I recently engaged in a social media conversation (yes I know, bad idea, stick with me) with someone who had, to put it plainly, lost their enthusiasm for the fitness world.
The conversation started when a friend (someone looking to increase their squat and deadlift) asked about alternatives to using milk in protein shakes. Reading into their desire to avoid milk they were advised to ‘go vegetarian’. Cue heated discussions relating to complete proteins, bioavailability and malnutrition.
Anyone who has been in fitness sphere for a while will know if you touch on certain subjects with a broad spectrum of people with differing viewpoints, things can get a little emotive.One viewpoint was that vegan bodybuilding was ‘bullshit’ and ‘they’re all full of steroids just to look decent’ and that eating enough food to get the right amount of quality protein and calories as a vegan would leave you looking like a ‘bloated sack of sh*t’ unless you were a ‘professional’ athlete who could afford to train every day.
Like I said, emotive.The individual that made these comments had started out with an enthusiastic desire to gain muscle, get a little leaner and get stronger. They had been lifting weights for a few years and paid attention to their diet and after seeing very little progress over time, it was clear they were getting more than a little disillusioned.
‘It’s all a lie, you either have the genetics or you don’t, they’re all on steroids, it’s just not realistic even if you have the time to train every day.’ I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist.
Our DNA plays a role in all physical endeavours to some degree, whether it be the width of our hand span for playing a bass guitar, being tall for basketball or the opposite if we want to be jockey. There are also outliers, those who have succeeded against pre-conceived notions of what constitutes the ‘right’ body-type for any given calling.
Why are you doing this in the first place? If it is because you want to be the best in the world, you know like… EVER, you better have chosen your parents well if you hope to have won the genetic lottery in your chosen endeavour.
We all start somewhere. It is what we do next that counts.
Steroids, gear, performance enhancing drugs. There is no denying their relevance particularly in strength sports, however in my opinion, most people over-estimate the performance increases they provide and under-estimate the number of people that don’t use them and still obtain phenomenal results in spite of the fact. They work, as those who are open about their use attest, but they are not a magic pill. If you want to know a little more about how they are perceived and why, I’d recommended Bigger Stronger, Faster.
There are 24 hours in every day, nobody gets any more and nobody gets any less. It is what we choose to do with the time we are given that matters. Our schedules can change: travel, exams, long shifts, children, overtime, family and other personal commitments all come into play.
I currently train 4 days a week and throw in some conditioning sessions one or two days per week, sometimes on training days, sometimes on ‘rest’ days. If I travel and it is deadlift day and I get home late, instead of saying ‘F*ck it.’ watching TV and pounding Doritos and Ben & Jerry’s, I deadlift late that day. If my schedule changes and I’m unable to commit to a full session on a given day, I re-schedule. If I am unable to fit a conditioning session into a planned day, I move it. If I am unable to re-schedule either, every once in a while, I miss a session. Re-read that, ‘every once in a while’. For me, every once in a while is fine, however if I start missing a session every 2-3 weeks, my performance, and ultimately my progress, begins to suffer. It didn’t take me long to realise that for me, consistency was key. I didn’t start prepping my meals to dial in my macros and get shredded. I did it to save time and to maintain consistency in an area of my life that I could control. It gave me more time, more control and less excuses, and because cooking a well balanced meal at 10.30 pm after a heavy deadlift session sucks.
Social media has a lot to answer for: 6-pack abs and pop tarts, filtered sun-kissed selfies, late night tweets and 5.00 am cardio. Given the noise, it is no wonder people become disillusioned if the results they are getting, with seemingly the same methods, are not getting them where they want to be.
There is more information available to us now than we have ever had access to and we are bombarded with conflicting advice on a constant basis. Low fat, high fat, cardio, no cardio, intermittent fasting, carb back-loading, high protein, paleo, pre-intra-post-workout confusion.
If our viewpoints are determined by logic and reason, we cannot help but view alternative viewpoints from the standpoint of logic and reason.
Take the time to explore the principles of the wide variety of training, diet, rest and recovery methodologies. People have ‘succeeded’ on them all, maybe you will too. If you give something a go and worry it is not working… How long did you try it for and how was your compliance? Did you try it, of did you really do it? What would Yoda say?
If we take anything from those who fulfill their goals, regardless of methodology it is this – conviction counts. How can you give your all to something if you don’t believe it will work? How many people have committed to a 20 rep squat program, and finished it mind, thinking if might work. How many people have lost 40lbs for good without adhering fully and seeing it through? In order to succeed, the strength of our convictions matters.
It has been said may times before: the secret is there is no secret, however there are themes. Hard work, consistency, persistence, tenacity, regularity – review, adjust, rinse, rest and repeat. Day in, day out. Pick your poison, stick with it, give it your all, push yourself a little more, a little harder, over time. Have faith, believe in yourself and in what you are doing and the progress will come.
Kick genetics in the dick, learn all you can about your chosen endeavour and note the similarities between those who have achieved excellence and have succeeded regardless of their path. You will make progress, you will get better, stronger, faster, leaner, more explosive, develop greater skill… it will happen if you give it its due focus.
There is not a perfect way, there are ways.
Logic, reason and heart matter, make the most of all them.
I am not a vegan, nor a vegetarian. However, I eat (and enjoy) vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds and if the mood takes me I will eat vegan or vegetarian meals and enjoy them and be confident that my gains won’t disappear overnight along with my testosterone. I also respect anyone who follows a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, be it for moral, religious or political reasons.
There’s one thing that pretty much every proponent of the ‘named’ diets agree on: Eating more vegetables is a good thing.
So as an aside, if you are interested in eating a plant based diet, or know someone who is and are worried about what the naysayers might say, here’s a few resources you might want to check out before heading off down the rabbit hole.