Several days ago, I had an interesting conversation with a fellow personal trainer and business owner and a comment was made that put into words something that I had thought for quite sometime time.
“Compared to the average person we eat pretty clean and workout regularly but we still can’t believe that we are not leaner than we are.”
There are people out there that workout and eat reasonably well, compared to the majority of the population; personal trainers, fitness buffs and gym rats to name a few. These are people that eat breathe and sleep workouts and proper nutrition; you know the ones that I’m talking.
A question comes up from these people.
“I workout 5x a week eat fairly well, but I can’t seem to stay lean or in shape.”
Now, YES that is a variable-based question with LOTS of what if’s and criteria to it, but let’s take this one step at a time.
Being a trainer I’ve run into all walks of life from people that seem to cut weight rather quickly and others that it’s a damn fight for every pound. That doesn’t’ always include the beginner, but the people that have several years of lifting seasons under their belt.
These veterans get it, they work out and eat right, so why don’t they have a year-round lean look?
What I’m going to say may rub a few the wrong way (#sorrynotsorry), and some are just theories from my personal observations and experiences so take this with a grain of salt.
1. Overly sensitive to processed foods
We run a number of detoxes here and one of the more popular ones was composed by Janell Yule who gave me a great way of looking at what happens at a body after a detox.
“We have developed antibodies from chemicals that are saturated with an average American diet, so our bodies are quite used to handing it, but if you notice we are not healthy, lean or in shape.
So when we “detox” someone we are essentially removing the foods that we know cause some of these unhealthy effects. When this happens these antibodies ARE STILL there and they get bored-very bored- so after the timeframe of a detox, we introduce ONE food back into the diet and see how the body responds. The response can be magnified since its been a period of time from having that food in the first place”
What does essentially that mean? Well, when we abstain from a certain food for a short period of time (say less than 45 days) those antibodies that were used to working have nothing to do, so when they do find something to do (like breaking down gluten if you haven’t had it in a few weeks) it’s a shock to the body and we feel like absolute crap because of it. Now, this isn’t always the case but if you haven’t had Chinese food in a few months then go to your local hole in the wall restaurant, I’m sure you’ll feel it that afternoon.
When our bodies feel bad, it shows: we get puffy and bloated, feelings of being pregnant with unpleasant food babies and sitting on the toilette praying that we survive what may happen… ok so maybe I went a bit far with the metaphor, but you get my point.
As people lead a healthier lifestyle, they really don’t tolerate the processed foods anymore so when we do have them, the effects last a bit longer and show a bit more with us since we are already “leaner” to begin with.
Another way to look at that: if a petite person gains 5 pounds it’s going to look quite different than if a 6ft bodybuilder gains it. Bloat shows up on a healthier and leaner person more than a person who is used to consuming that on a daily basis.
NOW, this is NOT always the case. There are those that are NOT as sensitive to processed food and food allergens that CAN abstain from them, have them once in a while without feeling uncomfortable and bloated. From observations, these individuals were NOT as intolerant to those foods as other people, but if they had them a few more times in a shorter time span they may notice those effects.
2. Not as compliant as we think
With that big tangent on number one, the NUMBER TWO thing that I feel happens with the “fitter” crowd is that they are a bit more liberal with foods than they realize.
This kind of piggybacks on the topic a few paragraphs up.
As a trainer when I challenge any of my clients, beginners or seasoned vets, to stay on an eating plan for 3 weeks with NO “cheat” meals there is a NOTICEABLE difference in how lean they are and how they look.
Just 21 days of a strict(er) plan and they are looking about the ways they want.
Why is that?
Well, when you workout quite a bit and eat pretty well you will, unknowingly, sneak in a little bit of sweets and sugars and processed foods. You’ll eat out a bit more and have one or two more beers because hey you workout.
Neither a good or bad thing, just stating the way it is.
Most likely you are eating a bit more than you think you are. You are following a clean maintenance diet but with a few cheat meals or snacks thrown in your now in a surplus so when you DO go 100% on board with a meal plan your body quickly filters out all the processed crap and you start dropping unnecessary body-fat.
Just a few weeks of no cheat meals or processed foods do wonders to a person’s body.
3. We still think we are younger than what we are
When you first started lifting the results were crazy fast, don’t you miss those days. Anything you did you get more muscle, you got leaner, stronger. You ate a tad better and you noticed results in as little as a few days and this motivated you to keep eating better workout harder
Then we get older.
Now the results don’t come as fast as when we first started and we have to work a lot harder to just get leaner or add more muscle.
It’s the price of admission and anyone that has been in the gym game for longer than 10 years can tell you the same thing… its harder and you have to be better and smarter then you were last year.
The food that you COULD eat when you were in your early 20’s and not gain a pound doesn’t do that anymore, NOW you gain several pounds and it takes almost a week to get it off.
Age happens guys, even to athletes age happens. When we design meal plans for people here at RTC we ALWAYS take into consideration how old they are. Let say if you were to take TWO people of the same activity level but one is 20years older than the other person, the one that is older will eat less in most cases.
Before you start saying how crappy that is, look at it this way and don’t forget:
Getting older as a privilege that many are denied.
What do we do now?
There is a BIG benefit to the above statements that if you know about yourself you can use to your advantage if you find that you are a “fitter” person and you are struggling with fat loss.
1. Processed Food Sensitivity
If you find that you are overly sensitive to certain processed foods then the great thing is that YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO. Heck, in the beginning, you had no damn idea what caused you to look so bloated but now you know, so you know what you need to avoid.
I can hear it now “But Travis, I LOVE (insert bloating induced food here)! I don’t want to give it up!”
Ok, ok… I get it (doughnuts are mine) so I make sure to schedule it into my meals. Yes, take the time to schedule that into your meal plan for the week. This means eating fewer calories that day or having that cheat meal/food sub in as ONE of your meals for that day.
You may still get a bit puffy but it won’t be as bad as when you just sporadically eat it whenever convenient.
2. Not as compliant as you think
Get a coach. Seriously if you’ve been in the fitness game for a while no doubt that you have worked with a coach on programs or diets and most likely you noticed your body make some crazy changes during that time since you had to answer to someone else.
Do it again! Get a coach to write you up a plan so THAT YOU HAVE TO REPORT BACK TO THEM ON A PERIODIC BASIS. You’ll find that you are less likely to fudge the number (hmmm… fudge… ok, ok back on track) and you’ll start leaning out or gaining muscle QUICK when you know that you have to be accountable to someone else.
Face it, we don’t want to disappoint anyone, especially ourselves, so don’t underestimate the power that accountability has.
Consistent Persistence is how you drop fat.
3. Not As Young As WeThink
Cut the calories if you find that you are closer to 40. Its easier said than done, but I have what found has helped a number of my clients is teaching them HOW to cook lower calorie foods that still make you feel not deprived.
Veggies are my go-to for this example (don’t make that face, you gotta eat your greens).
I can’t tell you HOW MANY people SUCK at cooking veggies. If you take the time to actually learn how to cook peppers, onions, squash, broccoli, spinach, etc… you’ll be surprised how much you’ll crave them and HOW filling they are.
Trust me you will not feel deprived.
My go to method has always been a wok with coconut oil, and some good seasonings (flavor god is one of my current favorites). It takes maybe 12 min if you cook the veggies on med/high and let them soak up the oil (again coconut oil) and seasonings. You can cook enough for several days worth of veggies.
Play around with seasonings and I promise you’ll find something that works so that you can still feel like you are eating plenty of food and be within a calorie range that allows you to drop weight.
In Health and Awesomeness,
Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, (and other letters behind the name) is the Owner of Rowlett Transformation Center in Rowlett, TX.
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