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Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay: Nutrition for Training Recovery and Performance

A real live lifter drinking her actual protein shake.  DO try this at home!  Read on and as Colin explains what’s important (and what isn’t important) about nutrition for lifting recovery.

If you’re an active lifter, which I’m assuming you are just by clicking on this article, there’s no doubt you want to get the most out of your training. So often we talk about different styles of training, how often we should train, different splits, etc. but the problem is if you aren’t properly fueled for your workouts or recovering properly you aren’t getting the most out of your hard work. Which is why I want to talk about nutrition for training performance and recovery today.

First, I want to take you back, way back, 20-25 years ago when I was a teenager first getting into weights. I was really skinny back then, sitting around 5’10” 120-130 lbs I was often picked on for my size. As someone who became desperate to put on size, naturally I started lifting weights. Into the gym I would go, working hard, going to the gym every day. I LOVED lifting but there was a small problem, my muscles never got any bigger. What gives? Why am I working so hard and not seeing results for my efforts? Well as I look back on things it was pretty obvious. I knew NOTHING about the importance of nutrition for building muscle. So I didn’t change my eating habits at all. I was doing endless amounts of cardio for all the sports I played. I wasn’t recovering and I wasn’t fueling myself properly. Strangely tons of cardio coupled with a diet of nothing but pizza, hot dogs and hamburgers doesn’t get the job done (not that you can’t ever have those foods.)

With this became several years of on again off again lifting patterns. It wasn’t until I was 29 years old that I became serious. This time I started looking into how to build muscle more efficiently. I found out protein builds muscle, so I began eating a ton of protein (more than I need really.) I discovered you had to eat enough food to efficiently build. Wouldn’t you know it, I started seeing results! With this my love affair with weights finally stuck. Looking back I was still incredibly ignorant but at least I was getting somewhere. Anyway, here I am 9 years later, doing this stuff for a living, and I’ve gained some knowledge on the subject, or at least I sure hope! So I want to pass on some of that knowledge so you too can hopefully start achieving better results for your efforts in the gym.

Step number one to properly recovering from the gym is to not only make sure you’re getting sufficient calories but also sufficient protein. I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about macro breakdowns because I’ve gone over setting macros before. Keep in mind this article is NOT about losing weight, this is about optimizing nutrition for performance and recovery. But the moral of the story is if you want to recover and perform your best you have to be fueling your body properly. It needs enough protein to repair the damage you’re doing to your muscle and grow. It needs sufficient carbs to provide energy and fuel your workouts (that’s right, better get over that fear of carbs.) Fat also aids in digestion and plays a role in hormone support so we can’t just avoid fats either. Bottom line, you need enough calories.
How many calories should you be eating? I can’t say that without knowing a lot more information about you because every individual is unique and needs to be treated as such (again read the article about setting macros for more detail here.) But at the end of the day before we look at anything like meal timing/frequency, supplements, or anything else, your total macronutrient intake is going to be the most important thing for your results, by far. Regardless of when and how often you eat. Once you get that down, then we can start looking at some possible ways to take it to the next level.

One of those things? Meal timing. I’m sure at some point you’ve heard (probably by supplement companies) that you have to slam a protein shake right after your workout is done or you’re not going to recover and build muscle effectively. While this is wildly untrue, I do think it’s wise to get some decent nutrition in after (as well as before) your workout. I actually do recommend you get a good protein source within an hour or two both pre and post-workout and I also recommend getting around 25% of your total carbs for the day in both meals as well. The reason for pre-workout is to be properly fueled for your work so you can perform at your best and post-workout the body is primed to absorb and utilize nutrients better so it only makes sense to take advantage of that to me.

When it comes to protein I recommend around 1 gram per pound (or per pound of lean body mass if you’re more overweight) splitting it up fairly evenly 3-5 times per day every 4-6 hours to take advantage of the “leucine threshold” (the amount of leucine, the primary amino acid in protein responsible for muscle-protein synthesis, that can be used at one time for anabolism.) There also appears to be a possible “refractory” period with increasing protein synthesis, meaning we can’t elevate it too soon after taking in protein, which is why I recommend spacing out your protein rather than constantly feeding it. For what it’s worth, by the way, I don’t buy into your post-workout protein needs to be a shake. It’s an easy and convenient way to get it in, but if you just come home and eat a meal with a good protein source that’s every bit as effective.

For carbs outside of the pre/post workout window it doesn’t really matter when you eat the rest. It might be a good idea to get a decent amount, maybe around 15%, in your first meal just to get things going, but really whatever you like is fine. When it comes to fat it doesn’t really matter when you eat it, but I do recommend limiting fat (as well as fiber) pre-workout to avoid any potential gastrointestinal issues during training.

Now, I know I’ve already said this but it’s worth repeating. How and when you split up your nutrition is nowhere near as important as your totals for the day/week. So if trying to split everything up perfectly causes you stress/anxiety and knocks you off your plan then just eat in a way you enjoy that will help you reach your goals. Or start with working on hitting macro goals and slowly move towards timing as you get better. But it doesn’t matter how “optimal” something is if you aren’t going to follow it. That said if you don’t mind and want to get everything you can out of your nutrition, the above strategy would be my recommendation.

Besides that a couple of often overlooked factors with regards to nutrition for performance and recovery are sodium and water. Sodium is often looked at this horrible thing that should be avoided but the truth is sodium is not only necessary (you would literally die without salt) but it’s an electrolyte that aids in performance. If your sodium levels are low you will not be able to perform your best. Understand that your sodium input today is what you output the next day. Unless you are salt sensitive (about 5-10% of the population) or have a medical condition that requires you to keep sodium low there’s no need to limit it and you may even find you do better by adding in more. As far as water goes, well you probably know the importance already but dehydration is not going to help performance at all and without enough water your nutrient uptake will suffer as well. I think 80-120 of ounces per day is a good spot for most people, but it depends on many factors including how much you typically sweat (same with sodium.)

As far as supplements go there aren’t a lot that play a major role in performance or recovery. But if there was one I would pretty much universally recommend to any lifter it would be creatine monohydrate. Creatine has been shown time and time again to aid in muscle size, strength, and performance. Because creatine is a stored energy it doesn’t matter when you take it, only that you take it daily to saturate your muscle cells. If you’re going to take creatine aim for 3-5 grams daily. There is also whey protein but I don’t really even consider whey  a supplement, I consider it food. No matter what you want to call it though, it can be a great way to get your protein up if you struggle to eat enough, but it’s certainly not necessary.

Other than that there are a couple other things I want to briefly touch on here. If you want to perform your best and if muscle or strength are important to you there are a couple of pitfalls you’re going to want to avoid. You can’t be undereating or doing excessive amounts of cardio. Neither of these things are going to help you towards your goal. Yes, there are times when you’re going to decrease the amount you eat and/or increase your cardio to cut down on some of the fat, but it can’t be a perpetual thing. You should be spending MUCH more time working on building than you are dieting. Constant dieting patterns absolutely ruins people, not to mention what it does to your metabolism. That said I do think it’s good to keep some cardio in your routine as it does have benefits for things like heart health and even work capacity in the gym. But you can’t go out there training for marathons expecting to build muscle much less recover properly.

So these are some of my tips to use nutrition to your advantage to aid in recovery, perform your best in the gym, and get the most of your training. Keep in mind when it comes to recovery and performance there are more factors than JUST nutrition such as sleep, stress management, proper training protocols, etc. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

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For more information from Colin download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on an email newsletter where you’ll receive daily emails with helpful advice.

Colin DeWaay holds a personal training and fitness nutrition specialist certification with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He’s the owner of Colin DeWaay Training LLC, an online strength and nutrition consulting business that fully customizes training and nutrition programs for those interested in general fitness all the way up to advanced powerlifting programs. He specializes in helping people with a history of yoyo dieting create a more sustainable healthy lifestyle, improving metabolism through reverse dieting if necessary, and helping make binges a thing of the past by creating a healthy relationship with food utilizing flexible dieting. His goal is not to produce quick results, but to help produce realistic, sustainable results that last.

http://colindewaaytraining.com/

https://www.youtube.com/c/colindewaay

https://www.facebook.com/ColinDeWaayTraining/

Instagram – @colindewaay

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Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay: How to Use “Bad” Foods to (Finally) Reach Your Goals

Sure you can lose weight eating ice cream every day, but it’s not healthy.” This is probably the number one argument I hear from people who promote a strictly “clean eating” approach to dieting when I talk about flexible dieting or specifically my diet. I’m dead serious when I say there’s barely a day that goes by where I don’t eat ice cream (and before bed too, gasp.) So while physically it looks like I’m in pretty good shape, I guess I’m unhealthy (my health markers would say otherwise, for the record.)

Hey I get it, I used to be a clean eater too. I think the majority of people who start out do the same thing. After all we’re told all the time to avoid junk food and eat more veggies right? Besides, it’s certainly good and I encourage a large portion of anyone’s diet to by nutrient dense and whole foods. They’ll typically have more vitamins/minerals and be more satiating, not to mention have a higher thermic effect of food. But does that mean eating ice cream, pizza, cookies or a glass of wine in any amount is automatically unhealthy?

I’ll say this much… Foods like junk food, fast food, sugary snacks, etc. are void of micronutrients and aren’t very filling so they can be easy to overeat, but does that mean they’re unhealthy? Well I believe that requires some context. I truly believe no food, on it’s own, is unhealthy. Say for instance a person is literally starving to death. If they’re offered a pizza should they turn it down because it’s “not healthy?” Of course not, in fact those calories would be VERY healthy to them. Calories are a good thing, they give us energy and make us function. It’s when we go too far in one direction where it becomes a problem.

But what about someone who eats a balanced diet, is health conscious and exercises regularly? Is incorporating a little ice cream into their diet daily really unhealthy? Is any amount of “bad” food ALWAYS bad? After all the argument here is that eating certain foods is always unhealthy no matter what, right? Well research doesn’t exactly support that argument…

Let’s take a closer look at sugar. EVERYONE can agree sugar is bad right? In fact I’ve literally had people tell me sugar was “the devil” (not joking.) Well again, this requires context. Again, yes sugar is easy to over eat and void of nutrients. My precious ice cream certainly has sugar in it, so am I unhealthy? Well there was a study published in 1997 that looked at the effect of sugar in a diet when protein, carbs and fat were matched. (1) In one group sugar made up 4% of their calories and in the other group 43% of calories came from sugar. That was the difference of about 11 grams of sugar per day and 118! Guess what? At the end of the study both groups lost the same amount of weight, both showed decreases in depression, hunger, negative mood and increases in vigilance and positive mood. But remember, the argument is that you can lose weight, but it’s not healthy. Well both groups also saw the same improvements in blood pressure, blood glucose, thyroid hormones and markers of inflammation with the only difference between a slight advantage to the low sugar group (less than a 10% difference) in cholesterol and blood lips. Which I’d make the argument it was because fiber was not matched. There are also other studies that looked at the difference between complex and simple carbs (often looked at as “good” or “bad” carbs) where they found no difference in weight loss or blood lipids. (2,3,4)

Besides research showing positive results despite the actual types of foods eaten, there are number anecdotal subjects who went through extreme measures to prove no foods were bad so long as you ate below maintenance. Remember the documentary “Supersize Me?” The guy ate nothing but McDonald’s, didn’t control calories at all, stopped exercising and gained a bunch of weight. (Duh) The whole world screamed for McDonald’s to be shut down because it’s making the world fat. Well a guy by the name of John Cisna didn’t agree and set out to prove them wrong. He spent 6 months eating NOTHING but McDonald’s. Following a 2,000 calorie diet he ended up losing 56 lbs, saw his cholesterol drop from 249 to 190 and by the end of it all he had normal sodium and blood pressure levels.

Or how about Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition, who spent 2 months on what he called the “Twinkie Diet” eating two thirds of his food from things like Twinkies, Oreos, Little Debbie snacks and sugary cereals? He lost 27 lbs, his LDL (“bad cholesterol”) dropped by 20% and his HDL (“good cholesterol”) increased by 20% while seeing his triglycerides drop by 39%.

Then there is a man who runs a YouTube channel called “Abs & Ice Cream” who recently spent 100 days eating 2000 calories worth of ice cream… (Plus about 500 calories from whey protein.) Every. Single. Day. When I heard about this, you better believe I was paying attention. Guess what? He lost 32 lbs, his triglycerides dropped 25 points, HDL went up 17 points, LDL went down 6 points, and they rated his overall cardiac risk factors and it went from 2.3 to 1.6. Eating 2,000 calories of ice cream every day! But yeah my one bowl is unhealthy…

But I digress.

What does all this tell us? Well we should go out and eat whatever the hell we want and just control calories! Okay no, that’s not what I’m saying at all. But it does show that you CAN eat foods most deem as “unhealthy” and still be healthy. Furthermore I think it CLEARLY shows that how much bodyfat you store is a much bigger health factor than the actual foods you eat. Again, I still think a major portion of your diet should be from nutritious foods, but at that doesn’t mean you need to, or even should avoid certain foods because you think they’re bad. We always have to remember weight loss isn’t just a physical thing, the psychological side of things is not only just as important, but in my opinion MORE important.

It doesn’t matter how “optimal” a diet is if you can’t stick to it.

It doesn’t matter how “optimal” a diet is if you can’t stick to it. I’ve given you these stats before but it’s worth mentioning over and over. The evidence of weight loss success (meaning keeping it off) is BLEAK. Almost everyone who becomes obese loses a significant amount of weight in their life. But of those people less than 5% keep the weight off long-term. (5) FIVE PERCENT. That is a staggering number. I believe a big reason is because nobody thinks about sustainability when they diet. It’s always this mad dash to the finish line. Cutting out all their favorite foods, starving themselves, never thinking about how they’ll maintain the weight when (or more like if) it comes off. It doesn’t matter what you do to lose the weight if you can’t keep doing it when the weight is gone. THIS is why I find it so important include foods you enjoy into your diet and learn about moderation. If you’re controlling your intake, especially if you’re matching calories, protein and fiber, the actual foods you eat mean next to nothing. It’s time to stop looking for magic foods and start looking for something a little more realistic. No foods by themselves inherently make you fat or thin, everything requires CONTEXT.

 

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For more information from Colin you may download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on an email newsletter where you’ll get daily emails. Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you’re sensitive you may want to pass.

 

Colin DeWaay holds a personal training certification with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. He’s the owner of Colin DeWaay Training LLC, an online strength and nutrition consulting business that fully customizes training and nutrition programs for those interested in general fitness all the way up to advanced powerlifting programs. He specializes in helping people with a history of yoyo dieting create a more sustainable healthy lifestyle, improving metabolism through reverse dieting if necessary, and helping make binges a thing of the past by creating a healthy relationship with food utilizing flexible dieting. His goal is not to produce quick results, but to help produce realistic, sustainable results that last.

http://colindewaaytraining.com/

https://www.youtube.com/c/colindewaay

https://www.facebook.com/ColinDeWaayTraining/

 

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How to Make This One Your LAST New Year’s Resolution – Guest Blogger Colin DeWaay

I think Colin’s tips below are targeted to that person who is highly motivated to make this the last time they need to start over.  Share this one to save it.  It could be a great reference for when the motivation wanes and grind begins. ~ Tammy

Well it’s that time of year again. Gyms are being flooded with people vowing to make a change. I actually LOVE this time of year, despite it making my own workouts a bit hectic. Seeing so many people trying to change for the better is awesome. There is only one problem though…. VERY few will succeed. So what I want to do today is go over why I think the majority of people fail and talk about ways you can make sure this year is the last year you EVER make a New Year’s Resolution to get in shape.

At the very top of the list of importance is sustainability. Cliché or not fitness is in fact a lifestyle and if you’re not in it for the long haul no matter what you do you’ll eventually fail. What that means is you have to find something you enjoy and you can see yourself doing long-term. If you hate every second of what you’re doing, how long do you really expect to keep it up? Even if you manage to lose the weight, how will you keep it off when you stop?

It also means you need to focus your attention on the process and not any quick fixes. I promise you no pill, “detox” (don’t even get me started,) green sludge or plastic wraps are going to do the trick. It comes down to diet, exercise, and consistency. But once again, this is where most people go about things completely wrong. They think to see results they have to eat nothing but cardboard and rabbit food and they must suffer endlessly. In fact most people seem to seek out the most difficult “hardcore” plans they can find hoping this might be the answer. They’re doing it wrong….

So with that said, let’s go over 5 tips to help you finally get where you’ve always wanted to be…. And STAY there.

Tip #1

Don’t try to “kickstart” your weight loss

Of course you want great results and you want them now, who can blame you? We ALL want fast results. So naturally you should do something dramatic to get things going right? Couldn’t be more wrong. In fact that’s the exact opposite of what you should do. You see when you lose weight your metabolism slows, there’s no way around this. So sure if you dramatically cut your calories and/or do a lot of cardio you’ll drop weight fast. Everyone loves that! Well, at least until you get stuck. Which if you take this approach I promise you will.

Think of it this way. Your body cares about one thing above anything else. Survival. It could care less if you have a six pack or “toned” arms. It’s job is to keep you alive. So when you cut calories low it’s going to do everything it can to hang onto what you give it. Basically your body gets really efficient at utilizing the food you eat, which in theory sounds good, but it’s not. You begin to burn less calories from the exercise you perform, the thermic effect of food decreases, you burn less calories at rest and what’s arguably worse is you get a shift in hormones that not only makes you feel hungrier but also prevents you from feeling full. (1) Yep, your body gets more efficient at making sure you don’t starve yourself to death by making it easier to store fat and overeat. Recipe for disaster if you ask me. Make sure you eat as many calories as possible while still losing so you can keep making adjustments. Plus who doesn’t want more food???

 Tip #2

Don’t deprive yourself

Remember that thing I said about sustainability? You’re not going your whole life without eating the foods you love. And the big problem is when you tell yourself foods are off limits a few problems arise. 1) When you tell yourself you can’t have something what’s the thing you automatically want? (Forbidden fruit.) 2) You’re relying on willpower which is not infinite. Eventually you WILL run out of willpower and you’ll be caught in a bad situation which is what leads to binge eating. 3) You’re going to be miserable, and if you’re miserable do you really think it’s going to last? There is no happy ending to an unhappy journey. If what you’re doing now to lose the weight isn’t something you can keep doing after the weight is gone you’re doomed to fail. 4) You form a bad relationship with food. You find yourself feeling guilty just cause you ate some cheesecake. You find yourself avoiding social situations or if not you’re stressed out about all the “temptations.” Guilt should never be associated with food… Ever.

I’m not saying your diet should be nothing but pizza and ice cream, but they certainly shouldn’t be completely off limits either. You have to learn moderation and this will never happen with a restrictive diet. Despite what most “gurus” will tell you there are no magic foods and there are no foods that inherently make you fat either. Yes certain foods have a more nutrient dense profile and help you feel fuller, but it’s all about context of an overall diet. Is eating broccoli better for you than a scoop of ice cream? Sure. But if that scoop of ice cream helps you stay on track, avoid binges, enjoy your diet and stick to your diet than I’d actually argue the scoop of ice cream is BETTER. Everything in context. Besides, believe it or not there is actually data to support whether a diet had mostly simple carbs or complex carbs it made no difference in body composition OR health markers when calories are equated. (2,3,4)

Tip #3

Focus your exercise around strength training

I’m kind of known for bagging on cardio and I’m often asked why I think cardio is “bad.” I don’t think cardio is bad by any means, it just needs to be utilized wisely and it shouldn’t be your primary source of exercise if you want to do things optimally, especially if your goal is body composition. New research even supports the use of strength training for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease even independent of aerobic exercise. (5)

While cardio does tend to burn more calories during the actual exercise itself it’s nothing compared to the fat burning machine your body becomes with strength training. When you’re done with cardio and your heartrate returns back to normal you’re done burning calories. With strength training you get what’s called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) which means your body continues to burn additional calories even while at rest as it recovers and repairs from the stress you gave it. This effect can happen for a few hours or even up to almost two days depending on several factors. (6) Not only do you burn more calories recovering, but the more muscle you have on your frame the more calories your body burns naturally. (7) And no ladies, it won’t make you bulky or look like a man… Pinky swear.

So how should cardio be treated? Like calories only in reverse. You want to do as little cardio as possible while still losing fat so you have more options when things stall out. If you’re now eating high calories and doing low cardio you have plenty of options moving forward to bust through those pesky plateaus. Guess what happens if you’re already eating hardly anything and doing cardio every day?

resolution

Tip #4

What you did before DIDN’T work

I can’t lie, this one drives me nuts. So many people will go back to old plans they did before because they lost a bunch of weight. But if you did this and gained all the weight back, did it really work? Of course not! It only works if you can sustain it. “Well that’s just because I stopped doing it, this time I won’t quit.” Sure you won’t, best of luck… Sorry but chances are the reason you stopped was because you were doing many if not all the things I’m telling you not to. You quit because you couldn’t rely on willpower anymore. You couldn’t eat the same 7 foods the rest of your life. You couldn’t run on a treadmill for hours on end anymore. You hated what you were doing and you stopped. So why would it be different this time? Yeah you want it bad now, but motivation doesn’t last forever.

Tip #5

No more “all or nothing”

This one absolutely kills progress. People think they need to be perfect and if they can’t be there’s no point in even trying. The truth is chasing perfection is a losing proposition. In the battle of all or nothing, nothing will win 100 times out of 100. There will be times in your life you need to be more strict and there will be times to be more flexible. You must learn to be okay with not being perfect. You’re better off being 80% “on” all the time then being 100% “on” half the time. There will be times you have to back off more and there will be times you kill it and that’s totally fine.

So bottom line, what should you do? Take things slow and don’t rush the process! Eat as many calories as possible while losing weight and focus your training on resistance training. Losing between .5%-1.5% of your body weight on average weekly is a pretty good pace for most people but understand that scale weight is far from the only story and the leaner you are the less it means. Focus more on how you look, how your clothes fit, how strong you’re getting and possibly most importantly how you FEEL. These things mean way more than any number on the scale.

Do this and you can continue to make adjustments when you hit plateaus. Remember that your metabolic rate is a moving target and adapts to what you do, so if you make huge drops right away you’ll lose plenty of weight fast but it will stall quick and then what will you do? You can only drop calories so low. Take it slow and make adjustments when necessary and you keep the good times rollin’! Remember, you didn’t put the weight on in 2 months, so don’t expect it to come off in 2 months either.

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If you’re looking for more information from me you can follow me on Facebook and you can also download this free guide to help give you some direction. This will also put you on my email newsletter where you’ll get daily emails for a little motivation, guidance, and possibly a small kick in the rear from time to time…  Warning – I tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. So if you’re sensitive you may want to pass. But if you’re serious about changing your life and taking ACTION, you should love it.

Lastly if you’re ready to take that next step and want to make sure you do things right this time just head here and I’d be honored to help you reach your goals. But only if you’re serious! The program only works if you do.

 

 

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