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This was a coaching cue I learned from Brett Jones, while working towards my Russian Kettlebell Certification a few years ago. It’s a cue that I actually kind of forgot about using on my clients for a short period but has resurfaced numerous times lately.
I pretty much use this cue exclusively on the big four: squat, bench, deadlift, and overhead press for those of you who have been living under a rock. However, it could definitely be used on other compound exercises as well.
The basic premise for using this cue is to help avoid technical breakdown as fatigue sets in. Go onto the Tubes and watch a newer lifter do a grinding set of deadlifts for instance. The first few reps (hopefully) look like they’re being executed with proficient and safe form. Unfortunately, as each rep becomes more and more of a grind, the hips start shooting up a little fast, the back begins rounding, and the lockout may even begin to resemble a spastic seizure.
Obviously these are technical breakdowns we want to avoid during training. So, how can simply thinking “treat each rep like a single” change the way a set is performed. There are a few reasons I think this cue works:
- The first couple of reps of a set are usually the most aesthetic and efficient reps performed in set. If you keep the mindset that each rep will look like the first rep, you will hopefully minimize “shit” technique.
- Let’s face it, singles are easy compared to doing multiple gruelling sets of 5+ reps. Just having the mindset that you have to simply perform a few singles with no rest between sets can give you a positive thought process towards a set, or sets that you may be dreading.
- Simply, it reinforces the skill of executing a lift properly. The more times you perform an exercise the proper way, the better you will be at assessing when you should maybe stop a set short, or adjust the load in order to stay safe.
There are a few simple things to think about when doing the Big Four that I’ve noticed over the years. I want to quickly go over these cues so you can use them in conjunction with the thought process I’ve just explained.
- Don’t let the knees cave in
- Keep your chest up
The Bench Press
- Feet must stay on the floor at all times. Don’t flounder (literally)
- Try and maintain your bar path
- Don’t let the hips shoot up too fast
- Make sure your body is aligned properly when you initiate the pull (shoulders shouldn’t be too far forward over the bar, or you are forced to finish the lift with your spinal erectors rather than hips)
The Overhead Press
- Don’t stand completely erect. So many people do this and you are simply robbing yourself of easy strength. While still keeping the knees, hip, and core stiff you should sway slight backwards to initiate the lift, sway back forwards once the bar passes your forehead
- Don’t bend your damn knees.
So there you have it, a simple cue to add to your repertoire if you’re a trainer or if you are simply a lifter something to think about when the sets are getting heavy.
D-aspartic acid (DAA) was a supplement I remember gaining popularity somewhere around 2008. I remember giving it a shot, as I heard good things, anecdotally of course from the annals of bro science: forums. I was skeptical of trying it but I thought, what the hell, why not. I was incredibly disappointed.
DAA is one of two forms of the amino acid aspartic acid. It’s been hypothesized that DAA can be used as a natural testosterone booster (t-booster). According to examine.com: “D-AA works in the central brain region to cause a release of hormones, such as luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, and growth hormone. It may also build up in the testicles, where it alleviates a rate-limiting step of Testosterone synthesis, which leads to a minor testosterone increase.”
This is another supplement made famous for it’s effects on rats. According to D’Aniello et al. DAA has some very impressive effects on rats. When injected with DAA, rats exhibited a 1.6-fold increase in luteinizing hormone, a 3.0-fold increase in testosterone, and a 2.9-fold increase in progesterone.
Very impressive results, no?
Just like Leptin, however, the results on humans have been zero, zilch, nada. Let’s go over what the current research has shown us.
One of the more interesting pieces of research to those who are supporters of DAA resulted in a 42% increase in serum testosterone after only 12 days of DAA treatment. This study, like the majority of studies on hormones on humans didn’t measure whether these changes in testosterone resulted in anything the average bro wants to know: do I get gainz? Y/N?
In terms of increasing serum testosterone it appeared that DAA might be a great supplement to use if you wanted to increase testosterone and like, not have that increase return any tangible results…
Science is always evolving and new questions were asked. The study above only lasted 12 days, a very short time period. Willoubhy et al. sought out to discover some more juicy details that definitely have more applicability to the strength community. This study would last 28 days, and be combined with heavy resistance training. The researchers would measure DAA’s effect on body composition, muscle strength, and serum hormones associated with the hypothalamo-pituatary-gonadal axis. Their subjects would be resistance-trained men.
The researchers’ hypothesis was that DAA would not increase endogenous testosterone levels or improve strength over a placebo. To keep things short, their hypothesis was pretty much on point: DAA was ineffective at up-regulating the activity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal axis and had no anabolic effects compared to the placebo.
Well that sucks. Maybe increasing the dosage from 3g/day in the Willoubhy study to 6g per day would do the trick?
Melville et al. sought out to check if the results of DAA on human were dose-dependent. So they compared a placebo group with a 3g/day group and ad 6g/day group on young, trained dudes. These guys were on average 25 y/o, with 3.5 years of lifting experience, with a bodyweight of ~187lbs and bench 1RM of ~225. Not crazy big or strong, but no slouches either.
The results of this study were a curveball to say the least. The 6g/day group had significantly reduced total testosterone compared to the control and 3g/day group.
The results of this are laughable as the conventional wisdom for many supplement takers is to take more and see better results. In the case of DAA, the motto should read ‘take some to remain unchanged, and take more to decrease your testosterone.’
I wanted to close out this article by covering another area that simply doesn’t get enough coverage when it comes to natural t-booster. Increasing your endogenous anabolic hormones doesn’t always equal a better and/or stronger physique. This is supported by research as well.
One of my favorite researchers (believe me, I don’t remember 99% of researchers names unless I know they’re invested in very interesting subject that I feel is applicable) is Dr. Stuart Phillips. This quote from Dr. Phillips has everything you need to know in a concise manner: “the acute post-exercise increases in systemic hormones are in no way a proxy marker for anabolism since they do not underpin the capacity of the muscle to hypertrophy in any measurable way.”
Much of Dr. Phillips research has shown that muscle protein synthesis (MPS)is a much more reflective marker of mass gainz from resistance training. Simply increasing your anabolic hormones in a normal range, won’t necessarily result in increased muscle size.
So how do anabolics work? Because you are elevating your levels to supraphysiological levels. Check this out for more info on that:
- DAA doesn’t seem to elevate hormones in trained young men, but it does in rats…
- Even if it did elevate specific hormones, the elevation of these hormones most likely would not result in any actual muscle growth
Save your money, eat food, and train hard.
Mel Siff inspired this blog during my first foray into Supertraining. I enjoyed the shit out of his points. However I’d like to elaborate on some specific points. That is the purpose of this article.
I’m going to be referring to strength in terms of general lifting, not necessarily competing in powerlifting or other strength sports. I’ll probably be flip-flopping between different strengths sports to make points. Just realize even if you don’t compete you should find some things that you can work on to improve your performance in whatever sport you do.
According to Siff sporting performance depends heavily on psychological factors such as:
- Focus or attention
- The ability to tolerate pain or to sustain effort
- The perception of sensations and events in training and competition
- The placebo effect
- Communicative skills
- The ability to cope with anxiety or stress
- Attitudes towards events and participants in sport
- Attitudes towards winning and losing
- Learning ability
- Mood state
- Alertness and vigilance
- The ability to manage distractions
- The ability to relax
A lot of points…
I won’t be spending time on all of these, just the ones I have found to be the most important for my athletes and myself (the highlighted ones).
Let’s get started.
Focus Or Attention
This is a huge one. In order to truly make gains, whether that be building muscle, or putting up a bigger total you must be focused.
No ifs, ands, buts, or maybes.
This is a huge reason you see people making little to no progress. They’re in the gym focusing on their smartphone or TV more than their damn training. It’s easy to spot these people. They spend 75%+ of their gym time doing everything besides lifting.
If you have a goal, the gym is your primary (along with nutrition) tool to accomplish that result. If you go into the gym and spend the whole time bullshitting about where you’re going to get wasted on the weekend then you won’t make progress.
The people who make the best progress at the gym are usually the ones who keep to themselves and are always working.
If you aren’t working then why are you in the gym?
Attention basically goes hand-in-hand with focus. Pay attention to your surroundings. If there is someone who talks your ear off, make your talk brief, put your headphones on and lift.
Be attentive to your goal in the gym. The rest is white noise you need to try and avoid or minimize.
The Ability To Tolerate Pain or To Sustain Effort
This is a point that I feel separates the “good from the great” (stupid cliché, I know, but it really stands true here). When it comes to the average gym goer, the ability to tolerate pain can be a pretty good predictor of how successful they will be. If they cringe when their muscles start burning and give up, they aren’t going to really get much out of lifting. Try pottery.
The sick and twisted man or woman who can push through that pain threshold is the one who will go places. The ability to put the pain away and push hard will cause them to grow and get stronger.
Please make sure you understand I’m not talking specifically about joint pain. This pain is something you need to address when you’re on the topic of lifting weights. I’m talking about the pain that comes with knowing you have a grueling training session coming up. Can you make it through that session knowing you gave as much effort as possible?
If you know you cut some reps, sets, or the weight short, then you might need to reflect on this and figure out how to motivate yourself to get the job done. Excuse free.
The Ability To Cope With Anxiety Or Stress
An athlete’s ability to cope with anxiety or stress is a HUGE factor in terms of limiting your strength potential. IMO there are a few key factors involved here:
What range of events cause anxiety or stress in an athlete?
I know you have that friend who always is stressed out about something. Literally always stressed. It could even be the most insignificant thing, but you can tell it eats them up inside. These are the people who are seemingly stressed out all the time.
On the other hand, you have people who are cool as cucumber all the time. They rarely get stressed or anxious, and when they do, you can tell it’s for a good reason (not because they’re disappointed with how the Joker looks in Suicide Squad).
So you have people who are easily stressed, and others who are quite robust to stress. This still doesn’t answer the question of how they react to stress, but it can give you some key information on whether or not you will need to concentrate on how you react to stress.
Does the athlete have a positive or negative response to anxiety or stress?
Here is the important thing. Like we discussed above, a highly stressed individual can still be successful. Just like a highly unstressed person can be very unsuccessful.
In terms of powerlifting, being stressed can be a positive or a negative depending on the your disposition. Are you so anxious for your opening attempt that you get red lit because you are so hyped you forget your commands? Or are you the guy in the back who looks like they are about to snap, yet goes onto the platform and looks calm and collected then WRECKS the weight?
If you were negatively affected by stress, then taking measures to reduce your stress would improve your performance (obviously). If stress makes you perform poorly in training and competition then simply finding methods to reduce or circumvent stress may improve performance.
On the other hand you can find people who are highly stressed and can troubleshoot methods to harness that stress into strength. From what I’ve seen it’s pretty rare for someone who is usually negatively affected by stress to all of a sudden be positively affected by it. Usually, the negative stresses of competition become less and less stressful over time and that leads to success.
I’d like to go over an example of how I allowed this to negatively affect me at my last meet. I was on the second flight and a few of the lifters I knew on the first flight mentioned how there was a judge who has judging incredibly strict. My opener was easy, I nailed it. For my second attempt, I was a little nervous. I was anxious and afraid that my depth (which had only been an issue one other time in my entire competition career) wasn’t going to be good enough.
I got under the bar and absolutely buried my squat… To a falt. It was too deep and I ended up failing the lift. My training partner/coach for the day told me I went way too deep. On the third attempt I had the right amount of depth, but just didn’t have the strength left in me. This is an example of how a competitor can react negatively to stress.
Attitude Towards Events and Participants In Sports
I’m not sure this is one of the most important ones, but it’s something I wanted to discuss. This is one of the psychological issues that’s most expressed over social media. You’ll notice a lot of powerlifters who go on social media and bitch and complain about organizations and other competitors.
Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. I completely support that. However, you won’t see too many of the top guys bitching and complaining about stuff on the Internet. They’re actually training, and learning, and getting better.
People who are negative towards their sport all the time are usually the ones who aren’t successful. Keep that in mind.
For me personally, I try and keep to myself when it comes to powerlifting. Sure there are things I may disagree with but I just tend to keep my head down and just go out there and compete. I’m not an “excuses guy.” I’ve been red lit before for squat depth, I’ve had some questionable deadlift calls, but I don’t dwell on these and go on social media and bitch about judging.
It’s the lifters responsibility to leave no doubt in the judges’ eyes that you perfectly executed a lift.
Powerlifting is a solo sport. What other people are doing has zero impact on you. Which is why I don’t understand why lifters are constantly getting butt hurt and sticking their noses in other peoples bidness.
Mood state encompasses many of the points I’ve already covered. Are you positive or negative? Do you let things bother you easily? How do you respond to adversity, or pain? Are you happy, or sad?
Just like everyone else athletes are human beings; they have families and social lives that can drastically affect performance. A high level athlete can be in tip top physical shape, but if his mood straight up sucks because his wife is divorcing him or his kids won’t talk to him, that’ll mess you up. Look at Tiger Woods.
Mood state is something that is largely out of your hands. You will find when you are preparing for a meet for instance, everything in life is going well, you aren’t stressed, you have a lot of support and you are generally very happy. This is when you know you are probably dialed in and ready to break some PR’s come meet day.
Other times, you might go through a rough break up, your training partner moved to a new country, and your motivation to train is wavering. In this case, you can still have a good cycle, but it depends on how you recover. Can you recover quickly? Can you separate your need to win from a psychologically draining mood state?
Some people can, I think many cannot.
This is just a sample of many psychological factors that can affect performance. Hopefully you were able to identify something that might be holding you back and you can address the issue going forward.
Last week I went over part 1 on how to begin adding new methods into your diet regimen instead of arguing about it and discussing it ad nauseam. We covered the dogma-trendy spectrum and how one should attempt to be in the middle of the spectrum or at least move towards the middle.
Today we go over training, another convoluted area, where yet again you have access to so much information. The sad fact is just like nutrition, much of this information is simply bunk. There are now some reputable sites that constantly churn out good stuff, but these resources are few and far between.
Let’s get into the fun stuff.
When it comes to weight training, the spectrum I covered last time still applies, but less so. You have more mobility on the spectrum with people tending to go through periods of stagnation (or simply being on a program). You also have “program hoppers” or people who never give programs a long enough trial period to reap benefits from said program.
The spectrum is still the same with just different titles, instead of dogma we’ll use stagnation. Instead of trendy, we’ll go with program hoppers.
Stagnation —————————————————————————–Program Hopper
I find a lot of lifters move through both of ends of the spectrum. One of the differences between training and nutrition is that if your program is actually good, there isn’t a need for change in order to be progress. I’ve ran programs for 8+ months and made progress the whole times. I have clients who have run programs for 4-5 months and still made progress.
The issue most many run into when running a program is boredom. Depending on the person, some may simply get bored by a program even if they are making sick progress. Some people just can’t be content with a good thing I guess.
When I refer to stagnation I’m referring to a lack of progress while following a program for an extended period of time.
Let’s turn our attention to the program hoppers of the world. These are the ladies and gentleman who tend to look the same, never get stronger yet bust their asses in the gym all the time. It’s really frustrating when I see these people because you can tell they want results, and are even putting in the effort in the gym to achieve them. They just change things so damn often that they essentially see zero results. (If that sounds like Crossfit to you then you’re right)
If you are constantly swapping exercises, changing rep schemes, changing volumes, changing intensity in an unordered fashion, you won’t make progress. It’s that simple. Conversely, you might actually even make progress only to lose it by making changes that are completely unnecessary and unwarranted.
Let’s go over an example of each.
Steve is 22. He’s been training since he was 17. He’s also been doing the exact same routine since he was 17. Literally the exact same one he found on some website. When he started he made some damn good gainz. He went from 150 to 175 in 4 months. He got a hell of a lot stronger as well.
Unfortunately, he is still 175 and his strength really hasn’t increased noticeably. He works incredibly hard, and the fact he isn’t bored to death by doing the exact same thing for 5 years might be even his most impressive feat.
The thought of switching to something else has crossed his mind but he’s still holding onto the results this particular program gave him in the past.
Program Hopper Pete
Pete is 28. He’s been training since he was 22. In 6 years he’s been on approximately 20 programs. Of these 20 programs, he’s had periods of following each one to a T, but after two weeks, he decides to bastardize them to “work on his weaknesses” and “confuse his muscles.”
Pete wants to get stronger and bigger but just can’t seem to figure out what to do. He’ll hop on a program that does actually work, then get a upset he hasn’t made progress after two weeks…
After not making progress in two weeks he changes a few things. He cycles his main exercise, he changes all of his assistance exercise, he changes all his reps, he changes his training frequency, and on and on.
So what are these two gentlemen to do to become a little more mobile on the spectrum? Let’s go over that now.
He needs to:
- jump on a new program, or make some big changes to his current one (refer to the final section in this article for the changes)
- move to something more intensity based for a short period of time before returning to volume work (assuming his current program is volume intensive, which I can guess would be)
- begin implementing conjugation (changing exercises) and undulation (changing reps)
- experiment with training frequency. Maybe cut a day or two, add a day or two, or even keep the training days the same but perform certain lifts more frequently (squats and bench for example)
- understand when a program has run it’s course
- not worry that all his gainz will be erased by trying something new
Program Hopper Pete
He needs to:
- stop making changes so often. He should go on a program as is for at least 2 months before implementing changes.
- needs to understand that certain exercises should not be changed (the main exercises in 5/3/1 for example). **This isn’t to say these exercises should never be changed, but in a newb, this rule applies.**
- be more process focused, instead of outcome focused
- maybe even hire a coach
- be patient and understand strength doesn’t happen overnight
As you can see both of these guys need to move away from the far end of the spectrum towards the middle. Like I mentioned before, sometimes being a Stagnant Steve isn’t such a bad thing. Guys like Mike Tuscherer have been running a their programs for years without going off it. Their programs are more of a philosophy, but the general rules stay the same.
If you find a program that works for you and you are constantly gaining strength and size, and are having fun while doing it, there is no reason to switch to something new. Remember that.
Tests You Can Run Today
In my last article I went over tests you can begin implementing immediately. Let’s briefly go over these.
- Conjugate your exercises. You don’t have go Westside on this shit and change exercises every damn week. In fact please do not do that. Generally, I like to stick with a main exercise (barbell back squat, barbell deadlift, barbell bench press). If you are going through some serious plateaus you might think about changing them to a close variation. You can conjugate your assistance exercises much more frequently (especially single joint exercises. How frequently? Every 3-8 weeks.
- Undulate your training. This simply means you change your sets and reps on a semi regular basis. You should be going in and doing 5×5 for a year straight (unless you are still making progress than keep on keeping on). You might start with 3×5, 4×5, 5×5, then 3×6, 4×6, 5×6. This is just a very simple and dumbed down example.
- Change your sets and reps. This is pretty much the same point as the one above but it bears repeating. If you are constantly working up to a single on bench and it hasn’t moved in 5 years, try adding days where you are setting rep PR’s, or volume PR’s, these will make you stronger so when you eventually go back to a 1RM, you will, you know, actually be stronger.
- Reduce training frequency. If you’re training 6x/week, go down to 3, 4, or 5. If you are benching 3x/week (let’s be honest you aren’t squatting 3x per week) try reducing that to 2 and increase volume.
- Increase training frequency. If you’re training 3x/week go up to 4, 5, or 6. If you are training the squat and bench once a week increase to 2x/week, then go up from there. Make sure to reduce volume.
- Switch your training split. If you are training with a body part split move to an upper/lower split, or even a full body split.
This list is incredibly brief. Perhaps I’ll elaborate more on each post if I get any interest. There are so many variables you can manipulate and test during training.
Key points I want you to remember. Don’t be stubborn when you aren’t progressing, make the necessary changes. Don’t be that ADHD dude who jumps to whatever is popular and make zero progress for years on end.
Lastly, have some sort of plan and execute it. You should allow for some variation in that program, but you should have a general idea of what you want to accomplish.
I’ve thought long and hard about this numerous times. Everyone knows the Internet doesn’t “lend and hand” to the option of testing.
Everything is already out there for you to grab with a click of your mouse. You want a diet to try out? You’ve heard about IF so you go and check out Martin Berkhan. You want a strength program? You go and check out Stronglifts.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty let me first off make one point clear. If you have hired a coach, you have given up a certain degree of freedom. This means you should trust him or her to have your best interest in mind, and testing becomes less of an issue. Still, if you have a good relationship with your coach and are interested in trying something out, you should feel free to run it by him or her to see what their thoughts are, perhaps it’ll be something you can implement.
Now, I want to separate this issue into two simple subjects: nutrition and resistance training. I’m splitting this post in two parts, so stay tuned for my bit on resistance training next week.
The issue of nutrition is always somewhat comical for those looking to do it themselves. You usually tend to get two main types of people:
- The dogmatic dude
- The trendy hipster
Let’s cover both of these, as they are kind of two ends of a spectrum:
When I mean dogmatic I am talking about always sticking to your guns and being closed minded.
You know whom I mean. The 40-year-old bodybuilder, who still eats 6x/day, still thinks low fat diets reign supreme, and loathes everything that’s not HIT.
We get it dude, you’re stuck in your ways.
Even though pretty much everything you have done has been debunked, you just keep on rocking on. The issue comes into play when he begins having some cognitive dissonance. Does he need to eat 6x/day even though he feels crap doing it and feels like he has a second job because preparing food takes so much damn time?
This is where experimentation and testing where n=1 comes into play. But will he be too scared to test? Will the thought of losing 20+ years of hard plus gains be too much to handle because he’s thinking of decreasing his meals to only 4x/day and hitting each body part more often than once per 9 days?
When I mention the trendy hipster, I mean the dude or girl, who tries IF for a month, then is Paleo for a month, and then does a juice fast for a week, followed by some new horseshit that Dr. Oz is peddling. You get the idea…
This is the lady, or gentleman who looks like they’ve done crossfit for the past 5 years. Which is to say they don’t look like they’ve stepped in a gym (u mad?). They never make much progress in terms of body composition. Even in strength they won’t make much if any progress (we’ll be going over this next post).
They hop around so god damned much that they simply can’t make any progress. There is something to be said for an individual who puts their head down and just grinds away at IIFYM, or changing habits on a regular basis. These things take time.
I have clients don’t have a lot of experience tracking macros. They will report to me after the first week and be upset because they were under their carb target by 16 grams… I tell them not to worry about it. Seriously, it will get better. You just need to practice.
What I’m trying to say is the trendy prick simply doesn’t improve his abilities at developing a calorie or food awareness. If you don’t develop one or either of those qualities you will be constantly spinning your wheels. Jumping on the newest fad will be a catalyst for wheel spinning.
I would prefer people to find a medium between the two. The scientific circle jerk community tends to actually be closer to the trendy end of the spectrum because there is always new research being released, which may or may not end up having any utility. So being “cutting edge” can still make you a trendy hipster.
I think that both ends of the spectrum can actually learn from each other. Let’s go over what they can draw from each other to become testers in a more productive manner.
If you can identify with the either of the descriptions above you know what category you may be in. I try not to be a categorical thinker (hence the spectrum) but in this case try and pick and choose what bullet points will offer the most value to the issues you are having.
- Being skeptical is awesome, and I tend to be the same way. However you need to keep an eye on what others are doing to see what is working.
- Once you begin to research a new idea, understand if it would fit your lifestyle. Some people get migraines from fasting for too long, this means it’s a simple call to skip it.
Keep reading and attempt to stay up to date with new research even if it’s only in its infancy. It could end up being a game changer (but more than likely will be the next bullshit you see on Dr. Oz)
- If there is something you have been doing for years but simply don’t enjoy anymore, research alternatives. Reducing meal frequency is a huge one. Or eliminating a food that bores that hell out of you.
- Looking at history can be smart for these types. People 50+ years ago were stronger and more jacked than you. Look at what they did before the Paleo evolution started and learn something from the past
- Not everything new has to be tested
- If you find something you like and it’s working, grind it out for a while like dogmatic dude and get better at that area (maybe that’s eating less protein, or some crazy idea like that)
- If you aren’t making any progress, find a diet or philosophy that works for you and stick to it until you begin to understand why it works
- Sometimes taking a break from reading all your favourite blogs is a good idea. It allows your mind to wander on it’s own and not be influenced by other people.
Tests You Can Run Today
- Change meal frequency
- Change portion sizes
- Add/subtract fasting
- Try IIFYM
- Take a step back from IIFYM and work on single habits like protein intake, eating more veggies at every meal, begin cutting down calorie containing beverages. For bulkers: eat a tonne of trail mix, add fats to your all your meals. The possibilities here are endless
- If you’ve been doing IIFYM and only eating boring rabbit food and animal flesh. Try adding some crappy carbs that everyone loves. Breakfast cereals, every You Tubers favourite: pop tarts (I find these to taste like cardboard mixed with horseshit). You may be surprised by how a lack in any negative effects on your body composition and performance
These are just a few simple tests you can begin right away. Don’t even read about it, just dive in head first to something you’ve wanted to try. It’ll provide a great change and will hopefully make your life simpler while maximizing your gains. After you give it at least 2 months trial then please feel free to argue about it on the internet.
A few weeks ago I did a video with a few of my clients where we discussed a few of my favourite methods for increasing their macro counting adherence and accuracy. The video is pretty long (around 47 mins) but I wanted to go into detail on a few of my points and let my mind go where it needs to go when I help my clients. Don’t worry I’ll keep it out of the gutter where it usually is 😉
For you visually focused learners: I came up with 7
hacks (just kidding, I fucking despise the way that word is now used) tips for helping my clients improve their adherence and accuracy with counting their macros.
From the information I’ve gathered since working with many clients there are a few major problems when it comes to accounting macros.
- They don’t know what to eat to fill up their macros. There is usually a large void in the protein department. No one has problems getting carbs, fats usually aren’t much of a problem either.
- They don’t have a large enough bank of “uni-macro” foods. Or foods, which contain mainly one macronutrient with trace, negligible, or non-existent amounts of the other two macros.
- They aren’t tracking. I know, ludicrous.
This article will cover how to improve all these things and some.
Track Your Macros
If you are currently tracking macros then it goes without saying that you should be tracking. If you are trying to hit macros and are not tracking them you should probably go play in traffic and end your pointless pursuit of attaining a goal. JK!
For real though. If you have macros given to you, or have paid for them, track for fucks sake. Unless you get to “Macro Counting Boss Status”, you probably have no idea what your macros look like on a daily basis. I would guess you are a few hundred calories over where you need to be, have 25-50% less protein than you should be getting and have a crap load of foods that aren’t helping you reach your goals.
What do I suggest clients use for macro counting? MyFitnessPal is the best I’ve seen so far. It has a huge database of foods, and allows for all sorts of customization. The Fitocracy Macro counting tool is also very nice as it allow for off-day and training-day macros. However the lack of a food database makes it’s utility very limited imo, but you could use both.
A few of my favourite things about MFP that make counting easier:
- Saved Meals – you can save meals you eat regularly, which makes counting macros that much easier.
- Saved recently eaten foods – shows foods you eat frequently so it’s easy to find foods that you… Well eat frequently.
- Friends – keeps you accountable to friends or…. Your coach 😉
- Reports – shows a weekly total in one little document.
There are more, but those are the best that I can think of right now. The point I’m trying to make is track your macros. If you have another app like FitDay or LiveStrong, cool. Just find something that you can use on a regular basis. Don’t just track on weekdays either. Most people fall off the wagon on the weekend. Don’t try and fool yourself into believing that you can take the weekends off and still reach your goal fast. Do you even logic?
Research Macros Of What You Eat and Make Alterations
This works well for people who begin tracking without necessarily having a macro goal to attain. Tracking your regular intake for 3-5 days gives you a pretty big insight into what you eat on a regular basis and what changes may need to be made to meet the macros that you get created/ create for yourself. Once you have a general idea of the foods you like to eat regularly, and you get your new macro goals, you need to get to work.
- Find out what macros you are eating excessively. If you see you should be getting 200grams of carbs and you’re getting 400, you know you will need to decrease carbs somewhere.
- Find out what macros you are eating too little of. Pretty much the same as point 1, but I can pretty much guarantee you, your protein intake is too low. Sorry for you lots brah.
3. Begin making adjustments by increasing/decreasing foods which you need in order to help you get towards your macro goal.
Let’s do a quick example. Here is a meal I really like, it’s actually two meals. So actual macros are: Calories: 890, carbs are 86, fat is 27, and protein is 70. Let’s say I know how many macros I usually have left over during dinner and that the carbs are too low, protein and fat are pretty much right where I need to be.
Now is the fun part: adding food. With my chili I like eating it with rice or bread. So say I need an additional 50 grams of carbs, I look up basmati rice (my personal preference). 175 grams of cooked basmati rice gives me around 50 grams of carbs with trace amounts of fat and protein.
So you can see that it does take a little bit of thinking and “creativity” to make simple alterations to the meals you’re already eating in order to hit your macro goals. Other additions many people probably need to make is to increase vegetable consumption. This isn’t coming from left field, most people need more veggies. They are especially good for fat loss as they are nutrient dense and calorie sparse (in terms of volume) and can easily be added to pretty much any meal.
Research What Foods You Consume That Are Uni-Macro, Then Add More
This next one also requires some research and insight into what foods you like to eat on the regular. Using the same method as we just talking about (track food that you’d usually consume for 3-5 days) you are now going to highlight foods which contain preferably 100% of one macro and 0% of others. I realize this is almost impossible, so let’s put that number down to 90% +.
I’m not telling you to go through all your foods with a god damn calculator and find out which foods meet the 90% + threshold. Just use some common sense and figure out which foods you consume that contain an abundance of one macro with lowish amounts of others.
Why are uni-macros important you ask?
Simple. There are times when you look at how much macros you have left in the day and you don’t want to become overcome with anxiety because you have to overly think about hitting your macros. Say your carb intake is all accounted for and you need a quick dose of protein and fat. You look at (or take a mental inventory) of you uni-macros and then pick a protein and fat, and go to town.
Even when you aren’t in a bind to hit your macros at the end of the day, knowing what uni-macro foods you have at your disposal is important. Say you’re going to be away from getting food for a while (crazy proposition, but bear with me) and you know this in advance. You don’t have a lot of time to prepare a tasty-ass meal and are currently out of leftovers. You put some protein in a shaker cup, crab a few pieces of fruit and you’re on your way with minimal thinking required. Here are some uni-macros off the top of my head and some that a few of my clients like:
- Protein: whey, casein, chicken, extra lean ground beef, bison, egg whites
- Carbohydrates: fruit, fruit juice, applesauce, white rice, cinnamon buns
- Fats: olive oil, grapeseed oil, fish oil, MCT oil (you can only use this if you do crossfit tho, and it’s mixed with butter and coffee), avocadoes, coconut oil
The Macro Macro Method
This is a method that I haven’t used too much with clients but would work really well for someone who is very disciplined when it comes to macros, and doesn’t mind maybe eating the same meal multiple times in a day.
The method consists of finding a bunch of different foods that meet your macros and then making sure you consume all of it during one day. The beauty of this method is that portion sizes and feeding frequency take care of themselves.
Say you have some meat you need to eat (200 grams of protein worth), some pasta, tomato sauce, and a few other nuts and bolts. You calculate the total amount of macros that your “recipe” would take and then eat the entire recipe over a day. Add any uni-macro foods you need to top up anything macro you’re deficient on.
Yea this is pretty boring, but if you are low on food, or need to get rid of food if it’s about to go bad, you can’t go wrong with this method. As a bonus you get to cook once and you’re done for the day. Pretty convenient imo. I’m lazy as hell so this works for me every once in a while.
Customized Menu Creation
There are coaches you can hire, that’ll create these specially for you. I have made these for a few clients in the past, but they take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. So making your own is always a good way to go about it.
If you customize something for yourself, you will probably have a higher level of adherence than if someone else creates it for you. You know what you like better than anyone else, and your menu will reflect that.
The one thing about creating menus is that it can get boring. For those of you who need a lot of variety in their cuisine, this might not be the best method for you. However for fat loss clients, this is method works like a charm. It requires a lot of work up front and them some maintenance depending on how much weight you need to lose. Here is how I like to set this up:
- Figure out your preferred meal frequency. Alternatively you can customize just a few meals per day to allow some leg room for a variety of other foods that you plug in.
- Look at the meals you are currently eating, find meals that you want to eat, and begin to construct them to meet your macro needs. I like to construct 3 meals per eating opportunity. I usually only have 2-3 so my job is much easier.
- Organize your meals so that they meet your daily macro requirement.
- Make separate menus for different days.
Let’s say you make 3 meals for your first meal of the day. You may find that you have drastically different macro/calorie combinations for each meal. This is why it’s important to match meals from different feeding times during the day. Say for instance you eat 2x/day. On day one you have a massive meal one. You look at your options for meal two and see that you have one option that is a little bit lower in calories. The synthesis of these two meals bring you super close to your daily macros (after a little more tinkering).
For day two, you can use some of your lower calorie meals for meal one and larger calorie meals for meal two. Then create a third day as well.
If you like more variety than feel free to create as many days as you want. Yea, this method does require a lot of work up front. But once you finish it really takes a lot of guess work out of the equation. You just follow your meal plan that’s full of foods that you enjoy.
To freshen things up, you can begin creating other meals that can be subbed for other meals. This gives you some options and takes the monotony of eating the same meals together out of the equation.
Examine Food Choices
If you follow me on social media, you know I like my cheat meals. This is the day I usually consume processed foods. On other days, I usually end up eating little to no processed foods.
This isn’t done on purpose.
My consumption of processed foods is minimized because these foods don’t allow any customization. Sure you can alter your portion sizes which would increase/decrease the macros proportionately, but that’s something I just don’t really like doing. It takes more work. Being able to add/remove a specific macro is impossible with processed foods. This is why I tend to minimize them on my non-cheat days.
Now I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t be consuming processed foods. If you have something you like and you can make it fit your macros, than good on you. Just know that if you are having issues with accurately hitting your macros, removing process foods for whole foods, which are more “editable” in terms of volume of a macro you may or may not need, may go a long way into helping you hit your macro goals.
For people who are more advanced in terms of macro counting, adding processed foods will be a lot easier. For complete noobs, it may cause some problems. It really depends on the person and how anal you are about hitting your macros.
There You Go
So there you have it. 6 different methods that you can add to your repertoire to help you become a better macro accountant. You may already be doing some of these, and you may only take information from one or two points, but I hope the point that is made to you helps you reach dem goals and all that fuzzy shit.
This has been a topic that I feel I need to address. Using lighter weight to get strong seems counterintuitive, but it isn’t. Watch the video below to help you understand why you need to program low in order to make gains.
Advanced warning: people who claim to be superior human beings because they eat “clean” may or may not feel butthurt after reading this article. Sory for yor lots.
The term “fat burning food” comes up waaay too much. So much so, that I feel people don’t even understand what they’re talking about. What exactly is a fat burning food? Is there a magic concoction of food that you can digest and absorb that will cause fat to burn off your body like the red hot sun on ice? I’m going to go over a few aspects of why the term “fat burning food” (FBF) should be thrown into a pit of hyenas and mercilessly destroyed for all eternity.
If It Fits Your Macros
First thing first, I don’t know where this term originated from but I can make an educated guess: marketing from a product or guru. Using the term FBF is much more sexy than saying “food that may contribute to fat loss when in a calorie deficit.” Yet that’s the plain truth to it. There are plenty of books on miracle foods and all that kind of BS out there that’s its hard to keep track of them anymore. It’s a marketing scheme to sell, perpetrated by salesman who have the ethical makeup of a certain Enron CEO.
Let’s go over the characteristics of fat burning foods…
All I hear is crickets.
FBF takes the concept of calories and throws them out of the window. ANY food can be eaten as part of a fat loss diet. I’ve eaten chocolate, cake, candy, baked goods, ice cream and a boatload of other crap when I cut 35 pounds (on a weekly basis). I have clients who eat junk food on a weekly basis while cutting. Does this mean these foods are FBFs? I mean technically, they’re burning fat and consuming junk food. This is merely a correlation, and as we know correlation doesn’t equal causation.
Let’s take a look at some fat burning foods portrayed so well by the media:
- This teacher lost 37 pounds in 90 days eating only Mcdonalds.
- In 2010, this dude ate only potatoes for 60 days. He lost 21 pounds and decreased his total cholesterol (doesn’t mention LDL and HDL specifics).
- Another guy lost 20 pounds in a month eating only pizza.
- How about the Nutrition Professor who consumed: Twinkies. Nutty bars. Powdered donuts, Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too. He lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks. It is worthy to note that he also ate some other lower calorie foods which contained protein, and some vitamins and minerals.
- Then there is a father who eats McDonalds everyday, lost 100 pounds, and now does Crossfit, rock climbing, snowboarding and is currently training for an Ironman.
Would anyone think these diets contain FBF’s? No, these foods don’t exactly provide you with the sustenance to survive for an extended period of time. They’re empty calories, the people eating them ate less calories than they needed on a daily basis, ergo they lost weight. Any food can be a FBF if they’re part of a diet that is in a caloric deficit.
Plane and simple.
This isn’t to say that junk food and fast food should make the bulk of anyones fat loss diet. Sure you would be getting calories in, but quality still matters when it comes to health. Pizza and McShits doesn’t contain foods that are high in vitamins and nutrients. Due to this, a diet containing only these foods probably wouldn’t actually be healthy despite the fact that you can lose weight. By healthy, I am referring to a diet which would cause fat loss and improved biomarkers of health (increased HDL, decreased LDL, decreased tryglycerides, decreased fasting insulin etc.).
What other issues can jumping on the FBF train, cause. How about unhealthy eating habits, such as fearing foods that one subjectively considers to be a “fat causing food”? Any coach who consults with weight loss clients realizes that consuming less calories isn’t easy. There is a large psychological portion to dieting. This is something that lean people tend to forget when judging obese people, but I digress. Eating junk food lights up the nucleus accumbens (the brain’s pleasure centre), making us happy. Why should someone completely eliminate a food, which makes them happy?
Simple answer: they shouldn’t.
There are so many foods these days that so called experts are telling you to stay away from. I just read a great book by my friend Mike Howard where he mentioned how there are diets that completely contradict each other. Many of these new books are coming out claiming that they have a revolutionary method to burn fat, yet the obesity rate has yet be to decline, or even dwindle. One diet says protein is evil (The China Study) another says to eat protein but limit everything fun (Paleo), who can you trust?
I feel that the best way for individuals to burn fat is not to create a negative image of food, but to accept some moderation in their life. You can’t go wrong with eating meat, poultry and seafood, as well fruits and veggies, and some wheat products, and legumes. Try and eat foods that are whole (that doesn’t come in a package with an ingredients list that may as well be the same length as War and Peace and in another language), processed foods should be eaten sparingly (but still eaten if needed). Basically all fad diets have the guidelines above, but want to sell you shit, so they come up with a food group that is “unhealthy” and write a book about it causing even more confusion in the lay population.
Some individuals are fine not eating junk food for long periods of time, and that’s ok too. Most people need a break every now and then to let themselves go, and eat what their heart desires. This can be healthy for your hormones as well as your psyche. Having a refeed (usually containing higher calories, carbohydrates, junk food, or some combination of the three) can kickstart fat loss plateaus. Refeeds can help elevate leptin levels, which is a good thing (unless you are resistant) for fat loss.
Some people seemingly turn into a famished and angrier version Jabba The Hutt while dieting. They are straight up ornery because they cannot wait to eat something that they want. Their diet eats them up inside causing them to feel uneasy when they’re around family and friends who have two servings of desert when they won’t even allow themselves one. Some people completely limit their social life so that they aren’t tempted to go off their diet. These things are unacceptable to me, and they should be to you too. You don’t need to give up foods that you love in order to get your goals and remain healthy.
The misdirection from all these gurus and their sheep really bothers me. People become close-minded, and narrow in their vision. They listen to their guru, and accept his word as god. You will notice that I cite my resources. I do this to encourage the reader to go out and do their own research. If you don’t agree with me that’s fine. Perhaps I have made a mistake along the way and you have evidence to help change my mind. I have no issues with admitting I’m wrong or that I change my mind over time as new research comes out. What I will not do is follow advice of someone blindly, with no actual evidence. I encourage everyone to make informed decisions, don’t be duped by someone who claims they know everything and isn’t open to new ideas.