Can you possibly lose fat or even gain muscle while on vacation? Absolutely. It’s not easy of course. You are on vacation after all, so you probably want to indulge and eat and relax. Here are some tips to actually lose fat and/or gain muscle and STILL have a fun indulgent vacation.
Let’s say you are taking a one week or two week holiday. You can do a lot of damage to your body in 14 days of eating junk, drinking, and laying around the beach. Don’t let that be you! You can be the person who comes back from vacation not just well rested and rejuvenated but also in better shape! An important step is to plan ahead – waiting until you are on vacation is too late. So good for you for reading this article now.
These are notes partially to myself (I’m on vacation as I write this). And as with many of the approaches I take, I need to thank Tom Venuto and his Burn The Fat ebook.
1. Find A Gym – Chances are, there is a gym near your vacation spot. Search before you leave, find out if they have a power rack or squat rack. (Yes, you’ll still do the Big Seven as your primary lifts). Find one with day passes.
2. Time Your Workouts around the “indulgent” meal. You’ve heard me (and countless others) talk about how important it is to feed your muscle within that 1 to 2 hour block around your workout. You need protein and carbs to start the repair process. Many people advocate eating most of your calories for the day around this window (shake before, shake during, big meal afterwards). Well, if you are on vacation and you love big, crazy breakfasts, then workout in the morning before you indulge. If instead you are going to go hog-wild over dinner, then workout beforehand.
3. Count Calories – Calories do still count. There’s no magic here – if you eat more than your body uses then you will gain fat. I believe it’s more complicated than just counting calories (hormones play a huge role) but for some people, the logical process of counting calories let’s them eat crazy for a meal, then dial it back the rest of the day. Which brings me to… (more…)
I recently wrote about how most yogurt should be thought of as a carb, not a protein.
Well, would you believe the same holds true for so-called “protein bars”?
Most protein bars are really only about 30% protein! 50% is carbs and 20% is fat.
So that makes protein bars essentially “candy bars with some protein”.
Let’s look at some labels:
PowerBar ProteinPlus: 23g protein BUT 39g carb and 6g fat. Remembering that fat has 9 kcal/g and protein and carbs each have 4 kcal/g, that puts it at about 52% carbs, 30% protein, and 18% fat.
Detour “Low Sugar” Whey Protein Bar: 30g protein BUT 33g carb and 10g fat. That translates to 39% carb, 35% protein, and 26% fat. Note that this is the “low sugar” version which is still mostly carbs and only 1/3 protein.
I could go on and on but I’ll leave you by repeating the phrase I use with my kids: “Protein bars are fine as a treat, but think of them as candy bars with protein.”
If you want to plan for the worst, keep protein powder, a shaker bottle, and a bottled water in your car. That’s $5 – cheaper than 2″ candy bars with protein” and way better for you. (I’d suggest casein protein if you have the option.)
Two other things to watch for:
a) soy-based protein
b) “energy” bars, where protein is even lower – like 10%! The packages look the same but these are really just candy bars
Look, I’m a practical guy. There are times when you are “stranded” or totally rushed and can’t get real food. Or maybe on a long flight you get one to stow and eat after 3 hrs. For most of you, this is once or twice a year but even the busiest of you shouldn’t be eating these things more than once a month. How serious are you about your fitness? If you are, then you’ll plan ahead and never be caught having to resort to “candy bars with protein”.
The Two Keys For Eating To Gain Muscle While Simultaneously Shedding Fat
I’ve found two specific eating habits that are essential if you want to gain muscle and shed fat at the same time.
Before I share them, and conclude this series, let’s get some assumptions on the table:
- You are not fat now, but still want to get leaner
- You want to gain muscle AND lose fat at the same time
- You are willing to have each of those goals progress more slowly in combination than if you focused on only one at a time; but you still want good progress on both
- I assume you are using a decent lifting routine
- I assume you are eating healthy food, in a good mix of proteins, carbs, and fats; if you don’t know the basics, then refer to Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle or 3 Months To A New You.
Ok , so rather than tease you, I’ll state the two keys upfront:
a) Gradually increase your overall calories to a point far above what you think you should be eating
b) Use the zig-zag calorie method
Last week I shared a 5-step strategy about how to gradually increase your caloric intake.
Now let’s talk about that “zig-zag method”… (more…)
Why Skinny Guys Stay Skinny
This is Part 2 of a series on how to eat right to gain muscle. Click here for part 1. This article (part 2) has three sections
- one about why skinny guys stay skinny,
- another about how to get yourself to eat more, and
- the real secret to gaining muscle fastest from your diet.
Then next week I’ll share the advanced eating technique to actually gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, plus I’ll include a few sample menus!
The biggest mistake skinny guys make, when starting to lift, is not eating enough. Oh, they think they are eating enough. But they aren’t. They think they are in Case 5 above but really they are in Case 4 (see last post).
Look at a skinny guy who isn’t lifting. He’s currently skinny, right, so that means he’s not eating excess calories.
Now start him lifting on a decent muscle building program. Lifting heavy weights burns calories during the activity and also burns more after the activity. If he’s still eating the same amount as he was before, then he’ll actually lose mass!
This is compounded by the fact that the skinny guy isn’t happy about his muscle size, but he likes being able to see his abs. (Yeah, but you can see his ribs too!) So he absolutely doesn’t want to get fat. He just wants more muscle. As we’ll see, this constraint comes back to haunt him.
Of course he’ll have heard from his buddies that he needs to eat more. Plus, he’ll naturally be more hungry. So chances are he would increase how much he eats, right?
But most skinny guys only end up eating a little bit more. They eat enough to prevent muscle loss, but not enough to really grow muscles.
An Example Might Help
Let’s take an example of a skinny guy: 6 feet tall, 150 pounds, 10% bodyfat. So he’s not too skinny, he’s got a thin layer of muscle because he’s an active guy, but he’s now going to start lifting. His target is to get to 180 pounds and stay 10% bodyfat. (6 feet tall, 180 pounds, and 10% bodyfat looks really good at the beach.)
And let’s say he wants to get there within 1 year. That’s 30 pounds (27 pounds of muscle and 3 pounds of fat) in 12 months. Breaking this down, we get to an average of 0.5 pounds of muscle a week. That’s tough to do but not impossible for the skinny guy who’s never really lifted before. [And it won’t be linear – in the beginning, if he does things right, he’ll gain faster than he will towards the end.]
It’s pretty universally accepted that (more…)
I’m starting a series today on how you should eat in order to gain more muscle mass. This will be a 3-parter that I’ll finish throughout the month. Here’s the outline:
- Why your eating habits are more important than your lifting habits if you want to get bigger (naturally)
- Why skinny guys stay skinny – plus, the fastest way to gain muscle from your diet
- How to eat more to gain more muscle and actually lose fat at the same time – plus, I’ll also include some sample menus ( keep in mind that entire books are written on menus so I’m only offering some examples!)
Today let’s tackle the importance of eating habits compared to lifting habits. Next week we’ll dive into #2 and the week after that we’ll conclude with the third topic.
Why Eating Is More Important Than Lifting
You want to get bigger, huh? Join the crowd.
You might just be thinking “a little” bigger. Or maybe you are thinking “a lot bigger”. And maybe you just want bigger shoulders, or pecs, or glutes, or whatever.
The point is, we’re talking physique here and we all have different ideal images of what our target physique should be. If you are reading this, then chances are high that part of your desired physique means bigger muscles.
So weightlifting is the most important part of getting bigger muscles, right?
Now before you start writing me hate mail, I’m saying “most important”. That’s a relative term. Meaning, that of course lifting matters! If you want to get bigger muscles, instead of just a bigger gut, then you’ve gotta lift.
But I’m saying that a great eating plan with a mediocre lifting routine will do more for your physique than a great lifting routine and a mediocre eating plan.
(I’d like to write that previous sentence in all caps, but that would just annoy you, right?)
A Simple Example
Let’s walk through a very simplified analysis of 5 cases…
Muscles need stimulation, nutrients, and rest. That combination triggers growth. How much growth depends on the quality and quantity of the stimulation, nutrients, and rest.
No stimulation, no growth. Ditto for rest. And of course, no nutrients (food), no growth.
Since this article series is about how eating impacts muscle growth, let’s assume for now that you are on a pretty good lifting routine. It’s not the best, but it’s not the worst. (So, you can extrapolate from this and assume that results will be better/worse in relation to your lifting routine.)
Case 1: Let’s say you are doing your “adequate” lifting routine, but not eating at all. What would happen? Your body would go into starvation mode, burning muscle first, then fat, and then you’d die. Obviously, no muscle growth in this scenario.
Case 2: Now, instead of eating nothing, imagine you eat a small quantity of junk food. Let’s assume total calories are just enough to prevent starvation. But your muscles need protein (in the form of amino acids) to heal after you’ve stimulated them with your adequate workout. And so just junk food doesn’t give the muscles what they need to grow. Result: no muscle growth.
Case 3: (more…)
It’s almost too cliche to have fitness sites talking about abs and stomach fat as summer approaches, but then again, that’s important to most readers this time of year.
Have you heard of the difference between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat? Mike Geary has a great article this week on the topic. You can check it out:
After you read it, let me know what you think – do you want more articles from Mike?
Or do you have any specific questions related to this topic?
I had the chance to speak with a friend who lived for several years in Italy. Over the course of a long conversation, he mentioned that Italy had many beautiful women. I asked him what it was about the Italian women that made them so beautiful.
“Well, for one thing, they’re not nearly as fat as the women here.” He continued, “In America, if a person is fat, we can’t say anything about it. In Italy though, the Americans who lived there thought Italians were so rude. They would say ‘Hey, you are too fat. You really need to go to the gym. I know a good place to workout’… or ‘You really need to start watching what you eat.’”
Huh. Cultural differences are pretty interesting, aren’t they? Even our culture (for Americans at least) is helping to keep us fatter. Seriously, have you ever noticed that the word FAT is like the F-word in America? People react just as badly to this word as if you said something extremely vulgar to them.
In reality, I think the Italians were the nice ones. They had the heart to actually say what needed to be said. They were caring enough about the person to actually try to help them. How often do we actually do that?
Why is it that we can talk to a smoker and tell them that their bad habits are harmful for their health, but we can’t say the same about people who are in the habit of overeating and living a sedentary lifestyle? Does this make any sense at all?
It shouldn’t be that different. In fact, if you are overweight, I’m going to do you a big favor right now and tell you what you need to hear. You are too fat.
The good news is that you are already reading this, meaning that you are probably going to do something about it. Perhaps what we should all do is learn to break the honest truth to the people around us in a way that will motivate them to take action. Being honest with people can go a long ways to helping them change their habits. Here’s a quick example:
I knew a girl several years back who had very curly hair. She wore it in a big curly mass around her head every day. One day, I noticed she had straightened it, and it almost made her look like a totally different person. She looked much better.
Another month went by before I saw her wearing the straight hair again. She got a few compliments on her hair. She asked me if I liked it.
“Sure, it looks great. Your head doesn’t look so big now.”
Alright, I already know. I am a complete jerk. I realized it the very moment it came out of my mouth, but it was already too late. The damage was done, and I couldn’t undo it. There are a thousand other ways I could have complimented her hair in a more polite way, but that’s just how it came out.
As bad as I felt after being brutally honest to her, I noticed something. She never wore the giant mass of hair on her head again. Everywhere she went from that day on, she was more attractive. Within a month, she had a new boyfriend… something I’d heard she was working very hard at for quite a while.
Look, the point is not to be a jerk like I am, but to be honest with people in order to help them. If you can do it in a way that is not offensive, then it is best to be open and help people overcome their struggles. It’s time to start letting people know that they are fat and something needs to be done.
They need you to do it for them, because seriously, people aren’t able to be honest with themselves. People will rationalize and tell themselves that being overweight is genetic. Guess what, so is alcoholism. Should we avoid talking about it to alcoholics? Should we try to avoid offending alcoholics and smokers instead of helping them?
We have to help, because these people simply cannot do it for themselves. America is fat, so it has rationalized that being fat is ok. Think about it, smokers never go out and preach about how bad smoking is until after they quit.
The same is true about overeating. Everybody in America is doing it, so that pretty much means that none of us can really talk about it without having to worry about who we might offend. We all have to tip-toe around the fact that we are overweight.
If you’re like most people I’ve met, you are so ready to justify your own habits that you will call these views extreme. You’ll think I’m some sort of obsessive health freak, and from that point of view, it’s probably true. But before anybody decides that I’m crazy to compare overeating or junk food binging to smoking or alcoholism, consider a few facts:
- Eight out of ten people over 25 are overweight.
- Type II diabetes in adults 30-40 years old has increased 76% since 1990.
- 20% of all deaths in the United States were due to heart attacks in the year 2004.
Think about that for a moment. 20% of all deaths were due to heart attacks. Eating better and exercising really are just as urgent to your health as quitting smoking would be.
But, even still, people like us will be labeled as shallow for choosing not to date others who are overweight, overeating, and leading sedentary lifestyles. Are we really so shallow? Is it shallow to consider a person’s lifestyle choices when choosing a significant other?
I would argue that it is not. Choosing a person who wants to live a healthy, clean life is not shallow in the least bit. Live your life that way, and be honest enough with others to help them do the same… even brutally honest if necessary.
Laziness is how we get fat. Denial is how we stay that way.