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Less Flab, Etched Abs

In “How to Lose 12 Pounds in Just 17 Days” [June ’11 Bottom Line Health], Mike Moreno, M.D., had some interesting observations on fat loss that bodybuilders can apply. Moreno was addressing obese people, but many of his findings apply to anyone trying to lose ugly flab.

For example, Moreno says that 17 days is roughly the amount of time it takes for someone’s metabolism to adapt to a change in calories. Interesting. So by varying your diet about every two weeks, you can trick your metabolism into roaring along at “maximum efficiency.”

Moreno has his clients start with a cleanse-the-system cycle—lean protein, such as fish and chicken, and as many vegetables as the client wants. No grains, pasta, potatoes or desserts. “This helps avoid dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar that fuel binge eating.” Fruit is allowed, but only before 2 p.m.

Note that this is what most bodybuilders do when they start an “on-season” diet. Moreno’s clients eat only about 1,300 calories a day—and lose an average of 10 to 12 pounds—during this 17-day phase.

Next is the reset-your-metabolism cycle, also 17 days. Now the dieter begins alternating higher-calorie days—1,500 to 1,700—with lower-calorie days, about 1,300. “Switching back and forth stimulates fat burning because it prevents your body from adapting to a certain level of daily calories.” The dieter is allowed to reintroduce slow-digesting carbs, such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes and brown rice.

Cycle 3 begins a little more than a month into the diet, and it’s designed to build good eating habits. The dieter’s metabolism will have shifted, so more carbs are permitted—but only before 2 p.m.

Cycle 4 begins when the dieter reaches his or her target weight. It’s designed for weight maintenance and is followed indefinitely—strict eating during the week but a relaxing of the rules on the weekends. From 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Sunday the dieter can enjoy pizza or hamburgers, as long as there is portion control and no more than three indulgences per weekend.

Notice the many similarities between Moreno’s plan and the way bodybuilders diet—early cleanup phase, no carbs in the late afternoon or night, calorie zig-zag, cheat meals. Of course bodybuilders require more calories to fuel heavy, intense workouts and perhaps a few more carbs to replenish glycogen stores. Still, it’s always interesting to watch the mainstream dive into the bodybuilding lifestyle.

Moreno is a physician in charge of primary care and coordinator for new physician education at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. He’s the author of The 17-Day Diet (New York: Free Press. 2011).


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