Am I Being Too Hard On My 4 Year Old 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 longtime trainer, I’ve learned a lot about building muscle and losing fat. But nothing beats the learning curve of my first year of training. I don’t need to be good. In my first year of coaching, I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot the hard way. I have also done great things by accident! Read through some of the most important lessons I learned in the first year of my coaching career.

WHEN SOMEONE…

I want nothing more than to be big and strong. I had been an endurance athlete through high school (track, sprint, skiing) but wanted to change. I am 17 years old and skinny and jumped into weight training with both feet. I saved up some money, bought the Cybergenics supplement (mistake #1! – really just an expensive multivitamin) and started studying. It was June 1991, just before summer. I had a good workout and I started getting stronger right away but didn’t gain much muscle mass. However, I was completely ripped to the bone! At the end of the summer, I still weighed about 150 lbs wet (right where I started 4 months ago) but I swear I had about 4 or 5% body fat. When you can see the dividing line between your upper pecs and lower pecs without flexing the chest, you know you are in low bodyfat!

TIP #1

I don’t eat NEARLY enough or often enough and don’t get enough protein. I would rollerblade or ride a bike to the gym first thing in the morning and do my workout, eating nothing immediately after training. I bought a rollerblade home and ate a bowl of cereal. After that I will go to work as a lifeguard for the rest of the day, eat maybe once or twice more that day and my biggest meal is dinner.

Then he left for the University…

I just finished high school, I went to school in the fall. I learned my lesson about not eating enough and I decided to make it. And to do it I did … with food! Some people drink too much their first year of college – I drank too much. Not to knock the food service there, but I’m just sure they deep-fried the salad. To show you my knowledge of food at the time, I would (in the interest of trying to keep more fat in my diet low) order fried eggs and cut out the yolks, eat except the white ones (which are baked with too much cooking oil). All this without realizing that I would have been better off cutting out the whites and eating the yolks (which is 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 weighed over 70 pounds, probably half of which was muscle. At one point, I sat down and calculated my calorie intake on some of my “big eating” days and found that it was almost 9,000 calories a day!

TIP #2

When I learned my lesson about eating to gain muscle, I didn’t learn the lesson that you can eat WAY too much and you can easily eat the wrong foods. Sure, I got bigger and stronger, but I probably went from 5% bodyfat to 15 to 20% bodyfat at the same time. Not the results I was looking for! What I need to do is eat more, of course, but also eat better. That, plus I’m sure all the “Weight Gain 3000” type supplements I’ve been taking aren’t helping! Looking back at the ingredients, it’s mostly cheap milk protein and maltodextrin (a high glycemic, cheap carb source).

University training…

When I ate more in the University, I also increased my education. I will try and do more and use more and more. Because I eat so much, I’m still doing great! Plus, at 18 years old, I can beat the tar out of myself in the gym and still recover from it pretty much without a problem. I have seen strength and body weight almost every day. But then something happened… something that opened my eyes… an exercise I had in the gym for almost 2 and a half hours!

TIP #3

I’ve been training WAY too long and with too much. I am still improving but only because I eat so much. Little did I know, I could have done better by cutting my study time WAY down. From that day on, I always stop my exercise at 1 hour, no matter where I am in the program. And it surprised me. I think the week after I started cutting back, my energy shot and my body weight went up 10 pounds. That opened my eyes. In the spring season, I tried a project that, if you have been studying for a while, may be familiar with: The Great Growth by Leo Costa. At that time, I started training twice a day, six days a week, but only for 45 minutes at a time, usually. Still eating a ton of food every day, I’m doing great with this system and learning the benefits of keeping your eyes on (and cycling) training volume.

But I don’t care about all the Cardio Training…

At the beginning of the eight months when I was mad to lose weight, I read that when trying to gain muscle, you should reduce cardio training. Aerobic exercise can burn calories that can be used by the body to build muscle and can interfere with the body’s muscle building process. Well, I took that a little too far and cut out cardio training altogether. My theory is, I did cardio during the summer (to the gym and back) and didn’t gain muscle. When I learned endurance, I didn’t gain muscle. So maybe cutting it off is necessary. So I don’t even bother walking up the stairs unless I have to.

TIP #4

Too much cardio training (especially long-term cardio training) can affect muscle mass, sure, but as I’ve learned since then, some cardio training will should be part of every construction. The main thing is to follow the rules of cardio training (for example, intermittent training, which can help the muscle-building process). Let me put it here, it’s good to be big and strong but when you’re big and fat and strong and can’t walk up the stairs, you’re not exactly healthy. Plus, think of it like this… you want good cardiovascular work when training muscle. What makes the blood and nutrients to the muscles? What helps you recover faster in between sets? Cardio and muscle-building are not mutually exclusive concepts. I include it in ALL my muscle building programs now.

What happens at the end of the school year?

Well, at that time, being big and strong but big and fat, I decided that I had to burn out of excess (the old concept-and-cut). But then I made a big mistake. I went back to the same habits that had kept me lean last summer. I wasn’t eating nearly enough to support the muscle I was building and I wasn’t eating enough protein.

I also started running again, this time without doing any cardio training for 8 months, it was a difficult course to learn. Imagine going from being a 150 lb cross-country runner who can run 5 km in about 15 minutes to being a 220 lb weightlifter who can’t sprint for more than 3 minutes straight! Now, even though I’ve been trying to do cardio for a long time, it’s more like interval training than anything because I have to stop and walk every few minutes. As I got in better cardio shape, I started running longer straight away (I would have gotten better by connecting with time – little did I know!). And I lost weight and lost some fat but I lost a lot of muscle along with it. There is nothing more painful than losing what you have worked so hard to build. I didn’t lose all my muscles and strength but it was enough to put me back.

TIP #5

What you should eat and how you should train are very similar when you are trying to build muscle or burn fat. The main difference lies in how much you eat and training variables such as rest periods and cardio frequency. You still need to eat more protein regardless of your goals and you still need to lift weights, even on a fat loss program (it’s how you tell your body that it needs to hold on to muscle ). Increasing the cardio frequency, eating less calories and reducing the time to rest in the middle of the problem will get the fat burning process moving in the right direction. Don’t starve yourself or go fast by making your training sessions more intense.

So what happened in my second year of training?

That’s a story for another day…it involves going away in my first year of training where I made my friend throw him in a pot of water that he was on fire for. Spaghetti because it adds salt (no. remember that the sauce we used has about 20 times more salt)!

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