How a Macro-Based Diet Helped Me Fight ‘Dad Bod’

Hey everyone, Ben here from the FlapJacked marketing team. Some of you might remember a social media giveaway we did a few months ago with a training and nutrition company called RP Strength.

As we worked together, I quickly discovered that they are some of the smartest people I've ever encountered on nutrition and weight management. How smart? They have 15 PhDs and about a half-dozen Registered Dietitians on staff at RP. And their results don’t lie. Across the web and social media, you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of “RP Transformation” stories featuring some eye-popping before and after photos.

RP Strength Transformations
Photos: RP Transformations Instagram page

Which got me thinking…maybe I should try the program myself for a few weeks. As a 41 year old father of 4, it’d be great to shave a few pounds off my emerging “dad bod” over the summer :)

So, after a few emails with their CEO Nick Shaw, I was off and running with RP Strength.

Getting Started With RP Strength

The setup process for getting a customized RP Strength Diet plan is pretty easy. You just need to enter your gender, current weight and whether your main goal is to lose weight (cutting) or gain muscle (bulking). A quick PayPal transaction later, you’re getting all the information you need delivered to your email inbox, including the RP Diet Auto Template, a customized Excel spreadsheet that lays out your specific diet.

The diet shows all the meals you need to eat in a given day, along with the target macronutrient amounts for each meal (e.g. 30g protein, 35g carbs, 15g fat) and the approximate timing of those meals based on when you wake up and when you exercise (training days) or don’t exercise (non-training days). 

They also provide a list of approved foods for each category:

  • Lean proteins: chicken breast, egg whites, any fish, etc.
  • Veggies: spinach, cucumbers, green beans, etc.
  • Healthy fats: avocado, olive oil, nut butter, etc.
  • Healthy carbs: whole grain bread, oatmeal, rice, etc.

The good news is that the list of approved foods is long, especially the approved veggies list. So there are plenty of opportunities to make meals that you actually like eating. Which is nice. It’s just sticking to the quantities they lay out. Which is harder!

The team at RP Strength also give you a ton of additional resources to set you up for success, including a very thorough FAQ document and access to their private Facebook group where members are able to ask and answer RP diet-related questions.

After a weekend trip to Costco and the grocery store to load up on approved foods, I was all set to go.

What I Learned About Dieting Through RP Strength

Spoiler alert! The RP program worked well for me and I’ve shared my own humble 6-week before and after photos at the end of this post.

But more importantly, along the way, I learned a TON of new things about dieting and food and building habits that are going to stick with me for years to come. As I went through the diet, I jotted down some helpful tips for any of you who are considering a macro-based dieting program like RP Strength. Here they are in no particular order: 

1. The first week is absolutely critical; pick a really “boring” week to start.

Anytime you’re starting a diet where you need to count macros and eat high-quality food, it’s best to do it on a week when you have plenty of time to plan and eat structured meals.

Why? To lock in a habit, it’s best to get a bunch of “small wins”. Each day you successfully meet your macronutrient goals, consider it a win. And starting out, you want to string together as many of these wins as possible to give you the confidence that you can stick to this diet over the long-haul to meet your weight goal.

So, set yourself up for success and pick a week where there are no business trips, happy hours, birthday parties or any other outings where they serve alcohol, pizza or funnel cake :)

2. Spend the first few days really understanding portions.

This is where most people (including me) get tripped up on diets. You eyeball things like olive oil when cooking or don’t think about the amount of rice you’re eating with dinner or grab a big handful of nuts or grapes for a snack. And these small errors add up, often making or breaking your daily caloric needs. It’s especially crucial when eating out at restaurants, where serving sizes are ginormous and you have to figure out just how much of that plate you should eat.

Luckily, RP Strength has some super handy charts for understanding serving sizes and they quickly become your best friend when planning out your meals based on your customized diet.

RP Strength Carb Guide
RP Strength's Quick Guide to Healthy Carbs

3. The meal prep struggle is real. Have some easy “grab and go” options for each macro.

A key tenet of the RP Diet is to eat 5 smaller meals frequently throughout the day (every 2-4 hours) as opposed to the bigger, more traditional 3 meals a day.

There’s a lot of good that comes with this: the small meals don’t leave you feeling stuffed and the short windows help you from getting too hungry.

But the downside is the pressure to plan and prepare the meals in advance, so you’re not left scrambling mid-day for healthy eating options. And while Sundays are typically the “National Meal Prep Day” for the week ahead, the reality is you’ll likely find yourself mini-prepping each night for the day ahead – cutting veggies, washing Tupperware and packing lunch boxes.

My advice for saving time on this diet is to find some easy “grab and go” options to turn to throughout the week. For me this included:

  • Healthy fats: Justin’s Maple Almond Butter jar/packets
  • Healthy carbs: Dave’s Killer Bread & Bagels, any piece of portable fruit like apples and bananas
  • Lean protein: Safe Catch Tuna pouches/cans, Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein Powder, Columbus deli meat from Costco, Fage Total Greek Yogurt 0%
  • Veggies: Cucumbers (I’d just bring a whole one to work and cut it up and eat it throughout the day)

Yes, I sometimes did the whole “mega grill-out” on Sunday afternoons with organic chicken and grass-fed beef and marinated veggies, but honestly the items listed above work just as good too and at a lower cost sometimes.

Dave's Killer Bread and Bagels
Shout out to Dave's Killer Bread for making THE best bread and bagels.

4. You can indulge your cravings every day…the right way.

While the RP Strength diet focuses on the traditional healthy foods, it also embraces somewhat of a “flexible dieting” approach, meaning you can also indulge in decadent things like ice cream and baked treats, provided they hit certain nutritional criteria – mostly, their carbs-to-protein ratio needs to be balanced.

Under this ingenious system, a pint of high-protein ice cream like Enlightened or Halo Top or FlapJacked’s high-protein Mighty Muffins and Pancakes …all count as “healthy carbs” for your diet!! 

via GIPHY

Did I eat these things every day? YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT I DID!!! And sometimes in the morning after a 5am workout. I have a pretty big sweet tooth so this loophole helped me quite a bit. Plus, I thought it’d be funny to say that I got shredded eating ice cream, pancakes and muffins every day. And it’s technically true!

FlapJacked Mighty Muffin and Halo Top Ice Cream
Muffins and ice cream at 6:37am. Not a bad diet.

5. Get your spouse onboard…especially if they do the cooking.

For me, the hardest part of this diet wasn’t fending off the late-night sweet cravings or prepping meals or counting up the macros. It was actually my wife!

It’s not that she cooks unhealthy dinners, but the first few weeks she wasn’t totally clued into what I needed to do on the RP diet, which left her confused and offended when I’d do things like:

  • Ask for tortillas or buns on the side 
  • Eat a really small portion of her sweet potatoes or brown rice
  • Pretend I wasn’t hungry when she ordered pizza (and then later she’d see me eat half a pound of deli meat)

And one night, in what almost ruined our marriage, I politely asked if she could use a little less olive oil when cooking dinner going forward. For which she almost stabbed me with a paring knife :)

I asked Nick about this and he wasn’t surprised. He said they see much greater success rates at RP when couples diet together.

So the lesson here is that if you’re going to make a significant change to your diet, make sure your spouse knows what’s up and is on board with helping you succeed. Or, better yet, they’re on a similar diet too.

6. If you’re traveling for work or vacation, try switching to an “Intermittent Fasting”/”IIFYM” approach. 

It's no secret that traveling on a diet is tough. Especially on a diet like RP where you have to eat high-quality macros in very specific timeframes (e.g. every 2-4 hours).

If you’re traveling for work, you’re typically moving from meeting to meeting with limited access to healthy eating options. Vacations are even harder, especially if you’re traveling with others who want to live it up a bit (as you should on vacation)!

During my 6 week diet, I had two work trips and a vacation getaway to NYC. My hack for all this?

First, I skipped breakfast and wouldn’t eat until lunchtime each day, usually noon or 1pm (also known as “Intermittent Fasting”). What this did was give me “extra carbs and calories” to enjoy during the time I did eat, between 12pm and 8/9pm.

Then, I’d forget the food quality aspect and just eat based off a “IIFYM” or “if it fits your macros” approach. This let me enjoy burgers, pizza, drinks, etc. without fretting over the fact that they weren’t necessarily on the RP approved food list. And I’d keep a running tally in my head of what macros I was compiling over the day and aim to get close to what my RP diet called for.

So, my tip for traveling? Skip a meal (breakfast is the easiest IMO), eat what you what the rest of the day, and loosely count their macros in the back of your head. And don’t sweat it if you miss by too much.

Lou Malnati's Deep Dish Pizza
Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza in Chicago, IL. Totally worth skimping carbs all day to chow down on a few slices one night.

7. Drinking less alcohol will trigger a “gainz-reaction”.

When I signed up for RP and started to read though their support materials, I immediately looked for the answer to the most important question I had:

How much alcohol can I drink on this diet???!

Their answer? To try and keep it to “1 or 2 drinks per week”.

As someone who has 1-2 drinks per night many nights each week, this seemed hard. Factor in the summertime where there are BBQs, pool parties and all other sorts of reasons to drink, it seemed harder.

But I did it! My strategy here was to completely eliminate alcohol during the week and then drink a few on the weekends depending on what social outings we had. As with any new healthy habit, the first week was hard, the second week less hard, and then I felt pretty awesome after that.

What I realized was by drastically cutting alcohol, all these other benefits started to line themselves up for me.

- Drinking less alcohol helped me sleep better.

- Which helped me perform better when I hit the gym or CrossFit the next morning at 5am.

- Which made me want to eat better coming out of those workouts.

- Which made me sleep better the next night. And so on and so on...

And while I was shedding weight on the program, my weightlifting numbers were holding strong and even going up in some instances. And bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, muscle-ups and rope climbs got wayyyyyy easier.

Cutting back on the alcohol basically triggered a “gainz-reaction” :)

8. Facebook groups can help you stay motivated and stick to the diet.

A lot of online nutrition programs offer a Facebook group for members and RP Strength is no different. When you join, you’re able to access their private group “RP Clients” and ask any question you have regarding the diet and get super-fast responses from other community members (or the RP staff directly).

The RP Facebook group is both large (50,000+ members strong) and active and it’s also a gold mine for diet hacks, macro-friendly recipes and daily motivation to keep going. Some of the posts you'll see on an average day include:

- Do-it-yourself recipes for things like "casein protein candy bars"

protein cand bars

- Meal prep and time-saving tips like how to organize your fridge (which is genius by the way!)

 

- And of course, the occasional meme :)

9. Spending some money for a customized diet template increases your chances of actually using it.

There is no shortage of free diet advice, templates and programs on the Internet. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably given your email address for a few of them only to open them up, follow it for a few days and then bag it once it got hard or inconvenient.

It’s because you’re not invested in it.

By spending a small amount into a customized nutrition program like RP Strength, or better yet a 1-1 nutrition coach, your chances of success will actually be greater. You won’t want to see that money go to waste. And neither will your spouse :)

Side note: This is also why people that spend $150-$200 on a monthly CrossFit or Pure Barre membership actually go way more than people who spend $9/month on a regular gym membership.

10. The best diet is the one that helps you perform better, not look better.

So…the moment of truth. Did the RP diet help me fight “dad bod” this summer? For sure. Check out the before and after photos exactly 6 weeks apart. I dropped about 10 lbs.


One other thing I learned: taking bathroom selfies is super awkward!

But now that I’ve gone through all this, I’ve realized that dieting is not really about the aesthetics. The real benefit from all this was how incredibly good I felt.

Whether it was at the gym, at work, on vacation, or just carrying my kids around the house, my body simply performed better on this diet, which is WAY more impressive (and important) to me as I’ve entered into my 40s.

And as I’ve spent time in the RP Facebook community, this seems to be a dominant theme among others on the diet. People are more fueled and inspired by what their bodies can do than how they look. Case in point...

Try It Out For Yourself!

If you’re thinking of starting a weight loss program or you’d just like some resources on how to eat healthier, definitely give the team at RP Strength a look, including their:

Healthy Diet Templates: for those just starting out on their health/weight management journeys and are new to tracking their food intake.

Renaissance Diet Auto Templates: for those who are a bit more experienced in tracking their food and want to improve their physical performance.

RP Strength has also been gracious enough to give our readers a 10% discount to all their templates with the discount code “flapjacked10”.

Best of luck!



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