I used to think that you pooped out fat when you lost weight. I mean, what else would happen? Totally logical conclusion. Am I right?
Often, on this blog, I talk about things that puncture the heart of lost souls. People that have been training for a while, but are sort of stranded at sea – people that know how to sail, but don’t know how to get anywhere – because that’s where I was for so long. (OK, OK, who am I kidding…I’m still there.)
I often forget the early days and just how tough they were to navigate, but I know I shouldn’t because we all start there. Some of us are still there. So if you somehow end up here and want to start fresh, here are seven (make that eight) things I'd want you to know.
What's for breakfast?
In The Skinny-Fat Solution, I tell this story:
The other week, my girlfriend berated me to go to breakfast. This particular place gets really crowded, so they jam everyone in—sometimes there isn’t more than one foot between tables.
As I sipped my coffee, another couple was sat next to us. The male was skinny-fat. You may be wondering how I knew, but I have a sixth sense for these kinds of things. (I am the leader of the Skinny-Fat Brohirrim, after all.)
I whispered to my girlfriend,
“I bet I can predict what this dude will order.”
She didn’t believe me, and didn’t really care either. I told her anyway to prove my psychic powers.
“Chocolate milk to drink. Pancakes to eat.”
Lo and behold, the waitress came around to take orders.
“I’ll have a chocolate milk.”
This was enough to prove my worthiness. But not more than five minutes later.
“I’ll take the pancakes.”
I might know this because that's exactly what I would have used to do when I was skinny-fat.
(Don’t judge me.)
The story serves a different purpose in The Skinny-Fat Solution (free skinny-fat learning course here), but I think it's perfect here. There are a lot of fancy neo methods, concepts, and principles out there, none of which matters much without the tiniest grasp on fundamentals. Call it culture if you want, but you need a backbone. Consider the following tips your atlas and axis. And don't forget about the eighth tip embedded in the conclusion.
1. Running or “cardio” doesn't make a body.
The vast majority of people looking to get “fit” and “healthy” (neither of which are good words to use because they're meaningless – drop a comment if you’re curious) default to running. We can all thank Dr. Kenneth Cooper for this (and by “thank,” I mean egg his house).
Running and other forms of “cardio” (which is another bad word – again, drop a comment) are chosen because they burn calories.
The treadmill says so!
(By the way, treadmill calorie burning estimates are about as accurate as a panda bear playing a game of darts blindfolded and drunk.)
Your problem, and the solution, is a lot more than dabbling in a + and – game with calories. Even if you want to look like Tyler Durden, the treadmill won't get you there by its lonesome. And that's something I can guarantee.
2. 80% strength training, 20% everything else.
Eighty percent of your time training — if you're in it for aesthetics — should be spent…
- underneath of a barbell
- leveling up bodyweight skills
When you combine both, you’re sailing on holy waters. I don’t think training can get much better — it's a unique combination that delivers great results.
The barbell (not smith machine) has benefits no other piece of equipment delivers. It's not solely about muscle stress, it's about total load on the skeletal system and the rest of the body. Bodyweight skills are fantastic for that same reason: there's more at work than muscle stress. No other form of training mimics moving your body through space in a challenging way.
The other 20% of your time can be spent exploring other avenues (walking on the treadmill, sprinting, rope jumping, etc).
3. 80% big, 20% small.
Most of your strength training efforts should go towards multi-joint barbell and bodyweight movements that attack your physique needs (see the Great 8 for the X Physique in the Workbook). Don’t do an exercise just because Flobo Joe does an exercise. You'll get wrapped up in the wrong culture.
Do exercises that…
- progress via movement complexity in tandem with strength
- stress the unique muscles that combat your skinny-fat physique needs (narrow shoulders, apparently wider waist, thin arms)
Don’t neglect the other 20% though. Hit the arms with some curls. Maybe another problem are with another isolation exercise. Get jacked at times, but don't neglect the biggies.
4. Fat loss is primarily food.
The first step for anyone looking to lose fat: level up your kitchen skills. There’s a cliché saying about abs being made in the kitchen, and I’ve found that to be true for the most part.
This isn’t totally about watching calories. Hormones are the ultimate controller, but narrowing it down to one thing is stupid anyway – the body is an emergent system. Our “whole” is greater than the sum of our parts. You don't have “one” problem and there isn't “one” silly trick that you need. It's the entire production.
Eating good foods goes a long way in the calorie and hormone department. Layer strength training on top, and you’re climbing your way out in the best way I know how.
5. Food is ingredients; food doesn't have ingredients.
Perhaps the best rule of thumb in regards to food choices: food is ingredients; food doesn’t have ingredients. I guess you can say this is rather paleo, and I think that’s a fine rule of thumb for a beginner to abide by. (When chaos hits, things change slightly.)
I used to think I was doing myself a favor by eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but unless you're a true hardgainer, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches shouldn’t be in the conversation. There are a lot of foods out there you think are good, but probably aren't.
Before anything else, fix quality. I'd rather you handle the fight of food quality before you worry about quantity. This is before fasting, chaos bulking, or anything. If you don't understand quality, you won't make it far.
6. Stop drinking calories.
I know, I know. Once you start training with a barbell you get that tingle of uniqueness inside of you. You think you’re some kind of professional athlete with uber needs. You might drink Gatorade. You might head over to GNC and grab some sugary drink to fuel your training session.
You don't need them.
If you're taking any sugary workout drink, you're shooting yourself in the foot. I talk about protein shakes a lot (even though I never have “shakes” and always have pudding), but the kind of protein I buy is plain and unflavored.
You don't need any special workout drinks. Just food. Real food. Don’t drink anything but water, black coffee, and unsweetened teas.
7. Protein packs a punch; eggs aren't evil.
After you grasp food quality, your next step is getting enough protein to fuel the repairs your body needs to make from strength training.
Most protein is under the mainstream umbrella of evil. Red meat. Eggs. Pork. Organ meats.
There's fat, oh no!
Fat isn't bad as long as you aren’t eating synthetic slop. Eggs aren't bad. I'd much rather have people limit processed carbohydrates than good sources of fat. One of the smartest ideas I’ve ever had is ignoring 99.9% of mainstream “fitness” wisdom. Join the Darkside.
Eat protein-dense foods. You need protein when you train hard. Doesn't have to be shuttled into your system via sugary crap. Center each of your meals around protein. (Should it have ingredients…?) And since we’re here: stop snacking on junk. If you must snack, go with raw vegetables — that's a good snack.
Parting wisdom and the eight tip: beating genetics
You might have tried some of these. You might have tried all of these. You might not have seen results on par with others. You might be on the verge of quitting and cursing your genetics to the netherworld.
Genetics determine our starting point and potential. They are rather set, although there is wiggle room (some genes activate and deactivate from experiences). What we can change rather easily, however, is our environment.
The way I see things: genetics are like clay. If you have good genetics, your clay is soft, moist, and easy to build with. If you have bad genetics, your clay is drier, harder, and tougher to build with. Each can be shaped, but it just takes a bit more time with sucky genetics.
Our body is constantly receiving feedback from the environment and situations we put ourselves in, which then makes us change in certain ways. We are very much a product of this environment.
Fixing your environment is the easiest way to fix yourself.
Worrying about the clay is useless. It ain't changing. Just get to work and start creating.
Photo Credit: toilet