In March 2017 I injured my back. I decided to change my focus because of this and started to experiment with food. As a personal trainer, I need to be up to date on not only exercise, but nutritional advice. I weighed in at my Powerlifting competition in March at just over 80kg. I had grown a small pot-belly. This wasn't anything life-threatening, but for someone who at the age of 18 was 58kg, this was very much the opposite of what I was used to. My partner Cat joined in (which REALLY helped my adherence), and we started playing about with our approach to food to better our knowledge and our bodies.
I started off with calorie tracking (and haven't actually stopped). I went with an extremely high intake of protein, a small amount of carbs and a small amount of fat. From a year of eating basically everything I saw, to going down to a sudden drop in calories (I think I aimed for 2300 calories?), seemed drastic to me at first, but I didn't find I was too hungry. I decided to take a photo weekly. Week 3 I already saw some pretty significant changes. My motivation from that change was huge, I knew I was heading in the right direction. By week 8 I had lost huge amounts off my belly. My face had even changed.
I started this in about October of 2017. By this point my calories had dropped further, and I seem to recall in the lead up to Christmas I was down to about 1700 calories, if I remember correctly. Intermittent fasting went hand in hand with the smaller amount of calories I was eating. I had an 8 hour window, which I would stretch to 10 hours sometimes, for which to eat. I would only drink water outside of those hours. There are many supposed health benefits from intermittent fasting, but I was mainly doing it to keep my calories under control.
Not long into my intermittent fasting we went into a Keto-based diet. Around 20-30g of carbs per day (5% of calories), aiming for around 2g of protein per KG of bodyweight (30% of calories), and the rest of my calories coming from fat (65% of calories). I enjoyed the process. I felt alert, I felt my sleep quality had improved, and I didn't notice any significant changes to my strength. My food volume was extremely low due to eating very calorie dense foods, and I liked combining it with intermittent fasting. I didn't have to cook much, which in turn meant I didn't need to clean much, and food was not needed to be thought about outside of my 8 hour window, it meant I had a lot more time on my hands. By Christmas I was down to 67kg. Dropping down from around 80kg, that was a 13kg weight loss. I lost a lot of fat. I was now very lean.
Over the new year in 2018 I took on more carbs. Keto was boring me. I found it to be good, but not sustainable. I never intended to do it indefinitely, so it was time to reintroduce carbs. I gorged on vegetables, but only hovered around 100g of carbs at the most, I still had a high intake of fat. I didn't want to go overboard, I wanted my microbiome to slowly get used to the fact I was going to be ingesting foods that it hadn't had for quite some time. Being that I had lost that fat, got down to a lean look, I figured it was time to begin a 'slow bulk'.
Still calorie tracking, I upped my calories alongside upping my carbs, and come May time I was up to 70kg. I was able to reintroduce the back squat, and progress my deadlift, with my back feeling much better now, although not 100%.
A year on - to now
I'm still calorie tracking. Over summer 2018 I slowly put more weight on, and by November 2018 weighed in at just over 74kg. I kept my collateral damage to a minimum and haven't put much fat on, so I could somewhat safely argue I put on mostly muscle. I finished a strength cycle and reverse dieted down to a maintenance level of 2300 calories. When in a bodybuilding phase, before I started my next cycle, I go back up to 2600, and more recently up to 2800 calories. I don't care what my carbs/fat intake is, but I typically eat over 100g of each. I still eat 2g per kg of bodyweight, or more, of protein.
My goal was always to get back to competing. While waiting for my back to heal, my goal was to carry on putting on muscle, as little fat as possible, and to get stronger.
My conclusions haven't really altered in the ways of nutrition. By that I mean methods for weight loss/gain. You have to find an approach that suits you. As I've said before, calories in versus calories out are going to be the difference between putting weight on, or losing weight. A cookie-cutter approach can give you the basics, the foundations, but off of that you have to alter it to your lifestyle, your preferences and your goals.
I enjoy calorie counting. It means I know exactly what I'm eating. I have made sure I have periods where I don't bother, this is to make sure I don't get too obsessed with the numbers. It's a nice to have a break. When I get back to calorie tracking, it feels fresh and I enjoy it once again. No matter your approach, take a break from it periodically, I think it's nice for a mental reset.
Thanks for reading!
BennyFit Personal Trainer