Do You Have to “Suffer” While Dieting?

by on August 18, 2016


Two of the worst feelings someone can feel is deprivation and suffering when it comes to their daily food intake. Some of the fittest people we know have diets like this: Lean Ground Beef, Whole Wheat Tortillas and some Black beans. We will give you another sample meal that we have seen some of the fittest people consume on a daily basis: Lean Ground Turkey Burger on a Whole Wheat Bun and some veggies.

Looks pretty good, right? Well these fit people that we are talking about are not depriving themselves of certain foods.

Is it genetics? Nope, from what we have seen it’s purely science, hard work, good habits, and consistency.

Why is it that when it comes to dieting, everybody automatically thinks they have to suffer and deprive themselves from everything in life? Why is it that people think they can’t have the foods they love and crave in moderation? Why does the word “dieting” have to be portrayed as depriving and suffering yourself?

We can understand for those that are trying to get to sub 5% inhuman body fat, but even then it is only for a short amount of time that suffering occurs. For most high level competitors there is typically a 2-4 week period of plain suffering required to achieve near death bodyfat levels. These are few and far between though, and when people just trying to get into shape fall into feeling like this, something is not right.

We feel a big part of this has to do with the personality of people feeling like they need to deprive themselves as much as possible on a diet to say they did everything in their power to try and accomplish their goal, even if they didn’t accomplish it entirely. It’s sometimes not a bad thing. We want to work hard, push hard, so it’s easy to fall into this trap. We do agree that you SHOULD do everything you can to achieve your goals. Pushing yourself as hard as you can intelligently is its own reward in of itself.

We don’t believe in making people deprive themselves when it comes to diets or we would never encourage people to suffer just for the sake of suffering. We believe in depriving for an outcome or for optimization, such as getting stage lean under 5% body fat that is the exception. This is a huge problem, people being intimidated by dieting and they automatically get the assumption that dieting is going to be painful and that they are going to have to deprive themselves so much to where it’s intolerable.

It’s funny how people think this way because there are kids and families in third world countries out there that are suffering from starvation and we want to be scared of going on a diet because we think we are going to have to suffer so mightily?

There are a lot of people at fault for this, such as:

  • The internet

  • Magazines

  • Cheesy infomercials

  • So called ‘nutrition experts’ aka guru’s and Broscientists,

  • Gym know it all’s

The list can go on for days.

We know this because we were victims once to all of this non-sense when it came to dieting. We tried the following:

  • A low carb cookie cutter diet out of a magazine 5 years ago and lost almost all the muscle we put on over the winter

  • We tried eating a so called “clean” diet where it consisted of all the traditional body building foods (lean proteins, sweet potatoes, brown rice, vegetables, etc) and that drove us crazy because we were kicking ourselves in the ass every time we ate something non-traditional aka “dirty foods.”

  • We then tried eating basically anything we wanted and that went south of the border because we put on excess fat and couldn’t get lean enough without sacrificing muscle loss when it came to dieting down for summer.

So we were intimidated and manipulated too by the word “dieting” because we thought it solely consisted of eating nothing but “clean” foods and we felt we had to deprive ourselves on these strict diets, but we found a middle ground after 5 years of self-experimentation and trial and error. That middle ground being you can still have the foods you like and enjoy, so long as you are hitting your macronutrient numbers and total fiber number.

We know everyone won’t agree with us on this, but we feel that it is so essential to count your macros because you can have all the foods you like and you don’t have to feel deprived by eating traditional dieting foods day in and day out. Some of the following reasons why we’re such huge proponents to counting macros are:

  • It teaches you discipline

  • Allows you to eat the foods you like while still dieting

  • It allows you to experiment with recipes that contain healthy ingredients

  • It gives you less of a tendency to go out and “cheat”

  • You will be amazed at how much you learn from tracking your food

  • You will learn a lot about nutrition and what your body responds well to

Basically, cookie cutter diets out of books, magazines, and websites will eventually be a recipe for disaster. Who the hell wants to eat the same thing every single day for X amount of weeks? Mountain Dig Diet also teaches that consuming the same foods over and over can lead to food sensitivities, and possibly even full blown food allergies. The need to rotate food is both mentally healthy and physically healthy.

You can still include some the foods you like into your diet, as long as you hit your macro and fiber numbers and the reason being that the muscle only sees amino acids, carbs, lipids, and some short chain fatty acid fermentation from fiber (1). The muscle doesn’t see specific types of foods. So, as long as you’re hitting your protein, carbs, fat and fiber numbers, everything else will become secondary.

We had a couple of our clients eating baked lays and low-fat popcorn for their carbohydrate source after their workouts along with a protein shake. This is perfectly fine to have as long as you are hitting your post workout macro numbers and your fiber number at the end of the day.

Obviously popcorn has like 4 times the amount of fiber content than baked lays, but it’s okay to have baked lays for your carb source as long as you are in range of your target fiber number at the end of the day.

Evidently, someone that eats baked lays for all their carb sources in their meals will not hit their fiber number, so they would be hurting themselves there, unless they got it through fiber supplementation.

Now please don’t get us wrong here, we don’t recommend going out and eating pizza or cheese burgers and fries to hit your macros, we still believe in whole and minimally refined foods will build quality muscle and lead to overall health. A good rule of thumb is to have 80% Nutrient Dense foods and 20% Non-Traditional Foods. Mountain Dog Diet teaches that 90% of your food should be solid whole foods while 10% should be fun foods. Either way, it’s clear that completely depriving yourself of ANY food is not necessary.

There’s times where we have our clients make healthy burritos (shredded chicken, low-fat cheese, black beans, and whole wheat tortillas) or breakfast sandwiches (eggs, low-fat cheese, turkey bacon, and ezekial bread) and it’s perfectly fine because they hit all their macronutrient numbers at each meal. Another thing people really have to understand and consider is that plenty of people get results in spite of what they do, not because what they do is optimal.

Physiological Changes with Dieting

Now, let’s talk about those that want to get freakishly lean or are competitors. We all know there might be some suffering when it comes to reaching this type of level of body fat. On the physiological side of things, your body makes specific adaptations when dieting for a long period of time and when on low calories. Such as (2):

  • Decreased Energy expenditure (slowing of metabolic rate)

  • Decreased Fat oxidation

  • Decreased Thyroid hormones (plays significant role in metabolism)

  • Increased Cortisol

  • Increased GIP (increases food intake)

  • Decreased Leptin (Fat regulating hormone)

  • Decreased Insulin

  • Increased Ghrelin (hunger hormone)

  • Increased appetite

  • Increased cravings for high fat food and sugars

  • Decreased satiety signals

  • Increased BED (binge eating disorders)

To put this list in the correct context, the size of the energy gap determines how much of these adaptations will occur and how severe they will be, the length of being in a hypocaloric restricted diet, and the amount of fat mass and fat free mass lost will all dictate how many of these adaptations occur (3).

Some practical applications and how to mitigate the adaptations consist of:

  • Dieting on as many calories as possible so you won’t create such a large energy gap

  • Train with a proper periodized training protocol to prevent loss of lean body mass

  • Use cardio as a tool, implement it strategically throughout your weight loss phase

  • Manage stress levels and get sufficient sleep, this will lead to lower cortisol levels

  • Have a high protein diet to induce MPS at each meal, retain muscle mass, and keep satiety high

  • Make less aggressive cuts in calories when weight stagnates

  • Lose weight at a slow rate, .5-2 lbs. per week

  • Frequent self-monitoring (i.e., pictures, measurement, weighing yourself, and tracking your daily food intake)

  • Have a proper nutrition program

  • Do not eliminate food groups or foods

  • Have balance in your life (family, fun, activities), anything non training and nutrition

***** And our favorite tactic – strategic refeeds. It’s another story for another day, but this is key to reach really aggressive fat loss goals.

It’s important to recognize that everybody has different methods and goals when it comes to dieting and it’s important to not look down on anyone, especially if they are trying to make a change in their health and life. We’re not saying our method is the only one out there and it’s certainly not for everybody. But we’ve seen, experienced, experimented, been mentored, and done a lot of trial and error to lead us to be huge advocates to counting our macros daily and it’s been a very efficient method for us and our clients to be able to diet without feeling deprived or suffering and sustain a long term flexible diet.

Take home Points

  • Find a dieting method that works for you and that you will be consistent with day in and day out, week after week, month after month, and year after year. Adherence is the number one indicator to a successful nutrition plan.

  • Dietary programs need to be tailored to you based on your body type, activity levels, current metabolism, metabolic/hormonal variances, psychology factors, cultural influence, food preferences, and more. So don’t fall for BS mainstream fad diets or cookie cutter diets from your local Guru’s.

  • You don’t have to fear dieting anymore or feel deprived with only traditional foods. Just make sure to do your homework before hand, be patient, and always keep in mind that if a diet sounds too good to be true and promises to deliver quick results, then it’s probably BS.

  • If you are trying to diet down to extremely low body fat levels understand there are metabolic adaptations that will occur, see the list above and know there may be some suffering along the way.

  • Once you are done dieting, run a slow recovery diet to reverse the metabolic adaptations and increase your overall calories to get yourself out of that calorie deficit.

Do you still think you have to DEPRIVE yourself and SUFFER while dieting?


  1. Gropher and Smith. Advanced nutrition and human metabolism. 2013

  2. Maclean et al. Biology’s response to dieting: the impetus for weight regain. 2011
  3. Dulloo et al. How dieting makes some fatter: from a perspective of human body composition auto regulation. 2012

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