Nine weeks of contest prep and I have 0.2 lbs of weight loss to boast for it! Yay…what?! I know, I know…by conventional standards (i.e. things you see on Facebook or via infomercial), this sounds unspectacular…and pretty horrible. Conventional weight loss schemes (scams) often promise effortless and rapid weight loss…whereas, if you look at the math, I’ve put in:
- 44.25 hours of morning cardio,
- 378 contest-approved meals, and
- 30 intense strength-training workouts
- …and dropped just 0.2 lbs?!
Herein lies this week’s first secret to stage:
1. Transformation differs from conventional weight loss.
With conventional weight loss, you lose weight indiscriminately, and primarily from the sources of water and muscle tissue. With transformation weight loss, you count muscle gain and body fat loss separately. My husband coined the term, transformation weight, almost 20 years ago while training a client. He wanted to demonstrate that success (or failure) of a fitness program should not be based on the scale.
So, while by conventional standards, I’ve lost 0.2 lbs, I’ve actually “transformed” 8.6 lbs.
Looking at a fuller picture of my body composition is instructive. The 0.2 lb loss from pre-contest prep to today consists of 4.4 lbs lost of body fat and 4.2 lbs gained in muscle tissue.
Just as putting on muscle is inherently difficult, so is losing body fat. Doing both simultaneously is even more difficult…and somewhat depends on your genetics, but mostly depends on your dedication to all three legs of the transformation trifecta: diet, strength-training, cardio. This also explains why you are best off taking a sequential focus of building (muscle) before cutting (fat).
2. The road less traveled leads you to a happier place.
The easier way to lose weight is indeed conventionally. Yet, losing weight this way will be more difficult to sustain due to its temporary elements (water) and the hit to your metabolism (from muscle loss), creating the prime environment for a rebound plus scenario when you go back to eating “normally” with a slower metabolism. This type of weight loss is also less desirable from a physique standpoint as you end up with saggy (or loose) skin and stubborn pockets of body fat (a.k.a. “skat” or skinny fat).
When you get up on stage, a scale does not determine the winner. No one’s measuring muscle or body fat either. There is a panel of judges deciding the top fifteen physiques standing in front of them. This is why the process I’m following adheres closely to the principles of transformation. To achieve a desired look, you should follow these principles, too!
3. Real food works better in transformation.
Unlike conventional weight loss products or “systems”, contest diets rely primarily on real food with a set series of meals followed day-in, day-out for a period of time. Meal replacement shakes, protein bars, and other pre-packaged fitness foods limit your ability to tweak because they are a set mixture of macro-nutrients. In other words, half a protein bar may have half the calories, but it has the exact same proportion of macro-nutrients (carbs, fat, protein) as an entire bar. But, a meal containing the macro components can be easily reconfigured. For example, after nine weeks, my first meal no longer has almond butter… (insert sad face here!)
4. Transformation banks on consistency and little tweaks.
Little tweaks purposefully prevent plateaus as well as adverse effects on adrenals, muscle tissue, and metabolism. Big tweaks backfire eventually and often sooner rather than later because you can only “trick” your body for a short period of time. In order to tweak effectively, there needs to be an established base line of consistency and the tweaks must be contained.
5. When cutting (losing body fat), work from both sides of the equation.
The primary levers for cutting are diet and cardio. Protein intake is kept up to prevent muscle loss and to encourage continued gains from strength-training. Fat and carbs are reduced modestly in tandem with (and in consideration of) any changes to cardio. Case in point — after three weeks on my previous menu, the minor tweak this week amounts to only a 50 calorie change — that’s less than 3% of my total calories! This change is derived pretty evenly from carbs and fat, with a modest uptick in protein. As a result, my new macro allocation is higher in protein and moderately lower in carbs and fat. On the other hand…
6. Double cardio, not longer cardio.
Double cardio refers to two cardio sessions in the same day. In my case, 30 mins of additional cardio in the afternoon combine with the modest calorie drop for an extra cardio/caloric expenditure. Note, however, the cardio is “double”, not “longer”. That is, I’m not tacking on an extra 30 minutes to my morning cardio; it’s 60 in the morning and 30 in the afternoon. Everything is deliberate to maximize effectiveness (see #4)… and not for scheduling convenience or laundry minimization!
7. Watch your language.
While it’s fine to throw out some expletives when you’re pushing heavy weights, running late, or having any sort of prep-fail, it is not advisable to lament, complain, drag heels, or b#tch and moan about the journey itself. This past week, I’ve been working very hard on this aspect. Primarily all of my “potty language” has been in the form of inner dialogue about morning cardio. I noticed my attitude was about survival…in a begrudging kind of way. With that stance, I won’t enjoy the journey and I’m apt to manifest a “complication”. It’s very important that we lift our perspective energetically to bring out our best. Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t raise an eyebrow at the front desk chick that greets me at 6am with an overly perky, “Hi there, Sarah. How are you this morning?!” But, it does mean, once I settle onto the treadmill that I “work” to align my thoughts to a better-feeling place. Reading quality books often does the trick.
And, for more on the subject of Body Transformation, I highly recommend my husband, Michael Battaglia’s, guide, The Source for Your Complete Body Transformation.