My Experience with Weight Loss
by Erik Castiglione
Greetings Relentless Family! We’ve been talking a lot recently about setting and achieving goals in honor of the new year. How many of you set weight loss goals? If you did, hopefully you have stayed the course, and you’re seeing good results. If you’ve stayed the course and progress has stalled, don’t get discouraged! Weight loss is a process, and 3 weeks isn’t that much time in the grand scheme of things. It can be frustrating, and you may be tempted to bury your sorrows in the Girl Scout cookies you ordered, but with a couple tweaks to your diet, you’ll see continued results. Below is my experience with weight loss, and while it may be a bit more drastic than what you need, I hope it serves as a case study.
In the summer of 2016, I decided to cut weight starting after my August vacation. This decision was the result of three factors:
- At that time, I was just over 230 lbs, the heaviest I’d ever been in my life. While I was the strongest I’d ever been, I didn’t feel athletic. I missed feeling like I could throw down at the drop of a hat, and I missed being able to do high volume gymnastics movements.
- In general, I wanted to be healthier. While BMI does not account for body composition, the heart doesn’t care if your weight is muscle or fat. It just has to pump more to support additional tissue. At 5’10”, 230, I was considered obese. I wanted to get down to a healthier weight.
- I decided to compete in Olympic Weightlifting. My hope here was to inspire some of our regular Oly members to get out on the platform as well (~cough, cough~ time to commit, all of you! ~cough, cough~.) If I wanted a snowflake’s chance in hell at being competitive, I had to drop to the 94kg weight class (206.8 lbs).
- There is no ideal time to try to lose weight. There will always be distractions and interruptions (I had my wife’s birthday, my mom’s 60th birthday, my 30th birthday, and Halloween). You just have to go ahead and do it, and plan accordingly.
- WEIGHT loss is not linear; it is a downward trend. Weight fluctuates from day to day. Factors like water retention, whether or not you trained the day before, the food you eat, etc. can make you go up or down.While it’s good to monitor your weight daily to be aware of what foods affect your water retention, it is more important to monitor week to week to make sure the trend is still going down. If you look at my graph, you’ll see peaks and troughs, but an overall downward trend.
- FAT loss is a gradual process. When you start, you may see some dramatic weight loss. Be aware that this is largely due to loss of retained water (my first 10 lbs were easy). It gets harder after this, and you may plateau. After water loss, you can expect 1-2 lbs per week. If you stall, your diet may require a few tweaks to keep the process going. I stagnated at 216, 212, and 210 lbs, and had to make some changes to reach my target weight.
- Occasional treats and the rare binge meal can be helpful for long term loss. If you’re doing a 30 day challenge, then by all means, complete the challenge. If you’re going for 2-3 months, having an occasional little morsel of something sweet can satisfy cravings and make it easier to stay on the wagon long term.
- If you have a binge day/weekend, it may take several days to debloat. For me, it took about 4 days to get back down to my pre-binge weight. Recognize this, and plan accordingly if you have a binge weekend. This is especially important if you have a deadline to make weight.
- You feel better in general. You fall asleep faster, sleep more soundly, and wake up energetic. You feel limber and and more comfortable on your feet.
- Everything gets easier. As far as diet is concerned, cravings diminish the longer you eat clean. Also, after making your initial dietary changes, you develop a sense for proper serving sizes, and can prep food more easily without weighting and measuring. FInally, bodyweight movements get easier, because you’re lighter!
I wrestled in high school, so cutting weight was not new to me. Cutting weight without doing stupid shit like dehydrating and starving myself, however, was. This was the first time I cut weight in a healthy manner, and also the first time I cut weight while alcohol consumption was a regular part of my life. I had 14 weeks to make weight, and made changes in 4 week increments, after a 2 weeks adjustment period.
When I started my weight cut, I went from vacation mode (eating whatever the hell I wanted, as much as I wanted, and drinking all day long) back to normal life. I used the first two weeks of my weight cut to get back on a normal eating schedule, which most days looked like this:
5:00am – Super Shake (Athletic Greens, protein, creatine) + Fish Oil
8:30am – Kettlebell Kitchen breakfast
10am-12pm – Intra workout shake (protein + Kool Aid)
2pm – Kettlebell Kitchen lunch
Somewhere between 6 and 8pm – Homecooked dinner. Maybe some alcohol, or dessert
For weeks 3-6, my diet more closely followed Renaissance Periodization. I had higher carbohydrate intake on training days, and lower on non-training days. My macros were not 100% to the prescription of RP, because of the fat to carbohydrate ratio of most Kettlebell Kitchen meals. I limited alcohol consumption to only nights before a rest day, and cut out beer completely (not counting my birthday weekend).
During weeks 7-10, I increased my carb cycling. I only ate starchy carbs for breakfast and lunch on training days (and obviously my intra workout shake), and cut out carbs for dinner. I also limited alcohol consumption to a maximum of 1 drink per week, and not beer.
For weeks 11-14, I cut portion size to shed the last bit of weight. Instead of a large Kettlebell Kitchen lunch, I switched to mediums. This lowered my weekly caloric intake significantly and helped me make weight. It was also this last cut that caused me to lose high end static strength. I couldn’t hit 90% of my best squat for reps anymore, and my overhead press went down. I would not recommend this part of the cut unless you are competing in a sport with weight classes.
For my training, I switched sports and therefore coaches. I had previously been on a 4-day a week lifting cycle, training for 90-120 minutes per day. My new training cycle consisted of 5 training days, largely lasting the same amount of time. For the first 2 weeks, I followed the program exactly to allow my body to adjust to the additional weekly volume. After that transition period, I added in a little more conditioning. By a little more, I mean 1 day of long, slow cardio (like a 20 minute row at a SUPER EASY pace), and maybe 2 short WODs per week. I would only jump into a WOD if it was comprised of bodyweight movements, or weights that were under 50% of my maxes, and didn’t last longer than 12 minutes. Furthermore, I did these WODs for completion, not for the best time I could manage. For the vast majority of you, I do not recommend this. Please remember that I have been training at a high volume of work for several years. For most of you, the strength and conditioning that we do in our regular CrossFit classes should be sufficient.
I successfully cut from 230.2 lbs to 201.9 lbs in 14 weeks. While I lost high end static strength, my Olympic Lifts were not affected because I have a lot of buffer room between my max static lifts and max Olympic lifts. I went 5/6 in my meet, and have continued training this way since. I am now hovering a little higher weight wise (205-210, depending on water), and have regained my static strength. I hope that my experience has shown you that it takes TIME to lose weight, and that if you stay the course and make minor tweaks here and there, you’ll be successful. Good luck, and stay the course!