The Alternating Spike Method for Fat Loss
Stop me if you've heard this before:
I've discovered an incredible way to burn body fat, sustain muscle mass, and support overall health and wellness without drugs, crazy measures, or dangerous habits.
I'd typically click through an article that made this claim too, but you're going to want to stop and give this a read, because what I've done actually works, and has worked with numerous clients. Sure, there are tweaks to fit into the lifestyles and needs of each person, but the gross structure of this method remains intact. Let's explore:
What are the "Spikes"?
Weight loss, but most specifically fat loss, is dependent upon a myriad of factors, but two stand out among the crowd. Calories IN and Calories OUT. These two factors are controlled by the consumption of foods and the amount you exercise and move throughout your day. Sure, what your calories consist of, hydration levels, sleep optimization, form of exercise, current hormone levels, age, sex, and physical condition can all dramatically impact your ability to lose body fat.
However, when coaching clients it is important to simplify things to the smallest bite and put the focus on controllable variables instead of internal diagnostics and every macronutrient. In this case, those controllable variables are -
How Much Will you Exercise?
How Much Do (Should) you Eat?
AKA - Calories IN and Calories OUT.
The alternating spike model proposes that you alternate between a high activity week with normalized food intake and a lower activity week with equally lowered caloric intake. Playing off the hormones Leptin, Ghrelin, and Cortisol - these method does wonders for keep the hormones in optimal levels for improved progress over time. We'll explore the science of this method in a coming section, but for now let's explore how this method compares with other common fat loss strategies.
The Traditional Method (THE WORST)
Before we had advanced research methods and an entire population of failed dieters with metabolic issues it was commonplace to tell someone to "eat less, exercise more". On the surface this advice makes perfect sense. If you stop eating so many calories and start busting your butt in the gym, then of course you're going to lose that stubborn fat and come out the other side looking like a supermodel, except...
This method is a lot like rejecting your paycheck from your employer, but still spending on your credit cards. No actual money is coming into your bank account, but you keep splurging on things anyway. Eventually, the bill is going to be due and you're going to need the funds to cover it. You might get away with it for the first few billing cycles due to a build-up of cash in your account, but eventually you're going to go into the red.
Over time your debt will get exponentially worse while your earnings will remain unchanged. As interest piles on you'll start feeling buried and eventually the mountain becomes insurmountable without a positive intervention.
Nothing is different when it comes to your body. Demanding exercise in the absence of adequate calories plunges the body into a constant state of depletion, one which supports high cortisol levels and low testosterone, growth hormone, and lipolytic hormones. Eventually this structure turns into abuse as your body preferentially burns muscle tissue over body fat due its simpler structure (4 calories per gram vs. 9 from fat).
In the very beginning it'll seem as though it's working as your body weight drops like sack of potatoes, your energy spikes like you've had a few red bulls, and you feel that motivational donkey kicking you in the ass.
And that's when it gets you. You'll cut calories further and exercise harder, which brings to the surface all of the aforementioned negative aspects. You'll feel weak, struggle with quality sleep, and your soreness is a never ending series of aches.
Weight loss, especially fat loss, begins to stagnate as the body begins protecting its fat stores because it hasn't evolved enough to know the difference between surviving a famine as a nomad and trying to drop some sexy Instagram shots.
So, if that hasn't convinced you that the old way is a bad way, then I don't know what to tell you besides there is a MUCH better way.
The Bodybuilder Way - (Low/No Carbs)
One of the most proven, and highly effective dieting tactics is the active manipulation of carbohydrate intake over time. A method used extensively by bodybuilders, figure athletes, and fitness models alike - it's based around depleting your body's glucose and glycogen levels to the point that the body must begin burning ketones and fat cells for fuel.
And it works!
I've used it in the past and had incredible results.
But it's hard. Especially if you don't know understand what carbohydrates are good and what carbohydrates are "bad'. It gets harder when you have a traditional job, ya know the one that has a bagel spread in the morning, a burger joint downstairs, and client dinners at night.
It's also pretty hard to ensure you're getting enough protein to sustain your muscle mass, enough fat in your diet to keep your energy levels up, and enough sleep to make you not want to go Negan on someone's face just because they said something bad about cats in front of you in line at Starbucks - which can only serve you black coffee because...ya know...fucking dieting.
The principles are well documented - Slowly cut out your carbohydrates over time until you are operating at a low level and throw in a few days of no carbohydrates at all in the mix every week. Keep exercising hard and be sure to drink water and keep your protein intake equal to your body weight in pounds. Get your energy from unsaturated fats such as walnuts, almonds, and salmon, but keep your body revving with saturated fats like steak, coconut oil, and even butter.
Do this over a period of six to eight weights and you'll lose a lot of body fat. But, did I mention that it is incredibly hard to do it right?
The Alternating Spike Method -
The alternating spike method is based upon manipulating your exercise intensity and food consumption each week. When exercise is high, then calories will be higher too. Just the same, when calorie levels drop, so to will your exercise intensity and frequency. The build of this program is a longer term manipulation of leptin and grehlin levels; two hormones directly related to your appetite and fat usage.
Once your appetite gets a bit annoying (and your fat loss slows) we'll introduce a higher caloric intake and reintroduce harder exercise bouts.
Once your body has become accustomed to the high energy input and output, then we'll drop both levels and allow the body to recover and go without normalized calories.
The structure is as follows:
Week 1 and 3: High Exercise (5-6 Days). Moderate Calorie Intake (Basal Metabolic Rate +250-400)
The exercise days are dictated as follows:
3-4 High Intensity Resistance Workouts
2 Long Duration Cardio Bouts.
Calories are calculated by discovering your BMR and adding an additional 250 if you're exercising 5 days, and 400 if there is a 6th day.
Week 2 and 4: Low Exercise (3-4 Days). Low Calories (BMR)
The exercise days are dictated as follows:
2 High Intensity Resistance Workouts
1-2 Long Duration Cardio Bouts
Calories are calculated by discovering your BMR.
Now, any dietary plan needs to have rules in place to standardize results and promote healthy behaviors. Simply manipulating your caloric input/output balance is often not enough to trigger advanced weight loss, although it may be the most important variable. Thus, the following rules are in place for the alternating spike method:
1. Diet will remain a 30/30/40 split in regards to Protein/carbohydrates/Fats
2. If it is green and grows in the ground - it doesn't count. (No one's ever gotten fat from brocolli).
3. 6 to 8 Hours of Sleep minimum
4. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day.
5. Your heavy resistance days must be just that; heavy, dedicated to the compound movements and volume
6. Your longer cardio bouts are built around lower intensity and longer, continuous duration.
Why it works -
It works because it becomes thoughtless in short time. One week you need to eat a few hundred more calories and hit the gym with a bit more intensity. The following you'll peel off the calories and lower your intensity in the gym. Just when you're sore and tired from your workouts you get a break, and once you're ready to get back at it and eat a bit more - you'll be doing that too.
This is the every man and woman's way of dieting that doesn't put risky behaviors on the table. You'll focus on eating a balanced, but slightly favoring fats, diet every single week. You'll be allowed to eat and snack on all the broccoli, spinach, kale, brussel sprouts, asparagus you can stomach. You'll emphasize a healthy water intake and be sure to get your necessary sleep.
I'd recommend doing this for a 3 month trial. You may find a tremendous weight loss occurs, or you may not. You may need to consult a physician to ensure your diagnostics are in check, increase your intensity in the gym, or make sure that the calories you're eating are coming from whole source food and not packaged goods.
Sure, you'll mess up sometimes. You'll have too many beers one Sunday that you should've been watching your calories, and other weeks you'll just need to hit that hardcore class to burn off some steam even if you didn't eat enough that day. It's OK either way. The key is to do right by your body consistently.
Ya never know, it might just be your new way of living...