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fat loss nutrition

Eating Too Clean Stops Fat Loss

Sally walked into the gym with a sluggish gait.  She had made some great progress this year so far in her pursuit of the “perfect body”, but now she felt like she just couldn’t do it anymore.  She wasn’t quite sure why she felt this way, but it was beginning to worry her.  The last few weeks she could barely get up the energy to drag herself to the gym and slog through a rigorous workout, let alone do much of anything else.  Come to think of it, she couldn’t remember when in the past week she’d even had a descent training session.  She was definitely feeling beaten and battered, but she couldn’t figure out why.

Everything appeared to be normal.  She had kept her food diary up to date and been going to the gym regularly.  She felt pretty good once she got going, but she definitely wasn’t making much progress in the gym.  Especially with her heavier weights.  And once she was done she felt like a wet noodle.  She decided to ask Yvonne for some help.

“Hey Yvonne,” Sally asked.  “Do you have a free second?”

Yvonne looked up at her from one of his popular magazine past-times and said, “Sure thing, I’ve always got a few seconds for you Sally!”  Yvonne leaped out of his chair and came over to where Sally was leaning against a storage cubicle.

“So, what’s up?” Yvonne asked.

“Well, I’m kinda stuck,” Sally said.

“With what?” Yvonne said.

“Well, I’m stuck in a rut and I don’t know what it is that’s causing the problem,” Sally said.  “I’ve done all the stuff you’ve told me before, eating better quality foods, getting some weight training going, sleeping better, but now I’m just out of juice.”

“Out of juice?” Yvonne said.  “Well, if you’re drinking too much juice that could be the problem?”

“No, no,” Sally said.  “I mean energy, I just feel like I’m drained all the time.”  “I’ve got no energy, no motivation, and I can’t seem to get myself going.”  “My workouts just aren’t feeling the same.  Before I was motivated, charging hard and weight just kinda fell off.  Now, I’m busting my butt just to get into the gym and get a workout done.”

“Hmmm, could be any number of things from that description,” Yvonne said.  “I don’t think you’re overtraining at this point, but it’s possible.”  “How much sleep you getting?”

“About seven to eight hours a night,” Sally said.  “Although I do have some cases of insomnia where I’m just up and not able to sleep.  Happens every so often.”

“What’s every so often,” Yvonne said.

“Oh about every week or maybe twice a week,” Sally said.  “I figured it was just stress at work or boredom, take your pick.”

“Okay, and you said you’re workouts were going okay?” Yvonne said.

“Yeah, I just don’t have a lot of get up and go,” Sally said.  “I’m still doing them religiously, but I don’t have a lot of strength and my endurance is just in the tank.”  “I can go hard for about thirty minutes and then it’s like my body just wants to quit on me.”

“Okay, what about bodyfat percentage,” Yvonne said.  “Is that still going down?”

“No, I’m kinda stuck right now at 20% and it’s not going anywhere,” Sally said.  “In fact I feel like I’ve actually gained weight in the last week or so, although I don’t know how that’s possible.”

“Okay, I think I might know what the problem is,” Yvonne said.  “Let me have a look at your food journal.”

“I knew you’d ask to see that,” Sally said, handing him the journal.  “Here you go, you’ll be proud of me.”

Yvonne took the journal and skimmed through the pages.  He nodded a couple times and handed the journal back to her and said, “Well, your problem is that you’re eating too clean.”

“What?” Sally said.  “How can someone eat too clean?”

“Really easily actually,” Yvonne said.  “You see there’s generally two types of people struggling to lose extra weight—the ones who think it’s okay to cheat all the time just because they went for a walk and the ones who never cheat at all.”  Both have their problems, but it seems now you fall into the never cheating category!”

“So what do I have to do,” Sally said.

“Well for starters you need to start fueling your body with some energy,” Yvonne said.  “You see before when you were overweight and not exercising a whole bunch your body had plenty of fuel to breakdown and utilize for fuel.  Now that you’re training hard, much like an athlete your body has learned how to use fat and carbs for fuel sources, which is a good thing.  Secondly, you’ve lost a ton of weight, which is also a good thing.  The bad thing is now you’re not feeding it anything to help fuel you through the day.”

“Okay, but I thought I was doing really good on my nutrition,” Sally said.

“Well, you are, but you’re missing some things,” Yvonne said.  “Here take a look at this,” Ynonne handed her the journal.  “Tell me what you see?”

“Pretty much the same thing you do,” Sally said.  “Good, healthy food, some egg whites in the morning with veggies, a lot of boneless chicken breasts, salads and leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, peppers, and just spices, vinegar and mustard for flavor.  Oh and my post workout shake with two scoops of whey and water.”

fat loss nutrition

Too much of this can halt weight loss!

“Yeah, that’s it,” Yvonne said.

“What do you mean,” Sally said.

“I mean you’ve gone off the deep end with your nutrition,” Yvonne said.  “This is eating way to clean or maybe I should say eating to lean.  You’ve got tons of good food here, but there’s no real caloric value to much of the food you’re eating.  I’d say you’re probably undercutting your calories by about 600-800 calories a day.  It’s not a wonder why you’re body isn’t responding how you want it too and you feel tired all the time.”  Yvonne gave her a scolding look.

“But, but, I’m eating everything you told me to eat,” Sally said.

“No, you’re eating what you feel you should eat,” Yvonne said, “because it’s very lean and healthy, the only problem with that is that you’re not giving the body any fuel to run off of and now that you’re body is an engine that burns body fat it needs some kindling to start the fire.”

Sally looked perplexed.

“Look at it this way, you can’t tap into the bodyfat you have left, because you’re not giving your body enough fuel to work optimally,” Yvonne said.  “You’re starving it and it knows that you’re not giving it what it wants, so it’s shutting you down.  You have to have something to burn in order for the body to keep on improving and that means eating more calories.”

“But I still want to lose more fat,” Sally said.  “I still have plenty of it to lose.”

“Yes, but your body doesn’t really care that you want six-pack abs,” Yvonne said.  “You’re body’s primary function is to keep you alive and that means having a little extra bodyfat for things like hormone production, food scarcity, reproduction, etc.”  “In order to get it to lose more bodyfat you have to fool it into thinking there’s plenty of food coming in, so it doesn’t need to hoard any extra fat.”

“Trick it?” Sally said.

“More or less,” Yvonne said.  “You have to stoke those metabolic fires with some extra fuel to keep the bodyfat coming off.  Have you ever heard of anyone saying the key to losing weight is to eat as much as possible, while losing fat?  Well, that’s just it, you want to be able to eat more than usual and still lose weight.”

“Okay, so how do I do that,” Sally said.

“Well, let’s just add a few tweeks to your nutrition plan and start eating like a regular human being again,” Yvonne said.  “First off, let’s add a cheat meal to the end of the week.  A time where you can eat whatever you want, pizza, fries, a burger, whatever.”

“Okay, I can’t tell you how much I’ve been craving a good burger,” Sally said, starting to salivate.

protein and carbs for fat loss

Steak and potatoes, it’s what’s for dinner!

“Next, let’s get some better protein sources than chicken,” Yvonne said.  “Let’s try adding some fattier meats to your menu plan, like salmon, steak, even ground beef, some bacon, and whole eggs.  Screw the egg whites.”  “I’d still like to see plenty of veggies in your plan, as they’re perfect for you, but you need some more fat to run on, okay?”

“Sure, I think I can handle that,” Sally said, “You’ve never led me a stray.”

“Good, oh and let’s up the carbs on Wednesday, your mid-point through the week,” Yvonne said.  “That should keep you energized for the workouts to come.”  “Remember, if you can’t train hard, you’re hardly training.”

“Right, so what kind of carbs,” Sally said.

“Well, I’d keep them to your post-workout period,” Yvonne said, “but you could have some in your post-workout shake and then have some nice starchy carbs like rice or potatoes for dinner.  That should be enough to top off your stores of glycogen to keep you energized, but still losing fat.  Give this a go for a few weeks and see if your energy and mood gets better.”

“Alright, I’ll do that,” Sally said.  “In fact I feel better already.”

“Well, get after it then,” Yvonne said.  “Come back and tell me how you’re feeling in a week.”

Sally headed to the locker room to change as she thought about what Yvonne had said.  Hmmm, who would have thought that eating too much good, clean food could be the problem.  It’s kinda nice getting told to eat a burger once in a while.


CPT SMASH –While eating clean will definitely help you lose weight, at a certain point you have to start fueling the body with some necessary fuel to help continue losing fat.  As the body gets fitter and learns how to properly burn fats and carbs for fuel it requires more and more of them to perform optimally, especially the leaner you get.  Fueling your engine with proteins and fibrous carbs does wonders, but it doesn’t pack a lot of energy for hard training bodies.  Fuel up and eat as much as possible without gaining fat! After all eating is FUN!

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  1. Mike Toigo - April 9, 2015 6:24 pm

    Well written Jess. It still surprises me that this information has been so slow to get out to the general public. In the past couple of years I’ve probably tripled my fat intake (and that of my clients) and, although I can’t speak for everyone, results have been nothing less than amazing. Personally, the higher my fat intake the more I can get away with lower carbs. At 54 I’m still hangin’ with much younger athletes, I’m still lean, and feel better than ever. My bloodwork has NEVER been better either!

    • Jess - April 23, 2015 9:40 pm

      Yeah, we’ve come a long way from where we were stuck on the carbs and protein cycle for fat loss, whereas portion and fat makes our so much easier to lose fat and maintain lean mass at the same time. There’s always that little bit of individual differences, but for the most part our inner mechanics work the same.


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