From Chubby to Six Pack in Six Weeks
The Back Story (Before/After Pics at the Bottom)
Let me preface this by saying, this case study was not planned in advance.
I had no intention of creating a controlled environment that guaranteed fireworks at the end. I’m just a big fan of author Tim Ferriss – the brains behind the Slow Carb Diet (SCD). And author of the book The Four Hour Body (FHB) – which details the scientific effects of food and fitness on the body.
After reading, I started a new regimen as soon as I could get the damn groceries, and a total of 6 weeks after implementing the Slow Carb Diet fully, I’d seen results unlike any other diet plan I’d tried or read about. I lost a total of 15lb of fat (in 6 weeks) on the diet.
A few must-knows before we delve in:
- I still drank alcohol, though it’s not recommended (let’s be real, people)
- I had several single-meal lapses
With that said, let’s lay the foundation.
The SCD effectively removes foods that promote fat storage from your diet. SCD has an incredible amount of research and due diligence behind it – but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to keep it pretty high-level.
Remember Briana? Yeah – SCD
I was “bulking” in late spring time, trying to get up to 185lb from 172lb.
And I did.
I consciously upped my weight in workouts, and increased food consumption dramatically. For that, I commended myself. I’d planned to cut after, and get that ideal 185lb summer-shred.
While downloading pictures to iPhoto, a photo from last year came up, and I had a clearly-visible six pack in it.
I stood up, walked to my mirror and couldn’t believe how fat I’d gotten.
It was like a surprise – boom! You fat-ass. Then I thought back on my diet – thought about all the bread I’d been eating, the cheese on my salads, and realized I’d been doing it all wrong.
I’d lost track of exactly what I was consuming and fell down that slippery slope of “bulking” right into:
(This section covers the scientific aspect of the SCD. Feel free to skip if you don’t care about that part)
In the same way a fantastic booty gets you all pumped, the body naturally converts sweet stuff to energy.
The reason is because the brain uses glucose as a primary fuel source. The liver converts ~⅔ of the carbs (sugars) consumed to glucose – or fuel.
And the brain requires a constant supply to function effectively. As the NIH explains “[the brain] consumes about 120g daily, which corresponds to an energy input of 420 kcal, accounting for 60% of the utilization of glucose by the whole body…” 120g carbs can easily be consumed in less than 3 meals.
Cut carbs? Your brain – and body are going to get pretty damn hungry. So it may not be that simple.
PIZZA, PASTA, LIFE
In the world of carbs, there’s a continuum called the glycemic index (GI).
Carbs high on the index metabolize faster, raising blood sugar rapidly, similarly raising insulin levels – providing a quicker burst of fuel.
Low GI carbs convert to glucose slower, causing a slower, more consistent secretion of insulin, inherently creating a more steady stream of glucose (fuel). Low GI carbs often have a more nutrient-rich profile as well.
Slow carbs also don’t get stored as fat as easily when consumed in excess – in the way something like white bread will.
Lastly – and very importantly, fatty acids do not serve as fuel for the brain, unless the body is in starvation or a ketogenic state.
So what’s the verdict?
Your body burns carbs and proteins first. You choose.
Slow Motion For Ya’
The Slow Carb Diet prescribes no “fast” carbs, or carbs with a high GI – Anything starchy, like white bread, pasta, fries, candy and also sugary drinks.
SCD allows you to consume plenty of carbs – but only “slow” carbs, including lentils, black beans, refried beans, garbanzo beans and yams. While many
Sidebar: While many fruit are low GI, they’re not included in the SCD – sorry all you fruity enthusiasts.
Slow carbs are low on the glycemic index, and ultimately provide more consistent energy throughout the day.
So instead of trying to get your body to forcefully burn fat, you’re effectively removing foods that promote fat storage – like white bread.
The Slow Carb Diet
Combine slow carbs with proteins like grass-fed beef, tuna fish, chicken and pork loin, and (green, ideally raw) vegetables – and that’s the basis for the SCD.
The SCD doesn’t have any dairy (or fruit, remember?).
Another core tenet of SCD is cheat day – not cheat meal.
Don’t fuck this part up.
Thought leader and owner of fitness consulting company ShaboFit.com, Alon Shabo adds, “I plan strategic cheat days with my [clients]. Psychologically, it’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Something to look forward to. The feeling that you’re not “trapped” in a shitty diet. Physiologically – cheat days boost a fat burning hormone called leptin [from the greek word: thin].”
My Version of the Diet
As recommended by the FHB, I made small changes at first.
I swapped out just breakfast initially. By changing to lentils, spinach and two eggs in the morning, I began noticing better wellbeing in the mornings and less intense hunger at 10:30AM, compared to what I was used to.
The legumes (beans) I’d been eating for breakfast were doing the trick. I continued eating a healthy breakfast, while still eating normal lunches and dinners (wraps, sandwiches, tacos, etc).
Once I noticed positive results (lost noticeable belly fat in a week), I switched over all meals to Slow Carb Diet.
So, without further ado, my meal plan on the Slow Carb Diet:
8:00AM Breakfast (within 30min of waking): 3 scrambled eggs, ¼ cup raw spinach, ⅓ cup black beans. Prep time: 6 minutes
11:00AM snack: 6 salted almonds OR turkey lunchmeat rolled up with spicy hummus and green pepper strips inside. Prep time: 5 minutes
12:00PM Lunch: chicken breast and roasted vegetables OR mexican food: guac, beans, salsa, steak. Ate my lunches out – didn’t prepare in advance
3:00PM snack: single-scoop lean protein shake (Cellucor is my favorite protien) OR green peppers dipped in hummus OR 5 salted almonds
8:00PM Dinner: grilled steak OR salmon OR chicken. One of the above (1/2lb meat), ½ cup black beans, ¼ avocado (or guac) and raw asparagus OR green beans
11:00PM Before bed: 26g casein protein shake (Brand: Phase 8 Protein)
A few things I really liked:
- It’s really easy to do. You buy the same few items over and over nothing takes too long to prepare. I have breakfast down to 4 minutes
- Plenty of taste: grilled steak, chicken, or salmon (I’d add olive oil, salt, pepper & garlic)
- You don’t need to worry much about portion sizes
A few things I don’t think I did well enough
- meal tracking with an app
- full cheat day every Saturday (often times I wouldn’t get to eat cheat meals for all meals)
- didn’t do it with a friend or support community (less accountability)
My lifting regimen
My goal wasn’t only to get a six pack – it was to increase my strength without losing size/muscle mass.
I also observed was that I went up in strength, but didn’t gain much size. However, it looks like I gained muscle because the muscle was showing more clearly.
Based on inputs from FHB, Tim’s podcast and Pavel Tsatsouline, I decreased reps from 8 to 5, and increased sets from 3 to 5. With this change, I moved up in weight as much as I could and usually failed in the last few reps. I also went from gym 5 to 3 times/week (for more recovery time).
With this change, I moved up in weight as much as I could and usually failed in the last few reps. I also went from gym 5 to 3 times/week (for more recovery time).
I also went from gym 5 to 3 times/week (for more recovery time).
A regular workout for me
- Flat bench press: 225lb – 5×5
- Incline dumbbell press: 75lb – 5×5
- Machine pectoral flys: 170lb – 4×6
- Dumbbell tricep extensions: 35lb – 5×5
- Skull crushers: 85lb – 4×6
The thinking behind this methodology was to increase weight, reduce reps and take longer breaks so my pumps were stronger.
There is endless debate about the approach I took to gaining strength, and I don’t want to deep dive since this is a post on diet. But I did want to note that with a pretty standard lifting program, the goal was easily achieved. SCD says you don’t even need
SCD says you don’t even need workout but once a week during this time to lose the weight.
Starting weight: 186lb on 6/15/2015 (left)
Ending weight: 171lb on 8/1/2015 (right)
Total pounds lost: 15lb