If I wasn’t self employed, it’s hard to say if this thought would have ever crossed my mind. 2018 is a make or break year for me and my solely run personal training/nutrition consultation business. I entered the entrepreneurship field a few years ago after spending the majority of my adult life behind a desk for various companies. I’ve been in both worlds, I know what both are like.
It wasn’t until I truly experienced the struggle of paying rent and bills that I had this ‘epiphany.’ Making money can be pretty damn hard; cash flow comes and goes when people view your service as a luxury rather than a need. I was in the car one day and had this realization:
99% of people are GROSSLY overpaid
Let me give you an example, and perhaps my thought only applies to white collar jobs but here it is. Most people work a 9–5 job. You get in at 9, grab some coffee, bullshit with your coworkers, check your email, check Facebook, check Reddit, text your friends, take lunch for an hour, go to a pointless meeting, and before you know it it’s time to go home. At most, you’re doing actual work for what… three hours? However, you still get paid for the entire eight hours. That check comes every two weeks no matter what.
The other day I gave a new lead an online nutrition consultation, drove to someone to give a free training session, made some content, and posted a few ads on Craigslist. I made $0 that day. A lot of days are like that actually. I’m not bitching about it, this is the life I chose. But I know a lot of people who complain about their jobs despite the fact that they still get that direct deposit for working a few measly hours a day.
Remember the first month at your new job? You worked your ass off to prove that you can be an asset to the organization. After you established yourself, the foot came off the gas pedal. You’re in, you’re fine now. The money rolls in and you can breathe easy. Feel insulted yet? Is it because I’m speaking the truth? It’s not just you, it’s lots of people. How many times have we seen an athlete receive a $100 million and fail to live up to expectations? In turn, how many times have we seen an athlete have a career season the same year their contract is expiring? It’s human nature to perform when we need to and relax when we don’t.
Yeah your job might suck. The boss might treat you unfairly. Perhaps you didn’t get the promotion or extra paid vacation you wanted. It’s hard to appreciate what I’m saying unless you’ve worked for yourself, I understand that. But every now and then we need a reality check. Things aren’t as bad as you make them out to be.
Thermodynamics is the primary reason you will gain or lose weight. Consume more calories than your body needs, you will gain weight. Expend more calories than your body needs, you will lose weight.
Wait, did I just contradict my own title?
Sort of. Here’s the problem with the basic calories in/calories out ideology: most people don’t want to lose weight. They say they want to lose weight, but in reality they want to improve their body composition. They want to lose body fat while retaining muscle. Even the notorious group of women who fear that lifting a 5lb dumbbell will lead to them looking like a young Arnold Schwarzenegger will still say they don’t want to look “flabby.”
Losing weight is easy, just look at professional fighters. Through calorie restriction, water manipulation, and a few hours in the sauna they can drop upwards of thirty pounds in a few days. Of course this isn’t a healthy process, but it just goes to show how easily and quickly one could lose weight.
If you want to improve your physique you have to dive deeper than just counting calories. The overall calorie intake matters, make no mistake, but you have to be strategic with how you structure your macronutrients. While many people will stress out over low carb/high carb, low fat/high fat; protein is actually the most important macronutrient to consider. The foundation of your diet should be based around protein consumption.
Why is protein intake so important?
The most important component of any diet or training program is adherence. Meaning, you could have the best diet plan in the world but if you don’t follow it it’s all for nothing. Protein has a satiating effect, it fills you up and curbs your appetite. Simply put, the less often you are hungry the less often you will go off the rails and overeat. Dealing with hunger is a major hurdle that comes with calorie restriction, but eating enough protein is a great strategy to set yourself up for success.
2. Maintaining Lean Body Mass
This is what we’re talking about right? Not just losing weight, but losing weight in the right places in the right manner. A multitude of studies show that high protein intake is the best way to retain muscle and lose body fat on a diet. This is shown not just in obese individuals, but athletes as well. Protein is the only macronutrient that is used to build and repair tissue like muscle, hair, skin, among others. Fats and carbs cannot do this, they are simply fuel sources.
3. The Thermic Effect of Protein
It takes energy to digest and metabolize food. How cool is that, you get an uptick in calorie burning just by eating. Of course this will never result in a negative calorie balance, but it is something you can use to your advantage. In this regard, not all foods are created equal. The numbers vary, but all in all protein has a far higher thermic effect than fats or carbohydrates, upwards of 5x. Eating a proportionally higher amount of protein compared to carbs or fats results in fewer net calories consumed overall due to its thermogenic effect.
I’ve said the phrase a million times, so what exactly is a high protein diet?
This number varies wildly when it comes to the research. But what I tell my clients is that a good number to shoot for is one gram per pound of lean body mass. Remember lean body mass is not the same as weight (or else obese individuals would have to consume 300 or more grams per day!). Lean body mass is simply your weight minus fat mass. For me this would be:
185lbs (My Weight)- 22lbs (Fat Mass) = 163lbs (Lean Body Mass and thus 163 grams of protein per day)
To Calculate Fat Mass
185lbs (My Weight) x .12 (My Body Fat as a Percentage) = About 22lbs
You may not know your body fat but you can ask a trainer at the gym to do it for you, I’m certain they have the equipment to give you a decent estimate.
What about my kidneys?
This is a common misconception about high protein diets. The one caveat is if you have a pre-existing kidney issue, in that case it is something you want to speak with your physician about. In healthy individuals, this is not a concern. There is no evidence that a high protein diet harms kidneys in healthy individuals.
Fats and Carbohydrates
How should one distribute fats and carbohydrates? This is highly individualistic. Given what we know of the importance of protein, let’s say that 30% of your calories come from protein. That leaves 70% for fats and carbs. My advice would be to give them an even 35/35 split and self-monitor as many variables as possible such as: digestion, bloating, energy, workout performance, and hunger (even with the satiating effects of protein, carbs still cause a blood sugar response and thus potential cravings). From there it is your responsibility to make adjustments. Don’t stress out too much over it, there is certainly an element of trial and error when it comes to dieting.
I don’t want to give the impression that calories do not matter, of course they do. However, it is a bit irresponsible to think that our dream physique can be achieved just by restricting overall calorie intake. If it were that simple, I wouldn’t have a job, and there also wouldn’t be an entire section in Barnes N Noble dedicated to dieting. After determining the proper daily intake of calories, it is important to take the next step and fine tune your macronutrient intake to truly achieve the body you desire.
There’s a silly assumption that every nutrient of every food you consume is magically extracted no matter what the circumstance. We spend so much time finding the perfect macronutrient ratios for our goals that food choices become no more than an afterthought. Of course I’m not saying food choices trump calories in/calories out, but they’re still vital.
Let’s think about this logically. If you eat a food and it makes you feel bloated, or sick, or sends you running for the bathroom, do you really think you’re getting all the nutrients out of that meal? Even if you have no nutrition expertise, you’d have to say no. It’s common sense. So why do people continue to pound protein shakes, dairy, and gluten if it makes their stomachs look like a pregnant woman? (Note: these are the most common culprits, if you have no problems digesting these foods, eat them)
We need to be more mindful of how we’re reacting to certain foods. Just because Kai Greene eats a baby steer for breakfast doesn’t mean you have to. Next time you eat a meal, see if you notice some phlegm in the back of your throat. This is an indication of a minor food allergy. Personally, I get it when I consume chicken or turkey. Is it bad enough where I would completely eliminate it from my diet? Probably not at the moment, but it’s still good to know.
After a meal, do you feel bloated? If so, there’s something in that meal causing distress. You may also be eating too quickly (trust me, I empathize). After a while we begin to think that this is just the way things are. But it’s not. Eat, feel bloated, lie down, be unproductive. This is no way to live.
You may reach a point where it seems like nothing is settling properly in your stomach. Luckily there are a few things you can do to help rectify the situation:
Digestion is a stress to your body. A necessary stress, since we need to eat, but a stress nonetheless. Fasting removes that stress for a short period and gives the digestive system ‘a break’ to put things simply. There are many fasting protocols, the most popular being intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting separates each day into an eating window and a fasting window. Typically, the eating window lasts 0–8 hours and the rest of the day is spent in a fasted state, consuming only water, tea, or black coffee. I use intermittent fasting off and on, and will typically have one period per week where I fast for 24 hours.
Probiotics are hit or miss with a lot of people. In theory, probiotics help to replenish the bacteria in your gut which would aid in digestion and immune health. There are many different probiotic strains and the potency of each supplement/food will vary. As I mentioned, it can take some trial and error to find what works for you. I like to use fermented milk, or kefir, as my source of probiotics.
Glutamine is popular in the bodybuilding community as an amino acid supplement. However, the cells in your intestines use glutamine as a source of energy. Glutamine can thus aid in ensuring proper intestinal permeability, which means that not too much is getting through the cells lining the gut wall. Some nutrients must pass through of course, but too much may allow harmful substances to pass through as well.
I don’t like to give too many anecdotal examples because in the end it’s just n=1, but my physique was certainly suffering when I experienced stomach issues. The macros didn’t change, the training routine didn’t change, and the training intensity didn’t change. However, my muscles were flat, my stomach was chronically bloated, and overall I was exhibiting a look that I did not like.
I’m not saying the problem is completely solved, but utilizing the three tools listed above have certainly helped. I try not to use digestive enzymes, as I don’t want to become reliant on them. I’ve tried apple cider vinegar but did not notice a significant difference. Herbal teas are fine, nothing spectacular. The point of this article was to increase your awareness of your own digestion. In the end, you may be selling yourself short despite the countless hours in the gym.
As we close 2017 and head into a new year, we are almost becoming immune to the idea of politicians, celebrities, and athletes being involved in major scandals, particularly sexual harrassment.
As a society we hold famous people to a higher standard, but when you think about it… why should we? They’re human beings like you and me. The only difference is that they’ve achieved a level of success, fame, and wealth that most of us could never dream of. While some attribute this success to god given talent, the true reason is development of skill through insane amounts of repetition, practice, and hard work. The cynical among us may believe it’s all luck, but it is that relentless drive implemented day after day that lead these people to enormous success.
What do they have that most of us don’t?
Where does this desire come from?
Some say their passion comes from love.
I would argue the opposite. It comes from anger. It comes from spite. It comes from a bad place. When you have a chip on your shoulder, it’s not because someone was nice to you. Someone told you you can’t do something, and it lit a fire under you that resulted in the early mornings and the sleepless nights of hard work. Maybe it was a poor upbringing and the subsequent resentment of your parents throughout life. Maybe it was constant bullying or lack of interest from the opposite sex. Or maybe it’s a deep anger that can’t be attributed to just one thing.
If you sit back and compile a list of successful people involved in any sort of scandal, controversy, or brush with the law, it’s rather daunting. These aren’t just ordinary stars, it’s people at the top of their game! It took me about ten minutes and I came up with a ton of legendary figures with checkered backgrounds. I’m not talking about traffic violations here, these are major transgressions. The majority of these are sports related as that is what I know best, but take out a piece of paper and see how many you can come up with given your interests (politics, music, movies, etc.).
Tiger Woods, whom many consider the greatest golfer ever, cheated on his wife with reportedly over 100 women.
People forget how good of a player O.J. Simpson was. He rushed for over 2,000 yards in a 14 game season! Only six other men have rushed for 2,000 yards in the history of the NFL, and all of them did it after the league expanded to 16 game seasons. O.J. crossed over into television, movies, and commercials, becoming a beloved figure to the general public. He was involved in the ‘Trial of the Century’ where he was accused of brutally murdering two people.
In most sports there is a debate on who the best ever is. But there isn’t much of an argument in pro basketball, where Michael Jordan tops most peoples’ lists. Jordan was and still is a huge gambling addict. Charles Barkley once stated that Jordan would bet hundreds of thousands of dollars on a single golf game. There are wild gambling conspiracy theories about Jordan, like his father being murdered due to an unpaid debt or the notion that he left to play baseball in 1993 because he was actually suspended for gambling on NBA games.
Pete Rose, a 17 time Major League Baseball All Star, is banned from the Hall of Fame after it surfaced that he bet on baseball while managing.
Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, two of the best hitters in baseball history, are the posterboys for the steroid scandal that plagued baseball in the early 2000’s. Bonds was the greatest player I’ve seen in any sport in my lifetime. In 2004, at age 39, Bonds was intentionally walked 120 times! He was so dominant pitchers were literally afraid to pitch to him. Any baseball fan will tell you that Bonds and A-Rod were well on their way to hall of fame careers long before the steroid allegations began to surface.
Mike Tyson lost a huge chunk of his prime boxing career after being convicted of rape and serving three years in prison. Despite this, he is widely considered to be the most dominant heavyweight of all time. I highly recommend his autobiography ‘Undisputed Truth’ for an insight into his rough upbringing. To Mike’s credit, he denies the rape allegation to this day, which is believable since he is so candid about other aspects of his life. The book also details his drug abuse and sex addiction throughout his career.
Ray Lewis was the face of one of the greatest defenses of all time, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. At a Super Bowl party, Lewis and a group of his friends got into a fight which resulted in the murders of two people. Lewis was indicted for murder but negotiated a plea agreement and served no jail time. People still ask to this day, what happened to the white suit?
Make no mistake, I’m in no way condoning this behavior. What I’m trying to do is draw a parallel between success and having ‘a dark side.’ Having a dark side isn’t a bad thing, the key is to control it. You never hear about the people who control it, who don’t act on it in a negative manner. Do the Tim Duncans, Derek Jeters, and Lebron Jameses have this edge to them? Do these charitable, yet successful people who have never had a DUI or domestic violence report lack this internal motivation fueled by rage? Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. These guys have established a reputation and don’t want that sort of thing to get out.
In a world of Instagram quotes and fake positivity, you may be questioning your intent if you’re one of these people motivated by anger. I’m telling you, don’t. Use what you have to use to achieve your goals. Be true to yourself. Now, don’t go killing your ex girlfriend and a waiter, but be true to your motivation. It’s okay to feel that way.
In my opinion, you can’t completely change who you are on the inside. That dark side will always be there. I remember an interview Mike Tyson had, I believe it was with Howard Stern, where he was asked about his mindset and attitude when he was heavyweight champion. Mike stated verbatim “I don’t even know that guy anymore” insinuating that the anger was gone. But every now and then it makes a guest appearance, as showcased here:
This is a decade after Mike last stepped in the ring. After his retirement, Tyson transformed his demeanor into a likable, charismatic, dare I say charming figure. But as you can see, that fire never completely leaves you.
Before the magical reveal, there are two basic criteria that must be followed for this to hold true and they are:
Your exercise form isn’t complete garbage
You’ve established some consistency with your training, which means working out at least three or four days per week
Here’s the deal for every beginner…
You can follow ANY workout program and experience great results. No trainer has a magical program. You can literally do almost anything.
Now, as you progress in your training you may want to learn proper periodization and tailor your needs as your goals change. For that, hiring an experienced trainer or strength coach may really provide some value. Until then, your program doesn’t matter.
Why is this the case? When you introduce a new stimulus/stress to your body, it has to adapt. That adaptation leads to muscle growth, fat loss, and an overall change in lean body mass. Going from sedentary to gym rat is a major change. Whether it’s calisthenics or powerlifting, you’re going to progress very quickly. These are the ‘noob gains’ people speak of. They usually last six months to a year.
Unfortunately, this becomes a curse for many lifters. They apply the ‘use what got me to the dance’ mentality and never make any changes to their routine. They continue to perform their three sets of ten reps on the bench press and wonder why they’ve hit a plateau.
Does this mean it’s completely pointless for someone new to the gym to hire a personal trainer? Of course not, it’s always a good idea to learn proper form from the beginning. Oftentimes a novice client will come up to me, almost apologetically, and explain that they’ve never lifted before. This is actually a blessing because it’s much easier to teach a blank slate rather than fix a bad habit.
The majority of my clients don’t hire me due to a lack of knowledge however. They hire me for accountability. Most people simply don’t like to work out and won’t do it unless they have a trainer. Some may consider this silly, but I say do what you have to do to get in the gym and improve your health. Your mentality changes when you realize that skipping a workout means you’re letting someone else down besides yourself.
I don’t want to dissuade you from hiring a trainer. Hell, it’s how I make a living. But be mindful of the trainers trying to sell you on their protocol that guarantees results quickly. Anyone new to the game can get results quickly with good form and consistency. Ironically, I believe my services are better for intermediate and advanced lifters who have hit the wall with their training. As we head towards 2018 and the thoughts of getting in shape flood your mind for the new year, just remember that showing up is half the battle.
Mindsets and Reps: "Mindful Fitness in a Mindless World"