The Proper Way to Crash Diet

Crash dieting is polarizing–you either love it or you hate it. I want to make it clear that we’re not going to have that discussion here. I’m assuming if you’re reading this that you are at least vaguely interested in doing a crash diet. So, we move on:

Definition

A crash diet is a diet that induces an extreme calorie deficit (40%+) for a brief period of time to induce rapid weight loss. A prime example of this is the Velocity Diet advocated by T-Nation or Lyle McDonald’s Rapid Fat Loss Diet.  More dangerous crash diets include “vegetable only” diets or the famed 48-hour Hollywood Juice fast.

A sample crash diet might look like:

50% of Maintenance Calories (found by multiplying lean mass in pounds by 15)
80% protein or higher with the remainder coming from trace fat in meat and vegetables

Virtually zero carb intake

So, for a 200 lb athlete you have:

200 x 15 = 3000/2= 1500 cal/day

1500 x .8= 1200/4 = 300g/day protein

Without question, crash diets work. The sudden drop in calories (often mainly from carbs) will induce a 5-15 pound drop in water weight alone. Added to this, low blood sugar and insulin levels increase fat breakdown and sensitize the body to the effects of insulin. Additionally, the high protein intake helps to prevent most of the muscle wasting that goes along with being in a large caloric deficit.

This type of diet tends to work best for people who hate dieting. Having a brief period of more intense discomfort followed by moderate eating tends to make things more manageable. Get in, get out, get lean.

And it’s really that simple. The trick lies in being smart about it. This makes the difference between transiently looking better and actually obtaining results.

Limitations

First off, if you’re in shape right now (<15% bodyfat) you’re not going to be able to do this for extended periods of time. The results will diminish rapidly. You will soon get all the hormonal effects of starvation. Low sex drive, low body temperature, depression/malaise etc.

This isn’t fun. So, I wouldn’t recommend doing more than a month of this at a time. This also brings into play the importance of re-feeds.

Did you wonder why the article was titled 10 pounds in 6 days? It’s because the 7th day you’re going to eat. Eat a lot. This will cause a large weight gain in one day because you will be gaining back much of the water you lost to begin with. But for a lot of complex biochemical reasons, your body just can’t store much fat in that one day of massive overeating.

So you are, in effect, guilt free. You can have your cake and eat it too.

Let me reiterate, you can eat crap and lose fat. You’re welcome.

But wait, there’s a catch. Don’t expect to grow. In fact, if you’re not new to the game, don’t expect to grow at any point when you’re reducing calories. This can be accomplished, but it is much slower and involves more changes (for another article).

Supplementation

Multivitamin: Normally, I am not a big multivitamin kinda guy. If you eat sufficiently, you’re receiving everything you need in a much more bio-available form than you’ll find in most multivitamins. Additionally, many vitamins and minerals compete for absorption in your digestive tract.

But, in this case, I make an exception. Because when you lose all that water, guess how you lose it. You pee, a lot. And when you pee, you excrete a lot of electrolytes (potassium, magnesium, calcium) that you need for proper neuromuscular function, among a host of other things. Like, ya’ know, your heart beating. So pop those multivitamins while you’re crashing.

Footnote: More is not better.

Fish Oil: It has too many benefits to list. Among them is cardiovascular health and increased insulin sensitivity. You should always be taking fish oil, but it is especially important for our purposes here, as you will barely be consuming any fat, and no fat is bad news.

Consume a combined 2g daily of EPA+DHA. Just as with the vitamins, more is not better. Large doses of fish oil can cause immune system suppression, and being sick does not equal being swole.

I would also recommend creatine in general, regardless of diet. 5g a day will do you justice. Anything else you take is up to you.  For further reading see “10 tips to maximize fat loss”.

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