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5 Keys for Success with Flexible Dieting

When people ask me what flexible dieting is, I tell them it’s advanced Weight Watchers.  It’s not meant to belittle the diet, I think it’s a fair description.  Instead of a point system, you track how many grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates you eat on a daily basis.  It doesn’t matter when, what, or how, your primary concern is to hit those numbers, hence the word flexible.  Many people thrive under this diet because of that freedom, but like any diet there will be struggles.  As a practitioner of this diet (which is damn important for giving advice for all you armchair quarterbacks) here are a few keys to get the most out of IIFYM.

 

1. Avoid eating out

The most frustrating thing about calculating macros is finding out later on that they were inaccurate.  It’s the cynic in me, but I have my doubts about the macros restaurants post on their website.  Even if you use your best judgement, there’s so much ambiguity.  What oils are they cooking with?  Is it a fatty cut of meat?  Remember, it tastes good for a reason.

 

2. Experiment with different eating patterns

Just because you have the freedom to eat whenever you want doesn’t mean you have to.  Flexible dieting was the counter to the six meals a day bodybuilder eating pattern.  But that works for a lot of people.  Don’t change for the sake of changing.  Similarly, you can use flexible dieting within an intermittent fasting eating pattern.  Find what you are most comfortable worth and stick with it.

 

3. Make measuring a habit

This works in conjunction with #1.  If you eyeball a handful of nuts and are off by a few ounces, it can ruin your macros for the day.  I suck at estimating and I know I suck at it.  Using a food scale is tedious, but you can rest assured that everything is accurate.  Habits are hard to break, both good and bad.  Once you start using a scale on a regular basis, it won’t be such a hassle.

 

4. Take advantage of IIFYM’s purpose

Dieting is a mental game, cravings will happen.  The purpose of IIFYM is that you are able to fit some junk into your diet if you want it.  Do people abuse this?  Absolutely.  But, if you feel like having some ice cream after a bad day at work, do it!  The whole point of flexible dieting is the freedom to eat dessert without the guilt if you plan for it.

 

5. Take a break

Not necessarily from your diet, but from tracking it.  Odds are you generally eat the same foods every day and have a grasp on their macros.  As I mentioned, it’s important to make measuring a habit, but it can be mentally debilitating after doing it for a long time.  As long as you trust yourself to get back on track, I recommend everyone take a few days off from tracking every now and then to give your mind a reset.

Top 5 Mistakes Noobs Make at the Gym

1. Too Much Too Soon

Just because you can handle the workload doesn’t mean you should take it on.  I rarely have a client completely new to lifting work out more than three days a week.  The idea is to maximize progress doing as little as possible.  This leaves reasonable room to add workouts, thus eliminating the potential of a plateau.  If you have someone working out five days a week right off the bat, what happens when they hit a sticking point a few months down the road?  You’re going to have a novice working out six days a week?  Doing two-a-days?  You have to be patient.

Dieting works the same way.  If you’re a female jumping right into a 1,200 calorie diet, what happens when the weight stops dropping?  Are you really going to compromise your health by eating 1,000 calories or less per day?  On the other hand, if you were able to exhibit patience and lose a little bit of weight eating 1,800 calories then that leaves so much more wiggle room to adjust.  You don’t have to dive into the deep end right off the bat.

 

 

2. Too Many Isolation Exercises

I take pride in making every workout different for my clients.  But after awhile I felt I was getting a little too cute and ‘machine happy.’  Compound movements are hard.  Compound movements work.  Exercise is a stress, and the gains you make are the adaptation to that stress.  You can only stress the body so much with isolation movements.  Don’t be the person doing set after set of hammer curls that can’t do a pullup.  It’s not efficient and quite frankly it’s embarrassing.  Learn the hard stuff first, you’ll be a better person and accomplish more in the long run.

 

 

3. Disregarding Core Exercises.

I’m basing this entirely on observation, but I would say the most common injuries are lower back and shoulder injuries.  It’s so hard to put into words how vital core strength is.  It affects your posture, balance, and overall strength.  Many people don’t realize that your core isn’t just your abdominals, it’s your obliques and lower back as well.  Do your core exercises first, not last.  If you wait until the end of your workout you won’t give them the respect they deserve.  It’s a nice way to warm up and prepare your body for the workout itself as well.  Piggybacking off of point #2, many compound movements engage the core in addition to the target muscles.

 

 

4. High Expectations Without Patience

How many people at your gym truly have exceptional physiques?  Three or four?  Less?  I’m not talking about angled, filtered, amazingly lit Instagram celebrity photos.  Real human beings in the flesh.  So what makes you think you’ll look the same in a few months?  This isn’t a lecture, it’s just reality.  The ‘it’s not a sprint it’s a marathon’ cliche is true.  Building strength or a quality physique is a skill unlike any other.  If you want to be great at playing guitar or painting, you can practice for unlimited hours.  The body, on the other hand, has it’s limits.  You have a short window each day to maximize your workout.  It’s one of the few things where more ‘practice’ can be counterproductive (see point #1).

 

 

5. Not Having a Specific Goal

I want to lose weight.  I want to build muscle.  If this is your goal you’re fucked.  You need to be as specific as possible or else it is impossible to determine if you are making progress.  I want to lose 20lbs of body fat in six months.  Now you have a specific target and time frame.  Now you can make adjustments along the way because there is no ambiguity to your goal.  Think this is obvious?  Next time, ask some of your gym buddies what their goal is and see how many reply with one of the first two sentences in this paragraph.

 

You now know the rules, if you want a specific plan or have any general questions you can reach me at Sean@mindsetsandreps.com

Are Fat People Lazy or Misinformed?

I was in Whole Foods the other day and noticed something interesting; half the people there were obese.  Not an unusual circumstance living in the United States, but this is a health food store we are talking about.  I wasn’t walking through Walmart or a ‘regular’ supermarket.  I was in a place where the consumers shop specifically because they want to live a healthy lifestyle.  So what the hell is going wrong here?  It’s simple, people either don’t know or don’t want to accept the fact that dieting is as simple as calories in vs. calories out.  They believe that organic foods are magical and defy the laws of thermodynamics.  Sorry to break it to you, but organic pizza has just as many calories as regular pizza.  Same goes for cake, ice cream, cheese, bread, etc.  That $8 pint of organic gelato isn’t going to save you.

This is by no means a shot at fat people or Whole Foods.  I also want to explain that I am speaking strictly from a body composition standpoint (i.e. weight loss/gain, how you look physically) and not improving ones health and wellness so to speak.  Yes, they are related but not necessarily linear.  The problem is that there is so much bullshit spewed by mainstream media and pundits like Dr. Oz related to diet.  That’s why, although this is very difficult, I try not to get mad when people label foods as good or bad.  When you are bombarded with this nonsense on a daily basis, it’s hard not to take it as true.  Every food can be good and every food can be bad in the right amounts.

This also does not absolve fat people of wrongdoing.  Some of them have no regard for their health and their body shows it.  I would go as far as to say 80-90% just don’t care.  But there are some that have good intentions, hence my Whole Foods observation.  It’s just very unfortunate that there is so much bad information out there.  It’s overwhelming and quite frankly I don’t think this story has a happy ending.  The Layne Nortons and Alan Aragons of the world who speak the truth are strongly outnumbered.

The body is a very complex organism, and I think people want to believe that dieting must be complex as well.  I can make anyone lose or gain weight with a little trial and error.  The tricky part is adherence and convenience.  But the laws of thermodynamics are very simple.  Don’t let some diet coach bullshit you that they have the magical formula, it’s all just basic math.  Don’t be fooled by health buzzwords like ‘natural’ or ‘organic.’  When you look at an organic cupcake or cookie or beer, just accept it for what it is.

Overtraining in MMA is Killing the Sport… and its Fighters

“Prizefighting is short.  Get in, get rich, get out.”

– Conor Mcgregor

 

Go to any recent UFC event’s Wikipedia page and look under the section labeled background.  Within the first few lines you’ll find the phrase was expected, as in Fighter X was expected to fight Fighter Y before sustaining an injury.  In three of the past four UFC major events (i.e. ones not designated as Fight Night), the original main event was changed due to a fighter pulling out as a result of an injury.  Michael Bisping replaced Chris Weidman in UFC 199, Ovince Saint Preux replaced Daniel Cormier in UFC 197, and Nate Diaz replaced Rafael Dos Anjos in UFC 196.  Note that UFC 196 was originally slated to be Fabricio Werdum against Cain Velasquez before BOTH fighters pulled out with injuries.

The craziest part of it all… the short notice fighters performed INCREDIBLY well.

No one gave Michael Bisping a shot.  No one.  He was a +540 underdog (i.e. you bet $100 on Bisping and win $540 if he does, huge odds in a fight).  It wasn’t a matter of if, it was a matter of when Luke Rockhold would knock him out just as he did in their first matchup.  Rockhold was on a tear at the time.  Bisping had been racking up a few wins, but was an aging fighter with a serious eye injury that compromised his vision.  Low and behold, Bisping shocks us all by knocking out Rockhold after taking the fight on two weeks notice.  With the week leading up to a fight consisting of media obligations and the weight cut, two weeks is essentially no time at all to prepare.

Ovince Saint Preux didn’t defeat Jon Jones, but remarkably went the distance with him.  It’s remarkable in the sense that most MMA pundits would dub Jones as the best fighter in the world and OSP was the 6th ranked light heavyweight fighter at the time, not exactly next man in line.  In fact, Anthony Johnson was offered the fight first but was not healthy enough to compete.  Saint Preux never had Jones in any real danger, but it’s fair to say that his performance exceeded expectations.

The Nate Diaz story is well documented.  He was literally drinking on a boat when he got the call to fight Conor McGregor, and then proceeded to choke him out in the second round.  How is this possible?  How can a guy with no active training beat a guy on a 15 fight win streak?

The answer is overtraining.  Overtraining leads an athlete to not only be susceptible to injury, but illness as well.  Often you’ll hear fighters say that they were sick leading up to a fight.

Mixed martial arts training is very unique.  A fighter has to devote considerable time to training in at least three different combat disciplines: striking, jiu jitsu, and wrestling.  Essentially, you could say that they are training for three different sports during one training camp.  On top of that, most are probably doing a few strength and conditioning sessions each week as well.  It is not unusual for a fighter to train three times per day, five to six times per week.  In the USADA era where steroids and blood doping are banned, it is impossible for the natural human body to handle such a taxing workload.

The argument that ‘MMA is a contact sport, injuries will happen’ holds some merit, but is generally overblown.  Rarely are boxing cards altered due to injury.  Concussions are a major issue in football, but will usually keep a player out for MAYBE a week.  The most devastating injury in football is the ACL tear, which is often a non-contact injury (see Jordy Nelson, Darrelle Revis, and Victor Cruz).

My hope is that fighters will begin to realize the point of diminishing returns with their training.  There comes a point where it is more important to be fresh and healthy as opposed to having crisp technique.  Your technique is fine.  You’ve been doing this your entire adult life and at this stage of training camp your cardiovascular conditioning is as good as it ever will be.  Skip the late night session and go to sleep.

The Method to Overcome Overeating

You’ve finished cooking dinner and you can’t wait to wolf it down.  After you sit down in your living room, what’s the first thing you do?  Odds are the answer is flip through the channels or YouTube for something to watch.  At the very least your phone is adjacent to the plate on the table.  So you finally find something good to watch and within ten minutes your plate is spotless.  What the hell happened?  This was your cheat meal too.  The meal you’ve been waiting for all week is gone in an instant.  It wasn’t even satisfying.  So what happens next?  You go back in the kitchen and do it all over again.

The purpose of this article is not to explain blood glucose spikes or the effects of sodium and sugar on appetite at a physiological level.  Eating while distracted leads to overeating.  Overeating leads to binges.  Binges lead to anxiety and depression.  I’m not going to tell you some hokey bullshit like ‘savor every bite’ or ‘chew each piece 1000 times.’  Nor am I going to convince you that this solution is an easy one because it’s not.

We are bombarded by external stimuli all day and we live in a fast paced world.  I know, stop the presses I just blew your mind.  But just one time, eat a meal in a silent room with no distractions.  No phone, no TV, no internet, not even other people.  The first thing you’ll realize: eating is fucking boring!  It’s monotonous, which is probably why we look for distractions in the first place.  The second thing you’ll realize (which I sort of poked fun at it earlier) is that you really do enjoy and appreciate the meal more.  Eat once in silence and when the meal is over I guarantee your first thought will be ‘okay I have other shit to do now’ rather than ‘feed me more.’

Ever hear that multi-tasking is a myth?  No matter how many tabs you have open on your browser you can only focus on one at a time.  Before you know it, the email in your first tab has been sitting there half written for three hours.  Same rules apply here.  Ironically, as much as we love eating, the act of eating itself is dull.  It’s the reason we eat in group settings at restaurants or family dinner tables, where conversation is our distraction.  We eat in front of the TV, we eat at the movies, we eat while we drive, we eat at our desks at work.  But we never focus our attention on eating for more than a split second.  We do enough to make sure fork meets mouth.

I won’t pretend that eating in quiet solitude will become common practice for anyone.  But it’s important to be mindful of the reason certain things happen.  At the very least, if you can shift your attention to the meal itself a little more then it’s a win.  It’s okay to look down once in awhile.