Nutrition Periodization for Fat Loss
As an entrepreneur, you know better than anyone that big results don’t just happen by “just winging it.” Massive goals require a long-term vision backed by a solid plan and strategy.
As a registered dietitian who has worked with hundreds of people, I can confidently say that 95% of people do not have a long-term strategy for their nutrition. They either do the same thing for years on end or switch things up too frequently. This is why most people end up looking the same year after year and never reaching their goals.
Frustrating, I know!
The solution? Nutrition Periodization.
Whether you’re an athlete, or just a guy or gal trying to shed 10, 20, 30+ pounds of body fat (and keep it off)… you need this strategy.
Nutrition periodization is simply just the process of planning out your diet on a macro level, ensuring you have phases dedicated to each outcome needed to facilitate long-term success. These phases include: pre-diet, fat loss, recovery, maintenance, and the building phase
In other words, just like training, the weather, and sports… Nutrition has different seasons. Each season is important in its own way. Let's take football, for example. The majority of the year is spent in the offseason. The off-season is all about hard practices, drills, and skill development to come back better, faster, and stronger during the regular season. The regular season simply just reveals the work, or lack thereof, that the team put in leading up to game day.
The same concept applies to our nutrition. The “off-season” is when we are eating well, training hard, and building a foundation of muscle & strength. The “regular” or “in-season” is when we are cutting down to reveal the work and improvements put in during the “off-season.”
Unfortunately, most people try to live in the “regular” season. This means constant dieting, cutting, and chasing a lower number on the scale.
You will never be positioned to be the No. 1 seed if you do not take the time to improve your game. You will only get worse.
The purpose of this article is to outline the different phases of nutrition, why they’re important, and how to start building your nutrition plan.
However, before creating your nutrition plan, it is important to honestly assess your starting point first.
As much as you probably want to jump straight into fat loss, the reality is that most people are not actually ready to start a fat loss journey. Their bodies are not in a place physiologically to take on the stress of dieting.
Eating in a calorie deficit and training hard are both stressors that are necessary to create the desired result we want… fat loss. However, if you are someone who has been dieting for an extended period of time and/or under a lot of stress in your professional/personal life… your body is likely not in a place where it can handle additional stress.
Unfortunately, you cannot outsmart your body. Not only will it not adapt how you wish it to, but it will likely adapt negatively…. Pushing you even further away from your goal than when you started.
Use this Pre-Dieting Checklist to determine whether or not you are ready to jump into fat loss
- You’re currently eating at or above maintenance calories. We need something to pull from to create a deficit. You can’t take water from a bucket that is already dry.
- Your biofeedback and hormones are in check. You’re feeling amazing… Energy, digestion, performance, and sleep are great, stress is low and manageable, and hormones are within optimal ranges. If these things are not in check, adding the stress of dieting will make things worse.
- You haven’t dieted in the last six months. The body needs adequate time to recover from a diet before jumping into another diet.
- Your schedule allows for it. Trying to start fat loss during times of high stress or in a high-friction environment sets you up for failure.
- You’ve been consistently strength training. If your primary form of exercise has been cardio, you need to focus on building a foundation of muscle tissue first. This will set you up for a successful future fat-loss phase.
- You are “living the lifestyle” and have good, solid habits in place. You have good, solid habits in place. A diet is not the best time to establish these practices.
If you can check all these boxes, then you are good to go. If not, then it's best that you start at a different phase of the process to get your body to a place where you can eventually move into fat loss.
Now let's jump into the different phases.
FAT LOSS PHASE
It's essential to determine the length of the diet and desired rate of loss. This will largely be dependent on how conservative or aggressive the diet is. Understand that the more aggressive the diet is, does not necessarily mean it is better, especially if you do not understand how to work the diet via diet breaks and refeeds.
The goal of fat loss is to lose as much fat as possible and spare as much muscle tissue. If you diet too aggressively, you risk losing too much hard-earned muscle tissue, resulting in a drop in your metabolic rate.
I typically recommend a loss rate of 0.5-1% of body weight per week for anywhere between 12 and 16 weeks.
MAINTENANCE PHASE/POST DIET
This is where most people drop the ball. They assume that once they hit the end of their timeline or hit their goal weight, it's over… They celebrate and return to doing exactly what they were doing before starting the diet. The problem is that’s what made you overweight, out of shape, or just plain uncomfortable in your body.
This is why this phase is so important. The purpose is to let your body reset to your new body fat level or “set point”
MUSCLE BUILDING PHASE
This may be the most important phase, in my opinion, because it lays the bricks for future fat loss. The more muscle you have on your frame, the faster your metabolism is, and the better future fat-loss outcomes will be. Without a foundation of muscle tissue, you may hit your goal weight, but still, be unsatisfied with how you look.
I look back at some of my old photos where I was my lightest weight. I used to think that if I could just weigh less, I would be shredded, finally have abs, and look my best.
Joke’s on me!
I look back at those photos, and my body was just soft, with absolutely no muscle definition. I looked the same, if not worse, in a smaller body.
We call this “skinny fat.”
Think of your muscles like the presents under the Christmas tree, and your body fat is the wrapping paper… You can't unwrap presents that don’t exist.
When designing your nutrition plan, consider starting here. Before jumping into a diet, build the foundation of muscle tissue first. Fat loss simply reveals that hard work and effort put in during that season.