Counting calories

I gotta admit, during the last week or so, I’ve changed my stance on this subject quite a bit. I’ve never been a huge fan of counting calories, as I found it a hassle. I have however done it every now and then. I do have a decent understanding on what different kinds of foods contain.

calories

With the technological advances in smartphones, this all changed. Logging your food with an app is easy and convenient. Unless you’re extremely serious about your food, there are plenty of free options.

As Martin Rooney pointed out to me “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”, and counting calories has become a simple way to manage and measure your food. It also makes you think consciously about what you eat.

As I’ve detailed before, I believe 4-6 weeks is the optimal time frame for a diet, and logging most of your meals during those periods should be easy. As a bare minimum, I’d recommend you do it the first week of each dieting period, so you get a good basic idea of how much you should eat. Obviously, counting calories is also a valuable tool for gaining weight, if you have problems getting the food in you.

Counting calories will reveal some hidden calorie-bombs and help you re-learn things you might’ve forgotten about food. So give it a go – try using an app to count calories for a week – I guarantee you’ll learn something in the process.

Final note: you probably wont be able to log everything down to the last gram of kale, but that’s not really the point. Your calorie expenditure will vary too. Try to log as much as possible, and throw in guesstimates when you’re unable to measure.

I got 99 problems!

In training, as well as in life, it’s all about finding the point of diminishing returns if you want to be efficient. I’m not talking about slacking or being lazy at all, just finding the sweet spot for effort in a given pursuit. Effort in this context can be your time, money, attention or any other limited asset.

In close relation to this, you’ve got to figure out where you’ll get most bang for your buck. Look at it this way – if you were an alien landing on earth – which languages would you focus on? If you don’t list English and Mandarin in your top 3, you’re doing it wrong. Those two languages will let you speak to about half of the world’s population. Work on mastering those two languages, and add a bit of Spanish and Arabic, and you’re getting close to full coverage. Hindustani deserves honorable mention as well, but due to the fact that a majority of the people that speak Hindustani also speak English – you’d be better off just getting better there.

How about this: Mandarin is the squat, English is the deadlift and Spanish the bench press. Mandarin is protein, English is fats and Spanish is carbs. Mandarin is injury prevention, English is strength and Mandarin is hypertrophy.

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Way too many people major in the minors and focus all of their energy on some silly little language like Danish for example. While learning Danish is smart if you live in Denmark, it doesn’t really carry over very well to any other language (except Swedish and Norwegian at very high levels of proficiency). For overall usability, you’d be better off just sticking with English.

So what I’m trying to say here is actually really simple. So many people have 99 problems, and yet they’re trying to optimize the last piece of the puzzle – the one percent. The last percent is the meal timing, the fasted cardio, the fancy supplements, the antioxidants, the phytonutrients and all those other fancy words.

Master the basics and everything will follow. If you speak fluent Mandarin, English, Spanish and Arabic – you’re gonna be hard pressed to find a place where you can’t get by.Throw in a bit of Russian and Hindi and you’ve pretty much got the whole globe covered.

On the other hand, if you speak Finnish, Bulgarian, Basque and Xhosa (btw Xhosa is a really friggin awesome language with “clicks”) – you’re not gonna get very far.

If you master the squat, deadlift, benchpress and the bentover row, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a muscle that’s not big and strong. Throw in some weighted carries and a few other bits and bobs, and you’ve got the whole body covered.

See?

Now go learn Mandarin. <3

PS: Obviously just like there are other interesting and useful languages than the top 5, there are also interesting and useful exercises. Just keep the great picture in mind and remember that most of the time it’s better to work hard on the basics, than to add complexity.

Weightgainers

Weightgainers help you gain weight. It’s that simple right? Well yes and no. Weightgainers will indeed help you gain weight, if you’re in a calorific surplus, but if you’re not, they wont. Just like “fatburners” wont burn fat, weightgainers wont pile on the muscle. A weightgainer is a simple product made of protein powder with added sugar. Lots of added sugar. Looking at a random product (Mutant Mass) you’ll see that:

  • One serving is 260g powder. 260!! and 1060kcal. Obviously, if you follow that, most people will gain. Problem is, you’ll ,most likely end up in a huge surplus and get fat.
  • 52g protein, which is solid in itself. It comes with a whopping 182g of carbs though. While I do like my carbs, a silly amount like this will make most people drowsy.

As you can see – if you follow the instructions on the tub, you’ll most likely end up getting fat. Surprise – weightgainers will not magically make you gain 100% muscle. It’s a product that can help you gain weight. Thing is, there are many other products on the market that does this just as well, but without filling you with cheap sugars.

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In this recent post, I listed a couple of “supplements” for gaining weight, however I’ll give you a few more tips on healthier options for gaining:

  • Add some olive oil to all of your shakes, salads and whatever. You can also throw down olive oil shots if you’re silly. Make sure it’s a good quality oil.
  • Milk. <3
  • Try some adding peanutbutter or coconutmilk to a shake.
  • A simple homemade healthier weightgainer option is protein powder and blended oats.
  • Eat DURING your workout. I’ve found that I can eat a protein bar or throw down a shake during my workout without it filling me up.

Gaining weight is easy – that’s why half of the western world is dying of obesity. Why the hell are we making such a big deal out of it? Eat more, but stick to relatively good foods. It’s not that hard.

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Nutritional supplements

Let me start this thing off by listing some of the supplements I’ve taken myself.

Herbal: tribulus terrestris, cissus quadrangularis, rhodiola rosea, horny goat weed, green tea, white tea, grape seed extract, celery seed extract, guarana, yohimbine, resveratrol

Vitamins/minerals: D, B, C, zinc, magnesium

Amino acids and other things: taurine, tyrosine, citruline malate, beta-alanine, caffeine, synephrine, DMAE, DMAA, AAKG, OAKG, ALCAR, glucosamine, MSM, ephedrine, synephrine, D-ribose, alpha-lipoic acid, CLA, probiotics, HMB, glutamine, glutamine peptides, creatine (CEE, monohydrate, tri-creatine malate),

Other (weird) shit: Raspberry ketones, policosanol,

Foodlike supps: BCAA, protein powder (whole egg, eggwhite, rice, whey, milk, cassein), oats, maltodextrine, dextrose, WMS, greens blend, reds blend, fish oil, avocado oil, flax seed.

supplements

You know what? This list isn’t even complete. I could add a couple of handfuls of different pre, post and peri workout products as well as other shit. I’ve taken huge amounts of supplements and hoped for insta-gains.

Which ones do I use today? I use a protein powder regularly. Not because I can’t hit a decent level of protein through food, but out of convenience. I also use oats regularly and fish oil regularly. Again this is out of convenience – you don’t really need to add carbs to anything, since getting them is so easy. Occasionally I take ZMA before bed, because it knocks me out cold and makes me sleep like a baby. I also drink coffee, but never after late afternoon.

So which supplements would I recommend to you? That’s a good question.

Focus on tightening up your diet and I promise you, you’ll see much better results. A full month of clean eating will do more for you than any (legal) supplement in the world.

I have yet to come across a supplement that did what it said on the box. That said, the following supplements have been good to me:

  • Quality fish oil.
  • Zma (for sleep, not anaboliXXxx muscle!).
  • Protein powder (for convenience).

Once you have a set plan and follow it, you can experiment with different supps to see what works for you. One at a time, for a set period of time. Supps I’d recommend you test out are:

  • Creatine
  • BCAA (especially if you train fasted)
  • Beta alanine

Keep it simple, focusing on and mastering the basics is the only true shortcut. A solid eating plan will outperform any supplement regime ten times out of ten.

One last thing: shiny labels and big name bodybuilders promoting a product usually means one thing – overpriced product. Buy the bulk products where you know what you’re getting. A simple whey protein is pretty much all you need.

Worry about this instead! Part one – nutrition

A couple of years ago I made a forum post listing 50 things you should worry about, before worrying about whether the incline bench was set at 35 or 45 degrees. Every time you worry about something silly consult this list. If you’ve got everything on the list nailed you’ve earned the right to worry about silly stuff. Its’ that simple.

  1. Focus on high quality local food and avoid anything that has a trademarked name. Eat like an adult – it’s really that easy.
  2. Vegetables. Eat as much as you can. No less than 500g a day.
  3. Avoiding refined sugar. This includes most weightgainers.
  4. Gluten. Bread is delicious and easy to make. Gluten will not kill you. Don’t eat white bread regularly though.
  5. Getting a decent amount of protein in you. It’s really not that hard – 500g of meat, 1L of milk are you’re pretty close to home without even supplementing.
  6. Drink water. Lots of it.
  7. Don’t smoke.
  8. Cutting down on supplements. If you take more than a handful different supps you’d probably be better off spending your money elsewhere.
  9. Put full fat cream in your coffee. Just a little bit. Why? Because it tastes great. Obviously we’re talking really strong good coffee. Get yourself a stovetop and a grinder if you can’t afford a real espresso machine. It makes great coffee.

So there you have it. Nine things to worry about before thinking about “nutritional timing”, “low, medium or cyclic carbs”, “micronutrients”, “superfoods” or any of the bazillion buzzwords.

Now before you shave your head, sell all your belongings and start practicing The Famous Way, I’d recommend that you live a little. These are guidelines (except for the smoking bit – just don’t) and shouldn’t be followed religiously. 80/20, 6/1 or whatever you want to call it. Don’t be the guy who can’t enjoy a good meal and a glass of wine at your inlaws. If you can’t take a day or even a week off every now and then, you’re probably worrying about the wrong things. Training should be complementing your life, not limiting it – at least not for regular meatheads.

Stay tuned for the next parts.

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