I’m not an athlete, I was never into sports. However I train just as much as an elite athlete, I do many of the same exercises and I include training routines influenced by athletes’ conditioning. But when someone asks me what sport I am doing and I answer “I don’t have one, I just train” I get a disappointed look and an “oh….”. You see it’s less honorable to be a regular gym rat. It’s less distinguished. You see training for looks is a bit “bad”, it’s superficial. Well, that’s how it comes across to most people.
So, why don’t I call myself a true athlete? because when you are a true athlete your number one priority is increasing performance. You eat to perform, you sleep to perform, you train to perform. You condition your body to deal with the stress you put upon it. Now, even though a very lean, ripped physique always appears more athletic than a softer less muscular one, the ripped, muscular physique is no way the strongest one all the time. An athlete who is too concerned with their weight and leanness might compromise performance due to excessive dieting.
Looking athletic and being athletic do not go hand in hand. They can, like with George St Pierre, who seems to be a prodigy equipped with uncommon amount of pure dedication and work ethic of a super human, be really ripped AND strong, but it’s more an exception than a rule. Take the other side of the story, BJ Penn: he’s soft, chubby, looks like he never ever trained, but we all know what a true athlete he is.
People start training martial arts because they want to get lean and mean… Well, as great martial art training is, you don’t get cut from doing that only. You still need to diet. And most of the time lift weights too.
An athlete must fuel their workouts to perform. A gym rat who wants to be really lean cannot eat for energy, you must eat to provide the body with the nutrients it needs but nothing more. I am talking for all those of us who are not lean by nature or for us with slow metabolism.
An example: an athlete can need a pick me up carb meal before a strenuous workout to get through it without dragging his or her feet. A gym rat who is just as drained should not use that pick me up carb before workout if you at the same time are trying to lean out, get all your calories in already without the extra energy bar. You just have to focus mentally on feeling energized. Mental visualization. Or just pretend you did have that energy bar. Placebo works people! Just gotta believe it!
A gym rat trains to achieve leanness/muscularity. An athlete trains to achieve peak performance. of course those two cannot treat diet and nutrition the same way!
When it comes to the Fighter Diet concept, the great emphasis on vegetables works so well for gym rats because we need to keep calories pretty low (now remember I am still talking for us with slow metabolism or for us who don’t keep a six pack with less than 5 cardio workouts a week and a clean diet), however, an athlete who wants to be leaner than his or her body is ok with and wants to do the fighter diet concept there will be issues. You must tweak the rules. You cannot perform with depleted glycogen levels almost all the time, which is the state where you burn a lot of body fat. You see the catch 22?
If you eat for energy you will most likely not get as lean as you want since being very lean is a sign of burning more than you are taking in calorie wise.
If you don’t eat for energy and you are a true athlete your performance will suffer.
It’s not all black and white: being so so lean is athletic, I am talking about very very lean.
Bodybuilders look super strong on stage when they have been dieting for months and are extremely shredded. However that is not when they would be the strongest in the gym. Of course not, their bodies are tired, exhausted. It’s an illusion.
For me, it was never an option to fuel my workouts to get stronger. The best way to get strong is to over eat carbs. However I never cared for being strong if I got soft and chubby! I tried that approach when I was younger. I did a metabolic test and found out I was burning 2500 calories a day with my training regimen. So to maintain my weight I should eat that amount. Yeah, right huh! What happened you think: I got fatter! It was too much. After that wake up call I realized I cannot sit and have a portion of pasta before workout to pick me up. If I feel tired from negative calorie balance, well, that’s what it takes to shed weight!
I’ve had a lot of clients who truly believe they will see a linear fat loss progress by burning 500 calories a day and eating 500 calories less per day. Many times nothing happens or nothing is happening fast enough. Wake up, smell the coffee…. When I wanted to go from 7% bodyfat and 121 lbs to 115 at 4%, you know how many calories I was burning from cardio? about 800 to 1000 per day. I was also not eating more than about 1200. So, how come it still took me 12ish weeks? Because life is not mathematics and logic. I know all gurus and specialist say it does work this way, I am saying it does not work like this 100% of the time.
So, was it something wrong with my metabolism? No. But the leaner you are the more your body tries to resist your attempts to get leaner. In my case I was going from one extreme to another. of course it would take a workout program from hell to deliver those results.
Now, I am hovering around my “perfect weight”. Do I need to stay at 1200 calories? Do I need to do 3 hours of cardio? No, not daily, but I have to keep an eye on myself: when I see my body starts to fill up and regain the mass I got rid off, I increase the cardio a lot and I cut down calories. It’s not like one approach takes you to your goals and then you can relax! Nope.
Now I’ve rambled too long:-) What the point was? ah, don’t know, I forgot where I was going with this.