Archive for the Category Insights


Thanksgiving Weight Experiment

I live in Canada. And, Thanksgiving in Canada is a lot like Thanksgiving in the US… it involves a LOT of eating.

So for fun, I decided to track my weight over this joyous occasion eating festivities.

It started Friday morning at 174 pounds.

I spent the day doing dinner prep (it was our turn to host Thanksgiving dinner). I did manage to get some rock climbing in during the morning, and was also able to sneak away for a quick shoulders work out around 2 PM.

I opened the wine at 3:30, guests arrived at 4, we started eating at 5.  I ate, but I tried to keep it somewhat under control. I also drank, but kept that under control too

I was able to say “enough”…. twice. Once after my first piece of strawberry rhubarb pie and then once again after my much larger piece of apple crumble with coconut whipped cream

Guests were gone by 9 ish, we were done cleaning by 10:30 and I stepped on the scale at around 11 PM:

177 pounds.

The next morning I woke up at around 8 AM (the kids slept in!) and I stepped on the scale:

172.5 pounds.

(A pound and a half lower than yesterday morning.)

Was it my metabolism? My leptin or thyroid hormones going out of control from all the extra food? No, it was probably a change in water weight.

For the rest of Saturday I ate leftovers, made soup, ate pie, played with the kids, ate pie, watched Monster High movies with my daughter and went to the local farm (Dyments in Dundas) for their annual Thanksgiving festivities. No workouts, no real movement to speak of…

I stepped on the scale that evening at:

179 pounds.

Yikes.. I do NOT like being that close to 180!  Oh well, at least my weight may drop over the night.

The next morning I weighed in at:

177 pounds.

Too high for my liking – goes to show that the weight loss the morning after a big day of eating is only temporary…  Nature will always catch up to you

At around 1 pm on Sunday I started fasting, that evening before bed I weighed

178 pounds.

The next morning I was 19 hours into my fast when I stepped on the scale

175 pounds.

I finished my fast around 12:30 with a family lunch, but I ‘kept it light’ that evening I did a legs workout, while still keeping the eating on the lighter side. We used up the leftovers, and cleared the kitchen of any suspect food….

That evening I weighed in at

176 pounds

The next morning I weighted


Right back to normal for me.

If you look at all the weight fluctuations you see wild changes in weight, however if you remove the evening weights the story becomes a bit more clear:

174 —> 172.5 —> 177 —> 175 —> 174

If you remember that these are snapshots of my weight change – one three-second period of time over a 24 hour period.

Really, My weight never moved from a baseline of 174 by more than 3 pounds at any given time. And 3 pounds is a fairly normal weight fluctuation for a 5’10” male.

The same goes if you only track the evening weights

177 —> 179 —> 178 —> 176

In fact, the only reason the weight swings seems so extreme is that we are comparing morning ’empty’ weights to varying degrees of evening ‘full weights’.  The truth is your weight changes by the minute – food has weight, water has weight, different foods affect how your body handles water, alcohol does too, as do the circadian rhythms of your hormones.

Weight is a transient moment in time snap-shot of nothing more than the weight of your body. In other words without other metrics weight is a very, very poor indicator of what is going on inside of your body, and it is certainly NOT an indication of the inner workings of your metabolism.

In fact, if you consider my morning waist measurements through this process

32.5 —> 32.75 —> 33 —> 33 —> right in-between 32.5 and 32.75

You see even less fluctuation (at least in my eyes) I generally don’t worry unless my waist gets above 33.5 – and even then ‘worry’ just means I go back to fasting for 24 hours twice per week.

The moral is your weight changes. Fluctuations are OK. Upwards trends are something you need to control, but fluctuations happen.

And women – your weight will also fluctuate with your menstrual cycle – so you have daily fluctuations AND monthly fluctuations to contend with.

So treat weight for what it is… just one of many measurements you make on your body – one that is a quick snapshot, that doesn’t define how your body looks, how your metabolism is working, your hormone levels, or your self worth.

It’s an number worth tracking, but the trends are far more important than the actual number.



Diet Advice and Diet Confusion

Every so often I stumble across something that reminds me why I love Eat Stop Eat.

Typically I find this type of stuff on the internet..usually in the form of the ever-conflicting diet advice you can find being passed around on-line.

The type of advice that makes you worry about specific macronutrients or macronutrient ratios in a way that is overly simplified and overly confusing at the exact same time.

But today…Today was different.

I found today’s Diet Confusion in a research paper.

Here’s the weird part..I wasn’t looking for Diet Advice, I was reading on the topic of Alcohol.

Specifically on the topic “Is Alcohol Consumption a Risk Factor For Weight Gain and Obesity?”

So…what stopped me dead in my tracks?

I’m going to share it with you.

Now remember…this isn’t my diet advice. And, it’s not ‘Paleo Friendly’ so remember…I didn’t write this.

But the basic idea is that we need to be concerned with “Fat Balance” (along with calorie balance) and that a positive fat balance is a much easier way to induce weight gain than a positive carbohydrate balance.

Anyway here it is (All the proof you will ever need that the simple answer of Eat Stop Eat is all you need…)



I warn you, it’s a tough read, but it perfectly emphasis my point.

Just find an easy way to eat less.


2 Minute Bedtime Habit Key to Overcoming Obesity

“There’s no escape,” claims top researcher, John Barban.

And after championing real world strategies leading to breakthrough results involving 1000’s of the most stubborn of obesity cases over the last 20 years, he would know.

“Unfortunately, in this day and age, we deal with a lot more DNA harming factors in our lives than ever before, from social media, to different frequencies of light, to man-made foods.”

“Every single modern convenience humans have invented has also added additional negative variables that simply CANNOT be accounted for and what makes it worse, these variables CANNOT be avoided, and strategies to overcome them have frankly introduced even more negative issues.”

Much to the delight of the diet/pharma complex where executive salaries and bonus compensation packages have been rapidly skyrocketing over the last 30 years…

“Battling obesity and biological aging is basically impossible with today’s current approach and is simply an endless profit center.”

“However, a new 3-part strategy may hold the key,” says Barban.

“What if we start with the idea that you can never go back, you cannot avoid, and the ever-changing world as it is IS the new reality that you simply cannot escape?”

During this free groundbreaking presentation, Barban builds on this core idea and reveals the proven 3-part strategy that results in a simple 2-minute change to your bedtime ritual that completely reverses obesity, clears and de-wrinkles skin, and lowers your biological age to 10-20 years BELOW your actual age.

As for Barban, he laughs at the new reveal:

“The funny thing is, if you do this one thing, your body will actually take care of the rest. It’s strange. Cravings, disease, obesity, premature aging, even many issues in mental health are showing to completely resolve ON THEIR OWN. This is the lynchpin no one is talking about.”

>> Do NOT AVOID this 2-minute bedtime ritual

While the total effects of this new method will vary from person to person depending on how much harm each person’s DNA has accumulated, Barban advises all adults to arm themselves with this groundbreaking information.



Great Fasting Advice

Sometimes it’s easy to forget why we do the things we do.

And it’s also easy to forget what’s important.

With Fasting, it’s not the hormonal stuff that’s the most important.

It’s the mental part.

For fasting to work it must be associated with positive reinforcement.

When you finish a 24 hour fast, you should feel really good.

Because you finished.

You accomplished your goal.

You won.

The problem occurs when you get USED to fasting.

Once your used to fasting, you forget about the positive reinforcement.

And this can lead you to using fasting as PUNISHMENT.

Not good.

Fasting should not be a punishment.

As an example:

You have a bad night of eating, so you FORCE yourself to fast the next day.

You are now associating Fasting with something negative.

This can make fasting STOP working.

It can lead to binging before and after.

Bottom line: Don’t use fasting as a punishment (Simple message)

Always remember, fasting should be positive.

Here is a great email I received from Agnes about this exact topic:

Seems that when I don’t use the fasting to punish myself and save calories for eating poorly or too much the day before I do much better. I hope that’s some insight to others.

So if you want to make sure Eat Stop Eat keeps working remember to keep it positive. Don’t use your fasts as a punishment, use it as a tool to lose weight, and build positive momentum.

Every time you complete a 24 hour fast, it’s a small win for you.

(Yeah you!)



Confront your Assumptions

The controversy over differing nutritional theories arises more from semantics and the limitation of language than it does from scientific principles.

These may sound like sharp words that admittedly could almost seem elitist, so let me try to explain…

The argument that a ‘calorie is not a calorie’, or that ‘not all calories are created equal’ is an error in language. Either that or an illustration of a gross lack of understanding.

(Adding funny pics that people can relate to doesn’t make an assumption more valid)

A calorie is a measure of energy. So a calorie by definition must be a calorie, just like an inch is by definition and inch and a pound by definition is a pound.

What is typically meant when someone says “not all calories are equal” is “not all macro-nutrients are equal” which is a valid statement.

The problem arises again in language… someone is thinking “Not all macro-nutrients are equal”(which is true) but says “Not all calories are equal” (which is not true)…and you can see where the confusion arises.

Entire online debates rage on because each side is arguing a one-sided argument… A calorie is a calorie (true) and no all macro-nutrients are the same (also true).

The language confuses people..and since both sides are technically right, the only logical conclusion is that the people arguing the other side are simply crazy, or jaded, or delusional.

This is similar to me arguing that car tires are round, and you vehemently denying that they are round, because they are made or rubber. We can argue all day, but we’re not going to get anywhere until we realize we’re both right, and we’re talking about to different properties of the tire (its shape and what it’s made of)

The other issue with nutrition is one of critical thinking… of trying to figure out what is, and is not an absolute.

We tend to mistake our assumptions for absolutes. This leads to faulty logic…or even extremely sound logic just based on incorrect assumptions.

An assumption is something we take for granted or presuppose. Usually it is something we previously learned and do not question. It is part of our system of beliefs.

We all make hundreds of assumptions every day without thinking about it. Many assumptions are sound and justifiable. Many, however, are not.

Daily assumptions are necessary to simply navigate the world. For example, you only feel safe driving through a green light assuming that the cars waiting at the red light are in fact going to wait and not just charge headlong through the intersection on a red.

In research Assumptions are the things we take for granted in the study: statements by the researcher that certain elements of the research are understood to be true.

Here are some examples.

The Atwater factors…you know, our estimated (and rounded) amount of calories per gram of Protein, Carbs and Fats (4,4,9 respectively) These are in fact estimates.

They were set more than 100 years ago, and are estimates based on the average of a large number of foods, then rounding those numbers so they’re nice and even.

But if we assume the Atwater factors as absolutes it can skew the rest of our logic.

As an example, protein at 4 Calories per gram is an extremely rough estimate…and at times the measured number can be closer to and even at extreme times, below 3 Calories per gram, Depending on the amino acid make up of said protein.

Why does this matter? Because if we assume that calories at 4 are an absolute, but then see weight loss  or weight gain that is unaccounted for in our math…we are left with no choice but to theorize at other possible reasons for the additional weight loss.

The other problem with the Atwater factors is the secondary assumption..that all of the energy that is estimated to be contained in the food makes it into our blood stream and thus incorporated into the systems of our body. In other words, not just into our mouths or gut, but actually into our bodies.

This is also an incorrect assumption as shown by the recent research on Almonds.  But if you ignore the concept of ‘metabolizable energy’ (the energy that is actually available to your body) then you must come up with other possible explanations for the discrepancy…

Another example is the suggestion that ‘obese people eat the same amount of calories as non-obese people’.

This was once proven in research, then later invalidated in follow up research. But, if you are unaware of the invalidation that occurred (or just choosing to ignore it), then what are you left with?

If you assume that a greater calorie intake is not associated with obesity under this assumption you have no choice but to theorize at other possible reasons for weight gain other than an excess calorie intake over calorie needs.

In both of these examples we let assumptions override our logic or critical thinking.

In a recent paper on the metabolic adaption to weight loss it was found that metabolic rate dropped by as much as 500 calories per day more than predicted with weight loss. Interestingly at the end of the trial the subjects metabolic rate was exactly where we would expect it to be given their lean body mass. So in this case it wasn’t a 500 calorie adaptation as much as it was a 500 calorie discrepancy. The discrepancy was between their actual measured metabolic rate and the estimated metabolic rate

In this case the assumptions were that A) the elevated metabolic rate of the subjects was normal (even though it was as high as 2,700) and that B) the predictive calculations were correct.

The problem gets even more convoluted when you realize that the original erroneous assumption gets buried in a sea of theory… some that make sense, some that do not. The issue is it becomes harder and harder to trace the issue back to the original erroneous assumption.

So what can you do?

Identify and challenge your assumptions, and be aware of the assumptions of others.

In the middle ages the implicit belief was that the Earth was at center of the universe.

The atom was originally defined as the smallest indivisible unit of matter. The assumption was that an atom could never be subdivided. This belief hampered the advancement of science until eventually J.J. Thomson discovered the existence of a sub-atomic particle, the electron, in 1887.

So things that we are absolutely positively 100% sure are right… sometimes aren’t.

There’s nothing wrong with assumptions, they’re a central part of how we function as a species. We automatically make inferences from our assumptions to gain a basis for understanding and action. We do this so quickly and automatically that we’re often unaware of their origin. We see dark clouds and think rain. We see a fit on-line guru with a 6-pack and infer that their diet or exercise program is what made them lean.

The problem arises not from assumptions but from not being aware of our assumptions. We need to realize that the inferences we make are heavily influenced by our point of view and the assumptions we have made about people and situations.

Here are some tips:

  • Start by recognizing that you and everyone else have ingrained assumptions about every situation.
  • Ask plenty of basic questions in order to discover and challenge those assumptions.
  • Constantly ask yourself “What would happen if we deliberately broke this rule?”
  • Pretend you are from a different planet and challenge assumptions from the most ignorant of vantage points –> “Why are we doing this?”
  • Reduce a situation to its simplest components in order to take it out of your environment.
  • Try to think of the exceptions. Does this assumption apply universally?
  • Restate a problem in completely different terms.

We need to take command of our thinking, not let others do it for us.

Case in point – We have lots of reproducible evidence that the bodybuilding lifestyle gets people lean and muscular looking. If followed successfully, most people can get ready and look great for a fitness/bodybuilding contest. They may not win, but they will look great.

That’s a fairly easy observation to make.

The hard part is teasing out which parts of the bodybuilding lifestyle is responsible for this effect, and which are not.

This is where our inferences are skewed by our assumptions and our point of view. So we need to be careful.

Look at all the available information and evidence. World wide.

Have there ever been people who became exceptionally lean while still eating carbohydrates? Have there been a group of people to build impressive amounts of muscle without eating copious amounts of protein? Have we seen young and old, men and women get in shape? These are the type of questions we need to ask to challenge our assumptions.

My favorite assumption right now is that male gymnasts get their amazing physiques from doing gymnastics. You see this used as evidence for body weight training right now.

(Probably not made from only doing chin ups a couple times a week)

The assumptions are that:

A) Male gymnasts are like the rest of us (no genetic advantage)

B) That they ONLY do gymnastics (no weight training)

C) That the body weight exercises available to the average man or women are similar to those that the gymnasts uses.

D) That the time allotment (gymnasts start as early as 4 or 5 years old and are specialized by 8 or 9) is not relevant, we can ‘catch up’.

E) That an hour of training 4 or 5 times a week is similar to the 3 to 4 hours 5 days a week most young gymnasts endure.

Now, I’m not suggesting that all of these assumptions are wrong, but they are things we need to constantly challenge in order to make the best use of our time in the pursuit of having a lean fit body.

The best way to simplify your approach to getting the body you want, and to avoid or identify the roadblocks (brakes) keeping you from your goal is to constantly challenge your assumptions.

It’s also what will keep you from falling victim to the relentless and never ending parade of fitness and nutrition scams that arrive in your in-box every morning.


What are the assumptions made in these commonly used Fitness Memes?


*These are different women

*they are the same age

*Poses are similar

*They are the same nationality

*Woman on right squats

*Woman on left does not

*If woman on left squatted she would be able to look like woman on right

*There are no other factors at play





*She Squats (She could be a 17 year old cross country runner)

*She’s strong at squats

*Squatting gave her large leg muscles

*Squatting has something to do with her leanness and beauty

*If she did not squat (assuming she does) then she would not look like this.





Your full plan to get in shape for summer 2019

I’m about to arm you with everything you need to get in shape…

And yes, it involves counting calories 😉

As you know, I don’t usually count calories. But honestly, you can tell.

I’m lean, but not ultra lean.

This is because if I wanted to get ultra lean, I would need to count calories.

This is how I would count them…

Firstly, when counting calories, I do NOT count the calories from protein.

It’s not that protein doesn’t count, it’s that I don’t count protein, there’s just no need.

Now, this doesn’t mean that all protein foods are FREE! You still have to count the OTHER calories in that food.

Your tofu scramble still has carbs and fats you have to count, as does your top sirloin and even your whey protein.

***This is a bit annoying at first, as you have to learn to calculate the protein calories (grams of protein in your food multiplied by four) and subtract it from the total calories.

[[ This takes some mind space, but it’s worth it. Alternatively, you could just use an app like MyFitnessPal and call it a day. ]] 

Based on this when I say “count calories” we’re really counting calories from fat and carbohydrates; and to be truthful, I don’t care about the mix…

Eat as many or as little carbs as you want, eat as much or as little fats as you want.

In the past I’ve given recommendations that reverse taper calories, and my recommendations largely relate your height.

I realize that can be complicated for some, so I’ve simplified it down to this…


1,500 Calories per day. Minimum 100 grams of protein.

If you’re very tall (over about 6’2) you can try 1,750 cals
If you’re shorter than average (under 5’6”) you can try 1,250 cals


1,250 Calories per day. Minimum 90 grams of protein per day

If you’re very tall (over about 5’9”) you can try 1,500 cals
If you’re shorter than average (under 5’3”) you can try 1,000  cals

[Remember that straight protein calories do not count for this total; so, 100g of protein is roughly 400 additional calories! ] 

Now, here is the trick to making this all work: you must eat AS CLOSE to this number as possible.

As an example, for men 1,500 isn’t the max, it’s the goal.

That 1,500 can be eaten in any pattern you wish, just remember, you don’t count the protein calories, but you DO count the carbs and fats that are still present in your typical protein foods.

With this plan you still fast once or twice per week, however now nothing changes on your fast days. You still aim to get as close to your calorie goal and protein goal as possible… Remembering of course the you still eat every day, since your fasts are always divided between two days (ie 2 pm to 2 pm the next day).

[[ Again, this post is simply about what works, and we’re not going to dive into why… ]]

Next discussion is your protein; these are minimums you must hit every day.

The minimums are pretty much inline with the amount I recommend in How Much Protein for muscle growth. However, because you are eating in a deficit and trying to lose weight, feel free to eat more protein, really as much as you want. It’ll help with hunger… And yes, it makes a difference.

[[ Again, no point in going deep into the arguments for or against, just remember to eat protein, hit your minimums, and don’t be afraid to go over… Double the number if you want. ]]

Next are your workouts.

Workout 3 to 4 times per week, following Progressions.

Because of the progressive nature of Progressions (I know, bad sentence), they allow us to properly track your energy levels.

Even under a slight energy deficit, you should be able to make progress and increase your strength with these workouts.

If you get stuck at a progression for an exercise for more than two weeks and are not injured, then increase your calories by 200 calories per day and try again.

[[ The easiest way to do this is to add 200 liquid calories to your day. I like using coconut water, but you can use anything, just make sure it’s only 200 and not giving yourself permission to eat A LOT more. ]]

In other words we use your strength to assess and regulate your calories needs and whether you have gone too low with your calories.

Here you may be thinking, “But Brad, I thought it was impossible to go too low on calories? After all, don’t you recommend fasting?”

And my answer is there is a big difference between being very low in energy for 24 hours, and being very low for months on end… One is doable, one will cause you to fail.

So this is the total plan. You track NON-PROTEIN calories, and TOTAL protein intake.

You try to get as close to the goal as possible for calories. You try to always exceed your minimum on protein.

You workout. If your Progressions workouts stall, you slightly increase calories.

You keep doing this until you get the body you want, or until you get sick of counting calories and want a break.

On this approach you will lose weight SLOWLY but consistently. It will be steady improvements.

It will not be LIGHTENING FAST weight loss… But it will be really effective long term weight loss.

[[ Usually between 1.5 and 0.5 pounds per week, with the larger drops happening after your fast. ]]

That’s it, that’s the entire plan.

Finally, remember you do not have to count calories – you can still lose weight without this effort, but if you are having problems losing weight, or are planning on getting very lean for the summer, then this is the plan I would recommend.

If you paid me thousands of dollars for coaching this is what you would get. I would give you this exact plan, then remind you EVERY WEEK that your calorie goal is a goal, something you should strive to hit every day. Your protein is a minimum that you should go over every day, and that that precise time you eat your calories is up to you.

What I Eat

I’ve been asked to do a “day in the life of Brad” and track all of my eating, so I recorded 2 days of regular eating, then the two days surrounding a fast for you.

I’ll warn you right now that my diet is not overly exciting. In fact, I generally follow my own advice…

I fast twice per week, and eat around 100 grams of protein per day like in How Much Protein. I’m not trying to diet so my rough maintenance calorie intake is my height in centimeters multiplied by 15. I eat a lot of fruit, specifically berries (Good Belly, Bad Belly) and my workouts are Progressions three times per week (Progressions)…

Alright, let’s begin with Friday:



7:15 AM –  Glass of water

7:30 AM – A half cup of raspberries and a half cup black berries with two tablespoons coconut milk (about two tablespoons) (2 g protein, 70 Calories)

8 AM – Three scoops protein powder, 1 cup water, 1 cup mango juice ( I normally have this later, but I had to go to a meeting and I knew there would be coffee at the meeting.) (30 g protein, 400 Calories)

9:15 AM – One espresso

9:45 AM – Another espresso

11:00 AM – 200 g watermelon (1 g protein, 60 Calories)

Noon: Progressions workout

1:00 PM – Three scoops protein powder, 100 g of strawberries, 5 g creatine, a cup of mango juice, 1 cup water (30 g protein, 500 Calories)

3:00 PM – Half cup snap peas, BBQ jackfruit in mini pitas (17 g protein, 400 Calories)

5:00 PM – Two chocolate dipped Oreos (2 g protein, 150 calories)

7:30 PM – Loaded sweet potato – 300 grams sweet potato, half cup black beans, two tablespoons avocado, two tablespoons Veganaise, Bajan hot sauce, garlic, green onions. 1 pint Guinness  (25 grams protein, 800 Calories)

10:00 PM – 1 cup soy milk, half cup pistachios (20 g protein, 370 Calories)

Total for Friday: roughly 125 grams of protein, 2,700 Calories



8:00 AM – Glass of water

8:30 AM – Espresso

9:15 AM – Second espresso

9:45 AM – A half cup of blueberries, half cup strawberries, 2 tablespoons coconut milk (2 g protein, 80 Calories)

10:00 AM – Three scoops protein, 1 cup water, 1 cup of OJ (30 g protein, 400 Calories)

12:00 PM – Two peaches (3 protein, 100 Calories)

2:00 PM – 1 Cup hot apple cider (150 Calories)

3:15 PM – Glass of red wine (125 Calories)

4:00 PM – Handful of chocolate chips (150 Calories)

6:00 PM- Boon Burger Buddha Burger and fries… and a brownie (35 g protein, 1,000 Calories)

8:00 PM – Two scoops protein, 200 g blueberries, 100 g of strawberries, 1 cup orange juice (30 g protein 400 Calories)

9:00 PM – A beer (150 Calories)

9:30 PM – And another beer (150 Calories)

Total for Saturday: Roughly 100 g protein and 2,700 calories



7:30 AM – A glass of water

8:00 AM – Espresso

8:45 AM – Another espresso

9:00 AM – 1/2 cup strawberries, 1/2 cup blackberries, 1 peach, 3 tablespoons coconut milk (100 Calories)

10:00 AM – 3 scoops protein powder, half cup blueberries, half cup strawberries, water (30 g protein, 300 Calories)

10:30 AM –  1 cup of pineapple chunks (100 Calories)

11:00 AM – 2 cups soy milk, 2 pita pockets with peanut butter,  (25 g protein, 300 Calories)

Started Fasting

Total for Sunday – Roughly 60 g Protein, 800 Calories



7:15 AM – Glass of Water

8:45 AM – Espresso

9:15 AM – Espresso

11:15 AM – 1/2 cup raspberries, cup of blackberries, 1/2 cup mango, 2 tablespoons Coconut Milk (100 Calories)

12:00 PM – Progressions workout

1:00 PM – 3 scoops protein powder, 5 grams creatine, 1 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup strawberries, handful raspberries, water (30 g Protein, 300 Calories)

3:00 PM – 1 cup hot apple cider (150 Calories)

5:00 PM – Buddha Bowl – Quinoa, almonds, black beans, sweet potato, avocado, green onions, red peppers, cucumbers (40 g protein, 700 Calories)

7:00 PM – Two Oreos (120 Calories)

8:00 PM – 2 pieces toast, peanut butter, blackberry jam (12 g protein, 350 Calories)

10:00 PM  – 3 scoops protein powder, 1 cup blueberries, 1/2 strawberries, handful raspberries, water (30 g protein, 300 Calories)

Total for Sunday – Roughly 115 grams protein 2,000 Calories



*Tuesday would look a lot like Friday…

*My non-fasting days are roughly 2,700 Calories, my fasting days would combine to be roughly 2,700, usually a little bit more.

*If I were trying to lose weight, I’d reduce my calorie intake to somewhere between 12-14 x my height in centimeters, mostly by cutting the juice out of my shakes.

Can Diet Shakes and Meal Replacements Really Help You Lose Weight?

Nutritionists call diet shakes “meal replacements” because one shake is supposed to be the equivalent of one meal. Meal replacements also come in the form of nutritional bars and pre-packaged entrees. But do they really help you lose weight?

Steven Heymsfield, MD, of Columbia University, conducted a study which seems to prove that they do. Heymsfield and his colleagues looked at the findings of six studies of different types of meal replacements. They discovered that overall weight loss for the 249 individuals on meal replacement diets was greater than the weight loss experienced by the 238 individuals who followed low-calorie diets.

A study of United States Army volunteers showed that soldiers following a meal replacement program experienced greater weight loss over a six month period when the use of the meal replacements was combined with education-based weight management. Only 59% of the volunteers in the study, however, continued with the diet for the entire period.

Another study of 90 obese men and women also found that meal replacements resulted in more weight loss than those on a food-based diet. The participants were randomized to either a meal replacement program consisting of 3-5 meal replacements plus one meal daily or to a 1,000 kcal/daily food diet. After 16 weeks, the study showed that the group of individuals on meal replacements experienced a much greater rate of weight loss (93%) than those who were on the food-based diet (55%). Again, many people participating in the study dropped the diet. Only the people who continued were counted.

Losing Weight

Weight loss seems as if it should be very easy. In order to lose a pound a week, simply eat 500 fewer calories every day. But in the real world, busy schedules and a wide array of food choices makes losing weight very hard.

Meal replacements work on the premise that many of us don’t know how many calories we actually consume in a day. While packaged foods usually list calorie content, most of our meals do not. In many cases, we can eat a 700-800 calorie meal without realizing it. If we eat three 750-calorie meals in a day, we’ve consumed 2,250 calories.

An average woman only needs 1,800-2,200 calories per day, and an average man only needs about 2,000-2,500 calories per day. Add in snacks, sweets, alcohol, and soda, and most of us consume many more calories than we actually need.

If you replace one or two meals per day with something with a known amount of calories, you will likely reduce the number of calories you consume. Instead of eating a 750-calorie meal, you’ll drink a 250-calorie shake – reducing your calorie intake by 500. Do that every day for a week, and you should be able to lose one pound.

David Allison, PhD, obesity researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has studied meal replacements as a means of losing weight.

“I think they are a reasonable approach and can play a valuable role in weight loss,” he said.

Allison evaluated 100 people who were randomly chosen to use either a soy-based meal replacement or a low-calorie diet for three months. He learned that those who were on meal replacements lost more weight and lost more inches around their waists than those who were following a low-calorie diet.

Another study, conducted by Dana Rothacker, PhD, assessed the long-term effectiveness of diet shakes on women who used them for one year. After three months, women who drank diet shakes had lost about the same amount of weight as women who followed low-calorie diets. But after a year, the women on the meal replacement plans were more likely to maintain their weight loss, while those who were on the low-calorie diets had regained much of their weight.

No Magic Bullet

Meal replacements aren’t magic. People who stop using meal replacements regain their weight when they return to a higher-calorie diet. And some critics say meal replacements don’t teach people how to make healthy food choices.

“People [on meal replacements] haven’t learned how to deal with real food,” Allison said. When they stop using the meal replacements, they often return to an unhealthy diet. In order to maintain a normal weight, one must either learn lifelong healthy eating habits or stay on the meal replacement plan indefinitely – and not many people want to do that.

Buyer Beware

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate meal replacements since they are only dietary supplements, so advertisements for them may make claims which aren’t supported by scientific research. There are also no standards for the ingredients of meal replacements. While some diet shakes may be nutritionally sound and even include vitamins and minerals, others may contain very few healthy nutrients and are no more healthy than replacing your meal with a can of soda.

Allison recommends that anyone considering using meal replacements get nutritional advice from a health care provider.

Reliance on a manufactured product may deprive you of the variety that is normal in day-to-day meal planning. Meal replacement products could also provide you with a high intake of foods that you might otherwise rarely eat. For example, scientists are still studying whether heavy consumption of soy may influence the development of some cancers, so you may want to beware of soy-based meal replacements.

Diet shakes or meal replacements will help jumpstart weight loss in many people. Reaching a short-term weight-loss goal can be very satisfying and can provide the encouragement necessary to make permanent changes in the way you eat. Meal replacements can promote weight loss especially if they are used along with the goal of learning lifelong healthy eating choices.

If your goal is long-term weight loss, then you need to find a diet that will help you simply eat less food to shed pounds and then easily maintain your new body weight. Usually, this is a diet plan that allows you to eat your favorite meals and naturally fit to your lifestyle.


American Dietetic Association

National Institutes of Health

Canadian Council on Food and Nutrition

Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology

More Sleep = More Weight Loss

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about sleep.

I’m sure by now you’ve had someone tell you that not getting enough sleep could be slowing down your weight loss efforts.

I’ve heard this a couple times myself, in the news, on the radio, and most recently, while eaves dropping on a conversation while sitting on a patio at Starbucks (I know its rude, but I can’t help it. The minute someone starts talking about nutrition or weight loss, my ears go into super human radar mode…)

The idea that sleep can affect fat loss sounds pretty far fetched, but there is research to support this theory.
A 2005 survey by the National Sleep Foundation reports that, on average, Americans sleep 6.9 hours per night. This data is almost a decade old, so I’m willing to bet this number is even lower for many of us. Possibly approaching the 5 or 6-hour per night mark.

This is a far cry from the 8-10 hours that is typically recommended.

Of course, with this little tidbit of information researchers have gone into overdrive examining intricate relationships between sleep and hormones like Leptin and Grehlin, hoping to find some complicated metabolic process to explain the connection between sleep and weight.

While I am sure they will find a link, I have a much simpler explanation.

While we are awake we spend almost every hour in the fed state. Most of us are constantly eating little meals from the minute we wake up until we finally go to sleep. Because of this, the simple math suggests that the longer we are awake, the more time we spend eating.

Staying up a little later means eating your last meal a little later, and getting up a little earlier means eating breakfast just a little bit earlier.

If you are having a snack and then going to bed at midnight, only to get up at 5:30 to grab a bite before starting to get ready for work, you may be spending a full 22 hours in the fed state and only 2 hours in the fasted state, depending on the size of your last meal.

Sleep experts recommend the following: Go to bed when you are tired, and allow your body to wake you in the morning (no alarm clock allowed).

Now, I’m not going to suggest this approach for two reasons. Firstly, it would make me a giant hypocrite (I’m writing you this email at 11:30 at night) and secondly, I’m pretty sure that following these recommendations would get some people fired from their job pretty quickly.

So here’s my take:

It is a common nutrition ritual to avoid eating after a certain time at night. Many people don’t eat after 7 or 8 pm at night as a way to cut back on their calorie intake. Whenever I find myself in the kitchen late at night (anytime later than 10 pm), I don’t ask myself ‘should I be eating?’ I ask myself ‘Should I be awake?’.

In other words, more often than not, ‘going to bed’ is the best cure for late night snacking .

You can also add the ritual of not eating BEFORE a certain time in the morning.

So instead of eating as soon as you wake up, why not push it back, even just a little. Start your day with a big glass of water, and take some time to figure out IF you are hungry, and what you are hungry for.

Combine the practice of not eating after a certain hour at night, with not eating before a certain hour in the morning and you can slowly start restoring your body’s balance between periods of being fed and being fasted.

In my opinion this one little ritual may help prevent the weight gain that is associated with lack of sleep.

What to do if you’re not losing weight

I am a firm believer in the role of food in weight loss.

Eat More food then you need = weight gain, Eat less = weight loss.

However, I’m also not blind. I know that different people see different rates of weight loss.

I know that in a research study when a group of people lose 10, plus or minus 3 pounds it means that not everyone lost 10 pounds, some lost more, some lost less.

I am completely aware of the variability of weight loss.

So what do you do if you’re not losing weight as fast as you think you should be?

First, check your diet – often times it’s the little things that have snuck into our routine… unnoticed little extras, miscalculations, and routine lapses in judgement. Or, hunger based rationalizations like:

“Well that was a really tough workout, perhaps I DO need this post-workout snickers bar to replenish my energy levels” – I do this one often 😉

So check to make sure a ‘slow creep back to average’ hasn’t happened with your diet.

Second, check your workouts. Make sure the effort is still there. If you’ve lost interest or motivation then switch it up and try something new. While I do not think your workouts DRIVE your weight loss, they do contribute. Keep the effort and motivation high.

Third – check your sleep. It’s important. Get sleep, do you best to keep it from being broken or restless.  Treat sleep like an important part of your life, not just the period of time where you ‘crashed’. Embrace a night time routine, respect your sleep time.

Lastly check your gut. After I completed my research for a book I was helping to write about gut bacteria (Flat Belly Forever) I began adding Kefir into my daily routine. I believe it has helped. Your gut bacteria play an important role in your ability to lose wight. Again, not a DRIVING force but it does contribute, to some people this can make a BIG difference.

If you’re not losing the way you think you should, consider adding more fermented foods into your diet (you can learn some more tricks here –> Flat Belly Forever).

Four little steps to getting your weight loss back to where you think it should be.