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Why I’m Trying "Cheat Your Way Thin"

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Joel Marion's nutrition + Roman's workouts = Fat loss domination

Let me just take a quick second to first say I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving—I absolutely did, and thanks to Cheat Your Way Thin, I was able to enjoy myself (read: eat several pies) without worrying about any damage to my physique goals.

In fact, I’ll be using this plan to actually get leaner during the holiday season. Which is sweet. Because I get to eat sweets.

My position as a fitness-pro notwithstanding, I have a terrible sweet tooth. Obviously, for both health and physique reasons, I normally keep cravings under a very tight reign, but as you undoubtedly know, the holidays make it hard. I’m an avid baker and I love eating cookies and cakes as much as I love baking them, so the house is always fool of tasty treats that tempt my inner fat kid.

Please, take a moment to laugh at the mental picture of your humble host clad in raiment most comical: the ever-so-fetching combination of a sleeveless shirt and an apron; muscles aching with the strain of mixing cookie dough with a wooden spoon.

Okay, stop laughing.

Anyway, I’m currently 195 at 8% body fat, and aiming to get to 5% by the New Year, which is in about 4 weeks. At the moment, I have 15.6 pounds of fat on my body, which leaves 178.5 pounds of lean mass on my body. And in fact, I’m hoping to put on a bit of mass and hover at about 191. Assuming that happens, I’ll have 181.5 pounds of lean mass, and 9.5 pounds of fat.

This means losing 6 pounds of fat and gaining 3 pounds of muscle in 4 weeks. Otherwise put, I need to gain about ¾ of a pound of muscle per week while losing 1.5 pound of fat.

This sounds daunting, but between Cheat Your Way Thin and Final Phase Fat Loss, I should be able to do it in 4 weeks or less.

In order to make things more effective, I’m going to tweak both programs slightly for my needs.

Roughly 85% of the people who have completed FPFL have reported muscle gain while on the program. Additionally, I have gone through the complete program as written about 7 times, always successfully losing fat and maintaining or gaining a little bit of mass.

This time, I’m really looking to knock it out of the park and focus a bit more on mass gain.

On my cheat days, I’m going to be doing some rest-pause training to really allow me to get the most out of the high-glycemic carbs and insulin spikage that’ll be going on. This is an experiment, and to be honest I’ve only ever done FPFL with a Cheating protocol once out of all the times I’ve done the program.

I can’t reveal too much about Final Phase, but I can tell you that rest-pause training is not at all one of the training components.

I’m not known for my modesty, but with as much objectivity as I can muster, I think Final Phase Fat Loss is literally the perfect fat loss program. Literally. And if I were only trying to lose fat, I wouldn’t screw with my own beautiful creation.

However, this is going to be something a bit more in line with my previous program, BodyComp Blitz, which is a hybrid fat-loss/muscle-gain program I released not too long ago.

In fact, with this change to FPFL, I think I have something close to BodyComp Blitz 2.0. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Of course, there will be before and after pics and the whole shebang.

Who else has a plan in place for the next 4-6 weeks? What are you guys doing? Anyone else doing CYWT?

Let me know in the comments section, eager to hear your thoughts as always.

Once again, hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

-Roman

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

  • Miguel

    Any particular reason why you didn't use the feast-fast method here and instead opted for protein only after cheat days? Would like to hear your input!

  • @Ted – Oh yea – sorry about that. I'm currently about 5-6% and about 192. Got there just fine =) I'll have pictures in the Bahamas so that'll help.

    @ Jonas – you're gonna do awesome!

  • Jonas C

    I'm doing a crazy-ass leg-focused program that my coach called John made for me. I think I hate him. My legs hurts all the time. However, it's time to get sexy….

  • Ted

    Do we get to hear how your program went? ;)

  • Originally Posted By MattyHey John.

    For CYWT… you say you cheat every 5 days. After cheat day, do you follow with low carb?? and then low gi, then hi gi. how do the days between the cheat days look?? and do you use Joel's calculator to determine your daily macro nutrients and calorie intake? or do you custom your daily nutrition based on your needs and just follow the variation of the carb cycling?

    thanks

    matty

    Hey Matty,

    Actually, the day after my cheat day I actually do a protein-only day: I only have about 15g carbs (from veggies) and then about 250g protein.

    I follow Joel's calculator pretty closely, but I tend to go a bit lighter on the carbs than he recommends. But that's just me.

    That's just when I follow CYWT. During my 'normal' nutrition programs, things are different. When I follow someones program, I try to make the fewest alterations possible.

  • Matty

    Hey John.

    For CYWT… you say you cheat every 5 days. After cheat day, do you follow with low carb?? and then low gi, then hi gi. how do the days between the cheat days look?? and do you use Joel's calculator to determine your daily macro nutrients and calorie intake? or do you custom your daily nutrition based on your needs and just follow the variation of the carb cycling?

    thanks

    matty

  • Aash

    Hey John,

    I recently got a copy of your Hybrid Body-Comp Blitz. I was wondering as no specific nutrional guidelines are mentioned, will the CYWT program work well with it ?

    Thanks,

    Aashish.

  • Meshel

    Originally Posted By John Romaniello@Meshel –

    Awesome! Kareem is great and I've been eager to see what he has in store with Double Edged Fat Loss. The last time I spoke to him, he was putting the finishing touches on the product and getting the website up and running. I know he has some brilliant ideas, and I can't wait to see your results.

    Regarding your dietary mis-step: try not to worry too much about it. Even on a diet like CYWT, what you said is exactly right: if you don't plan and make sure you've got the necessary foods/tools/supplements at hand prior to beginning, you can really be in for a world of trouble.

    This is especially try around the holidays, given that at any moment you're surrounded by the dietary equivalent of weapons of mass destruction.

    Make a good shopping list, post it here, and then we'll check and make sure you've got everything you need to for the next week. I guarantee there are other people in your boat.

    And check out this thought: everyone who is doing the Holiday Edition of Cheat Your Way Thin is following the SAME calendar – all the cheat days are the same. Think of the immediate community of all your fellow cheaters out there. Everyone is just doing the same thing you are. All you need to do is plan better and then you'll be on track.

    Thanks for the kind words, I'll try to provide the best content I can =)

    @John Romaniello –

    You know Kareem…cool. I am half done with week two of Double Edged Fat Loss. And I thought last week was tough. Feeling stronger and have more energy and know the hard work will be worth it in the end as I am already seeing definition in my arms that I have not seen in years…woohoo!

    I learned a while ago not to let dietary failures stick around and fester. I let them go and get back to business. I re-started CYWT on Sunday and created a meal plan for the week. I am going to give you that instead of the shopping list. Here is what it looks like:

    Breakfast is usually cereal – I know, not good but keep reading there is more on this later.

    Lunch is my stable, consistent, never fail meal – salad of lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and broccoli/cauliflower (when I have it) and very little or no dressing, sliced turkey or ham with a small piece of Swiss cheese or a black bean burger, fruited yogurt.

    Afternoon snack – raw almonds and fresh fruit (Clementines or pears this time of year) or carrots and hummus.

    Dinner – Monday – Ham, steamed carrots, salad

    Tuesday – Chicken fillets fried in a little coconut oil, asparagus

    Wednesday – Baked pork chop, broccoli, home made low sugar apple sauce

    Thursday – Turkey breast, Brussels sprouts, low sugar cranberry relish

    Friday – Grilled hamburgers (no bun), salad, left over veggies

    Saturday – Baked Tilapia, baked zucchini, green beans

    Sunday – Cheat day

    As you can see, I have trouble with breakfast. I am not a morning person (and that may be an understatement) and the thought of actually preparing something for breakfast, as opposed to munching down some cereal, does not appeal to me. I have a delicious oatmeal bake recipe that I prepare ahead of time and warm in the morning but that will not work for the low carb days. Do you have any suggestions for something that can either be prepared ahead or without a functioning brain? (I am going to email Joel about this too.)

    Thanks for the reminder that all CYWTers are on relatively the same schedule. It sometimes feels like I am in this alone (probably because I get no support from those in my real life – but that is another issue entirely) and need the reminder that there are others out there doing this too.

    Enough from me. I look forward to your thoughts on the meal plan. Thanks again.

  • Thanks for the kind words, man! I promise I'll keep churning it out if you guys keep reading it. Actually, I'll probably keep going regardless–but please keep reading anyway.

    I've had 2 magazine covers to date, would of course like to be on more. I appreciate the compliments on my physique–it is still and will always be a work in progress: but a comparison to Steve Reeves in any way is incredible =)

    In terms of your program: that sounds awesome. Breathing squats and deads are unreal. I have no idea why, but I find them more enjoyable than nearly any other type of leg training–particularly trap bar deadlifts. It does increase your metabolic rate intensely, so between that and the interval stuff, whatever fat you've gained should come off pretty quickly.

    Let me know what kind of results you have if you don't mind checking in.

  • Today I start a routine of breathing DL's & back squats. Ooh lala, oh ya baby! Focus is on lower body & arms along with some conditioning…boxing, sprints and my fav, jump-roping. All of those will be interval HIT style. I've gained some fatty, so I need to watch it.

    The breathing stuff should help plenty with my conditioning, so, the latter stuff I just mentioned will be 10 mins. or less. Depends really how I'm gaining. I also follow the guys at xrep.com and add in burns, drop sets along with rest pause to my training.

    I'm going for the clean bulk, lots of protein, veggies, some oats, fruit around my WO's and EVO shots here & there. I started bulking in Aug, that month I went from 180 to 188, but since then I've had a b-day, did some partying and lots of eating-drinking.

    Oh, and had a good ol' time with Thanksgiving. SOOOO, now I must clean it up and start off the upcoming new yr. on the right track.

    This site is great, and John Roman is outstanding. I just found this place a couple of days ago & in the process of catching up on here. Looking forward to this new ebook. EBOOKS ARE THE WAY TO GO! Because I have NO MORE room for anymore books! Or magazines for that matter!

    Hey John, how many mag covers do you have? 1 or 2?

    AWESOME PHYSIQUE YOU HAVE BUILT! Those Steve Reeves calves are simple amazing! You must get comments all the time at the gym where you work, huh? And no joking, I had my best calves while training in those plat form shoes, they got huge from all the sprinting I did in them!! I'm starting that up again & will give you a run for you money in development! haha! :-)

    Enough for now, I'm totally jacked on coffee.

  • @Meshel –

    Awesome! Kareem is great and I've been eager to see what he has in store with Double Edged Fat Loss. The last time I spoke to him, he was putting the finishing touches on the product and getting the website up and running. I know he has some brilliant ideas, and I can't wait to see your results.

    Regarding your dietary mis-step: try not to worry too much about it. Even on a diet like CYWT, what you said is exactly right: if you don't plan and make sure you've got the necessary foods/tools/supplements at hand prior to beginning, you can really be in for a world of trouble.

    This is especially try around the holidays, given that at any moment you're surrounded by the dietary equivalent of weapons of mass destruction.

    Make a good shopping list, post it here, and then we'll check and make sure you've got everything you need to for the next week. I guarantee there are other people in your boat.

    And check out this thought: everyone who is doing the Holiday Edition of Cheat Your Way Thin is following the SAME calendar – all the cheat days are the same. Think of the immediate community of all your fellow cheaters out there. Everyone is just doing the same thing you are. All you need to do is plan better and then you'll be on track.

    Thanks for the kind words, I'll try to provide the best content I can =)

  • Originally Posted By YlwaWhy would you cook in a sleeveless shirt AND an apron? I thought you hated shirts?

    I started the CYWT holiday edition on nov 26th and today I enter day 5 of low carb. It feels like eternity. Spent in hell. Seriously, I don't know anyone who does worse on low carb then I do. Two days is OK but come day three my body shuts down anything that isn't essentail for survival. I have headaches, nausea, tired and terrbile mood-swings. I'm anything but nice, the emperess of darkness has nothing on me. By better half (in this case literally) does alot better. Do men usually do better on low carb than women and why is that? Is there anything you can do to get rid of the unpleasant side-effects of low carb?

    You're not alone. Actually, the majority of people don't do well on low carb diets–most of them just don't realize.

    Firstly, you have to realize that most of the people dieting are on some sort of stimulant. Be a fat-burner, energy drink, or just an extra cup of coffee, when people start feeling down they reach for an energy source. Since they can't have carbs, they artificially inflate themselves with caffeine.

    I have a lot of clients who feel the same way you do on low carb diets, and generally it lasts about 10 days. I know it sucks, I've certainly been there. In terms of how to get rid of side effects, you could do what most people do and dose with stimulants. I don't advise that as a solution, but given that I do enjoy a few cups of green tea per day, I don't preach against it, either.

    I suggest taking in a few carbs throughout the day. Worthy of note is the fact the “low” is a nebulous term and isn't really the same for all people. What's low for me might be high for you. It could very well be the case that anything under 30 is not productive for you.

    If the entire purpose of what you are doing is to lose weight, and losing weight is something you want to do to enhance your quality of life, you have to be realistic. What good is any of it if your diet renders you incapable of movement, let alone exercise? Or at least, exercise intense enough to help with fat loss. And even if you could lose fat, your quality of life is terrible.

    Find the right amount of carbs low enough for you to lose weight, but not so low you get nausea, dizziness, and chronic bitch-itude.

    I'm not making a joke with that last part, either. Mood is a good barometer of how effective a diet is. If you're hungry and cranky all the time, something is wrong with your nutrition plan.

    Finally, regarding your other question: I would say men do a bit better on low carb diets, but only marginally so. It's really an individual thing, and your better half just lucked out.

    Stick with it and just count the minutes till your cheat day, and you'll be fine. The body does adapt,and after that it's smooth sailing.

  • Meshel

    Laughter was not the response elicited by the mental picture of you in your kitchen baking up sweet delights. Not telling what the response was but not laughter.

    My plan for the next few weeks…

    Thanks to Joel Marion I was introduced to Dr. Kareem Samhouri. I was fortunate enough to be invited to join the pilot group for his newest program – Double Edged Fat Loss. It is a four-week intensive program and this is week one. After only four days I have noticed an increase in energy, which helps as an unbelievable motivator to stay on track because this is without a doubt the toughest thing I have ever done. It also makes me excited to see what else is coming my way during the next few weeks.

    Joel’s CYWT is also part of my plan. I started on Thanksgiving Day with the cheat day, did well for a few days then proceeded to fail miserably. I had always heard that old saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” but never really experienced it until this week. I am working on planning out meals and have picked a new start date/cheat day, Sunday since I have a family birthday dinner celebration. Bring on that leptin response.

    Keep the great content coming.

    Michelle

  • @Mathieu – Regarding CYWT, yeah, I cheat every 5 days instead of 7.

    Without getting to far into the science (Joel will kill me if I bogart his speech), leptin is produced in fat cells. Given that I'm pretty lean to begin with, my baseline leptin levels are lower than the average person for whom the diet was written. Joel and I have experimented with a lot of different approaches, but every 5 days works pretty well for me.

    As I get leaner, I can cheat more often provided I keep my activity high.

    When I was getting ready for the photoshoot that provided a good number of the pics I use on this site, I was going from 6% towards 4% – I was doing HIIT nearly every day, some days twice. I was able to cheat every 3-4 days. I did a 1-week depletion/prep, and then a two week diet. In that two weeks I went from 4 times and get the leanest I'd ever been at that point.

    Leptin is some crazy shit.

  • @Lesley – Excellent job so far, Lesley, seriously. I have 2 relatives with Hasimoto's, and it is certainly not an easy burden to bear.

    I've worked with a number of hypothyroid people in the past, and you are literally doing everything right. The high intensity exercise, coupled with careful nutrition is going to really help to get you where you want. Of course, it is a slower path for you than people who do not share your condition, but it is anything but impossible.

    I understand the position of physicians who feel compelled to caution a somewhat circumspect approach to exercise, but I'll echo Ywla's statement when I say any doctor who completely advises against exercise is a fool in my book.

    Just keep doing what you're doing and keep your chin up.

    I recommend taking bi-monthly progress pics so that you have a visual record of the changes you're making. Even though the process is slow, there is NO reason you can't continue to see results.

    Oh – and for the record, losing 11lbs in 2 months is no joke; that's about 1.3 pounds of fat per week on average. Those are serious results.

    Internet high five for you.

    Keep me posted, Lesley, I really can't wait to see your after pics. (And I mean that in only a slightly pervy way.)

  • @Steve – This is a bit of difficult question to answer accurately.

    I will say that Final Phase Fat Loss is definitely a fat loss program from start to finish. The fact that the a good amount of the people who do it put on a bit of muscle is a side effect more than anything. A welcome one, but it was't really intended to elicit muscle growth. Although, looking at it now, it seems very obvious why it happens and not noticing it early makes me feel silly.

    With that said: in terms of how I *personally* balance my own fat loss and muscle gain, before I can answer that I need to say that at this stage of my development, I'm not really trying to get any bigger.

    I have been as big as 205lbs at 7% bodyfat, and for me, that was a nice goal but a temporary physique. Now that I am no longer competing, my ideal physique is a somewhat more manageable 190-195. I'm lighter, a bit faster, and I like the way I look a lot better.

    Now, it must be noted that it is always easier to REGAIN muscle than to gain it the first time. Having walked around at a lean 205 for a year or so, gaining muscle to get to 195 from 190 or in that area is not as difficult as it was to get there in the first place. I have my programming and nutrition in order, and I'm never more than 5 pounds away from either goal–ideal leanness or a few pounds bigger.

    So, generally, I approach one goal or the other, depending on need. For example, if I'm getting ready for a vacation or a shoot, and I want to be as lean as possible, i'll focus exclusively on fat loss. If I want to get a bit bigger for the summer months, I'll focus on that.

    Currently, I'm chasing both goals, but only because I'm experimenting with a pretty radical approach and I think that it's very achievable with the diet and training programs I'm using.

    I'll just reiterate that I'm re-gaining that muscle, which makes it easier, and losing those last 5 pounds is basically guaranteed with FPFL.

    I know that sounds like an evasive answer, but for me personally, it's the most detail I can give.

  • Ted

    Well, I don't eat carbs.

    No, really. I'm one of those people who dislikes eating anything that didn't used to move. So as usual, I plan to eat nothing but meat and force-fed vegetables (for the yummy vitamins). On the occasional 7th day I'll force myself to eat carbs to spike my leptin and insulin levels or whatever other hormones are supposed to make bodies happy in CYWT.

    Like Mathieu, I finished Body Comp Blitz a few weeks ago and just started phase two (week three) of Vince's Muscle Building Mayhem program…but I'm altering it a bit. That should last til finals week for school.

    At that point I'll probably be working out on my own again (at school I work out with my roommate) for at around a month so I'll probably make up my own program alternating high rep days with low rep days 4-5 days/week, probably cardio (swimming) 2-3 days/week. That month I'll probably emphasize shoulders. I'm expecting this to be pretty taxing, so I'll probably force-feed myself some kinda of carb-leaden shake post-workout.

  • John,

    Very interesting stuff. As a Bodycomp-Blitz veteran (laugh all you want people, but then go do the BB and come tell me it's not worth the term :P), I can't wait to see what FPFL looks like!

    I did purchase the CYWT holiday edition, but only for he discount and extras, because i'm currently on a gaining phase. I'm on my 3rd week of Vince Del Monte's Muscle Mayhem program, which goal is overall strength and muscle gain, and I'm having a lot of fun so far.

    At the start I was somewhat scared looking at the **loads of iron plates to lift (4 reps of squats? You kiddin' me?!) AND similar **loads of food I had to eat – but I'm getting the hang of it, I think! I don't seem to have gained much fat, and I'm definitely feeling the improved strength.

    @Ylwa – That's sad to hear. Do you at least use a protein/carb drink on your workouts? I think it should be a minimum. I can't say i've experienced much of these problems myself. What foods do you eat on low-carb days?

    @John – I'm curious, do you use the CYWT program exactly as prescribed in the manual, or do you tweak it for your needs (e.g. cheat every 5 days instead of 7, or whatever else)

    @Lesley – Quadruple-thumbs-up for your persistence. It's often so easy to drop it when you don't see results right away – but hard work always pays in the end. :) Keep it up!

  • Ylwa

    Why would you cook in a sleeveless shirt AND an apron? I thought you hated shirts?

    I started the CYWT holiday edition on nov 26th and today I enter day 5 of low carb. It feels like eternity. Spent in hell. Seriously, I don't know anyone who does worse on low carb then I do. Two days is OK but come day three my body shuts down anything that isn't essentail for survival. I have headaches, nausea, tired and terrbile mood-swings. I'm anything but nice, the emperess of darkness has nothing on me. By better half (in this case literally) does alot better. Do men usually do better on low carb than women and why is that? Is there anything you can do to get rid of the unpleasant side-effects of low carb?

  • Ylwa

    @Lesley – I'm so sorry to hear that, but happy that you've seem to find a way to exercise that works for you. Keep up the good work!

    I always get very upset when I hear about people getting medical advise NOT to exercise when they have some sort of hormonal disturbance. I'm in physiotherapy and I've seen this happen to both patients and my own close ones. Two years ago I was in a relationship with a guy who suffered from severe depression and he was heavily medicated. One of the bi-effects from his anti-depressives was a high bloodpressure – it skyrocketed. Hence, his psychiatrist forbid him to exercise, with regards to that during physical activity your blood pressure does increase, but taking into no consideration what-so-ever the OVERALL positive effect physical activity has on high blood pressure (which I doubt I need to develop further in this forum). Yet, training and physical has proven in soooo many studies to be one of THE most effective treatment for curing depression, and can in a light to medium state of depression actually take away the need for medication

    By no means do I now say that I think doctors are incompetent, but with all do respect – their job is to set a diagnose and frankly many of them lack sufficient knowledge about how exercise can benefit you in these typ if illnesses.

    Physical activity (I wont use the word training in this matter) has time and time again proved to have a positive impact on your health and work as a compliment to your medical treatment. Very rarely is physical activity completely contra-induced, but you may need to make special considerations and train with extra caution and guidance.

    I definetely think you should keep on training now that you've found a way that works for you. And see a specialist when you feel ready to take it to the next level. A physiotherapist :).

  • In the last month, I've done some specialization for my arms, using some mechanical drop sets, twitch reps, yielding isometrics not only for arms but others bodyparts too. Keeping my rep range between 5 to 8, and going all out on my last set. Works great.

    But it's been a 4-5 weeks now, and my body is adapting. I'm starting to think of my next phase through Christmas. Gaining mass, but keeping bodyfat low.

    Cheers

  • Lesley

    Hi,

    Was recently diagnosed with hypo-thyroidism (Hashimoto's) as well as Insulin Resistence – great combination and the worst thing for weight gain. I used to consistently weigh betwen 57 kgs – 60 kgs (obviously I am female) up until two years ago and have been battling the budgle since then. Hardly surprising under the circumstances but still very depressing. I gradully worked my way up over the last year and half to what I consider overweight by 15 kgs (about 33 lbs). I am told it sounds worse than it looks.(smiley face) I started doing Interval and Resistance training about four months ago even though I was told by several professionals to exercise, but to do it gently and I had to make some drastic changes in my diet. I saw no difference for the first two months (hugely frustrating) but I persevered and then suddenly I was wearing clothes I hadn't mangaged to get into for over a year. In the last two months I have lost 5kg (11lbs) – boy am I happy. It makes sense to carry on doing what I am doing – combination of interval and resistence but just put more variety into the exercises and format. Also doing an average of 4 days a week sometimes 5.

  • Steve

    John,

    Do you use FPFL just to lose fat? Basically, what I mean is how do you balance muscle building with fat loss?

    Thanks,

    Steve

  • That's weird. Comments weren't set to “on.” No idea. I suk @ teh internetz.

    Anyway, fixed.

    So, what's your plan looking like?