Back in the day, and I mean back in the day (cuz man I’m old;), I used to troll the internet for training and nutrition information. Not so much the theory, because I hope if you are starting out in this field you are getting your theory from books first and people second, but for down in the trenches information. I looked for the kind of stuff you won’t find in a text book but more from the guys at the gym who really have changed their bodies—not just talk about it. Since you were limited to the folks at your own gym in terms of exposure, I was smart enough to know there were a whole lot of other people out there who had some good knowledge to share, too. Back then it was much easier to find than it is now simply because there were less people on forums giving out erroneous information than you have today. Now you have folks who become mayors on forums and take it over with some of the most outlandish info you have ever read. I had to give up reading that stuff about 5 years ago and I haven’t looked back since.
There is something to be said for experience. A perfect example of that are grandparents. Are they not the most unbelievable information resource available to you? At one point in your life you probably bled them of everything they know about “the homeland”, their mothering stories, how their labors went, how granddad fed a family of 8 on a salary meant for 2 and so on. You can look up all that info in a book but it’s not going to tell you what 75 years of their lifetime can.
So that brings me to this post. I recently read a book (which is funny for me to say that because right now I am averaging 2 books per week) on nutrition for athletes that completely made me wanna kick some body’s behind. Let me preface this statement by first saying it was a well written book with some valuable information so the theory wasn’t the problem. My issue with this book stemmed from a ton of theory but no application info. I HATE THAT! More importantly, he actually says in the book that this is a one of kind book (I beg to differ) and no one else is addressing this issue (he isn’t either) and he’s going to tell you how to do it (but he doesn’t), yadda, yadda, yadda. The book left me wanting to schedule an interview with him so I could pummel him into the floor with application questions because that’s what I wanted to know.
So, in the interest of ‘wanting to know’, there will be a few posts this week that discuss things that happen when dieting or the result of dieting that no one else is ever going to tell you. This is important stuff so come with an open mind because I am most likely going to tell you things that are contrary to everything you may be reading about on the ‘Net. Some will be nutrition related and a lot will be training related because it’s just as important as nutrition. So let’s start with some definitions, explanations and statements that need to be qualified:
It’s 80% diet and 20% training: Yes…for the folks who have a high bodyfat and are new to training. But if you are lean (1st definition: lean = 18-20%) wanting to be leaner (leaner = anything below 18%), training is everything. Why? Because you have already cleaned out your diet and you’re not going to have this miraculous drop from food.
Let me set up this scenario for you:
Bertha has been dieting steadily for 2 months. She has lost about 12 pounds and is a decent body fat now (18%). She loves her size but what Bertha wants now is to lose more body fat, tighten up her bum (it’s at her ankles) and fix the loose skin on her tummy (she could hold fruit with it). Her diet is on point and she sticks to it religiously (meaning she has cheats when she wants and is on track at least 90% of the time) but she is not satisfied with the results so far.
Bertha trains 4 days per week, does cardio 5 days per week and yoga one time per week. So far everything looks good and you’re thinking, “Well Bertha just needs more time dieting and she’ll be fine” right? Well let’s see…flash forward 6 months. Bertha has now lost an additional 4 pounds and is 16% bodyfat and if you look at her you think she looks great. In fact, she does! But Bertha wants more because her bum still touches the floor and her tummy still looks like an accordion only she can’t diet any harder. What more can she take out of her diet? Should she drop her cals to the point where she is starving? Wait, it must the be the fruit. Let’s take all the fruit out her diet? Umm…no. How about those pesky starches? I knew brown rice was bad. Umm…no again. Ask her what she’s doing in the gym.
What causes your body to burn body fat (forget weight) when it doesn’t want to? Confusion. Keep your body guessing and it will keep burning. Once you become stagnant in your eating and your training, your body becomes comfortable. It knows what you’re doing, when you’re doing it so it is not going to give you more than it needs to no matter how badly you want it to. Also, demand. This is a trickier one to master than confusion because it takes a bit of savvy and trust on your part—both of which elude the frustrated dieter. Lastly, resolve. Beyond elusive, downright scarce when talking about dieters, resolve is when you may try something unconventional but smart (raise cals, cut back on cardio, etc) to kick start the process again even though you think it will make you blow up like a tick on a dog.
Confusion: The hot topic right now for everyone and typically written as metabolic confusion. Read this as interval training, Tabata method, circuits, crossfit, kettlebells and any other kind of “kick-my-butt-until-I-feel-as-if-I-could-puke” training methodology that promises major fat loss when you do it. Does it work? Yep! Should I do it all the time because it works? Nope!
There is a time and a place for everything and confusion is a great weapon in the arsenal to be used in two scenarios: you have a ton of weight to lose (read that as 15 pounds or more) or you have only a little bit to go (no longer can measure your progress on the scale, it’s all about the mirror). If you are outside of this window, see demand. Why? Because you cannot burn the candle on both ends for too long so this will stall you after about 3 to 4 weeks if you are in between. And if you are in between, you’ll need more time than that.
Demand: I always start here because this is where most women fail themselves. Demand means you are asking more of your body than you were before, only you are not going to feed it more so it’s going to have to go into your reserves to help you out. This has nothing to do with increasing cardio. In fact, quite the opposite. This is all about as my girl Heather puts it, “grunting, farting and spitting” in the gym. LIFT HEAVY. And I mean heavy. And when I say this I do not mean low rep only. I mean whatever rep range you may be lifting at, make the last 2 reps feel like death! Lift with intention. Lift like you mean it. TRACK what you lift b/c if you have not raised the weight in some time, I’d want to know why. I cannot tell you how many times I have had a conversation where I am trying to “diagnose” the plateau and I found out that the client is not lifting heavy. Not because they haven’t been told, but because it’s either hard, boring, hard and boring, scared, nervous, don’t have a spot, need a trainer, yadda, yadda, yadda.
If you are worried about injury, get a trainer. If you can’t lift it to use it, get a spot. If you just can’t get into it, get over it. But no matter what, GET TO LIFTING HEAVY. If you have been using the same weights long enough that you recognize the wear pattern in the handle, then that’s a problem. Can’t go up in the weight because of the huge jump with db’s? (15# db to 20 db# is a big jump) Buy platemates! These are 1.25# magnets that you add to your weights. I don’t care if you hold a 15# and a purple 2#’er with it—GO UP IN THE WEIGHT. Like my rant? You should hear it live, it’s even more animated.
No such thing as an easy program, you just didn’t want to kick your own arse that day! As all of us fitness professionals always say, make every rep count.
Resolve: This is when experience kicks in and you need to find someone who can speak some sense into you. This is much harder to sum up so it might get its own post, but basically you went one step too far and now you need to back up. To do this, you are going to have to trust food is not the enemy and endless motion is not the answer. This needs a post. I’m on it.
So what is Bertha to do? Change up her lifting. Start by lifting a small car and progress to a van when she feels like she has the hang of it.;) Do not increase cardio, do not cut cals, just lift like you mean it and you will begin to see changes again. You know there’s more to it and we’ll get to it, I promise.
We’ll be kicking Bertha around for a couple of posts. There are other things we can help her with like, true plateaus, body weight exercises and their benefits, using fat to change your body, etc. Tons of things no one ever tells you but you should know.