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Fitness Tip: It's All About The Diet!

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It’s all about the diet!

I know I’ve written about it before, and I’m sure I’ll be writing about it again in a few months… It isn’t because I’m senile rather it is because people just DO NOT SEEM TO GET THE POINT!!

Progress in your workout plan, whether you are a bodybuilder, a soccer mom trying to lose a few pounds, or just someone trying to look better for the beach is dictated just as much by what you do in the kitchen as what you do in the gym. Actually - as long as you are following a good plan in the gym your progress will live and die by how you handle your diet. Maybe that sounds like I’m being dramatic - but it really IS that important. I used to be one of those guys that just didn’t get it - so I’m speaking from experience here. 24 years ago I started out as a “massive” 135lb long distance runner, built myself up to a 270lb not very lean guy, and dieted back down to a lean 230lb guy. Along the way I tried quite a few different diet philosophies ranging from the classic “I’m eating enough, I don’t need to worry about it” to the “I’m going to weigh everything before and after I cook it to make sure I don’t miss a single macronutrient” … high carb, low carb, no carb (that didn’t last long mind you) … you name it I have probably tried it. Along the way I learned a lot and also picked up quite a bit from people that are much smarter than me - and I’m here to help you out.

Eat More!

The biggest complaint I hear from guys in the gym is that they “eat like crazy” but just can’t seem to make gains. I just heard it this morning actually - and that is what inspired me to write this article. A guy was complaining that he just can’t seem to gain any muscle no matter how hard he trains. His friend said “You gotta eat more bro!” (to paraphrase) to which he said (again paraphrasing) “Dude, I eat SO MUCH food it is ridiculous! I eat LITERALLY all the time! I just can’t get any heavier!!” At this point I walked out to do my workout… and also because I was shaking my head and trying to hold back from calling him out on his big fat lie. If you are “literally” eating all the time you WILL gain weight. You also will not have time to workout because you would be busy eating - but we won’t get into the misuse of the word “literally” that FIGURATIVELY happens all the time. Anyway - back to the point: If you are eating enough food, you will put on WEIGHT. Eat garbage, you will put on body fat - eat a well designed diet and you will put on muscle (and a little bodyfat most likely).

What I recommend for people that think they are “Eating 5,000 calories a day and can’t gain” is to log everything you eat in a day. Plug the information into a website like Fit Day or any of the dozens of phone apps out there to figure out how many calories you are ACTUALLY eating. I guarantee you will be surprised by what you see. Log what you eat for a few days to make sure you aren’t looking at a “fluke” and to make sure that you aren’t just stuffing more food in your face simply because you are keeping track. After you come up with an idea of what your “normal” is - pick a higher number, and come up with a plan that fills your caloric intake up with food to reach that number.

Back in 2004 I was following the DC Training workout program, and I was making “OK” progress by it wasn’t what I had hoped for, even though I THOUGHT I was eating enough food. I enlisted the help of one of the only official DC Training Trainers who went by the not so subtle screen name of InHuman. For the record the experience was worth every penny, the guy was a genius. The first thing we did was massively modify my diet - to the point that I was TRULY eating right around 6000 calories per day. You want to know something? It is HARD to eat that many calories in a day while eating food that isn’t pure garbage!! We are talking nearly 1lb of beef or chicken with each of my 6 meals to reach the protein goals, drinking protein shakes with olive oil in them to add calories, and eating such a large post workout meal that I threw up on more than one occasion during the car ride home from the gym. The net result of that work? I gained 8lbs in the course of 6 weeks, while losing almost an inch off my waist! Yeah yeah yeah… I know “It is impossible to gain muscle and lose bodyfat at the same time” - well guess what? It happened. Anyway back to the point here: If you are eating enough food you WILL gain weight, there is just no way around it - so if you aren’t gaining weight it is because you are CLEARLY not eating enough food. Notice I am saying “gain weight” not “gain muscle” - that is an important distinction because gaining muscle requires much more careful planning than just increasing caloric intake.

Have a Plan

Lets be clear: A good diet is a pain in the ass to maintain - but it is a necessary pain in the ass if you want to achieve your goals in the gym. You aren’t going to eat a perfect diet by just waking up and finding the food you need unless you happen to live in a grocery store and have access to a stove (or a private chef) to prepare the meals whenever you need them. I’m not going to go over “the best plan” in this article - because that would be impossible without knowing a whole lot about each person reading. There isn’t “one perfect diet” that will work for everyone out there. What I am going to talk about is how to be prepared to follow whatever your diet plan happens to be. To start with you want to figure out just how many calories you need for the day, and figure out what percentage of fats/carbs/protein you want in your diet. Doing some some math and using the fact that Protein and Carbs are roughly 4 calories per gram and Fats are roughly 9 calories per gram you can figure out how many grams of each you need per day. Divide that number equally across the number of meals you plan to eat in a day. In the past I used to emphasize the importance of eating 6 meals per day to boost the metabolism - that used to be the accepted theory… but recent research has proven that it doesn’t really make that much of a difference. I still like 6-7 meals a day because it lets me eat smaller meals more frequently so I don’t feel hungry and overeat between meals. Once you do all of that figuring you’ll need to fill those numbers in with actual food items. I find it helpful to prepare a batch of meals at the beginning of each week so I can just grab the meals I need and go each day. It takes up quite a bit of time, but in the long run it makes everything easier. Invest in a collection of tupperware and a cooler and you will be all set. I take my 6 Pack Fitness cooler (no affiliation, just love the product) with me most places I go and I have it loaded up with protein shakes, almonds, and whatever other food items I will need for the day. Other people like to prepare the food for the day each morning - I tried that route in the past but too often I ran out of time in the mornings and just ended up bringing raw chicken to work to cook in the microwave… it works, but I don't recommend it.

Stick to the plan!

Once you have a plan and are able to successfully execute the plan - you need to keep it going! You aren’t going to magically see progress after following a diet plan for 1 week, you will need to stick with it for a few weeks to a month before it starts to become a routine for you. After a month it won’t seem like as much of a pain in the ass, even though it will still be one. A lot of people, myself included many times in the past, will fail at setting up a new diet because after the first week or two then decide to just “let it slide a little bit” until eventually they aren’t following anything even remotely close to the original plan. Be diligent about sticking to your plan, and eventually the results you see will provide enough incentive to keep it going.

Give yourself a break.

Cheating on your diet… is it horrible, or is it “not really that big of a deal?” That depends on a couple of things - number one is: Are you a competitive bodybuilder or physique athlete? If you are, you know the answer to the question. If you are a recreational bodybuilder or regular gym goer the answer is different. Once you have established your diet plan and you have successfully stuck to it long enough to make it a part of your lifestyle - having a little “cheat” here and there won’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. The exception to this would be if you are on a ketogenic diet - cheating with carbs will literally ruin the diet, but that is beyond the scope of this article. The key to “cheating properly” is to keep it in moderation. By that I simply mean have a MEAL not a DAY if you really need to have a junk food fix. If your buddies are going out after work and want to have tacos - go with them, but drink a protein shake first so you are keeping your protein needs covered and the have a few tacos. The extra calorie bump may actually be good for you! Another option, and this is the one I currently follow, would be to give a “Skiploading” diet a try. This is a diet plan devised by Ken “Skip” Hill over at that is amazingly effective at building mass AND shedding bodyfat. The reason I love the plan is that I get a whole day where I can chow down on all of the simple sugary carb snacks I can shovel into my mouth, and I still stay lean!

Let’s sum it up

Okay to summarize this long rambling article: Diet is just as important as your workout whether you are trying to gain muscle or lose bodyfat. If you aren’t making progress and you're putting in the effort at the gym, your diet is most likely to blame - so be realistic and make some changes. Come up with a good plan and stick to it and you will be rewarded with the gains you have been looking for!

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No problem!

'Bout time I finally got around to finishing some articles I've been working on for months...

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I know that this is a 100% fact.

I lost 35 pounds inside of a 6 month period, partly due to me working out like riding my bike & what not but mostly due to what & how much I ate.

I use the Loose it app along with Runkeeper on my phone to track my intake & my exercise & was amazed that even though I ate 2400+ calories of good food, I needed to eat more to maintain the 170* weight that I am at now, sometimes depending on my activities of the day I may need up to 4000 calories.

Eating good stuff is the key but part of it is planning so that you can still be eating the right stuff at about the right time so that you get what you need.

For me, my goal was to reduce my sodium & cholesterol intake so that I not only reduce the level of Lisinipril I take for my B.P. but also to lower my risk of needing to take any cholesterol meds. (I hate to take meds.)

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