Why Do You Fail at Fat Loss

Rough Strength Meal

I always struggled with losing bodyfat. There are people that are ripped from the day they were born and I am definitely not one of them. I was never obese either. I have an average metabolism. You know, the skinny-fat type. I gain fat easily and drop it slowly and painfully.

The topic of fat loss always fascinated me, but the reason I haven’t written much here on Rough Strength about it is because I was still experimenting with different approaches and numbers. Finally, I feel that I nailed it right and I want to share my experience.

NOTE: I won’t give you any pictures here because I want to save them for the big transformation article. If you read Rough Strength for a long time, then you know that I NEVER talk bullshit. If you are still in doubt, then go fuck around somewhere else.

Why Did I Fail at Fat Loss?

Well, this is complex question, but I will try to answer it simple. I failed at fat loss in the past for 2 connected reasons:

– lack of consistency;

– lack of results.

When I talk about consistency here, it doesn’t mean just lack of discipline. You should understand that if you want to burn fat, you should be prepared to eat strictly for a LONG period of time. This can be really heavy due to different environmental issues like demanding job, relationship problems, inconsistent money income, etc. Just imagine being on a diet, training heavy and dealing with all this stuff. Even the strongest will can break in such circumstances. And once you break and the longer you are off the diet, the harder to convince yourself to get back on it, which brings us lack of results.

Additionally, you can receive lack of results from any mistake or miscalculation you make in planning your diet. For example, you may believe that intermittent fasting is some sort of magic and you don’t need to count calories while you are on it. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but you will fail if you assume that the previous sentence is true.

This brings us to the main part.

What Matters?

How to avoid making the same mistakes that stalled my own fat loss progress? To do this, you need to understand the basics of dieting and to learn a couple of other tricks. Of course, you will need to commit yourself to this fully and for as long as needed. And you’ll need to believe in yourself and to be ready to analyze and overcome any obstacles.

I do not want to get too scientific here. If you want science, I recommend to check out Lyle McDonald’s “A Guide to Flexible Dieting” or his “The Stubborn Fat Solution“. I want to keep this article as simple as possible.

Let’s get down to business.

The Big Four

No matter what your approach to diet is, there are only four numbers that will determine how well it will work:

– Calories;

– Protein;

– Carbs;

– Fats.

That’s it. Take charge over these four and any diet approach will work.

The amount of calories will determine whether we are gaining or losing weight. The trick with the calories is not to get too carried away in adding/subtracting them. 20% should be your absolute maximum. Usually, it is much more effective to add/subtract even less than this. So, if your maintenance is 2000 calories, to gain weight, you can eat up to 2400. To lose weight, you may go down not lower than 1600.

Regarding the macronutrients, it seems that there are all kinds of approaches out there. What I found effective recently is 35-40% protein, 35-40% carbs and 20-30% fat. Yes, it is not a low-carb diet. Surprisingly and despite all the fear that carbs will make me fatter, keeping them in the same numbers as protein (even on off-days) worked really well and had awesome bonus benefits. Fat comes off at the same speed if not faster, but at the same time there is no “flat look” that low-carb diet gives you. Additionally, carbs on off days provide more energy for your workout days, which is ultra-important.

If you are serious about fat loss, the Big Four should be your place to start. You might need to use different macros though.

Diet Voodoo Magic

Low-Carb Diets

I’ve tried to tweak every parameter in a low-carb diet for almost 3 years now. I can’t say that they are overrated, but if your goal is to have visible abs, then you might not need to go low-carb at all. Of course, everything depends on the individual, but you do not need to fear carbs because someone told you that they are bad. Try the approach I outlined above for 10-12 weeks and make some conclusions. Then try the low-carb diet for 10-12 weeks and compare the results. Chances are they won’t differ much.

Additionally, if you want to try to go low-carb, you still need to count calories. Removing carbs from your diet will not make you leaner magically.

How low should you go in carbs? Experts say that there is no point in going lower than 100g. I tend to agree here. I’ve seen no significant effect from going less than that. Although, you are free to experiment.

In my current experience, low-carb diet gives me nothing really special except that “flat look”. Using it may be unavoidable if you want to cut down to 4-5% bodyfat, but otherwise than that, it wouldn’t be my first choice.

Intermittent Fasting

Again, intermittent fasting is not magic. You may find all these testimonials on the interwebs of how you will lose weight just by applying IF. However, do not be fooled. Of course, you will lose some weight/fat just from not eating for 16-20 hours every day, but in two weeks you will adapt and you will be able to consume all your daily calories in one sitting. Thus, despite all the awesomeness and positive effects of intermittent fasting, you still need to manage the Big Four.

Doing IF for 3.5 years now, I believe I tried every approach to it. Let’s overview them.

The Warrior Diet. The WD is cool. I like the idea of fasting for 20 hours and eating in 4. However, the WD has one big flaw. Ori Hofmekler wrote a lot about how important to eat salad before meat and why you should eat fresh veggies in the undereating phase, but forgot to mention that you still need to count those damn calories and macros. Additionally, the recommendations regarding underfeeding and overfeeding phases are too vague.

LeanGains. LG is much more suitable for strength training enthusiast because it is much more specific. Basically, I can’t find any serious flaws in this approach. Some minor things in it just don’t fit my personal preferences. Otherwise, it is awesome.

Eat.Stop.Eat. This approach is not daily intermittent fasting, but it is still used effectively for fat loss by many people. Whenever I did it, I looked much leaner the next morning. However, there is a huge downside to eating 1/3 of daily calories. Despite looking leaner, I had no energy the next day. Even regular Push-Ups felt heavy! That’s why I don’t use Eat.Stop.Eat anymore.

So what would I recommend? Basically, I follow LeanGains approach with some minor tweaks:

– I fast for 16-20 hours;

– I cycle calories (more on workout days, less on rest days);

– I do not cycle macros (35-40P, 35-40C, 20-30F);

– I eat in 4-8-hour window and usually in one sitting;

– I can afford eating 1 or 2 apples during the fast closer to my eating window.

That’s it. All in all, I think that intermittent fasting is the best diet tweak a person with average to slow metabolism can apply (of course, after taking charge over the Big Four).

Specific Foods

For a long time I believed that food sources doesn’t matter much as long as you meet your calories and macros. Well, it turned out only to be only partly true. Maybe it is due to my specific organism or any diet miscalculation, but I lose fat only when I use chicken fillet as my source of protein (I thought to write “chick breasts” but then realized it would be too obscene). I’ve noticed this just recently. I was tweaking every possible parameter of my diet, but fat was not burning off for some reason. Even on 1800 calories per day, which is ridiculously low for me. But once I switched to chicken fillet keeping the Big Four the same, I miraculously started leaning out.

My point here is that despite doing everything right regarding calories and macros, you still may fail due to wrong food choices. How to avoid it? Firstly, do not do retarded stuff. For example, getting all your carbs from sugar. Secondly, experiment. Give a certain food choice 8-10 weeks to see whether something is happening to your body. Make conclusions, and if it doesn’t work, switch to something else.

Example Rough Strength Meals

To give you an idea of what I eat exactly, I’ll share one of my workout and rest day mean plans.

Workout Day:

1) 600 g of fried chicken fillet;

2) 250 g of white rice;

3) 200 g of 10% cottage cheese with raisins;

4) 4 fried large eggs.

+ vegetables (I don’t count them)

Total: 2821 calories, 267P, 238C, 76F.

Rest Day:

1) 500 g of fried chicken fillet;

2) 200 g of white rice;

3) 200 g of 10% cottage cheese with raisins.

+ vegetables (I don’t count them)

Total: 2084 calories, 205P, 196C, 44F.

I use the application called MyFitnessPal to track calories and macros. Additionally, you can see one of my regular meals at the picture at the beginning of the article.

Closing Thoughts

With fat loss, consistency is the name of the game. The one who is consistent enough will get any results he/she wants. The fat will melt off. The trick is to keep yourself motivated.

I haven’t touched the subject of cardio here, but that’s the theme for the whole another article.

That’s it. Thanks for reading.

Play rough!

Alex Zinchenko

Every time you don’t like and share this article, you upset a kitten somewhere.

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15 thoughts on “Why Do You Fail at Fat Loss

  1. marius

    Another great article Alex! I totally agree with you that you can look lean with as much carbs as protein in your diet. What I have found out is that you will look leaner faster if you eat less carbs, but in the long run you will get just as lean with the same number of carbs. What is your body fat % if I may ask? Since it seems like you are very concistent with your diet and use it all year around!

    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Thanks, Marius.

      Regarding your question, I haven’t measured my bodyfat. I guess it is around 10-12% but I may be wrong. It is hard to say.

      Regarding consistency, as I wrote, I discovered the “chicken fillet effect” only a couple of months ago. My waist decreased from 78 cm to 75.7 cm in this period. The arms grew from 40 cm to 40.5 cm. The weight went down from 83 to 82 kg. Before this my weight was fluctuating but it seemed not to change its quality (LBM to bodyfat ratio).

      – Alex

  2. Spike

    Very interesting Alex. I’ve been loosely following the carb-backloading protocol for a year and it sound very similar to your “Diet”. Certainly on night prior to hard training I will carb-up to replenish glycogen so I dont have a flat session!
    Looking forward to the full transformation article! Also, really enjoying the rough strength book I got a few days ago.

    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Thanks for kind words, Spike. Carb Backloading, as far as I know, is more complex than what I do. As experience shows, you can have good results even with a simpler method.

      – Alex

  3. Adriana

    hey mr Alex thank you for taking the time to guide me thrue this article, also yes stress can be and it is the major factor why I got careless.My son 9 yrs old broke his femur about three months ago do to a tumor, thank god the tumor wasen’t cancer but it cause the bone to get weak and it finally give out.The stress was brutal in my behalf as a mother it was a scary situation, he is find now he pull thrue it and he will be fine. I been doing intermitten fasting wich also was a good thing at the time because I got so sick I had to go to the doctor were they found my thyroid wasen’t working thanks to intermitten fasting righ!? Well Alex see im not a punk im not goin to let one body organ stop me from getting were I want to go. So I took another approach and started to eat more in my workout days and less the days I don’t workout. I eat my carbs in the morning time the rest of the day is 3 liters of h20 ALONG WITH 2 SNACKS AND LUNCH AND DINNER. Alex another thing I lift as heavy as I can with what I got at home I train for an hour I cannot do less then that, I feel like I can push my self for an hour sometimes I have so much fun I push for an hour and a half. But I do struggle with the diet aspect of living a healthy life and just like an real life diet and exercise are a marriage you cannot cheat and expect that you wont suffer the consequences , if you do think that way you wrong. Anyways mr. Alex thanks for what you do I found your blog because I get tired of people wordshipping the only way to get fit the GYM some of us cannot afford that kind of training and I came across your blog and im in love with it please don’t stop posting I really think your work is awesome.

  4. Matus

    Hi Alex,

    first of all, thanks again for another great article !

    Im big fan of intermittent fasting and have one question: Is it ok/healthy to eat your calories just in one/two sittings? I fast usually 20 hours a day break the fast with big meal (Protein,carbs,fats veggies) and i have some another meal before sleeping (3-4 hours later after my big meal)

    thanks and keep up the excellent work man!

    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author

      Hey Matus,

      I believe that’s ok. I’ve been eating in such fashion for 3.5 years and my health tests were perfect last time.

      – Alex

  5. Mark

    Hi alex,

    ͡ve got one question about intermittent fasting. I work out always early in the morning and have only 10g BCAA before and another 10g after my workout. I break my fast around 18:00… What do u think? Is it horrible schedule?

    1. Alex Zinchenko Post author


      If you don’t feel crappy, then it is a viable option. I don’t believe in “window of opportunity” voodoo. However, everything requires testing.

      – Alex

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  8. Dave

    I have experimented with low-carb diet. The science behinds it makes sense if one does the macronutrients. Mostly, how it works is that one feels full if they eat an onerous amount of fats with as sedentary lifestyle.

    Ever noticed all the studies on low-carb are done on runners or lazy people? The ones done on people who do strength-training or does blue-collared work doesn’t yield much results.

    But that’s the key phrase: “sedentary lifestyle”. The body prefers fats as a main source of fuel while in aerobic mode, so naturally, one begins to consume more fats to make up the difference in calories burned. So, if one has been working out regularly, they won’t notice a difference.

    The only reason to go low-carb is when people are too lazy to do the macronutrients and too lazy to leave their office chairs to go to the gym. Every time I crossed the threshold of being low-carb with weight-training, it just doesn’t make a damn difference and carbohydrates is better for weight-training regimens. If anything, low-carb just makes me fatigued while I am strength-training, and I take naps all the damn time. The diet only really comes into being while running or cycling.

    Mind you, even the most strict adherents of low-carb advocates end up adding a small amount of rice, oatmeal and potatoes back into their diet when they start exercising or training. It is rather hilarious to see them saying one thing, but then doing another then having to justify the addition of carbohydrates to their audience.

    Unless one is a long-distance marathoner or a hiker who need to balance space and calorie density, there is no reason why someone with a healthy diet should go low-carb. If one doesn’t have an active lifestyle, then sure, low-carb would work.

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