Written by paul nobles
Unless you follow my blog, EatToPerform.com, you probably don’t know who I am. Since Chad asked me to write an article for JTS, I am going to ask you guys to assume that I have some idea of what I’m talking about which saves us a long introduction that frankly isn’t all that interesting. I am mostly known for talking about working out with some level of intensity, but on my site we work with many different types of strength athletes. Our focus is on performance. When I am not doing “lifting weights fast” I train using Powerlifting methods. It’s my belief that for most people, if they want to be better at just about anything some level of strength is involved.
The semi-ironic part is that I am not a very good athlete. For me getting fit and being more capable led to me wanting to get a lot stronger (without completely ignoring the cardio element). I have only been lifting for a short while; I literally had never picked up a weight in my entire life until about three years ago. Now it consumes me. Pretty much everyone that has ever written an article on this site has more knowledge related to training than I do. My emphasis is sports nutrition, but I am going to attempt to tread in their water.
Conditioning vs. Training
Most people reading this will never step onto a stage, participate in a meet, or qualify for “The Games”. I am like most of you – those aren’t my goals. My goals are to enjoy life, remain healthy in the process, and have sex with my wife without it becoming a Tabata interval (10 seconds on, 20 seconds off). That’s the part that high intensity weightlifting has right. It’s hard…Like real hard. Not NFL linebacker hard, but if you are a suburban dad with two kids, you walk out of those workouts feeling like you did something. Here is the problem: performing high intensity exercise for thirty minutes or longer does not make you better. When you look at a gym like Invictus in San Diego or Faction in Memphis, you will see the best version of our sport evolving; 50% or more of the training is focused on strength, with less than 50% conditioning. The simple fact is that conditioning can be developed over a much shorter period of time than strength can be accumulated. If you walk into a gym like I did, you have a lot of catching up to do.
In the powerlifting world (and somewhat in the bodybuilding world) many of the things that we talk about are semi well known, but I don’t think most people can put it into one sentence. The part that most people have wrong is simple. When they stall with fat loss they, make one crucial mistake: they start eating less, which lowers their potential. People basically default to logic and ease. Want to lose weight? Eat Less (that seems logical). Want to lose fat? Run! (after all it’s pretty easy – you can just walk out the door and do it).
If you want to see true progress and see actual results, for most people the key to being more athletic and/or capable isn’t to eat less. The answer is fairly simple: increase your work capacity by training hard and eating more. As I went from an unhealthy and uninformed person to a healthy and informed one, it seemed obvious that most of my nutrition should come from whole foods. Whereas I used to “eat for joy” all of the time, I now only eat for joy occasionally. I ALWAYS fuel my workouts (and just to be clear, I eat starches, so no low carb for me).
What most trained athletes know that new athletes need to learn is that you work out to build and maintain muscle. The problem is that most trainers don’t understand this and many NEWER athletes don’t view themselves as athletes at all. So let’s be clear on this one point:
YOU DON’T WORKOUT TO BURN CALORIES, THERE IS PLENTY OF TIME IN THE DAY TO DO THAT. SO DON’T WASTE THE OPPORTUNITY REPRESENTED BY TRAINING.
Testing vs. Training
One thing I am tired of hearing is that just because someone shows up at the gym, “At least they did something.” That’s bullshit. There are too many people walking around powerlifting gyms banging out 15 reps and calling it a day, only to wonder why they can’t get it up anymore. Most people that are worried about “overtraining” have no business doing so. Trust me, that 16th rep wouldn’t kill you, nor would a set of chin ups, or 100 squats at 33% of your 1RM. Those same people make fun of guy on the elliptical (and rightly so), but the dude on the elliptical can walk up a flight of stairs without having a heart attack.
I know what you’re thinking. “Screw this skinny guy talking smack.” I am not writing to you as someone that does cardio every single day. I mostly lift for strength, but I have a wife and two daughters – I have a family I don’t want to leave hanging because I didn’t do real work. I know many of you are strong, which means that you have a big part of the equation right. You are actually DOING something, but if every day you show up with no plan and just try to see how high your 1RM is on a lift, you are barely doing anything at all. You’ll end up imbalanced. I work out with some of the strongest people on the planet and I can tell you that when you are around strength athletes with good body composition, what you find is that they put in a lot more work than the average person.
If you want to eat more, take my advice: DOING more won’t hurt you (and it certainly won’t rob you of gains).
Paul Nobles is a health and nutrition blogger that talks mostly about performance nutrition. He is a contributing author for the book Metabolic Flexibility for Fat Loss and works with Elite level Games competitors as well as Powerlifters. His blog Eat To Perform has 330,000 fans on Facebook because he writes articles on reaching your fat loss goals by upping your work capacity. Website, Facebook, Twitter