Relevant links: Reverse pyramid training
The other day I was roaming my local library, in search of large amounts of nerdery to sooth my soul, when I stumbled upon the greatest piece of literary fiction ever created: Marvel Zombies.
Seriously. It’s the best. I now render your ability to argue against this point useless (insert mystical finger waving and arm flailing here)! Did you think Peter Parker was just your friendly neighborhood spider? Just wait until he hits you with a face full of arteries and veins instead of webbing, son!
In this alternate bizzaro world, all of your favorite Marvel superheroes have been zombified, which is bad news for the human race since we’re the only thing left on the menu. While constantly fluxing between a state of anxiety and “zomgwtf”, I started to notice a pattern – these dudes knew how to stay ripped!
I can already hear all the thoughts of you naysayers out there. Oh sure, blame it on the fact that they’re battle scarred and in a constant state of decomposition, or that they may or may not be missing several limbs and/or random body parts. My response? Bullocks, I say! Success leaves clues, and while they may smell a little ripe, these protectors of the universe know a thing or two and have given me the go ahead to break you off a piece of that knowledge and how us mere mortals can apply it.
The Typical Diet Cycle
Come, step into my time machine. Let us go back to any one of your many past diet attempts where you tried valiantly, but in the end fell far from reaching your goals. Did they happen to look something like this?
Phase 1: You begin your diet with great gusto. You are awesome, you are great, and you are unstoppable. Rarr!
Phase 2: Hunger begins to set in, but you have it under control. It’ll take more than that to keep you from achieving awesomeness.
Phase 3: You haven’t lost as much fat as you had hoped for, and now your hunger is at code red levels. You’re not sure how much more of this you can take.
Phase 4: You break, and my goodness what a break it is! Several cookies, cakes and small villages later you lay defeated in a food coma on the floor. Having undone days or weeks of progress in one fell swoop, you are down, but not out for the count. You vow to begin once again with a renewed spirit, because this time will be different.
And the cycle repeats itself again, and again, and again. Mad frustration ensues.
Of Zombies And Men
When these zombies get hungry, they get HONGRY! Due to their ramped up superhero metabolism and high levels of physical activity, their appetite is almost insatiable. As a side effect of this ravenous hunger, if they go too long without food they start to go crazy and are unable to focus anything more complex than finding their next meal. Simply put, they start to make stupid choices that decrease the likelihood of achieving their goal (i.e. man flesh).
Starting to sound familiar, eh?*
When we embark on our own physique changing adventures, we commonly experience the exact same things that zombies do. “Nuh uh, Rog, we’re different! We’re able to push those feelings of hunger to the back of our minds and power through it!” Yeah, initially. But what happens when those moments of hunger are constantly rolling around in your head? You’re at the movie theater eye-balling the popcorn chomper eight rows ahead. You’re in the parking lot plotting how you’re gonna scrape that decade old piece of bubble gum off the pavement and into your mouth. You’re on the toilet, wishing you had packed yourself a peanut butter and banana sammich. What? Don’t act like it’s just me!
The fact of the matter is that at some point you’re going to be hungry while trying to lose fat, but I’m going to share with you a tactic that you can use sparingly when facing down the hunger beast.
Thank You, Giant-Man
As the leader of the superheroes, Henry Pym, better known as Giant-Man, is responsible for coming up with the technology necessary to transport the heroes from world to world across the universe in order to gobble up any humans that they can. Given the nature of such a complex task, Pym has to keep his wits about him while focusing on his work otherwise he is useless. In order to do this, he has to take the edge off of his hunger before it gets out of control and reduces his ability to think straight, and what better way to do this than by keeping a real live human tied up in the basement and using him as an occasional snack bar!
So why don’t we do the same thing?
Not the whole holding another dude hostage and eating him thing, but the stopping your hunger before it becomes an issue.
Have A Cookie
In order to lose fat, you need to achieve a caloric deficit, either through more activity, less food or a combination of both. How great that deficit is is based on how fast you want to safely and realistically reach your goals, but in general the larger the deficit the more physical hunger you’re going to experience. This time around though, instead of having an almighty binge when those thoughts of hunger feel downright unbearable, just have a cookie.
Have a cookie?!
Yep, have a cookie.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a cookie, but have whatever it is that will sooth the beast within, allowing you to continually move forward towards your goal. Will having a small bag of chips now keep you from setting up residence at the all-you-can-eat buffet a few days down the road? Then eat ‘em – then get right back to work. Alternatively, you could also simply eat a little bit more of the food you’re already eating. If you constantly find yourself repeating the cycle that I talked about earlier, then you need to consider moving into a smaller deficit. Lyle McDonald wrote a great piece on caloric deficits that you should check out. Regardless of the scenario, I’d rather see someone take one small step back and preserve their sanity and momentum than take a huge hit and moonwalk all the way back to where they started, perhaps even further. Yes, it will take longer to reach your goal, but I’d much rather see that happen than have you constantly reinforce negative thought patterns that come from not achieving what you set out to do.
If that option doesn’t appeal to your Spartan dietary sensibilities, than you only have one other option.
Nut Up Or Shut Up
Accept the fact you’re going to be hungry at some point and anticipate it. Knuckle down and get it done if it is that important to you. If you’re not willing to do any of these things, then you can simply keep replaying this infinite loop until you get tired enough to do something about it. Like Captain Planet said folks, the power is yours.
What dietary blunders have you made in the past and what did you do to solve them? Leave your answer in the comment section below!
* – No, I’m not from Canada.
Photo Credit: istolethetv
It really burns my biscuits (and not just any biscuits – I’m talking Red Lobster Cheddar levels of biscuiticity here!) when I create a program for a gym member only to find out that they’re kinda sorta not really doing the program that I wrote for them at all. That’s right madame, you most certainly did mistake a set goblet squat for 10 sets of tricep kickbacks, but it’s a simple error and I completely understand how you could have gotten the two confused. Needless to say, it’s refreshing to have a client who is excited to train and trusts me enough as a trainer to know that I have their best interest in mind.
I’ve been training with Kiersten for 4 weeks and in that short amount of time her progress has been nothing short of fantastic. Like many people she is looking to drop a few pounds, but she began our sessions with the mindset that it takes time to achieve results – a rarity in this day and age where people don’t want results today, but last week. Working with Kiersten has been an absolute joy for me, not only because she has such a positive attitude, but because no matter what is going on in her life outside the gym, she shows up with a bright smile and a willingness to straight up crush it.
I currently train her 3x a week using full body workouts, with a little extra focus on her posterior chain during each session, which ranges from trap bar deadlifts, 45 degree back extensions, and, of course, the illustrious hip thrust. As much as she loves the strength training aspect, I think she gets her jollies by crushing the circuit that concludes each training session. I’ve taken Escalating Density Training, a concept brought to the mainstream by Charles Staley, and applied it to her fat loss circuits. I pretty much just set the clock for 10 minutes and let her cause as much chaos as she can within that time frame. The progression method is simple – each following session she strives to do more work than she did last time within that same 10 minutes. Since we started incorporating these circuits during week 2, she has improved her performance each and every session.
Here is one of her most least favorite circuits:
- Forward Sled Drag – 50lbs (25 Yards)
- 30 punches on the punching bag
- Medicine Ball Slams – 12lbs (10 reps)
- Jumping Jacks – 20 reps
And would you look at that, no bulk whatsoever. She feels stronger, her clothes fit better, and already she is noticing positive changes in her physique. Whowouldathunkit? Great job, Kiersten!
Photo Credit: Multitrack
All is going well on the cinnabon front. Yesterday I started experimenting with calorie levels for the long-term body recomposition plan that I’m planning now, which helps explain the increase in weight and water retention in this round of pics – a 4,000 calorie day will do that to ya.
I’ve also upped my training to 4x a week now instead of 2 as I’m looking to put on some muscle while dropping fat over the long haul. Breaking things up this way allows me to keep my time in the gym for each session to a minimum while still getting in enough volume over the course of the week. Shizam!
Until next time.
And so we have arrived at the conclusion (or is it just the beginning? Watch in awe as I twirl my curly mustache!) of my body transformation trinity that will undoubtedly go down in history as the most comprehensive treatise ever written on the subject.
In the last two posts, I discussed caloric intake starting points as well as macronutrient recommendations depending on what your particular goals were. Now, it is high time that we tackle a subject that is, at least initially, absolutely paramount to your success. That’s right, I’m talking about the dreaded calorie counting.
When I bring up this topic to people who have never counted calories before, more often than not, they drop kick me in the chest and run off screaming bloody murder. All joking aside, many view calorie counting as an annoying, time consuming task that they want as little to do with as humanly possible. And I don’t blame them. As a society, we are becoming busier by the second, and with more and more to keep up with, I can see why people rebel against adding this to their to-do list.
But guess what? If you’re really as committed to your fitness and body composition goals as you say you are, then you have to come to terms with this one fact: if you don’t know how much you’re eating, then you’re just guessing. Notice that I didn’t say what you’re eating, but how much, because the devil isn’t so much in what kinds of foods you eat (although thats important, too), but how much of it. You can eat what are deemed the “cleanest” and “healthiest” foods in the world, and while you may be covered from a micronutrient and phytochemical standpoint, if you can still grab a fist full of fat and aren’t happy with the way you look, chances are you’re simply eating too much for your activity level.
Now that you’re committed to holding yourself accountable for your intake, I’m going to provide you with the only tool that you’ll need to do so, and in the process show you that tracking doesn’t have to be as hellacious as some make it out to be, but instead will put you on the fast track towards sexification.
Tools of the trade
I’m sure that we all know at least one person who can’t lose or gain weight no matter how hard they try. They swear that they are eating all the time, hardly eating at all or some variation of the two. More often than not, this person isn’t intentionally trying to mislead you or themselves, but the fact of the matter is that they’re just horrible at playing the estimation game. They are using their subjective mind to gauge how much they are eating and how hard they are working in the gym, but research has shown that people tend to misreport both their food intake and exercise intensity.
So whats the solution?
Enter the digital food scale.
Since we now know that we initially can’t be trusted to accurately measure our own food intake, we need an objective tool to help take our emotions and feelings out of the equation, and the food scale is just that tool. My good friend Leigh Peele created an eye-opening video demonstrating just how off people can be when left to their own devices, even when they have the best intentions.
Digital food scales are relatively cheap and are a worthwhile investment to have in your kitchen. I personally use a $25 Escali, but click here to view a list of other scales to give yourself some options.
There Will Be Nuts
But enough talk. We’re now about to use an actual example of a food that people tend to overeat by mistake: nuts. While great from a health standpoint as they provide a nice blend of the different kinds of fats, nuts also pack a huge punch from a calorie standpoint. Lets check the stats:
As you can see, 1 serving of walnuts (30 g according to the food label) contains a whopping 20 g of fat. Now lets take a look at how a this serving actually looks in the real world:
Not much, huh? That’s not even a handful, but when you consider that the average person just reaches into a bag with reckless abandon and goes nuts with the Planters, you start to see how this kind of dietary digression can quickly start to derail any chance you have of achieving your fat loss goals.
Now let’s see what happens when I just reach my hand into the bag and come out with the goods:
Well would you look at that! At 67 g, I came out with more than double the serving size and I wasn’t even trying to go overboard. This is only one example, but are you starting to see how this happening to you several times a day could cause you some problems?
Remember when I said that counting calories would be a lot easier than you made it out to be? Here is where I make good on that promise.
In my last post I provided you with a breakdown of how many calories a gram(g) of each macronutrient has, so here it is again for your convenience and viewing pleasure:
1g protein = 4 calories
1g carbohydrate = 4 calories
1g fat = 9 calories
So, using our nuts example from above, lets calculate how many calories are in 1 serving of walnuts by using these numbers.
20g fat x 9 = 180 calories
2g carbohydrate x 4 = 8 calories
5g protein x 4 = 20 calories
Total calories for 1 serving of walnuts = 208
As a side note, when counting carbs, you want to make sure that you subtract fiber grams from that total number as they don’t contribute a significant amount of calories anyway. For instance, in the above example there were actually 4g of total carbs, but I subtracted the 2g of fiber to arrive at the final number of 2g that I used in the calculation.
And that’s how the game is played, my friends. Instead of counting calories per se, you would instead count grams of protein, fat and carbohydrate, which is a lot less stressful and infinitely more manageable than meticulously adding up each and every calorie.
Common Pitfalls And How To Avoid Them
Back in the day, when I was eating tons of chicken breast/thighs, nuts and an assortment of other foods, I had no concept of portion OR calorie control. I really thought that the magic was in avoiding certain foods and as long as I did that, I would be ripped to shreds like a bad report card in no time flat. Needless to say I was wrong a sin, but I want you to learn from my mistake instead of repeating them like a foolish mortal.
Pitfall #1 – Overcomplicating things
Solution – Simplify, simplify, simplify. If you’re weighing a food item, the serving size is based on the form that the product is in when you buy it. For example, if you’re rollin’ through the grocery store and pick up a package of raw ground beef, you would grab a handful of meat, find the serving size and weigh it in its uncooked form. Meat will always weigh less after being cooked, so if you’re going to weigh it cooked, I would cut the serving size in half to account for the water & fat lost during the cooking process.
Example: 4 oz of raw beef = 2-2.5 oz cooked
Leaner meats, such as chicken breast, tend to weigh closer to their raw serving size than fattier meats (think 80/20 ground beef).
If you’re a pasta lover, take heed of this advice as it will save you some tears down the road. A typical serving of pasta is 2 oz measured dry, which is actually a pretty decent amount, but those who are pasta eaters really LOVE THEIR PASTA and rarely tend to eat just 1 serving, or even know what that serving looks like. Welp, now that I’ve gotten that admission of pasta induced self guilt out of the way, let’s move right along!
Pitfall #2 – Being a slave to the scale
Solution – Keep it in perspective. The scale is a tool to keep you accountable to yourself and nothing more. If you’re working towards your goals just fine without it, then good. If you’re not, then stick with it for a week or two, which is a small amount of time in the grand scheme of things. Over time you’ll find that you’re able to reliably size up portions of food with your eyes like you’re in The Matrix or something. As you gain more experience and start to move away from relying on the scale for as much you did in the past, people will start to notice and become mad jealous of your newfound abilities. If you play your cards right, you might even get invited to the local diner for a malt with all the cat daddys and groovy chicks. True story.
Pitfall #3 - Too anal
Solution – Relax. Breath. Fat loss is certainly an emotional undertaking, so don’t make it more of one by making it harder than it needs to be. You don’t need to weigh your broccoli, spinach, cauliflower or green beans. However, be careful more starchier veggies such as carrots and peas as they tend to have less fiber in them per gram of carbohydrate in each serving and that adds if you go overboard up.When in doubt, use one of the sites below to check up on your veggie of choice and if you notice that it has a lot of carbs relative to fiber, keep an eye on overdoing them.
Having said that, if thinking about it too much is causing you to fall deeper into this pitfall, let it go. I’ve never seen someone who was overweight because they ate too many veggies.
I want to wrap this up by giving you my go to websites when I want to get all sexy with watching my intake. I don’t do it very often anymore, but it’s good to have when I want quickly reference a food or create an intake trend to keep myself on track when I’m going after a new goal.
Fitday – This is the most user friendly site that I’ve seen so far. Wanna know the best part? It’s free to sign up, and it even lets you enter your own custom foods that aren’t on the list – win!
USDA Nutrient Database – This is for those that wanna get down to the nitty gritty and know everything and more about a food. Fitday actually uses information from this database, and while this site is nowhere near as sexy as Fitday, its worth checking taking a peek at.
So, how are you feeling? Great? Overwhelmed? If you feel like I’ve left something out or you have any questions, please leave a comment so I can address your concerns directly. Even if you don’t have any questions, come on by and share how you keep track of your intake and how its going for you.
Photo Credit: Michele Eve Photography