I’m going to dive into the exact process of getting my man shown below, Jeremiah, absolutely shredded for his photo-shoot.
And even better, I’m going to explain how he is reverse dieting, now, and sustaining a lot of the results he saw in this 8-month shredded transformation (I say “a lot of…” because staying this lean year-round, isn’t smart for health).
THE DIET BEFORE THE DIET
This is a fundamental stage that all diets should have within them; it should just be a part of the process – yet 75% of people dive into a diet aimlessly without considering how you’re preparing to go into the diet.
What do I mean by this? Let’s dive into the explanation here…
Dieting is a stress. This stress is hard on your body, but that’s ok – we know this. It’s part of the process because stress leads to adaptations and adaptations are what we’re after; i.e. more muscle, less fat.
The problem with this equation is that often times your body is not ready to handle that stress load, because you currently have other stressors in your life – things such as work, relationships, finances, injuries, gut health, emotions, etc… All these stress compound on the nervous system, though. So if we just keep compounding them up, piling them higher and higher, we end up in what we call a ‘Recovery Debt’. This is where your recovery demands outweigh you recovery abilities.
So how should you prepare? Like Jeremiah did. With a maintenance phase.
Before diving into a diet, you should probably not have been already dieting and if so it should have been a very mild diet; this is where Jeremiah was at prior to us starting this journey.
Purposefully staying at maintenance level calories (not in a deficit).
Prioritizing psychological relaxation and stress relief (being social, having fun, not letting the diet over take him).
Pursuing muscle growth and strength gains (he wasn’t doing a bunch of cardio – if any at all – because he was aiming to BUILD).
This is a pretty ideal situation, because when he came to me he was NOT over worked, stressed, trained, or dieted. He wasn’t in a caloric deficit or stressing his body by actively trying to lose fat; he was at maintenance-level calories.
This is the diet-before-the-diet. It’s the maintenance phase that everyone should be periodizing into his or her year of body composition changes.
This is where you earn the right to diet; it’s your buy in.
The reason I’m spending all too long repeating the fact that you should have a maintenance phase prior to dieting, is because too many people come to us for help that are not in a position to reach their goals. And that’s sad, because I want to get them to their desired outcome more than anything!!
But if we do not create an optimal environment to achieve fat loss, fat loss will not be achieved at all.
In fact, you’ll dig your hole even deeper and make it even harder to come out of. Spending time dieting when you’ve been in a chronic deficit or too recently dieted, leads to no progress made, more metabolic adaptations and muscle loss, and spinning your wheels for weeks and weeks on end.
So instead of all that, just spend time maintaining, too.
THE INITIAL PRESCRIPTION
June 2018 March 2019
Yes, 9 full months.
May seem like a long time to diet or adhere, but there’s no correlation between the successes Jeremiah has seen and the timeline he committed to. It’s a PROCESS.
This is our diet-before-the-diet phase. Like I mentioned before, he did his diligence of preparation prior to even seeing me, which helped 10 fold. But I still used a full month of “priming” or “building the foundation” you could say, because we have a long road ahead which means we need to get consistent before we cut calories.
So the first adjustment was NOT a drop in calories but a shift in macros.
He came to me eating just under 3,000 calories. He had already dropped some weight by doing this, too. See he started with the very basic fundamentals long before he hired me on.
Started removing processed junk, moving more, sleeping better, drinking less alcohol, training a bit more seriously, and eventually started tracking his macros.
Just so I can give you some context, here’s Jeremiah “before the before”:
And I hope this picture also shows you what’s possible, because the person in the photoshoot compared to the person right here – is so unbelievably different, it’s insane. But that’s the reality of what’s possible if you put your mind to it.
So, because he was already on a solid path but wasn’t yet a seasoned vet at consistently adhering to a set of macro targets – we started there.
I actually added a little bit of calories, less than 100, in order to bring his protein up and get him to 2,965 total calories per day.
The reason I added calories was because I wanted to add some protein into his diet and even though that was an addition to his current intake, it would not act as a surplus because protein has a very different affect on and in the body. It’s damn near impossible to store as fat, especially when staying at or below the 1.5g per lb range.
So, having Jeremiah at a starting weight of 215lbs, we tweaked his macronutrient ratio a bit and dialed him into the following targets:
2,965 Calories (His True Maintenance Caloric Intake)
225g Protein (Just Above 1g Per LB)
325g Carbs (Plenty To Support Training)
85g Fat (More Than Enough To Support Physiological Demands)
I did not want to cut calories yet, let’s get consistent and build a solid base before going into this cut. That’s going to support his metabolism, hormones, performance, muscle mass, and adherence going into this diet. It will also allow my future adjustments to be more accurate, because tweaking macros that you’ve been very inconsistently hitting does nothing for success.
I set protein a bit higher than “research” shows because in my experience of coaching for 8 years, this just works! I like to set protein between 1-1.2g per lbs in a lot of situation when we’re going into a diet, for purposes of satiety and muscle maintenance mainly. Read THIS ARTICLE to learn all about protein, though.
I set his ratio of carbs and fats specifically for the purpose of having fats at just above the minimal amount needed to support his physiological demands (hormones/nervous system), to allow more carbs. The reality is, performance and muscle maintenance will be higher when dieting on more carbs – read THIS ARTICLE to learn all about that, though. I’ve found GREAT success in my clients who diet down to lower body fat levels on a higher carb approach and when Jeremiah came to me and said he wanted to look shredded for a photo-shoot, I knew that meant having very visible muscle definition, too. In my experience, a low carb diet just doesn’t support that look/outcome.
Once this was all prescribed to him, we road it out for a full month. 4 Weeks to build consistency before we tweaked a single thing.
Don’t worry, these ‘month-by-month explanations’ will get shorter, you won’t be here for 2 hours trying to read the entire transformation process. The first month is paramount in any client’s journey – so I had to do this article justice and give plenty context so you understand how important it is to set yourself up for the long run.
At this point, Jeremiah had already dropped about 2lbs. His weight fluctuated between 212-215, which is very common given stress levels, hydration, sleep and training vary across the days and weeks – we can’t expect to have an exact number that stays linear across every day of the week.
This is exactly why we weigh in every single day, and then take the average weight at the end of the week. It shows us fluctuations, which we can correlate to different stressors or variables – a huge piece of mind. Whereas if he weighed in once, saw that he just worked hard and focused diligently for 4 full weeks and saw ZERO scale progress… he’d be frustrated!
Instead, we have lots of data that shows on average he did drop 2 lbs., his training has improved, and his physiological biofeedback has stayed very positive (big accomplishment on a diet). With all this data, we avoid frustration.
*Note: Another great reason to weigh in frequently is accountability. Studies show that the majority of people who experience big weight loss transformations and keep the weight off, long term, weigh in multiple times per week.
Now, we don’t use this strategy with everyone we work with here at BBP because we understand that for some – such frequent scale readings can cause more stress than relief. But when we can, we do – because it works.
Now, Jeremiah is 2lbs down and feeling awesome. But he’s ready to start picking things up and so am I. This is where our first adjustment came in, where we cut about 7.5% of his calories from a combination of both carbs and fats.
2,855 Calories (110 Cal Drop)
245g Protein (He Was Hungry, Often, So We Added 20g)
300g Carbs (25g Drop)
75g Fats (10g Drop)
7.5% is a SMALL adjustment, but why make a big one? I’ve been working with Jeremiah for 1 single month at this point and I do not truly know how his body works with macro and caloric adjustments.
Now, 10+ months later, I know very well how his body works and can make an adjustment to his macros with almost exact predictability on what will happen. But that’s the power of working with a coach long-term.
7.5% is dead center of a minimal effect dose adjustment, minimal being 5-10%.
This is tiny, but in many people it’s enough to shift things and get the body burning fat again (or to begin doing so in the first place).
For some, this is too small. There’s a very interesting individual difference person to person when it comes to adjusting calories and the truth is, people are typically polar opposites with this. They either need an aggressive cut to their calories (say 15-30%) or they can get by time and time again with the minimal effective cut (5-10%).
The best thing to do? Start with the minimal, because why would you pull 20% if 5% will do the trick. Same reason you’d add 1 session of 30 min LISS cardio before you’d jump to daily cardio.
We took his calories via carbs and fats because a.) you never pull from protein, we need that static throughout the entire diet to keep muscle maintenance at an all time high, and b.) because a balanced approach just worked best with HIS personal preference or adherence. I could have taken the entire 110 calories from carbs or fats, but doing an even split simply allowed his adherence to be most consistent.
Adherence is the #1 priority in the dieting game.
Almost exactly 1 month later, we made another adjustment. If you saw his metric tracker, that showed all his weekly data on it, you’d see that his weight didn’t budge for 2 full weeks after the last adjustment.
2 FULL WEEKS… we just waited, patiently.
Why? Because I had a feeling.
Yep, no science here – just coaching experience and gut feeling. But this is the art of anecdote and one of the things that comes with years and years of coaching people to their leanest physiques.
You just know things and with Jeremiah, I knew we didn’t need to pull more calories quite yet. I’d even venture to say that at LEAST 50-60% of the time, this is the case. You wait at least 2 full weeks before adjusting again because the body is such a complex thing, it simply takes time to adapt, adjust and progress. So instead of jumping to conclusions, give the adjustment time to settle in.
*Note: Another reason things may not shift right after an adjustment is because you are human! It takes time for YOU to adjust to the new plan, hit the macros with precision, and begin to truly be consistent with the new numbers.
2 more weeks later, we saw another 5lbs drop. Crazy, right?
2 weeks of nothing, then 2 weeks later he drops 5lbs of fat. I told you, his body was holding onto something.
At this point I did decide to make another adjustment, simply because we needed to keep the train rolling at a good pace since we had a timeline for his goal and it’s always best to be ready ahead of time.
CARDIO: 3 Sessions of 20 Min LISS (~60-70% of Max HR)
We’ve adjusted calories once, he has yet to do any cardio – just the 4x a week training program he’d been following from The Boom Boom Elite Membership Site (a lot of our most successful clients, do a combination of the membership training as well as Nutrition Coaching – this combo is ideal).
So I asked him, first, “Jeremiah, would you be more consistent if we added a little cardio or if we pulled a little more calories?”
His answer, “Cardio, without a doubt. Love my food man haha.”
His exact answer
So why would I pull calories? Adherence is the #1 priority, remember?
So we added the minimal effective dose, for him. Each session was enough to get a good amount of expenditure, but not long enough to be overly draining or negatively impactful. We added 3 sessions because I felt that was the minimal effective dose in order to actually see a significant change – I’m not going to add cardio without it WORKING, otherwise it’s just like traffic… slow and annoying as hell.
2 Weeks after adding cardio, Jeremiah dropped another 2lbs. So he’s averaging 4-5lbs per month at this point, which is the ideal amount for him – 0.5-1% of bodyweight per week is always my standard recommendation.
So we’re right on track, but things were slowing down again so it was time to make an adjustment again.
At this point we’re about 4 months into coaching and almost 3 full months into a “diet” or deficit.
2,655 Calories (200 Cal Drop)
245g Protein (Same)
250g Carbs + 1 Refeed Day @ 350g (50g Drop + Refeed Added in)
75g Fats (Same)
CARDIO: 3 Sessions of 20 Min LISS (~60-70% of Max HR)
At this point, I wanted to make a more aggressive adjustment. Not because he wasn’t progressing but the longer we’re in a deficit, big or small, the more physiologically taxing it becomes. So we want to keep things moving along at a decently fast, but also steady and sustainable, pace.
We pulled 50g of carbs, which was another 7.5% drop. So mild and “minimal effective dose” pull, but we did it purely from carbs and in my experience, taking 50g of carbs in one adjustment can make a big difference on body composition.
While doing this, I made sure to add in 1 refeed day and if you noticed – this was the first at all. That’s not common for most, to not add a refeed day until so deep into things. But the reality is, fat loss is a caloric equation and a refeed would have simply made the caloric equation harder to make progress with.
By adding a refeed, his weekly calories would’ve been higher and that would have led to a lesser deficit and lesser progression week to week. Because of that AND because he had PLENTY of carbs to fuel his glycogen and metabolism (we started at 325g), there was just no need for a refeed day.
But as we pulled and got lower, I added it in to give his workouts a bit more glycogen to use (better pump), possibly aid in some recovery from the training we were doing, and of course just give him a psychological break. This refeed wouldn’t boost hormones like many people believe, because it was simply too short. We’d need a solid 48-72 hours of refeeding minimum in order to stimulate a hormonal response.
He’s down another 4lbs since last adjustment, which means we’re exactly on schedule with his cutting progress. But again, we have a timeline so adjustments are coming soon (we’re just passed month 4 at this point).
The problem with me making an adjustment at this point is that we’re about 16-18 weeks into this diet. He’s felt a little sluggish in the gym, he hasn’t’ slept as well based on his client check in forms, and he’s definitely feeling hungry. This all added up, means motive is dwindling away and it’s only a matter of time before this starts to get a bit overwhelming.
With 5 months left, aka plenty of time to make progress, I decided NOT to make any caloric adjustment downward and instead implement a full diet break.
We spent 7 full days eating at maintenance calories:
2,875 Calories (His NEW* Maintenance Caloric Intake)
245g Protein (Same)
325g Carbs (Back To Original Carb Intake)
75g Fat (Same, Because His NEW Maintenance is Different, Than The Start)
After a full week of eating at his new maintenance, he was a different human being!
Motivated, getting pumps again, sleeping like a baby, and far less stressed out.
And based on all his biofeedback improvements, we knew it was a good time to start dieting down again and moving forward with his deficit. His body was actually ready for it, again.
This is a long game strategy that works wonders for being able to actually sustain a nutritional plan and to see continual fat loss progress. What point in the journey you place this in, is extremely individual. Check out THIS ARTICLE to learn more on Periodizing Nutrition.
During this diet break, he lost 1lb. This is how I know his body was just holding on, being stubborn, and likely just a bit over stressed. He more than likely had a drop in cortisol when we increased calories and it gave us a “whoosh effect” in a way, where the weight just finally drops.
Now it’s back to the game plan again…
We didn’t touch a thing.
Literally. 8 weeks of progress without a single adjustment needed.
2,655 Calories (Same)
245g Protein (Same)
250g Carbs + 1 Refeed Day @ 350g (Same)
75g Fats (Same)
CARDIO: 3 Sessions of 20 Min LISS (~60-70% of Max HR)
He was losing again! The diet break worked, so why drop if we don’t need too? The goal will always remain to lose weight at the right pace while eating as many calories as possible. This leads to less metabolic adaptation and more muscle maintenance, which are the 2 biggest priorities while dieting and chasing an aesthetic physique.
So since the diet break, he dropped another 8lbs., which for Jeremiah is A LOT.
We’re now at 197 lbs., which is looking pretty solid – but still some more shredz to chase prior to the actual shoot.
Once again, very minimal change was needed – but we did make a couple adjustments and they were adjustments that I don’t always recommend other people use, at least not simultaneously.
See most of the time, we want to make one single adjustment and see it go to work. Not make multiple and not know what actually worked.
But again, years of experience will give you insight into when this is acceptable.
First of all, I knew that both cardio and macro adjustments have been working really well. Staying in the 5-10% range of adjustment showed progress, kept him consistent with adherence, and still allowed good training.
Second of all, low intensity steady state cardio worked really well to shed a few extra lbs. for him over the course of a couple months. Not a ton, but plenty in this situation.
I needed to ramp things up, because we have about 10 weeks left to really look shredded like he wanted to look. And the following adjustment, WORKED. Jeremiah lost a total of about 10lbs in this period of time.
2,610 Calories (Dropped 45 Cal Daily, 1,140 Weekly)
245g Protein (Same)
250g Carbs + 1 Refeed Day @ 335g (Dropped The Refeed by 15g)
70g Fats (Dropped Fats by 5g)
CARDIO: 3 Sessions of 30 Min LISS (Added 10 Min Per Session)
Another small macro adjustment because I know it works with his body and a small bump up in cardio, which I know will be a bit more effective than meets the eye. Adding 10 minutes per session doesn’t seem like much but at this point we’ve done such minimal cardio, it’ll impact his physique quite a bit.
The final weeks is where we took a shotgun approach, this is where the grinding begins.
The reality of getting absolutely shredded, is that it does take a pretty aggressive approach most of the time and you will be in a decently big deficit, be that from calories being low or cardio being high – or a combination of both.
We’re also approach unsustainable waters, meaning we do not expect him to sustain the physique he’ll achieve. Close to it? For sure. But peeled like he was for the shoot, no chance in hell. It’s just not healthy nor easy to adhere to.
2,395 Calories (Dropped 215 Cal Daily)
245g Protein (Same)
230g Carbs + 1 Refeed Day @ 315g (Dropped Carbs by 20g)
55g Fats (Dropped Fats by 15g)
CARDIO: 5 Sessions of 30 Min LISS (Added 10 Min Per Session)
We added a full hour of cardio and dropped carbs by 20g, fats by 15g. This is A LOT and will take a big hit. We did this over 2 different adjustments over the course of multiple weeks, so there were 2 moves to get to this point. But nonetheless, we had to dig.
I decided to cut more fats from his intake than carbs for the simple reason as to he is interested in keeping as much muscle as possible and research has shown this may be the most optimal route in doing so, a high protein/carb approach while keeping fats to the minimal range (just enough to support hormones – they’ll take a hit regardless, though, when in a calorie deficit).
He dropped another 4lbs here, in this 1-month period.
Now he is hovering between 182-184lbs on a weekly basis, which is massive from his starting weight of 215lbs (roughly 33lbs lost).
The Final Week:
We treated this much like a peak week in bodybuilding, so although I can’t give you specific details since he is a specific individual who you’re not (everyone is different) – I can give you some insight into the principles I implemented into his week to ensure he looked shredded for the camera.
Dropped carbs significantly at about 5 days out.
Dropped fats about 10-15g lower than normal, just to keep calories very low and to speed up digestion of the carbohydrates we’re timing in his week.
Slowly tapered carbs downward until 1 day out (about 50% of normal intake), where we finally drove his carbs up to refeed levels the day prior (for him, 300g).
We consistently spread protein out across his meals, every day, eating about 6 meals per day all week.
We were very rigid with his food choices, something I do not promote for sustainable dieting; however we needed digestion to be spot on with him day of the shoot, so he didn’t look bloated in front of the camera.
We didn’t mess with water or sodium levels, we stayed consistently hydrated.
THE FINAL RESULT:
Remember that Jeremiah had the goal of getting completely shredded.
Leaner than he knew was possible for him.
This isn’t always the goal for everyone we work with, nor should it be. Usually it’s a goal of getting to your most sustainably lean physique – for him, which was 6 months in. He was REALLY lean, looked absolutely amazing, and wasn’t dieting at a level that was unsustainable.
But it just goes to show; consistently being precise, adherent, and able to track your individualized data along the way can build you a body you never knew was possible.
And there was beer, socializing, and some off days involved in this prep. There always will be and there always SHOULD be. That’s not something that holds you back if you have accountability and proper guidance along the way.
The biggest key, is consistency and commitment to a long timeline.
He committed to 9 months with me and he was rewarded for it. Click Here Now to Start Your Transformation – Get a FREE Call with a Coach to Understand How YOUR Best Body Ever Could Be Built.
Cody McBroom is owner and head coach of Boom Boom Performance. He’s a Strength Coach and Nutrition Expert located in Seattle WA. He coaches people in person and online, now internationally. His passion is helping individuals changing their lives through body composition transformation, as well as creating content across all platforms to help individuals and other coaches learn more about training and nutrition.