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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.

How to Lose a Double Chin

22 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: 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.

Why the Way You View Overweight People is Wrong

23 Apr

scale

We will have two challenges going on by the end of the day, one is a three month challenge for people without an extreme amount of fat to lose and then a year long challenge for people that have bigger goals.  Here are the various ways to become a science lab member.

I wanted to take my time in making this post because I think it’s important.  Something needs to change in a big way and for our community to represent real change for everyone we need to really change the way fit people view people with a bit more fat to lose.  In general I try to put my stuff out there and not comment on things that distract from my goal of helping people through their daily struggles.  This will be the exception.

Are you a nutritionist? (I get this one a lot)

The method I teach people is a basic understanding of mathematic and scientific principles.  Something many trainers and “fit people” apparently don’t understand because there seems to be an endless stream of super caloric restriction diets making the rounds.  We have a Ph.D. candidate on staff that is one of the leaders in the field of Exercise Physiology and a well known presenter of the “Metabolic Flexibility” method that I teach.  While I like Mike a lot and he is a pretty smart dude, even I knew super caloric restriction was wrong a long time ago and if you thought about for a bit, so do many of you.  But let’s back up for a second.

When logic goes wrong

For a lot of people they wake up one day, maybe after a bunch of days, and find themselves motivated in a way that is uncommon.  In that moment they seek out some form of relief from the pain they are in (the pain of being overweight in this instance).  As they are looking for a solution extremes seem highly logical because they would like to be out of the pain they are in immediately.  What is even worse than that is, at least in the beginning, it seems to work.  The problem is that what “seems” to work really isn’t doing all of that much if you put it under a microscope and examined it using multiple parameters.  Instead people opt for the scale and in the beginning eating super low calories “seems” to be getting results.  This isn’t to suggest that some fat isn’t being mobilized, but as we all know the results diminish quickly.  When you add intense exercise to that mix, along with extreme caloric restriction, you set up a scenario that a lot of people never come back from.

Let me just say this plain and simple, I don’t care if you don’t believe it

If you are fit and have never been obese like I have, you don’t know what it’s like mentally as well as physically.  I am not saying that you might not be able to understand what it might take for these populations to achieve some level of health, but if you always start at “those people are undisciplined” the train is already headed in the wrong direction for you.  Here are some simple truths:

  • • The body does not respond well to extremes, while it does force adaptation, that isn’t always a positive.
  • • People with more fat to lose tend to carry a lot of muscle along with that fat layer, so they adapt to strength training much quicker than people of slighter build.  Therefore, if you are a coach with clients that have a large amount of fat to lose you should be having them lift slow, even though logically it makes no sense.  It is favorable as it relates to their stress levels/cortisol levels and will maintain their strength base and keep their muscle.
  • • Mentally as you achieve things those successes build on each other.  In other words if you can have people building on their strengths, rather than focusing on their weaknesses, that allows them to address their weaknesses in a more effective manner.
  • • Lastly and maybe most importantly, gradual change is meaningful change and lasting change.  An individual with more fat to lose also has more muscle as a general rule and needs to feed that muscle with nutrients.

So in the end, it’s not so much how much you eat as much as it is eating appropriate amounts for your energy output to support your current frame + a slight deficit that focuses more on changing behavior.

Do you see how my approach is different?

The approach of having people eat dramatically less amounts compared to their new level of activity is based on a flawed logical premise that they were eating to excess.  You take that same person eating those same foods when they are nineteen and add an exercise component to the equation and they become chiseled.  So clearly there is more going on than just discipline.  Changing habits is difficult and frankly a lot of people don’t ever make it to the other side. I would argue that it’s not excess that is the problem as much as it is a lack of understanding, that is the problem..  Certainly everyone needs to own things a little bit in regards to their own health, but after this post I hope everyone at least considers that many people do seek out help and find the wrong people, which can end in disaster, disease, and even death.

It’s time to look at our flawed restrictive diets as the problem and not the solution.

Could Car Keys hold the secret to Fat Loss?

23 Apr

Car Keys

We will have two challenges going on by the end of the day, one is a three month challenge for people without an extreme amount of fat to lose and then a year long challenge for people that have bigger goals.  Here are the various ways to become a science lab member.

 

Even though I constantly say “don’t count calories” and that people need to have a more intuitive style of eating there is a powerful argument the other way, at least for a short while.  The reason is simple, when establishing new habits some measure of control is comforting.  In the example I used in the title if you put your car keys in the same place all of the time it provides your brain the opportunity to focus on more important things like what’s for dinner.  When the car keys get lost, for a lot of people, this can start a downward spiral that lands you at the doorstep of what I like to refer to as “DairyQueenLand”.

 

In the end however an intuitive style of eating that uses data as check in points is more doable for most people and what we teach.  So understanding what 200g of carbohydrates looks like, or 100g of fat, or even 150g of protein.  Most people have no idea the macronutrient values of the foods they are consuming and it’s this confusion that makes things more difficult in the end.  Once the habit is established for the rest of your life you have some understanding of what your basic needs are as a human being and that is comforting and allows you to now focus on things like PR’ing your squat.

 

What we try to do is start people with some basic parameters and use data points as a way of pointing at the new path as the more correct path.  That “more correct” path gets whittled down into easier more predictable habits in the end.

Tracking Changes in Body Composition

22 Apr

Knowing your body fat percentage can take a lot of guesswork out of planning your nutrition and setting realistic goals.  This subject comes up on a regular basis in the Science Lab (we now have a new pricing offers $49.95 which includes Mike T Nelson’s metabolic flexibility for high intensity athletes, this will be release on Friday April 26th as well as the recurring offer and trial membership); part of that is because it can become downright confusing to interpret the results and where to go from there.  Paul has seen literally thousands of individual body fat tests, and he can help you get the most from your own experimentation and testing.  

As CrossFitters, we are constantly testing our limits and collecting information on where we are now, where we want to go, and how that relates to where we began.  Want to know someone’s Fran time?  Cool, they tested it in January and hope to test it again soon.  CrossFit total?  Check.  We do that pretty regularly as well.  On and on, we track of our PR’s (personal records), Hero WOD times, and perform various performance assessments.  We are pretty serious about data…Except for when it comes to tracking our body composition changes.

People are often given the advice to “ignore the scale”, and while some boxes embrace body fat testing, it’s far from the norm.  Part of the reason this is the case is because our standard concepts of diet and nutrition have not always equaled results, and people are disappointed.  It’s easy to point the blame at a diet for not allowing people to “eat to perform”, but in reality it’s not the food that’s the problem; it’s the interpretation of the diet that becomes the issue.  When most people think of losing fat, they tend to think they will have to diet to do so.  For most people, that means eating less.  Clearly, we’re pointing towards the idea that a building/gradually awesome approach is better for long term goals.  Building muscle decreases body fat percentage, but it can be difficult to tell what’s going on without some way to measure things.  So let’s talk about what we can test and how we can use those data points to dial in our nutrition and perform better in the gym.

Body Fat Tests

As far as body fat tests go, people tend to point out the flaws in a method when they don’t get the results they expect.  Many people walk into a testing facility “knowing” their body fat percentage already, and it comes as a shock when they’re off.  Sorry folks, but data don’t lie.  Even if the test has a margin of error, this shouldn’t be a one-time thing:  your initial reading is just a point of reference.  Over time, you should re-test and start to collect data.  This will give you an objective measurement (just like performance gains do) of how successful your nutrition and training have been.

I find 3 months to be a good window to allow for tweaks you might be making to take hold.  Monthly visits to a testing facility are not extremely helpful; your body just doesn’t change all that much from week-to-week.  I am interested in portable ultrasound techniques as they become more readily available and less expensive, but for now, the three technologies I recommend are as follows:

BOD POD:  If you are relatively new to body fat testing, this is probably your best point of entry.  The technology uses gas displacement to measure your fat mass.  While not as good as DXA, I have found the results to be very similar, but you have to be careful because operators and equipment tend to matter.  Just make sure they calibrate the machine before you do the test; I ask every single time and sometimes the operator gets annoyed but that’s their job so in the end I don’t care.  I have mine done at the University of Minnesota Athletic Department.  What I like about getting tested at universities is that they do a lot of them, so they typically have the best/newest equipment.

DXA Scan:  You can find this available at a lot of clinics.  It’s basically an X-ray to determine bone density, which is then used to extrapolate a body fat percentage.  DXA not only gives you an accurate account of your fat, but it shows you where the fat is on your body.  The downside is that, in many cases, it can be expensive.  You might not be able to do it as often as you’d like because of the price, but if you can afford it this is the best method by far.

Hydrostatic weighing:  This technology is based on water displacement, which means you will need to get wet.  I don’t personally think it’s in the same league as DXA in terms of accuracy and comfort, but it tends to be more commonly available.  It was long considered to be the gold standard, and it’s still quite good but it’s not nearly as convenient as BOD POD or DXA.

At-home tests (calipers, body fat scales, etc.) are a considerable drop-off compared to those three methods.  Not only are they less accurate, but they’re more prone to human error.  For this reason, they’re difficult to use as a method of tracking progress.  That doesn’t mean you can’t use them, but I would suggest that you use them in addition to regular testing with one of the previously described methods.

The Scale

While body fat testing can give you a real measurement of your body composition, the scale is useful in the interim period between tests.  You don’t want to fall into the trap of using the scale as the sole determinant of the effectiveness of your planning, but it can give you some insight into the success of your experiments.  The caveat is simple:  you want the number to go up/down, but you don’t want to fluctuate in an extreme manner, no matter what your goal is.  (“Extreme” weight gain/loss is 15-20 lbs.)  As a general rule, when you lose weight (especially when you lose weight in an extreme manner) you lose lean mass.  How much of that is actual muscle tissue is a bit of a debate, but it’s probably not a lot; it’s mostly water, especially in the beginning.  As you gain weight, it’s not all fat or muscle either.  It’s usually a combination of the two.  For this reason, packing on or indiscriminately shedding weight as quickly as possible won’t get you what you want.  There are, however, two notable exceptions to this rule: new trainees, and people that have chronically depleted their muscle through a low carbohydrate way of eating.

In the case of the new trainee, stimulating their musculature through resistance training is like a miracle.  The problem is that this anabolic miracle has a window of opportunity; new lifters can add 15-20 lbs. of solid muscle to their frame in their first year of training, but these gains are compromised when the person under eats.  In the beginning, I always recommend that people new to CrossFit eat copious amounts of food (probably pretty close to TDEE) to allow their body to adapt to the new stimuli in a positive fashion.

The other scenario is a bit more complicated.  Even when you’re looking at veteran athletes, it’s extremely common for these “depleted” folks to gain muscle weight really quickly.  That’s part of the value of carbohydrates combined with resistance training.  You’ll see the scale jump up several lbs. almost overnight, and if you’re lucky it will stay that way.  In both instances of rapid weight gain, the opportunity exists only for a short while and then it’s time to brace yourself for a more gradual rate of improvement.

A Goal without A Plan is A Wish

Testing theories is a predominate theme in the Science Lab, and I will write some more on the concept at a later date.  Just remember that to reach your goals, you need a good plan and that good plan should involve mostly building muscle and eating appropriate amounts of food.  Changing your body and getting stronger takes time and by keeping track of your progress through quantitative measurements like body fat testing, you can develop a plan based on how your body responds to different stimuli.

What a control day looks like in pictures – with a bit of a twist

14 Apr

control3

Control days are a central piece of the Science Lab which helps people through the difficult spots as they transition to more of a “performance based” way of eating.  It costs $4.95 a month and frankly I don’t think anyone out there supports their literature at a better cost than that.

This was the original article on Control days that inspired this post.

One thing I didn’t want to do on this day was go extremely low calorie and so I actually pushed it a bit on the oil and butter.  I wanted to make sure everyone knew that I wasn’t extremely restricting my calories to get the result I was looking to get.  The basic idea of control days is pretty simple, you use the days you eat carbohydrates so you are building most of the time and you use days where you are relying mostly on fats to keep those other days in line.  I refer to it as the path to an optimal life and as you can see this is most certainly not dieting.  I can’t think of too many people that wouldn’t want to be on this plan.  Also, it was pretty easy to do so it’s convenient.

Did it matter that it was done on a squat day? Maybe a bit but I didn’t do an excessive amount of work as it relates to what people that do Crossfit think is a lot, I mostly lifted heavy for my size and one rep max.

Let me also say that I loaded carbohydrates post workout in the morning.  Which is consistent with what I teach lean people who are trying to maintain mass to do.  Vitargo is one if not the best bulking agents out there, Mike T Nelson mentioned it in a post in the science lab and so I got some.  This is another example of the fact that loading carbohydrates is relatively flexible, while it depends on your goals a bit.  Your main goal is building most of the time because that is the most favorable way to lose body fat.

Honestly I am a little shocked at the result.  I don’t do what I consider to be the extreme version of control days, some authors recommend as low as 30g, I don’t.  There is no magic to 30 grams folks and the idea that being in
“ketosis” being vastly superior to a normal way of being is a myth.  As you can very clearly see I had roughly 8 ounces of carbohydrates in the gatorade, I don’t know the exact carbs but mixed with the Vitargo (which you can buy from Amazon using this link and it supports our site and content like this).  The only other carbs I had were in the coconut milk smoothie right before I went to bed, yet another myth smashed.

For the last myth I would like to direct you to this post about my cholesterol levels.  I get basically two kinds of people that are relatively new to this blog and don’t completely understand the theme of what we do here.  The first disdains carbohydrates and thinks their “sugar addiction” is the thing that is holding their fat loss goals down (it’s probably the opposite if you think of it because most of those people are craving energy density and food).  The other are the people that think I eat too much fat and that in the end it’s going to hurt me.  Secretly they want it to hurt me because they want the information from their crappy diet author to be right.  After all they have managed their weight using that model in a relatively restricted way and that approach mentally sucks at times.

So that brings me to myth number four we are talking about, folks the idea that there are good and bad foods needs to leave your brain.  Clearly you can see I am eating a lot of whole foods and if you want to call that Paleo I have no problem with you doing so but people get way too caught up in the mental head games of dieting for my taste.  My approach isn’t dieting as you can well see, I can’t tell you how many PhD’s I have had to explain the fact that you don’t need an extreme deficit to mobilize fat, in fact it’s that extreme deficit that causes you to maintain fat in the end.  Most leave convinced and certainly 130,000 people on Facebook do.  So that’s the last myth.

Let’s review the various myths.

1) The first myth is that is that being in Ketosis is vastly superior to just eating a moderate amount of carbohydrate as it relates to maintaining brain function (though Jay Griffin might argue the opposite given my failures at Karaoke last night, I am not going to go into the particulars but let me just say Jay is known to have extreme anatomy.  Katie Griffin is currently somewhere in the fetal position cracking up laughing.)

2) Eating carbohydrates at night is a convenient strategy that makes life more adaptable.  It is a guideline not a rule and if you think that is the only way to get lean it isn’t.  I realize this troubles some people that want a “standard recommendation” for everything.  The simple answer goes like this every single time, if you want to know if something works or not test it.  Plain and simple.  The idea that you are going to get fat testing a carbohydrate drink post workout is just silly when a good majority of the people I am talking to on a daily basis have a need for more energy dense options.

3) Myth number three is that fats kill you.  In the Crossfit community we embrace fats (it’s the carbs that I am still working with people on).  In my cholesterol post that I linked to not only did that illustrate that is better, it is actually the path to a better health profile.  For people that should be “mostly building” fats break down into the hormones our bodies need to aid growth.

3.5) Eating carbs before bed is bad for weight loss/fat loss.

4) Having a boogie man list of foods is not only silly it’s counter productive for a healthy way of eating from a mental standpoint.  Do I try to eat mostly foods that add to my health profile clearly I do.  For the people that are going to get hung up on the gatorade and Vitargo or the Hidden Valley Ranch (not to mention the Pufa’s in the omelet from the restaurant post workout) their view misses the over riding point.  That point is that healthy flexible cells are superior to any given food choice you might eat on a daily basis if the majority of what you eat addresses your micronutrient needs (vitamins).

5) Lastly you don’t need to eat with a calorie deficit for your body to function the way it wants to function.  With a high level of cell flexibility (also known as metabolic flexibility) you can eat optimal amounts for athletic performance (actually this works for all people but honestly those folks aren’t as easy to work with as active people).  That way of eating, relying on fats at rest and carbs for workouts (also known as activity) is in fact the path to optimal health.  Simply put:

Your workouts are meant to stimulate muscle activity in a way that causes maintenance in the worst case scenario and possibly adds some tissue in the best case scenario.  So therefore the idea of working out to “lose fat” is correct but it’s different than you think, as I am proving with this example you workout to build and you rest to lose fat.

Yesterday morning I weighed 166.8 pounds, this morning I weighed 164.4.  Folks, you really can’t get better cell flexibility than that.  I hope you guys like this post because I really liked writing it.

Control1

This was more weight than I was working with, it was actually my training partner, mostly I was doing doubles and singles at 235 pounds.  The only thing I didn’t picture was the Creatine I took.  I took four capsules of Con Cret, three before and one after.

Vitargo

This is Vitargo, it’s carbs yo.  It’s also glucose, so it’s sugar, it just happens to be an extremely efficient form of glucose.

control2

The is one scoop of Vitargo and I actually only had half of the gatorade.  The Vitargo is 35g of glucose I am guessing the Gatorade was probably another 15 grams or so.

control3

This is a four eggs omelet, certain people think that eggs are too insulinogenic too eat during the day.  That’s just silly and they taste great too.  Being that level of obsessive for most people is not a correct approach mentally.

control4

This is the MCT Oil I cooked the brussel sprouts I ate in.  You can also get it from the Amazon link above and it supports our site.  It’s a great option for cooking.

Control5

10 ounce grass fed steak with a heaping helping of Kerrygold Grass Fed butter.  It was seasoned with salt and pepper.  My wife was mad that I didn’t get a wider shot to show you guys that we still have a lot of snow on the ground in Minnesnowta and it’s the middle of April.

control6

Forgot to buy carrots to add a little color.  This has avocado, cauliflower, broccoli and Power Greens for the base (kale, spinach and chard).  FYI you can eat fibrous veggies anytime of the day on control days because you aren’t all that concerned about the blunting effect.

control7

I put this on the salad because it makes it edible.

Brussel Sprouts

I quartered these and fried them in the MCT oil until they browned slightly.  Added salt for taste.

control8

These are turkey bacon meatballs that were being served at a party I went to later in the evening.  It was mostly people from my gym so the snacks were pretty low carb as a general rule, other than the alcohol which I didn’t drink.  I only ate one, I was stuffed from dinner but they are really good.

control9

Cherry coconut smoothie I had before bed.  I am going to go about 60g of carbs in this thing with light coconut milk from Trader Joe’s, this is the recipe.