A few months ago, coach Dan John said that the Velocity Diet was an insane diet for insane people. A few weeks later, he started the diet.
Well, that explains a lot, doesn't it?
All kidding aside, I was thrilled to have Dan try the diet. He's brutally honest, intrinsically curious, and he has the heart of a teacher.
He also had a big fat belly.
Now, I admire the hell out of Dan. He's an athlete, and at 49 years old he's still a record-breaking competitor. But after seeing Dan speak at a couple of seminars, I couldn't help but notice that his "strong guy gut" was getting bigger.
Now, Dan doesn't train to look good naked like a lot of us do, but this went beyond aesthetics: Dan was starting to look unhealthy. And after talking to him, I knew he had some other problems he needed to get a handle on. They weren't big problems, but they were growing.
For one thing, Dan was developing a bad case of visceral or central adiposity. That means he was accumulating fat sub-abdominally — underneath the abs. This creates a hard, pregnant belly look.
And worse, it's a sure sign of impending health problems. In fact, it's linked to just about every bad health issue out there that can kill you. It wouldn't be overly melodramatic to say that the "pregnant belly look" on males is a clear foreshadowing of an early death.
And Dan had it.
But he was ready to do something about it, something kinda crazy: go on my Velocity Diet. As a recap, the Velocity Diet is basically a liquid diet where you drink protein shakes all week and eat only one solid healthy meal on the weekend. You supplement with healthy fats and fibers and you have a post-workout drink after lifting.
The diet lasts 28 days, then you transition off. Most people lose 10 to 20 pounds or more and report a loss of cravings for unhealthy foods and new preferences for healthy ones after the diet ends. Basically, the diet "reprograms" their behaviors toward food, and fat loss usually continues after the diet is over.
Dan started the diet about the same time I was starting an updated V-Diet book, and he agreed to try out some of the new ideas. What happened? Let's talk to Dan.
Chris Shugart: First things first, Dan, what were your results after four weeks on the Velocity Diet?
Dan John: My body weight on day one was 249 and some change. I used the wrestling scale at school. On day 29 it was 226 on the same scale. My waistline on day one was 42 inches and a little extra. On day 30 it was 37 inches.
Shugart: Excellent! And you had some killer abs and obliques under there too! Okay, so you lost 23 pounds during the diet, plus five whole inches off your waist measurement.
Let's cut off the naysayers and the perpetual critics right now. Sure, some of that was water weight and glycogen, but probably only a few pounds, if that. So, outstanding results!
I also notice that you kept the fat loss up after the diet was officially over. Now, most people rebound after a strict diet and blow up like the Michelin man. But with the Velocity Diet, people usually experience radical food preference changes and overall behavioral changes when it comes to nutrition. Put all that together and the fat loss is permanent, plus they can continue to lose fat, if needed.
Now, didn't you also take some blood tests?
Dan John: That's the really exciting part, Chris. Check this out:
Total Cholesterol: 255
Total Cholesterol: 171
Doctor Brunetti said, "I have never seen this! What did you do again?"
This is fact. This is science. This is much better: HDL up, bad stuff down. Twenty-eight days... look at the difference!
Shugart: The centralized adiposity, that nasty sub-abdominal "heart attack fat," is pretty much gone! That's great news, Dan. Now, what made you decide to do this crazy diet?
Dan John: This guy named Chris Shugart kept saying I was fat! Beyond the tears, I decided to change my life, and maybe love myself a little.
Actually, I've had two disappointing seasons back-to-back. I blamed job changes, kids, being an idiot, etc. But I realized at my annual doctor's appointment that I'd put on a lot of weight. And, dear Lord, there was a big fat guy in every one of my pics!
Big deal, right? I wouldn't have changed, because as a "strength athlete" I'm allowed to not care about my physique. But I was beginning to drop in performance. I started to get little injuries.
The thing about the Velocity Diet wasn't that I'd lose weight or body fat or whatever. I liked the discipline. I liked the jumpstart it would give me on my other goals.
Listen carefully: If you can do the V-Diet, if you can give up food and booze for 28 days, you can go out and attack any other goals you may have rattling around in your brain.
So, it just came to me. I was sitting there watching my left knee oozing with infection and wondering how to train for Pleasanton and it hit me: "V-Diet." No kidding. And I have little memory of why that sounded so right. Part of me, the part that wants to be a monk, loved the idea. My favorite part of me, the party guy, objected. The monk won.
Shugart: I like what you said about the discipline aspect. I have a theory here that some people thrive on this diet because it gives them full control over one aspect of their hectic lives. It's an empowering and somewhat enlightening experience. Or is that just corny?
Dan John: It's corny, but in a good way because it's true! We find some interesting things with teenagers and their various eating disorders: it's the one area in their lives they often feel they can control. So, maybe, just maybe, we all have a little place that wants "control."
As a parent with all the various "hats" I wear, I often find that something as simple as changing something in the yard tends to bring me some relief, some quiet or isolation. This is a good point, Chris, and I really didn't think much about it until now. Really, you're on to something...
Shugart: I hope so. The rapid fat loss aside, the Velocity Diet seems to give people some control back, and that control transcends into other aspects of their lives.
Okay, just another thought I want to toss out regarding the psychology of all this: sometimes the best choice to make is to have no choice. Do the V-Diet as written and all of your daily choices regarding food are taken care of.
We all know that to lose fat and get healthier you have to "eat less and exercise more," but it doesn't work for most people based on the skyrocketing obesity rate. People have too many choices with most diets: what to eat, when to eat, how much to eat, how to prepare it, etc.
With the V-Diet, no choices. And for a lot of people, it's allows them to thrive. Any thoughts on that?
Dan John: I absolutely agree. People would ask me, "Dan, how about Greens Plus, cottage cheese, and cheap Scotch?" I'd reply, "No, Chris said to do this!"
I couldn't even entertain options! So, you took care of food and I just followed. It was a great model for me. I asked all the trainers at the last seminar I spoke at, "Who trains you?" That's my issue: I have great ideas for everybody else, but I treat myself like an afterthought.
You saved my life, Chris.
Shugart: Aw, shucks. Give us a quick outline of what you did every day.
Dan John: Briiiiiing, briiiiiiiiing.
"You have to be f'ing kidding."
That was what happened from day one of the diet to about day twenty. The 5:30AM alarm. I would pee, again. I'd open my morning "baggie" filled with two HOT-ROX Extreme capsules, four BCAAs, and Tribex Gold, swallow some water, get the dog leashed, and go walking.
The dog, by the way, looks so much better after my diet, too. I did this for the dog.
Shugart: Funny, I read once that if your dog is overweight, then you probably are too. Okay, what came next?
Dan John: When I got back, I drank some coffee, tried to read the local paper (it's awful), usually read a book, then had shake number one. Here's a good combo: a scoop of chocolate Metabolic Drive, a scoop of banana cream Metabolic Drive, and flax meal. Not bad really, considering.
School days were easy. I had two shakes in the morning between classes, then, at "lunch," I had my fiber tablets, my multivitamin (I bought the "Orange Urine Special" it seems), two more HOT-ROX, and four BCAAs. That was it for supplements.
Before the end of the day, I'd have an additional shake, go home and train, then my dinner shake and the "night" shake of one scoop of Metabolic Drive and the natural peanut butter. I ended up taking Flameout at night, too. I guess I also took some ZMA every night before bed. I really like it. But basically, I stuck to the exact outline that you sent me, Chris.
That's a big key: don't start adding cookies, muffins, turkey, Alpo, or whatever. Follow the damn diet! "The V-Diet doesn't work for me. I ate five meals a day and six shakes and I didn't lose a pound!" That ain't it, folks...
Shugart: Yeah, a few modifications are fine if made by well read, experienced folks, but some people go overboard with the changes until they're basically no longer doing the diet.
You, for example, really like natural Testosterone boosters and were using Alpha Male. But since it contains Carbolin 19 and so does your fat burner, HOT-ROX Extreme, you subbed the Alpha Male for Tribex Gold. No problem. Most people do the diet successfully with no T-booster, but the extra edge can't hurt.
But those who exchange the Metabolic Drive for a sub-quality protein product inevitably fail the diet. The crap protein isn't supportive of the diet, it either contains no micellar casein or not enough, and it often tastes bad, which ruins compliance. Want to increase your chances of failing the diet? Use something besides Metabolic Drive. Do I sound like a shill? Tough titty. Use what works or don't use my diet.
Okay, rant over. What type of training did you do during this 28 day period, Dan?
Dan John: Well, at first I was just a sissy. I was afraid to do anything. Seriously, it was weird. I was going to do up to ten sets of three with the big stuff like deadlifts, squats, press, pull-ups, and the rest, and six to eight with the single joint moves. But, it was like I was waiting for a tsunami. When does "it" hit — the deadly "bonk" of no food and no carbs?
Never happened! About week two or so, I started really pushing it. I started doing Olympic lift complexes or kettlebell work to get going.
This kind of thing:
Power snatch x 5
Overhead squat x 5
Back squat x 5
Behind the neck press x 5
Good morning x 5
Row x 5
This is all done with one weight (light) and you go back to back to back through the lifts. Doing all of that is "one."
Shugart: Holy crap! Sounds tough!
Dan John: I tried to do up to six of these, but usually had the ability to talk myself into three to five of the clusters. I'm good at talking myself into something easier.
The other thing I discovered is that my squat wasn't too happy. So, I pulled out Dave Draper's TruSquat device and decided to use that with chains for reps of ten and just re-groove my bottom position. After two workouts, I asked myself, "If I thrive on sets of ten in the squat, why don't I do them?" If I had the brains to answer that, I'd be much better.
I did lots of one-arm presses and added military presses with chains (off a low box) and "invented" curls with chains, a great lift. There's no easy part with the chains. I did pull-ups every workout and the weight loss made them easier and easier. I also added back my sprints. I do up to eight sprints, bringing the speed/intensity up each rep. I'd consider this and the complexes to be a good addition for most folks trying the V-Diet, but only after the second week.
I also started taking farmer walks seriously again. My GPP went bye-bye this year and it cost me in competitions. So, we learn... again. I'm tired of relearning the same lessons.
So, yes, some structure, but I kept things a little random. I can't do a workout without at least one experiment.
Shugart: I'm the same way with sex. This year maybe I can try two new things. I'm going for a PR. Okay, next topic, you're an athlete and a coach — a performance guy — so how was that aspect during and after the diet?
Dan John: Well, with my Olympic lifting, I noticed that I'm "smoother" again. What does that mean? I don't know, but I know that I know it! Oh, and I broke the state record in the snatch at the Utah Recordmakers meet. So, yes, my strength is fine.
I'm also sprinting and walking and smiling and feeling good. I wasn't BS'ing with all that "I feel very good" stuff throughout those forum posts. Not only do I look better, my joints feel better. Now, I still have some injury issues; throwing big stuff all the time does lead to minor wear and tear, but overall, I feel great.
The one thing I like is that I'm much more athletic with the implements. I guess I knew that the extra weight was a burden, but I didn't realize how much. The biggest factor is that my right ankle doesn't hurt so much — the turning ankle in the discus. So, that's big. Bigger than one would think.
Shugart: Now, did you get any of those craving changes reported by most V-Dieters?
Dan John: Seriously, one night I was craving roasted chicken as I fell asleep, the same way a normal man thinks about womenkind.
Shugart: Hey, roasted chicken is better than burgers and fries! So, how did you get into the right mindset at the onset of the diet?
Dan John: I just took my brother Gary's advice and thought, "Tomorrow, I'll break the diet and quit. Just not tonight." I woke up, walked, did my shake, and I was fine.
That's a big one, Chris. You have to make deals with yourself all the time. But that's fine. Every athlete does this: just one more hill, one more day, one more whatever. I thrive on it, but for me it's "one more decade."
The no-booze thing was interesting, too. I thought it would be hard, but it was quite easy. I discovered something I needed to know: much of my alcohol consumption is simple thirst. I never realized how damn thirsty I get at night.
Now, all day, I coach and yell and teach, but I don't think I'm taking care of my water intake. At night, I can find myself pouring three different beverages in my mouth and think nothing of it: water, beer, and wine. Seriously. So, I dealt with the liquids issue and poof, much of the booze drinking issue cleared right up.
Funny. But, it could have ended up tragic without the 28 day "test run."
Shugart: Were there any other take-home lessons or things that you learned during the diet?
Dan John: Here's one: Quit BS'ing yourself about weight. I'm a 220 pound guy and unless my lifts and throws really take off with each additional pound, it ain't quality weight.
I also think that I didn't eat enough before the diet. Now, this is going to sound odd, but I noted that the steady stream of protein and fiber and whatever made me feel good. I had energy, my joints felt good, I thrived!
Shugart: I've had a lot of people tell me they've gained "strength" during the diet, which sounds impossible. But maybe, for the first time, they were getting enough protein to support their training while on this diet. Maybe they took that frequent meals thing seriously for the first time. Maybe they lost the chub and became more athletic and (dare I say it?) functional. You can certainly knock out more push-ups, pull-ups, chins, and dips when the excess fat is stripped off.
Okay, what was the worst part of the diet?
Dan John: Seriously, it was having women ask me about it. "Oh, Danny, what's this diet I heard you're doing?" Yeesh. "Oh, it sounds perfect for me! I have lots of self-discipline."
Right. You see, I don't. Really, I don't. What got me through the diet was a brilliant move on my part: I brought so many people into my story through T-Nation that to fail would be a huge failure... a lot of pain for me. Forever, people would question my will, my courage, my fill-in-the-blank. So, I put the price of failure very high!
Look at the thread counts. Look at all the emails I received, the discussions, the phone calls. I put the price of eating a cookie beyond the taste of any damned cookie ever made!
Shugart: That's a good tip. I think one of the best things a V-dieter can do is post a journal of sorts on an internet forum. Put yourself out there. Take before pictures and set a date for afters. It'll help you and it'll help others about to go through the same thing.
What other tips can you pass on to future Velocity dieters?
Dan John: Be proactive. Day minus one: organize all the baggies. Take every pill, every fiber cap, every whatever and put them into your "supps baggies." One grocery bag will hang in your bedroom for morning supps, one is divided into a work supps and a weekend supps, and a third is nighty-night supps. Don't think at all when you start the diet!
Dan the day before the diet: "baggie night."
Bring a blender and Metabolic Drive containers to work. Buy two things of milled flax seeds: one for home, one for work (or school or whatever). You're going to go through a jar of natural peanut butter this month, one spoonful at a time, so buy a good one.
Invest in some nice bottles of water, too. Tap water is fine, but at night a glass of water with some lime or mint will give you a moment of "formal" relaxation. I know it sounds goofy, but it'll make sense on day two.
Finally, continue to join your family for meals. Cook the damn meals! Yes, the world needs martyrs but not on this diet. Converse, enjoy, relax, entertain, and try to see the world through a new lens: you are going to be in charge of your eating.
Shugart: Good tips. Those cheap travel blenders at Wal-Mart are great.
How did you transition off the diet? Any tips for that stage?
Dan John: Here you go: shop wisely. I'm taking Cosgrove and Berardi's advice here, so I went shopping. Today, I brought to school:
A case of albacore tuna
3 pounds of spring salad mix
2 pounds of snap peas
3 pounds of broccoli
A container of hummus
A bunch of limes (for my water)
A case of diet iced tea
So, I can't make bad lunch or snack choices. I also start each day with two eggs and a can of green beans (a whopping 70 calories!) You were right, Chris, the diet prepares you for eating veggies.
Shugart: Shocking, but true! Thanks for your honesty through all this Dan. You're an inspiration, and I don't care how corny that sounds!
Notes and Updates on the Diet
For those not familiar with the original Velocity Diet articles (the experimental stages), you can find them here:
As mentioned, an updated and detailed Velocity Diet book is being written. But if you're interested in starting the diet right now, the articles linked above can guide you. Here are a few modifications to consider:
• Instead of Low-Carb Grow!, use Metabolic Drive. Basically, there was a name change, but there are also new flavors available, which really takes some of the monotony out of the plan.
• There's also a new flavor of Surge available, which is also less expensive per serving today than it was then.
• Flameout, the functional fatty acid supplement I now recommend, wasn't available during my initial experiments.
Instead I recommended taking large amounts of plain fish oil capsules. That's still a good method, but since Flameout is so potent, you can replace all those fish capsules with only four Flameout capsules per day.
To add in some missing calories and balance out the fats, one serving of natural peanut butter can be added to your nighttime shake. This is what Dan did, and it seemed to work great (tasty too when added to chocolate Metabolic Drive.)
• I used Maximum Strength HOT-ROX during the creation of the V-Diet and many people have had success with it. Dan used HOT-ROX Extreme. Either will give you a heck of an edge on this or any other fat loss diet.
• Milled flax seeds were originally recommended for their healthy fat and fiber content. This is still a good choice, but many people prefer flax seed meal, which is more finely ground and more palatable. Either is fine though.
Questions? Just reply to this article and we'll be glad to help you out!
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