This is an article that I really wanted to write for you guys. It's something that I feel is the biggest downfall for most guys in the gym, and if they were aware of it they'd have better chances of getting the physique they desire.
The biggest problem most guys in the gym face is they want to change what they are doing based on given workouts as reference points, NOT WHAT'S IN THE MIRROR! To most guys, if they have a few workouts where they are weaker, then they think they are losing muscle and size. This is not true. If I could successfully add 5 lbs on my bench every time I worked out I would be pressing buildings by now.
It's common for many people to change the exercise when they stop gaining on one. They look for answers, question what they are doing, and look for the next best pill to pop so they can continue getting what they think are “results.” You're probably wondering exactly what the fuck I'm talking about at this point. Allow me to explain.
A few days ago I incline pressed 125 lb dumbbells for a set of 20 reps. I was on fire. However, I've been eating very strict lately, and yesterday's caloric consumption was pretty low. I went out for dinner with some friends last night and had a grilled chicken salad with raspberry walnut vinaigrette and a few vodka/club sodas (something I rarely do).
I woke up this morning looking pretty sharp since the vodka cut some water off me. I go back in the gym tonight and I'm doing flat dumbbell presses, which are normally easier than incline. I managed to get 13 reps, 7 reps short of what I did on incline! Am I getting weaker? Nope! Was it a bad workout? N! Its just part of the system of checks and balances, get a little leaner and get a little weaker. HOWEVER, if I had a pizza yesterday you can bet your ass off I would have hit the reps for many more.
So with this being said, did I really lose any muscle or strength if just 1 day of consuming more calories would have made my rep count higher? Absolutely not!
Calories don't fix the problem
But if every time I felt like a workout was weaker or I didn't hit my mark, and in turn went out and consumed more calories to “fix the problem”, I would look like everybody else walking around the gym. You cannot let this sort of shit phase you. You need to stick to your guns and move forward. Sometimes you need to just grit it and bare the pain, the occasional weaker days, the days where your energy levels may be lower.
If you're eating clean and getting adequate protein intake it really takes a long time to start losing muscle, unless you're one of these carb deprivation guys (which is a whole other article in itself and can rip muscle off you faster than a crack whore offering a BJ).
Now, I'm not saying that on occasion you don't need a refuel day, but for God's sake don't go out there and pound a bunch of bullshit calories every time you don't think you made the mark in the gym strength wise. Think of it as addition through subtraction, you're giving up a little to gain a lot. You have to be able to go through these ups and downs if you want the body of a Greek god. To set yourself apart from the rest you have to do what the rest are not doing. This will come easier with experience, it's going to take awhile.
Get to know your body, for the most part you need to listen to what it's telling you. But every once in awhile you also need to tell it to shut the fuck up and continue marching to war.
3 thoughts on “Strength, Definition, and Energy Levels – a Mindgame”
Could you please go a little more in detail why low/no-carb diets can cause muscle loss? It would be very helpful for me. Thank You!
Ok, what you first have to understand is carbohydrates are used to transport fluid into the muscles. Hence the name “carbo-HYDRATE” muscles are made of 75% water so when you eliminate something that is used to shuttle the fluid to the muscle it can cause the muscles to go flat. Now if you do this long enough catabolism ensues. Many guys seem to have this idea they can eliminate carbs for several weeks and then all of a sudden reintroduce them and “fill back out” while I can understand their theory, it rarely proves effective. Lowering carbs to a certain degree is fine, and may be necessary, but I don’t just eliminate them. A lot of this is person specific but I’m just not a low carb guy. I think this idea that you can eat shit like bacon, cheese, butter, and pork rinds, as long as your carbs are non existent is ridiculous. I’m not saying you can’t lose bodyfat or weight by doing so, but why go that route if you can do a moderate intake of carbs and still look good and pumped?
I do take carbs lower, and even lower towards the tail end of the diet, but this is only when I have to because I have nothing else to take from in order to lose that last little bit of fat. Actually let me rephrase that, I do take them down to a point it helps me lose that last little bit, then I add them AND fat back in the mix and get huge, volumize, and hard as nails the last few weeks. Too many guys want to take, take, take. I have found the key is to initially take and then add back in when the time is right!!
Have some experience w the low/no carb thing. A couple of years back, I was training w a buddy who was getting ready for an MMA fight. It entailed a lot of sprint work and high intensity cardio, along w strength endurance work. Kept carbs pretty low, lotta steak and eggs.
Here’s what I found. As long as I tapped into heavy weights x1 a week, my absolute strength stayed about the same. Conditioning went through the roof, shed that last final bullshit weight. However, I think I followed this style of training for 2 long without the adequate amount of daily calories.
Result, was too lean and started 2 see strength drops in the following months. This approach will work short term( spring break, wedding pics, etc.), but I wouldnt stay on it 2 long w/o eating more daily carbs and throwing in a de-load week a little more frequently. If you break the body down in this manner, you must give it time 2 build back up.