Renaissance Periodization Blog

Dieting Tips

Cutting is not a lifestyle

Most people understand the necessity of sacrifice for gain in other arenas of life. We know we will have to pay in money and hard work to go to college and earn a degree. We know that if we want to be able play the piano there will be hours of boring practice and invested time.

For some reason, however, whether it be a culture of instant gratification or the power of an innate sensation like hunger, many people fail to apply the same logic to dieting.  There tends to be an attitude that cutting weight should not be uncomfortable and that the way you eat when dieting should be sustainable. Neither of these is realistically the case.

Something that is critical to keep in mind when cutting is that this state of dieting is temporary.   Dieting to lose weight is not sustainable and it is not supposed to be. It is a state of deprivation. Expect it to be uncomfortable. Expect it to be hard work that must be done in order to achieve a goal. Once your weight loss has been achieved, your next goal will to be to maintain your new body weight. This maintenance state can be a lifestyle and it should be sustainable and comfortable.

For example, maybe you love: having a few drinks on the weekend with friends, popcorn and butter at the movies, having date night with your significant other and ordering wine and dessert with your meal. These things can and should be a part of your lifestyle during periods when you are not trying to lose weight. These can fit into an otherwise healthy consistent maintenance diet (or maybe in a mass phase).

The more you try to fit this kind of normal lifestyle into a cut, however, the less successful you will be.

The people who are most successful at losing weight and sustaining losses are those that go all out during a three-month diet. They stick to the plan strictly, lose the intended weight and begin maintenance at which point they develop a healthy lifestyle and can relax.

Those that try to include little cheats here and there throughout the diet tend to lose much less, obviously, but on top of this they prolong the cutting process substantially, endure much more stress, and take longer to achieve their overall goals.


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Be sure to check out “Renaissance Woman”, a female dieting ebook written by 3 PhDs. Get your copy here!

It’s ok to feel hungry

Your body is evolutionarily designed to store fat and hold onto it for dear life -literally. When sustenance was less readily available, having fat stores was extremely beneficial, like you-don’t-die-of-starvation-beneficial.

Luckily we live in the 21st century and unlike our ancestors we get to eat food, every day. (Hopefully five to six times a day if you are following RP). Our risk of starvation is non-existent and so excessive fat storage is pretty biologically useless for the modern person.

Here’s the thing though, since the days of hunting and gathering, dying young and being constantly hungry, there has been no evolutionary pressure to evolve into fitness models.  Getting there or to some level of leanness means fighting your body to remove its fat.

When you start cutting weight, your body’s response is “oh @#*!, we’re dying”.

You are not by any means dying, but if you continued to diet indefinitely eventually you would. The problem is your body doesn’t really know the difference between a temporary cut to remove excess fat and eternal starvation – it doesn’t know the cut will be over in three months so it sounds the alarm: hunger.

What is dying is your fat – you are losing tissue that you consciously do not want, but that your body is evolutionarily programmed to hold onto.   So if you want that fat to go, you must feel hunger.

For many of us who have given blood (dead lift scrapes), sweat (obvs), and tears (you know we’ve all done it once) to gain some muscle, feeling hungry might also initiate anxiousness about muscle loss. The good news about that is two fold:

1) If you are following an RP style diet, you have chosen a scientifically based nutrition structure that will allow you to optimally maintain muscle and strength while losing fat.

2) You can test for muscle loss easily yourself. Is your strength being maintained or increasing? (If you are on RP I’m guessing the former at very least and probably the latter). Yes? Great. Hunger in this case means you are losing fat and keeping muscle. Ultimate goal:  achieved.

So savor that feeling of wanting to jump eight year olds for their snickers bars / steal your child’s goldfish crackers / sit on the floor of the bakery isle eating entire cinnamon roll platters with your hands. You are on your way to being lean.

That all being said, sometimes hunger gets a bit out of hand and you have some desperate moments. Tips to combat hunger without ruining everything:

Caffeinated beverages: Have volume and therefore take up space in your empty, angry tummy. As a bonus they also suppress appetite and help you get through tough workouts.

Sugar free jello: Barely any calories and takes up empty belly space. Also almost tastes like real dessert. (At the end of a three-month cut it sometimes tastes like all you ever wanted in life).

Sugar free gum: Occupies your mouth and allows you to taste sugary tastes without adding calories. Cinnamon roll flavored sugar free gum once saved my life (not really but it helped me get through a super rough cut).

Dill pickles: Don’t lose it and eat the whole jar, but a couple will help with cravings and they are a savory option in a sea of sucralose based low calorie treats.

Flavored water: Drinking plenty keeps you belly full, gives you the feeling that you are getting a treat, and fends off constipation.

Waldemans items: Never taste these when not on a diet, but if you have been cutting for a long time, the calorie free caramel can really liven up your casein pudding at night.


Do not let your emotions ride the weigh-in roller coaster:

Your weight will go up and down. As much as you try to be a robot, biology is not down with that kind of accuracy and fluid changes will absolutely make your weight variable from weigh in to weigh in.  As women we can expect this ride to be even more exciting thanks to monthly hormone fluctuations (weeeee!).

When you are goal oriented and working hard it is difficult not to obsess over things like variability, but here are some rules to live by that will help keep you sane and things in perspective.


-Freak out if you have been dieting less than 3 weeks

-Freak out if one weigh in is a bit higher than the last

-Freak out if your weight shoots up before or during your period

-Weigh yourself every day

-Weigh yourself at different times wearing different amounts of clothing or on different scales and try to obsessively estimate weight


-Keep your own graph in excel of your biweekly weigh ins. Calculate your average losses per week after a few weeks of dieting and shoot to be losing around 0.5% – 1% body weight per week (in most cases this is a good rule for pacing)

-Take pictures every few weeks and compare to before pictures in the same poses, same clothes, same light

-Take note of changes in how clothes fit, compliments from friends, new definition to muscles – irrespective of whether the scale is changing as fast as you think it should

-Keep track of your period and weight changes surrounding it so you know what to expect that time of the month.

DO (for athletes with weight class goals for competing):

Prepare to cut to a little below the desired weight a few weeks to months before your competition to avoid stress and give you room to eat to perform the day before and day of your competition. This will also give you some time to maintain and get comfortable in your new body size before competing.

Managing Expectations for female athletes: On average, females tend to be lighter than males but tend to have similar expectations for overall weight loss in say a 3 month diet time frame. A 200 lb male might be able to drop 15-20 lbs relatively easy in a 3 month diet and that gets up to about 7-10% of his bodyweight. A 140 lb female expecting to drop 15-20 lbs might be in for a shock at how hard that can be for a 3 month time frame. That’s well over 10% and gets up closer to about 15% of their total bodyweight. That will likely require some SERIOUS aggressiveness (and a decrease in quality of life via caloric restrictions) in order to get that done in 3 months. A 10% drop in bodyweight over 3 months when dieting is a BIG deal, so keep that in mind.

Even if you weigh yourself a couple times each week, it WILL go up and down. This is why it’s important to focus on the weekly trends and to keep in mind why the weight is going up. Here is a list of reasons your weight might be up:

-Intramuscular water retention (after a hard day of training, your weight might  be up or stable as the previous day).

-Bloating (from salt intake, carb intake, etc.)

-Cheat meal (pro tip – NEVER weigh yourself the morning after having a cheat/free  meal)


-Lack of sleep

-Hormonal cycle

-Possible muscle gain (more likely if you’re brand new to diet/training)

Remember not to panic if your weight jumps, stay the course and if you are not adding in calories to your diet or deviating from the plan, it is HIGHLY unlikely that you are gaining tissue if your weight is up from a few days or even a week before. Tracking data is probably the best thing you can do as it will help you be able to predict and manage your expectations if the scale isn’t where you want it to be.


Want to simplify the dieting process? Check out the RP Auto Diet Templates that are designed with simplicity in mind so you don’t have to worry about what to eat, when to eat it, or how much to eat. It’s all laid out for you by the professionals at RP! Check out the link below for more information:


Article was written by RP Female Health Consultant, Dr. Melissa Davis (PhD in Neuroscience, world class grappler, & competitive bikini athlete) along with RP CEO/Founder Nick Shaw. Between the two of them they have worked with thousands of clients over the last several years.

49 thoughts on “Dieting Tips”

  1. jessica says:

    Great article. Perfect tips and advice. Thanks!

    1. Melissa Davis says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed!

  2. Halie says:

    Thanks for the article! I just had my body fat tested today and it was 12%. I am a female who currently weights 123lbs after using the cutting templates for a few weeks. I previously was 133lbs. I am nervous the body fat % is too low. Should I switch to maintaining weight or massing? I want my strength to go up but still look leaner. Not sure what to do!

    1. Nick Shaw says:

      You likely want to gain weight. You also have to realize that with gaining a substantial amount of weight means you won’t be at your all-time leanest.

  3. Leslie beach says:

    So why should people with hypothyroid disease not do this diet?

    1. Nick Shaw says:

      You can, just need to work under the supervision of a Registered Dietician (we have two on staff). Our diets aren’t designed for special medical conditions.

      1. Megan says:

        Would you only be able to work with an RD if you purchased one-on-one packages? I have a hypothyroid condition, but would like to give the templates a try.

        1. Nick Shaw says:

          As stated on our website, you cannot use the templates with medical conditions. That requires special care/attention that only a RD can provide via 1:1 services.

          1. Amy Dahl says:

            Hi Nick, I’ve been eyeing RP for years and have seen great success among friends who have used your templates. This article is great! My husband bought me Renaissance Woman and templates for Xmas. I’m preparing to start this week and just came across this Hypothyroidism comment. I have hypothyroidism and am well managed by an endocrinologist. I’m also a nurse practitioner and understand the dynamic impacts of hypothyroidism. What added benefit does a discussion with an RD provide? I understand that my results may vary and I also understand and appreciate the importance of your disclaimer about medical conditions. I do not have 1:1 at this time. Thanks! Excited to get rolling with your program!!

          2. admin says:

            The templates are not in any way shape or form intended to treat or cure any types of medical conditions, nor are they set up with those special requirements in mind. For those reasons, as stated on the website the templates are not for those with any type of special medical conditions. 1:1 coaching that has the expertise of working with those conditions is your best recommendation. Thanks!

  4. maggie says:

    I purchased and read your book recently and really enjoyed it. I did have a questions as it does not talk in depth about base has or maintenance. If I am understanding correctly after you calculate carbs and protein the remainder of your calories come from fats. In my case that would put me at around 90g of fat. I know you can’t tell me exactly but does this sound accurate as my LBP is around 150.

    1. Nick Shaw says:

      sounds totally reasonable.

    2. Melissa Davis says:

      Agreed – sounds about right.

  5. Kelly says:

    Thank you for this article!!!! Definitely needed this today! Great read.

  6. Danni says:

    Would you periodization plan work for endurance athletes? I mostly swim, bike, run… Would I be able to lose fat as well?

    1. Nick Shaw says:

      Yep, the template how to guide goes over how to classify endurance workouts.

    2. Melissa Davis says:

      All of those sports would benefit from some additional strength training, which would also prevent muscle loss when cutting fat. That being said, this is probably the best diet available for preserving muscle during fat loss, so if you are opposed to adding strength training this would still be your best bet.

  7. Marissa says:

    Great article! I’m excited to start seeing results!

  8. natalie says:

    great article! needed this!

  9. Mags says:

    I am having a hard time picking a plan I was wonderingg if there was any recommendations due to me knowing I want to cut for a show but still build my lean muscle mass. I can’t seem to drop weight.

    1. Nick Shaw says:

      Check this video out:

      You’re trying to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time….that’s not super realistic. Pick fat loss to lose weight, or muscle gain to gain weight. That’s a more efficient way of going about it.

  10. Madeline says:

    For about an entire week out of every month, my appetite really slows down. It gets to the point where I am happy with about half the calories per day than I usually eat (following the RP diet). I am a competitive powerlifter, and it worries me that if I’m not getting all my macros but still working out with the same intensity, then maybe I’m losing muscle mass during that week. Should I try harder to get all those macros, or is it okay to just listen to my body when it’s telling me it can’t handle all those post-workout carbs?

    Thank you so much for all the knowledge you impart!

    1. Nick Shaw says:

      Sounds like 1/4 weeks would mean you’re not getting the best of results 25% of the time.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    I just purchased the templates with the intention of losing weight but the base starts out with 75g of fat and 200g of carbs? Isn’t that too high?

    1. Nick Shaw says:

      Please read the “how to” directions and if you rate workouts accordingly based on the “how to” guide it’s VERY hard to overeat. Thanks!

      You should also join the RP Clients group on FB to ask individual questions on the templates.

  12. Toni says:

    I have a hard time determining which plan (moderate or hard) each day…I lift almost daily (5-6 days) – I follow programs that usually have – snatches, some kind of pull, Front or back squats, and C&J in them with reps around 2-5 and sets around 2-5. They can take me up to an hour and sometimes I try and fit a quick metcon in afterwards…depending on the timing. I feel like I’m between the moderate and hard. I also don’t have much, if any weight to lose, but wanted to follow the cut first. Would it be best to stay on the base or stay at the cut 1 for a while? Sorry I don’t and have never had Facebook , so I don’t have that option. 🙁 I find it way easier to follow the two a day if I do my lifts first thing in the mornings and then after work I do a Metcon but when I do it all at once or just lift I’m stuck on which way to go – moderate or hard.

    1. Toni says:

      I’m also hoping to purchase the womens template for training, so I can combine the cut templates and training.

    2. Nick Shaw says:

      Please join the RP Clients group on Facebook and there’s a handy guide in there (in files section) on how to classify workouts. Thanks!

      1. Toni says:

        I don’t have facebook, there are no other options?

  13. Toni says:

    Question – I have purchased the book, the diet templates plus the 2x a day and recently purchased the female training template. What is your recommendation for someone who gets up first thing in the morning and does all their lifts, so they are basing their eating on the light day first thing in the morning workout…what if after work (this happens often) I decide to do a metcon – anywhere from a 10-30 min workout…do I just add in some extra carbs after training. I don’t want to assume I’m going to do the 2x a day training and then not be able to fit that extra metcon in after work…mother of 2, things happen. 🙂 Sorry, I don’t have FB and really just need some direction on this one thing. I plan on purchasing the strength training after I’m done with this cycle of training. LOVE your program, but just need a tad bit of help in that dept. Thanks!!!!

    1. Nick Shaw says:

      Sounds like you’re just fine if you add in a bit of extra carbs after the 2nd mini-workout/WOD of the day.

  14. Jennifer says:

    Great article, thank you! It is a good reminder to be realistic with goals, even if you happen to be a 200+ lb female, I will still lose slower than a 200lb male. I am hoping for a 10% loss on this cut, but will be happy with even a 5%, i lose very slowly. Heading into week 2, didn’t lose anything week 1 on base (which I know can happen, but it is still annoying:)

    1. Nick Shaw says:

      Base diet isn’t meant to lose much weight at all.

  15. Deb says:

    Will you be putting templates on sale again?

    1. Nick Shaw says:

      Templates go on sale about 2x/year. Nothing is currently planned.

  16. Gina says:

    Does RP diet work for someone who doesn’t workout?

    1. Nick Shaw says:

      You would lose muscle if you don’t train with weights and you diet to lose weight. Lifting weights on a regular basis is highly recommended.

      1. Sandrine says:

        Great read. Thank you

  17. Mel says:

    What if you’re vegan/vegetarian? Does the plan go into alternatives to meat?

  18. rita schott says:

    hello- I follow a keto diet for a cancer diagnosis- is RP compatible? I am looking into targeted keto- supplying enough carbs for a WOD or lifting session- so that makes me think I diet has become pretty strict- no tomatoes, vinegar, salt, microwave, suger, etc.

    1. admin says:

      I would not recommend RP in your case. We would recommend a local RD that you can work with in person.

      1. rita schott says:

        many thanks

  19. Cindy Davis says:

    I am 59. I CF 5 days a week and run 4 days a week about 20 miles a week. My diet consistes mostly of; meet, veggies, healthy fats and a piece of fruit daily. I am peri menopausal and have found since adding all those carbs I have been having some hot flash sinsautions going by on. Do you have any recommendations or modifications or do I just stay the course course? Thank you.

    1. admin says:

      Unfortunately don’t have many suggestions other than to ask your Doctor for their thoughts on why that might be occurring.

  20. elle says:

    I’ve been on the “base” for about 5 days now and weighed myself. I started at 126 and now weigh 128. I’m wondering if I’m doing something wrong? Should I just start the cut or continue on the base for the remainder of the week? Thanks!

    1. admin says:

      Check out the how-to guide, water weight can impact things and that’s why we say give it 2 weeks. Also, please read this:

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