"Stop eating carbs and you're gonna lose 50 lbs in the first two days!"
"I don't know bro, I started intermittent fasting and this morning I woke up with THIS six pack"
"Drink coffee with 2 tbs of butter and coconut oil and automagically get shredded AND clearly smarter!"
How often have you heard this crap? To be honest, when I still was just a bro I believed some of that crap myself too, so don't feel dumb.
Daily we are bombarded with messages from the fitness industry proposing the latest REVOLUTIONARY diet system or magic trick that is the solution to all of our problems.
Marketers, that's how they make a living. And a very good one. The fitness industry is so crowded because people can make
Are you ready to call bullshit on 99% of the stuff out there?
The Metabolism Equation
This is the secret for anything you want to do with your body, either get a sexy six pack or gain muscles.
TDEE = BMR + NEAT + EAT + TEF
You are right, this is not sexy at all. It also sounds like math so Jesus Christ what a turn off.
This is why those sellers don't tell you this. You can't patent this, there's nothing fancy about it. It's just sheer thermodynamics. Boooooooring!
It can be boring, true, but once you understand this (and trust me, it's very very simple) you will be so powerful and ready to take your body transformation in your own hands right how those sellers don't want you to do.
Let's see what this equation tells us.
TDEE is the total daily energy expenditure.
This is the number of calories that you need to eat, in a given day, to be able to do whatever you do while staying at the same body weight (more or less as we are not taking into account water, but we will discuss this later).
As you can see from the equation above, the TDEE is a sum of different compontent, each of which contribute in different ratios to the final amount.
The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the energy that you need if you would lie all day in bed without doing anything. This is the energy required by your bodily functions (heart beating, brain working, breathing, peeing, etc) and it contributes for 70% to the TDEE so it's the most important factor.
This value also correlates to your muscle mass.
Your muscle mass is, in fact, a very metabolically active tissue which requires a lot of blood flow and oxygen to sustain its growth and maintenance.
This concept is important for later so keep it in mind for now.
Non-exercise associated thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy that you require to do non-spontaneous activities such as, for instance, fidgeting.
You might think this is a very irrelevant part of the equation but you will be surprised to find out that it contributes to the TDEE by 20%.
Exercise-associated thermogenesis (EAT) is pretty self-explanatory: all the energy that you need for walking, biking, working out, etc.
The thermic effect of food is the energy that you need to digest food. Mixed meals have higher TEF of isolated macros. And this is pretty obvious as you can imagine that digesting corn is easier than digesting table sugar.
It contributes to the TDEE by 5%.
Now that you understand how each part of the equation contributes to the TDEE let's see how can we put this into practice.
Calories In Vs Calories Out
Most people, especially those who don't workout, more or less stay always at the same body weight. Then they go on holiday or move in another country and they get either fat or lose weight. When I moved to the Netherlands, for me was pretty interesting to notice that a lot of people who moved from the Mediterranean area, in a couple of months, started getting fatter.
Why is that?
In the Mediterranean diet, the food is mostly poor in calories (lots of vegetables and fat coming only from olive oil). On the other hand, in the Netherlands not only the habit of eating junk food is more widespread, but also the food is more calorie dense (e.g. lots of bread, processed meat and dairy). Therefore, the people that moved here, started, without realizing it, to ingest a lot more calories even if they were eating the same amount (as in size) of food.
And here comes the practical application of the metabolism equation.
If you eat the amount of calories:
- same as your TDEE => your weight stays the same (this is called maintenance)
- higher than your TDEE => you gain weight
- lower than your TDEE => you lose weight
It's really that simple. It's just a matter of how many calories you eat (calories in) compared to how many calories you need (calories out).
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
If you eat more than you need, your body will store the excess as fat.
If you are eating less than your energy requirements, your body will get the required energies from both muscles and fat.
Why You Shouldn't Rely On The Scale Only
When you talk about body weight be aware that, unfortunately, we are not talking about of body fat only. If this were the case, every time you gained weight you might think that you got fatter or, viceversa, every time you lost weight you think you lost fat.
Your body weight is determined by several components but three are the ones that influence it the most (and are the most variable): water, fat and muscles content.
The amount of water in or out of your body depends on several factors: salt and carbohydrates intake, outside temperature, hormones, and stress. This can fluctuate very widely on a daily basis.
For this reason, you should always weight yourself first thing in the morning after going to the bathroom and also you should not read too much into the values the scale gives you.
Overnight you might gain or lose even 1 kg!
This is why is important not only to weight yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week but also to use another parameter to track your progress (and particularly the body fat, more on this later).
Fat and Muscles
These are not subjected to daily swings like water so the effects that these components have on the body weight is more long term.
Yet, they might still trick your scale measurements. Let me give you some examples.
Say that in one week your body weight stays the same as the week before. What does that mean?
There are three possible scenarios:
- you ate at maintenance (same amount of calories as your TDEE)
- you gained muscles and lost fat at the same time
- you gained fat and lost muscles at the same time
All three of these scenarios are plausible and can easily happen. The second is what normally happen to people (especially if overweight) that start lifting in the gym. They freak out because they don't see the scale moving but yet their waist size is going down dramatically.
I had once a client who quit on me because she started lifting while on a diet and the scale even increased though her waist and hips got incredible slimmer but she only was looking at the scale. This is the problem when you rely on the scale only to judge progress.
So, as you can see, the scale can actually trick you pretty badly. We need therefore another parameter to track the actual progress.
Skinfold Caliper et al.
As we saw that the scale is not a reliable tool to track our progress. Here are some other tools to use to track your progress:
The skinfold caliper is reliable in telling us if the body fat is going up or down. The conversion to body fat percentages is usually not that accurate so use it only as a relative measurement.
This means that you should use the skinfold caliper only to compare skinfold measurements in millimeters throughout the weeks, not to measure and compare absolute body fat percentages.
Are the measurements in millimeters going up (getting fatter) or down (getting slimmer)? The caliper has the advantage of not being much influenced by water retention.
I recommend you to check this one which is the same I have and recommend to all my clients.
Other Ways To Keep Track
- Waist and hips size (for women)
- Umbilical abs size (for men)
- How tight your pants feel
Be aware that all of these might give you false indications due to water retention and bloating.
- Body fat % with BIA
- Body fat % with DXA
DXA is the most accurate system we have at the moment but also crazily expensive.
Now let's see how to get the best out of the metabolism equation.
It's Not Just About Dieting
The problem with most diets is that you get fat afterwards even more than when you started.
This is called the yo-yo effect and it is exactly how nutritionists and other scammers out there make their money: they put you on a crazy caloric deficit, you lose a lot of water, muscles, and fat really fast. You think they just did a miracle, pay them a ton of money go back to your life and get back to eat in the same way as before the diet and get even fatter than before.
Why is that?
Let's see again the metabolism equation from above:
TDEE = BMR + NEAT + EAT + TEF
When you diet only, without exercising, you will lose muscles.
As you remember from before, the amount of muscle mass you have and your BMR are correlated.
This means that on such a diet, like those from the scammers above, when you lose muscles your BMR will also go down. Consequently, your body will start to protect itself by slowing down everything else. Therefore your NEAT will go down, your EAT will go down (you won't be able to perform as much activity as not on a diet, you feel tired), and your TEF will go down since you are eating less.
This means that, because of the diet, your TDEE has been lowered incredibly!
Indeed on such diets, you basically eat one piece of salad and half chicken breast for the whole day more or less.
When you "finish" the diet and you go back to eat as you were used to before the diet, you can see now that you are eating
Hence, you get fat, hence the yo-yo effect, hence you go back to the nutritionist who is going to blame some hormonal imbalance bullshit, put you on an even more severe calorie restriction, take your money and the cycle goes on again and again and again.
You Want the Gunz
Are we doomed then? Are we always going to be forced to eat almost nothing, and go through cycles of being fat and losing weight? Not at all!
Again, we need to look at the metabolism equation:
TDEE = BMR + NEAT + EAT + TEF
As the stoic philosophers proposed: you should only focus on the things you can control.
What can we control here? The BMR and EAT (and consequently the TEF).
How do you increase your BMR? By getting more muscles.
And how do you get more muscles? By doing resistance training (which means going to the gym and lifting heavy stuff) and by eating enough protein in the process.
How much protein should you eat? As a beginner, go for 2.2-2.4g of protein/kg of body weight. As you progress, go down to 1.8 g of protein/kg body weight. If you are over-weight you need 2.3g of protein/kg of lean body mass per day.
If you don't want to count your calories just try to have proteins at every meal and a lot of them after your workout.
Automatically you will increase your EAT as you will be able to perform more exercise.
If you think that is impossible to gain muscles while on a diet, you need to know that this happens all the time in scientific studies and many coaches can confirm you that anectotally. This happens because to build muscles you need a stimulus (resistance training), energy (coming from your own fat) and enought protein.
Lifting weights is important especially on a diet because prevents muscle mass loss and keeps your metabolism high so don't think that you can get lean and in a good shape by just dieting.
If you understood the concepts so far you know now that only dieting is not sustainable in the long term and will leave you at the mercy of weight swings.
There is no magic pill to get a six pack or put on a ton of muscles. Intermittent fasting, the ketogenic diet, the paleo diet, they all work because you will automatically restrict your calories which
There is nothing magical about them.
If you want to know more about the most popular fitness diets I have written an extensive review here.
Focus on starting lifting and removing crappy foods from your diet. If you want the complete blueprint for getting the body that you want teaching you what to eat and how much, download my free nutrition handbook "Eat Like A Human, Look Like A God".
Are you ready to take action and become superhuman?
P.S. If you want to be coached by me and you are badass, committed