Monthly Archives: September 2017

We’ve gotta stop starving our athletes

I’ve wanted to write this post for the longest time.  Life has been busy as hell, but with more and more people coming to me drastically under-eating, I’ve just about had enough  (I’m fired up in case you can’t tell)

Case study number 1– Bri Siegert

Bri came to me in the middle of June just asking for a macro plan to run on her own. She is a pretty damn high level crossfit athlete and trains like it with a routine of 6 days a week with 3-5 hours a day of work.  Thats a TON of volume.  So how much was she eating… well another company had given her 1356 calories  a day with a 104P/40F/145C split.  At that point, I basically said “No F-ing way are you doing this on your own, we’re gonna work together to fix this.”

So what are some of the effects of telling someone they can only eat 1356 calories a day on that training plan?

  • Fear of food groups–  “I did have fears of certain food groups. I KNEW I needed to eat more carbs, but doing Crossfit for the past couple of years paleo was engraved in my mind so I quit counting macros and was focusing more on quality of food for a long time. Following a very “whole 30” approach. It also stems back to my days in dance when all of my girl friends on my dance team would go on “diets” where we basically had a protein shake for breakfast, salad for lunch, and chicken and broccoli for dinner.”

LOOK, the Paleo approach is GREAT for a ton of people out there, including most of the clients that walk through your gyms doors.  It focuses on primarily eating a ton of veggies, fruits, meats, nuts and seeds. Fantastic… but not if you’re training for 4 hours a day.

  • Exhaustion- “Looking back on how I actually FELT at the time of eating this way , I was so dazed all the time. I felt so under recovered between workouts and after. I was over supplementing caffeine everyday to make up for it and then my sleep was affected BIG TIME. Most nights I averaged about 5.5-6 hours/night and would wake multiple times per night.”
  • Adrenal issues– Some of the most surefire signs that the adrenals are in trouble were obvious in this case.  Bri was getting dizzy throughout the day, some blurriness in her vision for no reason, mixing up words, and as she mentioned above, waking up multiple times through the night.  If you want to read more into this topic, check out Dr. Bryan Walsh, he really know his stuff WAY beyond most people in this field.

So what did we do?  First thing was I asked Bri to SIGNIFICANTLY bump all three of her macros up to a much more sustainable level.  From there, I just waited to see how she responded.  Over the next 3 months, Bri was getting hungrier and hungrier despite the fact that I was giving her more and more food.  At this point we’re up to about 1000 calories above where she was before (~25P/25F/50C split) and we’re not done yet.  She doesn’t feat the food anymore, and I’m not afraid to keep adding to her diet either.

I told her that those 5-6 hours a night of sleep were things of the past and that we needed to just ATTEMPT more sleep even if we were tossing and turning.  She might have hated me at first, but I also told her I needed a 2 minute cold shower before bed every night as well.  This is BY FAR the most effective sleep “supplement” that I know of and its totally free.  You just gotta want to sleep more than you don’t want to feel cold water.

We added some supplements to her routine as well, mostly focused around adrenal health, but moreso through modifying the immune system than cranking on the adrenals themselves.

The results:

  • Bri’s down about 6 lbs unintentionally.  It wasn’t the goal, but it happened despite adding nearly 1000 calories a day.  Her gymnastics ain’t mad 🙂
  • Too many PRs to mention here so lets focus on the quality of her workouts instead, “In the gym: We do multiple sessions per day and I now bounce back and am ready to go for round two within the hour. My metcon times and gymnastics have gotten way better and my strength has not gone down even though I am several pounds lighter.”

    Bri and her partner on top of the podium at a local competition. She should probably get used to standing on podiums 🙂
  • Life outside of the gym: “I now average 7-8 hours of sleep now and I usually sleep the ENTIRE night. I know! Crazy, right? I only have 1 cup of joe a day, but only because I love it, not because I need it.  My hunger is back to normal and I don’t crave any sweets anymore aside from the occasional chocolate chip cookie that my roommates bring home because they are my favorite and I deserve it. 😉 I am a lot more energetic throughout the day which I definitely need considering what my job is and the fact that I like to purposely make myself suffer through grueling workouts everyday.
  • The adrenal issue symptoms are now a thing of the past.  She hasn’t had a dizzy spell in almost a month, the blurred vision and word confusion issues are gone and as she said, she’s sleeping through the night.
  • Body composition: The picture speaks for itself.  Again… ONE THOUSAND MORE CALORIES A DAY.

I’m so damn happy that Bri got herself headed in the right direction.  She’s an INCREDIBLE person, one of the nicest people I’ve met in a long time.  Fun personal story: At the Games, I was running around a bit like crazy and hungry almost all of the time.  Bri legitimately went out of her way to go get me some insane Maple Bacon donut AND brought it to me inside the Coliseum.  Who’s that nice?!?!? Well, she is…

Case study number 2– Casey Mendrala

So I actually met Casey at one of my seminars this summer, and after talking with her, it was obvious that she needed some help.  Casey is also an active Crossfit competitor but on top of that she is competitive in endurance races such as Iron Man’s, etc.  She trains multiple times a day for several hours per session, at least one of those being a fairly substantial endurance effort.  Lets jump right into some details about what Casey was doing prior to working together.

“Before we met I had been following XYZ (redacted for political correctness) templates and on “hard days” which almost never happened according to their guidelines. I would get 225g carbs 15g of fat and 145g of protein. On a typical day I’d get 150g c 15g f and 145g of protein. I never took rest days because I literally got zero carbs-for weight maintenance/performance. That makes me want to cry now”

If someone literally WILL NOT TAKE A REST DAY because they’re scared of the hunger, thats a huge problem.  The body and metabolism stay CRANKED in Crossfit style athletes on “rest days” and dropping the carbs down to practically zero just makes no sense to me.

What other effects was Casey dealing with?

“Other than getting frustrated with my performance and blaming my lack of effort,I never considered I had “bad nutrition” since I thought I had done enough research and was following a seemingly well written plan. I didn’t realize how drained, tired, and crappy I actually felt. I was sleeping but not well, had more “meh” days than good days, and I knew my performance was lacking but didn’t understand why.”

What Casey didn’t mention is that she was waking up about 7 times a night on average.  That basically means ZERO quality sleep on top of being massively underfed.

The Changes: I took Casey’s macros WAY WAY WAY up immediately.  I told her that there might be a temporary weight gain but that she needed to be OK with it.  We went to 2850 calories with a 160/70/395 split which is about 1200 more calories PER day than she was eating prior.

The results: Its just best to let Casey describe whats happened.

“Performance and body comp are probably the most noticeable to other people. Since starting with Mike, when I actually get to drop in to a gym and workout with friends,  I can’t walk out without someone making a comment about one of the two. But to be honest, PR’s are always great and body comp is too,  but the shift in my mindset has to be the most obvious change. I am way more confident in my day to day performance and in setting goals, because I know that my body is catching up to where I want it to be. If I give it the fuel it needs my mind and body will eventually be on the same page-when we went from not even being in the same book.”

So she basically PR’d everything for about a month straight in the gym with her lifts… it was crazy and a really fun time.  But the biggest victory was in her recent  Half Ironman where she hit an ~90 MINUTE PR over her previous best time.  That’s absurd and is a huge credit to her dedication to the process.

What about the body composition, again the results speak for themselves.

Wanna know the crazy part, she lost exactly ZERO pounds between those two pictures.  There is no contraption on planet earth designed to make women more crazy than the stupid fucking scale.  Take another look at her pictures and recognize that some stupid number:

  1. Does NOT account for body COMPOSITION changes.
  2. Does NOT determine whether or not you will be successful in your sport of choice.
  3. Does NOT define who you are as a person.

Much like Bri, Casey is an incredibly sweet person.  She’s self effacing, loves dogs, and is always up to learn more information about why we’re doing what we’re doing.  Anyone that wants to learn the WHY will have a special place in my heart.  I’m secretly hoping I can recruit her into nutrition coaching in the future because she’d be a natural at it.

The Big Picture

So if these were two isolated incidents, I wouldn’t have such a problem and wouldn’t be so pissed off right now.  The reality of the situation though is that I encounter at least one of these people per week on average.  Not all are quite as extreme as Bri and Casey, but they’re still extremely aggravating to hear about.

While there are some genetically gifted individuals that can train for 4-5 hours a day on 1800 calories (or less) and look AMAZING, the reality is that this will not be the case for MOST people that you come across.  Instead, your metabolism is going to tank, you won’t make progress in the gym, you may screw up either your immune system, your adrenals or both, and I can guarantee there’s going to be some psychological damage as well.  Its NOT as simple as “eat less, lose body fat”, but if you think that way then the negative self talk usually follows.  “Why is everyone else so successful and I’m not? Something must be wrong with me ” which is just such total bullshit.  Worse, you view food (or certain food groups) as the enemy instead of as the fuel you need to achieve the goals that you’re working your ass off for.

We need a culture change within Crossfit for our high level athletes and those training to be the next generation.  The simple formula of “Eat a piece of protein the size of your fist and a plate full of veggies” does NOT work for this group the same way that it can for someone doing 3-4 classes a week, so the basic philosophy needs to change as well.  Eat your fruits and veggies, but also eat the freaking rice, oatmeal and potatoes as well! Don’t fear the liquid calories quite so much, they’re not the enemy when you’re doing 4 hours of exercise a day.  You are an ATHLETE, treat yourself like one.

Rant over.

Reflection

Over this past weekend, I went to Portland, ME with my wife Ilda, and on Saturday we took about a 20 mile bike ride south along the coast.  While checking out the insane view, I also thought about all that’s happened in the past 12 months.  I’ve met some amazing people, taken some amazing trips and grown tremendously as a coach.  While I still feel like this is the beginning of a journey, I wanted to take a moment to reflect.

STEP 1: HOW IT ALL BEGAN

I started talking about nutrition about 8 YEARS ago when a guy named Kyle Rochefort asked me to run a seminar at his newly opened affiliate “The Fort Crossfit.”  Honestly, at that time I was mostly an echo for what others were saying, but I loved the opportunity to spread what I had learned.  From there, a few other affiliates such as Vagabond Crossfit came calling and I picked up a few clients along the way, but nothing too major.

When I came back from Washington D.C. in 2013, I started getting more involved in the local Crossfit scene again, doing a few seminars thanks again to Kyle and Mat Cote over at Crossfit Ad Finem.  I was also asked to take part in an athlete Camp down at Crossfit Free.  Over the previous two years, the SPORT of Crossfit had really changed… much higher volume training was happening and as a result, my message had begun to change as well.  Most people were running Paleo/Whole30 challenges with relatively high fat recommendations and I show up and start telling people to eat somewhere between 200-400 grams of carbs a day. Needless to say there were a few odd glances that weekend…

STEP 2: EVOLVING INTO A NUTRITION COACH

After I finished my short talk, a woman by the name of Tasia Percevecz came up and we started talking about her goals of making it to the Games.  After Regionals, Tasia emailed again and we figured out a way to work together for the upcoming season.

Its amazing that this moment ever really happened honestly… I had worked with a few people here and there, a couple college athletes and a few high school soccer players but ZERO high level Crossfit athletes, I just had a bunch of education and an idea about how to implement it with Tasia.  I asked her to eat a LOT more food at a time when others really were not doing it, so for her to listen took a ton of trust.

While I knew the science behind our approach was correct, when you’re helping mold someone else’s dreams into reality, there are going to moments of self-doubt.  I watched her qualify for the 2016 Games from an AirBNB in Paris, France and cried with her through the video feed.  Its incredible to watch someone realize there dream.  While it would take another 9 months to bring on another competitor, this really was the start of my “coaching” career.

STEP 3: EXPANDING OPERATIONS

Two major events happened right around September, 2015.  First, I was introduced to Celia and Romy Gold by Kurt Kling.  I had met Kurt down at another athlete camp in Milford, CT run by Jason Leydon where I was again doing the nutrition seminar.  Romy and Celia were both ALREADY high level teenage Crossfitters and weight lifters, but needed some help for a weight lifting meet.  That experience has evolved into two years of working together and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

About a month later I get this email from someone named “Mekenzie Riley” asking for some advice.  She’d seen a post from Tasia on Instagram about our work together and it sounded familiar to her own story… massively under-eating while training ~4 hours a day. I told her it was going to be a bit of a process, but that if she trusted me and worked her ass off OUTSIDE of the gym, we’d make it happen.

In this case, I got to watch Mekenzie qualify for the Games about 15 feet in front of me, again more tears of joy… but not as many as her husband Roy (what a softy).

Working with Mekenzie has made me 10X the coach I used to be.  She basically forced me to communicate with her all the time, and while I might have been a bit shell-shocked I also realized that frequent communication and check-ins made ALL the difference in athlete accountability.  I applied what I was doing with Mekenzie to Tasia, Celia and Romy and their results improved.  From there on out, I knew this would be how I worked with clients and how I differentiated myself as a coach.

STEP 4: THE TIPPING POINT

Thanks to the success of of my original 4, I was picking up a few extra clients here and there, such as Kristin Reffett, Kris Kling and Michela Greco.  Honestly though, I was probably working with a maximum of 7 clients at the time.  Then three things happened.

  1. Michela posted this picture and tagged me in it.  I think I received 10 emails overnight from new clients.
  2. Kristin posted this picture and tagged me in it.  I think I had another 15 emails from that one.
  3. Kris Kling saw some serious results and his coach Jason Leydon started to notice and started sending a few more of his athletes my way, then a few more and a few more after that.
  4. People like Dani Horan, Nicole Holcomb, Carly Fuhrer and Heather Williams helped spread the word for me to places that I could never reach on my own. Their support and trusting me with their “stamp of approval” means EVERYTHING to me.

I have never once advertised or tried to recruit a client, its all been through word of mouth… or more accurately word of Instagram.  At this point, the requests for nutrition help started to become pretty steady.

STEP 5: WHERE WE ARE TODAY

  • In July, 2016  I had two Regionals/Games athletes: Tasia and Mekenzie.  This past year, I worked with 18 people that went to Regionals and 10 that went to the Games either on teams or as individuals.  The growth has been incredible but we’re not even close to finished.  I have a very specific goal in mind for next years Regionals and Games season for my clients… but thats another post entirely.
  • I started M2 Performance Nutrition! Honestly, even 18 months ago I never really imagined that business would get steady enough that I could  be running my own company, but here we are today.  I’ve got a full-time independent coach (Mekenzie) and two other people that I’m bringing along as interns as well.  Craziness…
  • I’m lined up to work with Power Monkey Fitness, a group of Olympians, national champions and some of the best specialist coaches in country.  They’ve invited little old me to talk about nutrition at their athlete camp in October.  I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity and have been devoting a ton of energy towards making my two hour talk the best it can be.

STEP 6: THE FUTURE

Honestly, I alternate between REALLY freaking excited and REALLY freaking terrified of all the growth.  Its been an absolute blast and I’ve met the most amazing people along the way.  I want to preserve the experience that the first “generation” of clients had for every single new person that comes on board.  I can’t take on an infinite number of clients so that means TRUSTING my other coaches to care as much as I do.  Thats a little scary, but I know I can count on the people I’ve brought on board.

The basic macro principles and practices that I use might be slightly unique from others, but they’re not earth shatteringly different from other coaches that are out there.  From what I can tell, the reason why my people have been mostly successful is because of the accountability that I try to generate.  I don’t wait for clients to email me, I reach out to them proactively.  I also try to treat each and every single person as more than just a set of macros.  If you know what motivates someone, what scares them and what their REAL dreams are, then you can more effectively help them through rough patches… and there WILL be rough patches with every single client.

I don’t know exactly what the future holds for me or M2PN, but I do know that I absolutely love what I do. I’ve had more fun working with people in the last 12 months than you can possibly imagine.  This is really only the beginning… I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

THANK YOUs

Kyle: Thanks for hosting the first real seminar and many more over the years.  That first step made all the rest of this possible.  You’re a great friend.

Mat: No one’s brought me back for more seminars than you have.  The loyalty is greatly appreciated.

Brandon: Thanks for bringing me into the athlete camp, hosting seminars, introducing me to so many great people and pushing me hard to start up the LLC.

Jason: Thank you for the introduction to all the athletes, and PMF, I cannot WAIT to get down there.  Also, thanks for trusting me with a part of your affiliate team. They’re amazing people.

Tasia: Honestly without your initial trust to work with me, none of the rest of this ever happens. Thanks for being my first competitor.

Mekenzie: Thanks for making me the coach that I am today.  You’re demanding as all hell, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Dani, Carly, Kristin, Nicole, Heather: Thanks for spreading the word… to the point that this really could be my career.  Your support means the world…

Celia, Romy, Michela, Kurt, Kris, Tristan, Carolyn, Annie, etc:  Thanks for being the first generation of what I really am doing today and making it so much damn fun.

Honestly, there’s so many more people that I could/should thank, but I have to focus on one more.

Ilda… my wife.  I’m honestly getting choked up just thinking about what to write.  What I do is a ton of fun, but it isn’t easy.  I spend a shit load of time on my phone and on my computer and some of that time definitely interferes with the limited hours that we get to spend together.  Thank you for that sacrifice. Starting a business is scary, but for some reason you have total trust and faith in me to make it happen.  Thanks for the support and believing in me when I don’t always believe in myself. Love you more than you’ll ever know.