Comparing Working Against Gravity and Renaissance Periodization

Working Against Gravity vs Renaissance Periodization | Sarah Wyland

Lately, my DMs on Instagram have been full of people asking about my experience with Renaissance Periodization (RP) versus Working Against Gravity (WAG). Most of them have found me by googling reviews for WAG and landing on my posts Flexible Dieting – Working Against Gravity and Why I Fired My Nutrition Coach.These are two of my most viewed pieces, so it makes sense that folks would venture over to my Instagram to see how things are going, only to discover that I’m following an RP program now.

Before I dive into my thoughts on each program, I want to say from the top that both programs are solid, good programs. I have had success on both, and believe they both have their pros and cons. The following thoughts and observations are based solely on my personal experiences with each program. If you’re considering either of them, I encourage you to do what you believe will work best for you and your goals, and, if warranted, consult with your healthcare provider.  

Why I Use Nutrition Coaching

While I’m an ACE-Certified Nutrition Specialist and feel comfortable helping others with their nutrition, I’m not great at my own nutrition. I’m also most comfortable working with women who are simply looking to lead a healthier lifestyle and maybe lose some weight. I’m less comfortable with athletes who require a higher level of nutritional fine tuning.

I’ve been a chronic dieter for years. Less calories in than calories out worked for a while and I lost nearly 100lbs. When I started strength training and CrossFit, my weight plateaued, as did my body composition. I needed someone to help me figure out where I was going wrong as my diet was what I considered healthy and nutritious. It was, but it was also lacking in calories and protein. Coaching helps me adjust to those needs. I say it all the time – coaches need coaches.

Working Against Gravity

Working Against Gravity

Working Against Gravity is well-known in the CrossFit world. They work with some of the top CrossFit athletes, including Katrin Davidsdoittier, Camille Leblanc Bazinet, and Cole Sager. When WAG first hit the scene, they had a waitlist to accommodate demand. They have since added team members and a level of coaching for those who have been with the program for several months that still want to work with WAG, but may not need as in-depth coaching,making it much easier to sign up for coaching.

With WAG, you fill out a detailed intake form that includes things like current weight, goals, training schedules, measurements, and any upcoming competitions or travel. You also submit photos from the front, back, and side for progress tracking. Once you’re assigned a coach, typically within 24 hours, your coach assigns macros, and, depending on your goals, may also assign cardio in addition to whatever training program you’re following.

From there, you weigh yourself every single day and report it, along with how you did with reaching your macros, each day. Once a week, you have a more detailed check-in that dives into how the week went, how you felt, what you’d like the week ahead to look, any struggles you may be having… You can share as much or as little as you’d like, with the thought that the more you share with your coach, the more they can help you. You also submit your weekly progress photos and measurements. You coach will reply with detailed feedback and may adjust your macros. You can also message your coach at any point and receive a guaranteed reply within 24 hours, unless its Saturday, in which WAG “unplugs.”

The cost of 1-on-1 coaching through WAG is $160/month with a three-month commitment required. The alumni program for those who have been with WAG for a period of time is $80/month.

Renaissance Periodization

Renaissance Periodization

Renaissance Periodization prides itself on its science-based approach to nutrition. They are incredibly knowledgeable, and it shows in their programming and the content they offer on their website. Their coaches work with the likes of Mattie Rogers and Annie Thorsdoittor. They are also the official partner of USA Weightlifting and USA Powerlifting.

To clarify, RP does have a 1-on-1 coaching program, but I haven’t used it. I’m using their fat loss template. From what I’ve read and heard from a friend that does their 1-on-1 coaching (and raves about it), it’s similar to WAG in a lot of ways, but their coaching staff is comprised of Registered Dietitians, Ph.Ds, and world champion/record holding athletes. You check in twice a week with your coach. The cost starts at $575 for three months, which is about $30 more a month than WAG.

RP also specializes in customized templates for whatever your goals are, including fat loss, bulking, and physique. At $109, they are well-priced and loaded with information to help you succeed. You input their requested information – things like current weight and goals – and receive your template via email relatively quickly afterward. There are several tabs breaking down your phases. For me, that was base, fat loss 1, 2, and 3, new base, and maintenance. They also include recommended foods for each category, which makes it easier to plan your meals. It took me a couple of days to read and understand the plan, but after a week or so of meal prep and planning, it became much easier to follow. They also encourage you to only weigh a couple to three times a week and to take photos and measurements to track progress.

One big differentiator is that RP emphasizes timed nutrition – you eat meals, and macros, based on the time of your workouts, and the intensity of said workout. Having said that, they stress the importance of calories first, then macros, then meal timing. They want you to eat enough above all else.

My Experience

(If I were a better blogger, I’d have my progress photos…)

With WAG, I saw success. When I eat the right macros for my body, I pretty quickly experience composition changes. I had no complaints about WAG from a results standpoint, or from a programming standpoint. After my three month commitment, I opted not to continue with WAG, however. I really struggled with a few aspects of the program, mainly weighing myself every single day, and an unhealthy obsession with food because of the reporting structure. While I know the scale doesn’t tell the truth, the fluctuation in the number I’d see day-to-day really did a number on me. I also couldn’t enjoy food, even when out with friends, because I was wondering “how much protein is in this?” and “do I have enough fat left for this?” because I knew I had to go back and report what I ate to someone. 

Part of where I struggled with WAG was the coach I was paired with. She was very good at her job, but she and I were not a good match. She didn’t “approve” of using protein powder or protein bars to reach macros, and would say things such as “why don’t we switch that peanut butter out for something healthier?” I could somewhat understand where she was coming from, but I felt guilty for enjoying a measured out tablespoon of peanut butter with an apple for an afternoon snack that fit my allotted macros. I don’t believe in guilting anyone over their food choices. That can lead to unhealthy behavior.

With RP, I feel like I eat constantly. Because I train in the evenings after work, my meals break down like this: breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon, dinner, bedtime. There’s also a whey protein shake for during/immediately after my workouts, and pre-workout carbs. The pre-workout carbs go away for most people when they reach the fat loss two tab, but after a few days of miserable workouts – at one point I couldn’t clean 65lbs when I can usually clean more than double that for at least a couple of reps – I made the executive decision to add my pre-workout carbs back in. Due to my hypoglycemia, that was the right choice – it keeps my blood sugar stabilized. The bedtime meal is casein protein (slower to digest, so it keeps you full longer) with whatever allotted carbs and fat you’re prescribed. For me, it’s the perfect excuse to make a chocolate peanut butter “shake.”

Results wise, my weight hasn’t changed more than a pound or two on RP, but my body composition has greatly changed, and I’ve had a number of PRs in the gym. I have a few more weeks on my template before I transition back to maintenance, but I bought clothes in smaller sizes over the weekend, so something is clearly working.

One thing I really like about RP is their insistence that no one diet longer than 12 weeks. They have a great article on chronic dieting that was like reading my biography. RP wants you to EAT. They want you to eat healthy, nourishing food, but they want you to EAT. A lot of people, myself included, struggle to eat as much as the template prescribes at first. For me, that had a lot to do with years of chronic dieting. From “not a lot of food” to “all the food” is a mind hurdle for some, but the food RP is suggestion is about volume – veggies and good proteins, for instance. 

I’d love to try RP’s 1-on-1 coaching in the future. I can’t quite bring myself to drop $575 on it – you know, new business owner and all – but one of these days I may give it a shot.

Both WAG and RP are good, solid programs. Like with any diet, you get what you put into them. WAG offers a little more freedom as far as picking your own food and when you eat them. RP requires a little more planning with meal times, and the food can get a boring if you’re on fat loss two or three and sticking to the suggested foods on the template, but it’s science-backed and the results speak for themselves. Of the two, I prefer RP for my own goals and consider the fact that they are a partner of USA Weightlifting to be the stamp of approval I need to move forward with them. Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose the right program for you, your goals, and your lifestyle.

Still have questions about WAG and RP? Leave them in the comments, or send me an email. Happy to answer them!

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