Have you ever started a new strength program because you looked at it ahead of time and it was mostly just a max effort everyday that promised to get your lifts up 400% in a month? Yea well this was pretty much my experience with drop sets. I wasn’t thinking ahead at all on this one, kind of like not preparing your food before the week starts and you fly off the rails with your diet, but that’s much easier to remedy with resources like Quick Paleo Meal Prep. That short book will outline every necesary aspect of your diet whether your a strength training athlete or a desk jockey 90% of the day, and I trust it completely. But that story is for a later time, let’s talk about why not to be stupid when programming for yourself.
LEARN FROM MY EXAMPLE PLEASE
This is how I got started on this journey to the level of wrecked that I am right now. I was listening to a Barbell Shrugged Podcast; however, before I go any further you need to know I support these guys completely and it was my own ignorance that did me in, so I was listening to the podcast on how to get stronger and the lessons they’ve learned from an average of 15 years lifting. This was mistake number one when I look back, I was one fifth of their training age and I was not even close to being on par with their numbers in olympic or power lifts so the arrogance with which I listened like I was on their level is astounding. They talked about how they all loved the concept of drop sets, drop sets are when you build up to a 2-10 rep max in a given lift and then drop to 90% of that max and you work with that weight. This is incredibly smart because instead of following numbers you plugged into a spread sheet at the beginning of the month when you were at your peak, you’re working on what your max is THAT DAY and not pushing yourself at the same intensity month after month, which would be unsustainable. But I soon found it’s just as unsustainable to train for PURE STRENGTH EVERY SINGLE DAY. By the second week of my training the wheels were coming off FAST, I was out of energy at the end of the weeks and would not want to live life on the weekends outside of bed. Clearly I was pushing the boundaries of what should be done and should have realized myself for what I was at that point, which is a NOVICE at best when it comes to lifting. I’ve been lifting for around 7 years but that’s nothing compared to the guys I was aspiring to be, so no wonder I was running myself into the ground like a mad man!
Training split went something like this:
Monday- Squat, build to 1-5 RM (rep max) then worked at 90% of that broken into a few sets to total 20 reps (this was the same for the rest of the days)
Tuesday- Overhead Press
Wednesday- Rest (ish)
Saturday- Long and slow cardio, running, biking or hiking with a weighted pack
I’ll post the revised training tomorrow and what I have adapted to ensure longevity with progress that won’t wreck me.
Analyze what you’re doing now in your training for your specific goals, if you feel great and are making progress then continue on! If you usually get 2-3 weeks into a program and need to take a week to a month off then it’s time to come up with something that won’t kill you slowly!
I’ll open this post with the same comment I hear from most people who have tried to add muscle to their frame using the Paleo Diet, “the Paleo Diet works so well that it’s virtually impossible to gain muscle mass while following the paleo diet.” There will be people on both sides of this fence, there will be those who claim a strict paleo lifestyle as the only option, and there will be those who choose to not follow a paleo diet at all and think it’s a fad. In the end we know that extremes are never a good thing, keep that in mind. If you’re going to use the paleo diet for mass building it will take prior preparation to maintain a proper diet, and I have found no greater resource than Quick Paleo Meal Prep. This book takes you through the common questions and concerns with starting the Paleo Diet, and gives examples of how to easily custimize your Paleo Diet for yourself. But let’s get into the meat of this question “Is it Possible To Gain Muscle Following The Paleo Diet?”
THERE’S NO SIMPLE ANSWER
I can only speak from my personal experience, which if you’ve read the blog for any period of time you know is that extremes are bad, so I personally follow the 80/20 principle. It simply means that you can devote yourself to this “thing” for 80% of the time before you start coming off of the rails after too long. So to counteract that I make time for the 20% and plan for it, this gives me the freedom to enduldge when I feel like it and not have a feeling of guilt afterwards or think that all my gains are now gone. This philosophy goes well with the Paleo Diet and Muscle building, because in order to build muscle there needs to be a calorie surplus of some kind to facilitate growth. So if your goal is really to gain muscle and size while following a mostly paleo diet then you need to take full advantage of the 20% of your diet. Now it needs to be said that if you are following a STRICT Paleo Diet (no tubers or potatoes, rice, beans or dairy) you will have one heck of a time putting on mass, it’s not impossible but it’s not easy either. There are plenty of examples of vegitarian bodybuilders who’ve added loads of mass with a veggie lifestyle, that’s not what I would want at all, but it’s not about me it’s about you and what you want from this. So yes it’s possible to gain mass with a strict paleo lifestyle, but it’s much easier and will keep you sane longer if you adapt your diet to your goals.
WHAT I FOLLOW (suggestion not doctrine)
I’ve followed the 80/20 approach for about 6 months now, and have seen results in both directions of weight depending on how I adjusted the ingredients and quantities. When I started 6 months ago I was a fluffy 178 lbs. I was stronger than I’d ever been, but I was not in any shape to do anything athletically well. I applied the 80/20 principle on a weekly basis to start out, meaning I ate nothing but clean for 5 days out of the week and I mean CLEAN, as in grilled chicken breast and a few beans with green veggies for every meal…every day. BUT on the weekends I let go for one whole day and half-ish, nothing was off limits for one day and then I pulled back for the next day. I lost weight and I looked as shredded as I wanted to be at the time. Then I started the gain train back up with a little more efficient steam, now I follow a 80/20 diet for the day, 80% clean (Breakfast, Snacks and Lunch) and for post workout its 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes and 2 cups ground beef. I’ve addressed this in a recent post that I’ll link here. And for dinner it’s a not so clean meal with a focus on what the next training day looks like (if it’s a heavy lifting day I’ll carb up and if it’s a speed day I’ll add a moderate amount of carbs). I’ve worked my way up from a 165 lb. bodyweight to a just as lean 169 lb. bodyweight in a few weeks. Again this isn’t doctrine, it’s just what I choose to follow, you’re going to need to find what works best for you and your goals.
If your goal is weight gain then take time to consider the paleo diet as a guide for your meals surrounding your workout, and then having your binge meal directly after the workout session. This will promote LEAN GAINS, and keep your energy up while not having to yo-yo your diet.
if you walk into the gym feeling like a beat pile of dog poo, then odds are you’re either at the end of a strenuous training cycle or you’re just not getting enough carbs. If you’re consistently lifting 3-5 times per week at a moderate to high intensity, then you need to be highly concerned with the quantity and quality of carbs in your diet! This is addressed in the resource Quick Paleo Meal Prep, which outlines how and why to prepare meals ahead of time for quality control and ease. This post however is about how and when to carb up for lifting so strap in and let’s get into it!
SIGNS YOUR CARBS ARE TOO LOW
If you get 2-3 sets in on a moderate strength load and you feel like you need to sit down and recover…you’re way too low. Also if the weights feel like they’re moving slower than expected even on a “weak day” then I would address this as well. You probably know the feeling of being fully charged in the gym and having the weights jump because of your quickness. Coincidentally this probably happened the morning after you went out for pizza and beer with the guys, and you might have even ordered a side of bread sticks to complete the mood of the carb festivities. Whereas if you decided to have a big salad with oil and vinegar dressing topped with grilled chicken, no salt and no pepper, then I wouldn’t expect to be crushing any PRs the next day.
WHY CARBS FOR ATHLETES?
Do you want to run 4 sec 40 Yd dash and not pass out? You need carbs. Do you want to get stronger in every workout and recover? You need carbs. Do you want to look vascular as all get out for them females?? You need carbs! Carbs when broken down are the fuel for your energy systems and partial brain function. To run the 4:40 more than once you’ll need more than a whole head of broccoli the night before, seeing as how the calories required for something like that are around 300 up front calories and a metabolic “afterburn” of 700 for the rest of the day just for that one exercise. Look up in the nfl how many vegan running backs there are, and should you find any you won’t be too impressed with their stats. Carbs found in calorie dense foods like pasta, sweet potatoes and rice are the best fuel to get athletes beyond their limits, but moderation and timing are important.
WHEN AND HOW TO CARB LOAD
The best template I’ve found is the modified Paleo approach. You’ll maintain the typical mostly meats and veggies between workouts and down time, but the night before your heavy morning lifts or morning games you’ll need to carb up. This will take some trial and error so don’t save this strategy for an important game day, test it on other days first! How your body reacts to different qualities and quantities of carbs is different from everyone else on the planet. For example, what works best for me the night before a heavy morning squat session is a THICK peanut butter sandwich with whole wheat bread and the morning of I’ll eat a slice of plain bread on the way to the gym. That probably won’t work for you, body weight, activity level, stress and current diet all play into how this works for you so take time to customize it for YOU. If you’re working out later in the day I would get a container of high quality dextros for like $20 and a container of BCAAs, mix a two to one ratio (20 g BCAAs and 40 g dextros), but again find your sweet spot. And DONT FORGET POST WORKOUT!!!! This is by far the most important meal of your training day! I have a blog post about it that I will link here.
If you’re dragging when you get a third of the way through the workout, or aren’t seeing results anymore, look at your carb intake prior to lifting. Check out the blog post for details on how and get started on your progress!
there has never been a party like a crockpot party! I’ve spent the past few months slaving over the stove at least twice per week to keep up my prep. So introducing the crockpot back into my life has set me free!! Not to say that meal prep outside the crockpot is bad, it tastes better without the crockpot and flavors are more controlled that way. And if you’re interested in stepping up your prep game, check out Quick Paleo Meal Prep! But this was a breath of fresh air to me 🙂
Set It And Forget it
That was the most appealing part of the crockpot in my opinion, I have so much going on that the thought of carving out an hour and a half twice per week was terrifying! So now instead of stressing about what I’m not getting done while I’m cooking, I can be working on it while my food is prepared for me! I can’t think of a more win win situation. As I was putting all the ingredients in the crockpot my mind paralleled this with outsourcing of responsibilities. We all have such busy lives, and if you’re runnin an online or physical business you need all the time you can get! So the more you can distribute the work means the more you have time to get done. It’s the same with the crockpot, I give it the orders of “I want this prepared by this time with this result”, and I come back at that time and it’s ready and I got what I needed to do done! SET IT AND FORGET IT :))
Outsourcing For The Common Man
Now you may be a stay at home mom whose running an online business or a husband whose running a multi million dollar headquarters, either way outsourcing saves. If you’re a stay at home mom then it makes sense not to waste time responding to emails about nothing or answering the same questions from different people, so why not take a miniscule pay cut and free up 5 hours to actually BE A MOM. You can look up great sites to help with getting emails taken care of, and set limits like “if it won’t cost me $50 then YOU handle it”. This is a small example but it can free you up to do the important things. The sites I’ve had the most success with are odesk.com or elance.com. On those sites you can find office assistants, writers, designers and much more that will work for $4 per hour most of the time. So the choice is yours, stay buried up to your neck, or free yourself and continue to make money!
If you’re a stay at home parent or someone whose bogged down with 40+ emails per day, then check out odesk.com to find a helper. Give them instructions to handle your email and customers with amounts up to $??. I can assure you that you’ll love the freedom this gives and you’ll get a system started that completely frees you 🙂
Ever feel like you’ve fully prepared for a situation, like in wrestling or mma, you’ve watched countless amounts of footage on the oponent. Yet somehow despite your best efforts you wind up coming in short. The same could be said for your diet, even though it won’t gauruntee your victory, having food prepped and ready will put you in the top 20%. Which is why I recommend Quick Paleo Meal Prep as a guide to start or improve meal prepping. But again don’t depend on one thing to gauruntee victory.
Exhausted All Options
This phrase is over used in the fitness and business community. I believe if one has truly exhausted all options then there would no longer be a problem. In our day and age of technology and information at our finger tips, it has never been easier to find the solutions to whatever problem is facing us. Whether it’s how to get stronger while cutting weight, or how to provide better services, increase client satisfaction and charge more all at the same time, with proper thought and research almost anything is possible. It’s only when you choose to close your mind to new options that the field of vision for solutions narrows.
How To Think Different
First things first, if you say in your head that it can’t be done and you’ve tried everything, you’ll fail every time. Instead think to yourself how can this be accomplished? A better question yields a better result. And more importantly, if you know someone for whom this problem would not be a problem at all, think about how that person would approach what you’re doing. If you don’t have the answer then you’re probably not the best person to keep asking. There has been so much accomplished and done for others that it would be arrogant to trust in your own will for the solution when it’s been done for you. Again don’t look at the wall of china as an immovable fixture. Instead if someone were to pay you and your family an unlimited amount of money for the rest of their lives if you would move the Great Wall three feet to the left, you’d find a way. However if you say to yourself “it’s impossible” then it is.
The next time you catch yourself thinking “this is impossible” or “I can’t do it”. Ask yourself “how could this be done?” Or “how could I do this like “insert persons name”. It’s only impossible if you accept it as so.
we’ve all got ’em, whether it’s the habit of doing 1,000 push-ups before you go to bed every night or watching 3 episodes of your current binge on Netflix, for better or worse they’re there. There could be good habits like prepping your food for the coming week so you don’t mess up your clean eating, this is covered in great detail in Quick Paleo Meal Prep, it’s been a great resource to stay on track with whatever fitness goals are most important. But habits are the things we use to determine whether we are productive individuals, or lazy bums. Which does your routine or habits say about you?
WHAT DO YOU DO?
This is a simple question but can have some pretty profound impacts on outcomes that require short decision making time. For example if you’re faced with the question of being given a decent meal now or waiting to see if there’s a better option, and your habit is to rest and do nothing whenever possible, then odds are that you’ll choose the latter. Now this could be a good thing and you get better food, or you could get nothing. The main message here is that when you look at your daily habits are they productive? And by productive I don’t mean stuff “gets done” but is it getting done with purpose for a greater goal that you’re striving for? Sure Netflix will solve the entertainment void, but instead of wasting 45 minutes at a time why not have it playing in the back ground while you research how to get a business started or find a new gym or fitness plan. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and set your mind up to be productive instead of complacent.
THE HABIT OF EARNING
We all have things we love, personally I love chicken pasta with homemade Alfredo sauce and Sons of Anarchy, these two things make me happy. However neither of these things are getting me closer to anything other than an early case of diabetes (which I ponder the risk vs. reward occasionally). Instead I suggest making habits of EARING these guilty pleasures. I don’t believe in a masichistic lifestyle that’s absent of simple pleasures for the sake of saying you did it when no one else would, and no one enjoys listening to that person anyway. So indulge in what you love, but first set up a way to EARN it first. In my example of SOA and pasta, I read 30 minutes of something to grow myself personally or however before each episode. And for the pasta I will do some form of high intensity workout from around 8-12 minutes to prepare myself for the greatness.
What is one new habit you could start to earn your simple pleasures or be more productive. Start with one and continue, think of it as adding water to a cup of oil until all the oil (bad habits) is replaced with clear water (new helpful habits). Like always, you’re capable of more than you know!
We all have kinks in our armour that we are aware of, whether it’s emotionally, physically or mentally no one is completely immune. Realizing this truth alone will be enough to catapult you far enough, but if you’re wanting to reach every bit of your potential then that requires change. And the best change is usually with your diet, we are only well from the inside out. The book Quick Paleo Meal Prep is a great resource to get your life back in line with your goals, by making failure impossible by removing the bad choices. Once you’ve realized these shortcomings then you have taken action, you will be amazed at what you’re truly capable of!
LOOK AT YOURSELF
Too often we are afraid to stand in front of a mirror for longer than ten seconds for fear that we might notice all our imperfections. Instead of seeing these things to work on as “flaws”, look at them as an item on the to-do list. Do this with your physical body first, and then you will learn how to spot things as something to work on and not a disaster. Once you’ve mastered this I would suggest taking time out to look at what most of your days consist of. I know when I did this I realized I was wasting 60% of my day with nothing…it was a sad reality :/. But you have the opportunity every day to look at the last few days, and analyze the choices you made and how that helped you or if it did anything at all. I know this sounds strange, but to know where to start you have to know what needs fixin’.
You wouldn’t want to pay for a brand new engine in your Ferrari if the only problem was it needed a new fan belt and that’s it.
Now the worst thing you could do is see the things you need to work on worse than they are. Tony Robbins’ quote has stuck with me since the first time I heard it, “See things as they are, don’t see them worse than they are.” So what I’m trying to say is accept where you are and be prepared to make changes. Simply looking at yourself and walking away to do nothing is the sign of giving up…period. Make a plan to change one thing at a time until you’re noticeably different. If that means shaving off your love handles then great, if that means adding an inch to your biceps so you feel proportional then great, if that means cutting out two episodes of Netflix before you go bed to start an online business then great! Just do something to get the thing done!!!
This afternoon or whenever, take 3 minutes to look at yourself in the mirror. Sounds simple but people have been known to cry after just one minute. Look at who you are physically and as a person. Acknowledge the good and write down the bad, this will be your list. Work down the list one at a time, with patients and joy, you’ll be amazed at the changes you can make!