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So how do I create a deficit to lose fat?

I don’t believe that it’s entirely clear that you do in fact need to create a deficit to mobilize fat but there isn’t a lot of science out there on this concept because everyone is looking to create the next “juice fast” to make a quick buck.  This was my answer to this question and it might just change your life.

How do I create a deficit to lose fat?

“So how do you use the calculator to adjust for wanting to LOSE fat? I didn’t see that feature, but I love the calculator. I do CrossFit 3-5 times/week (usually at least 4), but am WAY over the recommended BMI for my height/weight. Need to lose this fat and am having a really hard time. I’ve been CFitting since June 2012, steadily going 3-4 times a week since August. Eat mostly paleo, (probably 80/20), and haven’t seen the scale move. Now counting calories (keeping to 1200 net) daily and hoping it helps. Thanks for any info you can provide!”

“you don’t. Here is why what I suggest works and why you will never have to push the pedal harder for results ever again. Let’s say you are eating at TDEE, you figure out a good plan and you get good meals with good nutrients rolling. All of which is favorable as it relates to metabolism and that alone will start right sizing you immediately combined with Crossfit. Here is where we now pour gasoline and light the match. Once you are eating correctly everything changes, you become the best version of yourself and your work capacity immediately sky rockets. Things you couldn’t do before combined with moving properly become trivial. At this point you may actually want to up your calories even further but that depends on your goals. Do you see how eating actually creates the slight deficit you may or may not have needed all along?”  “stay out of your own way and let the best version of you come out.” “Also 1200 net calories is the problem not the solution”.

By the way related to BMI I am also over it and I am 12% and I am pretty happy with my look.  According to BMI this guy is fat.  Don’t believe the hype y’all.  Numbers are scary if you know how they help you but don’t get caught up in them.


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Paleo meal plan example

If you are looking to optimize your nutrition so that you can perform at your peak, consider purchasing Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss.  You’ll be granted access to the Eat To Perform Science Lab and get the help you need every step of the way to accomplish your goals.

Here is an example of a good whole foods diet plan, I based this information off of the BodPod readings both my wife and I get from the Univerity of Minnesota, I hope this helps put a real world example on the “interpreting Paleo” article.

Paleo meal plan example 

My wife has 107 pounds of lean mass, from what I have seen for most gals this is pretty close to average. Same could be said for mine at 140 pounds. If you think you are an outlier you might be but if you are a Crossfitter I can assure you this is pretty close to the amount of food you need.

What 2,343 calories (this is for women, men is below) looks like when eating mostly whole foods

Breakfast, 2 Large Eggs with 4 slices of bacon for breakfast with half an avocado on top (eggs cooked with ghee)

Lunch, Power green salad with Spinach, Kale and Chard with broccoli, cauliflower and carrots with hidden valley ranch (keepin it real) with an 8 ounce chicken breast

For snack let’s have a 16 ounce Kombucha Guava Goddess with a quarter cup of unsalted sunflower seeds and 2 squares of dark chocolate hazelnut from Trader Joe’s

Dinner AND Dessert

6 ounce grass fed Tenderloin Filet (butter on top) with a side of sweet potatoes baked with MCT oil. For dessert coconut milk smoothie made with a can of Trader Joes Light, a bag of frozen dark cherries and 1/3 of a bag of frozen pineapple (split it with spouse or kids, it makes a lot).

For gals (carbs 176, Fat 143 and Protein 113) Slightly more than my wife’s lean body mass (I base protein needs on LBM for people that eat mostly whole foods)

For guys 2863 can be done by simply switching out the Filet for a ribeye
(carbs 176, fats 190, protein 139) The protein is almost exactly equal grams in lean body mass for me.

Interpreting Paleo for CrossFit

If you are looking to optimize your nutrition so that you can perform at your peak, consider purchasing Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss.  You’ll be granted access to the Eat To Perform Science Lab and get the help you need every step of the way to accomplish your goals.

This is from Chapter 21 of “It Starts with Food” by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig.  It’s what I refer to as the “I’ve never read it” chapter.  Under the heading “Active Individuals”, first line, they write:  “If you exercise regularly or play a sport, you’ll need to support that activity with extra nutrition and CALORIES.”  This is a book that teaches people how to not count calories.  I know Dallas and Melissa a bit and I have asked them these questions, so I feel comfortable sharing their answers with you.  They have a chart that says “Amount of Carbohydrate Post Workout” that’s similar to Mark Sisson’s “Carbohydrate Curve”.

(Here is a link to a Paleo meal plan I did based off of my wife and I’s Body Fat analysis from the University of Minnesota.  I think it will surprise folks.)

Random Paleo Guy/Girl:  Wait, what?  Why are all my VLC diet authors writing about carbs all of a sudden,and why didn’t Robb Wolf stab Kiefer in the neck on that Carb Back-Loading podcast?  This is all so confusing.

I say this all of the time:  diets need an interpreter, which is why I started Eat To Perform.  Stick with me, and I believe I can fix your VLC Paleo diet.  Unlike people that want you to conform to the way they think, I try to meet readers where they are.  Paleo is a fine diet that you can use for performance, but you have to eat like an athlete (and yes, you are an athlete if you CrossFit).  How do I know this? Because Loren Cordain felt that the original “The Paleo Diet” fell short for these populations and put out a revised edition years later.  That book is titled “The Paleo Diet for Athletes”, aka “The Paleo Book Nobody Has Ever Read.  In this marvelous piece of literature, he actually recommends Gatorade!   Folks, we have to lose this 100% mentality; it isn’t leading you to the results you want.  The level of performance you want to reach will come to you slowly, but if you’re moving well and eating well while also having some Gatorade once in a while, isn’t that a reasonable compromise?

Back to Chapter 21 of “It Starts with Food”

There is a chart (go ahead and pull it out, I couldn’t find it online) that goes through various post-workout strategies.  On the left is the part of the chart that describes a person who’s “Overweight, Insulin Resistant, Chronic Inflammation, “Sick””.  Ok, I have to stop there; is that really you? I mean really?  I digress.  The other side of the chart is “Lean Muscular, Insulin Sensitive, No Inflammation and healthy”.  The chart seems to imply that athletes don’t need carbs post-workout.

Random Paleo Guy/GirlI COULD NOT AGREE MORE *gnawing on celery post workout*

Here is Where the Disconnect Happens

What Dallas and Melissa wrote is correct; for folks looking to lose a few pounds, adding carbs makes no sense.  I don’t generally recommend a ton of carbs post workout for populations over 10% body fat (for men) and over 20% for women.  The problem starts when you turn your Paleo diet into Atkins (or a ketogenic diet), trying to get cut because if some is good more is better right? Then let’s go ahead and CrossFit 6 times a week.  Boom baby!  We’re gonna burn some fat now, right? Initially it seems to be working; the scale is down, you look less watery in the mirror.  It’s like a dream come true, if dreams involved not sleeping at all and being constantly stressed just to wring all of the water out of your body and muscles.  Athletes need carbs!

Random Paleo Guy/Girl:  But I am burning fat yo!  Makin’ gainz! *celery is almost done*

You Aren’t Losing as Much Fat as you THINK You Are

Let’s say you lose ten pounds on a VLC version of Paleo; probably close to eight lbs. of it is water.  Even Atkins would not be impressed (You will just have to envision what you think Atkins looks like doing the McKayla Maroney face.).  At best, you have mobilized maybe two pounds (more if you are obese) of fat.  Yeah, you’re lighter now, but you’re still about as fat as you were to begin with and your muscles are flat.  Your average person walking in to a CrossFit gym has already taken some steps in a positive way towards better health; superficial weight loss goals point you in the wrong direction.

Tell me that the following scenario isn’t familiar:  even though you tell people you don’t crave sugar, you do.  At this point, you might be overriding your body’s signals so much though that nothing seems right.  You can’t sleep, chicken and broccoli sucks so you don’t want to eat as much.  You are convinced that this is right, that you just need to suck it up for a bit.  Even though everyone at the gym keeps telling you that you aren’t eating enough, you have ignored them.

That is, until cheesecake day.  The guilt associated with cheesecake day sucks so much, but all that creamy cheese can’t be wrong; it feels so right! By the time you’re done, you order a couple of glasses of wine to avoid thinking of the inevitable month you will have to eat chicken and broccoli to amend your transgressions.  Right now, though, IT FEELS SO GOOD.  Brain is no longer foggy, and you think to yourself, “This must be what heaven is like.”

The next day, you fast for 24 hours to quell your guilt.  It’s your little secret, but even through all of the self-loating, you remember it fondly.

Random Paleo Guy/Girl:  This dude might be onto something with this cheesecake thing…

The Real Problem and How To ACTUALLY Mobilize Fat

The real problem is that you turned your Paleo diet into some bastardized amalgamation of Weight Watchers, Atkins and Spin classes 8 times a week all rolled into one.  When you inevitably stall, you instinctively give up and ironically, that’s what you should have done all along.  Folks, trust me; eating low carb while also engaging in intense exercise like CrossFit, then combining it with eating less ain’t gonna work!  It’s leaving you sick, broken and confused.

Dallas and Melissa didn’t tell you to do any of that, but I will.  Moderate fruit intake and some starches actually help your metabolism.  Most of my clients are women.  Want to know the big secret I charge people for?  I get them to start eating enough.  In almost every case, the person (Who always comes to me thinking that they eat too much!) is usually under eating by 500-700 calories a day while maintaining an intense exercise regimen.

Once your body starts getting proper nourishment, everything comes into focus.  Sleep recovers, workouts are better and energy levels go up.  Your Paleo diet didn’t fail you; your interpretation of it did.  When your weight loss stalls, pulling out a bigger hammer doesn’t work.  If you just eat reasonable amounts of food that fuel your performance, everything will fall into place.  Drop that low carb cheerleader forum where everyone says, “You go guy/girl, you look great!”  That stuff isn’t helping you get better; it’s giving you the illusion that there is some “low carb pot o’ gold” at the end of the “calorie restriction rainbow”.  It doesn’t exist, and it never did.



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