Less Peasant, More Bodybuilder

In previous posts, I’ve discussed my version of the Peasant Diet. Check out How I Used the Peasant Diet to Lean Out which was posted a year ago. In that post, I covered how I used a diet of high-volume unprocessed food – mostly carbs – to drop from 222 to 200 pounds without feeling hunger.

I strongly believe that if you design a diet that minimizes hunger, you will minimize the risk of regaining the weight.

After an inactive winter due to an injury, it would have been normal for me to gain some weight back. But I didn’t. By April, I was down to 197. That is when I declared victory.

I had lost weight without experiencing hunger and I was able to maintain that loss for a year even during a period where I was sidelined with an injury. I consider 197 to be the upper bound of my ideal weight.

The Peasant Diet was a great tool to get to that point, but as I recovered from my injury, I knew my activity would increase. I’d likely regain some muscle and get leaner. As you get leaner, you need higher levels of protein to preserve lean muscle mass. This was discussed in my P-Ratio post.

So starting in July, I began increasing protein and scaling back on potatoes. It is working. I’m down to 192 and look great. I know winter is coming, but I think I’m ready for it, just like I was last year. The skills I learned from the Peasant Diet easily apply to the higher-protein version (Bodybuilder).

Seattle fall

Seattle fall photo I took years ago.

My Wrong Advice For the Big Guys

For almost 20 years, I’ve advised my heavy friends to lift weights instead of doing cardio as they lean out. The logic of my case went something like this:

  1. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so increasing muscle on someone that is already consuming a high number of calories, seemed like a great idea.
  2. Big guys, by which I mean thick-wristed endomorphs, have the greatest muscular potential. Watch any strongman competition to see what I mean.
  3. Take advantage of those beginner gains ASAP to see a shift in lean mass. Here I was thinking they could gain the most muscle as they dropped weight.

To me, being a big guy without weight training experience, seemed like a gift. I viewed it as a gift because from the outside looking in, it seemed like they had the shortest path to a radical body transformation.

But, I’m not a big guy. I’m an ectomorph. And I recently learned, my observation and the advice I’ve been repeating for two decades is wrong.

Unknown to me, the bodybuilding trainers discovered through observation and experimentation that it was actually much harder to build muscle on a body with extra weight. When given the task of training a big guy, they would direct them to cardio and fixing their diet until enough progress was made before hitting the iron.

Anyway, this was all old-school theory until recently. A recent study that was discussed on Super Human Radio confirmed that heavy people are resistant to gaining muscle. They need to lose the fat first before adding the muscle later.

Listen to the discussion on the study and what classic bodybuilders have known for years:  2236: Super Human Radio (3:15 – 14:30 and 19:00 – 23:00)

So to my big guy friends, sorry about that. I still think it is 80-90% diet. That view has not changed. And I still like walking close to 10,000 steps a day if you can get them in. As for the remainder, hold off on using weights as your primary exercise for now. Do some cycling, swimming or hiking and after you’ve made some progress, stop by the weight room and gradually start lifting.

Wrong Way

Photo by NeONBRAND

Use Intuition and Directional Accuracy to Build Your Workouts

This week was an exciting one if you like to watch the drama in the fitness community. On Facebook, there was some heated disagreement on the role volume has on hypertrophy between Lyle McDonald, Brad Schoenfeld, and James Krieger.

All three of these gents are at least 10x smarter than me on topics of lifting and they disagree. So how do I resolve issues when my mentors don’t agree with each other? Two methods.

#1 Use Intuition

The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. And that truth will vary from lifter to lifter. Our training age, our biological age, our somatype, and our general approach to lifting will be factors in determining what is best for us at any given stage on our fitness journey.

For me, I need to find a balance that allows me to improve, keeps me interested, allows time for me to recover, and most importantly is safe. There is no single recipe that fits my needs. There are many paths to achieve my goals. I need to find that path for myself. The gym is the place I go to get feedback. My workouts will tell me in due time if I’m slacking off or pushing it too hard.

Developing your own intuition on lifting is as important as lifting itself, especially as you age. Staying in the game and knowing what is best you on any given week is the key to staying fit. Other voices – evening dissenting voices – can be useful, but your intuition needs to be on point.

#2 Directionally Accurate

A lot of the debate on the role of volume comes down to specific ranges of numbers. Those numbers are unimportant to me. I’m measuring the tone and direction of serious voices. On the volume topic, I see the case for more volume getting stronger. How strong? That is not important. Just stronger than before.

I developed a lower training volume habit first via HIT and then during the years when my knee was in worse shape. I would be a fool to jump directly up to the high volumes being discussed online. (I think it was 30 sets per week). But I do believe the directionally accurate path is adding more volume.

New studies are always coming out and the volume case could get weaker or stronger. We will see. I can’t wait for new studies though, I’m heading to the gym tomorrow.

Connecting Intuition With Directionally Accuracy

My plan is starting this week to add a few more sets a week to my chest, back, and legs. Then periodically, I’ll add a few more sets as soon as I feel my recovery is solid. It might be a week or a month or longer. There is no rush. I’m not going anywhere.

I’ll listen to my intuition to guide me as I add on the volume. I’ll be checking my weight and using a tape measure as well. I’ve been undereating recently and I know I’ll need to correct that problem as I reach for more hypertrophy gains via increased volume. If I can’t fix the calories right away, I’ll pause on the volume until I can.