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Bulletin #56 – No Limits: How To Break Through Plateaus—Part 3

So far this series has addressedways to help you break through plateaus inyour muscular development as well as howto spark fat-burning when you’ve seem tohave reached a plateau. This month I’d liketo finish up on how to continue fat loss.So far we’ve covered the most ba-sic concepts of fat loss: eat right and staystrict on your diet (I’m not even going toelaborate on that in this article—we’ve beenthrough it several times lately), don’t cutcalories below your MER (maintenance en-ergy requirement), and use extra aerobics toburn body fat. A couple more items ofgroundwork need to be addressed. How fastshould you lose fat? A pound a week is agood general rule.

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It is possible to lose fatfaster than that, but you increase your riskof losing muscle if you do. I have foundmost people can lose one pound of fat perweek without losing much muscle. So planahead. If you want to lose 20 pounds of fatplan on 10 weeks of dieting, a two-week breakto build your metabolism, and 10 more weeksor dieting, for a total of 22 weeks. If youwant to enter a contest, plan on being readytwo weeks out, so you have time to fine tunethings and fill out a little at the end. Keep inmind that when I say “diet” you still get toconsume a lot of calories—your MER. Thisis not a painful starvation diet.A pound of fat contains approxi-mately 3,500 calories, so to lose a pound aweek that means you need to achieve a nega-tive energy balance of 500 calories a day(multiply that by seven days a week and youget 3,500 calories). Do this by consumingyour MER and doing 500 calories worth ofextra aerobics a day beyond what you nor-mally do. This could be anywhere from 30 to60 minutes of extra aerobics a day, depend-ing on how intense your aerobic activity is.When you do your aerobic exercise youshould be breathing hard and sweating. Thisis a more reliable sign that you’re burningfat than your heart rate.How do I know that I’m losing fatand not muscle? By using the Body Stat Kitonce a week. You can determine your poundsof lean mass and pounds of fat every weekand make adjustments in your training anddiet accordingly to make sure you stay ontrack.

The Body Stat Kit Manual containsdetailed instructions on exactly how tochange your training and diet to make sureyour body composition keeps moving in theright direction. I think one of the reasons theParrillo Program has been so successful forso many people is that everything is scien-tifically controlled. How many calories, howmuch protein, carbs, and fat, how manymeals, which foods, how to combine thefoods, macronutrient ratios, Diet Trac Sheets,the Training Log, Body Stat Sheets—it’s allin the manuals. Every parameter of yourbodybuilding program is covered and noth-ing is left to chance. If you weigh your foodand keep track of your diet and body com-position like you’re supposed to, andsomething’s not working right, we can pin-point exactly what the problem is and makedetailed adjustments to fix it. Otherwise, ifyou’re just going on what “feels right” orseems to make sense, and you don’t makegood progress, you’re not sure what tochange.A very successful approach I wroteabout a couple of months ago involves al-ternating one month on a weight gain cyclewith one month on a fat loss cycle. This wayyour metabolism never adapts and you avoidthe problem of plateaus altogether. Let’s sayone month you gain a pound a week (fourpounds) and it’s 75% muscle.

That’s threepounds of muscle and one pound of fat. Thenext month you lose a pound a week and it’s75% fat. So that month you lose threepounds of fat and one pound of muscle. Atthe end of the two month cycle the net resultis that you’ve gained two pounds of muscleand lost two pounds of fat. After one yearyou would gain 12 pounds of muscle andlose 12 pounds of fat. I believe these goalsare quite realistic and very easily attainablefor anyone, and particularly easy for body-builders who are giving 100% effort to thetraining and nutrition program. The beautyof this idea is that you’re constantly makingprogress, you’re always either gainingmuscle or losing fat, and the constantchange prevents your metabolism fromadapting so you can make continualprogress without wasting time being stuckon a plateau and trying to figure out what todo. In principle you could keep this up foryear after year. If you’re 20% body fat ormore, you may want to devote a few monthsto getting in shape first, or if you’re reallyskinny you may want to spend a few monthsjust putting on size. But if you’re somewherein the middle, maybe around 10% body fat,you might consider giving this program atry.

To gain a pound a week increase yourcalories to 300-500 above your MER, do 20-30 minutes of aerobics a day, and train like apowerlifter with heavy sets in the 3-6 reprange. To lose a pound a week decrease calo-ries to your MER, do 60 minutes of aerobicsa day, and train like a bodybuilder with in-creased volume and moderate weight in the8-12 rep range. I think this approach maywell work better for today’s leaner, cleanernatural bodybuilder than the old style ofweight cycling, which often involved gain-ing 50 pounds in the off season, then losing40 pounds during the pre-contest diet tocome into the show 10 pounds heavier thanlast year. (Although this method also had itspluses, like stretching the fascia.)Now let’s move on to some specif-ics. So we don’t want to cut calories, because that can easily lead to muscle loss.Are there any other dietary manipulationsthat can help? Yes. Continue to eat five, sixor more meals spaced evenly throughout theday. This has several beneficial effects. Ev-ery time you eat your metabolic rate in-creases a little due to the thermic effect offeeding (also known as diet-induced ther-mogenesis). Eating frequently keeps the fur-nace stoked and keeps your metabolismspeeding along.

If you go too long withouteating your metabolism begins to slow down.Make every effort to eliminate fat from yourdiet. I won’t go into the details here, but di-etary protein and complex carbohydrateshave negligible tendency to be converted tofat, whereas dietary fat is very prone to bestored as body fat (1,2,3,4). This is a hot topicin the scientific literature these days and is amatter of debate in the bodybuilding maga-zines. (It is less a matter of debate in thescientific journals, where actual research isreported.) Very little of your body fat comesfrom complex carbohydrates or protein be-ing converted into fat; almost all of it comesfrom fat you eat. How much fat your bodystores seems to be more closely related tohow much fat you eat rather than how manycalories you eat. Admittedly, this is less im-portant during calorie restricted diets. Dur-ing low calorie diets you are not eatingenough calories to maintain your bodyweight, so all of the calories you eat will beburned, even if some do come from fat. How-ever, in diets which provide enough caloriesto maintain body weight or even enough tosupport growth (including the Parrillo Diet)then the fat content becomes very, very im-portant. If you eat a weight maintenance dietor an energy surplus diet to support growth,then the calories supplied as dietary fat willbe stored as body fat, not muscle.

Part of theconfusion in the bodybuilding magazines isdue to the failure to distinguish the variousexperimental designs and improperly apply-ing this information to bodybuilding.Without restricting calories, thereare some things we can do to help shift themetabolism into fat-burning mode. First is toeliminate fat from your diet. Whenever youdo aerobics some of the fuel is derived fromcarbohydrates and some from fat. If you’renot eating any fat or simple sugars whichare easily turned into fat, then the fat youburn during aerobic exercise must come fromstored body fat. If di-etary carbs and pro-tein are not convertedto fat (and they’re notunder conditions of adiet supplying a num-ber of calories equiva-lent to the MER) thenyou will achieve nega-tive fat balance. Thismeans that on a dailybasis your body burnsmore fat than you eat,so you lose body fat.Metabolically speak-ing, this means yourrespiratory quotient isless than your fuelquotient. Within thelast few years it hasbeen discovered thatthis condition (RQ lessthan FQ) must be sat-isfied for fat loss to oc-cur. What this meansis that to lose fat you have to achieve a nega-tive fat balance, not a negative energy bal-ance as is commonly thought. In simple terms:dietary fat matters more than calories. To losefat, don’t eat any fat and do aerobics to burnstored body fat. It’s that simple. We’ve beendoing it that way at Parrillo for years, but theexact details of how it works are just nowcoming out in the scientific journal articles.Second, decrease your carbohy-drate intake. This lowers insulin levels andpromotes fat burning. How do you cut downon carbs without decreasing calories? Well,you have to eat more of something else.

Fatis not an option, so your only other choicesare protein or CapTri®. Either one will work,but a combination of both probably worksbest. Let’s be brutally honest about this. Ifyou’re used to getting most of your caloriesfrom carbs, cutting back significantly oncarbs makes you feel bad, at least for a while.People who cut their carbs dramatically havelow energy levels, are irritable and grouchy,and get headaches. Low carbs sucks, basi-cally. You’ll get used to it after a while, butthe first few weeks of a low carb diet are notfun. CapTri® is more effective at relievingsome of these symptoms than protein be-cause it’s more readily used as an energysource. Protein is not a very efficient energysource. It’s role is to serve as building blocksfor repair and maintenance of tissues, not toprovide metabolizable fuel. Using protein forenergy is kind of like trying to burn a wetlog. Carbs, on the other hand, are a great energy source. So if you want to reduce carbsin your diet to manipulate hormone levelsand promote fat metabolism it makes senseto replace those calories with another fuelsource, namely CapTri®. CapTri® is a goodchoice because it is readily burned as fueland won’t be stored as body fat, (5, 6). Isuggest you ease into this slowly. Start byeliminating starchy carbs from your last mealsof the day. Replace those lost calories fromcarbs with an equivalent number of caloriesfrom CapTri®. CapTri® actually has a higherthermogenic effect than carbohydrate, mean-ing that more of this dietary energy will belost as body heat with less energy availablefor storage. This further promotes additionalfat loss. Continue in this way until you re-duce your daily carbohydrate grams to abouthalf of what you normally consume. At thispoint you’ll be eating mostly protein, veg-etables and CapTri®.Recently I did a feature on how tooptimize your training to maximize fat loss.One of the most important points is to doyour aerobics when you are relatively carb-depleted. This will cause you to burn morefat during your workout (because less carbsare available). The best time is first thing inthe morning before breakfast. Your glyco-gen stores are the lowest they’ll be all day,so you’ll rely more heavily on stored fat. Taketwo scoops of Hi-Protein Powder™ to pre-vent muscle loss, then do your aerobics.Another good time is right after weight train-ing, because then you’re relatively glyco-gen depleted too. You should do moderateto fairly high intensity aerobics, so thatyou’re breathing hard and sweating. Whileit’s true you burn a higher percentage of calo-ries from fat during low intensity aerobics,you will burn more grams of body fat if youperform high intensity aerobics, becauseyou’ll burn so many more total calories.

Also,if you do reasonably intense aerobics youwill get the added benefits of increased vas-cular density and enhanced fat burning ca-pacity. Increase the volume of aerobics pro-gressively as you get leaner. If your fat lossplateaus the first thing to try is to do moreaerobics. If that doesn’t work you shouldprobably back off for a couple weeks, in-crease your calories, put on some muscle,and get your metabolism going again.If you want more details than I haveNo Limits: How To Break Through Plateaus, Part IIIbeen able to squeeze into this article, checkout the Parrillo Performance NutritionManual and the Body Stat Kit. I go into greatdetail about which foods to eat, which foodsto avoid, and how to structure your meals.The Nutrition Manual contains a three stepprotocol for reducing body fat levels to con-test condition, as well as describing how tomanipulate carbs and water at the end. TheBody Stat Kit contains instructions on ex-actly how to modify your training and nutri-tion program based on your weekly changesin body composition. The Nutrition Manualcomes with its own food scale and Diet TracSheets to record your calories and grams ofprotein, carbs, and fat. It even includes afood composition guide that lists the nutri-ent breakdown of all the bodybuilding foods.The Body Stat Kit includes high quality cali-pers and everything you need to chart yourbody composition. Remove the guessworkfrom your bodybuilding program. Don’tleave anything to chance. We’ve got all thedetails covered. You want results? Get themwith Parrillo.


1. Flatt JP. Dietary fat, carbohydrate balance,and weight maintenance: effects of exercise.Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 45: 296-306, 1987.

2. Flatt JP. Use and storage of carbohydrateand fat. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 61: 952s-959s, 1995.

3. Swinburn B and Ravussin E. Energy bal-ance or fat balance? Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 57:766S-771S, 1993.

4. Acheson KJ, Flatt JP, and Jequier E. Gly-cogen synthesis versus lipogenesis after a500 gram carbohydrate meal in man. Metabo-lism 31: 1234-1240, 1982.

5. Baba N, Bracco EF, and Hashim SA. En-hanced thermogenesis and diminished depo-sition of fat in response to overfeeding withdiet containing medium chain triglyceride.Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 35: 678-682, 1982.

6. Bach AC and Babayan VK. Medium chaintriglycerides: an update. Am. J. Clin. Nutr.36: 950-962, 1982.

2018-03-13T11:10:33+00:00 June 3rd, 2009|Technical Supplement Bulletins|

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