Monthly Archives: January 2016

PRACTICE IN THE DEAD SPACES

 

Repetitio mater studiorum est (Repetition is the mother of all learning).

“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” – Zig Zigler

Repetitio est mater studiorum (Repetition is the mother of studies).

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(Photo Credit: Tom Kelly)

What happens when you learn a physical skill?

Learning, specifically learning a physical skill, involves enhancing the communication between the nerves and the brain. Your nerves speak to your brain through electrical impulses. The faster and more efficient the communication, the faster and more efficient the movement or series of movements.

Learning happens when new connections are made between brain nerve cells and those connections communicate electrical impulses faster.

A little neurobiology from Wikipedia (Neurons):

 

A neuron is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals. These signals between neurons occur via synapses, specialized connections with other cells. Neurons can connect to each other to form neural networks. Neurons are the core components of the brain and spinal cord of the central nervous system (CNS), and of the ganglia of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). Specialized types of neurons include: sensory neurons which respond to touch, sound, light and all other stimuli affecting the cells of the sensory organs that then send signals to the spinal cord and brain, motor neurons that receive signals from the brain and spinal cord to cause muscle contractions and affect glandular outputs, and interneurons which connect neurons to other neurons within the same region of the brain, or spinal cord in neural networks.

 

When different parts of the brain communicate and coordinate with each other, they send electrical impulses that travel down a cable called an axon. The axon communicates with other neurons in a chain. Firing a nerve impulse is like pushing over the first domino in a chain. This process repeats from neuron to neuron, until the nerve signals reach their destination.

 

MYELINATION

 

Myelin is the white fatty substance which coats the axon.  Myelination is when the body coats the axon with more myelin. Myelin increases the speed of the electrical impulse by letting the impulse jump across the myelin sheath to the next axon. So those dominos are falling a lot faster.

For our purposes the bottom line is, the more myelin coating the axons the faster and more accurately we move. As children learn they lay down more myelin to make everyday processes easier.

Cells in the brain detect movements which are repeated (ie. practicing a handgun or knife draw stroke). By moving in a specific sequence, we trigger a pattern of electrical signals through our neurons. At first, these signals are weak and uncoordinated.

If an action is repeated enough, the brain cells then determine the very specific sequence of movements are important enough to the organism (you) to enhance the process. The brain cells will make the movement more efficient by producing a chemical which generates myelin around the specific axons which are being used during the performance of that movement, increasing the speed and strength of the signal.

 

OTHER BIOLOGICAL FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH LEARNING A SKILL

 

Special communications channels in the nerve cells of our brains called NMDA receptors (N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor) produce associative learning by helping to make new connections.  Researchers have shown a protein called GAP-43 is activated by the NMDA receptor.  GAP-43 makes it easier for a cell to fire its neurotransmitter molecules. The NMDA receptors are needed to produce the receipt signal, the GAP-43 proteins to receive it.

Flooding GAP-43 with impulses gets nerve connections to form rapidly. Repeating the same combination of nerve signals over and over, activates GAP-43 again and again in the nerve cells that form that memory.

Neurobiology is out of my lane and I take full responsibility for anything I have misrepresented in the above description. But a basic understand allows us to begin to understand why accurate repetitive practice is so important.

 

CAUTION

 

Vince Lombardi has been credited with the quote: “Practice doesn’t make perfect, proper practice makes perfect”.

Myelination and NMDA/GAP-43 research begins to explain why quantity of a specific sequence of movements makes that movement more efficient and faster. There is no biological research which points to how many repetitions it takes to myelinate an axon or enhance GAP-43.

The research does show you will enhance the EXACT sequence you repeat. So if you have crappy technical instruction, do the movement wrong, or cut corners, you will default to movement errors. Practice makes permanent.

This is why it is vitally important to get a qualified instructor/coach to teach YOU the movement and correct YOUR errors, in the early stages of learning. we want to always groove the correct sequence of movements.  Once a wrong pathway is myelinated, it is very difficult to reprogram. So, be careful how you initially learn a movement and who you learn that movement from!

Myelination and NMDA/GAP-43 enhancement occur regardless of speed of movement! Interjecting fast repetitions of a movement to early in the learning process will lead to movement errors and those errors will be embedded in your system. Movement errors take a lot of work to erase. Especially when first learning a skill, practice that skill slowly, very slowly, like you are practicing Tai Chi. Make corrections early in the process, before myelination occurs. Slow practice allows you to see and feel faults, to correct course early, before your brain lays down myelin.

Once you can reproduce the correct movement slowly, you want to encourage myelination as quickly as possible. That means thousands of repetitions of the technically perfect movement.

It is helpful to break down a complex series of movements, like a pistol draw stroke, to their smallest pieces and practice the pieces individually.

For example, if we wanted to learn to draw a pistol from a holster and aim the pistol, we have to move our dominant hand to the pistol grip; establish a grip; release the pistol from the holster; move the pistol up a vertical plane away from our holster, up the body, and closer to our center line; move the pistol into either a retention position or into the horizontal line of presentation; extend the pistol along the horizontal line of presentation to full extension of our arms; have the sights come into our exact visual cone so we have to do minimal or no adjustment of sight picture and sight alignment.

That is an extremely complex series of movements!

As we initially progress through the series of movements in the draw stroke, we are going to make many errors. Early errors (say in gripping the pistol in the holster) will compound into errors later in the sequence (poor grip throws initial sight alignment or sight picture off). We then need to add corrections from an early sequential error into our repetition (initial grip is to low causing our sight picture to be too high, causing us to dip the muzzle of the pistol to compensate). If our grip is consistently off and we have to compensate in every repetition, that compensation will become part of our draw stroke. This is very bad!

To prevent this we could break down the draw stroke into stages and practice the stages. So in our above example we could just practice acquiring a proper grip when the pistol is in the holster. Our first 100 reps should be slow and controlled. We should correct any errors as early as possible. Get feedback from coaches and experienced individuals. Video yourself practicing and correct errors.

Once we could do technically perfect movement, we need to burn that movement out with thousands of repetitions.

When drilling a new move in BJJ, I will just drill the opening grip sequence for 100s reps and try to repeat this day after day, week after week.

 

HOW DO WE FIT ALL OF THESE REPS INTO OUR ALREADY BUSY DAY?

 

Utilize dead spaces in your day to perform some technically perfect repetitions.

Everytime you go to the bathroom, draw the knife from your pocket 10 times.

When you stand from your computer, perform 20 perfect repetitions of pistol grip acquisition.

Every morning, right after getting out of bed do 30 perfect hip escapes.

Find the dead spaces and fill them with repetitions of a skill you want to acquire or enhance.

Do this EVERY DAY, no excuses.

Once you acquire the skill, own that skill, and prove it under realistic pressure, you can push the skill to maintenance but you still have to practice it, rep it, just not as much.

Let’s review and pull out the takeaways:

 

  1. Identify a skill we want to acquire.
  2. Identify and hire the most experienced and best instructor we can find, to teach us the skill and evaluate our progress.
  3. Practice the skill slowly and receive brutally honest feedback regarding errors. Catch and correct errors prior to performing reps to “groove” the movement.
  4. Use the feedback to eradicate movement errors in the sequence.
  5. Break the sequence of the movement into component parts.
  6. Practice the component parts slowly via repetition.
  7. Fit repetitions into the dead spaces within your day. Groove the movement into your nervous system.
  8. Gradually increase the speed of the repetition.
  9. Rep daily, no excuses.
  10. Practice the movement under ever increasing pressure, until you could replicate it, at will, under any intensity of pressure.
  11. Maintain the skill through less frequent practice.
  12. Identify another skill you wish to acquire.
  13. Repeat until you die.

 

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IN EXTREMIS COMMUNICATION, PART 4   

Why would we ever make the decision to hold onto, or pin, a potentially violent criminal? As a civilian, we have no responsibility to arrest or detain a criminal. To the contrary, as exposure increases, risk and danger increases.

To catch up, please read the first three parts of this series:

 

In Extremis Communication, Part 1

 

In Extremis Communication, Part 2

 

In Extremis Communication, Part 3

 

Exposure increases risk for the criminal and it increase risk for the armed citizen.

For the criminal, the less exposure, the less transfer of evidence, the less chance witnesses can observe the crime, and the faster they could get away.  More exposure equals more chance of getting caught. A criminal wants to get in and out as fast as they can. They want to get “paid” and get out. The more exposure (time) the greater chance something could go wrong.

The same is true for an armed citizen in an armed encounter. Pinning a subject in place, increases the time an armed citizen spends with a subject.

When I use the term “pinning in place” I mean, restricting the subject’s movement and directing them them into a position of extreme disadvantage. This does not mean we are physically pinning the subject with our bodies. A common police practice is to prone a suspect, face down on the ground. A prone suspect retains the ability to use their arms and legs and could propel themselves up or forward explosively. We want to restrict the subject’s ability to move explosively. Later in this article I will describe an effective method to pin a person.

Time spent focusing on one subject takes away from time spent securing yourself and loved ones and does not allow you to look for other potential threats within the environment. By necessity, we need to focus on the subject we can see and regularly scan our environment for additional threats.

Multitasking in dangerous environments is not ideal.  

As time passes, the criminal has more time to plan counter attacks or use threats or coercion to attempt to get out of the situation or turn the tables.

So why would we ever attempt to pin a criminal in place and not just move him out of our immediate environment (In Extremis Communication, Part 3 – Moving a subject at gunpoint)?

  1. When we visually clear the subject’s waistline we observe a firearm. By moving the subject we potentially give him/her time and distance to draw the firearm. Additionally, once the subject leaves our line of sight, they may arm themselves and circle back.
  2. The subject has penetrated into our environment far enough to bypass occupied areas or other innocent people and we would have to move the subject past them to get the subject out. Imagine moving a subject towards an exit portal only to have him jump into your daughter’s bedroom.
  3. For whatever reason you have decided moving the subject out of the area is dangerous. The exposure risk is less than the risk of moving the person.

We have already covered how to

STABILIZE A COMPLIANT SUBJECT:

  1. Order the subject to stop movement:  DON’T MOVE.
  2. Order the subject to move his hands away from his waistline:  HANDS UP.
  3. Order the subject to turn away from you one step at a time. You stop them when they are facing away from you: WHEN I TELL YOU TO MOVE, I WANT YOU TO START TURNING ONE STEP AT A TIME. MOVE.
  4. Expose waistline and impair subject’s vision: REACH BACK AND GRAB THE COLLAR OF YOUR SHIRT, NOW PULL THE SHIRT OVER YOUR HEAD.
  5. Visually clear the subject’s entire waistline:  WHEN I TELL YOU TO MOVE, I WANT YOU. TO TURN AROUND, SLOWLY, ONE STEP AT A TIME…DO IT NOW.
  6. Direct the subject to move the subject, in a circle, 540 degrees so the subject stops facing away from you.

And, how to move them.

STEPS TO MOVE THE SUBJECT:

  1. “I am going to move you to the door and let you run. If you do not follow my instructions or attempt to turn around and hurt me or my family, I will shoot you.  When I tell you to, I want you to move one step at a time”.  
  2. “Step forward one step, do it now”.
  3. “Step forward one step, etc.”

PINNING A SUBJECT IN PLACE:

  1. Pick an appropriate place to pin the subject. You may need to move the subject from where you had them stop.  Move them one step at a time until they are in the exact place you want to pin them.
  2. If the subject is not facing away from you have them face away from you one step at a time:

 

Subject is told: Don’t Move and ordered to put his hands up.  He is then ordered to raise his hands even further.  Notice that in this picture Matt’s hands are up but we still can’t see his waistline. Now turn the person away from you by having them move one step at a time.

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The subject is now ordered to grab the  back collar of his shirt with both hands (front view for clarity).

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And, pull the shirt over his head:

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Now we have a clear view of the subject’s waistline.

We then order the subject to turn, one step at a time, 540 degrees, so when he stops, he is facing away from us.

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The decision is now made to either move the subject or pin them in place.
If we decide to pin in place, we order the subject to get down on one knee. Then the other knee:

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We now order him to cross his ankles:

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Each step in this process progressively restricts the subject’s ability to move.

We order the subject to sit back on his ankles.

We now order the subject to bend over and put his head on the floor:

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(I am not responsible for Matt’s choice of rash guard! He had just completed training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is apparently very comfortable with bold colors).

The subject’s movement is fully restricted. You are behind him and can observe him fully. His visual field is obscured.

If the police have not been called or you are alone, this would be the time to call, while still covering the subject with your firearm. Follow proper protocols for a police response and exactly and calmly explain the circumstances.

You have three choices when faced with a potentially dangerous threat, when you have a firearm in hand and the subject complies to your initial order to stop moving:

  1. Shoot to stop the subject from potentially injuring or killing you or others.
  2. Move the subject out of the area, essentially letting them escape.
  3. Pin the subject in place.

All tactics, techniques, and procedures should be trained extensively and ultimately under live, full contact, resistance.

 

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THE GRIND

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Photo Credit: Pasion (sic) Project

I want to talk about a subject most people don’t understand. It is the key to success, in any endeavor. It takes no talent, minimal IQ or EQ, all it takes is relentlessness.

I have been teaching martial arts since 1982. My typical student, about 90% of students, would show up for class twice a week and do nothing in between. This necessitated going over material for review and slow progress.

The students who progressed the fastest were not the natural athletes or even the brilliant thinkers. They were the ones who worked on the material on “their time”.  They worked the basics more than the average student.

The real high achievers obsessed with grinding out a movement. They performed rep after rep until it was grooved into their nervous system. THIS is the secret to elite performance. Find ways to get reps in. Most people will not do this, they get bored, they feel they “have it” after 10 reps, they keep glancing at the clock in anticipation of the “fun” part of class…the sparring.

A story Ron Balicki and I often tell is about a time we were training in my wooden floor, Chicago, apartment. We were grinders. I threw Ron, onto the hardwood floor, probably 50 times. Enough to have a neighbor knock on my door and yell at us to stop throwing around a “medicine ball”!

We all like instant gratification, I like it too. It’s nice to want something and get it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen with skill development. With BJJ, fighting, and shooting, I constantly see students checking their basics. I could see the wheels turning in their heads; “foot goes here, grab this…what comes next”?  Even advanced students miss or skip over important steps in a technique, under pressure.

Our skilled opponents will immediately take advantage of our technique lapses and errors.

Our goal is to make fundamental movements and concepts automatic and then refine and maintain those fundamentals.

New BJJ students often ask me “how do I get better”, my answer is always “mat time”. There is a linear progression between mat time and skill level.  Same goes with shooting: dry fire. This has to be consistent practice, hence, the GRIND.

The grinding has to happen with every endeavor we are involved with, if we want to obtain more than a casual level of skill. The more you grind technique, the better you become.

When I was learning to interrogate suspects, I had the uniform troopers call back to Investigations when they made minor drug arrests. I would go up to the processing room and conduct a 15-20 minute interrogation, no stress, if I got the person to confess, it’s all good; if not, no big deal. I learned a ton during these sessions. Mostly, how to perform the mechanical aspects of interrogation by rote so I could evaluate suspects responses and body language. It also helped to lower my nervousness. Interrogation became routine. New detectives get flustered and constantly check questions or are thinking about what to ask instead of evaluating the suspect and his/her answers. The only way to overcome this is to train – grind – do it alot.

Most, if not all, shooting errors occur because of a breakdown in fundamentals, sight alignment, sight picture, grip, and trigger press. Literally the things we learn in shooting class number 1. We see students in “advanced” classes making consistent errors with fundamentals.

Reping fundamentals is not fun, it is not cool, but fundamentals are called fundamentals for a reason. Fundamentals need to be ingrained prior to building advanced skills. Fundamentals also need to be maintained and refined throughout your career.

Fundamentals need to be practiced with no pressure and then they need to be performed under gradually increasing amounts of training pressure and stress. Ultimately, the training should progress to exposure to “real world” testing. In an ideal world, this real world exposure would begin gradually, sometimes this is not possible but it is preferable.

When my drug unit was training a new agent for dynamic search warrant service, we would always put him or her on perimeter until we had a chance to evaluate them under stress and they had a chance to acclimate to the perceived chaos, noise, and potential danger of a search warrant service. They would then progress to the back of the entry team. With enough real world reps, constructive feedback via brutally honest debriefings, and training designed to work on weak fundamentals the agent would progress to the front of the line.

Here’s the easy roadmap to excellence in any endeavor:

 

  1. Obtain expert technique instruction. Ask questions and receive feedback until you understand the technique enough to break it into component pieces.
  2. Breakdown your endeavor to it’s basic fundamentals and component pieces.
  3. Commit to a specific number of reps of the fundamentals or components of the fundamentals, every day. Link this daily practice to an already established habit, if possible.
  4. Practice daily, no breaks.
  5. Be focused and relentless with your practice. Don’t let concentration wander.
  6. At first, practice the technique slowly, with no pressure.  Over time build speed and pressure.
  7. Obtain feedback from coaches, experts, or visual feedback from video recording.
  8. Ruthlessly evaluate technique, progress, and feedback and attack weaknesses.
  9. Repeat the above practice…forever.

 

Clearly, when we are integrating a new technique, we should laser focus on all of the elements of that technique and grind technique work. High performers will grind out hundreds of reps daily while learning a new technique; fewer reps when maintaining a skill.

Grinding takes no talent above the ability to overcome boredom. If you don’t have time to focus a training session on drilling, just get 15 reps in a day.  15 reps a day equals 105 reps a week, 420 reps a month, and 5040 reps a year.

Elite performance is linked to your ability to grind away day after day, year after year.

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Point Driven Fat Loss

The obligatory fat loss article for the new year.  Happy 2016, I hope everyone has a great and productive year!

For this article, I am going to stray away from Managing the Don’t Shoot Yet and discuss losing fat with diet. Many of my friends don’t know my college degree is in exercise physiology. I co-ran the human performance laboratory at Northern Illinois University as a graduate assistant (in 1985) and worked at a human performance testing hospital facility for three years.  During that time I tested thousands of people and provided exercise and nutrition, advice, and feedback.

This is a copy of a post I wrote on a private message board in 2011. You will notice this information is becoming more mainstream these days, but in 2011 there were only three main proponents of this method, Brad Pilon (Eat Stop Eat), Martin Berkhan (Leangains), and the granddaddy of this method Ori Hofmekler (The Warrior Diet). I do not know any of them and have not communicated with them, by any means, but I admire their work.

This article is very long. It violates every bit of advice my friends gave me regarding length of blog posts, people reading on cell phones and whatnot. You don’t have to read all of this, the first half or less is more than enough information to effectively begin to lose fat.

This information has been effective for a multitude of people. Anytime I travel to train at least one person comes up to me and thanks me for the information.  Most of the people have lost fat and kept it off.

Enough with the preamble, here’s the content of the forum post, slightly modified:

This is a post about a subject that seems controversial and frankly extremely confusing. Diets, nutrition, Paleo, Zone, high carb, low carb, iso caloric, meal timing, post workout nutrition, supplements, what are we supposed to do about nutrition? Of all the “physical” disciplines nutrition is the toughest. It is the toughest because we have to deal with it 24 hours a day, every day of our lives. We have unlimited choices of what to eat and we can eat almost anything, any time of the day. I am going to make this as simple as I can, not easy, but simple. I am going to dot point this for simplicities sake. Most people pay attention to their nutrition because they want to lose fat. People who say they want to do it for health are, for the most part, lying. You don’t have to buy a pamphlet, just read the dot points and implement…simple in theory, hard in practice.

  • BMR is lower than you think and similar for people of the same height. I am 6’0” and my BMR is about 1800 kilo-calories (kcal). If YOU are 6’ your BMR is approximately 1800 kcal.
  • BMR is mostly composed of organ function. Muscle contributes about 5 calories per pound. That’s a hell of a lot less than bro science would lead you to believe.
  • Unless you are juiced, you don’t have 40 pounds of actual muscle mass above the average dude or dudette. If you did, you would burn 200 more kcals than the average dude or dudette…200 calories, that’s NOTHING!
  • You don’t burn as many calories exercising as you think you do. Heart rate monitors and exercise machines are wildly inaccurate when it comes to calories burned. They also don’t account for the calories you would have burned doing something else, like watching TV or just surviving.
  • Don’t even worry about exercise calories. Use cardio to develop conditioning, not lose fat.
  • Afterburn, increased calorie burn after intense exercise, is largely bullshit.
  • Thermic effect of food is true (eating protein uses more calories than carbs and fat to digest) but the difference is so small, that it doesn’t really matter.
  • There are a ton of theories of why we get fat: insulin, trans fats, fat, etc. They are THEORIES. Here’s one…you’ve been eating too much.
  • The laws of thermodynamics actually friggin work.
  • All successful diets control calories, they just don’t say they do. EATING LESS FOOD ALWAYS WORKS.
  • Basically every health marker improves as you lose fat, regardless of method. If you are in a caloric deficit, your body will use it’s fat stores to make up the energy deficit. If you are in a caloric surplus, your body will store the excess energy (regardless if it’s from fat, carbs, or protein) as FAT, if you are in energy balance (calories in = calories out) you will maintain weight.
  • Metabolism is not affected by not eating, until you are DAYS into a fast. Ethiopian type starvation effects metabolism because organs and muscle tissue are damaged and lost.
  • You don’t have to eat every 4 hours to stoke your metabolism. This is complete and utter bullshit. You will not lose muscle if you don’t eat.
  • Muscles “grow” because of SAID (specific adaptation to imposed demands) not because you are eating protein. .8 grams per pound of body weight is a good start.
  • After juvenile muscle growth…every pound of muscle is a pain in the ass to develop.
  • Five pounds of muscle makes a huge visual impact…so does 5 pounds of fat. If you lift weights while dieting, you will not lose muscle mass.
  • You have to be a lot lighter than you think to be ripped. Bodybuilders take about 1000 pictures the day of their show (photo studios are set up backstage, by supplement companies to facilitate this). They take the pictures because they can only keep that ripped look for mere hours. They will use those photos for a year (or longer). That ripped, bodybuilder look, is very transient. Using them as inspiration for what you could actually look like, day to day, is delusional.

Let’s filter all this stuff into a workable action plan:

  • Eat less on a weekly basis. How much you eat under your BMR will determine how fast you will lose fat. I could include exercise calories, but don’t.
  • You can use 2 – 24 hour fast a week to lower weekly calories. This allows me to eat more when I’m not fasting and still stay in a weekly deficit. Some of you Nancy boys don’t want to fast…ok, just find other ways to eat less.
  • You can also just not eat for 6 – 8 hours after you wake up. I do this, I don’t eat breakfast.  I have black coffee with stevia (a packet of Truvia), ice water, and a diet soft drink or two, until I eat my first meal between 12pm and 1pm.  I work out in the morning.
  • An average daily deficit of 500 calories is fairly doable. That gives you 1300 calories a day to work with. If I fast 2 times a week, I could up the calories on non-fasting days.  If I don’t eat breakfast, I spread the meals over two large meals (lunch and dinner) and 1 snack.
  • You could skip meals to compensate for excess. Have a few drinks a burger and fries on Saturday night…don’t eat breakfast and have a very light lunch on Sunday.
  • You could eat 5 small meals a day…but it kind of sucks and makes you look like a tool carrying around a cooler everywhere you go. Don’t overcompensate before or after a fast, just eat normally.
  • Breakfast is important…if you’re 8 years old and go to school. If you are an adult, you don’t HAVE to have breakfast, unless your mom makes you.
  • Look for ways to cut calories but still have foods you like. This is where lower calorie versions of food help, like frozen yogurt, low fat cheeses, etc.  Remember, you could eat the “regular” version of these foods, just account for the extra calories.
  • You want to eat paleo, zone, south beach…go for it. If you eat 5000 calories of cheese, eggs, and beef, you’re gonna get fat, you still have to control for calories.
  • 8 ounces of Coke is 100 calories…8 ounces! Friggin stop drinking this shit, on a daily basis, multiple times. Once in awhile, ok.
  • You are not a special snowflake, if your calories are low and you are not losing weight…lower them some more. Food calorie information is screwed up. Portion sizes are screwed up. We underestimate how much we eat. We under report how much we eat.
  • Drink coffee, tea, and water, chew gum to deal with hunger between meals or during a fast. Oh, and man up, seriously man (or woman) the F up…losing fat is not fun, you’re gonna be hungry and irritable. It’s simple, not easy. Anybody who says it’s easy is lying to you.
  • Special foods are bullshit. Fat burning supplements are bullshit. When you see a list of “5 superfoods to eat to lose fat”, understand this is predatory marketing. You lose fat by not eating food, not eating special foods.
  • For a week or so measure your food and use calorie counting software. You are going to be surprised at how little you should eat, especially if you are having 5 – 7 meals a day.
  • If I put a gun to your head and told you, you had to lose 8 pounds in two weeks or I blow a hole in your head, would you eat a specific mixture of macronutrients or…just not friggin eat at all? See, it’s pretty simple.
  • Use the scale, mirror, and clothing size to determine if you are on track. The scale will lie due to water weight fluctuations, make sure you are trending down. If not…lower calories.  Weigh yourself every day to observe trends and intervene when the trend goes in the wrong direction.
  • I used to eat nuts (almonds, walnuts, you know good fat profile nuts) and wondered why I had a hard time losing fat. Look at the calories in a handful of nuts. Keep them for maintenance.
  • Supplement with D, fish oil (or krill oil), creatine (if you want to) and vitamin K2.
  • You could pretty much eat anything. It is more filling to eat meats, vegetables and fruits, but I eat a few hard pretzels almost every night. I also have ice cream and alcohol on a weekly basis. Somehow the inflammation has not killed me or shown up in any health markers.
  • This is for fat loss. If you want to eat only for “health” restrict yourself to only eating grass fed, organic, paleo, blah, blah, blah…you will eventually break and go crazy and I will find it amusing. Seriously, you want to be so dogmatic that you will not eat a piece of your kids birthday cake, you want to be “that guy”, have at it…you were warned.
  • THIS IS HARD. Two pounds a week is brutal. Having a goal, like a wedding or better yet a BJJ or other weight class sport competition will give you the motivation to not make an ass of yourself.
  • See, the hard thing about this is having the discipline to lower the amount of food you shove in your mouth and deal with being hungry. Looking at this as a week long problem, rather than a day by day problem, helps. It allows me to compensate for indulgences. For Thanksgiving, I ate anything I wanted…but only during dinner. I did not eat breakfast or lunch, I fasted the next day. Going out to drink, don’t eat until you go out, now you could drink all your calories and get really wasted.
  • If you are celiac, have issues with lactose, or are allergic to foods, don’t eat them. Seriously, if you don’t have grain issues…a piece of toast or oatmeal is not evil.
  • I don’t want to argue theories here. I really don’t care and have read Good Calories, Bad Calories, the Zone, Atkins, The South Beach Diet, The Anabolic Diet, Body Opus, etc. etc. I have tried pretty much every diet for fat loss and performance. I also have a degree in exercise physiology, which I ignored in lieu of bro science, and have taken Master’s level nutrition courses. I’ve come back to the realization the whole scientific evidence thing is pretty valid.
  • If you calculate out the calories in a typical Zone, paleo, Protein Power, or Atkins, diet, you will find the calories run towards a deficit for most people. If you want a structured diet, follow one of them. I like paleo. I think it’s unrealistic, dogmatic, and amusing that some of the paleo dudes sell bars and protein powders. but whatever, it might change your life and you too could join the cult. If you have questions, please fire away. If you want to post studies and argue that a calorie is not a calorie and that human physiology is not as simple as calorie in calorie out…frankly, I don’t want to go there. If you are interested in this…Google it, there are thousands of Internet flame wars going on regarding this very subject. I am not arguing health, I am talking about fat loss. You will naturally find eating meats, vegetables, and fruits will be more filling and nutrient dense.
  • Extreme contest prep and weight cutting are completely different subjects which has been covered in another post. They involve water manipulation, low carbs (to manipulate water), and playing with super-hydration and sodium.

Some added content from answers to various questions on the post:

  • I haven’t touched on the physiological issues regarding weight loss, but outlined the mechanical issues.
  • Some people gain weight as psychological armor. I have seen many sexually abused girls become clinically obese. It’s so bad that when I see an obese teen, I automatically think sexual or physical abuse. Psychological issues are way outside my lane and should be dealt with, by a professional, prior to working on physical issues. Women or men who have been diagnosed, at any time of their lives, with anorexia or bulimia, should not be fasting.
  • When a person makes the decision to lose fat. It’s a mechanical issue. Control calories under BMR any way you can.
  • Body for Life is crap. It’s 5 small meals per day…buy my MRPs. It is unsustainable, if it was sustainable, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. If you are currently not happy with your fat status, every “diet” you have been on has been unsustainable for you (this is not a specific you, it is a general you).
  • May be I need to clarify something. It is NOT EASY TO LOSE FAT. It is not easy for me or anyone I know. I feel hunger. I want to destroy a bag of chips. I feel hunger pangs. I get irritable. I have seen grown MMA fighters cry due to a cutting diet. I have seen lean high school state wrestling champions cry like babies, because they are low calorie:
  • In most admirable endeavors your ability to sustain suffering will determine your success. Hard shit is hard, because…it sucks.
  • When someone tells me “it must be nice to be naturally lean.” I want to punch them in the face and say “Yah, if natural includes consistent dietary discipline, working out, at an intensity level you have never experienced, 7 days a week, and researching optimization, then you’re right…it’s easy.”
  • I’ve never had an uncontrollable physical addiction. The jury is out as to sugar being actually physically addictive to humans (it appears to be in rats). Caffeine is physically addictive. I guess the first step is admitting you have a problem, then you have to want to change. After that I got nothing.
  • A meal replacement shake has approximately 250 calories…two a day is an extra 500 calories. Replace the shake with a regular coffee and half and half 10 total calories. Diet coke…zero calories. Water…zero calories. Nothing…zero calories.
  • When losing fat it’s about calories consumed vs. calories expended. You are on a high fat diet, because your body is pulling from your fat stores to generate energy to meet your body’s demands.
  • Don’t worry about healthy or not healthy. Don’t worry about having protein at every meal. Don’t follow the dogma you have been pushed for the last 15 years.
  • If you have an issue with gout, well then don’t eat shit that sets gout off. If you have an issue with carbs (celiac), don’t eat carbs. If you cannot handle milk, don’t friggin drink it. But don’t let other people’s crusades suck you in. Don’t demonize foods. Soda is not inherently good or bad. Trans fats or high fructose corn syrup is not evil. Too much of it equals too many calories.
  • This is not a diet. Eat whatever you want, eat less weekly and you will lose fat. Really understand this and you will never read another diet article or book again.
  • CHEAT DAYS, once again, cheating implies you are restricting something. I don’t restrict foods, I don’t believe foods are good or bad. I think TOO MUCH FOOD is bad, if you don’t want to be fat. If you don’t care, then no problem. If you want to lose fat and maintain it, then this is the way to do it and still enjoy an occasional coke or piece of cake or pasta.
  • So, as we restrict calories, do we lose MUSCLE. For people who are on a low calorie diet AND WHO DON’T LIFT, there is a danger of actual muscle loss. If we maintain protein at, at least, .8g/lb and lift…there is no evidence of muscle loss in healthy humans on a low calorie diet. Will LEAN MASS go down, absolutely! Remember lean mass is everything but fat, including water retained in the muscles.
  • Now let’s flip this around a little. Anyone here broken an arm? Does the muscle shrink because of lack of use…hell yeah. So now you are permanently walking around with a shrunken arm, right? One gun is friggin huge, the other a little girly arm? Nope…after a few months out of the cast, the broken arms muscle mass went right back up to it’s old, huge gun, size. So worst case, if you lose a minor amount of muscle, dieting down (which you won’t, but for sake of argument let’s pretend you will)…you will gain it back rather quickly.
  • Now if you are so calorie restricted that you can’t lift…now we have a problem. If you are a vegan and don’t lift…you have more problems than I can deal with.
  • Just a cholesterol number is not precise enough. Your total cholesterol number may be high because your HDL number is off the charts (mine was 76 last time it was tested) a high HDL is very good. Additionally there are two kinds of LDLs…small LDL = bad and potentially atherogenic, big or “fluffy” LDL which are good (google fluffy LDL for a crap load of info). These could be tested, and I would prior to taking any medicine, which may have pretty bad side effects. There is a book: “The Cholesterol Myth” which makes the claim the whole hate cholesterol thing is bad science. Here are the claims:
  • Cholesterol is not a deadly poison, but a substance vital to the cells of all mammals. There are no such things as good or bad cholesterol, but mental stress, physical activity and change of body weight may influence the level of blood cholesterol. A high cholesterol is not dangerous by itself, but may reflect an unhealthy condition, or it may be totally innocent.
  • A high blood cholesterol is said to promote atherosclerosis and thus also coronary heart disease. But many studies have shown that people whose blood cholesterol is low become just as atherosclerotic as people whose cholesterol is high.
  • Your body produces three to four times more cholesterol than you eat. The production of cholesterol increases when you eat little cholesterol and decreases when you eat much. This explains why the ”prudent” diet can not lower cholesterol more than on average a few per cent.
  • There is no evidence that too much animal fat and cholesterol in the diet promotes atherosclerosis or heart attacks. For instance, more than twenty studies have shown that people who have had a heart attack haven’t eaten more fat of any kind than other people, and degree of atherosclerosis at autopsy is unrelated with the diet.
  • The only effective way to lower cholesterol is with drugs, but neither heart mortality or total mortality have been improved with drugs the effect of which is cholesterol-lowering only. On the contrary, these drugs are dangerous to your health and may shorten your life.
  • The new cholesterol-lowering drugs, the statins, do prevent cardiovascular disease, but this is due to other mechanisms than cholesterol-lowering. Unfortunately, they also stimulate cancer in rodents, disturb the functions of the muscles, the heart and the brain and pregnant women taking statins may give birth to children with malformations more severe than those seen after thalidomide.
  • Many of these facts have been presented in scientific journals and books for decades but are rarely told to the public by the proponents of the diet-heart idea.
  • The reason why laymen, doctors and most scientists have been misled is because opposing and disagreeing results are systematically ignored or misquoted in the scientific press.
  • I present this information not to encourage you NOT to lower your cholesterol, but to tell you to do your research prior to any intervention (dietary or not).
  • There is evidence a lower carb diet increases the incidence of fluffy LDL and raises HDL. LSD Cardio training increases HDL. Fish oil is good.
  • Bottom line is realize the goal is not to lower cholesterol, the goal is to prevent cardiovascular disease. The fact you are lean now would indicate to me your high cholesterol is due to genetic factors (ie. your body is producing higher cholesterol, you are not getting it from your food). I assume you don’t smoke. What’s your family history regarding cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes?
  • Granted, I am not a doctor and would never give or contradict medical advice, I think your diet plan will be fine. If it was me, I would research this until I became a layman expert, I would then take an active role in my treatment, or lack of treatment.

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