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Metabolic Coaches Corner

Ditch the Barbell

By | Metabolic Coaches Corner

“Strength is Strength

Ditch The Barbell

Let me first start by saying, were it not for the barbell, I would not be where I am today.

Much like a high school romance, it provided me with my first experience in the fitness world. I fell in love hard, and I fell in love fast. Seemingly every single week, my bench press improved, my squat went up, and my confidence soared like never before. I will be forever thankful for these “newbie gains”, provided primarily by the barbell. 

You see, I was never one of those guys that was naturally very strong. In fact, the entire reason I touched a barbell to begin with was out of embarrassment. 

In 1998, when I was 18 years old, I was pinned by 115 pounds on the bench press as a senior in high school. Stapled. Trust me, it was bad. Embarrassed, I vowed to never let that happen again, and a month or 2 later, it didn’t. I then set a goal of bench pressing 135 for 3 sets of 10 by the end of the summer entering my freshman year of college, and I did that too. The barbell taught me that with hard work and consistency, I could achieve something if I set my mind to it, and that lesson is one I am eternally grateful for. 

So why the title of this article? What gives? Well, sadly, like a high school romance, what started out strong, eventually faded away as I became introduced to new training tools that were more versatile, more practical, and more fitting for my long term goals. Eventually, I came to the place where I am at today, where I have not touched a barbell in over a year, and have no plans to in the immediate future. My intention of this piece is not to dissuade you from using the barbell if that is what you love; I am a very firm believer that, when it comes to fitness, you need to do what you enjoy. 

However, if you can relate to this article by the end, and finding yourself nodding in agreement, I am here to give you permission to ditch the barbell, and embrace a means of building your body, enhancing your strength, and optimizing your fitness journey through practices that you find enjoyable and sustainable.

Emphasis on linear strength.

As the years went by, I genuinely thought the barbell had no limitations, as long as I ate enough protein, took some creatine, and stayed consistent. And for a time, this was true. 

As I entered my early 20s, I hit 225 on the bench press, and then 250. By 29, I bench pressed 315 lbs, a seemingly impossible concept for a “skinny fat” 155 pound 18 year old that could not bench 115. But these gains came at a price (more on that later). Was I “strong” for my genetic limitations? I would like to think so. When I bench pressed 315, I weighed 190 pounds. To put that in perspective, I am a smaller framed individual. I walk around these days between 160-175 pounds, depending on my motivation to do a cycle of macros, or if you catch me on a Monday after football Sunday. 

My point is, I was carrying a higher body fat percentage, was not in great cardiovascular shape, and in terms of what I was doing to my inside, from a gut health perspective? Well, on a diet averaging about 4000 calories per day, trust me, it was nothing good.

Nonetheless, it was all done with the intention of adding weight to the bar. And then a funny thing happened….the results stopped. I stalled. What I thought to be a “linear” process, was clearly not so. If I put time and consistency in, it would not automatically yield strength improvements. There clearly was a genetic limitation to strength gains, as much as I did not want to accept that. 

If I had eaten more, tried some unique program, and altered my lifestyle to completely prioritize my improvement in the bench press, squat, and deadlift, would I have seen some fractional results? Maybe. 

But I just was not willing to do that. I felt unfulfilled. I felt trapped, bored, and frankly, out of shape. Everytime I tried to shed body fat, my barbell lifts decreased, and it would drive me crazy. I would immediately eat more to have more “bulk” so I could get them back up, and round and round the hamster wheel I went.

Ego

If you ask 10 people in fitness what strength is, you will likely get 10 different answers. To the layman, it simply means the ability to successfully “lift weight” from Point A to Point B. My issue with this definition, is that there are many, many factors involved: technique (years of skill acquisition), leverages (if you are “thicker than a Snicker” on the bench press, you will move more weight because you have less distance to press the bar, and more stability on the bench), and outside physics (is the individual utilizing movementum, inertia, and gravity to move the weight rather than the central nervous system efficiently signaling the skeletal muscular system to produce force). 

Strength is simply put, the ability to produce force. There is a vast difference between “displaying” strength through lifting a barbell, and optimally developing strength through sound, honest scientific principles. 

Strength can absolutely be developed without a barbell. To think otherwise is just plain silly. 

Are gymnasts strong? Do mechanics have strong forearms? I have yet to meet someone who bails hay all day that isn’t “country strong”. Many, many practitioners of High Intensity Training develop incredible levels of physical strength through the exclusive use of machines. And yet, as a fitness community, why do we continue to place such an emphasis on the barbell?

Although the barbell itself is not a tool that is inherently flawed when it comes to developing strength, in my experience, it is almost impossible to get someone to not “ego lift” on the big lifts (squat, bench, deadlift) by compromising proper form and technique in order to “lift” the resistance, especially if this individual has years of bad habits under his/her belt. 

Why try to reshape old habits when you can simply create new ones?

Limitations

The barbell possesses a number of other limitations. It can be limiting when it comes to adjusting the implement to consider different body structures and injury histories. In order to build muscle as a newer trainee, simply adding load to the bar over time is enough. However, as one ages, approaching muscular fatigue, and even taking sets beyond there through multiple bouts of effort with little rest, drop sets, or other intensity techniques is often quite necessary. 

Not only is the barbell not optimal for this type of training, it can be quite dangerous. When doing an intense set of bench press or squats with a barbell, what happens when muscular fatigue hits, and you are in the bottom position…what is your safe exit strategy? 

Can it be done safely? I supposed, but so can wearing a New York Jets jersey to a Buffalo Bills game…why take the chance?

One may respond that they do not take barbell movements close to fatigue, and once again, therein lies a major limitation for the busy working man or woman who is short on time, and wants a safe, effective, intense workout that leads them to a stronger, healthier, more fit body.

A Better Way

Learning how to optimally recruit muscle fibers through the use of basic movements, consisting of predominantly bodyweight exercises should be the first introduction one has to any strength training program. By mastering the fundamental movement patterns of Squatting (Squat variations), Pushing (Pushup variations), Pulling (Rows, chins), Hinging (swings, Romanian Deadlifts), and Lunging (you guessed it, all Lunge variations), one will engrain the necessary motor patterns, technique, and mind muscle connection to properly develop a balanced, strong physique. 

Once an individual has shown proficiency in bodyweight exercises, adding in implements like dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, suspension trainers (TRX straps), and resistance bands can make all the difference in continuing to provide a stimulus for progressive overload. In addition, while one should never chase entertainment in a workout, these tools can also provide a tremendous amount of mental stimulation if they have never been used before.

Practicality

A strength training program is only as useful as it is practical. Think about that. Think about what we just went through in this country, with shutdowns occurring for at first days, then weeks, then months. Unless you have a full power rack complete with weight plates in your basement, if your only association with “getting stronger” was through the use of a barbell, you probably would have done what so many people did, and stop training altogether, say “screw it”, and pack on the “Covid 15”.

To think that the only way to get stronger is through the use of a barbell is preposterous. Your program needs to be portable, and by treating your body as your own traveling barbell, and learning how to optimize it, you can literally take your workout ANYWHERE. 

Think about that. Think about how empowering that is, how freeing it is to know that anywhere, at any time, there is plenty you can do to get stronger and build muscle. While you cannot realistically lug a barbell on vacation, or on a business trip, you can certainly stow away some bands and/or a suspension trainer and get a phenomenal workout in the confines of your hotel room, or better yet, a beach. A barbell will never provide you that luxury.

Leverages

First of all, let me preface this with saying that ALL strength training movements rely on leverages; to imply that they don’t is simply denying the fundamental principles of physics. Barbell lifts tend to place the execution of the lift on making the “lift” easier to complete. 

Examples of this would be widening the stance on the Squat. Arching the back excessively on the Bench Press. Putting on as much mass as possible (much of it in the form of body fat) to provide a more stable “base” for the power lifts, and to do what they aforementioned techniques do: reduce the Range of Motion. 

While this will lead to impressive “numbers” (and egos), what does widening the feet in the Squat, while shortening the ROM actually do to the strength developed in the hips, glutes, and quads? Or on the Bench Press, what does arching the back do to increase the pec activation (and subsequently, strength development)…or does it simply provide a super short ROM to “achieve a feat” of strength?

What about taller people, who cannot get into the proper positions to use a full ROM? How does a barbell help them here? What about when the load needed to induce strength gains exceeds the capacity of the connective tissue to handle it, and pain ensues in the knees, shoulders, elbows, and/or hips?

While all of these issues are admittedly problematic, they are exacerbated with barbells for one reason: a culture of “how much” rather than “how”.

Muscle Building

Personally, I have built far more muscle without barbells, than with them. I have found that abandoning the barbell, allowed me to, once and for all, place the focus on the “muscle” and not the movement. An example of this would be performing Pushups off of TRX Straps over a Bench Press with a barbell. Here I can “squeeze” my pecs, control the eccentric, and really overload the muscle fibers I intend to, because I am not super busy worrying about how much I am lifting. 

On lifts where I want to simply focus on progressive overload, I have additionally found safer options of doing so where, at the age of 40, I feel far more comfortable and confident in properly executing. An example of this would be Dumbbell Front Squats over Squats with a barbell.

When using a barbell, on open chain movements like the Bench press or Row, your hand placement is fixed, meaning you cannot move your hands DURING the movement to enhance activation as you can through the use of TRX straps, bands, and dumbbells. Being able to adjust your hands in space is often critically important for those with atypical anthropomorphic structures (long limbs, short torsos) to “feel the movements” where the need to feel them.

Strength is Strength

In closing, the takeaway here is not the the barbell is Satan’s metal, never to be touched, looked at, or used again. Ok, you got me, maybe the title was a little “click-baity”. However, the takeaway is “strength is strength.” 

The ability to develop muscular force can be enhanced over time through consistent, intense, effective strength training sessions using a myriad of different pieces of equipment. If you are bored of your training, always getting nicked up, have trouble “feeling” many barbell exercises where you are supposed to, or even have stalled on getting stronger, I am here to give you hope: there IS another way. The mental freedom you will get from no longer having to stack plates on a bar in order to build muscle and gain strength is extremely invigorating, and I can assure you that your “flame” for training will be sparked once more, and you experience a new wave of muscle gains and strength milestones that will transcend itself into the ultimate torch for the remainder of your fitness journey. The coolest part? That torch never burns out.

In Defense of Burpees

By | Metabolic Coaches Corner

"We are training for life. 'Perfect is the enemy of good.'"

Matt PhelpsMetabolic Fitness

The Burpee. A squat. A pushup. A jump. Seems pretty simple, right? This classic movement provides the Metabolic Trifecta of heart pounding, lactic acid producing, lung burning euphoria that no single human being on the planet is immune to, and yet it is often bastardized…a Metabolic whipping boy for poor exercise selection for most people. 

In the fitness world, some coaches love to prescribe them, as they are unparalleled in intensity. While I will concede that sprinting and running up hills are always great options, these aren’t always viable choices for people, depending on living situation and time availability. With these options you also have the “luxury” of scaling back intensity, while with burpees it is pretty damn hard to do that, given the dynamic nature of the movement. 

Other coaches swear that by doing them, you will destroy your knees, hurt your back, and have wrists so damaged that you won’t be able to turn a door knob for the rest of your life. 

Is this true? 

Well, I am here to tell you that it isn’t, and any coach that has spent any time doing burpees will tell you the same. I have coached THOUSANDS of clients, and I have NEVER seen someone hurt themselves doing a burpee….like EVER. 

Also, when did we just throw out form when discussing the burpee? Isn’t safety an inherent concern when discussing ANY exercise? 

The Proper Burpee

Done properly, the Burpee is a potent movement that combines lower body power, upper body strength, and emphasizes hip mobility. In the following video, you will notice the following points of emphasis:

  • -Hands are flat on the floor, fingers facing “North”.
  • -The initial descent is NOT a hinge, but rather, a squat.
  • -The chest is “proud” but does not need to be “vertical.” Some forward lean is acceptable.
  • -The feet shoot back, do not allow them to be “loud” as they
    hit the floor. Soft landings are far kinder to the joints.
  • -Proper pushup mechanics come into play here, the upper arm should be at 45 degrees, head slightly in front. Drop to the knees when necessary to obtain proper ROM.
  • -Pushup FORCEFULLY, so that you can bring your feet along with you if possible. If upper body strength is an issue, simply break the pushup and the feet coming back up into two distinct movements.
  • -As the feet come back up, land softly, with the feet as wide as possible to prepare for positioning yourself to drop your hips, and keep a neutral spine. This position should closely mirror the position you were in on the descent.
  • -EXPLODE back to the top, using your arms, and raising them all the way to the ceiling, as though you are taking a vertical jump test.
  • -Fluidly land softly, evenly distributing your weight across the entire foot, while descending into the next repetition if possible.

An Exercise like None Other

I think what makes the Burpee so unique is that it literally is the ultimate full body cardiovascular conditioning tool, which inherently places a HUGE demand on the body. Whenever you combine an exercise that emphasizes power, requires strength, and is limited by mobility, you are going to have one hell of a cocktail. I like to think of it like “jungle juice” at a college party. It has a little bit of everything, somehow it all works together, and it can be very easy to “overdo it”, so watch it.

For this reason, for those coaches out there that emphasize breaking apart the burpee into “pushups and squats” or suggest “riding the assault bike” or “pushing a sled”, I think they are really missing the point. With Burpees, we have an exercise that taxed the ENTIRE body, and does not require ANY equipment. There are thousands of “case studies‘ on any inner city playground of men and women that have gotten into GREAT shape utilizing calisthenics only training, and nearly all of them perform Burpees.

If you go slower on Burpee, you are “punished’ because the movement will not be as fluid, and will take longer to perform. On the other side of the sword, your heart rate will likely be more elevated, because of the emphasis on rate of force development that you had to display. This is what I love about the Burpee as a conditioning tool…you cannot “outsmart” it.

When it comes to your training, the “fountain of youth” is keeping your strength, prioritizing your power development, and enhancing mobility. Anytime we can get all 3 of those at the same time, this is like finding the Holy Grail. The older we get, the more training efficiency becomes a priority, and movements like the Burpee certainly provide an excellent amount of “bang for your buck.”

For those of you out there who claim that the power development is not as “optimal” as hooking yourself up to a fancy piece of equipment that tells you how high you are jumping, how fast you are moving, and how much rest you need before you can go again, well, we are not training for the Olympics here. 

We are training for life. “Perfect is the enemy of good”. 

Many folks do not have access to any such equipment, but simply training with PURPOSE and INTENT on the concentrics of their pushups and jumps can make a significant difference. Remember, when performing burpees, we are sampling the buffett, we are not ordering the filet, and sometimes a little bit of everything leads to more satisfaction than an over assessment on one physical attribute that, in the great scheme of things, does not need to be optimal for an increase in the quality of life for most of you reading this.

Who should NOT do burpees?

While I hate bastardizing an entire movement becauseI think everyone can do some form of a Burpee, I do think precaution needs to be taken by those who have severe mobility restrictions, are new to working out, lack the strength to do a pushup from the knees, or are pregnant. In these instances, a very quick remedy is to simply do them off a box or raised surface that is 6”-24” in height, depending on the ability level of the person.

Burpees are an extraordinary tool to add to the toolbox of Gainz, and while there are some populations that should adjust the Burpee to best suit their needs, for the most part the fear mongering and trepidation that exists in the fitness community is not warranted, and if Burpees get you moving, then by all means, have at it!

Variety

By | Metabolic Coaches Corner

Exercise Variety: It’s like Pizza

You like pizza, right? 

I mean, who doesn’t?! 

Pepperoni, Mushroom, Cheese…whatever your favorite pie is, odds are you like to routinely order that, and odds are, I would be willing to bet you order it from the same location each and every time.

Why is that? If pizza is good, then surely you would be willing to mix it up, and try different places and every week…right? In my household, and if you are being honest, most likely yours as well, that statement is incorrect. We rarely mix it up, sticking to the same pizza place to get our pizza fix for 2 simple reasons: we know what we are getting, and it works (pizza cravings no more). 

Every now and again we will mix it up, and each and every time the brief hiatus from our beloved favorite place only serves to make us appreciate it that much more.

If we are not in favor of arbitrarily mixing up where we get our pizza, then why, oh why, is there a need to mix up your exercise selection in your strength training? Silly as it may seem, let’s ask ourselves the pizza questions: Do you know what the exercise will do for you? Does the exercise produce effective results?

For whatever reason, even if an exercise is extremely reliable in its effectiveness in targeting a specific muscle group, and can deliver amazing results in strength and size, a lot of people (mainly new trainees or folks with exercise ADD) need exercises to be constantly varied in order to stay compliant.

I think this is a huge mistake. This often leads to frustration at lack of progress, and sets an unfounded expectation that variety is “needed” to progress, when ironically, constant variety almost always leads to no progress at all.

If you want to train for a LONG time, and get AMAZING results, please pay close attention to why constantly varying exercises is the biggest mistake you can make in your training career.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If something works incredibly well for YOU, given your body type, injury history, etc….then why on earth would you change it “just because.” If you are truly stalling on a movement, or are experiencing some joint discomfort, taking a small break from the exercise of choice is always a great idea, but you should always return to it. PR’s almost inevitably follow this scenario.

The Mechanic.
Next time you are in an auto shop (hopefully not anytime soon), look at the mechanics’ forearms. They are generally enormous. Twisting a wrench, repeatedly, all day. They do not “vary” the forearm training they do, nor do they even think about it. There is an effective movement being repeatedly performed over time. Shockingly, what emerges are big, strong forearms. One of my favorite phrases in LIFE is “consistency is king”. Show up, do the right thing, and do it a LOT. Good things will follow.

Practice leads to proficiency.
The late martial arts expert Bruce Lee (millennial’s may need to Google him) has a great quote: ”I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
How are you supposed to optimize a movement, to really FEEL it in the right places, to apply progressive overload, if you can’t even perform it properly every single time you train? I say this because, in my 22 years of training, if I have learned one thing, it takes a LONG time to really obtain a true level of mastery with a movement….and that is when things just start getting fun.

Your workout shouldn’t entertain you.
Learn to be “entertained” by the results you get, not the constant variety that each workout brings. Sure, we can vary tempo, sets, reps, range of motion, etc, and I suppose that could be somewhat entertaining, but do not make the mistake of varying an exercise that may work very well for you, simply because you are bored.

You know what is really boring to me? Looking the same, not getting stronger, and spinning my wheels. That is why I like to focus on movements that work well for me, and applying various intensity techniques and progressive overload to those movements.

What is your “why”?
Why do you order pizza?
Because you are hungry and it tastes good as hell!
Why do you strength train?
Because you want to get stronger and because, done properly, it works!
We know this is true with your favorite pizza place. We also know this is true with basic exercises that work well for your body type. But what about the pizza place that got raided by the health department for using bad cheese?
Or what about the exercise that you saw on Instagram that turned out to be pretty ineffective? While I will agree, a wasted cheat meal is generally FAR worse than a wasted workout, the point is valid.
When it comes to training, your WHY has to be the dominant force that drives you to go to the gym each and every day that you choose to train. Being a stronger human. Being a healthier person, both physically and mentally. Those are reasons that, when brought to the forefront, can allow one to embrace the intrinsic beauty of human movement, and the innate challenges that mastery seemingly simplistic motor patterns can provide.

So there you have it, training IS just like pizza. Now before you order that next pie, get out there and get a few quality sessions in with the most basic movements that work for YOU!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pike Push-Up | Metabolic Fitness

By | Metabolic Coaches Corner

THE PIKE PUSH UP

I’ve always been amazed at gymnasts, and their ability to manipulate and control their body whilst flying through the air, or hanging from rings, or balancing on a set of parallel bars. Often, we automatically go for a question like  “well, how much do you bench?” to gauge someone’s strength, and while I imagine some of these gymnasts can push an impressive amount of weight on the barbell, the strength of being able to lift and move your own body in whichever way you please is equally if not more impressive in my eyes.

We tend to get concerned or caught up with utilizing a physical, tangible weight to measure our strength, “i squatted X” , “I curled Y”. But why doesn’t the thought of lifting our own body weight in a particular manner come to mind as a relative-strength benchmark?

A body-weight strength exercise that we often throw into our push days is called the “Pike Push-up”. This is a phenomenal exercise as a stand alone strength movement, or as a sort of finisher on shoulder day if you’re looking to torch your delts, triceps, and and upper traps for a few failure sets.

 

EXECUTION 

The movement begins by placing your hands on the floor, roughly outside shoulder width, and fingers facing straight ahead. From there, your goal is to turn your body into an upside-down letter V, or a Pike position. In order to do so, your arms must be fully extended directly overhead, there must be no bend at the knee, and you must achieve approximately 90degrees of hip flexion. As you bring your feet in towards your hands, lifting your rear end to the ceiling, you’ll want to put as much of your weight into your hands as possible from this position. To do that, you will be pivoting on the balls of your feet as you work through the complete range of motion. A few factors that may be limiting for some of you are hamstring and lower back mobility. Tightness in either of these areas will make it necessary to widen the distance between your feet to allow your knees to fully lock out. 

Starting at the top of the movement with arms fully extended, as you begin to bend your elbows, you will look to keep them roughly in profile with your body while keeping your shoulders pulled back. Maintaining a neutral neck position, and thoracic spine extension, continue to let your elbows bend as you control the top of your head to the floor, in doing so, rocking further onto your toes to help ensure a smooth decent and proper weight distribution.

Upon your head lightly making contact with the floor, you will push through the heel and outer edge of your hand, driving yourself up and away from the floor as you rock back to the balls of your feet, while you maintain pike position, demonstrating thoracic extension and straight legs.

 

REGRESSIONS/PROGRESSIONS/VIDEOS

The movement as explained above does require a good deal of shoulder strength and mobility of the shoulders, upper back, and hamstrings and so as with most exercises, you may need to begin with a regressed variation.

Video: Wide Stance 

If the mobility of your hamstrings is the primary issue with successfully completing the exercise, a wider stance will help you to get your legs fully extended and keep the weight distributed into the hands/arms/shoulders as it should be.

Video: Box Regression 

If you have a short box, stool, or chair available, a kneeling approach on the box can get you into the same upside down position which eliminates tight hamstrings from being a factor just as well.

Video: Box Progression 

If you are able to complete a set of 10-12 unbroken reps of the standard variation, the next progression would be to elevate your feet, while still maintaining the pike position. Elevating your feet will add more weight to your press, as a greater amount of your body is above your hands. The box also helps to get you into an even greater vertical position, which makes you work more directly against gravity.

Video: Strict Handstand Push up 

One goal of all this shoulder training is to achieve the highly coveted STRICT Handstand Push up. This should only be performed if you are able to do a set of 10-12 reps with feet elevated on a box. Utilizing a wall for balance, place your hands roughly 10in off the wall, and kick yourself up to the top. It is obviously very important to be in control of the lowering or eccentric component of this variation as you are at greater risk of a potential neck injury if you cannot control your descent.

Conclusion

It is important to constantly challenge your muscles in new ways, so that we are hitting every muscle fiber from every possible angle, and keeping our Central Nervous System on its toes to truly maximize our results and be efficient with our time and effort. Movements like the pike pushup are great to have in your arsenal because they require no additional equipment, and can be scaled various ways, giving you the potential to complete mechanical drop sets to light up your shoulders and triceps. The ability to manipulate, lift, and control your body in any shape or form is an underrated strength. What good is being able to lift weights, when you cannot manage to lift and control your body? Open your eyes to a world of body weight strength training, and you will be amazed at the fundamental strength you can build.

Macro Frustration: 5 Tips for Improving Weight Loss

By | Metabolic Coaches Corner
Frustrated along your weight loss journey? 

Here are my top 5 tips to get the ball rolling again!

We have all been there. Saturday morning comes, and you know what that means….WEIGH IN DAY! You feel confident you will see a nice drop on the scale, take a deep breath and step on. “What in the….no way…this couldn’t be possible” you say to yourself, as your heart rate elevates and you feel your face flush as panic sets in. You move the scale around on the tile slightly…”sometimes that works” you say to yourself. Stepping back on, the SAME number pops up, hitting you like a right hook from Mike Tyson. Discouraged, defeated, and frustrated, you say to yourself, “I just don’t get it, I did EVERYTHING right”, and I still didn’t drop. Sound familiar? Aside from the fact that the scale is just one metric, and you shouldn’t focus exclusively on that number, before you get too frustrated, let’s take a step back, and see if you are falling victim to one of these pitfalls.

Munching/Logging Amnesia

As the father of a 3 year old, I can completely understand the temptation to polish off a “few” uneaten teddy grahams, chicken nuggets, or those amazing smiley face french fries. However, even if you don’t ENTER every morself that goes into your body into MFP, your body sure does, and it WILL be reflected in your results. Do you ever grab a “small” handful of nuts (they are “healthy after all”), a piece of chocolate, or one of those 100 calorie frozen yogurt bars when you are hungry, but don’t log it? If you are saying to yourself right now “Well, it was only TWICE”, or “I was listening to my body”, when it comes to fat loss, “it is what it is”. Log those munchies, and remember, several “small” unlogged indulgences can really add up over time. 

Too much eyeballing (especially fats)

I will freely admit that the goal of ANY individual out there should be to be able to get away from the food scale, and not have to weigh apple cores, peanut butter, chicken, or cucumbers. There are 2 populations of people that should weigh every last ounce: those first starting out (after all, this is how you learn), or those who are feeling “stuck”. If you are feeling stuck, spend a week weighing everything again to hold yourself accountable and stay honest. In my experience, if you just did this with fats ALONE, you would see a big difference.

Why fats?

The margin for error with “guessing” on strawberries is much larger than it is more peanut butter. If your estimated serving size for strawberries is 200g instead of 100g we are talking about 30 calories here. If your estimated serving size of peanut butter is 38g instead of 16g, you are at a 200 calorie surplus. Much more problematic. Reel in the portion sizes of nuts, nut butters, avocado, oils, etc to really help keep those calories in check, and get those results coming once more. 

Not logging oil for meals out or just plain not logging oil.

Let’s face it, meals out taste better, and yes, while food prepared by someone else ALWAYS tastes better, meals out generally taste good, because, well, they are lathered in lots of cooking oil. Does that boneless, skinless chicken breast eaten out taste AMAZING? Does it come with a side of spinach that seems to have a “gloss” to it? Odds are the meal was prepared in oil, butter, or in some cases, both. Restaurants do not care what the macros of your meal contains, they want it to taste AMAZING, so the meals tend to be loaded more heavily with fats and salts. When I go out to eat, I always log one tablespoon of olive oil, and even an extra pad or two of butter if I sense the veggies have been prepared this way as well. Whether or not you count the oil that the food was prepared in, the bottom line is your body does count it, so “it is what it is.” You absolutely CAN go out to eat while tracking your macros, but if you are going to do so, you are best served to log your oil beforehand, and log the meal FIRST so you can work backwards. If you cook at home beforehand, you NEED to log all of the oil and butter that you prepare your food with. Cooking in bulk? No problem. Just divide the TOTAL amount of oil by the total amount of food (i.e. 2 tablespoons of Oil used for 2 pounds of chicken), and log the amount of food you eat proportionally. 

Too much Gum and Breath Mints

This is a sneaky one.

Admittedly, even the most well-intentioned macro tracker can fall victim to having too many pieces of gum or breath mints. I always tell my clients, “whatever you were doing before, keep doing that and don’t log it.” This makes sense when you stop to think about it.  If you were having 4 pieces of gum per day, and continue to do so after you start tracking your macros, any changes I make to your numbers will be valid, as the gum is a “constant” variable. But what happens if you start popping breath mints like they are candy because they are, well…candy? The package may say they have between 0-5 calories, but remember, the FDA is allowed a variance of up to 20% in either direction. Pop 15 of these bad boys, and you could be adding 100-150 calories per day, that you didn’t even know about. 

Honest reflection on compliance

Look at a calendar for the last 2 weeks. I want you to place a “Green Check” next to all of the days that you were COMPLETELY compliant. Next, place a “Red x” next to all of the days that you were not. When it comes to fat loss, you need a MINIMUM of 6/7 days compliance, or about 85%. Anything less, in my experience, will not get the job done. It is all too easy to remember the days you grinded through, put in a great day, and got it done, but what about the ones that you didn’t? I know, the truth hurts sometimes, but if we face it, if we own it, and we try to improve upon it, we are taking a MAJOR step towards our evolution. 

So there you have it. Feeling frustrated that the scale isn’t moving, or the tape measurer won’t shrink just a quarter of an inch? I get it, we have all been there. But remember, you have to EARN the right to be frustrated, if you take a moment to stop, reflect, and ponder these 5 points, I am willing to be that there is SOMETHING you can improve upon to help get progress rolling again!

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