6 Week Cut Progress

NOTE: Below, is re-blogged from my newsletter 1st Feb 2019.

I’m currently in the middle point of a diet for aesthetics. I’ve cut weight for fighting numerous times, but I’ve never followed a program specifically for aesthetics before. I have several  reasons for doing this.

 I feel that as a fitness professional there is a huge difference between being in the game 10 years growing constantly, and doing the same year over ten times. If you don’t try running the programs yourself how can you confidently implement them?

Maybe most importantly, the idea of being restricted in food (for comfort or socialization) and alcohol made me a little scared, to be honest. The idea of working a thirteen-hour day and then coming home and not being able to have something delicious made me uncomfortable. So, I felt this was something I had to do, we all know growth happens outside the comfort zone. Lastly, I need six pack abs if I’m ever going to destroy my enemies in the fitness world (not hyperbole).

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I posted this photo recently on Instagram and I received a lot of positive feedback, for which I am very grateful. Also, all this encouragement I see as another layer of accountability, but even so, I felt the immediate urge to qualify it posting thIs comparison photo.

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Posting this comparison photo I felt the immediate urge to qualify it. I wanted to say “hey you can still sort of kinda see the top two abs, or mention my recent squat/deadlift PR.” I felt the need to qualify looking puffy. I don’t really like the photo. Don’t like how I look, bad lighting (#fitspo is 85% lighting) but I think it’s important to share how much change can happen in 5 weeks. Also, I think it’s important if I’m going to LEAD you in your journey you understand I’m not a robot. I feel vulnerable, weak, and unsatisfied at times also. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to help you.
 

I wanted to say “Hey, you can still sort-of kinda see the top two abs,” or mention my recent squat/deadlift PR.  I felt the need to looking looking what I saw as puffy. I don’t really like the photo. I don’t like how I look, there’s bad lighting (#fitspo is 85% lighting), but I think it’s important to share how much change can happen in 5 weeks. That was a photo after completing week one of my diet and program. Also, I think it’s important if I’m going to LEAD you in your journey you understand that I’m not a robot. I feel vulnerable, weak, and unsatisfied at times. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to help you.

 THE DIET

I received several inquires to what the diet I’m doing includes. My knee jerk reaction was to explain it’s complexity with: “well you train like a Viking and don’t eat like an asshole, repeat to desired effect.” In all seriousness, well actually in all seriousness, DO THAT! But, to be more specific I simply tracked all my food, kept protein consistent, and slowly dialed down the calories for the energy macronutrients (fat & carbs). To get slightly more detailed I try to time carbs around my workouts. No foods are off limits except alcohol (the 5th food group).

For the most part everyone already knows how to get leaner. If I showed you grilled chicken and broccoli and then a plate of pasta, you know which is better for weight loss! Eighty percent of results from a weight loss plan is hitting the appropriate number of macro nutrients and total calories. A widely excepted rule of thumb that predates the world wide web, blogger “experts,” and skinny jeans is that you should have roughly one gram per pound of bodyweight. I don’t want this to turn into a discussion of protein, if you want to delve deeper look into the material published by Renaissance Periodization.

Also, I’m not drinking. This goes back to my main point that unless you want to get bodybuilding competition shredded, you already know how to lose weight. I especially already know! So, why am I successful (at the moment)? I have layers of accountability, I know why I’m doing this, and I have confidence in the program.

THE GIGGLE TEST

 Does your diet pass the giggle test? What do I mean by that? Well, if you tell someone your new cockamamie diet plan and their first reaction is a giggle it’s probably not the best idea. “Jill I’m only eating foods in blue packaging on even numbers of the the clock.” That being said, this diet will work at least at first. Because any diet that reduces the number of calories in versus out will work (for a time). Keto, let’s just cut the shit please. You don’t actually believe it’s a good idea you just want to be able to eat bacon wrapped avocados all the time.

LAYERS OF ACCOUNTABILITY

I have a coach. Yes, coaches need coaches, especially good ones! I have a very supportive girlfriend Cara (@captainstarbuck). As far as not drinking I told my girlfriend I was going to cut out alcohol on our anniversary until the project is done. Then on Christmas numerous people gave me bottles of whiskey. Which I asked Cara what that means people think? To which she replied: “well it’s because you’re like a man’s man, or they think you’re a functioning alcoholic, or a little of both.” Also, I now have this post on IG now I’m for my half-way mark, so I need to show change once I’m at 12 weeks. Next and maybe most important I paid money for this diet, I suggest you do too. This is isn’t even a sales pitch because I can’t legally tell you specific guidelines but I’m going to let you in on a secret I learned the hard way: people don’t respect things that are unconditionally free! So, throw down some cash. Even better keep a tally of all the money you’re saving by making your own meals and not drinking. Especially if you live in New York you’ll see this add up. Then get yourself something nice.

Also, postscript for next December my brand is Talisker.

Easy Meal Prep Under 10 min and $20

Meal prep is one of the less glamorous elements of your fitness journey. Especially if you are new to taking control of your nutrition, making pounds of chicken, sautéing vegetables, while you burn rice to the bottom of the pot can seem like a kitchen destroying Sisyphean task. Instead of letting this take the spirit out of you I am going to provide some easy meal prep ideas in a series of blogs that will soon be a e-pamphlet.

First Question

“What level of coaching are you at?” Nutrition coaching is often divided into three levels of intensity and detail. Most people will never need to be at level 3, unless you plan to compete in bodybuilding or physique. Even then though most advanced athletes/dieters cannot realistically stay at level 3 without psychological and/or physical burnout. In this level everything is taken into account. You are even measuring asparagus spears, nothing is eaten that you do not measure or weigh first. Also, a level 3 trainee is most likely timing their meals around their workouts for optimized muscle growth or fat loss. An example of detail the majority of that day’s carbs would be eaten in a three hour window arounds workouts. Whey protein would be consumed following a workout because of its quick absorption rate and casein taken prior to bed because of its slow release. For most individuals you will never need to be at level 3.

Myself after about two months of  level 2  intensity and one month at  level 3.

Myself after about two months of level 2 intensity and one month at level 3.

Level 2, I will define as you are measuring calories but you are not striving for the same level of accuracy. Also, timing is not really an issue. A note on accuracy, most food labels are estimated to only be within the 20-30% accurate range to begin with. For a food item to be close to 100% accurate every item would need to be placed in a bomb calorimeter.

Level 1 is simply basic consciousness of what you are eating. At level 1 you simply use your fist to measure protein, palm for carbs & vegetables, and your thumb to estimate fat.

Three common items less than 20 dollars. Also, I recommend purchasing broccoli florets and not cuts.

Three common items less than 20 dollars. Also, I recommend purchasing broccoli florets and not cuts.

Four Meals Under Ten Minutes

For the level 3 trainee: divide the chicken into white meat and dark since you will enter them separately into your tracking app. Even if you are trying to cut I would recommend keeping the skin on at least the dark meat because of the vitamins. Next weigh four equal portions of each. Microwave the pre-packaged rice, use a spatula to divide each two serving packs into individual portions. Microwave your vegetables in a glass container and then divide those up. For the level two trainee, simply find in My Fitness Pal, or your chosen app, an entire rotisserie chicken then enter the serving as 0.25 of the whole chicken. The rice and vegetable set up is the same. If you are a level 1 trainee simply rip, shred the chicken up and use your eyeballs.

Cost Effective

This approach is not a only a great way for you to track your nutrition, but you can save considerable money. Especially if like me you live in New York City. I purchased all these items for under twenty bucks. The chicken was $7.99, two pre-cooked rice packs for $2.50 a piece, and two bags of broccoli for $2.49 a piece. I made four filling meals which in NYC would easily run $10-15 a piece. I chose not use oil on the rice and to keep the skin on the chicken for my fat calories. That being said each meal was still around 500 calories total. If you liked this article and would value more similar content please leave a comment below. Best of luck on your journey whatever your goals are. It will not happen overnight but probably will not take as long you think either. Be patient. strive to find satisfaction in the challenge and process.

Patience is not simply the ability to wait, but rather how we behave while we’re waiting.
— -Joyce Meyer

Note using the lids for each container to make it easier to measure and divide the portions, the finished product (far right).

BOSU Shame

So rather than just saying a certain exercise or modality is stupid, which is easy (and fun), I have chosen to go into some depth as to why I feel the BOSU Ball Squat & deadlift should be viewed with scorn. English essayist and moralist Samuel Johnson said: “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” I would argue that saying a nonsense exercise challenges your core strength is the last refuge of an incompetent trainer. 

 

The Dirty Secret

A large portion of fitness “professionals” are “slash trainers,” meaning that they don’t really train themselves and aren’t passionate about the subject. They have okay-ish physiques (maybe), one of the easier to acquire certifications, and they have another passion that is the main focus of their lives. Or, hey, it might just be that the circus wasn’t hiring that day (my case) or that Burger King required too much math, so, “Let’s be a trainer.” These people can often be seen playing on their phones while their clients flail around doing something next to meaningless. The result is also that effective means of training, especially ones that are difficult to teach, are passed to the side for low risk and lower reward moves. If you don’t know how to effectively program or explain the efficacy of an exercise such as the barbell squat or deadlift you can always throw someone on a BOSU ball, make them feel entertained, and take your paycheck. 

Efficacy of Training Balance

In and of itself, this is the subject of numerous studies which are not less than conclusive. First off, I believe there is never a reason to squat or perform any exercise focused on muscular development on the rounded portion of the BOSU ball. This teaches faulty movement patterns, and nearly always forces the trainee to collapse their ankles.

There are more effective ways to train balance and prevent injury through challenging synergist muscles (ones that assist the main muscle acting). Also, these exercises I’m about to list are great at pointing out asymmetry that might exist in your musculature left versus right. These are exercises where the foot can still be active and stable and adapting the body to asymmetrical loads similar to how they might need to be handled in real life and sport. A few examples are exercises like rear foot elevated split squats (a.k.a Bulgarian split squats), off-set deadlifts, and suit case carries. An important distinction being that balance is found by reinforcing postural integrity, meaning keeping the ankle-knee-hip organized in line, against an outside force. Similar to how you would have to pick up a heavy weight with one arm but not allow that to collapse your posture. One of my favorite tests for this is to progress from one single leg touch, to single leg deadlifts, to single leg rotational throws.

“Like, Core Strength, Bro”

I’ve heard the argument that unstable surface training activates more core musculature, thus burning more calories. This, frankly, is bullshit, pretty good bullshit, but bullshit none-the-less. Weight loss is a product of work output being greater than calories in. More core musculature is used squatting your bodyweight on a barbell, or even more core challenging, front squatting. Properly taught strength moves provide much more core stimulus than completion of a balance problem. 

Performing a lift on a BOSU or Indo Board  might be challenging. But is it challenging because you are taxing the musculature you want to develop or is it just a coordination puzzle? Also, squats and deadlifts are effective because your body is challenged to generate force production. If you take away your ability to do so with an unstable surface you have now negated the purpose of the exercise.

If your goals are to lose weight or gain muscle figuring out how to use weights far-far beneath sub-maximal on an unstable surface is as relevant as your goals as devoting 30 minutes of your training session to juggling. Often performing exercises on an unstable surface is used in physical therapy. I personally know this from rehabbing a severe tear of ligaments in my ankle. Physical therapy exercises have never been intended to drive aesthetic or performance adaptations. Which is what 99% of personal training clients are looking for and largely skewed towards the first of those two stated goals.

The Fallacy of Functionality

The term functional has become a bit of meme in fitness circles. In order for something to be functional it must have a function.  Are you going to be playing your sport on a wobbly surface or fighting someone in a row boat? I’ve regrettably seen hang cleans performed on unstable surfaces by competitive athletes. What is the purpose of the hang clean? It is to teach force production through triple extension. But when this exercise is performed on an unstable surface the weights that must be used are now ones that the athlete could probably bicep curl. So not only are you are practicing force production on a surface that does not mimic the field of play, you are now using weights that won’t drive the desired adaptation. 

#Themoreyouknow

I would encourage you to be ruthless in your exercise selection, if you cannot immediately and without doubt identify the purpose of an exercise in your routine, cut it. For the majority of you out there, you are balancing the gym with the rest of your life and you cannot afford fluff or modalities of dubious value. For competitive athletes, every second wasted on something that doesn’t produce quantifiable results could be used in recovery or increasing skill.  Remember it’s intelligent intensity that gets you the results you deserve.