In Part 1, you learned about setting your goals and how to calculate how much bodyfat you’re planning to lose. You should now be able to convert that across pounds, percent and calories to completely visualize the end result you’re planning.
In Part 2, we discussed common myths and ways people try to lose weight that don’t work. You should know trying to burn more calories or just exercising more is likely to fail without addressing nutrition first.
Now we will share our recommended approach, which you can use as a roadmap for what to do step by step in the next few months. Everyone is unique, but the following is a reliable and repeatable strategy that works well for most people. Following it closely will likely improve both your bodyfat levels as well as general health. We will share the underlying science and studies in case you are curious, plus the actual insights to start as habits.
Start with urgent issues
Before jumping into nutrition, you will want to make sure your entire health is relatively well balanced. If there is some aspect that is extremely unhealthy, not addressing it first would be like watering your garden while your house is on fire.
Here is a simple preflight checklist that should get you most of the way there...
- Are you sleeping less than 7 hours?
- Are you drinking alcohol excessively?
- Do you smoke cigarettes?
- Do you have uncontrolled stress? (low HRV or mood scores)
- Are you depressed?
- Are you staying home all day? (<2,000 steps)
If you’re affected by these, then you may want to address them first or at the same time as other changes. Without balancing these, any modifications to your food or other lifestyle may be much harder to get started. Just forcing yourself to eat less will probably be counterproductive.
For example, being sleep deprived or having high stress levels can cause significant carb carvings and actually change your body’s response to food. Addressing this directly and solving the root causes of your problems will provide stronger and more lasting changes than just patching the symptoms temporarily.
Starting with Food
Once you are at a healthy baseline and have gotten approval from your doctor (as you technically should before following any recommendations online), you are ready to start making improvements to your diet.
Almost everyone should start with a focus on improving their meals. Not only is it what most directly influences your bodyfat, but it is generally where there is the most room for improvement.
What we are changing is your default meal — what you eat every day on a random day without thinking. Remember, these are designed to be permanent lifelong changes rather than a temporary diet. You can still eat whatever you want on a special occasion, if your baseline diet is healthy.
There are many possible diets and styles. However, here are the most essential points to remember, which are true regardless of specific diet or strategy...
- Eat much more protein (30-40% of intake)
- Eat much less sugar (limit to 20-30g per day)
- Less processed foods, more whole foods
- Only balanced meals, rather than snacks
- Avoid glucose spikes above 140 ng/mL
It is easy to look at simply total calories — “I ate 1,463 calories today” but that is an incomplete approach and skips some of the above points.
For example, how many of those calories were from protein? Protein is metabolized differently than other nutrients (thermic effect of protein could be about 10% of your daily calorie burn if done correctly) and also serves an essential purpose (building & maintaining muscle), so 500 calories from protein cannot be traded for 500 calories from a cheesecake, for example.
Feeling full or hungry is primarily dictated by levels of hormones like insulin, glucagon, peptide-YY, ghrelin, leptin, CKK, GLP-1, PP, and others. Instead of simply eating fewer calories, you should balance your levels here in order to feel good and maintain a calorie deficit. How do you improve your levels? By eating higher quality meals. How do we know if a meal is high quality? It is not just an opinion, but by seeing if it correctly stimulates all of these hormones to their intended levels.
Instead of memorizing the rating for every possible food combination, here is a checklist of 6 variables that will add up to a high quality meal. Your energy balance (calories in a surplus or deficit) is the first, but there are 5 others that are equally important to get right.
- Not being in an extreme calorie surplus
- Mostly whole foods, not processed foods
- High protein for muscle synthesis
- Density and variety of vitamins & minerals
- Balanced hormone levels to resolve hunger
- Avoiding glucose spikes
Each factor is important to your body’s proper function for different reasons. Optimizing all 6 should be your goal in finding successful meals to repeat daily. Once you are on the right track, most of these variables will help balance each other. For example, eating more whole foods could help improve nutrient density and keep your glucose levels stable. Eating high protein and correct fats will make you feel full, preventing a significant calorie surplus. Often when someone is gaining bodyfat, their meals wil be failing across all these categories at the same time.
Any successful diet will need to satisfy these categories. There are many specific strategies that can be employed, like being vegan, keto, paleo, low-carb, or just eating a balanced diet without a special brand name. It is possible to do any of these specific diets well, or badly, depending on how many of the above boxes you are checking.
These extra constraints can provide additional structure, but the requirements above still strongly apply. For example, adopting a vegetarian diet but only eating cookies and sugar all day will be lacking enough protein and cause numerous glucose spikes. On the other hand, a low-sugar ketogenic diet could have stable glucose levels but be lacking in nutrients or fiber from relying on processed rather than whole foods. Any diet that checks all the above boxes should get you good results, so you could reuse a common solution or build your own from scratch based on your favorite foods.
Replace, don’t just reduce
Instead of just using willpower to avoid as many calories, you need to replace your low quality meals with a better alternative. You can’t just starve yourself into losing bodyfat. Eventually you would get hungry, end up eating, and be back where you started. Rather, you must feel more full and satisfied along the way in order to succeed and stay on track.
Feeling full or satisfied is not necessarily caused by eating more calories. With a high quality meal that fulfills all the above criteria, you could very possibly consume fewer calories and be in an energy deficit, while feeling more full and not get hungry for much longer.
Often these new foods will taste just as good (or even better), but just need some time to get used to them. If you are used to eating sugary yogurts, eating high quality greek yogurt without added sugar can be an adjustment. If you’re used to packaged salad dressings, olive oil can take a while to enjoy. If you are used to eating a Kit Kat every day, some high end 80% dark chocolate may taste bitter and disgusting. However, those preferences are mostly arbitrary, and just based on years of habit rather than some intrinsic difference.
From a culinary perspective, you are not missing out on any amazing flavors, and may even find it hard to go back to the processed versions as your palate adapts. It can take up to 10 exposures to any new food to get used to it, so try to keep an open mind at first. Within a few weeks, you will find yourself enjoying the improved options and feeling more healthy along the way.
Here are some practical substitutions that can help get you close enough to the ideal amounts. Hitting an exact number does not matter as much as being close every single day. Here are some suggestions and common examples to illustrate changing from low to high meal quality. Instead of coming to us for a list of what is approved or not, you should internalize the criteria for what makes a good meal and be able to make these judgements on your own. Remember, the main things to look at are amount of protein (should be high), amount of sugar (should be low), food processing (should be minimally processed) and micronutrient density (the meal should have as many vitamins and minerals as possible per calorie).
Common Drink Swaps
Beverages are a common way that a lot of sugar sneaks into our diet. Cutting out sugar from drinks entirely is a good starting point and can be enough to start to change your calorie balance.
Sugary soda —> sugarfree sodas or sparkling water are much better alternatives.
Orange juice —> a real orange, or water will be much better than sweet juices.
Coffee with sugar —> Try switching to black coffee, tea or espresso without sugar.
Cocktails or beer —> A lower calorie alcoholic drink. Perhaps only drink on weekends, not daily. In addition to the calorie count and sugar levels, alcohol can have many adverse effects and limit your progress.
Remember when we said that all meals should be balanced? That applies to drinks, too! Having a sugary drinks without eating enough protein or fiber is a highly imbalanced meal, and should be avoided — even if it is not a huge amount of calories. Drinking liquid calories throughout the day is a recipe for gaining fat, both in terms of un-needed calories as well as potentially causing insulin resistance, fat buildup in the liver, high glucose levels, and more.
Beverages get digested much more rapidly than a similar meal with fiber and protein, leading to a more rapid harmful spike in glucose and insulin — the textbook recipe for diabetes. Drinking these daily can have a negative impact on your energy levels, insulin sensitivity, and general health in addition to messing with your calorie targets. Whether your priority is weight loss or just general longevity, these should not be a part of your daily routine and only consumed for special occasions.
This is where judging food only by calories can be very misleading. The calorie count on a soda may be the same as an egg, or even a dessert with the same macronutrient breakdown, but they are not necessarily the same health impact. The calorie intake is only a one part of the equation when deciding whether to eat something.
If you are drinking these common beverages daily, replacing them with water or sugarfree alternatives will be a great start in your weight loss journey and start improving your health.
Common Breakfasts & Desserts
Many meals, especially breakfast, have essentially become desserts. Your brain finds combinations of fat and sugar to be extremely satisfying. Therefore, many meals provide simply that. A thousand years ago, when this type of feast was a rare annual treat, this was fine. Now that they are a daily habit, it leads to obesity on a global scale.
If you were working on a farm all day with intense physical labor, these meals would be an efficient way to get enough fuel to power through. However, if you are just sitting on your computer all day then they are very likely to get stored as fat instead.
Cereal or pancakes —> Eggs instead, or simply skip breakfast if you don’t have time.
Ice cream or sweetened yogurts —> Greek yogurt (no sugar) with real berries for sugar
Common Lunches & Dinners
A constant focus in every meal should be adding more protein, replacing the carbs, sugars and fats that would typically take their place. All food is by definition either protein, fat or carb. A low protein diet is therefore high in fat and sugar, while a diet high in protein will very naturally reduce the total sugar and fat you are consuming. Therefore, before focusing on calories you should optimize the amount of protein you are eating.
Whatever feels like a large amount of protein is very likely about half of what you needed. The protein and vegetables should always be eaten first before adding extra carbohydrates or desserts, otherwise you could eat a nearly endless amount.
It is important to find foods you still enjoy. If you absolutely hate salads, you don’t need to make all your meals a salad. Simple modifications to the foods you are already eating and enjoying can get you much of the way there. Your challenge is to find a way to get a lot of protein in a meal that you enjoy enough to eat hundreds of times.
Salad with sweet dressings —> Salads with protein and olive oil
Burger and fries —> Steak and salad
Pizza or pasta —> Add a side of salad and meat, with smaller portion
Burrito with rice —> Burrito bowl with no rice & more protein
Processed foods —> Whole foods
These can be very simple changes, but done consistently will result in significant results and drastically start to shift your nutrient intake. Based on data we see from most people logging their food with Food XRAY, most people struggling with bodyfat are eating very little protein or fiber. By definition, a diet low in protein will be high in sugar and fat — since those are the three possible macronutrients in any meal that must add up to the total.
Understanding how exactly your hunger systems work is an important step in this journey, so you can feel full and satisfied at all times and not be constantly craving food. The amount of calories you eat factor into this slightly, but there are a dozen other variables that are equally important to consider — protein and fiber intake being a major one. To go deeper into this topic, check out the Guide to Hunger & Satiety in the Food Quality chapter of the Academy.
Another variable often overlooked with a focus on calorie counting is when to eat. The idea that you must eat many tiny meals throughout the day to keep your body running is a dangerous myth. Once you have optimized your meal quality and blood sugar levels, you will have more flexibility over when to eat and will not need to be constantly eating.
Many people find tracking their eating and fasting times to be easier and more effective than worrying about accounting for every single calorie. In practice, it can have a similar effect of limiting calories to a reasonable amount, but be much easier to do since looking at a clock is much easier than counting calories in realtime.
If you only eat 2 meals, even if they were quite decadent, they would probably be less than 1,000 calories each. On the other hand, eating 6 times a day, means even one “meal” above 333 calories would quickly put you in a surplus for the day and stop your weight loss. Further, very few balanced meals fit within that limit, so it would often end up being unhealthy snacks or desserts, harmful to your health & longevity.
While analyzing the full calorie and nutrient breakdown of a meal is a powerful tool, simply tracking meal counts and timing can go a long way. A possible strategy for using your meal timing as a variable (which is not as precise as complete food tracking, but can be done for free and easily) is switching between three meals to gain muscle (when in a bulking phase), two meals a day to maintain (once you are at your ideal composition), and one meal a day while trying to lose bodyfat.
A variety of possible schedules can be tested in the Gyroscope Labs, as one week experiments to see the effects on your specific metrics, mood, bodyfat and sustainability. Everyone has different habits and lifestyle, so finding something that works for you specifically is important. They can range from a 16:8 or 18:6 fasting/eating window, to more aggressive 20:40 or one meal a day experiments. Rather than picking one and following it for the rest of your life, it is useful to understand how meal timing is another powerful tool you can utilize to unlock different benefits in your body.
Here is a common sequence for people to start adding intermittent fasting to their routine...
- First cut out any non-meal snacks
- Then delay or skip breakfast
- Start moving lunch and dinner closer
- Try eating just one large meal a day
Many people may not realize how many times a day they are eating without tracking it. Having a snack may not require sitting down at the dinner table. If you are eating or drinking something (with >10-20 calories) at a coffee shop, or in your car, or at your desk, that is an extra meal! Unless you are a professional bodybuilder trying to maximize protein intake in a day, snacking constantly is unwise.
Apart from the simplicity of controlling your calorie intake without micromanaging, meal timings can have significant effects on your insulin sensitivity, hunger levels, glucose levels, energy, longevity and more. The exact benefits here are still being researched, but you can learn much more in the Food Timing section of the Academy.
The main takeaway here is to realize that you should always eat food in balanced meals, and not in small snacks. When exactly to eat a meal can vary depending on your goals. For losing bodyfat, eating your food in a limited part of the day will be much better than eating constantly from waking to sleeping. If your choices are between eating an unhealthy meal or skipping a meal, don’t be afraid to fast a little longer. We suggest making gradual changes here to not overwhelm your body.
Some people may do time restricted feeding for only for a few months, during a weight loss phase as a way to maintain a calorie deficit. Others may enjoy it and find significant benefits to their productivity and energy levels unrelated to bodyfat, and make intermittent fasting a lifelong routine.
Once your daily eating habits are dialed in, you should start to see significant changes in your bodyfat levels and weight. Remember, one pound of bodyfat is about 3,500 calories. Being in a 500 calorie deficit (probably about the maximum you should have) means about 1 pound a week lost from bodyfat. That may seem small, but over the course of a year that would be over 50 pounds. That can be easily attained even without spending hours at a the gym — though we do highly recommend resistance training.
Food is the primary lever, but there is much more to address to lose weight sustainably and in a healthy way. The rest of these changes will help you maintain your progress and increase your long term health. One metric of health is to make sure you lose weight primarily from bodyfat, while still preserving or even increasing your valuable muscle mass. Avoiding these for too long may result in eventually failing and gaining the weight back.
Insulin resistance and glucose levels have been mentioned a few times, along with diabetes and health risks. These are huge topics that won’t fit in this guide, but you can learn more in the Glucose chapter of the Health Academy. There are really just a few things you need to keep in mind...
- Steep spikes and drops are not good
- Eat balanced meals and avoid snacking
- Make your meals primarily protein & fiber
- A little sugar after that will be ok
- Lift weights frequently to use glycogen & build muscle mass
You do not need to track your glucose every day to start optimizing these variables and seeing the benefits of stable blood levels. However, you now can for less than $50 — with devices like the Precision Xtra or Keto Mojo being easily available on Amazon. Some people may enjoy seeing for themselves, while others will be content to read the insights and save their money.
Food and workouts often get all the attention, but your sleep is very important too. Getting good rest affects all aspects of your health. Many critical things happen during sleep, not just in your brain but your entire body. Not getting the proper quantity or quality may cause significant failures in your ability to lose bodyfat as intended.
Not sleeping enough will increase stress hormones, causing strong food cravings that may make it much harder to eat healthily the next day. Being sleep deprived can change how your body metabolizes food, causing unhealthy glucose spikes. The same exact meal when you are well rested can have a different impact than when you are highly stressed! Sleep is also critical for building and maintaining muscle mass! Without enough sleep, you may lose more weight from your valuable muscle instead of from bodyfat.
We recommend tracking your sleep with the Apple Watch or Oura ring. Both will sync your HRV and resting heart rate to Gyroscope to show your detailed sleep score and long term trends. As you lose bodyfat, in addition to seeing a lower number on the scale you will likely see your resting heart rate decrease as well.
As mentioned before, simple weight loss is not our goal here. Losing bodyfat specifically is what we are targeting, while trying to maintain all of our muscle mass. One of the main ways to acheive this is by resistance training. Resistance training means lifting weights or other heavy things (like your own body, with moves like push ups and squats), ie. they resist your muscles and require a lot of force.
Using weights or machines at the gym is probably the simplest and most reliable way to do resistance training, but you can also do it at home just with bodyweight exercises.
You may be skipping these kind of workouts because they don’t appear to burn as many calories as an hour of cardio, but they are probably even more essential in your bodyfat loss process. If you had to do only one kind of workout, these are it.
The good news is they don’t have to be extremely long or intense. Even just stressing your muscles briefly with a quick workout can help to keep them active and maintained. Very intense weightlifting can be needed to build a lot of muscle, but you must do at least some in order to preserve your current muscles.
The human body is really not designed to be sitting still all day. You already sleep for a large part of the day, so if you spend the rest of your day also at a desk without moving it will start to have serious issues — both related to bodyfat as well as general health.
Being frequently active all throught the day is recommended, and can be measured indirectly through your step count. Having high steps does burn some calories, but also helps with many other things like regulating your glucose and other hormone levels. Walking after meals is especially important, but walking all throughout the day is a great habit to try and implement.
10,000 steps is often quoted as the special number to reach. It is easy to remember. There isn’t something magical about hitting it (9,000 would probably be fine, too!) but if your steps are only at 1,000 every day then that should be a serious warning that your daily routine may need to be adjusted.
With people working from home more than ever and deliveries and convenience at an all time high, this can be challenging. Some ideas to get more steps include:
- Walking instead of driving to nearby places
- Walking to get groceries, coffee or food whenever you can
- Getting up from your desk more often
- Going for walks while on phone meetings
Meditation & Breathwork
The impact of stress on the entire body cannot be underestimated. It is common to think of stress, mood, emotions and other mental things to be separate from the body. Ultimately your body and mind and extremely linked.
Stress was originally designed to be a very short-term response to threats — being chased by a tiger for example — so your body uses everything it can to survive, and then either you can relax afterwards, or you were probably dead. In our current world, chronic stress can be endless and confuses the body significantly. A mechanism intended to be used for a few minutes or hours is now being left active for years.
We are now always connected and online. Between work, social media, pandemics and all the other things going on, something is constantly going on that will irritate, anger or scare us. How can we handle all that stress and anxiety without negative health effects? Or will we be doomed to be overweight until stress magically disappears?
Hiding in a cave is probably not an option for most people. Neither is quitting their job and retiring. Finding a way to manage the stress without letting it affect you is essential. That is where techniques like meditation and breathwork fit in. Done correctly, they give you control over your mind to reset or customize your response to everything going on in your brain. Exercise can also be a great form of meditation and help to manage stress. Having at least one of these practices in your daily routine is essential to properly manage stress, rather than letting it manage you.
Nutrition is the most important thing to focus on. Replacing the foods you often eat with better alternatives is needed, not just forcing yourself to eat less of the same unhealthy meals. Most people need to eat much more protein and much less sugar, with more whole foods and less processed foods.
These should be permanent changes rather than a short-term diet, since they affect not just weight but your health. Therefore, you should enjoy the meals you eat while also checking the boxes of what your body needs.
Once you are having high quality meals, not eating for a few hours becomes easier. Having one or two (well balanced and high-protein) meals a day is the simplest and most effective way to lose weight consistently, without needing to micromanage your calorie amounts or portions.
After your meals are optimized, you should focus on your sleep, steps, resistance training, and stress levels. These do not need to be extreme, just consistent. Doing these well will help ensure you are losing weight from bodyfat and not muscle, and also will prevent unhealthy food cravings.
There is a lot to do here, and it will probably keep you busy for at least a few months. Once you’ve worked on all these categories and are in a good routine, what’s next? Something will probably start to slip.
That is where continuous monitoring and better tools can be useful. Instead of re-reading this guide every single day, you can get reminded of exactly the one or two things that need your attention. In the next part, we will discuss ways to automate your life and set up great systems to make sure you stay on track...