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My Story (with Before and Afters)

26 May

Paul Family Image

In some ways, my journey began by Googling “how to lose a double chin.”  I had already lost a lot of weight, but I looked like an emaciated version of my former fat self and I still had a double chin.  That’s how I found body fat testing, and that single event changed everything for me.  Our book Metabolic Flexibility for High Intensity Athletes teaches you how to fuel your body for your fat loss goals.  We back that up with seminars and a private group so you can ask high-level professionals to assist you in your journey.  To be clear though, we aren’t a diet group; we are a performance group.  All of the changes I made below didn’t come from dieting.  In a very real way, when I quit being a “dieter”, everything clicked.

My Journey

What I am supposed to do here is show you guys the “before” pictures of me walking around at 200+ lbs., then show you the “after” picture of me at 9% body fat, and tell you how easy it was to accomplish.  I am not going to do that though.  That would be a big fat lie.  I can tell you this:  knowing me will make your journey a hell of a lot easier because after years of burying my head in the sand, I decided that I was too smart to be fat.

On at least four or five separate occasions, I was able to get under 200 lbs. by dropping Cokes and M & M’s, and if I ate some  vegetables on occasion, I could get under 190 lbs.  I ate when I was stressed, I ate when I was happy, I ate when I was sad…It was a rare occasion when I didn’t have an excuse to eat.  The pictures you are seeing are from about 2004/2005; the poker picture embarrassed me so much that I actually did something about it and got down to a skinny fat 175 lbs. with almost no exercise at all.  It’s laughable to think of it now because I enjoy activity so much, but as you can see from the pictures, I knew “fat loss in 30 days” wasn’t in the cards for me.  It was going to be hard, and I went all out.

I basically starved myself to lose weight at this point.  (To be fair, I wasn’t exactly starving myself – I was really just low carbing and under eating.)  You can get by with this kind of diet in short bursts, but if you stick with it and really start to hammer away, you begin to do severe damage to yourself.  In the end I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism.

Worst of all, the weight loss didn’t stick.  By limiting carbs, you probably won’t take in adequate calories (especially if you’re active.)  You limit protein synthesis and it’s hard to put on muscle.  Your BMR drops and you need to eat less and less to keep losing weight.  The funny thing about starving yourself is that eventually, you stop and you begin to eat again (at least most people do.)  Once I started eating normally, the weight came back with interest.  I probably spent close to a year getting to 175 lbs. through a starvation diet, and it only took me a couple of weeks to put it all back on.

Paul Poker Image

When people Google my name, this is typically the first image they see of me.

I could ignore my health; I could ignore all of the family photos of me being heavy, but once I started showing up on television and in magazines (as a professional poker player) I realized that this was how people were going to view me for the rest of my life.  I didn’t want that to be the case.  More importantly, I am a successful person in many aspects of life, and I didn’t want my daughters and family to be blinded by the one area of my life where it appeared I didn’t care.

Whatever It Took

All of the times before this, I had all of these qualifiers…I had a list of all of the things I wouldn’t do.  I knew this might be my last shot; I had to go all in. (Get it?  Poker picture?  All in?)  Focusing on body fat measurements made a big difference for me because the scale didn’t always show me the progress I was making with muscle.  If there is one thing I would like to get across to you guys it’s this:  Try to reach your fat loss goals, but don’t do it without respect for your muscle.  Don’t be obsessed with the numbers.

Looking back, if there is one thing I would change about my fat loss journey, I would choose not to get so small.  Doing the math with body fat percentage calculations (focusing on getting to single digits and getting ripped) just became obsessive for some reason.  In the picture below, I weighed 149 pounds.  Currently I weigh 175 pounds.  I suspect my body fat is higher than 15% at the moment.  The reason is simple:  my goals have changed.  I am a 44 year old man.  Next year is my first opportunity to become a Masters competitor in the 45-49 age division.  If I want to have any shot at all, I need to be strong.  Our sport rewards strong people.  The reality is that my strength goals are lofty, but you have to dream big to lift big.

Me at 9%

Me at 9%.

People Want a Formula…

…But we don’t teach a formula.  We try to meet people where they’re at now, and give them the information they need to get where they want to be.  I’ve (obviously) been at both ends of the spectrum, and I honestly believe I can help practically anyone reach their goals.  Understand this though:  “lose 30 lbs.” isn’t a goal.  If it is, it certainly isn’t one you wake up excited about and ready to tackle each day.  It isn’t specific either; do you want to lose 30 lbs. of fat?  Muscle?  Where do you go after you’ve lost the 30 lbs?  How will that change who you are?  “Lift 500 pounds from the floor for a single repetition” is a goal that will have you in the gym/kitchen/bed every day getting the training, nutrition, and sleep you need to make a change in yourself (both inside and out.)  You can’t sit back and ignore your body when you’re focused on performance; you spend each day honoring your commitments and it shows in your character as well as your physique.

One thing I had going for me is that I already liked myself.  Trust me, I know why this site is popular.  A lot of people idolize Chris Spealler, but they see me as someone they can relate to.  I take that responsibility serious.  If people think I was some miserable fat guy, they are wrong; you would like me today, and you probably would have liked me then too.  I was competitive and smart, but I just wasn’t focused on health at that point.

507 pounds

Let’s make it clear that after all this change, I am not a finished product.  To a certain extent, Eat To Perform has been enlightening for me as well.  I had pretty much tapped my potential as a 165 pound man, and it occurred to me that if I wanted to pull 500 pounds off of the ground I might need to change the way I had planned my own journey.  Allowing myself, mentally, to put on 10 pounds wasn’t easy, but I am much stronger as a result and I didn’t get fat doing it.

I am as guilty as anybody of limiting my potential by letting my fat layer dictate my goals.  The best version of me is strong and capable, irrespective of weight (and to a certain extent irrespective of my body fat percentage.)  For too long I allowed that to limit me.  This isn’t an argument for being irresponsible; it’s an argument for changing your mindset related to what the best version of you looks like in the mirror.  The best version of me is strong and athletic.  I am no longer chasing weight and body fat as a means to validate my success.

No Excuses

No one wants to hear sob stories about how I didn’t eat vegetables until I was in my thirties.  Frankly, I grew up in households where convenience was the priority, and I had to work to re-wire my brain to get to where I am today.  Which brings me to my next point:

Not everyone is going to make it.

I said from day one that my problem was that I didn’t understand the WHY’s of nutrition; “Why do carbohydrates make you hold excessive water?”, “Why are they necessary for a healthy metabolism and protein turnover?”, “Why does fat store as fat without the presence of insulin?”, and maybe most importantly for this site, “WHY does high intensity exercise breaks down muscle and cause you to hold onto fat when you aren’t eating enough?”

The simple fact is I can spend every red cent I earn with this site to pay the best PhD’s, strength coaches, and psychologists to help you understand yourself but none of them can do it for you.  It’s just information.

“The people that don’t make it simply quit on themselves.”

Trust me, I get that part.  I did for many years.  The first thing I had to do was give myself a clean mental slate.  I realized who loved me and who had to leave and I remade every single part of my life.  CrossFit was the missing piece of the puzzle though; when I hang out on weekends, I like to hang out with my fit friends.  Not because it’s some devious plan, but because I like hanging around people like me.  I like mentoring new folks; I don’t allow negative sentiment to develop in the private group.  My train is headed in one direction and that direction is positive.

I’ve never put these pictures out there before, but Maggie (the business developer for this site and to a certain extent the female version of me) thought people needed to know where I came from, that it would help put some perspective on what I write and what I teach.  Secretly, I think she wanted my story out there because I keep putting up her story.  Make no mistake about it though; one of the most inspiring stories you will ever hear related to CHANGING EVERYTHING is that of Paul Nobles Jr.  I love these pictures, because they serve as a symbol of how far I have come.  (That’s an example of me being positive!)  Certainly, I could allow myself to view them the opposite way if that is what I chose, but that’s not how I roll.

It’s hard doing what it takes when you are confused and you’re allowing negative messages to dominate your psyche.  If you are new, your journey starts now.  Go to the front of the class and turn around to address them; trust me, you will give everything you have because you will see a bunch of other people doing the exact same thing.  As coaches, we need to do a better job of keeping new people interested, involved, and dedicated to a better “me.”  Allowing those people to hide in the back of the gym is something that needs to change.  No one is going to judge you for where you are at, but they will judge you for quitting on yourself.  CrossFit is about support and it’s one of the things our community does best.  I hope in some small way that Eat To Perform pushes that along a bit.

Extreme Fat Loss Seminar Time Stamped and Transcribed

21 May

warning fat loss

The central theme of your Science Lab membership is the idea of Metabolic Flexibility.  We wrote these chapters specifically for High Intensity Weightlifting Sports.  Along with that you get the UNLIMITED ability to talk to coaches and nutrition experts in these seminars as well as our private group click this link for details.

(Click “Continue reading” to jump to a time stamp and transcription of this seminar)

Continue reading

Me at 9%

19 May

Me at 9%

Extreme Fat Loss: Skinny-Fat Edition

5 May

warning fat loss

Many people coming from aggressive deficit dieting or low carbohydrate backgrounds get scared of minor weight gain as they start to adapt to a more performance way of eating.  It’s 100% normal to need to navigate this mentally and the best way to do that is with other people.  That is what the Science Lab does and we have Extreme Fat Loss seminars every Monday night.  Our book Metabolic Flexibility for High Intensity Atheltes teaches you how to most effectively eat for performance with the net gain being fat loss,  for more information click here.

(Click here to jump to a summary of this article.)

I think it would surprise most people how inaccessible a lot of diet authors are; most of them just write their book, promote it, and then they’re done.  After the initial campaign, they might keep a blog and publish a post once a week.  Maybe they’ll release an amendment to the book in a few years.  All-in-all, there’s very little in the way of support for their product and they rarely practice what they preach.

I have had a lot of luck conversing with high-level authors about studies I find interesting, or successes I have had putting their concepts into practice, but when things start to go awry those e-mails go unanswered.  When I mentioned my plans for the Science Lab, one of my better friends (Who is also a well- known author) said, “That sounds like a train wreck.  This is a numbers game; a lot of people fail.”  Then I said something to him that made him pause:  “What if they fail because they went the wrong way and no one was there to put them on the correct path?”

It’s been a very rewarding experience working with people on a personal level as it relates to their health and fitness journey, but the one thing that does suck a bit is that some people don’t come out on the other side.  They’re hearing a lot of other voices, and sometimes that can also become confusing.  The simple fact is this:  there is no single answer to every query.  Everybody’s path is unique, and there will be much deliberation along the way.  Most people that land at my doorstep have been on the proverbial treadmill for some time, and they want answers now.  Let’s talk about a very common problem that is oftentimes the first bug we have to squash.

what got you fat

Why Low Carb Diets Kill Performance

To begin, let’s clarify what I mean by “low carb”:  less than 100 grams of carbs a day qualifies but it depends slightly upon the person.  It’s a sliding scale; 100g is about the point where brain function is covered, so if that is all you are eating there isn’t a lot left to feed your muscles.  This doesn’t mean you will wither up and die, but it’s not optimal whether you’re a man or a woman.

I am talking to a mostly active audience.  Certainly, if you don’t do very much with your body, some level of carb restriction probably makes sense but even in that instance, it can be harmful to your metabolism to take it to an extreme.  When you add activity (Especially high-level activity like CrossFit or weightlifting), even 100g can become potentially harmful.

Let’s do the math:

  • Your brain and other vital organs use 100g of glucose or more every day.
  • Let’s say you burn 300 calories during a WOD.  Most of those calories come from glycogen storage within the muscle.  (Let’s use 60% carbs as an example.)
  • That would be 180 calories from carbs, divided by 4 calories per gram.  You end up at 45g of carbs used for the WOD.

If you have ever wondered why you feel lethargic after a WOD, now you have some idea.  Your diet barely provides enough glucose to keep your brain going, let alone fuel the workout.  Your body has to find an alternative path to produce energy, since carbs aren’t being made readily available.  It would be nice to think that you’d draw on stored body fat, but fat has to be mobilized before it can be used as a substrate to produce glucose in the liver.  This process is neither quick, nor convenient, but it works under the context of endurance activities.  As far as anaerobic exercise is concerned, muscle glycogen is your best option and you’re running low.  You CAN get by like this, but your power output and maximal strength will likely suffer.

Why Low Carb Diets Make you Skinny-Fat

As most people know by now, carbs and sugars stimulate insulin production.  Insulin is primarily a transport hormone; it helps get nutrients into cells.  This is helpful as far as building muscle goes, but when you’re in a calorie surplus, insulin also helps create fat stores.  When there’s no more room for carbohydrate in the muscles or liver, it will be converted to fat.

When you eat low carb, insulin secretion stays at a minimum and cells become hyper-sensitive to its signaling.  In the short term, this is actually great as far as fat burning and muscle retention are concerned, but it’s a problem if you want to build muscle.  A lot of the protein you’re eating is being used to produce glucose rather than stimulating growth; at best, you’ll retain your muscle mass, but over the long term you’ll start breaking down muscle tissue to produce glucose too.  If you’re not eating enough total calories, you will waste muscle and your body fat percentage will increase.

To make matters worse, your muscles will eventually become insensitive to insulin and the fat mobilizing hormone leptin, leaving your cells inflexible and flat-footed.  This also has a negative effect on your endocrine system.  In general, it’s unnecessary and at worst it can cause all kinds of metabolic dysfunction.

You end up weak, skinny fat, and your metabolism is essentially broken.   Certainly, I am not pitching for extreme levels of dietary carbohydrate intake.  Rather just enough to support muscle maintenance, repair and a little growth on occasion.  Like most things, quality is more important than quantity.

All Carbs are not Created Equal

To replenish muscle glycogen, the quickest and most efficient sources are going to be starches.  Something like Kale or broccoli might be good as far as vitamins are concerned, but your body will derive very little net carbohydrate from these sources and you’ll have a heck of a time refueling your muscles.  Sugars are a step in the right direction, but most are inefficient as they are only partially glucose.  A notable exception is dextrose, which is a100% glucose form of sugar and is popular in supplements and sports drinks.

For a more in-depth look at optimal carb sources, review this article.

So How Does This Person Recover and Lose Fat?

The answer is actually so simple, it’s going to make you mad, but it’s also difficult to quantify immediately.  Because the person wasn’t eating enough carbohydrate to aid in protein turnover, all they need to do is eat enough to start putting on some muscle mass.  Much of the “fat” that was gained was simply the body trying to protect itself, as well as a decrease in lean body mass that artificially inflated your body fat percentage.  When you eat an adequate amount of quality carbs from whole food sources (We’re not talking three pints of Ben and Jerry’s) you start refilling your muscles with water and glucose, and as you lift heavier weight you add density and functional tissue.  The results tend to be quite extreme, and they happen relatively quickly.  It’s not uncommon for someone to gain five pounds of muscle within a few weeks.

The best part is that as long as you’re active and you eat relatively clean, all of that added weight is lean mass.  If you have been depleted for some time, you can actually mobilize some fat, but the numbers don’t tend to be quite as significant; you won’t lose 10% of your body fat but 1-2% isn’t out of the question.  What you are doing however is aiding your work capacity in a significant manner, and as you gradually build muscle mass (women may refer to this as “muscle tone”) you can start to chip away at your body fat.  Meanwhile, you end up squatting more, deadlifting more, and making Fran your bitch.

Two of the rarest commodities, patience and understanding, are required to get there.  This approach might set you back a few weeks or months before you can tell that the train is definitely on the right track.  Most people instinctively know that the direction I want them to go is the correct path, but old habits die hard.  Remember this:  I am not saying you shouldn’t eat low carb occasionally.  In fact, that is a central theme of what we teach in the Science Lab, but you should always allow for maintenance and growth of muscle tissue.   Under eating and low carbing won’t get you there.   It’s only half of the equation.

Summary:

  • A big part of why Eat To Perform is dedicated to providing support for our users is because everyone is on their own unique path and sometimes, the people who don’t succeed were the people who needed a more in-depth look.  We want to see people achieve their goals!
  • Your brain and organs use about 100g of glucose on a daily basis, just to keep you alive.  Low carb diets do not allow any energy for your muscles, and your workouts will probably suck.
  • When your workouts suck and you’re not providing your body with enough carbs to increase protein synthesis and retention, you’re going to lose muscle mass.
  • A low body fat percentage without a significant amount of muscle mass results in a damaged metabolism and a gaunt physical appearance.  Without a lot of muscle, you will never diet away the last bits of fat.
  • How do you fix yourself and get back to burning fat?  It’s simple:  you eat enough carbs and food overall to fuel performance!
  • As your performance increases, you’ll get stronger, you’ll add muscle mass, and you’ll be able to burn fat at appropriate times, resulting in an overall improved body composition and optimized health.

Extreme Fat Loss April 3rd

3 Apr

I have added an Extreme Fat Loss class on Wednesday’s at noon CST (this is one of those classes) in the “Science Lab” seminars that we offer free when you purchase things that support our site (it’s mostly stuff you would buy anyway).  I will be offering more as the demand justifies.  Click the link and it will give you more details.