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Rock Hard Diet Strategies Month 2: Boost Fat Loss

The second part of the Rock Hard Diet makes some changes to the nutrition program you’ve now been following for four weeks. The diet objectives of part 1 of the Rock Hard Challenge outlined a high-protein, moderate-carb regimen with a small reduction in calorie intake. During part 2, you’ll reduce calories a little bit more, but most important, you’ll begin a carb-rotating strategy, taking in fewer carbs for four days, then dramatically increasing carbs every fifth day.

After a few weeks of dieting, your body begins to reduce its metabolic rate (the number of calories you naturally burn)— this makes it harder to keep shedding body fat at the same rate. The solution is to reduce carbs and calories a little bit more, so that you remain in a calorie deficit that encourages your body to tap into body fat for energy. Then, every fifth day, you increase carbs, taking in up to four times the amount you’ve been consuming on your baseline days.

This surge in carbs and calories has two benefits: (1) It re-feeds your muscles, allowing you to feel less depleted and lethargic while training, so that you continue to get great results from both your weight training and cardio workouts; and (2) it boosts your metabolic rate. Taking in these calories and carbs after a period of deficit signals your body to boost the number of calories it burns every day. Ultimately, pairing a higher metabolic rate with a lower-calorie intake creates a greater deficit, so you burn more fat.

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You not only have to focus on carbs when you’re following a rotation program, you also have to pay attention to protein, fats, calories, and the number of meals a day you’re consuming. Here are the principles you should incorporate into your nutrition program.

Moderately Reduce Total Calorie Intake on Baseline Days

During the first four weeks, you reduced your calorie intake to the point where you were getting in about 15 calories for every pound of body weight each day. This allowed a 200-pounder to still take in 3,000 calories a day on workout days. But over the course of a few weeks, your body begins to recognize this as a baseline intake and it will slow its fat burning if you continue at this level. To continue appreciable fat loss, you’ll further reduce total calorie intake during Part 2 of the diet.

Your goal: In Weeks 5 to 8, you should take in about 12.5 calories per pound of body weight on your Baseline Days. This means a 200-pound individual will consume about 2,500 calories on these days, a drop of about 500 calories a day. This is a reduction of 15–20% of the calories you were getting in during Part 1. However, you’ll get in more calories on your high-carb Re-feeding Days. These will help keep you even-keeled while you continue to burn body fat.

Cut Carbs Very Low on Baseline Days

The way you’ll go about reducing most of the calories from your daily plan is by reducing your daily carb intake. You’ll keep your protein levels high and make only slight adjustments in your dietary fat intake.

Your goal: On your Baseline Days, you’ll consume only about 100 grams of carbs a day. You’ll split these calories between your first couple of meals of the day and take in the carbs around your workouts. This is the most valuable time of the day to consume carbs. Those consumed first thing in the morning are readily stored as body fat, and those taken in around your workouts will help fuel training and recovery, restocking glycogen that you’re burning out of your muscles. Later in the day you’ll avoid carbs from starches and sugar, getting in only a few negligible carbs from vegetables.

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Dramatically Increase Carbs on Re-Feeding Days

Every fifth day, whether it’s a training day or not, you’ll dramatically increase your carbs. This influx will help restock your glycogen stores and fill out your muscles. It will also help you overcome the depleted feeling you may be experiencing during your training sessions. In addition, these carbs will provide a shock to your system, helping to keep up your metabolic rate. The significance of this is that your body will then burn more calories from fat while supplying your muscles with more stored carbs.

Your goal: Take in about 400 grams of carbs every fifth day. This carb spike will provide satiety and help you power through hard workouts— especially over the next day or two. These carbs should be taken earlier in the day and around the time of your workouts. See our Re-feeding Day sample workout for an example of how to break down your carb intake meal by meal.

Consume Penty of Protein From Whole Foods and Supplements Every Day

The stricter your diet, the more important it is to get in plenty of protein. When you’re in a calorie deficit, protein is particularly important for two crucial reasons: (1) It provides a mino acids to help your muscles recover and grow from the training stress you’re placing on them; and (2) it protects your muscles from breakdown. When you’re on a calorie-restricted diet, your body often preferentially turns to muscle tissue, breaking it down to retrieve amino acids to redistribute throughout your body for other needs. Consuming plenty of protein throughout the day is one of the best ways to prevent this from happening.

Your goal: Get in at least 1.5 grams, and as much as 2 grams, of protein for every pound of body weight on every Baseline Day. This means that a 200-pounder should consume at least 300 grams, and as much as 400 grams, of protein on every Baseline Day. You should consume your protein fairly evenly throughout the day, getting in at least 25 grams at each of your six or more meals per day. However, on your Re-feeding Days, you don’t have to focus as much on high-protein consumption, taking in only 1.5 grams or a little less per pound of body weight. That’s because the additional carb calories will make it less likely that your body will be in such a depleted caloric state that it will try to rob your muscles of their amino acids (and you don’t want to take overall calorie intake too high).

Keep Your Dietary Fat Intake Moderate

Even though you’re cutting calories, you don’t want to take your dietary fat intake too low. These fats, both healthy and saturated, provide benefits to those seeking to lose body fat and maintain muscle mass. They provide satiety, making you feel as though you’ve consumed more calories than you have, partly because they take longer to digest. Saturated fats provide your body with the raw materials needed to build hormones such as testosterone; and healthy fats give you slow-burning energy, providing materials to keep your hair and skin healthy while your system is depleted.

Your goal: Continue to consume both saturated and healthy fats in a 50/50 ratio, getting in a total of about 0.3 to 0.4 grams for each pound of body weight each day. That’s 60–80 grams of fat for a 200-pounder. Spread these fairly evenly throughout the day, avoiding them around the time of your workouts. To keep calories in balance on Re-feeding Days, you’ll cut dietary fats in favor of taking in more carbs.

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