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My Fat Loss Progress in October 2015: Retrospective

Another four weeks have passed since my last update, and I am still making decent progress:

October 1st: 92kg
October 30th: 90kg

Those values are moving averages, so they already account for daily fluctuations. I also saw a 1% drop in body fat percentage on the bio impedance scale, but those are notoriously unreliable, so I’m not taking it seriously. A more realistic metric for the important question of whether I’m actually losing body fat (not muscle) is waist circumference, and I saw that shrink by 1-2cm, or just about one notch in my belt.

When I started this experiment back in September I came up with a set of ten rules, and today I thought that it might be a good idea to reflect on how well I have been following them:

  1. Eat adequate protein
    Check. A few weeks ago I even increased protein intake to 200g/day, but I found that hard to maintain and scaled back to 120-150g, a comfortable level for me and in line with the general recommendation of 1g per pound of lean body mass.
  2. Skip some meals (eat 1-2 meals per day)
    I am still doing that occasionally, but not as much as when I started this experiment. Doesn’t seem to make a big difference.
  3. Eat only when hungry
    Usually I follow this rule, but I should do it more consistently.
  4. Alternate days of caloric deficit with days of caloric balance, in alignment with exercise (the more exercise, the less deficit)
    I haven’t really been doing this deliberately, but I managed to skip some meals on rest days. Definitely an asset when you’re trying to create a caloric deficit.
  5. Maintain a weekly caloric deficit consistently
    Yes! This is the core principle of my diet or indeed any weight/fat loss diet.
  6. Eat clean most of the time (80/20 rule)
    Yes, I have been eating mostly clean. On some days I even ate ultra-clean, think chicken breasts, vegetables and rice. I won’t do that too often, since it is quite a hassle.
  7. Fast/junk food and candy/sweets are fine occasionally, as long as caloric deficit is maintained
    I definitely enjoy some completely unhealthy food from time to time. Works as long as you really account for the calories. I will definitely keep doing that – complete deprivation is not a good long term strategy.
  8. During vacations and holidays the diet is modified: Caloric balance and more daily meals allowed (breakfast)
    Sure! As I said above, I am not really doing a strict IF regime like 16/8 (anymore). I still skip meals when I’m not hungry, but I will also eat when I’m hungry, not counting the number of meals per day.
  9. Macros: neither low-fat nor low-carb
    Definitely. On some days I have been eating low carb, on others low fat, but always adequate protein.
  10. No excessive calorie tracking – instead eat a small, but varied number of meals with known macros/calories
    Haven’t really been following that rule – instead I am tracking calories in excessive detail. I should try to find a simpler solution – create some meals on and then eat/log those most of the time instead of logging individual items.

Outlook for November 2015

My goal for November is to lose another 2-3kg of body weight and make that mostly fat, so I expect my waist circumference to shrink another 2cm, measured by my belt.

I’m also revising and simplifying my rules:

  1. Eat adequate protein (1g per pound of lean body mass per day), vary fat/carbs
  2. Don’t eat (skip meal) when you’re not hungry
  3. Maintain a consistent weekly caloric deficit
  4. Eat clean 80% of the time, make sure the remaining 20% don’t blow your caloric budget
  5. Always track calories, but simplify by eating standardised meals most of the time
  6. Eat low-moderate fiber – avoid high fiber cereals and grains

About #6: Let’s just say that in October I tried focusing on high fiber cereals and grains and found that they don’t agree with me. I also read Anthony Colpo’s books again and took a look at the studies. I am now convinced more than ever that whole grains have no benefits – neither for fat loss nor for any other health outcomes. My take on the matter: If you enjoy eating them and don’t get any digestive problems – go ahead, but if you find that the opposite is true, stick with smaller portions of refined grains and rest assured that it will not have any detrimental effects on your health.

That’s it for now … stay tuned for another update probably by the end of November!


Fat Loss Progress Report: Protein Bar Madness!

It’s been about four weeks since I’ve embarked on my latest fat loss journey. I am making decent progress, losing about one pound per week and the bio impedance scale shows a small reduction in fat percentage. Still, I think that I can speed up the rate of fat loss.

I’ve been tracking my caloric intake and expenditure on my iPhone and for the last ten days it shows an estimated average daily expenditure of about 2,800 kcal and an average daily caloric intake of 2,400 kcal. That is a deficit of 400 kcal per day or 2,800 kcal per week and just about a pound of fat. Of course those estimates are not very reliable, but since they align nicely with the scale, I’ll go out on a limb and use those values as a reference point.

My goal for the next weeks will be to maintain my level of activity and to keep my daily caloric intake below 2,000 kcal. That should lead to a loss of up to two pounds of body fat per week.

I also decided to increase my protein intake from 120 grams to 200 grams per day. I’m doing heavy weight lifting 2-3 days per week and the protein, along with cycling my caloric intake with the training (high on training days, low on rest days) should help to make sure that I’m losing fat, not muscle.

Protein bars … lately I’ve been using them a lot. Quest Bars in particular … I guess that I will have to be more creative with my protein sources. More on that in the next post!

Embarking On The Next Weight Loss Journey

A long time has passed since my last post. In fact, it has been a whole year during which a lot has happened. To summarise, I met an adorable woman, I ran a half-marathon, I travelled the world, and I have been maintaining my weight loosely around the 93kg mark. The latter is slightly annoying – while preparing for the half-marathon I had a medical examination and while it confirmed my general health and fitness, it also determined my body fat percentage at around 25%. 

Ever since I started to gain weight during my twenties I have been dreaming of a lean body. I ballooned up to 118kg and then decided to change my eating patterns about 5 years ago, and quickly lost and kept off 20kg, and while some would consider that a big achievement, I really wanted more. In retrospect it is difficult to say why I could never overcome the 90kg “barrier” … but the past is the past.

What could be a reasonable goal for me? I always used weight as the “currency” for weight loss, but maybe body fat percentage is more appropriate. 20 years ago I weighed 80kg and wasn’t totally lean – who knows what it would mean for me 20 years later to weigh 80kg again. Body fat percentage is a better metric since it takes lean tissue into account. I will try to go for 12%, which is quite ambitious for a 40 years old guy. 

Initially I wanted to write a lot about my strategy, but it is actually very simple:

  1. Eat adequate protein
  2. Skip some meals (eat 1-2 meals per day)
  3. Eat only when hungry
  4. Alternate days of caloric deficit with days of caloric balance, in alignment with exercise (the more exercise, the less deficit)
  5. Maintain a weekly caloric deficit consistently
  6. Eat clean most of the time (80/20 rule)
  7. Fast/junk food and candy/sweets are fine occasionally, as long as caloric deficit is maintained
  8. During vacations and holidays the diet is modified: Caloric balance and more daily meals allowed (breakfast)
  9. Macros: neither low-fat nor low-carb
  10. No excessive calorie tracking – instead eat a small, but varied number of meals with known macros/calories

I’ve been on this protocol for 10 days now and it feels great. Obviously it is a form of intermittent fasting, but I never liked that term because it sounds so complicated. I always found it quite easy to skip breakfast – which is actually a bad way to put it. I would rather say that I wait a couple of hours after waking up so that I hav my breakfast at lunch time.

Why do that? Because I enjoy having big meals and find it easy to skip meals. I know many people who say that they absolutely cannot do it. I’m not sure whether that is actually true for all of them – I know that when I regularly have breakfast in the morning, suddenly skipping it causes cravings for me. Those tend go away after a couple of days, but that may not ve the case for everyone. Regardless, I do not recommend this approach as a one size fits all solution, and in the coming months we will see if it even works for me. It surely did in the past.

That’s all for now … stay tuned for updates on my progress, as well as some book reviews. 

Protein Calories Don’t Count

A few weeks ago I had an interesting idea which I haven’t seen formulated in any of the books on nutrition and fitness that I’ve read so far (which is about 30+ – yes, I’m kind of obsessive when it comes to this topic):

When you eat a moderate amount of protein it isn’t burned as fuel by the body – it is used to maintain lean body mass.

 It’s kind of obvious when you think about it. Yet all the popular calorie counting apps and websites ignore this fact. They simply treat all protein as a macronutrient with 4 kcal per gram, and count it towards one’s daily caloric intake.

I am currently on what authors Volek and Phinney call a “well formulated low carbohydrate diet” – one of its cornerstones is to eat a moderate amount of protein. I eat around 125 grams of protein each day, regardless of whether I want to lose, maintain or gain weight. Strength training is a factor though – I try to cycle protein intake a bit depending on whether I do strength training or sprints, and compensate by eating a little less protein on rest days. 

One of the interesting implications of this insight (should it be true) is that it would explain how some people claim that they lose weight on LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) even though they don’t eat less calories than they consume. 125 grams of protein amount to about 500 kcal of energy – if it is burned. Assuming that it is not burned, but used as building material instead, we get a caloric deficit of 500 kcal when the app shows caloric balance. This amounts to a deficit of 3,500 kcal per week, which is roughly equivalent to one pound of body fat. 

So next time you read in a forum that someone loses weight on LCHF without restricting calories, remember this hypothesis!

Battle With A Friend Over Low-Carb

Last night I had a very heated discussion about dieting with one of my dearest friends. I’ve always perceived him to be a naturally lean person, but in recent years he had, by his own admission, gained a few kilos (about 5kg), and over the last 2-3 months he lost that weight by simply eating less.

I on the other hand have been obese (BMI > 30) for the last 15 years or so, and during the last four years have tried different strategies to lose and keep off the excess fat. Four years ago I lost 18kg in just about 6 months on a low carb (ketogenic) regimen, and ever since I’ve maintained that weight (around 100kg) – albeit with larger fluctuations, and I didn’t stay on low-carb, but instead tried many, many other popular approaches. Then two years ago I lost another 10kg – again on low-carb, reaching my all time low (since high school) of 90kg. Unfortunately then my job changed, work lunches/cafeteria became a problem, and I again abandoned low-carb and ate “normally” again.

Since then I have regained most of those more recent losses, and even some of the original ones from four years ago – six months ago I was back at 106kg. At that point I decided to intervene again – this time for good. I didn’t go back on low-carb at first, because as most of you know there are some health concerns surrounding low carb. By now (2014) most people will acknowledge that it’s a proven way to lose weight, but they also see it as a highly inconvenient temporary intervention, which can’t possibly be sustained for maintenance. In retrospect I should have gone back on the low-carb diet straight away. I finally did so two months ago, and since then I’ve lost 8-10kg, depending on whether you want to count some water weight which can be attributed to glycogen stores (carbs).

So as I was saying: A heated discussion took place with my friend. My description of his position may not be exactly accurate, but it was so spot on conventional wisdom, that I’ll simply phrase it accordingly – so this post is not exactly about his personal position, but about conventional wisdom and my response to it. Read more…

Paleo and Keto – What’s the Difference?

I just answered this question in a forum over at, but the answer also makes for a good blog post, so here we go:

“Paleo” simply means that you try to eat what your ancestors ate in the paleolithic era, which essentially means “before we had agriculture”. It’s a very vague definition, and so there’s a wide range of foods that are included at least in somebody’s definition of paleo, but not in another’s. Typical bones (pardon the pun) of contention are dairy, legumes, ancient/wild grains (quinoa, amaranth etc.), tubers (roots) and so on. Regardless of those details, on a Paleo diet you usually focus on food quality first and foremost rather than macronutrient ratios.

“Keto” on the other hand has a clear definition: Any diet where you eat very little digestible carbohydrate (typically <50g/day of net carbs) and moderate protein (about 100g/day for an average person) will cause your body to produce ketones in the liver, and your brain will switch to burning these preferentially instead of glucose. There’s a host of other changes which happen during ketosis, but in a nutshell you indeed switch from carbs to fat, and at least during weight maintenance (also called a eucaloric diet, you eat as many calories as you burn) about 70% of your calories come from fat (a mix of mono-unsaturated and saturated fat).

So – do those two diets overlap? Sure. You can definitely implement a ketogenic diet using paleo foods – in fact that’s what in essence all the popular books on low-carb / ketogenic diet books advise: Focus on whole foods, organic, grass-fed, steer clear of processed foods. Keto by no means implies a meat-heavy diet – you can even implement it vegetarian style while still remaining paleo. Vegans will have a hard time, since complete protein is hard to obtain once you eliminate rice and legumes, but they can get there using fermented soy – which is technically not paleo, but fermentation itself is thought to have been used for a long, long time, so if not strictly “paleo” you can look at it as an “ancestral” technique.

So how would a typical keto+paleo meal look like? Imagine a huge salad made from leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables, with a little bit of meat,fish,seafood,dairy or eggs, and liberal amounts of butter, olive oil, avocado or coconut oil (fat), with maybe some nuts sprinkled on top and a hand-full of berries for dessert. Typical macros for a Keto weight maintenance diet: 70% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbs.

You can also use this neat calculator to figure out your optimal ketogenic diet macronutrient composition depending on your goals:


When the goal is fat loss, on a ketogenic diet the idea is to keep carbs and protein constant all the time and simply reduce the amount of fat you eat. Your body then “supplements” that fat it needs from its own fat stores, which it can easily access since in ketosis you burn fat more easily than you would on a diet higher in carbohydrate.

Fat Loss Diary: Moving on to Alternate Day Fasting

So last week I started intermittent fasting … but I only managed to implement two fasting days, in line with popular books like The Fast Diet, the 5:2 diet etc.. It worked well, but I read two more books on the subject which convinced me to move on to a “proper” alternate day strategy. One of these books is a German/Austrian book called “Die morgen kann ich alles essen Diät” by comedian Bernhard Ludwig – the other one, which I found more interesting as far as the scientific arguments are concerned is Krista Varady’s The Every Other Day Diet. I knew Krista Varady from Michael Mosley’s BBC Horizon episode on fasting – he interviewed her and ended up tweaking her protocol (one day of calorie restriction alternated with one day of normal eating) for his book. She didn’t appreciate that – in her opinion having two feed days in a row may have a disruptive effect on your ability to automatically restricting calories on feed days. So reducing the number of fasting days per week in order to make the diet easier to implement may actually undermine its efficacy – even more so in maintenance mode, which in The Fast Diet works by reducing the number of fasting days to one per week, but in Krista’s book works by increasing the amount of calories you can eat on fast days and keeping the weekends “fast-free”, but you still have three fasting days per week.

Looking back at my week I can – in a very uncontrolled n=1 way – confirm that 2 fasting days per week is problematic. I fasted on Monday and ate normally on Tuesday, and wanted to fast again on Wednesday – but something got in the way (work lunch), so I decided to push back the second fast day – no problem, I can put my fast days where I want, right? Sure … I ended up just barely getting in the second fast day on Saturday, and between the fast days I overate. I still probably ended up with a caloric deficit for the week, but in retrospect I think that using a strict alternating strategy leads to much better compliance at least for me. Clear rules! You can still eat a small meal each day, so a work lunch is doable (salad + some protein).

So for this week I’ll be alternating properly: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday will be fast days with no more than 500 calories, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday will be unrestricted. Next week will be the other way round – which some people find disturbing because they need regularity but which I find quite cool actually. One effect is that your weekends alternate – on some weekends you get to eat on Saturday, on others you get to eat on Sunday.

So that’s all for this week – we’ll see how strict alternate day fasting works out for me!

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