written by Jon GOUGH
Losing weight may seem like a daunting, nearly impossible task. Unsuccessful weight loss stems mainly from those following extreme dieting practices or exercise. However, there are three main principles to follow for long-term success with weight loss – energy balance, protein intake, and exercise
Energy balance is the most fundamental component of weight loss. Losing physical tissue (i.e., fat loss) comes down to an imbalance of energy. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories (expended energy through normal requirements, exercise, and movement) than you take in (energy consumed through food and drink). A prolonged calorie deficit is the underlying mechanism for weight loss. Your body will begin to make up the deficit by taking from the stores of energy in the body – like fat. Best practices for rate of weight loss are 0.5-1% of total body weight loss per week – a rate that will preserve as much muscle. This typically requires a 10-20% daily calorie deficit.
Protein intake, an essential macronutrient, is the next fundamental component of weight loss. Protein has many roles in the body, but the amino acids that comprise protein build tissue and other important molecules, like muscle and hormones, and provides energy. When we lose weight, consuming protein becomes even more important in sparing the muscle you already have. Since muscle is a highly metabolic tissue, meaning it burns a high amount of calories, preserving muscle is important to keep your energy expenditure high. Consuming more protein (1.5 – 2.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day or 20-40 grams per meal) while creating a calorie deficit spares the muscle you already have, instead of it being pulled on for energy. Additionally, protein has the highest thermic effect of food, burning more calories than other macronutrients. A combination of preserving muscle, which helps keep that metabolism high, and the thermic effect of food, makes protein important during weight loss.
Exercise has long been the focus of weight loss practices. Exercise can enhance weight loss, but different forms of exercise, like resistance training and cardiovascular activity, have different roles in this process. Resistance training burns calories during training and keeps the metabolism elevated (to burn off even more calories) even after exercising while providing a stimulus to build muscle or at least keep it around. Cardiovascular exercise may burn more calories during training but won't really keep the metabolism elevated after the workout. Still, it's a low-intensity tool that can be used to sustain a calorie deficit and improve heart health. Depending on your abilities and preferences, 2-3 sessions of resistance training and 1-3 sessions of low-intensity cardio (walking, jogging, biking) provide enough exercise for successful weight loss. In the long term, the type and frequency of exercise you’re comfortable with and enjoy will be the most important for your weight loss success.
Struggling with weight loss and not sure where to start? To successfully lose weight, it’s essential to focus on energy balance, protein intake, and exercise. Everyone has a starting point, and these principles are a good foundation when starting a weight loss journey.
- Coach Jon
PROGRAMMING AND NUTRITION
Coach Jon Gough leads our programming and training team at polyhealth. He is a 3rd year Kinesiology student at the University of Saskatchewan, medical trainer and powerlifting coach.
Alcohol and health – what you need to know about drinking and fat loss, muscle gain and overall well-being
In the attempt to improve the lives of others, the health and diet industry has mastered the art of exclusion.
"you HAVE to do ______”
you CAN'T do that
avoid this, skip _________"
These broad, black and white statements lack context, and typically omit a middle ground that could actually add quality to our lives.
The consumption of alcohol fits perfectly into this category – especially in regards to fat loss, muscle gain and overall health.
Having a flexible and social lifestyle hinges on your ability to practice moderation. Willpower is a finite resource. When you are too restrictive with something, the rebound is usually worse.
And actually, in moderation, the consumption of alcohol may provide benefits. You can stop the restrictive-binge cycle by sensibly fitting alcohol into your life, instead of banishing it all together.
Let’s talk about alcohol – the metabolism and how your body handles it, how it actually impacts your body composition and health, which may help to understand how alcohol fits into your life.
INTRO TO ALCOHOL
Ethanol (alcohol) is what gets you drunk. Although it isn’t labelled as a conventional macronutrient (protein, carbohydrates, fat), alcohol provides calories, on top of the calories coming from other macronutrients (usually carbohydrates) a drink may contain.
Each gram of alcohol contains 7 calories. Interestingly, alcohol also has a high thermic effect of food (the same property that makes protein special), meaning it's energy value is actually smaller than 7 kcal/gram (1). However, it also doesn't fill you up like the other macronutrients, due to low satiety (2).
But for pure alcohol, such as a 1 oz shot of liquor, energy comes from the alcohol alone. A rough guide for calories found in alcoholic beverages can be found below in Table 1.
The metabolism of alcohol and how it impacts fat loss and muscle gain has been detailed elsewhere, but here are the key takeaways (4):
A moderate consumption of alcohol has health benefits - although this not the message spread by the fitness and health community. Notably, population based data shows that moderate drinkers live longer than non-drinkers (8). This moderate consumption, usually defined as 1-3 drinks per day, influences health mainly through lowering the risk of heart disease and cardio-protective effects (9–15). Furthermore, moderate alcohol consumption improves insulin sensitivity and lowers blood lipids (16,17).
Anyone concerned with body composition, may be wary of consuming alcohol for the impact on hormonal status, recovery and protein synthesis. However, all research conducted in this area, although limited, has shown the impact of moderate alcohol consumption to be insignificant (18–20). Unless you're participating in prolonged, daily alcoholism (and if so, you probably wouldn’t be reading this), you don't have anything to worry about.
LET’S GET PRACTICAL
At this point, you’ve learned although alcohol isn’t a super nutrient, drinking in moderation isn’t going to ruin your progress either. But, just like anything else – we need to compromise.
Since alcohol contains calories, excessive drinking can really increase your calorie intake. For the most part, drinking light beer, dry wine (pinot grigio, cabernet sauvignon etc), and spirits mixed with low or no calorie mix most of the time is advisable if your goal is to control calories (fat loss). Sweet wines (Riesling, desert wine), beer (normal and some high alcohol by volume craft beer) and spirits with normal mix should be chosen less, unless calories are at a premium (weight gain).
Context is always important – there is always a time and place. If you are serious about achieving a goal and your close to the deadline, it’s good to go into a non-celebratory drinking situation with a plan. Be realistic. For example, deciding to drink 1-2 drinks, making good decisions and being content with that is moderate. In other situations – like no pending goals, celebrations and holidays you can be more relaxed.
For my flexible dieting (tracking) friends and clients, here’s how to handle alcohol in your targets:
For alcohol, since alcohol will have calories that won’t be included in conventional macronutrients, when you drink to you need to displace out the alcohol calories from your targets. When you log a drink, the carbohydrates included in the nutritional information go towards your targets, but the remaining alcohol calories still need to be accounted for. The best way to balance this is to account for the calories from your carbohydrate and fat targets (not protein) – removing 1 gram of carbohydrate for 4 calories or 1 gram of fat for 9 calories, or combination of both.
For example, a light beer is usually around 120 kcal but has 4 grams of carbohydrates (20 calories) included towards your targets. So the remaining 100 kcal need to displaced. So for every light beer, take off 25 grams of carbs (100 kcal) or 11 grams of fat (99 kcal), or some combination. Doesn’t need to be perfect, but this balancing will keep you on track.
Here’s what we’ve I've learned in my own experience and working with countless others: alcohol in isolation isn't going to make or break your diet or health. It's everything else that happens, in addition to drinking or not drinking, that influences your health. Drink in moderation, find the middle ground and improve your life.
- Dr. Marc Morris
1. Suter, P. M., Jéquier, E. & Schutz, Y. Effect of ethanol on energy expenditure. Am. J. Physiol. 266, R1204–1212 (1994).
2. Calissendorff, J., Danielsson, O., Brismar, K. & Röjdmark, S. Alcohol ingestion does not affect serum levels of peptide YY but decreases both total and octanoylated ghrelin levels in healthy subjects. Metabolism. 55, 1625–1629 (2006).
3. Aragon, A. A Musclehead’s Guide to Alcohol. (2008). at <http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sex_news_sports_funny/a_muscleheads_guide_to_alcohol_1>
4. Berkhan, M. The truth about alcohol, fat loss and muscle growth. (2010). at <http://www.leangains.com/2010/07/truth-about-alcohol-fat-loss-and-muscle.html>
5. McDonald, L. Nutrient Intake, Nutrient Storage and Nutrient Oxidation. at <http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/nutrition/nutrient-intake-nutrient-storage-and-nutrient-oxidation.html>
6. Siler, S. Q., Neese, R. A. & Hellerstein, M. K. De novo lipogenesis, lipid kinetics, and whole-body lipid balances in humans after acute alcohol consumption. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 70, 928–936 (1999).
7. Foxx, J. & Pain, T. Blame it (on the alcohol). (J Records, 2008).
8. Gaziano, J. M. et al. Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption and mortality in the Physicians’ Health Study enrollment cohort. J. Am. Coll. Cardiol. 35, 96–105 (2000).
9. Romeo, J., Wärnberg, J., Díaz, L. E., González-Gross, M. & Marcos, A. Effects of moderate beer consumption on first-line immunity of healthy adults. J. Physiol. Biochem. 63, 153–159 (2007).
10. Romeo, J. et al. Changes in the immune system after moderate beer consumption. Ann. Nutr. Metab. 51, 359–366 (2007).
11. Romeo, J., González-Gross, M., Wärnberg, J., Díaz, L. E. & Marcos, A. Effects of moderate beer consumption on blood lipid profile in healthy Spanish adults. Nutr. Metab. Cardiovasc. Dis. NMCD 18, 365–372 (2008).
12. Sierksma, A., van der Gaag, M. S., Kluft, C. & Hendriks, H. F. J. Moderate alcohol consumption reduces plasma C-reactive protein and fibrinogen levels; a randomized, diet-controlled intervention study. Eur. J. Clin. Nutr. 56, 1130–1136 (2002).
13. Liu, L., Wang, Y., Lam, K. S. L. & Xu, A. Moderate wine consumption in the prevention of metabolic syndrome and its related medical complications. Endocr. Metab. Immune Disord. Drug Targets 8, 89–98 (2008).
14. Das, S., Santani, D. D. & Dhalla, N. S. Experimental evidence for the cardioprotective effects of red wine. Exp. Clin. Cardiol. 12, 5–10 (2007).
15. Lugasi, A. & Hóvári, J. Antioxidant properties of commercial alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. Nahr. 47, 79–86 (2003).
16. Davies, M. J. et al. Effects of moderate alcohol intake on fasting insulin and glucose concentrations and insulin sensitivity in postmenopausal women: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA J. Am. Med. Assoc. 287, 2559–2562 (2002).
17. Arima, H. et al. Alcohol reduces insulin-hypertension relationship in a general population: the Hisayama study. J. Clin. Epidemiol. 55, 863–869 (2002).
18. Välimäki, M., Tuominen, J. A., Huhtaniemi, I. & Ylikahri, R. The pulsatile secretion of gonadotropins and growth hormone, and the biological activity of luteinizing hormone in men acutely intoxicated with ethanol. Alcohol. Clin. Exp. Res. 14, 928–931 (1990).
19. Koziris, L. P., Kraemer, W. J., Gordon, S. E., Incledon, T. & Knuttgen, H. G. Effect of acute postexercise ethanol intoxication on the neuroendocrine response to resistance exercise. J. Appl. Physiol. Bethesda Md 1985 88, 165–172 (2000).
20. Sierksma, A. et al. Effect of moderate alcohol consumption on plasma dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, testosterone, and estradiol levels in middle-aged men and postmenopausal women: a diet-controlled intervention study. Alcohol. Clin. Exp. Res. 28, 780–785 (2004).
***Please excuse mixture of citation styles, references indicated above in brackets i.e. (1).
Over the last 10 years, the majority of my coaching has been online.
There's been tons of trial and error, so I'm hoping these three tips ease anyone trying to make the transition to online coaching:
1. Ask good questions and ask them in advance:
You can't ask a client to update you and be surprised when they contact you back with a wall of text.
If you don't want them to over describe what is going on, ask better questions.
If you want to make sure you have the answers before you sit down to create a plan, design systems to capture this in advance.
There is nothing worse than coming up with a plan, sending it off and then realizing it needs to be entirely re-worked because of what the client has going on.
2. Teach them perspective
It's only human to question when you start something new - but if you can shift your clients effort and attention on the big picture, they'll focus on the big picture.
Instill confidence within your clients that what they are doing is going to take care of most their progress, and other matters can wait.
3. Be human
Just because you are running an online business where your customer isn't right in front of you, doesn't mean it's void of human interaction.
Successful coaches still need to listen, be empathetic and thoughtful.
There's still a human on both sides of interaction!
Hope these help gang. Change can be daunting, but learn from my experience and the transition will be a little easier.
- Coach Marc
In the grand scheme of things, 8-weeks isn't a lot of time to change your habits and make progress.
But it warms my heart to hear (and see!) a client, make some small changes, like eating more carbs!!! and benefit in some big ways.
Check out what Liz Gillean had to say about her experience in our 8-week Kickstart nutrition program:
"It's funny that before I always assumed activity level dictated composition the most. I knew nutrition was important but it really opened my eyes how key it is to hone in on macros. I felt more freedom counting macros than I ever did counting calories. Over time I have gained awareness of sensitivities to certain foods that don't do me any favours in terms of body comp and either mitigate or avoid.
I've noticed a few big changes during this process. The biggest one is that I eat way MORE now than before. I definitely eat more carbs than I ever did it was actually overwhelming at first how to fit them all in. The extra carbs and protein have played a huge part in increasing my energy levels and I don't get the mental "tiredness" like I used to. I've taken to weighing things too which I never used to and it has been super helpful figuring out portions - more often than not I am learning I can eat more than I think I can."
More food, better performance and getting leaner. Best of all works.
Most clients think to get leaner they will automatically need to "eat less" - but in reality when they gain the structure and habits to make good food decisions within their goals they surprise themselves.
Nice work, Liz!
Interesting in learning more about what nutrition coaching can do for you? Fill out our intake form HERE for a free assessment.
I have been guiding the nutrition of powerlifter Bryce Krawczyk since 2017.
Previous to our work together, Bryce was an accomplished lifter - placing 2nd at the 2016 IPF Classic World Championships. But, like many other good lifters, Bryce had identified nutrition as a missing piece of his process. The goal of this piece is to detail how things have gone since then - the strategies, planning and mindsets we’ve taken to take his lifting and performance to the next level.
In my experience, most capable nutrition experts fall into two categories fall into two categories:
In my practice, I try to blend both of these approaches to deliver a comprehensive and practical program.
Also, I want to be clear - our work together has been intermittent, there have been times where we took planned time off from this focus (an important and overlooked part of the process).
I’m detailing our work together because it’s not often you get to work with a high level athlete over a long period of time and this experience sheds insight into long-term nutrition planning, short term weight manipulation, behaviour and psychology, and weight class strategy.
Without further ado:
When we started, his nutritional habits were similar to many of my clients:
Immediately, I took into account his normal food habits, assessed how things looked objectively (calories and macronutrients) and set a plan with his weight classes in reference.
Then through the years, we started to focus on different phases with different intents to make sure his nutrition reflected his goals, with the overall aim to make him the most competitive strength athlete possible. In each phase, I want to outline what the focus and plan was with his body weight and nutrition, plus what actually happened and what lessons were learned.
Phase 1: Optimizing a weight class (2017-2018)
FOCUS: With most clients, the goal is to fill out the weight class and be slightly above (making minimal week-of weight manipulations) in the effort to make the athlete bigger than the competition (viable strategy in weight class sports). So In 2017, we started the process of optimizing Bryce’s body weight and body composition within the 105 kg class. The first meet we prepared for was the 2017 CPU National in Quebec. Bryce was getting into equipped lifting and planned to do both contests on back to back days (Friday March 17/Saturday March 18). With the back to back weigh-ins, with one of the contests being equipped, I decided to get him safely in the weight class so he could eat and drink throughout and just as important, his gear fitted similarly in training to how it would on game day.
PLAN: SO, for the 5 weeks leading up to the contest we put him on a slight deficit and took him from 106 kg to ~103 kg the week of the contest. We would then find the highest level of food that would put him closer to maintenance levels and keep him within striking range of 105 kg.
OUTCOME: Even with the initial weight loss, Bryce performed well in training and generally felt better. Probably due to the increases in protein and food quality. We actually got a bit ahead of the process and we are able to ramp his carbs up leading into the week of the meet.
Bryce was able to make weight both times (103.8 first, 103.1 raw second) and win both weight classes with 898 and 797.5 kg totals respectively. PB in the equipped meet.
Past this time, Bryce was able to maintain between 105 - 109 kg (0-2.5% above weight class - something I detail more fully in the "Way of the Weigh-In") for a full 18 months leading into some other premier events: IPF Equipped World Championships 2017, CPU Nationals 2018, and IPF Classic World Championships 2018 all in the 105 kg class. His energy intake ranged between ~3300 - 3600 kcal for the most part, but one of the biggest changes was his dedication to protein intake (~230-250 grams) down the stretch.
Additionally, there were two local meets and the Arnold invitational in this time where we decided to lift as is (~108 kg) to meet qualifiers or focus solely on performance without short term weight manipulations. The decision to make a weight class should really depend on the goals for your event - determining the aim and being realistic about what’s going on (Arnold two weeks after 3-lift Nationals etc) in your life and training.
Phase 2: Pushing the leanness (2018)
FOCUS: Intent is always important - sometimes it means maintaining your weight, but it can also mean changing focus into fat loss or muscle gain (and subsequent weight changes) to improve as a strength athlete. After the 2018 Classic Worlds, Bryce wanted a change so after a bunch of beers we decided to go into a fat loss phase to re-optimimize his body comp.
NOTE: He wanted to get leaner - I wanted to move Connor, Bryce and myself into the same training/housing compound (“the brodome”) where Dillon would document us getting as shredded as possible.
PLAN: We decided to push for ~100 kg from 108-109 over a 3-4 month period. Based on the past phases, I knew a ~10% calorie drop over this period should do the trick.
OUTCOME: Bryce transitioned to eating lower levels of food - focusing on food volume and hitting his protein targets. His energy intake got as low as ~2700 kcal per day, as weight got closer to 102-103, then past that point we were able to start ramping things up as he got more active and weight dropped as low as 100 kg while eating more (3200-3500 kcal).
Phase 3: CREATING THE ULTIMATE LUNCH LADY (2019)
FOCUS: After the cut, we worked his food intake up to fill 105 kg back in and he lifted at 2019 CPU Nationals in the 105 kg class. At a certain point, the best way for a strength athlete to improve their strength is to fill in a heavier weight class - so the decision was made to work up into the 120 kg class.
This was one part necessity - at a certain level, eating near maintenance levels would hinder the potential to get strong and hit some lifelong milestones. But additionally, the competition level was more favourable in the -120 kg class at the International level. So we decided to take the plunge and join the big boys (read not biggest boys) a weight class up.
PLAN: In most cases, quality weight doesn’t go on as fast as less favourable weight comes off, we wanted to make the slow climb up to 115-116 so Bryce was near the top of the class, but given his deadlifting advantage could always tie competitors and come up on top (being one of the lighter competitors).
But, in my experience lifters don’t just hang out in the middle of the weight class. For whatever reason, once you decide to go up, you just go up and 109 turns into 114 in what feels overnight. Part of this is intended, but the other part is subconscious (more relaxed around tracking/controlling).
OUTCOME: Gaining a bunch of weight isn’t as easy or fun as it sounds. Since we were a bit more relaxed around tracking (i.e taking 2-3 days off per week) we used a few strategies to keep Bryce moving in the right direction.
The first one was setting a basement level of calories - we always try to stick within ranges, but the “basement” is a better visual for most clients. Don’t go under this, you need to make it here. Thus the basement was set at 4,000 calories and Bryce knew to keep pushing he would need to get there each day. To me the goal of consistency isn’t being perfect each day, but a bunch of good days all strung together. #nodaysunder4K
On the off days, his only goal was not to come back into normal routine weighing any lighter. This set the intent for his eating.
Lastly, to eat 4000+ kcals each, you need to eat some less healthy food to get there (candy, higher fat meat). It left Bryce feeling rather sluggish and unwell, so we set some structure around food choices that would help improve his overall health and well-being. It looked like this:
1) Include 1 serving of fruit or vegetable every time you eat
2) Include 1 anti-inflammatory fat source every time you eat (minus pre-workout meals, just to help digestion). Think nuts, seeds, trail mix, hummus, olive oil, coconut oil and chips, fish etc.
This was a big game changer in the way Bryce viewed his nutrition.
Working with anyone, let alone a high-caliber athlete like Bryce, for years is a privilege. You get to put some long term planning into action and flex your behavioural change muscles to keep things moving.
Some of the biggest lessons from this period are:
Marc Morris PhD CSCS
Dr. Marc is an online nutrition and strength coach. Marc leverages his athletic experience and credentials in biochemistry and human nutrition to provide evidence-based but practical recommendations to clients and the fitness community.