My 2 And A Half Year Old Won T Eat Critical Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Training to Help You Maximize Muscle and Fat Loss

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Critical Lessons I Learned in My First Year of Training to Help You Maximize Muscle and Fat Loss

As a long time trainer, I have learned many lessons about building muscle and losing fat. But nothing beats the learning curve of my first year of training. I didn’t always progress well. In my first year of training, I made many mistakes and learned many things the hard way. I also did a few things right by accident! Read on for some of the most important lessons I learned in the first year of my training career.

I DON’T START…

I wanted nothing more than to get big and strong. I had been an endurance athlete all through high school (cross country, speed skating, skiing) but I wanted to make a change. I was 17 and skinny and jumped into weight training with both feet. I saved up some money, bought the Cybergenics supplement program (mistake #1! – Basically that was just an expensive multivitamin) and started working out. It was June 1991, approaching summer. I was on a good program and started getting stronger right away, but I wasn’t really gaining much muscle. However, I was getting absolutely ripped to the bone! By the end of the summer, I was still around 150 pounds wet (right where I started 4 months earlier) but I swear I was 4-5% body fat. When you can see the dividing line between your upper and lower pecs without flexing your chest, you know you’re low on body fat.

LESSON #1

I wasn’t eating nearly enough or often enough, and I wasn’t getting enough protein. First thing in the morning I would skate or bike to the gym and do my workout, not eating anything immediately after the workout. I would skate home and then eat a bowl of cereal. Then I would work as a lifeguard for the rest of the day, eating maybe one or two more meals that day, my biggest meal being dinner.

Then he went to university…

I just finished high school, enrolled in college that fall. I learned the lesson of not eating enough and was determined to make up for it. And make up for it I did…with the cafeteria food! Some people drink too much in their first year of college: I ate too much. Not to knock the food service there, but I’m sure they fried the salad. To show you my knowledge of nutrition at the time, (in the interest of trying to keep the fat levels in my diet low) I would order fried eggs and cut out the yolks, eating only the whites (which were shiny with overused cooking oil). All this without realizing that it would be better to cut the whites and eat the yolks (that’s where the fat-emulsifying lecithin and most of the good nutrients in the egg are!). Eight months later, at the end of my first year of school, I was 70 pounds heavier, probably half of which was actually muscle mass. At one point, I sat down and calculated my caloric intake on some of my “big eating” days and found it to be almost 9,000 calories a day.

LESSON #2

When I learned my lesson about eating more to gain muscle, I didn’t learn the lesson that you can eat too much and you can easily eat the wrong kinds of foods. Sure, I got big and strong, but I probably went from 5% body fat to 15-20% body fat at the same time. NOT the results I was looking for! What I had to do was eat more, of course, but also eat better quality food. That, plus I’m sure all the “Weight Gain 3000” type supplements I was taking didn’t help! Looking back at the ingredients, it was mostly cheap milk protein and maltodextrin (a cheap, high-glycemic carbohydrate source).

Training at the University…

As I ate more at University, so did my training. I would try to do more and more sets and use more and more weight. Because I was eating so much more, I was still making great progress! Plus, being 18 at the time, I could beat myself up in the gym and bounce back no problem. I was seeing gains in strength and body weight almost daily. But then something happened… something that opened my eyes… one workout I was in the gym for almost 2 and a half hours!

LESSON #3

I’ve been training too long and with too many sets. I was still making progress, but only because I was eating a lot. Little did I know that I could make BETTER progress by reducing my training time. From that day on, I always stopped my workouts at the 1 hour mark, no matter where I was in the program. And it did wonders for my results. I think the week after I started cutting, my strength skyrocketed and my body weight went up 10 pounds. That opened my eyes. In the spring semester, I tried a program that, if you’ve been training for a while, you might be familiar with: Leo Costa’s Serious Growth. At that point, I started training twice a day, six days a week, but only 45 minutes per session, at most. Still eating a ton of food every day, I’ve made great progress with this system and learned about the benefits of keeping my eyes on training volume (and cycling).

But I totally neglected the cardio workout….

At the beginning of the eight months, when I was furiously trying to increase my body weight, I had read that when trying to gain muscle, you should cut back on cardio. Aerobic work can burn calories that can be used by the body to build muscle and can physiologically interfere with the muscle building process. Well, I took it a little further and eliminated cardio training entirely. My thinking was that I was doing cardio in the summer (going to the gym and back) and not gaining any muscle. When I was resistance training, I didn’t gain muscle. So maybe it was necessary to cut it. So I didn’t even climb a flight of stairs unless I had to.

LESSON #4

Too much cardio (especially long-duration cardio) CAN interfere with muscle growth, of course, but as I’ve since learned, SOME cardio should always be part of any mass-building program. The key is to do the RIGHT kind of cardio (ie interval training, which can really help the muscle building process). Let me put it this way, it’s nice to be big and strong, but when you’re big and fat and strong and out of breath walking up a flight of stairs, you’re not exactly in peak health. Also, think of it this way… you NEED good cardiovascular function when you train for muscle mass. What pumps blood and nutrients to the muscles? What helps you recover faster between sets? Cardio and muscle building are not mutually exclusive concepts. I include it in ALL of my weight training programs now.

What happened at the end of the school year?

Well, at that point, being big and strong but big and fat, I decided I needed to burn off the excess (the old bulk and cut concept). But then I made a HUGE mistake. I reverted to similar habits that had made me thin the previous summer. I didn’t eat enough to support the muscle mass I was building and I didn’t eat enough protein.

I also started running again, which at this point, having not done any cardio for 8 months, was a HARD lesson to learn. Imagine going from a 150lb cross country runner who could run 5km in about 15 minutes to a 220lb weightlifter who couldn’t even run slowly for more than 3 minutes straight. Now, even though I was TRYING to do long cardio, it actually felt more like interval training than anything because I had to stop and walk every few minutes. As I got into better cardio shape, I started running longer distances in a straight line (better stick with intervals, I didn’t know!). And I lost weight and I lost some fat, but I lost a lot of muscle along with it. Nothing is more depressing than losing what you worked so hard to build. I didn’t lose all my muscles and strength, but it was enough to set me back.

LESSON #5

What you should eat and how you should train are actually quite similar when you’re trying to build muscle or burn fat. The main differences lie in the amount of food that is being trained and in the training variables, such as rest periods and cardiovascular frequency. You still need to eat plenty of protein regardless of your goals, and you still need to lift weights, even when you’re on a fat loss program (this is how you tell your body to maintain muscle). Increasing the frequency of cardio, eating fewer calories and decreasing rest periods between sets will get the fat burning process moving in the right direction. Don’t starve yourself or go crazy by dramatically increasing your training workload.

So what happened in my second year of training?

That’s a story for another day…it involves going so far in the opposite direction of my first year of training that I actually made my roommate pour a pot of boiling water into the spaghetti because it adds a splash of salt (never mind that the sauce we were using already had about 20 times more salt)!

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