Mistakes of a Failed Work in Progress

Yesterday, I turned 34. If you didn’t know, this is prime mid life crisis age. Now is the time most men are buying that BMW, starting the use of male beauty products, and thinking they still have a shot with college coeds. Unbeknownst to most men my age, the BMW doesn’t make you cool, those beauty products are a waste, and even if you could land a sorority girl, the first time you heard her talk with an inflection at the end of each sentence that implies a question when the sentence was clearly a statement, you’d want to strangle her quietly while telling those darn kids to get off your lawn.

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It’s not that I don’t have my quirks or that I’m some uber-evolved member of the male group. I’m not. However, I am very content with life right now. My wife is great. My 4 children are awesome, even though the youngest won’t let me put her down as I type (2 am and she cries when the thought of no longer rocking her enters my mind. Yup, that sentence just startled her awake). Job pays the bills. And I’m passionate about training.

Not obsessed. Passionate. I enjoy learning about what makes one workout more successful than another. Why someone chooses one method over another. Biomechanical advantages vs personal preference. And of course, the best way to look good naked (the most common reason for training).

This passion has evolved though. It didn’t come without its setbacks and mistakes. If you’re one of the 3 people who will read this, please learn from the following and don’t allow the most precious gift of time to go to waste.

My Mistakes

1. Always training for hypertrophy

I spent 8 years not knowing what a max was. 8 years benching 155, squatting 185, and not deadlifting at all. Why? Because I was always trying to isolate muscles. Get the pump. 8-12 reps for 4 sets, every exercise, for 8 years. My reasoning was sound: I read it in a magazine.

Unfortunately, this dogmatic approach stalled gains. I would still be doing this today if I hadn’t decided to see how much I could lift one day. Boredom eventually got me out of a rut, but man, that was a long rut.

2. Not paying attention to the diet

That isn’t the correct title. I paid attention to my diet, but only one part of my diet: protein. I consumed so much protein. Vegetables? Yeah, screw that, no protein in celery bro. So much time spent tracking and eating nothing but protein. It was miserable. I was weak unable to gain any weight. Combine that with the mistake above and you have a recipe for no progress.

3. Too much cardio/Not the right kind of cardio

When I first started, I wanted to gain 30 lbs., but I didn’t want to gain any fat. In addition to lifting hard, I ran 12-20 miles a week as well. Guess what? No weight gained and stalling/plateauing on all my lifts.

While possible to gain muscle and lose fat in a macro view, I had a no tolerance policy in the micro. If I lost the slightest bit of definition in my stomach, I cranked up the miles on the road. I wasn’t willing to make short term losses for long term gains.

Additionally, I didn’t sprint. Like, at all. Despite this being a cornerstone for every sport I played growing up, I never did it. Most people today don’t do it. They prefer to ellipticize for 2 hours, than to sprint for 10 minutes. I understand now, but I didn’t back then.

Honestly, this list could’ve been doctoral thesis long, but you get the point. If there was a mistake to be made, I made it. What separates me today from me back then? Perseverance. Despite those setbacks, I read more. I trained harder. Became a trainer. Worked harder. Took additional classes. Attended seminars. Read books. Scrutinized and reached out to potential mentors. Most importantly, never quit.

At 34, I’m in the best shape of my life.

I know I’ll say the same thing next year.

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Make Your Cheat Meal Work For You

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I posted this meme on Friday. Didn’t agree with it then, don’t agree with it now. That meme, and it’s author are setting you up for failure. And the attitude is a bit elitist if you ask me. It essentially says you aren’t committed enough to your goals. Personally, I think that’s crap. My wife will tell you that I’m committed (or need to be committed) to my meathead ways and my Friday diet consists of fast food and milkshakes. No matter what your goals, a weekly cheat meal isn’t going to undo your progress. As long as it’s done correctly. In fact, it can help you meet your goals.

So how does it work and why does it work?

I’m glad you asked. Below, I’ll detail the psychological and physiological effects of a cheat meal and how to best time your cheat meal to make positive progress towards your goals.

Psychological
You can’t have milk. Ever. Milk is completely gone from your diet. Are you craving milk? I chose milk because I’m currently drinking a glass, but it could be anything. I could’ve said alfalfa sprouts and you would instantly crave them too. That’s how we are built. We want what we can’t have.

Now, apply it to something you actually crave. Think of the most unhealthy thing that you can’t live without. Some people crave sweets. Some fast food. Whatever it is, if you say to yourself,”No more of that”, you’re going to want that.

You may be able to abstain for a bit, but you will eventually fail. And an epic fail it will be. A binge will happen. Guilt will set it. Your motivation will wane and you’ll lose interest your goals. You’ll decide it’s too hard to reach your goals and you’ll quit.

But what if you planned a day in which those cravings could be met. The food devil on your shoulder would silenced and kept at bay for the next 6 days. And, as you’ll learn below, it can be beneficial to help you meeting your goals.

Physiological

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This might be a slight exaggeration. Morpheus always had a flair for the dramatic. However, if your cravings are large fries, a milkshake, or a couple of beers, there is a way to make those foods work for you. Below we delve into how people diet and avoid certain foods, and how that actually works against them reaching their goals.

Stop Thinking Purely Metabolically
Most people who want to lose weight, do so by cutting calories. They see it in a simple mathematical equation. Less calories taken in=more weight loss. This is true to a point. Eventually, you reach a point where that method works against you.

A significant decrease in calories leads the metabolism to slow due to a decreased amount of the hormone leptin. The leptin hormone relies on calories to be effective. It increases your metabolism and cause you to burn more fat. More calories=more leptin=more fat burned.

Obviously, you can’t do this everyday. You want to be in a caloric deficit overall, but a sudden, shocking, once a week increase in calories will be enough to drive leptin levels up and increase your metabolism.

Nerds will call it a “strategic overfeed”. I call it delicious.

How To Cheat Meal
The rules are, there ain’t no rules. That’s a lie, but the rules aren’t difficult to follow.

1. Choose a day that you are going to need those calories. Your hardest workout. I typically do strongman training on Friday and I want to push my limits. Tire flips, sled pushes, farmer’s walks. If you’ve done things like this before, you know you’re going to expend some calories. More than likely, my cheat day will be Friday because of this. You probably know this because I love cheat day Friday and let everyone know how much I love cheat meal Friday.

2. It’s one meal, not one day. If the goal is raising leptin levels, you need one large caloric intake, not a bunch of snacks throughout the day. That one meal can be appetizer, meal, and dessert, but make it one sitting. If it’s a sleeve of thin mints (mmmmmm thin mints), so be it. But it is once a week. You want ice cream? Then ice cream you shall have—-once a week.

3. Buy cheat foods the day of. If you have it readily available, it won’t be a once a week splurge. You’ll cheat on your cheat meal and she is a jealous temptress. You will not get the same results if you eat these foods through the week. Remember, the goal is to shock your body. The clean diet you have during the rest of the week, is prepping your body for that shock. Don’t undo it by cheating on your cheat meal.

4. Have fun. This is your meal. Make it count.

If you’re interested in further research Engineering the Alpha by Adam Bornstein and John Romaniello, goes into much greater detail. If you just want to take my word for it and cheat meal like a boss, that’s cool too.

As always, you can contact me with any questions.