If it works for a 40-year-old it can work for you
October 20, 2020 by Bogi Bjarnason in Instruction with comments
Now that I have your attention, this is not a story about form, disc choice, or course management. It’s the story of how I lost nearly 40 lbs going into my 40th birthday and gained 80 feet of backhand and 25 feet of forehand distance in the process while raising my rating by 20 points and winning my division at the local weekly for 12 straight weeks.
That may not be the story you clicked through to read, but it may very well be the story you need to hear.
Every idea, method, and philosophy ever voiced within the fitness space is seemingly subject to controversy. As are empirical facts such as the concept of a calorie deficit.
The legitimacy and effectiveness of all the methods discussed herein are, of course, debatable, but they share the common theme of having contributed to a maintainable calorie deficit that yielded: A) sustained and significant long term fat loss while maintaining maximum muscle mass, and B) the adaptation of an enjoyable and sustainable low calorie dense diet, as well as the knowledge and tools needed to employ flexible dieting for eating at a maintenance level in the long term.
By sharing the steps that I took in the following three articles covering the initial rapid fat loss phase, the subsequent maintenance stage, and the final cutting process, I hope that people with a common goal and a similar starting point as mine will discover both the basic building blocks to comparable success, as well as enabling them to avoid a few of the mistakes I made along the way. Even if you don’t need or want to embark on such a journey, these ideas can nevertheless be useful to those that need only to make a few minor adjustments to their diets and lifestyles.
To pre-summarize for the TLDR crowd out there, these are the most salient points:
- Do not keep junk food, candy, or high calorie snacks around the house. This includes your disc golf bag. Your resolve will falter when temptation comes knocking.
- Be consistent. As in diet, as in disc golf.
- Eat only one HOT meal a day. This doesn’t mean you should skip meals (unless you‘re doing Intermittent Fasting), but that you should substitute a hot lunch or dinner for a cold one as you will invariably consume fewer calories with a cold meal than with a hot one.
- Cut out sugary soft drinks entirely. I’m not saying cold turkey here, but baby steps. I know that cold water alone doesn’t cut it for myself, but substituting with a low calorie yet flavorful alternative has worked wonders. Just this step alone can account for a 10-20% reduction in your total daily calorie intake.
- Intermittent fasting. Pretty self explanatory. This does not have to be your long term plan for dietary change, although it very well can be, but a short term protocol adopted over a few months as you adjust to a new lifestyle and dietary regimen.
- Low calorie dense foods. See Greg Doucette’s Anabolic Cookbook for reference. If you don’t feel like spending $99 right out the gate, just follow him on YouTube and pick it up as you go along.
- Pick your influencers with care and avoid people like Thomas DeLauer and Vshred like the plague. Your pre-approved picks on YT are people like Greg Doucette, Shredded Sports Science, Jeff Nippard, Mario Tomic, Vitruvian Physique, and More Plates More Dates. If you find somebody else you like, go ahead and Google whether Coach Greg has done a brutal takedown video of this person yet. If not, you´re good to go!
- Weekly meal prep.
- Get your disc golf steps in. 10,000 a day as a bare minimum.
- There are no short time solutions. Change has to be forever.
Initially you can drop weight safely pretty fast if you have a lot of it to lose. I shot for a kilo (2.2 lbs) a week for the first 10 weeks of my journey while getting down to my initial goal weight. Starting on the morning I got back to Iceland from the 2019 USDGC, October 10th, my goal was to weigh under 80 kgs (176 lbs) before my 40th birthday on January 6th.
After gaining 2 kgs (4.5 lbs) during my 10 day U.S. trip, my starting weight was 89.4 kgs (198 lbs), and I shed 9.4 kgs (20.7 lbs) in 10 weeks.
To accomplish this I adopted an intermittent fasting regimen starting at a pretty useless 12/12, where you fast for 12 hours of the day and consume calories over the remaining 12 hour period, progressing to the standard 16/8, and leveling off at a very aggressive 19/5 where I only ate between 2 and 7 pm. My daily routine would start at 11 am with playing 18-36 holes of disc golf1 at a course close to the gym, and then doing two rounds of push, pull, legs split a week with Sundays off. Push and pull days had 20-22 sets of going mostly to failure, and leg day had 14-16 sets. Sometimes 4-8 abdominal sets would follow.
If this sounds like a lot, I’ll remind you that I was looking to drop more than 20 pounds in two months.
January was particularly harsh weather wise, so I was forced to eliminate disc golf altogether for long stretches of time, and on one occasion I ended up hitting the gym for 19 days straight instead, which is not optimal if training for hypertrophy, but okay when your goal is fat loss.
My diet during this IF stretch, from October 10th and into March, looked more or less like this:
- Mornings: apple cider vinegar mixed with lemon juice, cranberry juice, and fresh ginger shavings.
- 2 pm: after the gym, a dairy-based (Skyr) shake with fruits and protein powder.
- Snack: grapes, carrots, and apple, and a Hleðsla (dairy-based protein drink) mixed with creatine.
- 5 pm: dinner of chicken, veggies (spinach, onions, kidney beans, chickpeas, avocado), and rice or pasta with a honey mustard or garlic dressing, and a small can of Coke. A daily cheat of a licorice straw.
- Lots of water drinking throughout the day.
- A glass of the morning apple cider vinegar concoction again before bed.
Dinner was prepped once a week with ingredients portioned, prepared, and packed individually for a very quick cooking process on the day. My maintenance calories were calculated at 3,023, meaning that my daily calorie consumption would’ve been at approximately 2,100 during the period in order to consistently shed 0,9 kgs/2 lbs a week. My daily calorie deficit was nearly 1,000 at this initial stage, with macros trending towards high protein and fats with moderately low carbs and low sugars.
For someone like myself who had previously added roughly 4-6 kilos/9-13 lbs of lean tissue through resistance training and snowboarding, retaining that muscle mass through a long fat loss phase required hitting the gym and consuming lots of protein. Preferably 1 gram or more a day of protein per pound of body weight. FYI, resistance training, aka lifting weights in the gym, will account for very little of your fat loss. Cardio will account for way more, but a consistent diet and hitting your calorie deficit goals will account for most of it.
On March 3rd I set off with a group of friends to play the Spanish Open in Oviedo and then went on to host the first ever PDGA-sanctioned event in Nicaragua, only to get stuck there for five extra days of Covid-induced limbo as the U.S. immigation authorities cancelled my ESTA because they believed I had breached a directive that was issued after I left Spain. For the record, I had not.
This ended up being a month long odyssey through eight countries on two continents with nearly daily alcohol intake and only two gym days. Somehow I still managed to lose weight thanks to the Nicaraguan tap water causing three weeks of dietary distress. This was followed by 14 days of home quarantine and lots of pizza delivery. Miraculously, no weight was regained.
At this point I weighed 75.2 kgs/188 lbs, had far surpassed my original goal, and since this had become a routine way to live, I changed my goals to achieving that ever-elusive six pack.
Quick Sidebar: Body fat percentage measurements are not an exact science, but if you have the same trained professional do the same caliper test with the associated circumference and weight measurements with regular intervals you can at least track your progress pretty accurately. On November 19th I was 83 kgs/183 lbs with a 100.2 cm/39.4 in waist and 18.8% BF. Dec 12th: 80.8 kgs/178 lbs, 98.3 cm/38.7 in, 15.9%; February 6th: 77.2 kgs/170 lbs, 92.8 cm/36.5 in, 13,5%; late summer: 72 kgs/159 lbs, 80 cm/31.5 in, 10% BF.
Again, not an exact science, and most professionals would argue I’m 12% body fat at best, and Doucette would probably claim closer to 15% as my abs are not visible. This may, however, mostly be caused by excess skin and not body fat.
Having gone off the IF regimen during my travels, yet continued to lose weight, upon my return I decided that I no longer needed intermittent fasting to hit my caloric consumption goals. Hence I quit it. As my man Greg will tell you, you can actually hit those goals while eating only food that you like, or even love. You just need to eliminate the most calorie dense foods, or at least relegate them to your cheat meals. If you, like myself, have something of an addictive personality, you can really cut your daily diet down to a very few key ingredients and save yourself a lot of time whilst cutting food waste down to an absolute minimum. You’ll even save money in the process, which you will inevitably spend on new discs. Even if you don’t possess such a personality, after 6+ months of strict dieting your built-in caloric compass should be accurate enough at that point that you can safely do a so called “flexible diet“ based on your intuition that you don’t fall straight off the wagon as soon as you go off your previous plan.
While I do like apples and carrots, both require a bit of prep or disposal. I love grapes a lot more than the aforementioned, and they don’t come in portions, require minimal prep and disposal, and seldom go bad like apples and carrots will. So what I did was to simply cut those pesky apples and carrots out and just buy multiple bags of grapes each time I went grocery shopping. Food waste solved.
Greek yogurt is a tasty, high protein, and very low calorie meal, as long as you watch out for added sugar. I top it with muesli, which is quite high in calories, but still won’t tip the scales when used only as a condiment, and fresh blueberries. This is my breakfast every day, and dinner as well on most days. This also eliminates the costly protein shake purchased at the gym restaurant. I keep toaster sized naan bread in stock, which I top with Philadelphia Lite cream cheese, red onions, and avocado. This is usually lunch on days that I don’t eat out.
On most days, however, during the summer when I operate my mobile disc golf store, cooking at home is simply not cost effective. Instead I eat out at a local kebab joint where I get chicken, rice, and a salad. The afternoon snack is still the Hleðsla2 protein drink mixed with creatine powder, and with it I take cod liver or shark oil pills and eat them grapes. Popcorn is my evening snack of choice if I have one, and the Coke can has been replaced with Collab, a caffeinated drink with protein and collagen that contains only 24 calories per serving. I have pizza once a week as a cheat meal, and a bit of licorice every day. I only deload and refeed when I travel abroad.
As for alcohol, at the time of writing this, Iceland is in the middle of our harshest lockdown phase yet, so I haven’t had any social occasions to have a drink since traveling to the Ultimate Cyclone in London, England a month ago, Which, come to think of it, has to be the single longest sober spell of my adult life. But in general, my alcohol consumption is limited to 2-3 drinks every other Saturday.
This very simple daily diet keeps me at what seems to be my genetic weight set point of 72-73 kilos/158-161 lbs of morning weight. Well that, and my daily average of 16,000 steps (11 km/7 miles). Also, again, food waste is now nearly non-existent.
So that’s about the gist of things for the rapid fat loss phase. Be sure to tune in next week for what will hopefully be a much shorter rant about maintenance.