Where to Begin?
“I work out 5 days a week but I’m still not losing my last few pounds! What is wrong?!”
This type of frustration may sound familiar. If so, you’re not alone. Our team of fitness and nutrition experts have coached thousands of people with a scientifically-proven Metabolic Profiling method (MetPro). We’ve repeatedly observed what clinical researchers have concluded: fitness plans are most effective when an active lifestyle is complemented by an individualized and adaptive meal plan. Wellness plans that strategically incorporate both food and exercise make it possible to achieve goals–whether to build muscle, increase endurance for an upcoming marathon, or lose a few pounds.
By constantly evaluating metabolic behaviors, performance, and lifestyle, and then strategically adapting the exercise and meal plan strategies, people can achieve lasting results–including losing those last few pounds! But how does this process really work?
A strategy begins by first understanding how one’s unique metabolism functions. Imagine getting into a car somewhere in the US, and driving in an arbitrary direction to hopefully arrive in Topeka, Kansas. This would be ridiculous. It’s important to first identify where you are on the map. Once you know your starting location, you can make a plan to reach your target.
Likewise, beginning a fitness plan without first knowing how your body’s metabolism responds to food may result in frustration, disappointment, and wasted effort.
Metabolism and Lifestyle
Without identifying a starting point for a fitness plan, it’s nearly impossible to develop a successful strategy. To avoid wasted time or energy, the best first step is to understand your individual metabolism and the theories behind popular dieting methods. Fundamentally, for a strategy to work, individuals need a fitness strategy that complements their lifestyle and reflects their metabolism’s experience with other diets.
Weight loss can be difficult because social activities, work schedules, and other responsibilities don’t allow for consistent routines. Busy and on-the-go people may find it impossible to maintain a consistent exercise and meal plan. Our coaching team has worked with Fortune 100 executives, busy entrepreneurs, surgeons, professional athletes, and others who travel nearly constantly. We’ve seen firsthand how body transformations are possible, but it requires implementing exercise and meal strategies that adapt to busy lifestyles.
Some individuals have experienced a variety of diets with little to no effect. In perhaps a string of exhausting disappointments, a diet was effective for a very short period of time but the effects were reversed. Many clinical studies have shown that while many diets can induce weight loss, maintenance of weight loss is much more difficult. Even programs that promise “individualized” meal plans fundamentally offer “cookie cutter” approaches that don’t account for the metabolism’s adaptation over time. To shed those last few pounds of unwanted fat, or to gain the endurance required for an IRONMAN race, the metabolism must be trained.
To train an ever-changing metabolism, one cannot simply use the latest diet. Diets come and go based on celebrities, pop science, and effective advertising campaigns. While the names of diet programs may change and reappear with catchy titles, underlying strategies frequently include Calorie Management and Carbohydrate Management. While these may offer some limited value, they both have shortcomings and often negative effects.
The first approach of Calorie Management is simple: consume fewer calories to lose weight. The trimming may come from reducing calorie dense (high fat) foods or avoiding unnecessary snacking. Many popular diets are simple variations of this theme using points, gamification, special foods (e.g., Paleo), or time-specific eating to limit the total calories consumed.
The simple approach of consuming fewer calories may be the simplest starting point without committing to a specific plan. However, this approach is not effective if the body has already experienced multiple diets; the metabolism has already adapted to run on less fuel. Restricting calories for too long is unsustainable and will slow the metabolic rate, thus contributing to weight regain. Scientific research consistently shows that people on these diets regain weight after an initial intervention period.
A second approach is Carbohydrate Management. There are countless variations of this popular theme in which fewer carbohydrates are consumed. When comparing very low carbohydrate diets with calorie-restricted diets, research shows that restricting carbohydrates results in greater weight loss than calorie restriction alone. True, carbohydrate restriction results in faster initial weight loss and may help stabilize appetite and reduce sugar cravings. However when accounting for water balance and increased sensitivity to carbohydrates, the longer-term benefits become less clear. Increased carbohydrate sensitivity can be a trigger that leads to yo-yo dieting.
Someone who has not been restricting carbohydrates previously may benefit from this approach. However, many people are aware of their slow metabolism and already restrict carbohydrate consumption. Simply continuing to restrict carbohydrates is unlikely going to yield a different response from what’s been experienced already.
Carbohydrate restriction is especially a poor choice for individuals with busy or varying schedules. The mechanism that triggers fat loss is muted significantly if a plan is not maintained consistently. For people without the ability to regularly plan ahead for meals, the benefits of consistent portion control and calorie management may outweigh the benefits of on-again, off-again carb restriction.
As any bookseller knows, diets emphasizing Calorie Management and Carbohydrate Management abound in a multi-billion dollar industry. When used independently of one another or without planning, their efficacy is limited. Isolated weight-loss strategies can produce some weight loss, but it is short-lived, lasting only a few months. An initial period of weight loss will invariably be followed by significant weight regain over subsequent months.
Performance Meal Planning
Performance Meal Planning is a strategy for eating for optimal energy and athleticism. This multi-disciplinary approach departs significantly from traditional dieting. Performance meal plans are strategically balanced, include frequent snacking, and include complementary exercise plans. Our coaches have been using this approach to consistently achieve sustainable results for thousands of high-performing individuals.
This approach has three important characteristics. First, it promotes improved body shape and composition at any size when combined with exercise. Second, the time spent following a performance meal plan tends to make future attempts at weight loss more fruitful when coupled with exercise. Third, optimizing your metabolic rate ultimately allows for enhanced recovery times, and unlocks your athletic potential.
If, despite your best efforts, your metabolism refuses to shed those last few pounds, simply browsing the local bookstore is a poor solution. Popular diets might produce short-term results but they don’t account for changes in metabolism or lifestyle. Even worse, these diets nearly always result in weight regain and repeated cycles of frustration.
A successful strategy for any body transformation requires first understanding your own personal metabolism–it’s as unique as your fingerprint. Based on that knowledge, you can begin a multi-disciplinary strategic plan that avoids short-term fad diets and yo-yo dieting. My coaches and I have seen it time and time again: specific meal plans and targeted exercises–that accommodate your lifestyle–make a winning strategy for long-term success.