Various stages of Body Fat Progress for BodPod or DexaScan

Most people don’t test their body fat for various reasons, it can be expensive and inconvenient.  The scales that you can use at home are real hit and miss so the two methods I recommend are Dexa Scan (often times expensive but typically done by a professional) and BodPod (not quite as good as Dexa but inexpensive and I have found the results to be very similar).  The big mistake everyone makes is they wait until they are relatively healthy to get tested and focus on what is one of the best versions of themselves.  So did I.  Man do I regret not knowing the actual progress I have made over time but I was unaware of the technology when I first started this last round of fitness.  Trust me, I never walk into a Crossfit gym or start lifting weights without knowing that information.  This isn’t the focus of this post so I am not going to dwell on this but if you start googling body fat testing you will see that even these results aren’t perfect, everything has a margin of error.  With that said there are a lot of people walking around right now at 20-25% that think they are 16% and if they lose 4 more pounds the top of their six pack will start to show.  Don’t let the number own you, use it as a baseline and get it checked every three to six months and make changes as you go.

Various stages of progress

I have seen well over 200 people’s results and over 1000 readings and from that I have been able to see a few trends so I thought I would share some of those with you so that you can get better progress using your results as a guide.

Let me first start off by saying that most of the tests I have seen are from people close to my age (44 years old).  For the first reading many women start off at close to 40%, men as a general rule seem to average about 35%.  This is for deconditioned athletes just starting off.  Obviously I am speaking in general here but the majority of people that are doing these tests have experienced some sort of wake up call.  By the time I found out about BodPod I had gone from 215 to 185 pounds or so and I still tested at 32% because I didn’t understand at that time how my body mobilized fat.  To lose that weight I did the standard, do slightly more and drop the M&M’s and Coke diet.  So doing these tests taught me that much more was going to be required if I wanted to actually mobilize fat.

THIS IS MY BIGGEST REGRET BY FAR, at 215 I would have had a considerable amount of muscle mass that I absolutely wasted because I simply didn’t know the best path forward.  Looking back now I would have prescribed changing what I ate and not how much (how much really wasn’t an issue and isn’t for most people, they just don’t know simple concepts to keep things in check).  I would have prescribed adequate protein intake, I certainly wasn’t getting that.  I would have been less concerned with fat and more concerned with which fats.  Lastly I wish I had any idea at all about the role of carbs in my diet.  As many of you know I am not a hater related to carbs for athletic populations but simply knowing about carb cycling would have changed my life considerably.

Beginning Stages (40% for women 35% for men)

I tried every diet out there before figuring out what works.  So what works? For me it was changing to a diet of mostly whole foods and being a bit more conscious of timing and of course moving a bit more.  I love Crossfit and I love lifting heavy weights but those things aren’t necessary to maintain a base level of health.  Eating spinach and kale salads with your meat didn’t have a name for the year and a half I ate them before showing up at Crossfit.  Only at that point did I know that was considered Paleo.  I have learned a lot from all of my Paleo friends but when regular folks ask me how I eat to stay fit I say “I eat a diet of mostly whole foods and I eat for joy occasionally”.

Since this post is for a relatively targeted audience (crossfitters attempting to eat to perform) if you are just beginning STAY OUT OF YOUR OWN WAY.  Crossfit is hard, life is stressful don’t make it harder by placing what you formerly knew over the paradigm of Crossfit.  Just show up, do movements that don’t hurt you, push your progress slowly and eat a diet of mostly whole foods and eat for joy occasionally.  My carb recommendations aren’t for you.  That doesn’t mean you should low carb necessarily but a moderate approach of 100g a day for women or 150g for men will probably serve you well for quite a long time.  Don’t change how much you eat, change what you eat and consider some behavior modification.  Also don’t give up everything all at once, I didn’t think I could ever give up coffee with cream and sugar and my morning bagel and I am currently writing this while drinking black coffee.  Your goals will dictate the changes over time.  One recommendation I do like from the Paleo world is being about 80%.  If your 20% involves some form of treats I might suggest eating them before bedtime so you can go to bed full and happy.  This is typically favorable for a good nights sleep.  No one joins a Crossfit gym so they can gnaw on Kale for the rest of their life.

Last thing for this stage, be patient, you don’t have to force change any longer.  Eat to fuel your work capacity and as your work capacity gets higher the best version of you will eventually show himself/herself.

Middle Stages (30% for women and 20% for men)

Simply eating in a manner that gives your body more nutrients allows you to become a better version of yourself pretty easily.  Most men can move from 35% to 20% in a relatively short period of time (let’s say 6 months in general) because their testosterone levels will start to rise as they are asking their bodies to do more.  In the early stages I have seen men put on 10 pounds of muscle relatively easy.  For a 200 pound male that is 5% right there.  All that muscle allows more work capacity so goals start to get in line very quickly.  Sadly this is the stage people actually get the will to test their body fat.  So they never really know all of the progress they have made along the way.  Knowing is so powerful.

For women the journey is a bit trickier.  Most women before they show up at Crossfit have relied on some version of cardio or eating less to manage their weight.  So many women start off under fed, eating less protein than they should and relying more on carbs for energy.  I have seen it too many times for it not to be a trend, a lot of women join Crossfit to hammer the nail harder.  Cardio and eating less wasn’t working so they figure they better up the ante.  When I am able to show clients how much they should be eating it is often astonishing.  In this way diet rigidity is actually causing many of the problems.  So simply eating adequate amounts tends to drive performance and increase work capacity relatively quickly.  Symptoms of hypothyroidism and hormone deficiencies tend to start to go away.  Metabolism starts to recover.

Let me stop here, I realize I am on unsteady ground as a man talking about women and I am making blanket statements that may not apply to your situation but I cover various stages in this article.  Also I am speaking in general, each of our situations is highly individual.

Once women get things moving in the right direction metabolically I have seen a consistent trend of about 3 to 5 pounds of muscle gained and fat mobilizes pretty easily when they start getting out of their own way.  Women have less testosterone than men so the muscle pounds tend to come a little slower but things get very favorable as it relates to fat loss when the metabolism starts to recover.  This is similar for men as well.

For both men and women early on is such a great opportunity to build muscle and capacity, don’t ruin your potential by getting in your own way and dramatically eating less it won’t help and won’t lead you down the path you want to go related to a better body composition.

Why your Paleo Challenge is letting you down (the real secret to getting to the teens for men and blasting through the 20’s for women)

Once you start eating mostly whole foods your body is now nourished and you won’t typically be hungry near as much.  This often leads to undereating and underperforming in the quest for better health.  Your body looks good, certainly better than it did when you had 15% more fat on it but if you continue to test your body fat you will see that your VLC diet is slowing your progress as it relates to fat loss.  I keep using this and if you follow this blog or this page you will see I use it a lot, simply using a bigger hammer here isn’t better (in fact it’s worse).  One of the reasons you were able to mobilize a good amount of fat early on is because you had a lot of hormones that actually were able to help you get things moving.  With insulin low it allowed your hunger levels to regulate themselves (Grehlin) and your brain starting to tell your fat to mobilize (Leptin).

Basically it’s time to change things up, your body is pretty smart and it adjusted.  So quit thinking like a fat person and start thinking like the athlete you have become.  You don’t need to jump in head first either, just add 50g of starch to your evening meals.  I prefer sweet potatoes but squash works and I even use white rice occasionally.

I am not a fan of supplements (other than creatine) for this population but if you aren’t meeting your protein requirements daily or meals are inconvenient there are always “one off’s” that need to be considered.

Getting below 10% for men and 20% for women and staying there

Before I say any of this we need to do the mirror test.  As a general rule men carry their fat in their mid section and women carry their fat in their hips, legs and chest.  Ladies if you have a large chest and big hips your body type might be the sole factor that keeps you from reaching these arbitrary goals (it could also lead to a ridiculously big squat and deadlift too).  After all, these are just numbers, they don’t really mean anything and once you are even considering reading this part of the article most of the aesthetic stuff is pretty on point.

So for this last part I am going to cheat.  Look at the best performers in the gym, these are often the people with the best body composition.  This is not an accident.  Often these people will be seen sipping on protein and carb drinks post workout.  The reason why these things become more important for these populations is because their increased work capacity has led to more muscle.  When you have small amounts of fat your muscle becomes a viable source for energy and so maintaining that muscle mass becomes even more important than building it (which becomes a challenge at this stage).

When your work capacity is high and so is your muscle mass obviously it allows for more fuel to increase your performance.

Posted in crossfit, diet challenges, eating out, leangains, nutrition, paleo challenge, paleo diets, personal training, power lifting, protein supplements, strength training, weight lifting, weight loss | 3 Comments

Very good perspective from Elizabeth Akinwale related to women’s health and views related to that topic.

Elisabeth Akinwale

There’s this insidious thing that won’t seem to go away, and it is the incessant chatter about athletic women’s bodies- is it ok for women to have muscles? Is strong really better than skinny? I don’t know if men are the main perpetrators or if it’s mostly us doing this to each other (let’s blame the men, that’s more fun). Either way, it’s apparent that certain forces are less than enthusiastic about the fairer sex being yoked. Don’t be scared, everything is going to be ok, even if us gals get barbells in our hands. I usually chalk the negativity up to mostly internet trolls- a subsect of the population I find it best to ignore. Frankly, I just don’t like giving life to the subject by discussing it further. I don’t feel the need to defend my choices for my body, or encourage others to choose the same path…

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My lean mass journey (and oh yeah, fat loss along the way)

Gun Show PicLike most people when I first started working out “for real” I experienced good muscle gain.  According to BodPod figures I went from 124 pounds of lean mass to 131 in 3 months.  Then after surgery and some extreme dieting to keep from getting fat I lost a lot of that muscle I “supposedly” had gained.  EGAD! Lost muscle, what the hell.  The problem with this whole “lost muscle” phenomenon is that you aren’t really losing muscle or muscle tissue in most instances.  Whether you are low carbing or just taking a conscious approach to your calories you are effectively decreasing inflammation levels in your body.  The body is indiscriminate here, it doesn’t care if that inflammation is around your organs or in your muscles, it basically wrings you out like a wet towel.  By the way I wish I knew all of this back then but you only really know what you know when you know it.  I can also assume I will know other things later on that will help me greatly that I don’t know now.  After getting under 20% which was a monster goal for me I decided to gain some muscle, so I started to drink a lot of milk.  I really didn’t get substantially stronger doing that but I wouldn’t say I was getting the best coaching at that time either.  I did however gain fat and went up over 20% again.  So I pushed the panic button and it was the best thing that ever happened to me and my muscle.

I was deadlifting and squatting using a Smith Machine and I never did either heavier than my body weight which was around 160 at the time.

First let me say that I used two facilities, the first three readings were from a separate facility before I decided to start using the University of Minnesota (the first seemed a bit unprofessional).  For the most part I would highly advise not to do this but in this instance the readings do seem to fit.  It also should be noted that by the time I got up the gumption to test my body fat I was 31.4%, this was after I had lost 30 pounds.  My workouts (the six months before Crossfit) consisted of a lot of high intensity cardio and towards the end I was dabbling with weights.  Mostly it was body weight type stuff and long intense cardio sessions at a very high heart rate.

12/11 31.4% with a lean body mass of 124.5 at a weight of 181.6 (wow, even writing this now is astounding, 57 pounds of my body was fat which is virtually useless)

12/11 30.1% with a lean body mass of 126.7 at a weight of 181.4 (I convinced myself the reading was wrong and did it 2 weeks later because I had already lost so much weight, nope I was fat and it was confirmed)

1/24 27.2% with a lean body mass of 128.7 at a weight of 177

Switched facilities at this point

3/11 23.6% with a lean body mass of 131.6 at a weight of 172

5/11 19.3% with a lean body mass of 127.6 at a weight of 158 (post ankle surgery)

6/11 20.4% with a lean body mass of 128 at a weight of 161

Starting Crossfit

Basically the day I walked into Crossfit I had 128 pounds of muscle.  Within 6 months I had 136 pounds of muscle.  So the net was plus 8 but that isn’t the real story, the real story is that I dropped 12 pounds as well.  Once again if I could do it all over again I think I would have stayed at 160 knowing what I know now but back then body fat loss was a big driver for me.  If I hadn’t been so cautious about the way I was eating I might have gotten to my lean body mass goals a lot faster.  Live and learn.

One year into Crossfit my lean muscle mass went to 141 but I had to go to a weight of 167 to get there.  Pretty much every strength number went through the roof.  Personally I think there are a lot of people walking around at plus 20% body fat that think they are sub 10 and for those people 15% probably seems like a death sentence.  That is about where I have been for close to a year and I feel like the best version of myself ever.

8/11 16.8% with a lean body mass of 130.4 at a weight of 156.7

12/11 11.9% with a lean body mass of 135.7 at a weight of 154

1/12 12.9% with a lean body mass of 136.5 at a weight of 157

3/12 13.6% with a lean body mass of 134.6 at a weight of 156

5/12 13.1% with a lean body mass of 139.2 at a weight of 160

8/12 15.6% with a lean body mass of 141.1 at a weight of 167

Let me stop here, when I BodPod I do it fasted in the AM, so when I say I was 167 I wasn’t walking around at 167 I was more likely at 170 most of the time.  This was right around the time I deadlifted 405 for the first time and did 415 shortly thereafter.  For any moron that says, “yeah, but you had to get fat to do so” is LOL to me.  The average NFL quarterback is about 15%.  So I think I am fine.  Remember I really started this journey at about 215 pounds at some body fat % I wouldn’t have wanted to know.  So yeah, I know what fat is and 15% ain’t fat.

Let me also say that I did get under 150 but the BodPod facility I normally used wasn’t available.  So I am just running with the numbers that are consistent.  My goal with getting under 150 was simply to get under 10% for the first time and I did that.  As you can see that lasted all of two days.  I never wanted to be that small but in the end I was I glad I did it.  I was weaker than I wanted to be and from that point forward my goal was to get strong without adding massive amounts of fat.

Back to the timeline

10/12 15.9% with a lean body mass of 138.7 at a weight of 164.9

10/12 16.6% with a lean body mass of 139.6 at a weight of 167.4 (short experiment to see how much mass I could gain in a week from glycogen loading)

1/13 15.2% with a lean body mass of 139 at a weight of 164

A couple of things I learned along the way

Weight loss is mostly water loss that looks like muscle loss but there are many instances I could point to on this timeline where I got stronger and my muscle mass went down.  So strength and muscle density can go up while mass is ultimately going down.  Also early on you can see that I made mad gains with my fat loss related to losing body weight but around 20% I stalled hard.  At that point what got me lower was gaining mass.  I have had the pleasure of watching many people progress using Crossfit and actual data, if I had started Crossfit at 31.4% I would have been better off down the road but it only took me 6 months to get on that path in the first place.  There is also that unknown time where I can only assume I was over 40% body fat.  I wish like hell that was recorded but maybe I don’t get to where I am today knowing that.  To go from 215 to 182 was basically just quit eating like a moron but it should be noted I was working out that whole year.  So what looks like a 2.5 year journey is actually closer to 3.5 years.

Also let me say this wasn’t my first rodeo, I got down to 175 in 2007 only to rebound up to 215.  That was heartbreaking.  The difference between then and now could be defined simply with one sentence.  “Well this is what I definitely won’t do to lose weight”.  I was following the standard advice of eating less and tearing down tissue.  The big “a ha” moment for me came when I realized I could simply research and experiment to learn what works best for me.  I have said it a million times since then “I was just too smart to be fat”.  Learning why things work changed my life forever.

My goals today

I sat down to write the story of why I know I can get stronger without adding substantially more muscle but it felt incomplete without how the journey started.  I took all of the data I have provided in this article and made many changes to my training and eating routine.  Currently I am the best version of myself.  I recently deadlifted 405 x 8 which is amazing when you think only 2 years ago I couldn’t deadlift my own bodyweight.  I love the way I look with my clothes off but I can’t say I ever hated it.  My story wasn’t one of low self esteem, I ate for joy quite a bit but I still do.  The amount of food I eat hasn’t changed much, if anything it’s more but I have changed what I eat.  Most of what I eat adds to my overall goals and also provides me enjoyment.

One extremely fair criticism of my approach is that it isn’t a hypertrophy approach.  Mostly I lift to get strong and get better at Crossfit.  If I was doing isolation reps for size my results would probably be a lot different and I might have more muscle size.  That approach didn’t interest me then and doesn’t now but I respect the people that take that path.  In no way am I saying that what I do is the best approach but it is the best approach for me.

Posted in crossfit, diet challenges, eating out, leangains, nutrition, paleo diets, personal training, power lifting, strength training, Uncategorized, weight lifting, weight loss | Leave a comment

Diet Challenges are broken, Lean You challenge starts January 15th

To be a part of the Lean You challenge simply message me on the Lean You page, Join the Lean You private group on Facebook, message me on Twitter or join our Fitocracy group.

I am just going to put this out there, weight loss and diet challenges are broken.  The reason is simple, whatever juice fast, paleo challenge or whatever you are on does not last for most people.  This is how the trajectory typically goes, challenge starts everyone is pumped and engaged, first few days everyone is making their 16 ingredient recipes and thinking “you know what, this isn’t great but if you are grading on a curve it’s not half bad”.  Then after about a week of eggs for breakfast and chicken and broccoli for dinner.  Your choice is simple, gut it out or quit.   Maybe you are holding out for that magical “adaptation” period all the zealots talk about.  It does come a bit, I am not going to lie about that because when you lose ten pounds of water weight pull-ups are a lot easier.  You won’t be lifting shit but when you look in the mirror and you are less bloated maybe the sacrifice is worth it.  So you gut out the 30 days and you start to make a list of all of the things you are going to eat once it’s done.  Certainly you are going to have some wine or beer, probably some ice cream, maybe some pasta and possibly all on the same day.  Maybe you over do it, maybe not, if you don’t it might be surprising to know that you don’t feel awful the way everyone thinks you would.  Your depleted glycogen stores are back and even though your cardio might suffer because you gained a few pounds over night the weights you are lifting feel light.  If you over do it maybe you will come back, a lot of people don’t and the reason is simple.

We need to change the way we view challenges

First let me start by saying that food allergies are real so when you take out every single thing that could possibly cause a food allergy it’s highly possible you will feel better.  That is a good thing.  Excluding the extreme examples most gluten or dairy allergies come in the form of degrees, so going from having dairy six times a day to having it every fourth day can make a big difference for a lot of people.  Same with gluten, if you have oatmeal for breakfast every day and go to having it once a week you will might also feel better.  So the challenge of most challenges isn’t to just suck it up and eat lean meats with vegetables because honestly you should have known that probably works.  I can’t tell you how many people say to me “I do great on Paleo Challenges but the minute I add beer back in things go to pot”.  So the answer is quite simple, if you plan to live a life of restriction for the rest of your life it’s possible that your challenge will stick.  An alternative viewpoint would be to look at a 30 day challenge as an opportunity to find options to things that are currently hurdles for you.  I am not a fan of 100% challenges for this reason, if you don’t think you can live the rest of your life without having a beer having a plan that doesn’t incorporate beer makes no sense at all.  It might sound like I am being judgmental but I am not, I fell into a lot of these pitfalls myself until I figured out that I needed to include all of my “must haves” and make slow changes over time.

So the real challenge of a “Diet Challenge” needs to be changed to incorporating aspects of your current life with a newer healthier life.  For a lot of people that means solving alcohol or desserts.  For me it was desserts.  I slept best after a big meal and a night of ice cream.  So when I moved to a healthier lifestyle I had to have an answer for desserts, most every night I have some form of dark chocolate but every night I have a smoothie.  Together they are both about 400-450 calories a night that I find enjoyable.  I could eat ice cream too and I do occasionally but I like the volume and flavor more plus I get some good micronutrients (vitamins) from the chocolate and smoothies.  For alcohol maybe changing the type occasionally will be a solution or possibly the amounts.  Everyone is different but I can assure you that if you can’t answer these questions for yourself you will fail and if you follow the broken “challenge” model it will be accompanied by a lot of guilt and sometimes binge eating.  If you find yourself binge eating or “guilt eating” I am just going to say to you that you are eating not because you are weak, it is typically because you are hungry.  You just had a bad plan.

Start the way you want to finish

Look, I realize you want to reverse the damage you have caused yourself over the course of many years but what is the hurry? Sure you can eat less and empty out your fat cells but guess what happens when you go out with your friends and celebrate once you are “done dieting”, that’s right, those empty fat cells want to fill up.  Your body doesn’t care what your goals are, your body wants to save your life and storing fat is one of the primary ways it can accomplish this.  You might want to be skinny but evolution has another agenda.  So I am going to just put it out there that huge restriction often causes weight to come back with interest because the strategy of just eating fewer mashed potatoes does not work.  Want to succeed with Weight Watchers, you are going to need to starve yourself for the rest of your life.  Want to run your way to health, guess what, your body is going to adjust.  Want to know the secret of very low body fat percentages, as a general rule having muscle is a HUGE advantage.  So starving yourself while just running is broken (notice I am not saying you should avoid running).  Eating good nutrient dense foods (without dramatically changing amounts) while lifting heavy stuff is a much better plan.  If you haven’t lifted or done any serious weight training extreme dieting while doing so misses the point of why you are lifting weights in the first place.  The easiest way to explain it is that if you have unused muscle and you start using them they get stronger and grow.  Ladies like to call this “tone” but trust me Michelle Obama’s arms aren’t awesome because she is toned, they are awesome because her muscles are strong and grew.  You could potentially eat like shit and still get a favorable result with resistance training but you won’t be substantially healthier doing it that way.  The best option is to have a balanced approach with some form of cardio, resistance training and meals that have nutrients and then occasionally eat for joy.  For most people they expect food or drink to provide them some level of relief after a hard days work, study or whatever.  It works but if you use it as a crutch too often things go down hill fast so I am arguing for balance but that isn’t all I am arguing for……

Performance needs to be the driver

When people talk about “diet and exercise” they have it wrong.  Diet implies restriction and exercise implies some form of hell you would rather not be doing.  So let’s change diet to “The way we eat” and let’s change exercise to “The stuff we like to do to get better”.  If your plans are to start moving more you should incorporate some form of whole foods diet most of the time but if you feel burdened by the term “clean eating” I can assure you that isn’t what I mean.  Joyless eating just shouldn’t be your plan for life not matter how you eat.  Secondly let’s try and maintain some muscle because, well, it will help you be a better person and might just help you out if you slip on some ice one day.

A new type of challenge

On January 15th we are going to start the new Lean You Challenge.  The entry fee is $5 and those proceeds will go to charity.  I will provide the prizes which will be $200 for both the men and women’s group.  The winner will be determined by votes from the group (Lean You is a private group for adults on Facebook).  You will be asked to provide “before” pictures privately, the only way these pictures will ever get shown is with your permission, there is both a male and female judge that can receive your pictures.

Here is some basic thoughts in order because one major goal is to use data points to chart progress:

The challenge will go for six months and entries will be cut off with four months to go.

We will be using Fitocracy to track our workouts.  If you don’t plan on working out don’t enter.  One of the main goals of this is to increase performance.

Once a week we will be measuring various parts of our bodies to track changes.

Some optional data points that could strengthen your chances of winning:

Pictures of meals you eat.  Not just steak and asparagus and not just pop tarts.  Try and give a holistic picture of how you got better.

Tracking body fat percentage, you can do this any number of ways and we will talk about those options in a later post.

Weight, if you become obsessive related to the scale you might want to avoid this one but as one of many data points I find it useful.

I won’t be tracking macronutrients but for some people to stay on track this is important.  Feel free to add this as a data point but if the goal is to eat 900 calories a day that won’t be viewed as a positive.  We eat to perform.

Changing the way we view progress

The goal of the challenge is to simply become a better version of the person you are already.  You can do that the next time you put something in your mouth.  You can also do that by taking the stairs and not the elevator.  Mostly though do it with others.  Not because we will hold you accountable because in the end all of our journeys has to be personal.  I find that a good nurturing community makes a big difference mostly because you know that others are on a similar path.  Sometimes their path has a part you can do to make your path better.

The goal of dieting should be to never have to be on a diet again.  So why not just start there? I am just going to say it, screw dieting.  2013 is the year of performance!

Posted in diet challenges, juice fasts, nutrition, paleo challenge, paleo diets, personal training, power lifting, strength training, weight lifting, weight loss | Leave a comment

Fasting For Fat-Loss: Insulin & Intermittent Fasting (I.F.)

This was really well done. You could add a bunch of stuff to what he is saying but that complicates the issue and clouds the water a bit. I like the idea of short videos with good info, this one delivers that.

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Keeping your workouts fresh and safe

Gun Show PicIt’s been close to a year since I reached 405 pounds on the deadlift, since then I have only lifted 415 once focusing more on more reps at higher weights but closer to a 90% approach.  It’s actually almost like it didn’t happen at all or a big deal and of course it isn’t because everyone on the internet lifts 600 for reps.  The obvious goal became getting to 500 pounds or something close to a 3 times body weight pull.  I am not a huge guy, not anymore at least, I weigh 162 pounds and I am 5’7″.  I squat close to 300 (I don’t really 1RM lifts, at least not in similar to the way a meet would work), this is starting to feel like a confession.  All of these numbers are above the percentages that get thrown around for expectation related to body weight, usually something in the order of 2 times for deads and 1.75 for squats.

Why am I bringing all of this up?

I am constantly hearing, you shouldn’t do this until you have X amount of years under your belt or until you start lifting X amount you should avoid X.  Now let me throw out a caveat because some people are going to use this as an excuse to jump programs and say I gave them permission to do so.  That isn’t what I am doing here.  What I am saying though is that if you aren’t improving and you straight hate what you are doing why would you continue doing that.  Is it because some guy on the internet says you should “stay the course”.  Everything I do tends to be some variation of something I am already doing.  If you are considering going from Powerlifting to Pilates then yeah, give that some serious thought.  But if you are simply changing your volume or adding or subtracting rest I am not really sure that is a dramatic change.  I know a lot of people like hammering the same nail over and over again and you can unmistakably get results that way but that doesn’t mean that change is going to kill you either.  So keep that in mind.

Opinions on Gear

I don’t use a ton of gear but as you can see from my numbers I am not challenging myself in an extreme way either.  About 80% of the time when I lift I use absolutely nothing at all and another 10% of the time the most I am using is knee bands.  So I am not throwing on squat or deadlift suits yet but I am straight up not above that stuff.  This is why, the more weight I lift (in a safe manner) keeps things interesting and I do find it helps my progress.  I have seen some people be critical of box squatting, presumably those people squat with great form and maybe the movement is more natural for them.  For me it isn’t and thus my squat lags because the muscles I should be developing are weaker as a result of bad form.  The box helps correct this for me a bit and teaches me to use the correct muscles.  Does this mean I never squat at full depth without a box, absolutely not but I can say those lifts are much better now that I have my hips moving back first.  The box taught me that.

I am a fan of gear if you can afford it and I use it on occasion and I use Crossfit for my GPP (general physical preparedness).  If straps make your deadlifts more fun then use straps occasionally, just make sure to practice your grip as well.  Same can be said for a belt.

If it makes your workouts interesting do what you can afford

I have started using chains and bands a bit to work on some deficiencies, ok, I am lying, I just like it.  They make my workouts more fun AND they work on my deficiencies.  A friend of mine asked me how it makes me better, let me give an example.  Before I used bands I rarely lifted close to 300, now I routinely lift close to 300.  With a reverse band it helps me at the bottom and while the bottom was a sticking point for me that wasn’t my biggest issue.  My biggest issue was comfortably lowering the weight down with control.  Now I realize some people will tell you just to drop down and come back up, maybe that works for some but that sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.  So would I be better off training close to 300 a lot or only occasionally hoping that I magically make it this time? I think that answer is obvious.  Now that I am more comfortable and controlled going down, now I can work on coming up more easily.

To end this point let me say that you can add pieces gradually so that you don’t end up in the poor house.  If you are maxing out your credit cards in hopes of making your workouts more interesting let me suggest that might be a bad idea from a life management perspective.

Does that guy/gal look like me?

You could say this another way too, are they 6 feet 4 inches and you are, well, the opposite? Do they weigh 160 pounds and you weigh, well, the opposite? You have to read all advice from a skeptics point of view because if someone says you should never wear a belt unless you lift 500 pounds I am just going to call that opinion ridiculous.  There are just too many factors that go into making that decision to say that so abruptly.  I am all for GPP and working on weak points but you have to view all advice independently.  If you have a job and kids and putting 315 pounds on your back and sitting down feels heavy and you think you might need extra support to continue to push your limits there is only one opinion that matters.  Yours!

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Stir Fry

The reason I have been blogging more about snacks and eating out is because those are the things that befuddle people the most.  The reality is that you need to be able to have options when you can’t prepare your food at home.  Once again this post is going to be somewhat controversial because it doesn’t fit everyone’s “diet of exclusion” paradigm.  I don’t believe in diets of exclusion but if that is something that is important to you then hopefully this post can help a bit.

Also before I start this is not what I eat on a day to day basis, I eat this stuff occasionally. All of it has some pitfalls but every example I use can be helpful related to a varied diet.

Stir Fry

Yes you might have to deal with some soy and no you can’t typically control the oils they cook with.  Here is my suggestion to you, try a few places and ask questions related to your preference but don’t avoid the other places.  This is why I am making this point, stir fry is available a lot more than you think, if you get overly weird about the oils and sauces you are going to find yourself hungry a lot more than you would if you just sucked it up and looked for a better spot in the future.  A few bad oils and some soy/sodium probably isn’t what got you fat in the first place so allow yourself some leeway.  The goal is progress, not perfection.

The picture I will show is from a Mongolian Grill near my house.  You might not have a lot of luck with the oils they cook your meals in but it’s relatively cheap.

Sauce primer, go hot, you are pretty much stuck with soy/sodium so at least try and control the sugar content of your meal.  When you eat with a good amount of veggies and meat you rarely get a super “spicy” meal.  So that’s one tip, the hot sauces have less or no sugar.

Also go to places where you can control the amount of sauce if possible.  Certainly you can ask the server for less sauce but cooks don’t typically like you changing their recipes all that much.  Less sauce to you might mean something different to them as well.  So keep that in mind.  Most Mongolian Grills allow you to choose your sauces and amounts.

Choose White Rice for evening meals

If you are on a performance diet (everyone should be at least a bit right?) I have said before that I think you should add white rice to the mix occasionally (I do it about once a week).  I vary the amount of white rice I eat depending on workout days.  Monday is typically my heaviest day so I eat a good amount of white rice the night before.  I definitely like doing white rice the night before heavy days.  When I say heavy day I mean just that, lifting for a one rep max.  All of the other days I would just ask for less rice and if they don’t accomodate I don’t sweat it.  Life’s too short to freak out on some server who wasn’t even the person that put your food on the plate.  Lose everything you ever thought you knew about calorie restriction unless you are a body builder or you are fighting Manny Pacquioa next week.  The rest of us are taking a more gradual approach.

For mid day meals I like to keep rice out of the mix as a way of keeping fat burning high.

Stir Fry

Posted in eating out, nutrition, paleo diets, personal training, power lifting, stir fry, strength training, weight loss | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

This looked really good.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Butter and Frozen Bananas

So this is one of my latest creations and until today I hadn’t tried it with Yogurt and Milk (I supposedly have a milk protein allergy, pffff).  Since my last smoothie I recommended that Milk and Yogurt was an option but actually didn’t try that one (just really hard to imagine it would suck).  This one has Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut butter in it 4 TBSP (I did a double today thinking my kids might want some of this deliciousness, they didn’t, so my wife will have a treat once she gets home), 8 ounces of Whole Fage Yogurt and 8 ounces of Whole Milk.  Then you blend with 2 frozen ripe bananas (I had to throw the real bananas, without them the picture looked kind of weird).

Bananas and Justins Hazelnut Butter

Here are your options, I mostly do this with coconut milk but I will concede in this instance the yogurt and milk is better tasting.  I suspect full fat coconut milk would be a lot better because the issue is consistency.  It still is quite good.  I do use full fat coconut milk in a lot of things but in a case like this the calories would be similar to Ben and Jerry’s.  We could argue what is better and what is worse but if it’s close I am probably picking the Ben and Jerry’s.  That is why I do light coconut milk.

Also many grocery stores don’t carry full fat greek yogurt (so sad really).  So try and get at least 2%, the fat actually helps blunt the response from the sugar (lactose).  I get that we have all learned to be weird about high fat dairy but it seems like the oddest thing in the world to me that people would drink straight sugar when on a diet (skim milk).

Coconut Milk, Whole Fage and Whole Milk


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Jerky, Nuts, Tuna and Kombucha

I realize this post might trouble some people because you could take an issue with the jerky or tuna.  Look, when I can buy Buffalo Jerky or low processed foods I do every single time.  Not everyone can do this.  As you can see I have this in my house and I eat it. I think sometimes it’s the major points that need to be addressed.  Let me put that another way, the salt or soy that might be in the beef jerky is simply a better option for most people than donuts (trust me, that is the other option for a lot of people).  In terms of the nuts you could take an issue with what they are roasted in.  Yawn.  Look, here is the deal, snacking is one of the biggest problems for a lot of people.  That is why I am trying to giving remotely healthy options.  If you have better options then please share them, the one rule is that they need to be accessible everywhere.  Even though TJ’s brand nuts aren’t available everywhere certainly you can find macadamia nuts and sunflower seeds elsewhere.  If you like raw nuts then god bless.  That is just a taste I haven’t acquired yet.

Even though the snacks in this post are low carb options I threw in the Synergy Kombucha Tea (Guava is so good) because it is pretty low in carbs and really fills you up and is a perfect compliment to nuts or jerky.  If you are trying to stay under a certain amount of carbs a day this probably won’t take you over that number.  Personally I think everyone is fine doing under 100g of carbs, ketosis isn’t fat burning magic but there is value to letting your body use up the carbs you intake.

Lastly I am writing this post in response to requests from some people, take what fits and ignore the rest.

Jerky and Snacks




This might mess with people a bit but I like tuna as a snack.  Seriously.  Maybe even weirder is that I eat it with mustard.  There is actually a strong argument for eating it with mayonnaise however.  As a low fat protein source tuna will get your insulin going (not a bad thing but I like to keep insulin levels lowish throughout the day), so having it with some fat is probably a good thing.  Once again, I bought this brand because it’s widely available (but yes, I will be eating it).  Even though it says it’s a good source of Omega 3’s I would still suggest supplementing with fish oil but it’s nice to have as many O3’s from real food if possible.

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