Maintain Muscle Mass in a Calorie Deficit?

January 24, 2009

I want to talk about a study which blows away the idea of losing muscle mass on a very low calorie, short-term diet.

So what happens when 20 people go on a 12 week diet of 800 calories per day? Read more to find out.

costa rica beach

[Want to go to an amazing tropical beach, but are tired of the Cancun party scene? Costa Rica is right up your alley! Imagine dense jungles right up to beautiful white sand beaches. This is supposedly one of the most amazing places on the planet. I will give you a detailed report once me and my girlfriend get back. We plan on going soon. Can’t wait!]

A Quick Background of the Low Calorie Diet Study

This was a study done published in The American College of Nutrition in 1999.

The study has a seriously lengthy name: Effects of Resistance vs. Aerobic Training Combined With an 800 Calorie Liquid Diet on Lean Body Mass and Resting Metabolic Rate.

The study took 20 people and put them on 800 calories per day for 12 weeks. 10 people did the low calorie diet and resistance training & 10 people did the low calorie diet with cardio.

Β Results for the Dieters Who Did Cardio Only

The cardio only group lost most overall weight than the resistance only group, but unfortunately lost a significant amount of lean body mass.

They also experienced a decrease in resting metabolic rate. So, obviously if someone is dieting hard they need to more than just cardio to maintain their lean muscle mass.

Results for the Dieters Who Did Resistance Training

This group didn’t lose any muscle mass whatsoever. In fact they lost more body fat than the cardio only group. Also, you have probably heard that “the metabolism slows down if calories are kept too low”.

Well…this group actually had a higher resting metabolic rate than when they started. So resistance training is key when you are dieting.

I Don’t Want Everyone to Take This The Wrong Way

The last thing I want is for people to go overboard and begin starving themselves.

These people were under close supervision and it was for a 12 week period of time. I’m sure the long term effects of eating so few calories would have a negative effect.

Want to Give “Props” to Brad Pilon and Alwyn Cosgrove

I’m not the only one who is “in the know” when it comes to maintaining your muscle mass on a low calorie diet. Brad Pilon, author of Eat Stop Eat, talks about this in his ebook (this is the way I’ve been eating for over a year now thanks to Brad…a great way to stay lean year round).

More recently, I read about this study in Alwyn Cosgrove’s mega-course Warp Speed Fat Loss (this course is geared for people who want to drop 20-25 pounds in just 4 weeks! It costs a little more than some of the other courses…but is 400+ page monster).

I have interviews coming up with both of these guys. Two of the best minds in the Industry.

Bottom Line…If You Are Struggling to Lose Weight

If you are at a sticking point, mix in short periods of time (2-4 weeks) where you eat quite a bit less calories than normal (10 calories per pound of your target weight is a good starting point).

You will most likely have to cut these calories from the carb side of the equation. You will want to make sure you get adequate protein.

Also, it wouldn’t hurt to take a multivitamin during these periods of eating low calories. When you are eating lower calories than normal, remember to do resistance training to insure you don’t lose muscle and that your resting metabolism stays high.

A Common Mistake Many Women Make

A lot of women diet hard and then live on cardio machines.

The result is a lower resting metabolism over time and loss of lean body mass. They will get much better results if they add a little resistance training of some sort into the equation.

----> (New) Facebook Comments..."Cause all the cool kids are doin' it!"

{ 92 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeremy Nelms January 24, 2009 at 1:54 am

Hey, great blog entry. I’m also glad you pointed out that people shouldn’t do this indefinitely.

This study is a classic. Hopefully more will take note on the power of resistance training for fat loss!

Jeremy Nelms
No Excuses Fat Loss!

David at January 24, 2009 at 5:11 am

This doesn’t surprise me at all. In the jungle, for example, Gorilla’s are more or less vegetarians. I suspect the amount of calories they consume in a day is not that high, yet they are able to maintain a weight of 300 to 500 pounds of solid muscle easily.

Thanks for the interesting article!

– Dave

Bertie January 24, 2009 at 7:27 am

I can see why you posted this, it does sort of fly in the face of the majority of the bodybuilding worlds views, although there are some blanks I would love to get filled in.

Number 1, what sort of resistance training were the R+D group doing? I’m willing to bet it was a case of low weight high rep, I think lifting any weight that challeneged you massively on that diet, especially for an extended period is just plain dangerous.

Also I’d love to know what their diets actually were from a nutrient point of view, at 800 cals I’m guessing just enough to cover your lbm and some carbs, given the time period of the study I’m sceptical about any fat being in there at all, least of all EFAs. Eating at 800 cals (and you can see the early onsets of this even after 12 weeks) is a pretty quick path to hypothyroidism, also I suspect your body would eventually start synthesizing protien for energy and muscle loss would then occur.

1 day a week wouldn’t kill you eating just enough in protein to cover lbm and nothing else and I see people doing this from time to time on ketogenic diets, fat fasting so to speak but on ketogenic your body should tap straight into your body fat for energy and it will do so more readily than on a ‘normal’ diet.

Personally I would prefer to fast 1 day a week, when I wasn’t exercising, I think you would be less hungry doing that as opposed to eating very restricted calories.

It’s an interesting post and it proves a point but I can’t see why people would want to do it even semi regularly. Keep up the great site Rusty.


Adam Steer - Better Is Better January 24, 2009 at 7:48 am

Hey Rusty,

Another really good resource on this topic is Lyle McDonald’s Rapid Fatloss handbook. It basically reviews the ins and outs of a “modified protein fast” type diet (super low carb – high protein) for short bouts, as you recommend above. The cool thing about Lyle’s stuff is how he covers all the background info. That’s what I really like about Brad’s writing. Even if you won’t consider fasting, you should click on the link above and buy Brad’s book. It’s worth the price for the background info alone.


Paul Cruz January 24, 2009 at 11:10 am

Interesting article. I have been doing muay thai kickboxing and brazilian jiu jitsu to get in shape. I have lost 20 lbs in the last 3 months doing this but I still need to lose about 15 lbs more. Would it be safe to do try this diet while only doing this for exercise or should I add in some bodyweight stuff? I have been thinking about doing TT for a while to help me improve my conditioning.
Anyways I love this website! Keep the articles coming!

Rambodoc January 24, 2009 at 11:30 am

I am keen to know how long one can do IF: a lifetime? Or just a few months?

Remon van der Pol January 24, 2009 at 11:50 am

Very interesting post Rusty. I always believed in doing cardio + weight lifting is the best approach to fat loss, but I never knew that lifting weights in combination with a ultralow-calorie diet could prevent loss of muscle.

Unfortunately there are still quite a lot of woman out there who think that lifting weights will make them bulky, which is simply not true. It’s harder for woman to gain lean muscle as opposed to men in the first place!

Currently I am still going strong with every-day IF-ing (19-20 hours fast) but am currently stuck in my weight-loss. So far I’ve lost a bit more than 20 pounds and I’m proud of that, but it’s not enough.
My daily calorie-intake seems to be around 1500-1900 calories a day (not 100% sure) and so far it hasn’t prevented me on gaining muscle, allthough progress is extremely slow! I haven’t really been able to up the weight for any excersize for months now. πŸ™ Do you have any ideas for this? I did recently start preparing for pullups/chin-ups with a goal of being at least able to complete a 3×10 for both of them. That will probably help a bit, won’t it?

I might try mixing up ultralow-calorie periods with my regular calorie intake. But I still live with my parents, so there will be times that I simply can’t eat healthy. πŸ™

One last thing.. Do you happen to know a food which is healthy enough to eat daily, cheaply enough so that it won’t break the bank and does contain quite a bit of calories? You’d probably think of nuts, but I find them too expensive to consume on a daily basis. πŸ˜‰

Caleb - Double Your Gains January 24, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Great article Rusty,

It’s sad — a girl I was seeing was eating not many calories, VERY strict on her diet — never cheated as far as I know and it was only like 1,000 something a day — but she did like 45+ minutes of cardio every day and THEN hit some weights for only a few isolation exercises…

… Sadly she had plateued with her weight loss — and never got that TONED look all girls want.

And of course when I told her to do otherwise she wanted to argue about it (she was also becoming a nurse so she had all the “industry dogma” holding her back).

Oh well, some people have to learn the hard way I guess — great girl though πŸ™‚

THanks for the article!

BurritoKid January 24, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Good Stuff indeed. It’s so important to be reminded of the things that go against the grain.

Jason January 24, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Hi Rusty,

Keep em coming! My question is, is that I have been doing cardio for 60 mins almost everyday and I have been burning 1000 calories on each try. Of course I do weight training before, but how strict should I be on my diet if i am able to burn 1000 calories a day on cardio? I eat 2-3 meals a day.

I tend to sneak in a donut or cookie a few times a week. I eat potatoes once a week and whole wheat bread here and there. I always have protein in my meals. I am 5’9 174 and between 12-15 percent body fat. I was at 200 pounds in September and probably around 25-30%, but I started working out in the fall and dropped and toned up a bit. Tge holidays I slacked a bit, but now I have been going everyday and trying to get those 1000 calories burned. Will I see more results at this pace or do I have to do more cardio?


Tom Parker - Free Fitness Tips January 24, 2009 at 1:34 pm

Great post Rusty. I think a lot of people associate lifting weights with excessive muscle even though this is not always the case. It all depends on how you lift.

kris January 24, 2009 at 2:20 pm

nice article rusty.

after “retiring” from competitive sports and starting a full-time job my body got soft and pudgy so i started a regime where i ate 800-1000 cals a day, did weights and HIIT. i did this for about a month before a took a vacation and lost a fair amount of weight. i’m not sure if i lost muscle mass too but regardless i look pretty good.. my weight went down about 5lbs (i’m a 5’3 girl, btw). anyway, after my vacation my “diet” went out the window and i gained the 5lbs back.. but in fat. so at this point i looked even MORE soft and pudgy (i lost my toned abs).

now i’m at square one and i’m thinking of doing:
800-1000cals/day (mostly clean eating, low carb)
3 days per week of 1hr weight lifting
2-3 days per week of intervals
1 day of core/pilates

what do you think of this plan? i was going to try it for six weeks.

talyn January 24, 2009 at 2:35 pm

This has nothing to do with your post, just wanted to let you know if you are going to costa rica, A short stay at Peace lodge is a MUST. I went last year and it was the highlight of our trip. Not coastal, but unlike anything you have seen before. I think if you google it the website should come up. So jealous, have fun!

doug January 24, 2009 at 3:44 pm

hey rusty, i dont know how to post a video on this page so type in “why low-fat, low calorie diets are stupid” into the search bar on youtube. this guy talks about how low cal diets have very nasty side effects. such as, loss of hair, nails grew slowly, cuts healed slower, as well as depression. alot of what this guy says is coming from a study similar to the one in this article, however, as you will see the results are much different. im not trying to be a jerk and i dont know if this guy knows what hes talking about but just check this vid out and see what u think.


MrBunny January 24, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Great post Rusty and definitely something women should pay attention to. I know when i use to go to the gym i always saw women on cardio machine but never on anything else not even the rower.

I think my metabolism kicked into over drive as this week i lost 4lbs as opposed to my normal 1-2lb a week and nothing in my diet or exercise has changed. I eat around 1500 calories a day but this is simply a rough estimate as i just eat clean whole foods. Currently my cardio consist of 20 minute HIIT on an exercise bike in my garage which i wonder could this be considered a bit of resistant training as it certainly is building up my leg muscles. I plan to go back into my jump rope and sprinting when spring comes around. I only exercise 3 times a week and don’t enjoy weight training but rather prefer body weight training. Currently i just do elevated push-ups, following by standing bicep curls. I also do push-ups every morning when i get out of bed followed by your discovery of that “breath of dragon” breathing technique. I plan on incorporating Pull-Ups later in the year but as it stands i am simply not strong enough do even do one…very pathetic i know. I will also buy a portable dip station later which i will do as well. I am only continuing with my bicep curls until i get strong enough to do pull-ups then all body weights exercises for me.

I only eat twice a day a light breakfast and dinner.

Breakfast – glass of milk (whole), handful of strawberries, 1 banana
Dinner – Lettuce, cucumbers, broccoli, carrots (raw), 1 orange, 1 kiwi, handful of nuts (almonds, walnuts), protein (lamb, chicken or fish cooked in olive oil). All food is fresh and organic.

Oh and lots of water through the day. That is my typical day which rarely changes i wonder if this is ok? I will incorporate lunch once i reach my target weight and get into maintenance mode.

I am male, 5’10, medium frame, 169lbs (weighed this morning). I don’t care about how much i weigh but rather how much fat is on me and i figured i got another 10-15lbs left to go. My exercise is only 30 minutes (10 resistant followed by 20 minute HIIT). Any help on my diet and exercise is much appreciated.

BTW, love the landscape photo, i have only done some macro photography so far but will get into landscape later this year.

Very sorry for the long post.

Pura Vida January 24, 2009 at 4:06 pm

Hi Rusty,

First time poster. I found your site by accident about 6 months ago and can’t stop coming here to read your advice. I really like your blog and just reading it helps to keep me motivated. It by far the best I have come across.

I also have to commend you on your next vacation choice. I have been to Costa Rica 5 times and absolutely love it. I hope to retire there someday I like it that much. I spent 2 weeks this past Christmas in the small surfing town of Dominical on the south Pacific coast…its a beautiful area. What part of CR do you plan to hit?


MrBunny January 24, 2009 at 4:20 pm

I wonder if you could do an article on coping with outside influences when dieting/training. I know my family is constantly hounding me saying that i am getting too skinny and unhealthy because i no longer stuff my face with crisps, chocolate and cake. i dropped around 20lbs in the past 6-7 weeks and my family is noticing and giving me lots of grief. I know i am not alone when family and friends intervene telling you that everything you are doing is wrong and that they know better while holding a doughnut in their hand and breathing heavily as they walk around. I have lots of cake, chocolate, crisps and generally bad food all around the kitchen and its hard enough for me to restrain myself from this and eat my fruit instead but also getting verbally bashed about my new life style doesn’t help. I wonder if you ever experienced this and what advice could you give me?

Sorry for all the questions.

Hassan Sikder January 24, 2009 at 8:34 pm

hey…what kind of training would you recommend to do with this low calorie diet?…because u mentioned resistance training…what rep range would help the most and also would resistance count as strength training or not? or something like a full body workout cardio type of thing? im thinking of dieting for 4 weeks on protein shakes only and maybe fruits…do you think this would do well or not? because with me i dont tend to get hungry for a whole day even if i dont eat. let me know if you dont mind…thanks again

Kxm24 January 24, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Hey Rusty, Your site has helped me go from 123 in early November to currently 115lbs. This is the lightest I have been since I was 16. I can usually get to 120, maybe 119 if I really try, but this time I have lost weight with ease. I feel and look great. I would like to eventually get to 110 (I’m 5’4″ 24 y/o) . I’d actually be happy where I was now if I didn’t have some fat that I’d like to get rid of.

Currently I average between 1,000-1,200 calories a day and this post has come at the perfect time. My cardio workouts consist of running stairs for 20-40 mins (1-2 times p/w). HIIT of treadmill sprints or incline intervals (1-2 times p/w). Also I usually do a bodyweight circuit once a week.

My resistance training consists of mostly push-ups (i’m doing the 100 push-up challenge, right now I do about 90 push-ups three times a week) The push-ups I’m doing for the challenge are with my hands wider apart, so I have also started throwing in closer handed push-ups to target my biceps more ( I’m not as good at these yet). I also do planks almost every night and can hold them for 2 mins now. Other exercises I include are bodyweight lunges (sometimes w/ medicine ball) , squats, burpees, just started adding some triceps dips.

My question: is this enough resistance training to maintain muscle mass? Should I add anything, I try to keep my routine to stuff I can do at home. Also I want to work towards doing pull-ups, can push-ups alone get me there?

Thank you for all your help, I work as an ocean lifeguard during the summer and i’m hoping I will look my best ever this summer!

BRUTHABADDASS January 24, 2009 at 10:25 pm

rusty, thanx for the info now here is some for you. costa is awesome for the surf and relaxation…but if you get a chance take a boat ride to belize for 2 or 3 days. this is full on lovers paradise and you will also be able to go on a sight seeing adventure out of this world. have a great time dude!!!

Dan January 24, 2009 at 10:39 pm


I work as an ocean lifeguard myself. Best job in the world. Wish I could do it year round.

Dan January 24, 2009 at 10:41 pm


What do you eat man? I know you keep calories low, but I’m curious as to what your fridge looks like. I remember reading that you like Green Tea.

My problem is that when I go to the grocery store I don’t know what to buy.

I just need ideas on what to make for myself. Any good sites or recommendations for this?

Yash January 25, 2009 at 1:11 am

To REMON: Milk. Full fat whole milk. I’m assuming you’re trying to gain weight, in which case butter is also great not only because of the caloric content but because saturated fat and cholesterol will help with testosterone and growth hormone production to help you out a bit. I definitely saw improvements in my gains when I started eating butter with eggs every morning with a tall glass of milk and another generous serving of butter with my chicken for lunch.

Great article Rusty. The body is easily the most complex and intelligent and adaptive machine ever created. We may think we’re special because as a species our minds are so advanced but they have nothing on mother nature and what’s been programmed into us. If you feed your body less calories but do weight training, your body just knows that it will need to maintain that muscle because you need to lift heavy things. If you cut calories and run a lot, your body will figure out the most efficient way to do that, which is to lose fat AND muscle mass, because less muscle is less tissue to feed and sustain. This can go with other examples too. If you need to gain strength, start lifting heavier things and your body will adjust. If you want to add size simultaneously, eat more. Want to stay the same? eat the same. It’s all about your body reaching an equilibrium with the stimulus you give it.

JE Gonzalez January 25, 2009 at 10:51 am

I also got myself the Warp Speed Fat Loss system. I did not like the slow and steady results, so I decided to supercharge it. It was actually 3 weeks but I lost 10 pounds. Now all that is left is the last 10 pounds, and those I will lose steadily. The diet that works for ME is Paleo/Primal, but there are many ways to keep fat at bay. I say this because I sometimes feel dogmatic bout Paleo, and am rather anti-lo-fat, yet realize that people have gotten ripped that way.

I also wanted to hit you up with this:

Maky Mark forever!

Remon van der Pol January 25, 2009 at 11:18 am


Well actually I’m trying to lose weight, so gaining weight would be counter-productive, unless you mean lean-muscle weight. πŸ˜‰ I’m on a daily IF-regimen, so I begin to eat when it’s dinnertime. I still live with my parents so I’ll have to eat the stuff which is served on my plate. Often it’s veggies, potatoes and meat and that’s great, but that doesn’t provide you with enough calories to last a whole day. So in the evening my daily extra calories comes from muesli, low-fat yoghurt, a cookie and fruits. I’m just looking for something cheap and healthy to add to this after-dinner stuff so I can up my calories if needed. πŸ™‚ Milk is certainly not a bad tip, really. I’m not a big fan of butter though, and you’re not suggesting just eating a lump of butter on a daily basis, are you? πŸ˜‰

Remon van der Pol January 25, 2009 at 11:22 am

Oh yeah, I don’t want to ingest too much calcium since too much has been linked to osteoporosis, as odd as it may sound.

Yash January 25, 2009 at 1:16 pm

@Remon: That’s interesting. I guess the butter would be counterproductive, but if you really wanted to up your calories then it might be better than carbs which will store weight and water [from glycogen] in your muscles. When I did IF with a day or two of fasting per week over the summer i was doing it on a low carb diet so at night i would have all the fat and meat I wanted. It worked out very well. The low carbs made sure that once the glycogen from my muscles was burned off, I was really using up body fat for energy during the day. Really amazing to start seeing abs in a few weeks. I wish you the best of luck!

Remon van der Pol January 25, 2009 at 3:04 pm

@Yash: This whole IF thing is awesome and so far I have lost more than 20 pounds with it. Mind you that I do have a cheat day every sunday where I don’t fast and eat pretty much anything I want without going overboard. πŸ˜‰ What form of eating-habit are you following now?

As far as I know, fat’s are not the true enemy of losing weight, but sugars are. This also means that I don’t want to go overboard on fruits either, since fructose is stored directly in the liver, where it turns into fat if not used.

So basicly your advice would be to find something that is low on carbs (sugar) right?

DJ January 25, 2009 at 4:39 pm

I understand that you probably get a variable of this question a lot Rusty but I am new to your website and haven’t found a response that encompasses all of my question so I’m going to ask you about a situation in my life. My girlfriend is about 20 pounds overweight and I think if she got skinny she would lose her butt and look kind of gross! Her best friend used to be 200+, then got tae-bo type VHS and seriously now weighs like 110 pounds. When her girlfriend is wearing long sleeves or whatever she looks OK and healthy but when she’s wearing short sleeves or shorts her legs just look wayyyy too muscular. My girlfriend agrees with me but she also wants to get herself a little bit healthier. What kind of workouts should I suggest to her and how can I get her to keep her curves, man! I have seen that you profiled Jessica Biel on your website. I think a few years back she was really pretty but even now I think she is a bit muscular and manly (just a bit, though.

I put a lot of faith in your website because I have always just done a bit of weights with a lot of basketball and soccer and pushups/burpees. I eat relatively healthy and feel good about how I look. I also liked the post you made about cutting your hair. My hair was growing real slowly so I just buzzed it down. More respect from teachers, girls, friends! I’m not losing my hair though so I’d like to grow some long hair! Do you have any strategies to increase the rate your hair grows so that I’m not stuck in the middle with corey matthews hair for a year? LOL. Thanks Rusty.

-A new fan.

Helder January 25, 2009 at 6:00 pm

I never went so low in calories, but a lot of times i’ve cut on calories for short periods, and i got excellent results on burning fat while keeping lean muscle mass. One important thing to say here is that resistance training should be done with low reps and heavy weight, i believe it works better to maintain muscle mass, also in this period of low cals if you decide to do cardio, keep with HIIT instead of long distance running/jogging.

I’m looking forward for your interview with Cosgrove, i’m a big fan

Now talking about the best thing, Costa Rica πŸ™‚ that’s one of my dream places to go, let me know more details about it

Son of Grok January 25, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Good read Rusty. This info has been out there for a while but is often missed, hidden, not communicated and put on the back burner (purposefully?). Props to Brad are always in order… but so are props to you! Cheers.

The SoG

Yash January 25, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Remon, my eating habits have been all over the place recently. During school, I was eating a low- to moderate-low carb diet, but high calorie to put on some muscle mass. I did cheat and have whole wheat bread and some sweets but i still kept my total carbs low. Then over winter break for about a month, I went more strictly low carb and lost a little bit of weight. Now that school has started and i can go to the gym again, I have started up my usual strength training routine, but i’m crossed between eating low calorie/low carb to slim down for the summer, or go back to eating high calorie to gain some weight [two completely opposing ideas, quite a decision]

When I did IF last summer, I was eating pretty high fat but since I wasn’t eating carbs, the excess fat in my diet wasn’t stored and I still burned body fat. Don’t get too hung up on not eating fruits because of the fructose, if you keep breads and processed sugars low, you’ll be fine. The brain functions primarily on glucose, so fruits will help maintain that. The rest of your body will run on fat/protein. the answer to your question is ultimately yes, a low carb food would be good. Don’t take my word for it though. Keep track of yourself and what works for your body. If you’ve lost that initial water weight in your muscles and you are fairly active along with the IF, then you can get away with some carbs pre or post workout. Also, instead of a high calorie food to increase your calorie intake, you could cut back your fast days when you get closer to your gaol weight [from what you said it seems like you’re doing 6 days a week]

Daisy January 26, 2009 at 1:59 am

Great advice as always Rusty! Thanks! I’m wondering about the “Lose More Than 2 Pounds Per Week” link I saw up top. I clicked and read all about the warp speed program and was wondering if anyone here has tried it and do you suggest it. Thanks!

admin January 26, 2009 at 2:38 am


Yeah…It is a mistake to skip resistance training when trying to lose body fat. A common mistake I see all the time.


We can learn a lot from the animal kingdom. Not too many obese animals out in the wild.


Just like you said, I’m pointing out an extreme example of what the human body is capable of doing. Lyle McDonald has an extreme weight loss plan called The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook. I have recommended many times on my site. It outlines a diet that is mainly chicken breasts and fibrous carbs. He suggests 2 weeks on and a week off for those who are close to their target weight, and slightly more aggressive for those with a lot of weight to lose. I have done this diet 2-3 times in the past 5 years to drop a quick 5 pounds to get extra lean for a road trip or something of that sort (I never stray too far from my ideal condition…it feels good to look your best year round).


You are preaching to the choir. My favorite diet books are Eat Stop Eat, The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook, and now Warp Speed Fat Loss. I’ve owned the first 2 for a while, but I’m new to Warp Speed (this should be a breakout book this year…it is extremely detailed).


Both of your sports are outstanding for conditioning. TT would probably be the best type of exercise that translates well into your sport (the ability to remain strong even when you are gasping for air). I’m referring to the bodyweight circuits. I like the lifting program in TT as well…I use those same priciples when I’m short on time.


If you are talking the way Brad suggests in Eat Stop Eat, then you could easily do this for a lifetime. If it is like the Warrior Diet, I think you would just want to do it periodically. I still think Ori is a stud for really bringing this way of eating to a big audience, but Brad Pilon perfected it into a realistic plan that gets amazing results.


When I first did IF, I was doing it Warrior Diet style…which meant eat one big meal until you are full, as much as it takes. I now do Eat Stop Eat, which recommends to eat healthy and a regular sized meal for that one meal (you only do it twice a week). On those days you are eating quite a bit less, so it bings down the amount of calories you eat each week considerably…and makes fat loss inevitable. A cheap food with high calories…dairy products. In fact, I read an article yesterday (on building muscle) about how chocolate milk may be the ideal post-workout shake.If you want to gain muscle, load up on milk…and grab some Nestle Quik chocolate milk powder to drink after you workout.


For people who don’t have access to weights, then I would recommend they do bodyweight circuits like Craig Ballantyne recommends. That is a great way to combine resistance training and cardio all in one. It sounds like she was probably just hitting the treadmill, and not mixing in any type of resistance, which is why she couldn’t tone th muscles. You are right about people in the medical field…some of the things that they teach have been proven false years ago…it takes a while for the textbooks to catch up.


Don’t change a thing! Seriously…you are doing it right. Oh and by the way, I eat so called “junky” foods on a regular basis. I would estimate that 80% of my meals are super-clean, but 20% are things like pizza, nachos, cookies, ice cream, etc. If I know I’m going out to eat I try to be stricter than normal 1-3 days ahead of that meal, but I’m not obsessive about it.


Training uder a calorie deficit in a smart way, goes a long way to build definiton without adding excessive mass. Good point.


That sounds like a good plan. I also like it that you are giving yourself a decent amount of time to hit that goal. It is possible to lose weight at a faster rate than what you outlined, but you could still live a normal life and lose 5 pounds in 6 weeks. Make sure that you get at least one day of rest per week. You should also do intervals right after weight training every now and then.


I just looked that up. Those waterfalls look amazing. I will see if I can incorporate that into our trip.


I have seen this video before. I don’t ever advocate low fat. I’m a believer in eating natural foods…protein, fat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, etc. When you take fat out of the equation bad things happen…this is the big mistake that many make. When you go low cal, you have to do it right and you need to engage in resistance training. There are quite a bit of things I disagree with about this video. He has a few things right…and a few I think are off base. He actually says “if you eat high fat, high protein, and low carb…you can eat as much as you want and lose weight”…this is incorrect.

Mr Bunny,

The way I suggest for people to do HIIT is in a way that challenges their muscles (bodyweight TT circuits -or- some form of interval hardcore sprint). This counts as resistance training in my book…especially the bdyweight circuits, running stairs, hills, etc. Obviously the other things you mention…pullups, dips, pushups, etc….are a great form of resistance training. You diet looks strict, but keep at it until you reach your ideal weight. At that time, feel free to loosen up a bit (you have to live).

Pura Vida,

We still haven’t decided what part we are going to visit. So many choices. I will look into Dominical…I love surfing towns!

Mr Bunny,

That is a great idea for an article…I’ll put it on my list. Also, the vast majority of people are unhealthy and don’t have a good understanding of being fit and healty. I would be worried if they agreed with what you were doing! You are on the right track.


I did the protein shake thing about 5 years ago before a vacation. If I remember correctly, I did it for about 5 weeks and it worked very well in getting me down to around 5-6% body fat (normally I stay around 8%). These days, I try to accomplish the same look with whole foods…but it does cost more and their are more variables to keep track of. For the short term 4-6 weeks, protein shakes are a great approach to drop weight in a hurry…just get back to eating natural foods when you are done. As far as resistance training goes…3-4 times a week at a rep range that challenges your muscles. I would recommend sticking around the 5 rep range…or do bodyweight circuits for more reps…or combine the two. There are many. many approaches that work.

I get my leanest off of 10-12 total sets per muscle group of 3-5 reps, followed by intense HIIT for 15-20 minutes on a treadmill…adding 20 minutes of steady state cardio right after that. I work each muscle group twice per week and try to slowly get stronger while losing that last little bit of weight (3-5 pounds).


The bodyweight workouts you do are plenty to maintain mass (and your resting metabolism). It doesn’t actually take much to maintain what you have. Once you reach your target weight, then it would be a good idea to increase the calories a bit. Other than that, everything you have outlined should work well.


Yeah…I can’t wait to go to Costa Rica. I love visiting tropical climates. I think I am destined for a life on the beach.


Go to This is an amazing site for eating whole foods for optimum health as well as staying lean. Scott Kustes knows his stuff! Make sure you comment on his blog and tell him I sent you (we’ve become friends over this past year).


Great advice you gave to Remon…I said the same thing basically. Also…extremely well written comment about how adaptive our bodies are. Serously…you have great skills at writing in an engaging way. I always enjoy reading your responses.


Did you give “props” to Marky Mark? “Feel the Vibration…Feel It, Feel It”. That is some bad music (but so bad it is almost good).


Your girfriend should just do low volume restistance training follwed by HIIT. If she follows a clean diet and goes into her workouts a bit carb depleted, she will do well. As far as growing your hair long…there is always an awkward phase. The good thing is that if you are lean and your face has angular featues, you will look good during this period of time. I’m glad you found my site…we have a good thing going here with all of the comments.


Yeah…I believe in going heavy as well and doing HIIT. I will add in steady state cardio right after the HIIT to lose the last little stubborn pound or two.


Thanks for the “props”.

Great comments everyone. I appreciate it!


I have just finished reading the book…it is very well written and takes all the guess work out of the equation. It is a detailed step by step plan that outlines exactly what to do for 4 weeks to lose a lot of body fat.


Peter January 26, 2009 at 3:29 am

Hello Rusty,

Thanks for all of the great advice. Hopefully I can lose a few of those Holiday pounds I gained in the last few months! I am going to start following the plan laid out in Eat Stop Eat. My wife has been following it with great results.

Giselle January 26, 2009 at 1:46 pm

I wonder what they were feeding those people. There is no way I could live on 800 calories let alone have a workout program on 800 calories. Especially resistance training or any for of HIIT.

Remon van der Pol January 26, 2009 at 3:28 pm

Thanks Yash and Rusty (mr. admin :P) for your excellent advice! Today I went to the supermarket and low and behold.. Chocolate milk was on discount so I bought plenty of it! πŸ™‚

Yash: To be honest I was never concerned with macronutrients for the most part, although I am trying to keep sugar intake low. For now I’m gonna add one glas of chocolate milk per day, or at least on weight-lifting days. Losing the 20 lbs was easy! Now my body is becoming more stubborn in losing weight. But hey, I still manage to lose 100 grams of bodyweight per day, which is still quite a lot on a weekly basis. πŸ™‚

Slimming down for summer is a good Idea, but so if gaining some weight, if you mean to pack on more muscle that is. Isn’t it possible to combine both to a certain extend? I am still able to gain some muscle while on my IF-plan and still manage to drop weight. πŸ™‚

I am planning on still eating the bulk of my calories at night, even when I hit my target bodyweight/body-appearance. The main difference will be that I am eating nothing at all currently, and will eat fruits/veggies during the day once I’ve hit my goal. πŸ™‚

Hassan Sikder January 26, 2009 at 8:25 pm

thanks for the info rusty! you always helping me here lol…appreciate it alot…and one final Q before i go, how much weight do you think i can lose off protein shakes only for 1 month diet?…as i will do strength training 4 times a week hopefully, if not then twice a week, and i like to do the turbulence full body circuit about 3 times a week for 3 sets, is that good? or do i need to add more cardio for quicker fat loss?

Yash January 26, 2009 at 8:42 pm

Remon, I would hardly call losing 100 grams of weight a day stubborn, good for you! And yes, it is possible to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time [it happened to me too] but that usually happens when you first start getting fit and you put on muscle easily since you are lifting and you lose fat due to being more active than you were before. I lost weight a while back and i’m now at ~10% bf, and i also want to put on about 10-15 lbs of muscle. I probably wouldn’t be able to get down to 6-8% and gain weight at the same time since for the former, I’d have to be eating strictly and doing HIIT, and for the latter, I’d need a huge calorie excess and ideally no cardio so i can use my calories to build muscle. I think for now I’m going to concentrate on getting more muscle, I have my whole life to get the ideal physique, but for now I want to build that muscular base.

Rusty, thank you for the compliment. It’s actually quite funny because in school one of my weakest areas is writing. [i’m really more of a science nerd.] The reason is probably because I can write well when I’m talking about something that interests me and it’s hard to shut up about it, but being forced to write a paper about some mundane topic is such a chore.

Yavor January 27, 2009 at 2:31 am

Yes, people definitely over eat and over complicate stuff when it comes to losing weight. Just eat less!

Germanoff January 27, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Great post Rusty,
it was just what I needed to know, you cleared my dobts about loosing muscle that is so hard to build without steroids. I have been on The Warrior Diet for two weeks now and I have lost 5,2kg by now. I have introduced a very intense cirquits of resistence training, with a interval training at the end, but I was able to complete just two sprint by now.
Thanks again and keep it coming.

shailja January 27, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Yash, you’re comments are really well written.
I’m following IF 3 times a week with 15-17 hours of fasting; HIIT twice a week and weights twice a week. I want to lose about 6-8 pounds of fat. My diet mainly consists of vegetables,fruits,nuts and some whole grains; dairy which is full fat. (I’m vegetarian)
I find it difficult to go low carb.Does this plan seem okay?

MrBunny January 28, 2009 at 2:41 am

Thank for the feedback rusty i will look forward to your future articles. In the mean time i have something that i am sure you will find very interesting regarding low calories. Please read the following article.

As you know by now i am a firm believer in being healthy and against many diets out there because although they make you lose weight it does so in a very unhealthy way. As you are well aware calorie restriction alone is not the answer but rather where those calories come from. I still think many people focus on just calories alone and not the real problem “where are you getting these calories from”. I have been reading every article you have written one by one and thoroughly enjoying all of them…still not finished yet.

I would really like to know what you think of that article.

MrBunny January 28, 2009 at 2:43 am

Hmmm looks like it didn’t like my url link, sorry for the multiple posts please feel free to delete them, here is the link.

I had to break up the link as it would not post but just copy that into the browser and all should be good.

MrBunny January 28, 2009 at 3:13 am

Also Rusty, please read this article to complement the one above both of which apply to the article that you have written.


I am aware that you know most of this stuff already but would be interested to know your thoughts on the two articles.


Please read this article also as i understand that you are a vegetarian but your high carb diet will go very much against what you are trying to do despite your calorie deficit. I suggest reading the article a few times to fully grasp it, i know i had to.

I believe low calorie alone is not the answer but low carbs. There are plenty of other articles that back up these studies.

Abril January 28, 2009 at 7:37 am

Speaking of calorie restriction….…caloriesmayboostagingbrains

Looks like science is on your side Rusty!

Yavor January 28, 2009 at 12:41 pm


the plan is great. There is a trap though – if the plan is too hard and ambitious you might fail to implement it and get discouraged altogether.

shailja January 28, 2009 at 4:47 pm

Mr Bunny -thanks ,I will supplement with a good quality and no sugar whey protein and keeps bread and cereals low.

Yavor- I really need to push myself I’ve been at this weight for the last 6 months ..but you’re right I’m going to ease into the exercise slowly..I’m pretty sore from just 2 days of HIIT and weights.

DJ- My hair has been growing really fast and thick. I think it’s the supplements I take- Omega 3 and a whole food multivitamin . Plus,I’ve been eating almonds.

Ron January 28, 2009 at 6:15 pm

Just thought I’d throw out what appears to be a good website…

Jonathan January 28, 2009 at 9:14 pm

hi, my friend just introduced me to this sight because i told him i needed to lose some weight in my lower stomach area. i’m 16years old male 5’9 150lbs. i’m having problem losing the fat below my belly button. I was wondering if someone can point me in the direction of where to start.

Yash January 28, 2009 at 9:22 pm

Thanks a lot shailja. I know how a vegetarian diet can make it hard to go low carb. My family eats mostly vegetarian at home and any meat I eat I have to cook for myself. You could try emphasizing the nuts and fruits/vegetables in your diet to help reduce carbs. I glass of milk an an apple is a great snack to hold you over until your next meal. Another piece of advice Rusty gave in his HIIT post and from one of his comments a while back was that he didn’t eat carbs before doing HIIT. if you do weight training and HIIT on consecutive days then you can try and cut carbs in between the two workouts that way you burn off some carbs from the weight training which could [??] reduce any carry over to your HIIT and make it more effective. That way you could potentially only have to go low carb for about 24 hours. That’s totally a hypothesis though, but it seems pretty logical. [come to think of it, i might try this out when it gets closer to summer] Like yavor said though, if it’s too hard, tone it down so you don’t quit altogether.

admin January 29, 2009 at 2:55 am


Eat Stop Eat is brilliant. I really believe it is going to explode one of these days. It is slowly picking up momentum. The great thing about Brad’s approach is that it is a realistic version of Intermittent Fasting.


It was a liquid diet. I’m sure it was just a few low-calorie protein shakes per day. The thing about eating low-cal is that your body will adapt and it becomes easier once you “get over the hump”.


Are you planning on just doing protein shakes? I recommend 2 protein shakes per day and one low-cal meal at night. I would expect that you could lose 2-3 pounds a week until you are about 10 pounds away from being really defined…then you can expect 1-2 pounds per week.


Thanks for coming by and commenting. It never gets old hearing about the great results people are getting.

Mr Bunny,

Yeah…Insulin is a huge factor in weight loss. I have a post which explains that in a simple way. Type in “Insulin” into the search bar in the upper right hand corner of my site. Just broken down into the basics.


Just when I believe I’ve seen it all, someone shows me a site I haven’t seen. How did I miss this site? Great stuff!


That is every guys problem area. You just have to lose more body fat and get to a lower body fat percentage. The good news is that it probably means you are close to your target weight goal. Most guys have body fat over their entire stomach…as they lose weight, the fat is lost over the entire body and as they get leaner the fat from the upper abs is lost first…then and only then, will you lose that fat from the lower abs. So focus on overall fat loss and you will lose that fat on your lower abs.

Good Comments!


MrBunny January 29, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Great article Rusty i just read both of your insulin articles very informative and easy and read. You have taught me so much…as the saying goes.

“give a man a fish and he will eat for a day but teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime…providing he can find the river!”

OK so i changed the saying a bit but you get the idea you have taught me to catch my own fish so to speak and it makes a big difference when you know how certain food effects your body. I feel like i awoke from a deep sleep of ignorance of how food effects us. Knowledge gives us the power to change and you are the librarian.

Hassan Sikder January 29, 2009 at 8:24 pm

i was thinking 3 protein shakes a day only, as i want to drop weight even faster then 2-3 lbs a week..if thats possible

missb January 30, 2009 at 2:41 am

I was just about to start the warrior diet after reading so much about fasting on your site when i found this. Whats your opinion on it? is there any truth to it??

“The majority of diets are based on some form of calorie restriction and deprivation (and in some cases even starvation!) and whilst all of these will initially induce weight loss, the weight you are losing is not all fat! What you will actually be losing is mostly water and muscle tissue. When you lose muscle tissue your metabolic rate slows down and you will end up with a slower fat burning engine; this means as soon as you stop your diet you will usually regain the weight you have just lost…plus interest! In other words, because you have a slower metabolism, you will put on more weight than you lost. ” ourbrisbanenever-diet-again

MrBunny January 30, 2009 at 3:56 am

Hassan Sikder

Personally, i would not recommend this method as it will do long term damage to your body. You will consume less than 500 calories a day with 3 protein shakes not to mention depriving your body of essential minerals and vitamins, thus causing seriously health issues in the long term. Whats the point in looking good quick if your body is deteriorating on the inside!

Why not have a protein shake for breakfast, skip lunch and for dinner have some fish, fruits and vegetables. The fish will be around 300 calories and each fruit/vegetables will be around 40-100 calories so you can have plenty of them and still only consume around 600-700 calories for your dinner. Combine that with your morning protein shake and that will only be 800-900 calories a day which is low enough. This way you will get all your essential nutrients that your body needs thus being healthy and still maintaining a low calorie intake.

My diet is very much the same as this except that i have fruit for breakfast and yet i lose around 2-4lbs a week. However, i only exercise 3 times a week for 30 minutes (10 minutes resistant followed by 20 minutes HIIT). Why not then exercise 5 or 6 week with 20 minute HIIT followed by another 20 minute steady state cardio as Rusty suggests for optimal fat burning.

Patients is a virtue.

Hassan Sikder January 31, 2009 at 10:18 pm

thanks for the tips MrBunny appreciate it, ok il try that, my original plan was 3 protein shakes a day with a banana in each shake and a multivitamin for the day, but what im going to try is, protein shake and banana for the morning and just have dinner, chicken breast with veggies, does that sound ok? and the thing is, i only have an exercise bike at home and my legs are huge and dont want to make them any biiger then they already are, im looking to lose size, thats why im trying to look for a different way to lose weight all over, this is why i was asking if body weight circuits could help or not.

shailja February 1, 2009 at 4:20 pm

Thanks Yash,I will try that.I’m going to keep the starchy carbs low overall .
btw Yash is an indian name, I was just wondering if you are indian.

admin February 1, 2009 at 5:14 pm


If you are just doing 3 shakes per day, just do it for the short term, there are phytonutrients and nutrient combinations in food that can’t be replicated in these supplements.


The main thing to do is insure that you strength train a few times per week…then you won’t lose the muscle. If you do that, you have nothing to worry about.

Mr Bunny,

Great advice to Hassan, couldn’t have said it better myself. If someone is taking protein shakes they should make sure to have at least some real food at some point in the day. If he wanted to do this, maybe 2 weeks max and then get back to some real food.


I should have read further down…you guys figured this out. Your new plan sounds like a perfect approach to hit your goals.


Hassan Sikder February 1, 2009 at 8:31 pm

so the body weight circuits should help right rusty? including strength training 4 times a week..and maybe 20 min HIIT on the bike. is what i have planned, with 1 protein shake n banana for da mornin…and a meal i and evening and thats is it, im only doing this for 4 weeks and thats it, back to normal food.

MrBunny February 1, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Thanks Rusty,

Hassan, i too have an exercise bike at home as my only cardio equipment but i also purchased a skipping rope a while back which is my new favourite cardio. Seriously, do HIIT with jump rope and your legs will slim down to a more toned look as well as your entire body. Rusty has a great article on jump rope do a search for it. I will take up sprinting as well when spring comes around as Rusty says this is also great for toning up those legs without excessive bulk. I am only using the exercise bike because it can be done indoors as outside is too cold for sprinting or jump rope for me…it is snowing at this very moment.

Unfortunately, i have no room to do jump rope in doors so another couple of months of the exercise bike for me.

Rusty has great articles on both jump rope and sprinting which i highly recommend you do a search for.

Bananas are great and my favourite fruit but i only suggest you eat one a day. My morning breakfast is now just a glass of milk and a banana. Try not to double up on any one fruit or vegetable but get a variety. Just test them all out and find the ones you like the most and work around that, which is what i did. As Rusty said your new plan eating plan looks great just make sure you include omega 3 which will greatly help your cardiovascular system. This is found in oily fishes, walnuts, flak seeds and amongst some other foods. Alternatively, you could also take some cod liver oil tablets which is rich in omega 3.

And make sure you give yourself a realistic time frame to lose the weight. My personal Target is 10lbs a month and seeing how i only got another 10-15 left to go i should be in maintenance mode by the end of March. Good Luck with your goals.

MrBunny February 1, 2009 at 8:51 pm

Oh, i forget you asked about body weight circuits which is a great alternative to cardio for burning fat. Rusty has also done another excellent article on this which you should search for.

I personally prefer body weight exercises to machine or weights. My ideal goal is to eventually only do body weight exercises when i get strong enough as i cannot do even a single pull up. I currently do elevated push-ups, dips and hanging leg raises (using pull bar).

Rusty, i wondered what your thoughts are on hanging leg raises using a pull-up bar?

Sweety February 1, 2009 at 11:40 pm

Hey Rusty!!
I absolutely love your website.. you are really doing an amazing job helping everyone reach their fitness goals.. keep it up πŸ™‚ I just had a couple questions…for the past 5 years i have been yo yo’ing (if thats a word!) between 120-135 pounds. I am 5’4 and would like to maintain my weight at 120 but cant seem to do so! I now realize i might have in the past made a mistake of doing too much cardio and dieting hard … now my maintenance daily calorie intake is around 1100 which is quite low i think! I am currently at around 135 pounds and would like to slim down to 120 and stay there this time!!.. what would you suggest I do? I was thinking of doing 3-4 days of HIIT. I aslo wanted to start doing resistance training.. i think that would help raise my resting metabolic rate. Which exercises or machines would you suggest( i am an amateur when it comes to weight lifting)? How many days of resistance training would you reccommend? oh yes and for calorie intake should I reduce it to 800? Thanks Rusty for all your help, really appreciate it πŸ™‚

Dax February 2, 2009 at 10:49 pm

Hi Rusty,

I actually have lost weight doing very similar diets/workouts as those described in the post, the study, and the susequent remarks. I still have about 15 or 20 lbs to lose. I have some, but not a ton, of muscle. I can lose weight fast with a low-cal diet, daily tough hour-long elliptical workouts, and weight training 4-6 times per week. I know it sounds like a lot, but my metabolism has always been slow. This gets results.

Here’s the problem. Recently a dog trainer informed me that my dogs aren’t getting near enough exerice. I have a large fenced in backyard, which is rare in San Francisco. We would walk them a couple times per week. But, supposedly each dog needs at least an hour per day. I can do 30 mins each in the morning and again at night, but I’m worried this is NOT enough cardio FOR ME.

I’m going to add HIIT at the gym during lunch 3 days per week. Do you think this will effectively help my situation since I can not possibly burn as many calories walking my dog as when I was doing the elliptical daily?


Hassan Sikder February 3, 2009 at 12:23 pm

once again MrBunny thank you very much for the help, what il do is the exercise bike and bodyweight circuits like the turbulence one i think it was, and strength training, and i wil have one banana a day with aprotein shake in the morning, and for the evening a final meal with chicken breast and amix of veggies, thanks, i have it sorted now, and i will let you knowabout how everything goes. thank you once again

Ray Johnson February 3, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Hi Rusty…great article…I’ve have to say that about 6 months ago, I’ve had a wake up moment (after looking at a picture of me at the beach..:) and decided overnight to loose weight. What started out as no/low carb diet and loosing about 10lb my first month, turned into a lifestyle change to become a almost 100% vegeterian. I’ve since then lost a total of 25lb, weighing in at 175lb and ripped…yep my six pack is back…
To compensate my mostly vegeterian diet, I take in about 150 grams of protein via shakes during the day, spaced out about every 6 hours…and it helped to produce some impressive muscle gains and preserve what I already had….anyway…so my diet is less the 1500 calories a day, supplemented only with protein powder and creatine supplements….

All the best


MrBunny February 5, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Hey Rusty, i just read your article on pull-ups a great article by the way. I wonder if you still do pull/chin-ups and if have you managed to do one arm pull/chin-ups yet? I know very few people who can just do a normal two handed pull/chin-up but i don’t know anyone who could do a one arm pull/chin-up.

Not sure if you know this but one of Bruce Lee exhibition was displaying his functional strength by doing 50 reps of one arm pull/chin-ups. Just goes to show as you always said big size doesn’t mean big strength.

Kelly February 10, 2009 at 7:01 pm

Great Blog! There is SO much great information on here! I have enjoyed every blog thus far! Lots of helpful information.

Chris February 12, 2009 at 6:35 pm

I remember reading something on the internet, awhile back, that talked about there being roughly 700 calories per pound of muscle, vs. 3500 calories per pound of fat. The article went on to talk about there not being a need to eats tons of calories to build muscle, and maintain muscle, like so many think – especially bodybuilders. Examples are of prisoners, who can build great physiques, but only eat three meals per day.

If you stop and think about it, it seems very true. The body stores fat, when you eat an excess of calories. Those looking to build, or maintain muscle, typically eat a very high calorie diet, especially during the “bulking season”. At the same time as putting on muscle, however, they put on fat. The fat comes from excess calories. In other words, they could have eaten a lot less calories, and still put on the muscle, without excess fat.

To show this, lets look at a bodybuilder who eats 3,500 calories per day. Over the course of 3 months, lets say, he gains a lot of muscle, but also puts on 10 lbs of fat. Probably not unusual. There is approximately 9 calories per gram of fat, and approximately one pound is 454 grams. This means that 10 pounds of fat, is 4536 grams, or 40,824 calories. If you look at that over a course of 3 months, or 90 days, this body builder probably could have eaten near 500 calories less, per day, and still gained/maintained the muscle, with limited fat.

For the most of us, we aren’t trying to bulk up, a great deal, like this bodybuilder. We are just looking to build a bit of lean muscle, or just maintain our current muscle, while losing some fat. People are afraid that eating less calories means they will lose lean muscle mass. I don’t believe it is true, at all. I also do not believe that cardio burns muscle, to the extent some people are afraid of.

Joey February 14, 2009 at 12:33 am

Hey Rusty,

For the last month and a half, I’ve been incorporating a lot of your techniques into my workout routine. Low reps/heavy weights 4x/week, HIIT twice a week, Ballantyne’s Crazy 8 bodyweight circuits twice a week. In terms of body fat loss, the results have been spectacular. I was relatively fit before — 21 years old, a former university rower (lower back issues caught up with me), weighing in at about 168 lbs at 5’10” — but after a few short weeks, I’m a lean 159 lbs. I haven’t been that low since my cross-country days in high school, and whereas then I was a string-bean, now I’m sporting at least a bit of musculature. To think I’d ever see this side of 160 after college…

I do worry a little, however, that I won’t keep making gains in muscle strength. Following your advice — lifting slow, avoiding the pump — I feel great after resistance training sessions, never sore, full of energy. Thing is, I’ve always had sort of a slight body frame, and this has always made me a bit of a “hardgainer.” Now, I have no desire *whatsoever* to bulk up, and I have made noticeable gains in strength and muscle tone since just last month, even. Still, I can’t help but think that, not having a whole lot of mass to work with, my strength training can only go so far.

Are these fears unfounded? I’m a big believer in maximizing the power/weight ratio, so I’d like to avoid building mass if at all possible — just not at the expense of my strength training routine in general.



mindbodygoal February 21, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Hi Rusty,

That makes for very interesting reading indeed, I always thought that eating less than BMR should be avoided, but obviously this blows up in the face of that.

Thanks for sharing and adding to my knowledge base!

All the Best

Sagheer May 27, 2009 at 6:35 am

Hi Rusty!

Awesome blog! Totally inspiring! I have recommended your routines to a few of my friends and also named you in my blogs.
A brief background bit:
I was 81kgs when I decided to work out 2 yrs back, had a clean diet and dropped 15kgs in the initial 3 months and came down all the way to 62kgs. I got caught in the Men’s Health mode and tried bulking up. I am 72kgs now with a spare tyre. More muscle but I do not want that tyre! Help me! I have been in corporating your routine since 5 days now, feeling much better. Just want to know on the diet side, what is the right calorie intake for me and in what form? Also, if I drop 5kgs (which I want to!), will it give me my skinny looks which I had when I was 63kg?

Thanks for your advice!

The Fit News July 9, 2009 at 11:27 pm

Heh, my girlfriend went hard at the gym for months and achieved nothing.. Then I bought her some protein powder and told her to eat chicken every day… she started losing weight instantly!

daviddevero August 27, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Man you are right, some people expend hours in a gym and nothing happens….

Derek Johnson January 9, 2010 at 2:42 am

Great post rusty! Really eye opening.

nicole January 26, 2010 at 3:01 am

Hey rusty,
im a pt in nz and stumbled across at such a fortunate time. i was the leanest i had been 1 year ago, looked and felt amazing with a whole lot of energy and “6 pack showing.unfortunately as a 24 year old male, i allowed myself to be convinced by drs and friends and family that i had an eating disorder ( i was still eating around 1200cals at this stage.) since following a 1500-1800cal diet i have lost a whole lot of tone under the flab, feel too heavy for my bones from a combination of muscle and fat to much for my frame ( i am 5ft 3, put on muscle easily etc) i am 128lbs but feel my best at around 110 or slightly question is will i maintain my muscle mass (but not gain any) by eating 800-1000 cals per day plus exercise of pilates or yoga daily, 2,000 skips, and instructing 6 spin classes per week?
any other advise you think would be beneficial much appreciated!
Nicole, ps, awessome blog!

nicole January 26, 2010 at 3:28 am

* 24 year old female ,sorry

kiera March 15, 2010 at 5:48 am

Hi Rusty,
I have to start of by saying great site! It has motivated me to get lean and let me realize I can only do this is my diet is healthy and controlled. Before I’d cheat and stuff my face thinking, well I am exercising anyway. Wrong way of thinking and motivation. So thank you for changing that!

I have a question regarding what a normal meal would be for someone 168 cm or 5’5”, weighing about 49-50 kg would be. I do HIIT 3 or 4 times a week for 30 minutes (with warm-up and cool down combined) and then weights for my upper body every night for 10 minutes or more. I plan on doing eat stop eat one of these days. So far I’ve been eating around 800-900 calories daily for about 10 days and have become more lean. I also have only been eating lunch and dinner because I workout mid-morning and wait that hour after– which leads to lunch. Each meal is about 350-400 calories. So what would you recommend daily, on regular days of Eat Stop Eat to continue getting lean? Should I push breakfast in once i start it?

Mike April 18, 2010 at 6:53 pm

You recommend that this 800 calorie type thing should be done short term, or one a couple days a week, but if I had the self control to do this all week for as long as many weeks as I felt I needed, I assume I would end up shredded am i wrong?

malu marquez May 31, 2010 at 8:12 pm

I exercise 12 hrs for 6 days. I combine cardio and resistance on my 12 hrs of exercise. For 10 years I maintain my weight of 125 lbs but now I am 131 lbs. Now that I increase my exercise to 12 hrs for 6 days I cannot loose any weight. Did I reach my plateu? What should I do? Please advise.

Maggie July 18, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Today is July 15, 2011. I’ve lost 20 pounds since June 6 – with 700-800 calories a day and my goal is to lose 15 more pounds by September 1. I do both cardio and resistance work 6 days a week and surprisingly I don’t get hungry. That’s the part that has me worried (along with the fact that I’m going against the rules, so to speak). I feel good. I’m 75 years old, female, and unquestionably getting stronger because of the strength training. oh – I injured myself last november and gained 25 pounds, so much of the 40-pound loss is getting back to where I was then.

Maggie July 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm

oh, it’s really July 18 — senior moment.

scott August 20, 2011 at 5:24 pm

i lift fairly heavy 3 times a week in a program thats supposed to build both muscle and strength, and its working very well for me. Id also like to lose some weight, and i simply cannot do that when im lifting. I know im not overeating, because when i stop lifting i immediaty begin to shed pounds, but as soon as i hit the gym it stops. What could i do to keep my strength and muscle gains, but begin losing weight? I cant work out any more than i am now, id like to just stop with the weights, or do a bare minimum if need be, and switch to a cardio or sprinting and biking regimen. Any ideas on this? Ive done IF and it works well for me except when im hitting the weights.

Mathieu October 4, 2011 at 6:43 pm


First of, I just love your perception of fitness -id est flat stomach, abs and decent amount of muscles-, and want to thank you for this great quantity of information you give us.

I understood resistance training help increase resting metabolic rate but it’s been a while since I injured my two elbows, and I can only do dumbbell flies, shoulder raises (front-lateral-posterior) and leg training. Is it enough to be consider effective resistance training ?

Thanks in advance for your answer!

James November 30, 2011 at 12:24 am

I just started my diet, im 6’1 at 215 my goal is 180 my intake is 900 calories but alot of protein because i wanna burn fat and gain muscle would this be ideal for me or should i increase the calories?

Tim January 6, 2012 at 1:14 pm

What about 1500 Calories a day (or whatever is 75% normal maintenance) and at least 50g of protein a day (whatever a non-lifter needs). Occasional cardio and little to no weight training? Whilst weight loss will be slow and steady, as it is diet induced more than exercise. Will it all be fat and no (or hardly any) muscle or are weights needed to preserve muscle on any diet? I’m curious

Bigtransformation January 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Hi Rusty, you’re obviously a big advocate of calorie based diets as opposed to the view of many others where they say “don’t count calories, just macronutrients”.
I myself am on a low calorie diet – 1500-1800 a day to be exact, depending on cardio level. I’m also keeping protein high (around 200g) I’m exercising 6 days a week and feel tired and hungry most of the time, especially close to bedtime. Did you have this in your experience? I know everybody is different so just trying to get different perspectives.

suanta0 February 26, 2012 at 10:55 pm

the rebound weight gain from this is going to be awful. please no one eat less then 1200 calories. even short term, anything under that is not worth it. please. im saving you a lot of heartache.
slow and steady wins the race.

sleepyhead April 21, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Great article! I have been looking all over the internet for dieting tips, and so far I think this is my favorite πŸ™‚

I have some questions. I’m about 5’5-5’6″, and I’m rather young (under 18) but I’m trying to lose weight. I have quite a bit of muscle mass, though I am overweight and am trying to shed 50 pounds as quick as possible. My current diet can be anywhere from 700-800 calories, although occasionally I go up to 1,200 or as low as 500; I have been eating like this for almost 2 weeks and have dropped about 8 or 9 pounds. Because I am overweight, I found that my body does not seem to be suffering from hair loss or other classic symptoms of anorexia.

I do not want to lose my muscle mass, I would like to build it up more, if possible, as I am still an athlete. I try to do resistance training such as crunches (50 at a time, 3-4 reps), push-ups (20, 1-2 rep), and squats (20, 1 rep) every night. Is this enough? Recently, I found that push-ups seem to be harder for me than before, though this could be because my body is heavier than before. What do you think? Can I continue to do what I’m doing, without losing muscle mass, or do I need to change something? Some of my friends have noticed that I’m eating less, and I would like to know if you think that I am doing fine. Much appreciated, great article! Thanks again for this information πŸ™‚

JackBlack January 24, 2013 at 9:52 pm

I wanted to add that for short term low calorie use Isometrics done daily work fantastic to preserve lean tissue and has a very low caloric impact while performing. The plus side is that like resistance training with weights you get a up-regulation of the metabolism for many hours after. I liked a book titled Isometric Power Revolution you can still get it in spiral bond format.

Ian Moore March 1, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Rusty you are changing lives with your article. i just find the pull-ups so tough. IDo you think if I do twice the number of sit ups will be as good?

Cheri J. B. July 5, 2013 at 9:06 am

Why does my puppy poop on the treadmill?

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