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admin | Matrix Exercise Equipment | 05.02.2015
In the last installment in this series, I described the long, painful process of getting my body moving properly after 20 years of powerlifting abuse.
This article will discuss an even more important undertaking: going from a fat mess with horrendous eating habits and blood work to match, to leaner, muscular, and much healthier. Whether it was the guys at the old barbell club who took me under their wing when I was 16 to my bodybuilding mentors at Hard Bodies, to the greatest powerlifting coach of all, Louie Simmons, I've been blessed to have some brilliant minds steering me throughout my journey. I've listened to them (maybe not at first), learned from them, and through their guidance accomplished some impressive things.
That in itself didn't phase me ? I'd dealt with so many injuries throughout my career, and had doctors tell me it was a miracle I could still walk upright, that seeing some abnormal numbers on a printout was nothing ? until Serrano asked if I wanted to see my kids graduate high school.
I'd heard of John Berardi through our mutual association with T Nation and had seen him speak at a few seminars. Don't get me wrong, in the trenches experience trumps the theoretical every day of the week, but I also have a background in nutritional biochemistry and exercise physiology. When I reached out to my lifter friends about my issue they just about pissed themselves laughing, but Berardi took my problem seriously. To get past my hang-up that all healthy food tasted bad, he had me trying out different recipes that were fast, easy, and tasty.
While my wife and kids were free to eat what they wanted, it's much easier when everyone eats from a similar menu. You can read more about it here, but I worked with Berardi for the better part of a year and all told lost about 50 pounds. Considering how far I'd come and the changes I made, I felt pretty good about myself and chalked it up as a goal accomplished. My maintenance turned out to be just shuffling back into my old habits of junk food and haphazard eating, and before I knew it I was up 30 pounds.
In 2007 I brought bodybuilder Justin Harris into the elitefts family as a sponsored athlete. Justin saw the progress I'd made with Berardi and was disappointed that I let things slide after reaching what I thought was my goal. Justin explained that once the body gets really lean it wants to replenish itself and is highly sensitized to nutrients. I told Justin that I'd be willing to do whatever it took to get to where I was about three weeks out from a show. You can read more about Justin's approach here, but the first thing he said was that I'd have to change what I was doing. Most of the guys that Justin worked with were competitive bodybuilders and he couldn't afford to play mad scientist with clients that had upcoming shows. I sent Justin my pics every week and he adjusted the number of days according to my condition. The low-carb days were easiest as there were less meals to prep, whereas the high-carb days required that I pack a stupid cooler to take with me wherever I went. I actually put on muscle while dieting and got into my all time best condition ? 235 and ripped and full. Considering how I looked and my strength, I'd say it was more like 3-4 pounds of muscle and a bloat load of water and fat.
I decided to wait for the bloat to come off before I contacted Justin again, but found myself getting busy, and cheating more. I found myself falling into a routine where I'd pick a basic strength movement that didn't hurt me too much, like a floor press or yoke bar squat and train it like I was approaching a powerlifting meet.
Justin Harris went back to school, was running his business, working full time, raising a family, and working with top bodybuilders. Shelby said cheat meals were counterproductive until you were very lean, unless you had to have a mental break. Shelby would watch my training log and when my numbers started to plummet, he'd schedule in a high-carb day, usually on a lower body day.
While the geek in me liked Justin's super technical approach and the results were spectacular, Shelby was already looking into the future.
He'd let me eat foods that he knew I'd be eating in the off-season including some pre-approved fast food, provided the macros added up. This wasn't a concession he'd normally make with a competitive bodybuilder, but it didn't make sense to get me eating a certain way if there wasn't a hope in hell I'd eat like that after the diet was done. So while 8-ounces of chicken and brown rice might be ideal, in a few months a triple chicken sub on flatbread from Subway would be reality.
It should be noted that right when I started working with Justin, Tim Patterson from Biotest contacted me regarding some new workout nutrition products he was developing. The stuff tasted like ass (did I mention it was unflavored?), but considering the guy was sending it to me, I decided I'd find a way to choke it down.
Surge® Workout Fuel was the most variable; I'd have more or less depending on whether it was a high, medium, or low carb day. I also had two Metabolic Drive® Low Carb shakes a day and used Rhodiola whenever I started to feel run down. Training wise, Shelby still matched the heavier training days with higher carb days, but we kept a balance between bodybuilding pumping and strength work. I got in great shape with Shelby ? most of the pics you see on T Nation are from working with him ? and I stayed leaner, longer.
The other reason is that I finally figured out what every fitness ******* has been preaching for 100 years ? that this **** is a lifestyle.
Right now every strong fat guy is wondering what I'd do different so they don't make the same mistakes I made.

Part of it was availability ? some guys were busy when I wanted to kick start the process again. When I worked with Berardi, I was a ticking time bomb who needed to get healthy and learn how to eat food that wasn't from a drive thru window.
Yet one thing that sticks with me is this: suppose I was able to stick with just Berardi for five or six years, or Justin, or Shelby?
That coach would have years of data on me and would know which foods worked, which didn't, which macros left me exhausted, and which left me with the energy to train and strain.
I realize now that ? provided he or she is competent ? the best coach is the coach you stick with.
How are you supposed to learn what works if you don't stick with an approach long enough to build up a frame of reference? This is when a good coach can set you up with the type of habits that keep you lean for life. However, when you work in things like being sociable and practicing a little moderation is where many fall off the wagon. A good coach can help you eat better and see food as a tool instead of an indulgence, but they won't cook for you, or shop for you, or wash your dirty Tupperware.
I think there's a tendency, especially amongst the coach-hoppers, to give the coaches too much blame when things don't go as planned. Some might say that a diet coach is just for physique athletes or pro bodybuilders, but I submit we all need coaches in areas of our lives where we aren't proficient. I know enough about strength that I won't hire a kid in an NSCA polo shirt to write my training programs, but when I don't have a set diet I fall apart. My injuries will never go away so my days of training like an elite strength athlete are behind me. But if looking jacked is all I can do now, I'll run at it to the best of my abilities ? and when those abilities fall short, I'll have a coach help me. Engage all of your clients young and old, from the hard-core athlete to those with limited lower body function or short term injuries looking to remain fit and healthy while rehabilitating with the E-920 Professional Fluid Upper Body Ergometer (UBE).
The E-920 Professional Fluid Upper Body Ergometer (UBE) provides a versatile upper body ergometer workout for seated arm crank exercises using the adjustable seat, a wheelchair or a balance ball as well as standing exercising. Upper Body Ergometers are not limited to only those with disabilities or lower-body injuries.
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Throughout the series I've noted the times when mentors have had a tremendous effect on my development as an athlete and as a man. But I was also a powerlifter ? albeit a broken down one ? and it wasn't like people weren't taking what I had to say seriously just because I didn't have a six-pack. As a strength coach, I'm confident I can help just about anyone get stronger under the bar or in their sport. I knew he was smart and a good communicator, and unlike a lot of the bodybuilding coaches, I knew had a very strong academic background. I wanted someone with that type of background to assist with a peculiar problem I'd been experiencing. It began with me getting a wack load of blood work done, including a glucose tolerance test.
My kids liked some of this new clean food more than the junk food, and I was able to keep it down. I figured I'd just take a break before switching to "maintenance," despite not even knowing what that was!
He was also a coach, and I was fascinated by his approach to dieting down bodybuilders, and I constantly picked his brain for advice. Justin said I needed at least another month or two of hard dieting to get to the zone where he felt the best rebound for me could occur. I knew that in bodybuilding, like in powerlifting, nothing you do in the last three weeks is ever good for your health or your sanity. Since I just wanted to get lean enough to rebound, I signed on for whatever he had in store for me.
His setup had low days at around 100 grams, moderate days at 200-300 grams, high days at 500 grams, the occasional zero day, as well as some super high days, where I ate 1200 grams of carbs a day from stuff like Fruity Pebbles. With Berardi, it was assumed that I knew how to lift weights so John just worked on my diet while adding in cardio as things progressed.
That meant off days were low or zero carb days, while lifting days were moderate or high days.
Each day required a different set of meals and every week would have different days, so you couldn't even get into some sort of pattern where Monday is low day, Saturday is high day, whatever. As things progressed I found myself simply not going anywhere that was more than two hours away from my fridge. Although I trained as much as I could and tried to eat as cleanly as possible, it was still a vacation. The bloat slowly came off and according to the calipers I did add about 10 pounds of lean mass ? but calipers can be tricky when you're a bloated pig.

It was a fun change after doing so much bodybuilding work, and getting to strain again was like visiting an old friend. I didn't want to be stuck with some Nazi who'd cardio the crap out of me while making me eat chicken and rice three times a day, especially not after being with Berardi and realizing that type of thing wasn't necessary. He was like a balance between Berardi's lifestyle approach and Justin's hardcore bodybuilding mindset. What was interesting was that usually at 8% my body starts to revolt; this time I sailed cleared through.
There were no super high or super low days like Justin had, nor were there cheat meals, at least not for a long time. Shelby also wanted pictures and bodyfat measurements weekly but used how my training was going to make adjustments. He could see where I'd screwed up before and wisely started working me into maintenance mode even while we were still in the depths of dieting. Although I'll never be a powerlifter again, I need some straining to make me feel alive, especially as the calories drop.
This was partly due to his more sustainable approach that kept my dieting foods as close as possible to off-season foods.
They all did exactly what I asked them to do, and any failures I had in keeping the weight off was my own. There's a reason the biggest, most conditioned guys in the world are where they are and it's not all drugs and genetics.
That coach would be able to make the best recommendations for me, backed by years of previous experiences. In hindsight, especially considering some of my destructive habits, I should've kept it up for at least six months past the original end date.
After all, anyone can be in shape when they carry a cooler with them and never have a piece of cake at their kid's birthday party. Before you blame your lack of success on your diet or the person writing it, honestly assess how well you followed it.
Sometimes I look at myself and laugh at how I'm becoming what I used to make fun of back in the day: a guy who looks jacked but isn't strong for ****!
I'll never get giddy about a new diet protocol or talk endlessly about how awesome my pump was after I carbed up on sweet potatoes.
The E-920 Fluid Upper Body Ergometer (UBE) provides a combination of heart pumping cardio and muscle strengthening paramount to a healthy, fit body.
The power assisted arm adjusts to concentrate on core muscles at its lowest height, chest, biceps and triceps at its highest and a combination of both using the middle height. They are ideal for all of your clients for rehabilitation, conditioning and strengthening and should be a part of every person’s routine for a balanced body. In fact, you can't build muscle without what's called a "positive protein balance." Protein synthesis must be greater than the destruction of muscle, exercise can cause. The higher the biological value of a protein, the more of the protein your body can use and won't be disposed of as waste.
We are your personal trainer, your nutritionist, your supplement expert, your lifting partner, your support group. And when something bores me, I generally suck at it and quit ? unless it's a priority, whereupon I'll hire a coach to help me.
Berardi then sent me lists of different foods to experiment with along with food prep tips that I actually used.
John's Chili" and this peanut butter Metabolic Drive shake that was better than something you'd find at Dairy Queen. And as anyone who's done this knows, when one person in the family diets, the whole household kind of diets. As such, my training was increasingly put on autopilot, which for me meant basic strength training, although I was still limited in what exercises I could do. We set up a carb cycling type of framework, and I could pick foods from a pre-approved list of choices as long as the quantities fit the parameters. I was so impressed I had both Justin and Shelby build the protocol into the diets they made for me.
The best diet in the world is useless if not followed, just as how a strength training program is worthless if you skip more workouts than you hit. I submit that if your compliancy is less than 90%, then you have no business blaming anyone but yourself.
With 20 levels of Variable Fluid Resistance for a light workout to a grueling, intense sweat session, the E-920 Upper Body Ergometer (UBE) rivals treadmills and bikes with heart rate ranges within fat burning and fitness training levels. We provide the technology, tools, and products you need to burn fat, build muscle, and become your best self. Shelby Starnes had a log up at elitefts and a lot of guys I worked with were using him for diet help. To support muscle mass, consume approximately 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight from all dietary sources per day. Use in conjunction with an intense daily exercise program and a balanced diet including an adequate caloric intake.

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