Biggest Loser – are their results achievable by you?
The following article gives us some insight into what the contestants on the Biggest Loser actually go through.
The initials BL represent the comments made by one of the Biggest Loser Contestants. My comments are shown below.
If nothing else, its interesting for at least the following reasons.
1.What can be accomplished in a short period when you put your mind to it.
2.How unrealistic some of the changes on the show actually are relative to normal people.
BL: I know that obese people are not always your target audience but for anyone who cares, we worked out 4 hours per day 6 days per week. That started on day 2. Day 1 we worked out 2.5 hours. That is from sedentary to 2.5 hours.
We did 1 hour cardio in the morning and 1 in the evening by ourselves and the trainer came in every afternoon for two hours to put us through a circuit resistance based routine for an hour and sometimes her own crazy cardio routine for an hour or we did that third cardio hour on our own also. We never worked out intensely for more than 2 hours at a time.
My comments: Who has time to do this? ‘Cardio’ training always requires high volume to produce results.
BL: Our goal was to lose 1lb per day (3500 calories). Our particular trainers philosophy was that she was going to BURN it off you in the gym and if you had a poor day in the gym the VERY first question that was asked was “Did you eat”. It had to be pounded into us that we had to eat. It seemed counter-intuitive for many of us in a weight loss contest but it proved itself out when a teammate of mine upped his workouts to 6 hours per day and shrank his food to 500 calories per day (on his own) and only lost 3 pounds in 7 days while everyone else averaged 7-10.
My comments: The combination of lots of exercise with big caloric deficits tends to work extremely poorly and seem to slow instead of hasten fat loss for some reason. This is why I always say you must eat enough food to get results. Your body is very efficient at maintaining itself, so don’t ignore this rule.
I don’t know if the issue is simply metabolic slowdown or if there’s something else going on but I’ve seen it happen time and time again: excessive caloric deficits plus excessive amounts of exercise seem to do more harm than good. If you are burning a lot of calories through exercise, you have to eat.
BL: So that was a 75-25% Cardio to resistance training mix. Man what the body can do when it has the right trainer to push it. This years contestants work out even more (I went back to the show and worked out with them for 3.5 hours on an off camera day and they still had an evening workout to go). Of course your secluded, no phone, no newspapers, no internet – just you and other fatties so what else you going to do except the hated TV stuff, interviews challenges etc.?
My comments: I think that last point is a good one, another reason why some of what can be done on the show is unrealistic to normal people. Between the huge motivation to win (big money, fame) and basically being locked up where all there is to do is exercise, putting in huge amounts of training is much easier. Especially compared to the average person who is dealing with work, home, family, etc. and probably doesn’t have 4 hours per day to exercise.
I also think it’s interesting that the main focus is on cardio training especially with the recent tendency towards high intensity/weight training based fat loss approaches. No matter how you cut it, 3 hours of cardio per day is going to burn more calories than 45-60 minutes of weight training. But who has 3 hours every day? On the other hand, you can have the best of both worlds by combining resistance training and high intensity training to burn lots of calories in a short time and increase the after effects of the workout.
That’s why the FitterFaster Results Blueprint puts High Intensity training ahead of low intensity training every time-because it produces much better results especially in terms of time commitment.
BL: We typically worked out at 75-90% of our max. heart rate based on the 220 formula WITH our trainer and 65-85% of our max. when on our own. The quality of the ‘on our own’ workouts usually had to do with external factors like music and fatigue from filming etc. We physically could have done 75-90% on our own but it gets AWFULLY boring!
My comments: Firstly, this statement about easier cardio being boring is spot on. Training at these lower intensities as already mentioned requires a huge time commitment for results. Putting in ‘the time’ is boring and not many people maintain it for long, especially on their own.
Studies have always found that results are superior when training with a Personal Trainer or Coach. One even found that simply having the trainer stand nearby (without actually doing anything) improved results. This is one very potential benefit of having a regular trainer (or a good training partner), motivation to work harder may mean better and/or faster results. So having a trainer and training with intensity is a double whammy for results no matter which way you look at it.
BL: We cooked all our own food based on the nutrition advice of the trainer (so again individual expertise varies). Here are my vital stats:
Parameter Day 1 – Day 14 (*)
Resting Heart Rate 89-92 – 62
Blood Pressure 150/90 – 102/60
Blood Sugar Pre-Diabetic, etc. – Normal
* Equivalent to 2 months in the real world (his comment, not mine).
P.S. My values are still there 2 years afterwards.
My comments: I bet you are thinking this is hard to believe especially considering that the usual first point of call for treatment of pre-diabetes and high blood pressure is medication. Its amazing the time frame that these changes occurred in as well. Some of my clients at FitterFaster have experienced amazing results just like these when they’ve combined proper training with a healthy nutritious diet. So its not just your weight loss that occurs. You can get big time health improvements in a short time frame if you are consistent and committed.
BL: It is also interesting that the work on the ranch really breaks down to the exact numbers that people see in real life. IE The ‘national’ average for someone who watches what they eat and works out 6 days per week is approx. 8-10 lb. of weight loss per month(6 days x 4 weeks = 24 hours per month). This same math works out on the ranch 6 days per week x 4 hours per day = 24 hours per WEEK = 8-10 lb. per WEEK. We just condensed a months worth of workouts into a weeks time.
My comments: Looking at a lot of studies of exercise or diet, many would be thrilled to be getting 8-10 lb/month of weight or fat loss. But I agree generally with the above, given that attention to diet, a loss of 8-10 lb./month for someone who isn’t already very lean is probably attainable. That amount of weightloss beings compressed into 1/4th the time tends to support that the results on the Biggest Loser are extremely unusual.
BL: For reference – While a TV episode is 7 days in length that is not the case behind the scenes. So some ‘weeks’ the numbers are larger because some weeks we had 14 days between weigh ins. My season if you lasted until the final day you would be on the ranch 101 days (I got voted off on episode 7 and lost 83 pounds in 62 days) This season is it like 121 days start to finish. And all that gets condensed into a 12-14 weeks show airing schedule.
My comments: This is deceptive on the part of the show in my opinion since it’s made to appear that these massive weight losses are occurring every 7 days which clearly they are not.
BL: By the way – Losing and Maintaining are TWO ENTIRELY different problems. My goal now is to keep my cardiovascular system in shape (I love to run) AND build muscle while watching what I eat. So I have had to experiment with tons of exercise routines and programs and play with my diet to no end to learn myself. Oh and I teach on some this stuff so I read a lot.
My comments: This is an exceptionally important point that is often lost. What is done during active weight loss neither has to be nor should it be the same as what’s done during weight maintenance. As I point out regularly, most research has found that exercise (and quite a bit of it) is actually very important for weight maintenance. Of course, sticking in the long-term with dietary changes is critical as well, but a bit more leniency can be applied.
BL: Today – I take in approx. 2500 calories per day and when I am on-point I eat more proteins and fats then carbs. When I ‘fall off the wagon’ I still stay within my calorie range but I will have more carbs and salt and carbs require 2.7 grams of water for every 1 gram of carbs and salt makes you retain water blah blah blah.
People are still amazed that I can drop 10 pounds in a week (I call it ‘fake’ weight loss) and they don’t understand that it comes by simply cutting out the extra carbs and salt while drinking a gallon of water per day and that sheds all the extra water in your body. But I realize that I HAVE to track what I eat or eat the same thing every day which is boring. I teach others what I have learned and I quote some smart guy about those who estimate calories underestimate by 25-50% so keep a food diary/log!
My comments: Anybody who’s played around with very low carb diets may be aware of the kinds of water shifts that can occur with such diets. What I think is lost on some people is the sheer magnitude of water that can be gained or lost, especially in larger individuals. I’ve referred to this before especially in my intense programs like ‘Extreme’ and ‘AMPED’ and this season’s BL show had a good example, where one contestant deliberately gained 17 lb. (by drinking 2 gallons of water) so that he could then lose a massive 33 lb. at the next weigh in. Cutting grain foods from your diet has this effect as well. Many of you have noted the decrease in bloating after making this one change to what you eat.
So, what do you think? Could you maintain the hectic schedule of training that produces the results the BL contestants achieve? It helps put into perspective the amount of weight that is sustainable in the real world especially from people who are not obese to start with, but simply moderately overweight.
So don’t be so hard on yourself. If you’re following the FitterFaster Results Blueprint, its going to happen. Stay committed and you’ll see results