**Warning, I talk A LOT about myself in this blog. It's long and self indulgent but I think if you get all the way through it will be fairly interesting. If not sorrynotsorry**
I'll get on average one person (trainee, fan, venue staff or colleague) per show that will draw me aside and ask about how to get in shape. It's a huge complement that they would come to me for advice and I'm always happy to talk for a bit. However, it's very easy to tell apart the ones who actually intend to get in to shape and the ones who are just hoping I will tell them some quick fix short cut secret that will have them looking like He-Man or She-Ra in six months with very little effort...
Well I got news for ya Jack. It doesn't exist. But you knew that anyway so stop lying to yourself. If you're actually happy the way you look then that is a rare gift in itself and I envy you. Stay healthy at least and you'll live happily ever after, just next time ask me about my hair or something. If you're like the majority of the rest of us then unfortunately it's probably going to take a major health scare or something similar for you to actually do something about it.
So this is for those people who are serious about getting healthy and getting in to shape. I'm proud of you for making this decision and all I'm going to do here is spill out 14 years of experience as best I can for you. I am not a nutritionist, not a personal trainer and not a life coach. I am an athlete with a biology degree and sometimes (yes only sometimes) I look like this:
No growth hormone.
No supplements? Yes really.
Here's a knowledge bomb for you. Real food, unprocessed whole foods or packaged foods that have less than 5 ingredients (those were the parameters I set for myself) are all you need. The only catch here is that you need a lot of free time to prepare and cook your meals and a hefty bank balance, organic food is expensive.
Those pictures were taken after several months of a very extreme organic, natural and anti-inflammatory diet. The kind of diet that supplements were invented for because it's so damn hard and expensive. Before I started that diet and again now, I do use supplements to help 'supplement' my diet. Let's be real people, the guy in that picture looked great, but he was miserable! I maintained that level of body fat for about two weeks. It affected my training, my work and my mood. Scaling that diet back a bit, allowing myself some treats and supplementing with a shake when I'm too busy or tired to prepare food and I have myself a great working diet. A diet that allows us in this business to stay in good shape all year round.
When I'm doing well on this eating plan I have more energy, reduced joint pain and a general feeling of well-being. Think about it. There are no chemicals getting into my body as it's all organic, no refined sugars or caffeine so real foods provide my energy and fuel and my skin clears up. Of course the protein shakes are full of chemicals & a lot contain sugar and all pre-workouts are packed with caffeine but I'll only use them when I really need to. It's balance.
So you want to get in shape? and you really mean it? OK here we go... But first, more about me ;)
I train between 5 & 7 times a week, two Olympic lifting sessions, three or more CrossFit sessions, wrestling training and occasionally gymnastics. I'll have several shows a week too and I also like to surf when I get a chance in my spare time. I do a great deal of exercise. This combined with a good diet consisting of whole, real natural foods gets me that shape.
Here's what I supplement with outside of my cutting diet:
Protein shakes: low to medium carbohydrate blend. I use these right after training if I know I'm not going to be able to eat within 20 mins. If I can eat I will not have the shake!
Creatine: Without getting too deep into the science of it, creatine allows us to work a little bit longer in an anaerobic (less than a couple of mins explosive exercise) capacity. For example, it will replenish your energy stores in your muscles to be able to push out a couple more reps squatting or on the bench. It's perfectly legal in all sports and you have to put the work in to reap the rewards. I will cycle on and off as the manufactures instructions dictate as it puts strain on your liver & kidneys. You have to drink a lot of water too. I use a blend of different types which require no loading phase.
Pre-workout: effectively a concoction of caffeine, sugars, legal stimulants and often a bit of creatine. It's awful, I don't like using them but sometimes I'd rather take a pre-workout so that I train and train hard than miss a session because I'm tired. Don't get me wrong, sometimes you need to skip that workout but you'll get to know when your body really needs the rest and when it's just faking it!
That's my lot. I have tried BCAA's in the past and I'm not sure I felt any benefit so I don't bother as it's an expense I could do without. I do use some health supplements too such as Vitamin D, Fish oils and a few other things but they're not related to physique.
I don't use any 'natural' testosterone boosters, no cutting or shredding supplements or any of the other thousands of supplements, pills or magic potions that are available. Unless you are a competitive body builder with a wealth of knowledge, stay clear of these.
So you know what I do, but what's right for you? This is the bit that you've been waiting for/dreading...
Without changing your training just yet, sort your diet out. Cut out all of the unnecessary supplements, in fact if you're not training hard 5 or more times a week then you don't need them anyway. If you can afford it go organic, cut out refined sugars (you're addicted to it, we all are and I never said this would be easy) cut out caffeine. Only eat whole, non processed foods the majority of the time. We all need a treat so occasionally (once a week or so, not once a day!) have something naughty but just know it will make the days following harder to stick to your program. Eventually you will want to try and cut these out for good. Prepare your meals in advance if you know you're going to be busy so you don't get caught out hungry. There are plenty of books and on line sources that can provide diet & meal plans within the parameters I have set.I can also provide this for you but it will be at a cost. This blog comes for free, after that I need to eat too!
Here's one I like: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/
Do this for at least two months (yes I know I just put up a link for 100 days). If you stick to it you will see results much greater than adding supplements into your current diet. Of course you will. you are changing everything you're putting into your body for the better.
Now lets see if you need to supplement?
How often are you training? if it's less than 3 times a week, no supplements for you. it's not worth your money and your not working hard enough to need them. Sort your diet out and you'll see results.
Up to 5 times a week of hard training and you can think about the supplements I mentioned earlier, only when you really need them and probably not creatine unless you are training for an athletic purpose rather than just to get into shape.
More than 5 times a week of hard training and I would say recovery shakes and creatine supplementation will help recovery between sessions and the occasional pre-workout to get you going on those tough days. Be aware of over training, listen to your body and rest when you need to. I'm sat here nursing a strained back mid way through a run of several shows on consecutive nights because I put in three squat sessions in a row for three days and an Olympic lifting session along with two CrossFit sessions. It was too much and now I'm struggling. Stay safe.
Did you get all that? Well it's here to come back to whenever you need and I'm sure I'll write other posts along similar themes soon. I didn't touch on methods of training or talk about actual foods within the diet so there's a lot more to learn. If you're serious then you'll go out and do it. I mentioned earlier that I can help with both diet and training plans but it will come at a cost. Message me on Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss and we can come up with a plan tailored to you that also fits your budget.
'Nothing in this life that's worth doing comes easy'
Dr. Kelso from Scrubs...