that is fascinating to read. We have been on similar paths

Chris said...

@ Marc

as ever, thank you so much for the support and kind words. You are the other side of the ocean, but you are a good friend and I do appreciate your encouragement and help.


Anonymous said...

I think one of the take home messages here is the falsehood of equating Paleo with low carb. Or with high protein or high fat for that matter. Paleo is simply avoiding modern foods and has nothing to do with macro nutrient ratios.

Hats off to you Chris in what may be your ultimate success - stepping outside of preconceived notions and working directly with yourself and your body.

Way to go!

Aileen said...

@Chris - I do track calories and do heavy weights and run etc but consistency is the major problem. I've had the week from hell this week, FIl in hospital and long work days with no breaks so no training hardly, and I just collapse when I get home. So one step forward and two back. Product of working in the public service these days. I need retirement! Plus in the last 2-3 months I have had one virus (2 weeks off) and one major back episode (another two weeks off training). I consider I'm doing well if I can train one body part once a week.

Matt Metzgar said...

Excellent work, Chris!

Drew Stearns said...

Nice work, Chris. Keep it up!

js290 said...

@Chris, your comment:

Calories matter - ultimately you lose fat when you are in a calorie deficit.

This comment is conventional wisdom and a misunderstanding of why calories matter. I'm not going to go into depth on describing the Conservation of Energy, only to say that they do not matter in "command and control" sense.

When you lose mass, it is a necessary effect (Conservation of Energy) that you expended more energy than you consumed. Likewise, when you gain mass, it is a necessary effect that you consumed more energy than you expended. What Conservation of Energy, aka "calories matter", doesn't tell you is how any of that happened, only that it necessarily had to happen.

So, again, your statement isn't particularly meaningful:

Calories matter - ultimately you lose fat when you are in a calorie deficit.

Because in a "calorie deficit," how can one (not you specifically) be certain one's not losing lean/protein mass rather than fat mass? Similarly, in a calorie surplus, how does one know if they're gaining lean or fat mass?

You lose fat when your body is biased towards burning more of it than it stores. Obviously that's the state you have found yourself in, which you should be congratulated for. But that has nothing to do with calories, a measure of heat. For shits and giggles, take the base units of heat and reduce it to mass.

BTW, what Ned's blog post talks about is in order to burn more, one may have to consume more. That's counter-intuitive to the concept of "calories matter." What if by eating less, one actually expends less energy and ends up in a caloric surplus? Metabolic energy input and output are obviously coupled in a very non-linear way. The two cannot be treated independently (i.e. eat less, move more, aka "calories matter").

Chris said...


Thanks for being a bit clearer. Still I think you are over analysing all this a bit too much. I'll offer a few responses for what it is worth, but I get the impression that this discussion will not get far!

Calories matter - in terms of calories in vs calories out - is a truism, and conventional wisdom if you like. As an aside just because something is conventional wisdom doesn't mean it is wrong or to be ridiculed. Yes some elements of conventional wisdom are silly but lots and lots of it is sound and has become conventional wisdom because it has been found to be true. My reference to it all in this post I suppose was as an opposition to what has become conventional wisdom in the low carb / paleo world - that you can eat as many calories as you want and still lose fat as long as you avoid carbs or emphasise fat or whatever the current meme is. I was expressing something of my own journey out of that meme and back towards something more sensible. For a good while I was eating a much higher fat diet - drinking lots of double cream, butter on everything etc - but was getting fatter. I was eating too many calories. It took an adjustment of the macronutrients - cutting fat - to cut calories.

I might not have been clear enough in the post or explained the context from which I was speaking, but I suppose I was addressing the low carb conventional wisdom that calories don't matter - eat as much as you like as long as you avoid the carbs. So we have seen Jimmy Moore for example get fatter and fatter while on a low carb diet. There is more to all this of course but that was the background to which I was writing.

Beyond this, maybe to stay simplistic I would echo what Andy says here:

1. Calorie intake vs expenditure controls whether you gain or lose weight.
2. The macronutrient composition of your diet (carbs/fats/protein) controls the ratio of how much fat vs muscle is lost/gained.

Simplifying further I suppose - quantity controls whether you gain or lose weight, quality (macro composition) controls what it is that you gain or lose.

The approach that I've taken over the past few months - under coaching from Andy - has been to focus on getting the right amount of food - calories - in the right proportions. So yes calorie are only an element here, but a fundamental one. The macro nutrient proportions matter too for various reasons - protein is highly satiating, helps to preserve lean tissue and has a thermic effect in digestion etc for example. One thing about becoming more aware of calories within this mix is to note - as Jeff Erno pointed out in the post I refer to above - is that eating higher fat can easily take your quantity of food beyond what it needs to be to give a weight loss.

The approach I've been using - Leangains style IF - is a little more sophisticated too with some cycling of calories and carbs over the week to take advantage of some other hormonal elements ie regular refeeds / high carb days help to maintain leptin sensitivity etc.

Chris said...


This also fits in with the the Health Correlator post:


on a Leangains recomposition approach - which I've been on - calories over week are just about kept at a calculatined maintenance level. However they are cycled between training and rest days. Maybe 20% higher on training days and 20% lower on rest days, but over all the aim is not to create a massive deficit. Ned's post explains how cycling intake like this might have some moderate metabolic advantage if that is what you want to call it.

However overall I'd want to come back to the basic theme I was trying to get to in my post of describing some of my history and how I got to where I am from what was a Taubes/Groves/Atkins understanding of things - where calorie control is ridiculed - to where I am now, that calories need to be controlled and that addressing things like macro proportions and indeed nutrient timing with carb / calorie cycling etc can help. To be honest while Lyle McDonald can be a pain in the backside his articles and books lay all this out really well. I'd start with this one :
The Fundamentals of Fat Loss
Ok, before I talk details, let me spell out how I would set up the most basic fat loss diet on the planet. These criteria are in order of importance, by the way and are:
1Create an appropriate caloric deficit/set caloric intake appropriately
2Set protein intake
3Set dietary fat intake
4Everything else depends

For most people, simplifying things I'd go with what Josh Hillis says - quantity of food determines scale weight, quality of food controls body composition. Calorie deficit will lead to weight loss - OK that is a truism. Of course there is more to it. But what I was speaking to was those who are where I was - thinking that calories don't matter as long as carbs are limited.

Does this help in adding some clarity?

Chris said...


It can all be tough. I know that. There is a lot more to life than obsessing over diet and exercise. Keep it all in proportion

garymar said...

That Clarence Bass is the spittin'image of actor Kelsey Grammer -- from the neck up only of course.

I've been inspired by Chris to follow a similar Leangains + RippedBody + Jeff Erno calorie-controlled carb-cycling eating style with Max Pyramid/BBS workouts, using the 1percentedge.com IF calculator. +20/-20 Body Recomp at Light Activity for my age group. Wrote an Excel script to track calories and macros, etc.

I'm finding that instead of looking forward to gorging on training days,it's becoming a bit of a pain to have to work at putting food into my mouth to reach a certain calorie level. On rest days the hunger lets me really savor the taste of whole foods.

Chris said...

Garymar. I know what you mean. Thanks

Anonymous said...

great article chris, I've followed a very similar path to yourself (i think i was even at the same movnat course as you!) and ended up hiring andy after reading your mention of him on your blog. I'm not quite as far down the path as you but I'm leaner than I have been in 15 years, its great - thanks!


JamesSteeleII said...

I enjoyed this post Chris. It made me think about things a bit. I honestly do not track anything I eat and eat based upon appetite from a selection of whole foods (Pastured meat/poultry/eggs, fish, raw dairy, tubers, rice, fruit, nuts, bone broths and soups, the occasional sour-dough). I perform an extended fast 2-3 times a week of 16-18 hours which are either my 1x/week training day or days I know I'll be very active (basketball or ~5-10mile walk). This is usually breaking the fast about 1.00pm-3.00pm but on other days I quite enjoy a coffee in the morning with 50g butter and a teaspoon of coconut oil.

Out of curiosity I've decided I'm going to track things I'm eating using myfitnesspal. I don't plan on changing what I'm eating or how much (well not consciously), just curious to see how things are and how they vary day to day.

You got me thinking about getting 'ripped' too. I've always had visible abs (and obliques when posing in the right light ;P) even when I was weighing in at 13stone (I speculate I tend towards storing intramuscular fat as I had a much greater 'mass' appearance at this weight but still looked lean). I'm now at 11stone, stronger and, considering the 3% error in our bodpods reliability, around 6% BF. I wonder whether consciously attempting to alter my diet based upon macro/calorie cycling would really be worth it to get more 'ripped' from my perspective.

There's a part of me that much like wanting to be as big as Arnie wants to look as 'ripped' as CBass. But I wonder whether it's worth the hassle when I'm almost there with no conscious measuring or planning whatsoever.

Just a few thoughts, but anyway you certainly look great Chris. Do you think you'll keep up attaining 'the cut' or back off on consciously controlling?

Anonymous said...

Ball park cost for hiring?

Ondrej said...

JamesSteeleII: Do You think that important part of success is keeping the fasting periods brief as opposed to ESE(16hx24h) and upping frequency from 2 to 3 days a week? Because I think this could be a good compromise between Leangains and ESE aimed more towards body recomposition.
16h fast 3x week. (To prevent any interference with protein synthesis - I read thys on forums, not sure it's true, but people seem to get better muscle building results on shorter fasts)
HIT 1x week
Sleep 8-9 h.
Protein 70-120g.

Thanks for answer.

Chris said...


Thanks for the comments. Clarence Bass has long been an inspiration. To be realistic, I have more chance of looking like that than like Arnold! It is all vanity though. In terms of the next steps it is a 2 week diet break I think, not going mad but just not being as serious. Then back to these macros for a while. I am pretty lean now though and need to go to maintenance.

Chris said...

@ Anon - you need to contact Andy directly via http://rippedbody.jp/english/personal-consultations/

Ondrej said...


"I ended up training once a week with weights on a Wednesday and then treating both weekend days as training days when I was out in the hills for walks."

Did You have 3 training days because the entire diet is built and counted for 3 training days - and reworking the protocol for 1x a week training would be too hard? Do You think it's really important to be more active on remaining two training days as opposed to rest days?
I might give this diet a try, as it's probably the best for body recomposition out there, but I want to keep 1x a week training.

Chris said...


The diet is built around having a surplus on traing days and deficits on rest days. 1 day of surplus a week is not enough. It leaves you with too few calories overall. You need the refeeds for various metabolic reasons - eg getting leptin back to normal - and also psychologically. The feast days are something to look forward to and make the dieting days easy. But 1 a week is not enough

JamesSteeleII said...

@ Ondrej

I'm always sceptical of basing my training and diet on surrogate end points like protein synthesis. I prefer to look to harder measures. Overnight fasting before training produces greater CV adaptation and I've not seen any evidence to suggest that muscle loss occurs with the fasting protocol I follow which is essentially a lower frequency leangains approach.

As I said in my other comment though, I'm unsure whether the vanity goals are worth it in my opinion. That is to say I'm not that interested in trying to get 'ripped' though that may be partly because I am very lean without consciously tracking, measuring and cycling my intake. I eat whole foods when hungry until satisfied, I don't consciously track my macros or calories, but over the last week where I was curious and decided to track retrospectively, myfitnesspal.com puts me at about ~2500kcal/day 100-200g carbs, 130-190g fats, 110-160g protein, and I seem to trend up on carbs on active/training days and down on rest days. Fat is vice versa, protein is more steady. I haven't tried to consciously follow a protocol for macros or calories, just eaten what I was hungry for and based upon my appetite.

I don't think I'd want the hassle of messing around with precision when eating this way is so simple. My goals and much more health and performance related as opposed to vanity anyway. Not that I think thats an unworthy goal, just that its lower on my list of things to do.

Rigger Boots said...

Nice and out full information. i love it.

Steve @ Leaner By Design said...

Hi there

Nice article, nice to see you've made some good gains and improvements to your physique, as we hit our mid forties, those aesthetics become more important, and why not.

I find that the 16/8 lean gains style of eating works really well for me, in fact, I'm just in the process of cutting down from 14% BF or so to hopefully 10%, as an experiment in leaning out and muscle growth.

Irrespective of the science, the pathways etc, if it works and is a sustainable way of eating for people, then it IS the way to go, regardless of whether other avenues would have worked too, more than one way to skin a cat

Congrats in the success