Crash Dieting vs. Proper Nutrition and Caloric Intake

Author: Matt Christopher

When it comes to the fitness and nutrition world, it has been, and will continue to be changing each day. It seems that there is always a new trend or fad that people are trying to replicate to achieve their fitness goals. I have always been into fitness throughout my life and have had all types of experiences of these fads. I will share with you these experiences that I’ve personally had, and hopefully you can apply this to your everyday lifestyle.

I am 25 years old, and again, have always been into fitness. I have been a soc­cer player my entire life, ran half marathons, and completed spartan races. I don’t have a sports/health sciences degree, I don’t have any personal training certifications, and I am not a Registered Dietician, but this article will outline my processes and what worked for me, and I will show you some pictures of my results. This is not an end all be all plan, but just some advice from personal experiences.  

In my early years of college, I didn’t know much about fitness. I went to the gym, lifted some weights, did some running, but never had a true plan or structure to my workout schedule. On top of that, I had no clue what I was doing with my diet. All I knew was that I had to cut calories and cut carbs specifically. I took a lot of advice from the “Atkins Diet” (which in my opinion – this has just been rebranded as Keto for the most part). The focus of this diet was to eat very little carbs and focus your diet around fats and proteins. I was running roughly 40 miles per week, lifting 3 times a week, and was eating just about 1500 calories per day, split between 3 meals and a snack. At this point in time, I felt like I was in fairly good shape, looking back, I don’t feel that way anymore.

I had lost a ton of weight and my body fat % was getting to where I wanted it to be (I went into college closer to 195lbs and here I’m pictured around 163lbs). As you can see in the photo, I had some definition, but didn’t have a lot of mass for someone my size (I am 6 feet tall). After about 5 months of this “crash dieting” that I was partaking in, I decided I had lost enough weight and it was time to try to pack on some mass. I tried to add more carbs to my diet, but I wasn’t getting any stronger, I had just added more body fat to my current composition. Over the months of crash dieting, I had run my body into the ground, and starved it of nutrients. My body couldn’t process certain foods as much, and my metabolism was so slow. Whenever I tried to increase food intake, it would just pack on as body fat instead of muscle. This took a hit on my confidence, and I saw myself in the gym way less and started to care less of my nutrition and started being the typical college student and packed on most of the weight that I had cut off between the end of my freshman year and end of my junior year. I still worked out a little and played soccer, so I wasn’t completely out of shape, but just had a good mixture of some muscle and body fat.

It wasn’t until my senior year, when I had a few buddies get into bodybuilding, that I truly understood proper nutrition, and that most of the results that you will see, will be from the kitchen and not from the gym. I did plenty of research through different online forums of how to increase your metabolism naturally, while still being able to build muscle. I was never a huge bookworm, but I did an entire run through of The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding : The Bible of Bodybuilding. This book goes into detail of the history of bodybuilding, terminology, strategy of free weights vs machines, training methodologies, training programs, anatomy of the body, muscle specific workouts, and nutrition. While this book is labeled for bodybuilders, I think even your average gym goer can learn A LOT from this book.

In March of my senior year, I let this journey commence. I had fixed my diet, eating 8 times per day, up to 2500 calories, but would be closer to 2200, and was getting my calories mostly from proteins and carbs, with “healthy fats”, as well. I was having protein shakes throughout the day and was getting 30g of protein roughly every 2-3 hours. I was lifting for about 1 hour, 5 or 6 times a week and was playing soccer or basketball 3 times a week for cardio. I wasn’t doing anything crazy in the gym, but my diet was on point and I was dedicated. I’ll detail this more below, but USE A CALORIE COUNTING APP. Here in the US, we have no clue what the correct portion sizes are. When you begin to realize what actual serving sizes are, you will have much more success in your fitness goals. The picture below is my 60-day results (pictured day 0, day 30, and day 60 – flexing and not flexing).

I went from about 190lbs to 173lbs during this time, while vastly increasing my strength and muscle mass. I was just over 6% body fat on the right and felt fantastic. I had vast amounts of energy and WAS ALWAYS HUNGRY. Compared to my diet from the picture before, I wasn’t ever hungry, nor did I have an appetite. I had better results…EATING MORE FOOD. What I was able to achieve came down to my metabolism being able to burn more calories throughout the day (and even night when I was resting). I was able to increase my BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) which is simply put as the number of calories your body burns to keep your body functioning and this was fully because I was eating at all points during the day, and my body was never running low on fuel and always had something to be digesting/processing. I was able to cut weight for this reason, but at the same time I was able to build muscle since I was giving my body the proper amount of protein and carbs to build muscle as well.

Once I was satisfied with my body composition, it was time to add more calories, and increase my carb intake to add more muscle (and keep up with my increasing metabolism). I felt different and was hungrier each day. When I first started this program, I could drink a 200-calorie protein shake, and be hungry again in 2 hours. After these 60 days, I would be hungry from that same exact shake about 75 minutes later due to my metabolism being able to process food and convert it into energy quicker.

This last picture I will show is 90 days into that program, I got a little closer to 5% body fat, but increase my mass significantly. As you will see in this photo, I have a large amount of muscular definition all around my body. You can see definition between my anterior, lateral and posterior delts, each ripple between both heads of my triceps, and every bit of my intercostals, obliques and abdominals were visible.

Again, let’s compare this to my first photo, I will 100% take the 2nd photo and again, this was with me eating close to 1,000 calories per day more than I was in the first. My proper diet led to the result that I was aiming for that I couldn’t achieve before. Another big difference, in the earlier photo – I wasn’t partaking in a true “leg day”. I figured that the miles I had ran, would take care of that and my muscle were being worked properly. In the more recent body transformation, I had involved lifting legs (including deadlifts) a lot more and would try to do a minimum of 2 sessions per week. Overall, this did make my legs stronger, but it added a lot of core strength, as well as, overall balance to my body. It added to my agility and explosiveness when I would play soccer.

Last, I’ll do a brief run through of my day to day diet in a bit more detail. Again, please please please please use a calorie counter and pay attention to serving sizes. You will begin to realize what 4oz of chicken looks like or what the actual recommended serving size for cereal is (you will be shocked). If you need to use a scale, no shame and take the necessary steps to achieve your goals. I would eat 7-8 times a day and would go no more than 3 hours without eating. I would eat most of my carbs towards the beginning of the day and transition my intake towards proteins towards the end of the day. I would have a carb matrix I would drink for post workout (easily digestible and would get the necessary carbs to rebuild muscle). I would eat no more than 30g carbs or 30g of protein for any of these 8 meals. For carbs, I would mostly eat brown rice, oatmeal, or gluten free waffles. For protein, I would have grilled chicken, low fat turkey breast, and lean fish. I would usually do cod, but on days where I allowed myself more calories, I loved tuna, orange roughy, and swordfish. For protein shakes, I relied heavily on whey protein during the day to supplement my protein income without always having to eat food. At the end of the day, I would have either a protein blend, or a casein protein that would digest slower (throughout my 8 hours of sleep) and make sure my muscles would not eat themselves up for fuel. Different proteins will digest at different rates, so make sure you use this to your advantage. For fats, I would stick to peanut butter, avocado, and other healthy oils.

All in all, this is the diet that worked for me. Again, this isn’t an end all be all diet that will work for every body type out there. You can use this as a base template and make the adjustments that your body needs. Most importantly, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. It will tell you if you aren’t getting enough nutrients; you’ll be tired, and you’ll feel different. EAT MORE, it just means your body is processing those calories quicker than you are providing.

If there are any questions or anything additional, please feel free to email me at matt.christopher19@gmail.com