I’ve written on this topic before but I wanted to add some more nuance as we head toward Thanksgiving and various other gluttony-based holiday events. I’ve written in the past about the need to plan ahead, to plan for cheating, to plan for failure, etc. But I wanted to talk more specifically about how to do that for the holidays, how I do it in general, and how I’m doing it now with my specific workout/eating regimen.
I sometimes wonder about the focus of fitness magazines as I’m walking through the store and see them on the rack. I’ve mentioned before that I think the industry misses the mark a lot of the time with regards to overweight people, and the lines of fitness magazines on the rack at the grocery store are a good example of just how. A lot of the articles you’ll see are about that last 10 or 15 pounds, or how to “finally” shed that belly fat… But what about the guy who is just getting started? It seems to me as if fitness magazines will be one of the first resources that a fat guy picks up when he wants to lose weight – it was the first thing I picked up, after all. They’re visible, they’re accessible, and they’re relatively low-investment… but they also tend to focus on guys near the top of their game. Which is fine, in some ways: that’s part of the mission of Men’s Health and their declared readership. But I think fitness magazines – men’s magazines in particular, since I think women’s mags do a slightly better job of this – would be well served to push the border a little and try to rope in the casual or even beginning health nut. What if someone is just “interested” but not a committed follower?
In a world obsessed with losing that last 10 pounds to finally see that washboard stomach for beach season, what’s a guy to do if his problem is tackling that first ten pounds?
I was talking recently to a friend of mine who wanted some advice about supplements to take. Actually, about 4 friends asked me in the span of a couple days the same kind of question about supplementation. So while I do want to talk some more about supplementation and specifically what I do and why – and some of the science behind it – but first a kind of general overview of how I’ve come to see fitness in general: from supplementation to weight training to eating and everything surrounding those. In short: the body craves variety.
My friends’ questions usually had something to do with them being dissatisfied with their current supplements – in most cases a pre-workout – and they wanted advice about what to change to. When I get this kind of question, my answer is usually that what you change to is not as important as that you change to something. The idea behind the question is that they must be using the wrong product or an inferior product. Well that could be true – there’s nothing to say that all pre-workout supplements are always effective for everyone or are even very good as a rule – but sometimes they just need to change products.
The secret of the body is that it is very efficient at not doing much work. The scientific description of this is “the body is always moving toward equilibrium” but that’s a fancy way of saying that the body gets bored and stops changing. This is true for a wide range of stimuli.
Have you ever noticed that as you sit wherever you are sitting reading this that you aren’t “hearing” every sound that goes on around you? You may only hear the humm of your computer or the click of your mouse. But if you stop you can probably pick out the whirr of appliances, the subtle buzz of light bulbs, the creak of the building, your own breathing and heartbeat. All these stimuli get filtered out, though, and you only really register unusual sounds. For a long list of sensations, the body has a way of pushing them to the background and only responding to the new.
Now my friends all were using different kinds of pre-workout supplements (a pre-workout, for those who don’t know, is basically a stimulant to give you more energy to work out, though some of them have other effects as well) but in most cases they had been using them for a few months. After a while, though, the body can get used to a regular diet of supplements like these. They lose their effectiveness as the body begins to expect, then ignore, the stimulant. Any of you coffee drinkers may recognize this from your daily coffee. It’s always best the first time! So when people ask about a pre-workout supplement I’ll give my own recommendation (I have favorites for reasons I’ll discuss elsewhere) but also say that they can’t really go too wrong by just switching. They’ve become immune to the effect and need to cycle to something else.
This is just like what I said about weight lifting. In order to be growing, you have to have variety at every level. People lifting weights will hit a plateau usually because they have been doing the same thing for too long. The body gets used to it, expects it, then ignores it. It’s why I always change what I’m doing in some way every 6-8 weeks. Longer than that and the body just stops working.
So if you find yourself sitting in place but working incredibly hard – be it with supplements or with weight training or even with eating – you may ask yourself how long you have been doing things the same way. Usually if you’ve been at it more than 2 months, then your body has adapted. Changing – almost in any direction, honestly – will jar the body out of its stasis and get it growing again.
So as much as I repeat truisms that I’ve learned about the fitness industry, I find that I never quite get them into my head completely. Which is why they bear repeating and why this whole thing is an ongoing process. Case in point today: the idea of a “cheat” day as a harmless – and sometimes helpful! – mechanism in a diet regime.
Aaaand I’m back. Reconnected to the interwebz after a while moving from one house to another. Been hard not having access to the net, even beyond not being able to put down my thoughts on my blog and such, but now I’m back and I have a lot to catch up on!
We’ll start with what’s freshest in my mind – since it came up yesterday and it comes up fairly often for me. Yesterday I was at the gym and ran into an old friend who was getting ready for his personal training session. His trainer – also a friend of mine – had told him that he needs to reexamine his eating because they had been working together for a while and he still basically looked the same. I asked, “Well you’re stronger, right?” and he said, “I’m definitely stronger. I am, I guess, more able to perform duties at the gym…” We both laughed. “That’s not why any of us is at the gym though,” I said with a smile, and he nodded. So I asked him how he was eating. “Well for breakfast I had a Nutrigrain bar and some almonds…” I stopped him right there (since if that was breakfast, then the rest of the day was probably not making up for it). The answer wasn’t surprising necessarily… I used to eat similarly, thinking it would make me lose weight. But looking back at the conversation I realize that this eating style is endemic: people still eat that way thinking it’s healthy. The truth is that they’re sabotaging themselves.
So I’ve been kinda stressed the last week or so, which largely explains my intermittent posting. I’m sorry about that, honestly: I mean for this to be a daily exercise. In fact, I need it to be a daily exercise. Not just so I have a body of work – which is important for any writer – but also because I need the discipline. I enjoy writing, I’m good at it, and I need it to become second nature to me. Even if I produce something stupid and useless, it’s still production! It’s similar to what I’ve been talking about with fitness: just do better than what you did yesterday.
That’s not to say that this post is useless, just kind of airing out my thoughts as a preamble! This post is about stress and how I handle it.
There are a few snacks that I at times keep on hand to keep me on a decent eating regime. For many people, part of the problem with a diet is the feeling of hunger between meals, or the sense that you have to have a will of iron and give up on things like flavor. I don’t think that’s the case – there is a way to eat, even on my own regime of very low carbohydrates, where things actually taste good and you can eat when you’re hungry. Most of the time I, myself, won’t make these kinds of things only because I’m at a place in life where it’s just simpler for me to make chicken and broccoli for days on end haha. But I remember foods like this were helpful – and sometimes still are – when I’ve needed variety while still sticking to a low-carb regime.