I wanted to tell a story of two very different clients of mine and how I’ve approached using nutrition and lifestyle changes to help them get closer to their goals. While we often talk in generalities on how to eat, the reality of the situation is that everyone is unique and needs tweaking to those basic principles to make progress… here are a couple examples.
Clients 1: The crossfitting, butt-kicking, weight losing husband and wife team
The first clients I’m going to talk about are the typical person that approaches me looking to lose weight. Audrey and her husband Mark had been working out at The Fort Crossfit for several years and had been trying to eat with a Paleo style emphasis. This approach worked well for a while with some impressive weight loss numbers, but they eventually hit a plateau as progress stalled. This is when she approached me about working together to help her break through the barrier and improve her health and body composition even further. While they were doing these pretty correctly for the most part, there were definitely some aspects of both nutrition and their lifestyle that needed to be modified.
One of the components of my program is a 28 day meal plan where I detail how I want people to eat for 3 meals plus a snack for every single day of a month. The meals follow some basic principles as it relates to balancing protein, carbs and fat but really the goal is to show people how to eat cleanly for 28 straight days.
While compliance with the program is been a challenge with many clients, Audrey and Mark were committed 110%. They followed the program as closely as any people that I’ve ever worked with and the results were really fantastic. While I generally couldn’t give two shits about the numbers on a scale, the results are worth talking about as Audrey dropped ~16 pounds over two months and Mark dropped about 10 lbs. More importantly, Audrey told me that she was constantly having people tell her that she looked fabulous (she does…) and her coach was thrilled by her progress in the gym. With results like these, they should both be getting compliments for quite a while.
I credit Audrey and Mark’s success to several factors.
1) They actually listened when I told them to get more sleep at night. Most people are unwilling to change their sleep patterns but they did and as a result, reduced stress levels which allowed for improved performance in the gym and more will-power to make the right decisions with nutrition.
2) Audrey and Mark really put a bunch of effort into figuring out how to make the meal plan fit into their lives. When they went to parties, they brought their own snacks and beverages. When it was their anniversary, they picked a place with incredible food that was also healthy. Little choices like this make all the difference in having prolonged success.
3) They stuck with the program for more than just 1 month. Many times people do great when they have someone (like me) holding them accountable, but derail when they are on their own because they have not yet made eating healthy a habit. By sticking with the program for multiple months, Audrey and Mark really did make eating healthy the new “normal.”
Eventually, I told Audrey and Mark that it was time to give things a try on their own. I can tell they are continuing to excel all on their own which is exactly my hope for all the people I work with.
Client two: The fit guy that needed to get bigger
I’ve known Kyle for many years now, back from when there was literally a single Crossfit facility in all of New Hampshire. Kyle has always been a skinny guy… seriously, check out this picture from before he really discovered Crossfit.
Kyle’s done a really nice job of improving many aspects of his health and fitness on his own. He’s always given 100% in the gym and his body responded by adding some muscle mass. Unfortunately, being well over 6 feet tall and weight 185 pounds is FAR from ideal when it comes to competing in the sport of fitness, which is Kyle’s personal goal. After working together for several months, it became QUITE clear that Kyle is what we call a “Hard-gainer.” No matter how much clean food he ate, he just could not manage to pack any real muscle mass on. It was time for some drastic measures. Here’s a picture of Kyle before we made some drastic changes… he’s weighing in at about 187 in the picture. Clearly cut, but way too light for a guy his height.
So what did we do to get him where he needed to be.
1) Dropped his workout volume by about 60%. What Kyle needed was not to beat his body senseless 5-6 days a week, but to work out hard and then REST. His body needed extra time to recover and GROW.
2) Spend time under tension. The best way to induce a growth signal is to spend a shitload of time under heavy weight. I had Kyle follow a slightly modified version of Dan John’s program called “Mass Made Simple” which calls for BIG workouts 2 days a week with nothing but rest on the other days. The basis of the program is built around enormous barbell complexes and huge squat sets (think sets of 25-50 reps) with moderate amounts of weight. Supplemented with some technique work on the olympic lifts and some extra unilateral work to correct for imbalances and you have a recipe for success.
3) While eating clean is very important for maximal health, that was not necessarily Kyle’s number one goal. He wanted to get significantly better at Crossfit and was willing to sacrifice some of his long term health to do so. With that in mind, I told Kyle to increase his carbohydrate intake significantly. With a gluten AND dairy sensitivity, this wasn’t easy but we figured a way to increase his carb intake by at least 100 grams a day through white rice… a pretty good fuel source in this case. Luckily this worked well and the mass started to be packed on quickly.
So what were the results? Well, after 8-10 weeks, Kyle was up to 205 lbs. While he lost a little of that leanness at the time, he also put on a ton of muscle mass. He’s since gone back to a regular crossfit style program with a strength emphasis and is down to 199-201 pounds and looks like this.
I think the most striking difference is in his shoulders and in his legs/glutes. He put on a ton of mass in these areas which has definitely come in handy as he’s PR’d his back squat, front squat, clean and jerk, and snatch all after the 8 week mass gain program. Oh, and he can still knockout 15 unbroken muscle ups and a sub 3 minute Fran…
Take home: Most people can make some really great changes to their health, nutrition and body composition by following basic principles around exercise and nutrition. That said, often times an individualized approach is necessary to optimally perform and reach your goals.