I used to interview elite bodybuilders on their training and eating for a living and did this for years and years. One reoccurring theme that kept popping up when talk turned to diet/nutrition was how much food top bodybuilders packed away on a daily basis. These men taught their bodies how to handle continually greater amounts of calories without becoming fat. Contrast this with the typical obese person who eats one meal a day and adds body fat at the drop of a hat. I am working with a crew of obese folks and having great success using modified bodybuilder eating tactics to help the obese lose body fat.
The first order of business for the obese is to establish a multiple meal schedule. The obvious advantage to this strategy is it divides the daily calories in smaller chunks. I require the obese person to eat every three hours and this usually works out to five feedings a day. Secondly we insist they clean up the food selections. Some foods are easily converted into body fat (sugar foods, manmade foods and saturated fat) and some foods are near impossible for the body to convert into fat (lean protein, fibrous carbohydrates). The body’s metabolism kicks into high gear to digest protein and fiber – creates what is called the thermogenic effect of food. Body temperature actually increases when the digestive system is faced with the daunting task of breaking down hard to digest protein and fiber.
Multiple meals allow the body to deal with fewer calories at any one sitting and the repeated practice of eating 5-6 meals a day teaches the body to become adept at digesting and distributing food. Better to eat 3,000 “clean” calories a day divided into six five hundred-calorie daily meals than one 1,500 calorie mega-dirty fast-food meal.
The results are astounding when the obese buy into the approach. I have one male who has lost 40-pounds of bodyweight in 40 days while simultaneously adding 12-pounds of muscle. He started at 240 and yesterday he weighed 200. This is far more impressive because didn’t lose muscle in the process, he added muscle in the process. This was no ex-jock loaded with muscle memory; this is a 48-year old man with zero weight training experience.
Obese folks who slash calories end up losing as much fat as muscle and end up as miniaturized versions of the old fat selves. This modified bodybuilder approach melts fat while simultaneously adding muscle: the obese person eats more and as a direct result feels energized and vibrant during the process. Contrast this with the calorie-slasher who feels deprived, denied and continually on the verge of a binge. A person who eats wholesome foods every three hours is far less likely to binge and blow their diet than some poor obese person subsisting on 1200 calories a day. The calorie starved obese individual has set their caloric ceiling set so low that eating a candy bar or a bowl of ice cream causes them to add five pounds in 24-hours.
Adding functional muscle and building strength allows the obese person to become mobile and adept at climbing steps, getting out of a low chair and powering their bulk around. Compare this to the calorie-slasher who actually weakens their already weak body. Those who depend on deprivation to trigger bodyweight loss weaken the immune system and continually contract colds and sickness.
Those who live on 1000 to 1500 calories a day live in a stressful psychological world of denial. A person who has elevated their metabolism and consumes 3,000 calories a day can absorb an occasional binge far, far better than a person starving; I allow my folks a cheat meal once a week: this allows them to feel psychologically free. The interesting thing about the cheat meal (not cheat day – cheat meal) is that by “being good” the other 6 7/8’s of the time the sweets, fat and junk they crave and might eat are rejected by the body and classically results in diarrhea.
I train five obese folks I currently work with – one man and four women – and all are experiencing similarly spectacular results: all are losing unhealthy fat while building functional muscle and eating more food than they did before they commenced the process. This counterintuitive approach – eat more to lose fat – was torn right out of the playbook of champion bodybuilders and can be used to great effect by anyone interested in losing fat while adding muscle.