Hi! I’m Garrett, owner/writer/operator/coach of Crossroads of Fitness.
Today I’m here to talk to you about my Calorie Deficit, which, as of recent has been referred to as “The CD.” I’m in a calorie deficit in efforts to lose fat for a bikini competition that’s in a week! The CD has given me some teaching points I want to share!
First of all, every time I’ve attempted a fat loss program on myself I: A) choose the #Daretoeat style and B) learn something new.
If you’ve just begun to follow along with Crossroads of Fitness, you might not know that I’ve done bodybuilding competitions before. But I have! I took runner up in the NPC New England Championship competition in 2015, after a 16-week long prep.
Then, less than five moths later, I competed on April 16th at the NPC Natural Indiana. For that competition I didn’t do a true “prep” and I took 8th.
Every time I compete in NPC Bikini or a Powerlifting meet, I not only learn something which makes me a better coach, but I write about it, typically finding the humor behind it:
In my article, Vodka, Swedish Fish and Suppositories: My First Bikini Competition , I mention the dark, hungry people.
I tell all about about my butt-naked weigh-in at the USA Powerlifting meet here.
Then I express my complete frustration with the sport in this article: Why I’m quitting Bikini.
…..Pysch! (They say, “Never say never!”)
And now here I am writing about my third “Road to the show!” as many competitors call it.
But what has my “road” looked like? You’re probably wondering because in the past I’ve documented every weekly check-in (with my coach, me), every meal and every training day etc.
But not this time! I’ve purposely NOT filled my Instagram with #bikiniprep stuff for a few reasons:
- I wanted to prove you can be a real person, have fun AND compete
- wanted to see if I’d stay motivated /accountable sans coach and sans Instagram accountability
- I’ve been living life and a lot of other things have been equally as important to me
Before I dig into how the last five and a half weeks have gone, I want to explain my goals for the prep, my strategy, my starting point and give a few disclaimers. Then I’ll tell you all about the CD– a term coined by my boyfriend Jeff!
LET’S DO THIS!
Goals for this prep:
I wanted to do a short bikini competition preparation, meaning, I wanted to do a more intense calorie deficit and spend less weeks in the actual dieting phase.
Disclaimer about a shorter prep goal: I would NOT advise any new competitor to take this route. This is purely a scientific experiment I’ve been completing on myself, and I have a laundry list of items I discuss with anyone who inquires about competing, which generally deters them from deciding to get on stage. In fact, I think I’ve talked more people out of competing than I have convinced to compete.
A lot of research shows that the longer-term, slow and steady diet is actually better for avoiding fat regain immediately post-show. And, if you asked me in February of 2016 if I believed that, I’d say absolutely! I was able to pretty much maintain my *stage weight* of 113-115 up until two weeks before my powerlifting meet. I then cut some water, hit 112 pounds at the meet and stayed less than 120 until my second bikini competition.
So yes, that 16-week-long diet from August to November, as brutal as it was truly allowed me to get to a sustainable place. Read about my strategy here.
But, what I did WRONG back then was stay at that low weight for too long. It was moderately sustainable but, being so cognizant of tracking for so many months was tough. After six months of nonstop heavy lifting, counting calories etc, I was ready to reset.
From about July until Christmas I let hunger be my guide, dialed back my programmed training slightly and began doing more fun workouts when I wasn’t powerlifting. Some powerlifting weeks were amazing and heavy! Some were just status quo weeks where I lifted a moderate amount to spend time with a barbell.
When I get nervous I sacrifice depth. Videotaping keeps me accountable. The hardest part of squatting heavy for me is the fear…. heavy squats scare me! But like I always say, let it scare you…. fear is a good thing, it helps you keep your edge. Today I hit two sets of 2 at 200, still working on depth! Go get it, Friday! #powerlifting #200club #squats #daretolift #strength #glutes
During those six months I let hunger be my guide with increased activity level. I gained back fat with muscle, once I stopped eating specific low calorie portions and just increased my intake per my appetite, prioritizing my training above all else. I was ready to eat what sounded good when it sounded good and have drinks at the two weddings I attended in the fall, without a care, and I’m glad I did that, while keeping my strength.
This prep I wanted to see if the muscle mass I’d gained would in fact give me the metabolic rate I’d need to eat less, create a large deficit and then grin and bare the short term, tough deficit. I figured that anything is possible in a short-term scenario. After the competition, I want to see if I can reverse-diet out of it for 7-8 weeks, which I will also write about… which leads me to my true, overaching goal of this bikini project:
I want to work on the aftermath of dieting so that I can help my clients. I will be able to relate to someone who loses weight at a quasi-fast rate and then wants to not regain it back, despite having a fun social calendar in the summer.
I proved that a 16-week prep an lead to a very sustainable new low-weight, but what about a short prep?
This time around I don’t have to stay 116-118 (my predicted stage weight) post-show. I don have a photoshoot to worry about. But I do want to look my best and feel confident in a bikini and I think that is a good enough goal to keep me on track.
Q: Will I have cravings post show that will made it hard to reverse diet? My hypothesis is NO because I don’t have any now like I did during my first 16-week diet. It’s has been easy to stay focused, because the competition is so close.
Q: Will the lack of cravings help me maintain this newer low without much difficulty? We will see! I anticipate maintaining for a while because I have a very active and healthy lifestyle.
Q: Will the low calorie days I’ve been doing be too tough to adhere to post-competition?
Strategy for this Prep:
This prep/diet’s main strategy has been to stay mentally tough. Going into it I knew that logically I could push through anything short-term, but worried it would be too challenging! At 11 weeks-out I considered beginning early to give myself more time, but my travel schedule deterred me.
For instance, at the 11 weeks-out marker, the competition was on my radar, but decided not to start tracking calories yet because I was surfing in Puerto Rico!
Nine weeks-out I was having cocktails by the pool with Jeff, playing with my new brother and lifting.
Eight weeks-out I was snowboarding and having cocktails for an overnight trip to Loon Mountain in New Hampshire.
I knew going into a shorter prep mean that for the first time ever I’d have to prioritize cardio to create a big enough deficit to lose enough weight in time for the show, and so here’s a look at how I did it, intensifying it somehow each week.
The final 7-weeks of travel and cardio:
- 7-weeks out: New York City weekend where I tried confetti croissants, but also did Barry’s DF on a rest day. 4 30 minute cardio sessions.
- 6-weeks out: Aspen, Colorado with TONS of snowboarding, hiking and lifting balanced with higher calorie (roughly tracked) dinners. three cards that week prior to Aspen.
- 5-Weeks out: no travel, increased cardio to 6, 30 minute sessions, had a girls’ night with (roughly tracked) sushi, spent Saturday in Rhode Island and didn’t workout Saturday or Sunday
- 4-Weeks out: Bar-crawl double date in Boston with cocktails Friday, Bruins Hockey game in a suite Saturday. Did 6, 30 minute cardio sessions, including two Barry’s classes that week.
- 3-Weeks out: Easter weekend, kept same higher intensity cardio (6 sessions, two form Barry’s)
- 2-Weeks out: Ester Sunday was a high calorie rest day, then I did 3 big lifts, one barry’s class and four 30 minute cardio days.
As you can see, there has been filled with short trips away from my own kitchen. Also, each week I tried to increase a stressor on my body’s output in some way, shape or form. This diet phase is short enough that I can make a change each week.
One change you’ve been seeing on instagram story and I’ve mentioned in my Weekly Update is the weighted vest power-walking. That has simply been a way for me to intensify the 30 minute session, when I don’t want to run. What’s interesting is that this week the vest finally doesn’t feel that heavy when I put it on; which is why I spent 15 more minutes on the treadmill yesterday and why I’ve been toggling with my speeds and inclines to somehow make it harder each week.
As for powerlifting, I’ve made sure to touch a barbell for deadlifts or squats (or both) at least ONCE a week, no matter what, this entire prep. My lifting/training regime has been the least strategic/scientific this round. After hurting my back I had to let go of trying to follow a specific training block and switch my focus to simply trying to burn more calories by being more active, which is not easy when you’re in a severe deficit.
Also, in my past dieting/fat loss phases, I didn’t really do cardio, like, ever. This time I’m doing it and not batting an eye because I know it’s a necessary evil to create a big enough deficit to get this fat loss expedited.
Oddly enough I’ve seen a few strength increases, which has been really exciting and fun! Three weeks ago I got the chin-up with 52 pounds around my waist.
Experiencing the CD:
Disclaimer: In most at loss scenarios, a calorie deficit should not be a white-knuckled experience. I tell my clients that they should seldom go to bed hungry, especially in the beginning of their program. In weeks 9-12, they may have a few nights when they feel a little hungry and if they are, I tell them to add in a snack if they need to; the hunger is just a mere sign of the deficit. For ordinary, sustainable fat loss you shouldn’t feel too many negative effects of the calorie deficit. There are some, as described in an excellent piece by Nick Smoot, (see here), but over all, you shouldn’t be miserable while dieting. Read my article Three Steps to Lean out Without Severly Restricting to understand my approach.
Disclaimer on *why* I’m making myself miserable: 1) it’s not actually that miserable 2) In order to learn more about the best way to come out of a calorie deficit/ fat loss I have to be in one. Because I walk around at no more than ~ 20-22% body fat year round, it takes getting pretty miserable to create a deficit that will take me lower than that 22% level… (aka lean enough to get on a stage) and in doing so, I can better understand / experience the psychological experience of dieting. Then, I can come up with strategy for coaching the post-dieting phase of Dare To Eat, for my clients.
Without further adieu, here’s how I’ve been feeling in CD land:
As noted, my calories have been low in order to put me in a more sever deficit than I’ve ever done. I increased cardio from basically none to quite a lot– 6, 30 minute sessions a week. It’s not easy. After 4 weeks the hunger let up, and I began to feel more tired. My Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) has definitely decreased as I feel more lethargic most of the day.
When the CD started to kick in, my compassionate boyfriend noticed and decided that he too, should track his calories. He wanted to (pretend to) be in a calorie deficit too, and understand the challenge of tracking everything.
While dieting in the past I felt cold all the time! However, this time, not as much. I’e been short tempered the past two weeks I’d say and feel slower when I walk places, but I’ve only been abnormally cold a few times.
Because I have to do cardio when exhausted (and I’m not used to doing any cardio in the first place), when I power walk in my weighted vest at the gym I’ve been imaging I’m a sherpa. It’s so helpful. I pretend I’m working and doing a very important job with beautiful landscape surrounding me. My weighted vest is my sherpa load.
Other times I imagine I’m in the army, trekking through the forest with a big pack on my body. I try to exude “mind over matter” and remember food will always want to be there, when I want to eat sooner than I should. (Side note: there’s no “perfect time” for a meal, however, if you eat dinner at 3 p.m. it is going to be a long afternoon!)
Nutrition hacks for my this time around. (Learn about my past prep snacks/tricks here).
- I obsess over fizzy water.
- I’ve been working really hard to keep veggie intake high and have go-to snacks in my fridge so I don’t reach for higher calorie protein bars.
- I laugh a lot thanks to comments from Jeff, who is pretending he’s in a CD, (See below)
“I had 6 beers today and I’m under my calorie goal by 100.” Jeff said, who forgot to mention the amazing looking bagel twist he ate in front of me, the mini-eggs and pizza bread he snacked on. And still under calories!!?? Insert eye-roll.
I pretended I was going to bite off a huge cracker he was trying to eat in one big bite. He swallowed and said, “Wait if I chew it and you eat it, who gets the calories?” That stinker!
“I spilled oatmeal on my pants– minus 10 calories!” -Jeff, at work.
“Do you lose calories when you fart?” -Jeff, hopefully not at work 😉
In all seriousness tough, I feel a little tired. My TDEE has definitely decreased. I want to talk slower, move less and even think less! On the treadmill yesterday I felt like I was a ghost. It was weird. And this is the not-so-pretty side so many competitors have spoken about. But the good news is, I’m going through this for 5 more days. And also, let’s be real, I was eating cake in Rhode Island the night before 4 weeks-out and if we are being really honest, I had two shots of Saki last Friday….
….a calorie is a calorie!!!
This competition is important to me because if I end up being able to reverse diet out of this deficit properly, I may decide that I like the short prep more, and want to do another competition again! Many of you know that my favorite part of all of this (besides hanging out with Fingers) is getting all glammed-up since I’m a girly girl! But time will tell, we will see how the post-show diet goes! Fingers and I will be making a special announcement this weekend, so stay tuned and we will also be releasing a video about Peak-Week next week after the show!