Thursday, August 2, 2012

Adelfo Cerame - Back From Vegas: Mr. C. Doesn't Like His Veggies! Plus: Chicken Breast, Broccoli and Beyond!

Image 1: It's odd, this picture was taken before the pre-judging at the Wheelchair Championships and as Adelfo rightly pointed out in an email to me, he looks way better on those pics than during the contest..
He is back from Vegas! Neither robbed nor bankrupt and with a whole bag of thrilling experiences at and around the Myotropics booth at the 2012 NPC USA Bodybuilding, Figure, Men's and Women's Physique and Bikini Contest ... man that's a mouth full ;-) Anyway, Adelfo is back in the house and ready for his Thursdaily SuppVersity post with some information about what he learned on the weekend and what he has been teaching to his new client Mr C. (see "Adelfo Cerame & Mr C: A Basic Workout + Nutrition Plan for Average Joes Trying to Get Stronger, Leaner & Healthier") within the last two weeks. But enough of my lengthy preliminary remarks... Adelfo has the floor!

Back from Vegas, back from the USA's back to Mr. C. 

I have safely returned from my trip to Vegas, where I represented my sponsor Myotropics Physique Nutrition at the USA's and I must say ... it was a great experience all around!

Not just because my hotel room didn’t get broken into and robbed this time around, but also because I got to meet most of the Myotropics athletes and thus had the chance to get to know all of them a little better. More than just one interesting story, trial and tribulation on the journey of each of them ...and believe it or not: Neither of them was "born" a physique athlete. We have all had our struggles and if nothing else, it were years of hard work that got us into the position we are now. 

Learning from the best: Learning from Erick Minor

Image 2: Erick Minor, fellow Myotropics Physique Athlete is a real wealth of knowledge.
For me, personally, the time I spent with Erick Minor, owner of the Strength Studio, a private gym in Fort Worth, Texas, and likewise on the list of Myotropics athletes, was yet unquestionably most valuable. Erick is pretty seasoned with his knowledge of nutrition and training, so I picked his brain all weekend and learned one or another trick, I had not heard about before - he also found an exercise I can do for my lower back, despite sitting in a wheelchair, so that I can finally build more muscle in the lower back are, in order to make the so-called Christmas tree, which is how bodybuilders like to refer to the striated muscles on their ripped backs, shine in its full glory, when I eventually start to diet down again this fall.

Unfortunately, I don’t remember the exact name of the exercise (honestly, I am not sure it even has one ;-), but it works like the exact counter-part to the straight arm pulldown. You attach a rope to the pulley machine, yet not to the top, but to the bottom and instead of puling down, which would train your serratus and latissimus, you're raising the rope over your head while the arms are extended so that have to contract your lower back to keep you stable... I know difficult to imagine, but I will have a video for you next week. Erick said, this is an exercise recommends for his clients that have lower back issues and aren’t able to do deadlift or do good mornings, so maybe some of you can benefit from it as well.

A brief update on Mr. C. - Can you imagine? He does not like his veggies!

While I was in Vegas my client, Mr C. ran into some minor struggles. Before we actually started out on his training + nutrition regimen I had him play around with an app that would allow him to easily log and track his food intake. I told him just to eat how he would usually eat for a couple days and to make sure not to forget to enter everything he eats and drinks into the log, so that we can go through his current regimen, calculate his baseline caloric intake and evaluate his macronutrient ratios.

If you want to design a customized nutrition plan that really works for a client, this is an imperative and as it will provide you with the information you need to know where you and your client are coming from. Now, as I already had suspected, Mr. C was consuming low amounts of protein, high carbohydrates, and high fats, and the majority of Mr. C’s carbohydrate, and fat sources were coming from junk – processed carbohydrates, fast food, trans fats… our first primer will thus be to finally ween him off of that junkfood. Starting this week Mr. C is supposed to gradually exchange all of the processed foods with home-made "real food" meals with a focus on lean meats, veggies, fruits, tubers, and healthy fats like olive oil, and coconut oil.

Mr. C’s minor struggles with dieting

Now, some of you may think: "What a breeze, I mean, I would not need a nutrition coach to know that",... and if fact, you may not need one, as it turns out (and Mr. C. is by no means the exception to the rule, here), Mr. C. is having a really tough time with those allegedly minor changes and the organizational matters his new eating habits entail.
  1. Video 1: I guess the people who are responsible for the ads during that air during the Super Bowl don't like their broccoli. either. I mean why else would they reject this delicate PETA TV commercial ? On the other hand,let's face it PETA would not have tolerated a commercial for grass-fed beef on their website either, would they ;-)
    For one, he was struggling to keep track of his macros. I know, for people like you and me it's pretty obvious that your average chicken breast has 20g of protein per 100g, that olive oil is pure fat that potatoes are starches and don't contain any fat etc... if you have encountered calories and macronutrients only in the form of food labels, before, keeping track of your protein, carbohydrate and fat intake - something that is by the way of much greater importance than your "calories" - can be really challenging.
  2. The same goes for "eating your veggies", those leafy greans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and all the other stuff Mr. C. knew only from the pictures you have on all those fake-foods that may lead customers to believe there were all those healthy foods in them, when all you really get are "natural aromas" (made from mold or chipped woods) and artificially added vitamins, were giving Mr. C. a really hard time. In that he reminds me of a little kid telling you "I don't like A, B and C", when he has actually never had any of those - at least not as a part of a well-prepared whole-foods meal.
Now, as a coach you are not paid to argue with your clients, but to help them and so the first thing I had to do, when I came back from Vegas was to find a way to get Mr. C. back on track.

The fastest way from junk to real food is not necessarily the best one

I was pretty sure that much of his struggle came down to not seeing the merit and necessity of both, running a detailed food log and eating your veggies, which is the obvious prerequisite to have the will-power to overcome the initial struggles everyone will encounter. So I came up with the following "solutions", or I should rather say "suggestions" of which I hope that they are going to help Mr. C. to finally really zone in on his new eating habits:
  1. I told him about my own early experiences with food logs and how I did them with pen and paper; pointed out how much easier he would have it, now that all those apps were available and how he would not have to have a calorie table + calculator at hand everytime he wanted to eat something and could still hold himself accountable for what he ate and thus objectively monitor his adherence to the program. I also told Mr. C that keeping track of your macros allows for food flexibility and increases your chance for success, because you know exactly what you’re eating, there’s no guessing whether you’re overeating or undereating, the numbers will speak for themselves and when you are not making progress and can honestly say that you stuck to the plan, it's the plan and not you, let alone your genes that failed. 
  2. I also told him that I am well aware that for whatever reason people who have been eating junk for years have a really tough time with the initially less rewarding, but at the same time more satiating, less fattening, and not addictive taste of vegetables. Still, I am not someone who will keep pushing food on his clients that they really dread eating... I mean, you would not eat poop, just because it's nutrient dense, would you? And when you hear you client tell you that he washes down his vegetables with water, as if if they were some kind of cough syrup, this should ring all alarm bells - this is something you can to for a couple of weeks on one of the conventional starvation diets, but if you want to help a client turning his nutritional habits full-circle you need to find ways to "wean him on his veggies" by starting him out on non-raw stir fried veggies you season with low calorie sauces and marinades and prepare like a chicken stir-fry. You can also add in a greens supplement to begin with - this is more of a crutch, but it will provide him with the full-load of vital nutrients while he is still working on upping his real-food intake. And lastly a higher intake of a broad variety of low(er) carbohydrate fruits can go a long way to make up for a lack of veggies.
You as a trainer, will always keep the longterm goals in the back of your head, but you must never overwhelm your client by asking him to turn his whole life upside down from one day to the next. For Mr. C. and me this ment that he and I would have to meet halfway and despite the minor objections against eating his veggies *lol*, I must say that we have already come a long way - not the least due to his wife, who has been really supportive and began to pack his lunch with chicken breasts, veggies, and fruit, so that he doesn't have to buy his stuff in cafeteria, anymore and would thus not be tempted to fall off the wagon.

Nurturing yourself takes more than following a plan to the T

Image 3: There should come a time when you neither need those, nor any of the allegedly practical apps to keep track of your nutrient intake.
I gave Mr. C. a couple of general guidelines with respect to the macronutrient ratios and a list of food items to pick from. I am not the kind of person who writes detailed meal plans, or provides exact recipes for each and every meal. It's not that I could not do so, but imagine your elementary teacher would simply have handed you a set of stories, read them out to you a couple of times and had you memorize each of the stories based on it's title - would you ever have learned how to read? No, you wouldn't!

And believe it or not, learning to "dieting", or I guess I'd better say to "nurture yourself" ain't all that different from learning to read. Anyone can follow a plan to the T (assuming he has the balls to eat his veggies ;-), but this would not have you depend on a trainer / nutrition coach for the rest of your life, it will also make you highly unflexible and will, almost necessarily, end in failure.

And as far as Mr. C. has concerned - he has actually made quite a few very healthy choices, as his new diet consisted mainly of chicken breast, tubers, mixed veggies, salads, and fruits - certainly no bad choices and yet still so single-sided and mainstream that I am a little concerned that he will either soon be fed up with his routine, or develop into an orthorexic, "no I don't do anything but chicken breast" person - now you are laughing, but don't we all know one or another of this persons - and usually they neither compete, nor do they look as if they were eating healthy and training altogether... anyway, eventually I want Mr. C. to broaden his food choices, there are so many cheap, delicious and absolutely diet compatible meats, there is seafood, the occasional portion of rice, the whole variety of vegetables and the thousand different ways to prepare them, dairy, organ meats, eggs,... in short: I want Mr. C. m to learn that "dieting", or as I said before, "nurturing yourself" has nothing to do with eating exclusively bland and repetitive foods and that - and this is somewhat of a side effect of his food-choices, a healthy diet must never be devoid of fat!

Too many people still fall for the fat lies of the past

Image 4: Ain't it funny how people willingly add a tablespoon of sugar to their dressing, but cringe when the recipe says they have to add a tbsp of olive oil?
When I went through Mr. C.'s food log it turned out that his fat intake hovered somewhere between way too low and almost non-existent. So I told him to make sure to get at least 50g of fat/day and explained how going too low on any of the nutrients will sooner or later mess his hormonal functions and metabolism. I understand that with the constant media propaganda against "all things fat", the notion that you have to add a tablespoon of coconut or olive oil to your meals (which is what I told Mr. C. he has to do if he sticks to his ultra-lean chicken breasts) smacks of sabotaging your diet - that the exact opposite is the case that too little fat will stall any weight loss, was thus difficult to grasp for Mr. C.

I still feel he and I have had a good start and actually we are just about to embark on what I hope will be a short journey for me and a lifelong one for Mr. C. once he got bit by the bug of physical culture and things will eventually fall into place almost magically.