Overcoming Age-Induced Metabolic Slowdown With A Protein-Shake Diet

By Rob Shaul

I’m 55 years old, and two things have occurred as I’ve aged:

(1) Joint Pain – low back, knees, shoulders, ankles … nothing unusual for someone my age who’s been as active as I have over the years. Injury-wise, I’ve been lucky – I’ve never broken a bone, but I have had two major overuse-induced surgeries: a Sub-Talar foot fusion at 50 and total left hip replacement at 52. Both joints are doing well today. 

(2) Significant metabolism slowing. I can’t eat as much food as I did in my 30s and 40s. My metabolism has slowed to the point where no matter how clean my diet, I’d get fat if I ate as much food as I did a decade ago. 

I’m a natural “muscle hampster” – short and stocky, and that extra muscle has consistently pushed my bodyweight to “settle” right around 160 pounds. This is heavy for my height based on MTI’s own Ideal Bodyweight standards. 

I don’t have the need or want to lift heavy anymore, and this extra muscle isn’t helping my joints. As well, recreationally, the outdoor sports I enjoy – backcountry hunting and downwind foiling – will benefit from me being lighter and leaner.

Just 5 years ago, eating really “clean” as per the MTI nutritional guidelines would have cut any excess fat and brought my weight down to under 155. But my metabolism has slowed to the point where even this doesn’t work anymore, and I’ve had to tighten it up even further. 

A Blast from the Past: The Velocity Diet

Years ago, an assistant coach and I did four weeks on the t-nation.com “velocity diet.” Years ago, an assistant coach and I embarked on a four-week journey known as the “Velocity Diet” found on t-nation.com. For the first three weeks of this diet, our daily sustenance consisted solely of four protein shakes, along with one tablespoon of peanut butter at night. By week four, the menu expanded to include a protein shake for breakfast, lunch, and snacks, followed by a regular balanced whole food meal for dinner.

The first week of this diet was admittedly brutal. I relied on coffee and water to ward off hunger pangs, and our protein farts became quite extreme (much to the dismay of our athletes!). One significant mistake I made was ordering only chocolate-flavored protein, and after a week, I was yearning for some variety. However, my assistant coach wouldn’t trade his vanilla, so I had to endure chocolate for all four weeks.

While the first three weeks of the Velocity Diet weren’t sustainable, we both managed to shed about 10 pounds. More importantly, this diet transformed my relationship with food. Instead of viewing food as a “reward,” it became “fuel.” I was pleasantly surprised that when I returned to whole food dinners in week 4, I didn’t crave bad carbs, but rather whole vegetables.

Protein Calories Don’t Make You Fat

One of the things I learned when I read Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It is that not all calories are the same. Calories from “bad carbs” – sugar – make their way directly to fat cells. This is one of the reasons protein-first diets rarely include caloric restrictions. You can eat a lot of protein calories and not get fat. 

My Recent Weight Loss Journey

Fast forward to the late summer when I set a goal to shed weight, both fat and muscle, and return to my college freshman weight of 145 pounds. I scaled back my weightlifting, ramped up my aerobic base training, and adhered strictly to a clean diet. However, regardless of how strictly I ate or how little I lifted, my body weight stubbornly hovered around 160 pounds.

Then, I recalled my experience with the Velocity Diet, particularly the fourth week when we reintroduced one whole food meal per day while still consuming protein shakes for breakfast, lunch, and snacks. Inspired by this memory, I decided to give it another shot.

Over the past month, I’ve followed this menu, and I’ve successfully shed about 7 pounds.

Not All Protein Mixes Are Equal

It’s important to note that not all whey protein mixes are the same. Some are designed to increase “mass” and include a significant amount of carbs. Therefore, it’s crucial to be discerning when purchasing a whey protein mix and find one that is approximately 120-140 calories, provides 25 grams of protein, and contains fewer than 6 grams of carbs per serving.

My current protein mix is called “Ascent 100% Whey,” which I purchased at Costco. Each serving contains 120 calories, 25 grams of protein, and just 4 grams of carbs. This brand stands out because it lacks artificial sweeteners, making it less sweet compared to other brands I’ve tried. I highly recommend it.

My Current Diet and Progress

My daily menu now consists of a whey protein shake for breakfast, lunch, and any snacks, followed by a regular whole food meal for dinner. My wife thinks I’m friggin’ crazy and won’t let me prepare a separate dinner, so I eat what the family is having, with an effort to avoid “bad carbs” like bread, pasta, rice, and potatoes. Desserts are off the menu, and if I have a post-dinner sweet craving, I opt for another protein shake or a handful of berries.

During the day, if I get hungry between scheduled protein shakes, I simply mix another one. I don’t place restrictions on the number of shakes I consume daily. I’ve learned the hard way that any diet that leaves you hungry is unsustainable.

Finally, schedule and family permitting, I try to eat dinner around 4 pm. This seems to help break up the shakes, and I’ve found I sleep better if I eat dinner earlier.

As for my body weight, I’ve managed to drop down to 153 pounds after a month. While reaching my target of 145 pounds might entail some significant upper body muscle loss, I’m committed to sticking with this diet until I reach a plateau and/or just get sick of protein shakes.

Sustainability and Benefits

This diet has proven to be sustainable, particularly for older athletes like me. I’m not plagued by constant hunger, my energy levels remain stable, and I appreciate the extra time I gain from not having to prepare or eat breakfast and lunch. Occasionally, I’ll complement the protein shakes with a handful of almonds, and this addition hasn’t had any adverse effects.

Overall, this diet could serve as a solution for older athletes aiming to shed a little weight while maintaining leanness. For younger athletes, it might be a temporary strategy to quickly drop 5 or 10 pounds of fat.

Questions or Feedback?
Email rob@mtntactical.com

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