college bodybuilder tips: the hunger game

Dear K***,

It’s been about a month since you started the leaning or “cutting phase” of our workouts, so I thought I’d write to you and see how things are going, give you some more advice, and give you a little pep talk.

First of all, I know that the schedule for changes in your diet seems very slow to you. You are eager to “get ripped” and so I know you want to start dropping calories right away.  I just want to reiterate (even though I know I’ve said this to you before) the worst thing you can do is drop your calorie intake too quickly.

Let me describe for you how your body reacts when you suddenly drop your calorie intake. First of all, your body feels like it needs to alert you to this sudden change, so it starts sending you “I’m HUNGRY” signals all the time. I’m sure you are already feeling hungry on the plan that we are on, but it would be even worse. Second of all, your body starts freaking out and thinking it’s starving, so every time you eat it will decide to store some of the energy for later… as fat. Moreover, when you do need energy it starts burning muscle along with fat in order to reduce your overall body mass. Finally, since you’ve shifted into starvation mode, your metabolism slows down, meaning that you are tired all of the time.

So to sum up: If you cut your calories all at once, you will be hungry and tired all of the time, and you will lose all of the muscle gains that we’ve worked so hard to achieve in the last several months.

The way to prevent this from happening is to ramp your calorie intake down gradually.  So, for example, this week we will shift one of the protein shakes that you drink from Syntha-6 to Carb-Free Isopure, which has lower carbs and fat and fewer calories.  In two weeks, we will cut one of your oatmeal servings from 1 cup down to half a cup. Two weeks after that, we will get rid of that peanut butter sandwich that you usually have mid day.   And so on: making a small adjustment every two weeks.

If we notice you getting too hungry too fast, we may even make it slower and wait 3 weeks in between adjustments.  The real point of this is to establish a pattern that looks something like this:

Hunger and Diet

Each time you cut something out, your body will react at first by feeling a little more hungry than usual.  Work through this, and your body will get used to the new calorie intake level, and the hunger will go away again. Once your body has adapted fully to the new calorie level, we will drop it down again.  In this way, we won’t create any “shocks” to your system… we will simply be gradually leaning you out.

So now the next question is: how should you deal with the periods where you feel hungry? These are the most “dangerous” times–those peaks in the hunger graph–because if you cheat, then the whole system gets messed up. So how should you cope with the hunger?

I’m sorry man, but the fact is… there’s not really much I can say here. You just have to deal with feeling hungry. This is where sheer raw will-power comes into play.

I mean, I could get all Obi Wan on your ass and say something like, “You must feel the hunger flowing through you!  Use the hunger, let it give you strength!” Or maybe  I could paraphrase the Litany of the Bene Gesserit: “I will face my hunger. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

I could tell you that you can’t be scared of feeling hungry, you can’t think of it as meaning that something is “wrong.” While you are going through the “cutting phase” of your routine you will probably feel at least a little bit hungry between each of your meals during the day. If you can, don’t think of that feeling as meaning “I need food.” Instead, re-program yourself to think that that feeling means nothing more than “I’m getting leaner!”

I could tell you to make it as hard as you can for yourself to “cheat.” Don’t keep bad food where you live, if possible.  Make it so that the only way you can eat really tasty bad-for-you food is by going to the store to get it: this will make you less likely to go through all the effort.

I could tell you to distract yourself and do something when you are hungry. You feel a lot less hungry if you are taking a walk, reading a book, doing basically anything else than just sitting around and thinking about how hungry you feel.

And if you absolutely can’t stand it, munch on some raw vegetables like celery or cherry tomatoes. Hopefully, that should be enough to keep you from going off the diet plan.

If that doesn’t work, then try the Obi Wan thing. But when it comes right down to it, it’s simply up to you: mind over matter.

Talk to you soon!

—Greg

 

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