Fat Loss Nutrition

Did Ryan Survive the 1000 Calorie Challenge?

Written by Ryan Murdock

It’s 4 weeks in, and I’m still going strong on our friends Joel and Arnel’s 1000 Calorie Challenge diet.

Yeah, believe me, Adam’s as surprised as you are… No one expected me to put up with restriction for that long. Myself least of all! Even Dashiell — my staunchest supporter —looked down her nose with that skeptical housecat stare.

So how is it halfway through?

Well, I’m pleased to report that it worked — in spades!

I really didn’t have much fat to loose. Just a little roll I wanted to melt away. I was more interested in the theory behind the program, and I wanted to experience the waving caloric intake paired with very intense exercise. I got the best of both worlds.

cocktailI found the first week tough, but I think it was mostly psychological. I HATE being told what to do, and the Murd in me rebelled at all the rules and regulations. To make matters worse, I was reading a book about classic cocktails by the novelist Kingsley Amis. I tell ya, it took every jigger of willpower I possessed to resist shaking up a few of these new recipes… But the first week’s cheat day was enough to set me straight. I blew off some steam, I reassessed my energy levels, and I took a fresh look at the road ahead.

By week two I had gone beyond being pissed off, and I actually started to enjoy the light feeling these meal plans were giving me. I also liked waking up with a hearty appetite and devouring my breakfast like a grizzly fresh outta winter hibernation. Something about that seems to start the day right. Even for those of us who prefer to sleep in…

Now I’ve finally made it to the really intense exercise sessions: the monster calorie burners that separate the champs from the chumps. I honestly wasn’t sure if I could get through them on those hard dieting 1000 calorie days. But Arnel knows his stuff! And the best part is, the afterburn effect — that 36 to 48 hour period of accelerated post-exercise fat burn — only increases as the workouts get tougher. By the end of the day I feel like that guy in the Stephen King story who was slowly digesting himself. Who wouldn’t be happy about that?

Okay, so what am I taking from this program? What new tools have I added to my toolbox?

First and foremost, if you’re already pretty athletic like me, this is a great diet plan to help you get shredded. I’ll use the 1000 Calorie approach to prepare for photo or video shoots, to gear up for my next beach holiday (well… if i ever get a vacation…), and as a rapid method of getting back on track after the liver-pounding craziness of travel writing assignments. It won’t even be necessary to follow the entire program again — a few weeks would be enough. And it’s easy to combine the diet plan with our own BodyweightCoach workouts if I’m focused on other training goals. That’s going in my toolbox for sure.

But what of general nutrition? The 1000 Calorie Challenge is a great approach if you have a lot of weight to lose, or if you have to get shredded in a hurry. But what about the rest of the time?

I tend to eat pretty clean, but I follow a set of principles rather than a strict diet plan. Every once in a while I like to tighten things up, revisit the basics, and give myself a nudge to make sure poor nutrition habits aren’t slipping in. Between the two of us, Adam and I draw on a range of eating plans and styles. I like Joel’s Cheat Your Way Thin because I love those cheat days. Adam’s into intermittent fasting, and he’s got a lot of experience with Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat. We both like Kathryn Woodall’s Satisfaction Transformation, another great approach to healthy eating that takes a long term view.

As with anything, the key is to find an approach that works for you. There’s a lot of great material out there, but the only “ideal” plan is the one you’ll stick to.

So yeah. Joel’s 1000 Calorie approach is now my go-to method when I need to get shredded.

The other big thing I’m taking from this product is the recipes. I’ve got an excellent catalog of healthy, easy to prepare meals for lunch, or for any other time I’m forced to fend for myself (and let it be said: I only fend for myself against my will). The pre-set meal plans and recipe guide are one of my favourite aspects of the program. They make it quite easy, and they taste really good too.

Finally, the workouts have been a fun way to revisit and boost my GPP. It’s been several years since I’ve done most of these dumbbell exercises, and they revealed and shored up a few gaps in my strength. I like when that happens because it gives me new goals to focus on. I’m looking forward to sophisticating that strength and taking it into new ranges in the weeks ahead.

So how about you? Are you one of the many who grabbed Joel and Arnel’s program, and got our bodyweight exercise package in the mix?

Have you started yet? Post an update in the comments below. I’d love to compare notes!


About the author

Ryan Murdock


  • Just started first workout today and have to say the 300 calorie workout kicked my butt! I have been bodybuilding for over twenty years and quickly discovered how out of shape really am. Hope to stick this out and shed and rip. Thanks


  • I’m already lean (7%) but plateaued so I got the program to take me to the next level. Started out with the 600 calorie workouts last week and now I’m on the 800 workouts. A little over a week and I’m now down to 6 percent body fat! It’s so exciting to wake up everyday and literally see your body change in the mirror, which is hard to say when you’re already lean. Can’t wait to see what I can achieve physique-wise after the entire 1000 calorie workouts are completed. And you’re right: the meals and recipes are awesome!

    • Those are great results Joe!!! Really well done! Yeah, I know exactly what you’re saying about plateaus, and how hard it is to shed that last little bit when you’re already quite lean. From what I’ve seen so far, this is one of the best programs I’ve come across for reaching that goal. Keep us posted!

  • Hi! I started by doing the sample 600 calorie workout that was released a few weeks before the program, and it kicked my butt, too! I love the 450 workouts–2 killer sets times 3 and I’m done!

  • I’m on day 3 on the first week.The first workout wasn’t that great for me, it was more a session to learn how to do the exercises properly, the intensity wasn’t really there… or so I thought… Today, Day 3, woke up really sore. I know it’s not really an indicator of anything but that just proves that I did work, although I didn’t break a sweat.

    This morning, second 300 workout session was amazing, I combined Intu-Flow, the warm up from the original program, did the bodyweight version for today and totally killed it at the end with the plank. I forgot my resistance bands so I couldn’t do the back exercises.

    Still learning about the diet. Since I am travelling, I’m simply trying to eat less to slowly and gradually reach the calories I am supposed to. I am not a “cold-turkey” kind of guy, but once I get back home, I’ll study the recipes and meal plans.

    So, day 3, so far happy. I am definitely seeing some changes, or is it my imagination, but all is good.

    • Glad you liked our bodyweight versions Alan 🙂

      I know what you mean about traveling. The road makes it tough to stick to a regimented diet . Take a look at the 1000 Calorie Challenge manual, Joel goes into detail about how the meals are balanced throughout the 1000 calorie and moderate days. You should be able to approximate that meal timing and balance (in terms of shifting any carbs on the mod day to earlier in the day, and going for protein and veggies late in the day, etc) in addition to keeping portion sizes down. That would be a good start. It’s more than just cutting calories way down. That balance and timing are really important.

      • I understand that Ryan, however I didn’t really get a chance to properly study the diet manual before I left for my trip, so I had to sort of wing it… but now I am back home and I am really going to sit down and review all of this.

        It’s been 5 days now on this crazy 1000 calorie challenge. Results so far: 185.6 lbs at 22.8% bodyfat, from 190 lbs at 23.8% bodyfat… now, I don’t know if to really believe these results. One thing is for sure, eating less food definitely helped make myself feel lighter AND I feel relieved of all the stomach distress I have on a regular basis. I’m sure it’s a side effect of having smaller meals which means that my stomach can handle this amount of food. I definitely see myself smaller, especially in the stomach area, and I do see some “shaping” happening due to the workouts (300 cal).

        I am still skeptical, but now that I am back home, I will continue on this journey using the proper diet plan and see where that takes me next week. If this is the type of results I can expect more or less every week, then I’ll reach my goal to be 180 by next week….

        Which means, that it’s totally feasible for me to reach 170 lbs by december for my sister’s wedding, which would be excellent.

        • Those are really good results in 5 days. And you’re only on the 300 cal workout! It gets even better.

          Skepticism is a smart thing. It’s why we spend so much time researching anything we recommend, and why we fly around to meet these colleagues and spend time with them. We’re not comfortable recommending something we haven’t tried and used ourselves – but that isn’t enough. We also want to assure ourselves that these guys are good “characters”, that they’re going to treat our readers well and give them only the best. Because that’s what we expect of ourselves.

          I think you’ll hit your goal. I saw the results Joel and Arnel’s clients are getting on this program, and I’ve been experiencing it myself. It’s definitely in reach – just keep doing the work 🙂

          • Thanks for the support Ryan.

            After seeing these results in 5 days, I have no doubt that I will reach my goal and then some… my main question becomes: what happens after that? If I start eating “normal” again, won’t I “balloon” back to my old weight.

            Or should I really think about “redefining normal” – what would normal be for me – as Adam was mentioning in his phone interview with Brad Pilon?

          • Tough couple of days!
            Both yesterday and today were extremely difficult from a nutrition point of view. Yesterday turned out to be a moderate calorie day instead of a low one and today seems to be over the moderate…
            I am every so hungry…

            But I’m back on the boat. I need to study the diet even more and be more prepared to face those low calorie days… or maybe I’m not doing the moderate calorie days properly. We’ll see the results at the end of the week.


        • >Or should I really think about “redefining normal” – what would normal be for me – as Adam was mentioning in his phone interview with Brad Pilon?

          Yes. The trick with any “diet” IMO is to experience it and then take the lessons that work for you and add those to your toolbox. The 1000 Cal Challenge is a rapid weight loss plan, not something I’d use as my everyday eating program. But there are elements I will take with me once the challenge is over.

          I’m also going to take another look at Joel’s Cheat Your Way Thin and see what further refinements I’d like to make in my normal nutritional approach. That’s next up for me. Brad’s book has great things to offer as well. Adam’s worked a lot with it and he’s big on fasting.

          I’d encourage you to keep notes, observe carefully what’s working and what you like about each plan, and give some thought to how you’ll move forward once you’ve met your goal. As you say, there’s no point in suffering through a diet only to balloon up again. Why lose the weight if you aren’t willing to change the approach that got you to that state in the first place?

          Keep us posted on your progress 🙂

          • Hello Ryan:

            I am currently in week 2 of phase 2 of the 1000 calorie challenge.
            So far, I’ve lost about 10 lbs in 5 weeks, almost all of it is fat loss
            (some muscle loss but nothing drastic).

            Here’s more less what happened in these weeks:

            Starting weight: 189.5 lbs @ 23.9% bodyfat
            after week 1: 186 @ 22.8
            week 2: 182 @ 22
            week 3: 181.8 @ 22
            week 4: 181.8 @ 22
            week 5 (current weight): 180.6 @ 21.5

            Don’t get me wrong, I am quite pleased with the progress, I haven’t been
            180 in 5 years and people are noticing the change. One of the positive
            side-effects of this program is the almost complete elimination of the
            constant GI distress I was having (bloated, diarrhea, frequent visits to
            the bathroom, etc) and I am seriously grateful for that! Now I can go to
            restaurants without having to worry about going to the bathroom, I
            control my meal portions better and this is a BIG PLUS…

            However, after this almost 3 weeks of plateau, I’m getting really
            desperate, confused and demotivated. The weight is not budging and 10
            lbs in 5 weeks is far from the promised 3 to 5 lbs per week.

            I believe I am following the diet correctly, or as correctly as I
            possibly can, and yet, by now, I should be well below 180, somewhere
            around 175 lbs. I want to see the initial drops I was seeing in the
            first 2 weeks. What should I do? My cheat days do not really involve
            junk food, I basically just eat whatever I like, we usually go out to
            restaurants and such, I wonder if that is the issue, then again, junk
            food does a number on my stomach so I try to stay away or I’ll spend all
            afternoon in the bathroom.

            Anyway, any tips would be appreciated. I’d like to see numbers under 180
            lbs this week. My sister is getting married in cancun on the 22nd of
            december and my birthday is on the 13th of december… and I would
            really like to be around 170-175 by then, that would be the lowest
            weight since I met my wife 8 yrs ago.



        • First of, congrats with losing 10 lbs in 5 weeks. You mentioned that your progress is slowing down despite the low calorie intake and intense workouts. Are you still following the proper cheat day to reset your leptin level?

          • Hi Arnel:

            I think the issue I’m having is with the diet, I don’t use the supplements at all (no funds for that) and although I have the pre-made meal plans from you guys, I tend to adjust it according to what I have available (I live in Mexico). I think my issue is the cheat day, it’s not really a junk/cheat day because we rarely go for junk food, I simply eat whatever I want and obey the “until I’m pleasantly full” rule. We also typically go out to restaurants on weekend, so I consider that as a cheating, even if the meal is relatively clean.

            I am a bit disconcerted that I have to actually eat junk food for this to work.

            Thanks for the support 🙂


          • Good morning guys,

            Today is the weigh-in after completing week 6. I bounced back up from 180 to 183.2 lbs @ 22.6% bodyfat. I’m quite confused really on what I am doing wrong. I followed your advice, right after Arnel’s message, I had a high carb/cheat day and I also added one more workout session this week only to realize that I gained some fat rather than stabilizing or losing some. I don’t know if this set-back is simply my body sort of coming out of the starvation mode?!?! maybe… I mean I was in a plateau for so long, maybe this up in weight is temporary and my body is priming itself… I have no clue of what is going on.

            I am going to re-study the meal plan of this program and actual prepare 2 meal plans with staple foods that I can follow for week 7 and paste it on my fridge. I don’t know if at this point I should change anything in the workout plan? Maybe adding in 2 cardio sessions during the week (I particularly like rope skipping so I could add 2 sessions of 30 minutes in between the workout days).

            Any insight would be appreciated.


          • Hi Alan,

            “I am going to re-study the meal plan of this program and actual prepare 2 meal plans with staple foods that I can follow for week 7 and paste it on my fridge.”

            It sounds like you’re doing plenty of work. How closely have you been following the diet until now? Are you following it to the letter?

          • Hi Ryan,

            Thanks for your message. I realized now that I prepare my meal plans that indeed, I didn’t follow the meal plan the past couple of weeks. Actually, I think that the success I was having went to my head and that made me “coast” through for both, nutrition and workouts.

            This morning I upped the intensity level of the workouts and I KILLED IT! I thought I killed it last week but no, I did indeed coast through. I really have to pay attention to the RPE and RPD. I’m good on technique I think, but I need to really increase the intensity every single workout.

            As for the nutrition, I really took my time to plan it. Today (Monday) is day 1 and so far, meals 1 and 2 are on the money!

            I realized that I know what I do wrong, deep down, I know I was following the plan. So, this was a good wake up call. I also put away my scale so that I only weigh myself once a week, I feel like I am chained to it…



    • Hey Alan,

      Keep in mind that “week #1” is just a baseline. You may not break a sweat (if you are well conditioned) but it does get extremely challenging. Wait until you hit week #3. It will be more challenging that what you probably anticipate. Just keep it up. I am rooting for you!

  • i have reduced my calories from 3ooo to 2500 a day to see how it effects me i have always had stubborn fat around my waist and curious to see if reducing calories reduces my fat. My main aim is to see how it improves my health and performance in mma, jiu jitsu. Is this a reasonable amount of calories to eat for someone doing mma.

    • Saf,

      Check what I wrote to Alan above re: the timing and balance of your meals. I bet you’d see great results from applying Joel’s ideas in that area, as well as simply reducing overall calories.

  • That depends saf… What is your weight and body fat levels? What is your activity level per week? What are your goals (fat loss or maintenance)?

    • my weight is 172 6 feet 1 inch tall bodyfat 12 and a half percent. My main aim is eating for health and performance and fat loss around my midsection. I currently train 2 sessions of mma and 2 sessions at home 2 medium days and 2 hi days the rest of the days is low and medium intensity. I am currently following the rings 1 training as i am hoping to increase my strength as that is my major weakness in mma. From next week i will be doing 4 mma sessions so i will see how eating slightly less effects my performance, also my diet is quite good only eat healthy foods.

  • Sounds about right for your size and the amount of training you do. You can actually eat for fat loss (be in a deficit) and still eat for performance. Just time your meals with carbs right before and after your sessions, but remain in a deficit for the day. The best way to know your exact caloric needs base on your specific condition is to use the “Katch-Mcardle Formula”. Just Google it and you’ll get the formula. Hope this helps and good luck!

  • Like Joe I started on week 3 and am now on week 4. I am reasonably lean at 16% body fat (female) but have been suffering from too many visitors and too many dinners out over the past few months (why does everyone love to come to Hong Kong???). I have dropped to 15% bf in 1 week, which is fantastic as I have a beach holiday in Phuket in a week and then am heading back to Australia for 2 weeks to visit family!!! Best thing – I can take this workout with me and do it at the hotel.

    • Hey Kimberley,

      When designing the program, I made sure that it can be easily be done from home with minimal equipment. Most hotel gym will have dumbbells. If not, most exercises can be replaced with fitness bands.

      I am glad that you are still working out while traveling. Enjoy your holiday vacation.

  • Hey guys,
    I didn’t purchase Joel and Arnel’s 1000 cal gig, but I do have Joel’s xtreme fat loss diet. I have a lot of weight to lose, and and a lot of lean muscle to gain. I didn’t feel ready for the new program yet. But, I have loved all the tips you guys give! I have lost 20lbs in the last 4 months, and 3 months ago, I was down 18″. I am very pleased with that result and continue to work on my workouts and lifestyle changes. I am a 50 year old female. It took me 50 years to put this weight on. I plan on taking it off over a 2 year period. In the meantime, I am enjoying being me, being a grandma, and being able to set and achieve goals for a leaner, more fit lifestyle! Thanks for all you guys do! You keep me motivated!

  • Hi

    I have been on the program from last 5 weeks.

    starting weight 255
    current weigt 238

    I am using all the suppliments suggested by arnel and also bought the metabolic cooking recepies . My weight loss in the first 3 week or rather 4 weeks have been great went from 255 to 238.6. I started my 1000 calorie workout this week and i was hoping to drop some 3-4 pounds i finished my 3rd 1000 calorie workout this week and checked my weight and to my suprise i am still at 238.8. i am not sure what happend this week didnt see the results i saw in the first 4 weeks. will keep you posted as i progress.

    Also any suggestions would be great as my goal is to be around 220 by June 6th and with current progress i am not sure if i will reach that goal or not.

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