Not a Diet Book by James Smith
Are you ready to change your life? Are you sick of always wearing black and getting undressed in the dark?
Are you fixated with a number on the scales?
Are you afraid to step into the gym and commit to a routine?
Is your confidence at an all-time low?
Is all of this having a negative impact on your life, relationships and happiness?
James Smith is armed with every tool you’ll ever need to achieve incredible results – from dieting, training and staying in shape to identifying the fads, cons and nonsense that get in the way of genuine lasting progress.
Learn to reset your current mindset and attitude towards your diet and training
There’s only one simple principle you need to follow to lose weight, and that is “calorie-deficit”.
Regardless of the diet you are on (5:2, 2:5, keto, IF, paleo, low-carb, gluten-free, you name it), you will lose fats as long as you’re eating less than your daily expenditure. The idea of eating less than you expend sounds simple right? Well, it is. Now only if the execution of this one simple principle were that easy, we wouldn’t live in a world where obesity kills more people than underweight does.
This book is not a diet book. This is a call to action book where James Smith, best-selling author and fitness trainer lays out some helpful tips as well as the knowledge that serves as a foundation of your fitness journey. After all, you can’t put weight on a house of cards. It will just collapse without a strong foundation. The rest of this summary is all about building this essential foundation.
3 macronutrients you must know.
Protein – obtained from foods like chicken, fish, red meat and some dairy products.
Carbohydrates – broken down into sugar (glucose) when digested, anything that consists primarily of sugar is also labelled as a carb
Fats – required for to the production of essential hormones
Contrary to popular belief, carbs are not your enemy, neither are the fats.
Carbs are your allies as long as you’re not going overboard with them. They are our bodies’ preferred source of energy while dietary fats are preferred to produce essential hormones that keep our bodies look and perform at their best. Carbs and proteins both have 4 calories per gram while fats carry double the calories (9 calories per gram). Having said that, fats should make up about 20 percent of your daily diet for your body to function properly.
Low-carb diets can trigger ketosis.
A state of ketosis is where you limit carbs to such an extent that the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood becomes so low that the body starts to produce a similar source of energy called ‘ketones’ from fat (consumed and stored). When the number of ketones in the blood reaches a certain level, we’re said to be in a state of ketosis. Often, people believe they’re on keto but really, they’re just low carb.
Calorie deficit is easier said than done.
Even though the idea of expending more than you consume sounds simple, implementing it isn’t always straightforward. Usually the bigger the deficit is, the more your body will try to adapt to prevent it from happening.
Biology dictates our bodies to make fat loss harder, since our ancestors. For the majority of mankind, we’ve had to work very hard from one meal to the next – it was a matter of survival of the fittest. And as such we carry body fat as energy stores so we can survive for prolonged periods without food. Now when we diet, we’re choosing to engage in small period of starving ourselves and ideally, we should do it slowly to manage the symptoms of hunger, fatigue, being irritable and poorer performance.
Two main hunger hormones: leptin and ghrelin
Ghrelin signals you telling you to eat, so your ‘not too low in fuel reserves or energy.
Leptin signals you when you fill up the tank that you’re full and there’s no need to add more fuel.
But do you know what happens if you endure a bit of a hunger for like 1 hour?
Nothing. It goes away almost completely until your next feeding window. So next time, you’re hungry instead of indulging, test this theory. Hunger doesn’t last forever. Keep your mind occupied and you’ll forget it before you know it. And that is how our friend ghrelin came and went away.
Insulin resistance and weight gain – myth or fact?
Many people believe the key to fat loss is managing your insulin levels. But this is like saying the key to financial freedom is to save more money than to manage the amount being earned vs spent. Excessive insulin may be associated with weight gain but remember that association is not causation. There are many dynamic factors at play that account for the daily changes in your body weight.
Cutting back on carbs will help you lose weight fast but…
Carbs are stored for use in muscle tissue (as glycogen) and for every 1g of carb that enters a cell, 3-5g of water usually accompany it. So, if you eat 100g of carbs (400kcals), you could gain 300 to 500grams of water just stored alongside. So when you eliminate carbs in your diet, you will notice sudden drop in your body weight. But here’s the catch. This sudden weight loss mostly comes from water weight loss, not the actual fat loss.
Find your sweet spot for caloric maintenance.
Most athletes and fitness pros roughly know their sweet spot through playing, trial and error. You need to learn to do the same. Once you figured that out, set a deficit of 15% which is considered conservative by some. Should a surplus be required to build muscle or gain weight, it’s again 15% increase above your maintenance.
Having fat isn’t being fat.
Being fat is when your body starts to negatively influence your self-esteem and your everyday ability to think clearly and act optimally.
Is it worth giving up 95% of your life for a 5% change in bodyweight?
That’s particularly relevant to females who need body fat more than males. It’s rare someone who sits healthy at a very low body-fat percent without suffering from a range of other health issues.
Use the scale but be mindful of fluctuations.
Sweat, hydration, muscle glycogen, time of day, bowel movements, fiber and salt intake are all huge factors on the scale. Weigh yourself if you want to because what gets measured gets improved. But please don’t let your perceived progress undermine your real progress.
Muscles weight the same as fats.
Pound for pound they weight the same. A better statement would be muscle occupies a smaller space than fat. So, it’s possible some people weight more even if they appear smaller than others. And yes, that also explains the reason we start to look better while the readings on scale stay almost the same.
Sadly, there’s no surefire way to measure bodyfat percentage.
If you want to know exactly how much fat you have on your body, you must be dissected. We have all kinds of rays, impedances, calipers but they’re all close estimates. What should you do then? How will you know you’re shedding fats? Take a picture over time at the same time of day, location, lightning and hydration.
We don’t even burn 10% of calories from workout sessions.
Many people tend to overestimate they’re burning 400-500 calories during their visits to the gym. But in reality, it’s far less than that. It’s the NEAT that speaks louder than EAT when it comes to burning calories.
BMR stands for basal metabolic rate which is the number of calories you burn at rest.
EAT stands for exercise activity thermogenesis which is the number of calories burned through exercise.
TEF stands for thermic effect of food which is the number of calories burned by processing food for use and storage. Dietary fat is very easy to process and has very little thermic effect, while protein is harder to process and has a much larger thermic effect.
NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis which is the number of calories burned outside of directed exercise such as standing, walking, climbing stairs or even fidgeting. Average person’s NEAT has substantially fallen due to increase in sedentary lifestyle and motorized transports. Expand your NEAT by taking the stairs, parking in the farthest space from the shops, standing on public transport or even running errands.
No two people lose fat exactly the same way.
And you may find some tools more effective than others. What you respond to best is for you to find out what will be a journey of self-discovery.
Think about Olympic lifting for a moment. There’re no shortcuts to getting a perfect snatch or clean and jerk. You must go through hundreds of hours and thousands of reps. Success is just a tip of the iceberg. What is unseen is a trial of mistakes, lessons learned and improvements along the way.
Take James for example. According to the book, he had to write a marketing email every day for ten months to close his first email sale. Likewise it took him three years of writing posts every day to get his first online client.
What’s more effective than supplements yet cost nothing? Sleep.
To say that sleep can do miracles for your mind and body is an understatement. Sleep boosts recovery, performance, cognitive function, sex drive and help us lose weight indirectly. The best part is it costs you nothing (except a few hours from your waking moment).
When we get enough quality sleep, we make better decisions and often times this means making correct food choices. But when sleep deprivation impairs our cognitive abilities, things go sideways. We end up eating all sorts of sugary and high-fat foods.
Cortisol and melatonin are your sleep hormones.
Cortisol, which is better known as stress hormone, is good despite what people say. Without it, we wouldn’t try to outrun a bear or simply wake up in the morning. Managing your cortisol is about as ridiculous as managing your insulin (of course if you’re not diabetic). Melatonin helps us fall asleep. Supplementing melatonin might result in a better sleep. Other than that, setting an alarm, electronic wellbeing, audiobooks, podcasts, magnesium and lavender spray can help improve your sleep quality.
Caffeine can affect people differently.
For the most part, caffeine disrupts your sleep cycle if you consume it late in the day. And some use it to mask genuine fatigue or overtraining. But the effects of caffeine vary from person to person. Some people always have a cup of coffee before bed and they have no problems sleeping whatsoever. It’s suggested there might people up to 33% of people that do not respond to caffeine ingestion.
Main ingredient in fat-burners is… caffeine.
There’s no solid evidence correlating caffeine to fat loss, yet you can imagine someone energized by caffeine will probably burn more calories. Other than the caffeine, most fat-burners in the market today contain a mix of green tea extract and other ingredients that increase your RMR (resting metabolic rate). That said, we are not able to conclude whether this can lead to actual fat loss.
Progression and development aren’t linear.
Whether you’re losing fat or gaining muscle, you can’t expect to leave each day a little stronger or a little fitter. There’re cycles of ups and downs but what’s important is to focus on our habits, our attitudes after those plateaus. Tomorrow is always a new day with a new attitude to face challenges that follow. Remember a ship is safest in harbor but that’s not what they’re made for.
When you think you’re working hard enough, you’re most likely not.
When someone point a gun to your head and ask you to push through those final reps, would you do it? Of course, you would. Sometimes when we think we’re done, we’re only 40% of our capacity.
Chew more to lose more.
Researchers have come to realize in addition to using smaller plates, the number of times you chew your food can decrease food intake.
You don’t pick your sport. Your sport picks you.
People think James is broad and dense because he plays rugby. But in fact, it’s the other way around. He plays rugby because of his physique. People aren’t tall because they play basketball. They play basketball because they can longer reach and ability to pass and catch a greater height.
Under-recovery is a bigger deal than over-training.
Be it running, swimming, cycling or weight training, the type of exercise you do impacts on how you can recover. Not only that the person internal variable such as gender, age, environment, genetics and external variables such as sleep, nutrition, stress and hydration all affect how fast he can recover. Always take a time off than to force it, unless you want to trade a few days of rest for several months of injury.
Generally, it’s better to over-shoot protein than to under-consume it.
Repercussions of over-targeting protein intake is far less significant than under-targeting. Being over 30g protein intake each meal is going to favor you than under 30g does. The notion that our bodies can only absorb 30g of protein each meal isn’t proven. For muscle growth, consume 2-3g protein per kg of your bodyweight and eat as much as you can without getting fat. If you start getting fat, dial it back and reduce your intake. Rinse and repeat.
Whey protein is a superfood rather than a supplement.
Whey is a powdered, convenient, well-priced food that anyone striving for optimal composition would have in their diet.
Creatine supplementation is the biggest bang for the buck.
Creation is shown to increase strength, fat-free mass and muscle shape and structure. Monohydrate is the only version you’ll need. You can get a high-quality monohydrate creatine for relatively cheap, especially compared to more expensive supplements that are not half as effective. Get a creatine instead and your wallet will thank you.
Plant-based proteins might need supplementation with amino acids.
Plant-based diets are missing important essential amino acids and typically contain less BCAA than their animal-based equivalents. Leucine which is one of the amino acids is shown to be a primary trigger of muscle prothema systematists. So BCAA, leucine in particular, is something to consider if you’re serious about gaining muscle on a vegan diet. If not, save your money because BCAA is abundant in your meat diet.
What about skinny branded coffees and weight-loss shots?
Skinny coffee is just a decaffeinated coffee. Weight-loss shots are well… natural appetite suppressant known as glucomannan. All supplements must first prove its efficacy before making their way onto shelves or on the news feeds of Instagram Z-list celebrities trying to make a few quid. So again, save your money for whey and creatine.
Unfortunately, the current state of the fitness industry is far from the utopia. It’s in dire straits and the worst thing is that it’s not fully known by the public, many of whom are handing over large percentages of their disposable income to expensive gym memberships, diet plans, supplements, unsustainable diet fads and miracle fat-loss drinks.
As much as mainstream media wants you to believe, Aspartame doesn’t affect your appetite, glucose or insulin levels.
Aspartame is a form of artificial sweetener, technically labelled as food additive E951, which is one of the feared E numbers. This E-number talk crops up with many clean-eating gurus as though they’re something terrible. But there’re over a thousand other E numbers and hundreds of them are artificial. The E is a symbol of safety and it means EU have class fifed it safe for human consumption. If you’re not convinced already, here’s what you need to know. Aspartame breaks down into 3 substances – 10% methanol (sounds scary but a glass of tomato juice contains six times as much), 40% aspartic acid (sounds frightening but one egg contains thirty-four times as much), 50% phenylalanine (unpronounceable and scary yet 100g of beef contains sixteen to thirty-two times as much).
To conclude artificial sweeteners are not demons as they are made to believe.
When consumed in moderation, it could save you lots of calories. What would you rather have in your system? Aspartame for a short period or risk of cardiovascular disease and other obesity-related illness through over-consumption of sugar on a chronic basis?
95% of people losing weight regain it back because…
Their habits that are causing them to gain weight in the first place remain the same. If the roots of the cause are not addressed, it’s a matter of time the rebound will occur, whether it be weight or smoking.
It isn’t a cheat meal. It’s a calorie-dense meal.
You will be tempted to cheat at least one point in your fitness journey, just like everyone else. What you can do is to log and learn. Next time go for a thin crust and save some calories. Remember weekends are where diets can be won or lost; if you want to indulge, make it fit rather than making it a cheat.
If you’re making this far, Congratulations! Remember that Calorie-In-Calorie-Out (CICO) is still the name of the game.
If you’re trying to put on weight, eat more. If you’re trying to lose it, eat less. It’s that simple. Don’t let too many trivial details hold you in analysis paralysis.
But think about it. Every single calorie you reduce must come from one of the three essential macro-nutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fats. So the question is which one should come before the other two?
The benefit of reducing protein to create a calorie deficit
None. Protein to James is the most important macro. He backs it up by saying “It’s a silly idea, which jeopardizes satiety and potentially negatively impacts on muscle mass and recovery through reducing what is, to me, the most important macronutrient.” He added protein is derived from Greek word proteios, meaning primary or of most importance.
The benefit of reducing carbs to create a calorie deficit
You could swap lean meat for red meat and save a few extra calories. However, try not to go too low on fats. As mentioned earlier, dietary fats are vital not only for the production of essential hormones, also for fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E and K.
The benefit of reducing fats to create a calorie deficit
Carbs are broken down into glucose which is the body’s principle and preferred energy source. It can be used immediately or sent to the muscles (or liver in small amounts) to be store as glycogen. The body prefers to break down carbs as less oxygen is required to do so compared to dietary fats or proteins. Therefore, in high intensity exercise the body breaks down more carbs, while we tend to use more fat as a fuel source at lower intensities. Carbs are also great because they preserve muscle tissues which is known as protein sparing.
Here’s the catch. Carbs, while preferred, are not essential to the human body. However, let’s be clear that just because something is not essential does not mean we cannot include in our diet. Assume that we change our diet to very low-carb. What happens next is a state of Ketosis, or ‘Keto’ for short.
Does Keto help you lose fat? Yes… as long as you’re in a deficit.
But James doesn’t recommend Keto. Why? To eliminate carbs altogether is not a good idea. Carbs supply energy for the muscles but let’s not forget the brain. It’s not uncommon for people on keto to experience lethargy and brain fog. So, if you want to be on top of your game, carbs are your friends. After all, the mindset of an aspiring athlete is much healthier than that of an aspiring dieter.
Intermittent fasting here and there doesn’t hurt.
Yes, skipping breakfast means eating more calories at lunch, but the net calories throughout the day is still lower for average people on IF.
How not to lose your muscle in prolonged caloric restriction
First consume adequate protein. Don’t let your body break down existing tissues for its amino-acid requirements. Second work your muscles. Use it or lose it.
Progressive overload to muscle growth is what calorie deficit is to fat loss.
Progressive overload simply means doing more than you did last time. Here’re all practical ways you can do more:
Lifting same load for increased range of motion
Lifting same load and volume with better form
Lifting same load with more reps
Lifting heavier loads
Lifting same load with fewer rest periods
Lifting same load with more speed and acceleration
Lifting more frequently
Lifting same load while losing body mass (increased relative volume)
Lifting same load and supplementing with negatives, drop sets, static holds, rest pause, partial reps or post-exhaustion
Among them, improvements in form and range of movement come first. Increases in reps and load come second.