To stay true to this topic, and because I love you all, I am going to break this down into two posts. What’s the point anyway if I am not arming you with everything you need to succeed? It’s swimsuit season, and we ain’t playin no games.
It is just about that time of year when I start leaning out, and the abs and muscle definition come back onto the scene. And like clockwork, after I throw up a couple ab shots on the gram, the messages start rolling in. What exercises do I do? How do I get abs?
More than anything, it is diet. Which is why we are here.
Before I start, let me qualify myself because who wants to hear advice from someone with no experience? In 2014 during my beginnings as a bodybuilder, I trained myself for a Bikini Competition. Not only that, but I was responsible for 100% of my nutrition and meal plans gearing up for the competition. Here’s the results:
Since then, I have bulked, trained for various sports, fallen in love with pulled pork and hot wings, and maintained a physique I am proud of. ~Abs~ aren’t everything, but I sure do like them so I tend to maintain them. I wasn’t and never have been armed with a coach that majored in exercise science or a certified nutritionist or dietitian. And while I wished I had access to those people, the fact of the matter was I didn’t need them. I knew very little about lifting weights and even less about diet, but I knew the information was out there- it was just a matter of finding it. So here I am, sharing a little bit of knowledge with you all. I’m not a professional, but I can speak on my experience and what has (and hasn’t) worked for me. All of the pitfalls I will discuss… I have fallen prey to all of them. But you don’t have to.
^^ Above: sugar city ^^
If you ask someone like a bodybuilding competitor who has had to get lean many times, they can probably tell you exactly how they do it. Competitors might not get huge in the offseason or gain 15% body fat, but the fact that they get so much leaner than the average person when they are dieting makes their cuts pretty drastic. There are many factors that differentiate those people from people who start diets and fail or can’t seem to get lean no matter how hard they try. The top two are usually discipline and knowledge.
See, there’s nothing secretive about the ways people get lean. Theres no magic formula. Everything you need to know about getting lean is on the internet. But most people will never take the time to learn what TDEE means, the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients, how intermittent fasting works, etc.
Possibly the most important thing to know is that getting lean is extremely personal. You are unique and should treat yourself as such- what works for me might not work for you. But that comes with the experience of having leaned out, and likely more than once. Still, there are things that definitely don’t work. And while I can’t hammer out every last thing you need to know in one post, I can definitely share with you some of the most common mistakes that keep people from getting lean.
This is #1 for a reason! A huge misconception people have is that the progress you make in exercise and diet is directly proportional to the effort you put in. Unfortunately friends, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Give 100% effort to your diet and you will get 100% back, no doubt. But if you put 60 or 50% in, don’t expect to get that much in return. Even at full force, it takes a while to see progress. But sticking with your plan half of the time? You likely won’t see any change at all. I have seen so many people become demoralized because after spending months of half-assing their plan, they see no benefit. If there is one thing you take from this let it be that you have to work smarter and harder, not longer. Remember, if you can’t stick to your plan take a good look at it and analyze whether it is reasonable or if it is too extreme. Crash diets don’t produce results, they produce eventual massive binges. At no point in your weight loss or leaning out journey should you expect it to be easy. You are altering your lifestyle, likely eating foods and portions you aren’t used to and having to deal with not getting what you want in the moment. What is cool; however, is that once you get to to “that place” you are searching for, it is easier to maintain. And what is fun is seeing the progress you have made and feeling proud that you had the resolve to get there.
Case and point: this banner! How often do you see pretty images like this floating around on a stick-thin girl’s instagram or tumblr page? Spoiler alert: it won’t make you look like them. Whenever someone tells me they want to lose weight, the first thing I ask is “Are you drinking your calories?” I think the average person has taken the idea of a protein shake and ran with it, to the point where people are literally drinking sugar and calling it “breakfast”, or a meal replacement. Let’s not forget that those people are likely pairing it with a piece of toast or oatmeal and a banana for a snack not 3 hours later. Carbohydrates are an essential component of your diet and should by no means be excluded, but they also shouldn’t be 70% of your macronutrient profile. Here’s your issue- you like to pretend that naturally occurring sugars aren’t sugar. Your fruit smoothie isn’t filling you up, your first meal of the day has as much sugar as a coca-cola, and virtually no protein or healthy fats. Sugar from fruit is still sugar. A common excuse- “but fruits have more micronutrients so it is different!” You can hit your micronutrient quota without consuming 60g of sugar– be more creative. And as far as juice cleanses go, just cut the BS. A “cleanse” isn’t going to help you magically drop pounds (ahem, all carbs), and your sudden and likely temporary weight loss is probably due to the fact that you are simply not getting enough calories. And while we’re talking I might as well add- STAY AWAY FROM THOSE OVER THE COUNTER COLON CLEANSE PILLS!!
If most people knew what they were actually consuming, they would self-correct. Download the app MyFitnessPal. It truly is an indispensable tool that will forever change the way you see your diet. They have an awesome barcode scanner that allows you to effortlessly upload all packaged goods into your app, and allows you to choose the serving. But right now I am not here to tell you how to use it, but why you should. You have no idea how much or what you are eating. People tend to fiercely underestimate their daily caloric intake, and have no idea just how little protein they are taking in. All of the “is it ok if I eat this?” and “is ___ unhealthy?” questions would be avoided if people just logged their food! My suggestion- before you even think about starting a diet, eat as you normally do for one week, tracking everything. You will get a good idea of your baseline, and will know exactly what your pitfalls are. (Half a cup of hummus, those organic pita chips you love so much, and sugary “protein bars” aren’t going to get you where you want to go). The cool thing about logging food is that once you figure out what is rich with valuable nutrients and not calorie dense, you can eat more! (Volume eaters, do I hear you??)
Here’s the thing- if you are reading this, you likely aren’t a elite athlete or bodybuilding competitor. If you were, you would already be dialed in to what you need to do. You don’t have to be hungry 24/7 when you’re dieting. In fact, if you are that means you are doing something wrong. Educate yourself. No one knows your body better than you. Don’t get your knowledge from livestrong.com and bodybuilding.com articles. Get on google scholar and find research that supports or negates the facts you read online. For whatever reason, people ignore the types of suggestions in this article because they are determined to ~do it their own way~. Well, those ways are shortcuts! If there was an easier or more pleasant way to lose weight, I promise I would make sure you guys were the first to know. The reason people say fitness and eating clean is a lifestyle is because it takes perseverance and long-term dedication. You can’t go 1 day on 3 days off and expect results. So now that you are armed with the information, you have a choice. Do you want it or not?
Check in soon for part 2.