Today’s Topic: Balance, The Trinity, Overtraining, Recommendations
Goal: Become aware of your training and balancing The Trinity
How: Mindset, Psychology, Recommendations
For most of us, it’s impossible to know exactly where our ideas come from. Our beliefs have been shaped by our experiences over the years, with most of it happening behind the scenes that is our subconscious. The thing about our beliefs is, once they take hold, it is extremely difficult to change them. It takes a massive amount of effort to overcome the beliefs and biases we have developed our entire lives. To further compound the issue, humans have a handy psychological trick that we use to delude ourselves into believing what we want. The mind tricks us into believing things that don’t always reflect what is best for us. This is known as cognitive bias.
According to Wikipedia, Cognitive bias is defined as:
A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment, whereby inferences of other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input. An individual’s construction of social reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behavior in the social world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.
Some cognitive biases are presumably adaptive. Cognitive biases may lead to more effective actions in a given context. Furthermore, cognitive biases enable faster decisions when timeliness is more valuable than accuracy, as illustrated in heuristics. Other cognitive biases are a “by-product” of human processing limitations, resulting from a lack of appropriate mental mechanisms, or simply from a limited capacity for information processing.
A continually evolving list of cognitive biases has been identified over the last six decades of research on human judgment and decision-making in cognitive science, social psychology, and behavioral economics.
In short, we believe what we want to believe. Our brain will convince us of what we should believe, and sometimes in the face of overwhelming evidence to contrary. Our brain is resolute when it decides to believe something, it’s a defensive mechanism. It’s why we are afraid of the unknown, of different, of the eccentric. This is also why religion, politics, food, and health are so heavily debated; people have strong beliefs and their minds will do anything to hold on to those beliefs. Sometimes our beliefs are deep-rooted having developed since childhood while others are less solidified and more open to change.
I see it all the time: love of training turning into an obsession. Some end up training every single day and completely shun the idea of a rest day. Some do this because they are obsessed to reach a goal, while some do it to fulfill a psychological need. No matter the reason, the fact always remains true: Without adequate recovery, there is too much physical stress on the body.
Overtraining will steal years from your life. It will ruin your joints (especially running on hard surfaces) and it isn’t sustainable no matter how hard you try to make it. Sure, genetics and recovery will help increase what is considered safe volume, but most go beyond what is safe and fail to utilize proper rest or nutrition to boot—that is the problem.
On top of having a genuine concern for my clients and their longterm health—more than they do sometimes—I get frustrated when they tell me about the goals they are trying to reach. Usually it’s something like, “I want to lose this last 5 pounds” or “I want to lose the fat on my arms” or “I want to get rid of my love handles.” And what do they do? They train more, harder, and longer. They believe that it takes more exercise to ‘burn’ away that last bit of fat or to ‘build’ that last bit of muscle. This is good intention and bad implementation.
What they fail to realize is that training is a stress to the body. Typically, these stubborn goals that they are failing to reach are an indicator of the very stress that their overtraining is creating. Since more training is why they can’t reach their goals, they should be doing less, not more. Although, more is exactly what they usually do because they don’t understand the balance between work and rest. This is the ‘more is better’ syndrome in full effect. This is the ‘more is better’ syndrome in full effect.
This is the problem
Other athletes that fall victim to this logical fallacy include the athlete that trains everyday, sometimes twice a day. Or the determined soccer mom that goes to the gym 3 hours a day, does weights, abs, cardio, and finishes with a wheatgrass shot and muscle milk in her ultimate goal of burning off that ‘stubborn 5 pounds.’ They are all doing what they think will get them results.
Ready for the truth?
Be careful, what you are about to read could change your life..
Drum roll……………MORE IS NOT BETTER. IN FACT, IT’S OFTEN WORSE
Examples of less is more include:
- Lifting more weight doesn’t always build more muscle.
- Doing more reps doesn’t always equate to increased performance.
- Running more doesn’t exactly help you ‘burn’ more calories.
- Eating more—especially protein—doesn’t magically build muscle (as the bodybuilding magazines would have you believe).
Your body is a fine balance between just enough and too much. Things that you think will get you there utilized in the wrong doses can actually screw shit up more than you can imagine. If fitness, food, health, and all of this crazy hum an-body stuff were easy, than everyone would have it figured out and a sexy bod wouldn’t be so special. But it isn’t easy, and most people don’t have the results they want.
The Minimum Effective Dose
There is something known as the Minimum Effective Dose (MED for short). The MED is the least amount of stimuli needed to produce a desired outcome. The MED theory asserts that just enough input should be used to reach a desired result and no more. It also states that more often has a negative effect and the minimum should be enough for the sake of saving resources such as time, energy, and so on.
While it is difficult to find the MED without having trained for years, you can start making a conscious effort to notice what your MED is when training. As you become more conscious, and develop the awareness needed, you will become more aware of what your body is telling you. You can train harder when you do train, and rest more deliberately when you rest. You will better avoid over-training as well as have the wherewithal to know when you need to suck it up and bust your ass. Anyone who is training to reach a goal should be conscious of the minimum effective dose. Doing so will keep you healthier, show results quicker, and allow you to enjoy your training more so.
The effect of more is exactly like the effect of less, just on the opposite end of the spectrum. At both ends you are negating your results. If you miss a month of training, your results will start sliding backwards. If you train 7 days with no rest, your results will slide backwards. We all understand that if we don’t train we won’t get results, right? But what about the correlation to training more and negating results? This is a less common idea because the effects aren’t as apparent. With the growing popularity of HIIT training, overtraining and rest/work balance is a real concern that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Overtraining is a real thing. Watch out for it. It can really screw your health and results.
This leads me to the next topic: The Trinity of Food, Sleep, Stress
Food, Sleep, Stress
The Trinity is: food, sleep, and stress in each of their respective manifestations. Your body is the balance of the many factors that comprise these three little words. The Trinity represents the foundation of these factors. You can’t neglect any part of the Trinity and expect to reach peak body composition. If you do too much or too little in any one category, you will pay for it in health and results.
The Trinity is reflected in the habits you do on a daily basis. It is an expression of any action you take or fail to take. Act lazy and you will become weaker. Neglect sleep and you will be tired and weaker. Become more active and you will become fitter. Lift weights and you will become stronger. While you might understand this simple illustration, you probably don’t fully understand just how important the balance of the Trinity is. The Trinity is non-negotiable. You must respect its importance.
What you can do is focus on improving your weaknesses as they relate to The Trinity. Instead of doing more of what you are good at—training for example—you should focus on the things you aren’t good at like your diet, your sleep, or whatever else you suck at within the Trinity. It’s imperative that you remember this: focus on the things you suck it.
Instead of doing more of what you are good at—training for example—I want you to work on your diet, your sleep, or whatever else you suck at within the Trinity.
It's imperative that we insert this notion into our stubborn skulls: we must focus on the things we suck it.
Balance The Trinity
So how do we balance it all?
Food: You have to eat the right foods in the right amounts. Too much food and you gain body fat. Too few calories and you don’t supply your body with the proper fuel and nutrients to repair itself. The wrong foods in any quantity and you fuck it all up, no chance whatsoever.
Sleep: Missing out on sleep is like trying to run with your laces tied: you may get there eventually, but it’s going to be a bitch and you are making it much, much, much, much harder on yourself. Your body wants to win; it wants to be fit and sexy. But it ABSOLUTELY needs sleep. Some people get there without sleep but they are destroying their health in the process. We all love sleep and there is a reason for that. Nature has programmed us to love sleep because it is necessary for our survival, just like food. Eight Hours a night is the standard but you may need more or less. I’m not a sleep expert so look to the research for recommendations.
Stress: Stress is a bitch. It’s the most under appreciated aspect of the human condition. People act like chronic stress is normal, like it’s just a part of life. They don’t put effort into controlling it. We are often blind to the effects of stress because we have been living with it for so many years, most of us our entire lives. It’s why most of us do things to seek pleasure—so we can get relief from the fatigue of stress. Humans are not psychologically equipped to deal with the chronic mental stress that is inherent in our modern societies. The large part of our ancestral history was lived in the wild as hunter-gatherers in which we dealt with stress mostly in short bouts—like running from a predator, for example. Since the advent of agriculture and condensed population dwellings, human beings have become more stressed and fat and weak as a result.
Training is a stress. Too much stress makes you fat. Thus, too much training makes you fat (it really does). On the flip side, stress also makes you stronger when applied strategically in the correct doses and balanced out with a healthy lifestyle. Most gym goers induce extreme physical stress to their bodies before hoping right back into a life filled with psychological stress. There is no balance. It is just stress on top of stress.
Our brains and bodies are made to deal with short bouts of stress as was necessary to survive in the wild (sprinting from a predator or after prey). We are programmed to deal with little to no access to food for periods of time, in the form of fasting. We are made to walk a lot. The average hunter-gatherer would walk about 12 miles a day while gathering, hunting, or forging for food. We are made to climb, crawl, jump, balance, and hang as is necessary in a wilderness setting. We were not made to worry about bills, pending deadlines, and constant mental stimulation via technology. This constant chatter creates mountains of stress.
Our minds have become constantly clouded with noise and distraction, much of which we don’t even realize is there. We’ve become numb to it. We grew up with it. So how do we cope? We ignore things that are painful and use pleasure to mask the deep-rooted issues that are subconsciously dictating our lives. These ignored issues come out in the form of mind-life crises, depression, anxiety, and other clinical mental disorders. And chronic stress is at the forefront of these problems.
Stress, mental and physical, is another responsibility that requires your attention. You must be vigilant in doing things to mitigate stress. The gym is a useful stress, but what about your mental stress? Are you doing anything to reduce it? Meditation, mindfulness, taking a break, and other mental techniques can pay huge dividends. I notice that when I am more conscious of my mental state, and practicing these concepts, my stress levels are wayyyy lower. It is too important to ignore.
Try to become more conscious of your thoughts. Quiet your mind. Become aware of the present. Start addressing the nagging stress that is running your life.
Adjust The Scale
Nature is a balance—yin and yang, night and day—and so is your body. You must create a balance that will increase performance, preserve health, and enable longevity. I admit that it’s not the easiest thing to do. It may take years to find the correct balance for yourself. It’s also crazy difficult to build the many habits that are necessary to maintain The Trinity. And still, once you find the right balance, you still have to maintain it on a daily basis.
“The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.” ―Henry David Thoreau
Think of each part of the Trinity as a sliding scale of one to ten. One is the least compliant and ten is the most compliant. Your goal is to strive for the best compliance (10) in EACH category. If your training and diet are a 10, but your stress is a 1 (lots of stress), you will not reach optimal results, and vice versa. Over the years, I have noticed that the best results come for people that put an equal amount into each category. You would be better served if you reached a 5-5-5 in each category over an imbalanced 9-9-1 or similarly skewed ratio.
Back to Beliefs
Your compliance to these principles is going to correlate to your beliefs. If you believe more is better, you will never be able to do less (as you should) because your subconscious will sabotage you every time. You have to believe in these concepts. You have to believe in how you train, how you eat, and how you live.
Confusion of these subjects within The Trinity is why there is so much money in the food, health, and fitness industries. There is profit in your confusion. There is a big gap between what works and what doesn’t and consumers are tricked into believing the wrong shit so they will spend money on products they don’t need.
As I harp on often, it’s insanely difficult to change your beliefs. You aren’t going to change how you think just based on what I’m writing here—hopefully it will be the start. Most of us brush off the things we don’t want to hear. Try to catch yourself doing this. Try to be conscious of your subconscious beliefs. Through enough effort and awareness you can eventually squash these limiting beliefs that are holding you back.
The best way to find the truth is to read, ask questions, and seek answers to anything that confuses you. Knowledge is power as it pertains to your belief system. The stubborn minded are ignorant because they don’t allow themselves to learn.
To learn is to challenge your beliefs, it is an affront to the ego. Do it as much as possible
The ego wants to believe what it believes. It must maintain the status quo. If you want to reach physical and mental enlightenment, you need to drop that ego crap right now. You need to be open-minded and learn anyway you can, from anyone you can. I am not pretending to have all the answers. I use what works for me, what I have seen work with thousands of people, and what solid research suggests. My three favorite sources of health and lifestyle information are: here, here, and here. Learn what you can from me and then go elsewhere to learn even more. Utilize as many sources of knowledge as possible.
Now that we have covered mindset, and I assume you understand how important it is, it’s time to review specific recommendations for The Trinity. These recommendations are only general guidelines and should be tweaked to your preference. Some may respond differently than others. Some may need to do slightly more or slightly less (or a lot more or less). Keep that in mind with any recommendation: you must always find your style. Because you are a unique individual, specific recommendations or programs may not always completely work for you as prescribed. As a result, you may need slight iterations to find what works for you. Always be testing and tweaking.
The Foundation is the general template for those looking to lose weight and improve general health. It is the foundation of what makes a human healthy. No matter your goal, you should follow this template as a baseline. You can pursue specific goals after you build the foundation.
The stress category includes any stress, good or bad. This encompasses reduction of stress as well as planned doses of beneficial stress.
- 4 Days a week of training (3 is the sweet spot)(high intensity WODs/strength).
- 2 days should be full rest (should move, walk a lot, etc).
- 1 day should be active recovery (can be yoga, mobility work, skill session, etc).
- Sleep 8 hours a night or more.
- Sleep in a dark room with no electronics or artificial light.
- Wake when your body tells you to.
- Find your average to feel great. I have to sleep 7 hours every night or I feel like liquid death. If you can regularly sleep 10+ hours a night it's likely that you are sleep deprived and need to get on a better schedule.
- Walk every day as much as possible.
- Maintain social relationships.
- Smile, laugh, play games, and have fun as often as possible.
- Meditate as often as possible (5 minutes a day can be life changing).
- Be in the now, be present. Quiet your mind.
- Slow down. Stop that rushed, nagging, worrying mindset.
- Don’t road rage. Be conscious of it and ignore it.
- Read a lot. Reading is training for your mind. Recommended subjects: Stoicism, philosophy, and psychology.
- 2-3 meals a day max, no snacking.
- Protein and fat as focus of meal (best quality possible, kerry gold butter, mct and coconut oil, fatty wild caught fish, grass-fed animals)
- Yams, nuts/seeds, veggies, some fruit to fill out the rest.
- Don’t snack.
- Aim for an 8-hour feeding window followed by a 16-hour fasting window every day/night.
- Eat an unprocessed Paleo/Primal diet consisting of the best foods possible from the best sources.
Tweaks for Common Body Types and Goals
- Eat lots of clean animal proteins and healthy fats (Coconut oil, Grass-fed butter).
- Utilize IF with an 8-hour feeding window followed by a 16-hour fast.
- Have the biggest meal of the day immediately after you train. Load up with starchy carbs via sweet potatoes and veggies.
- Take ZMA or a magnesium supplement.
- Eat slow and eat a reasonable amount of calories.
- Lift heavy weight with as many sets as possible in the 5-10 rep range. More sets AND more weight.
- Use the following accessory movements: weighted dips, pull-ups, push-ups, jerks, cleans, and presses.
Lose Body fat:
- Utilize IF with an 8-hour eating window and 16 hour fast.
- Eat lots of clean fats and moderate protein
- Avoid sugar at ALL COSTS
- Consume fewer carbs, less than 100g a day
- Walk a ton, especially after meals
- Take 5g of fish oil a day
- Do anything and everything to reduce stress (this is right behind your diet in importance)
- Sleep 8-hours a night - no exceptions
- Don't beat yourself down in then gym. Less is more until you get lean and fit
“Tone” (hate that word):
- Follow the foundation and the "lose body fat" recommendations
- Lift heavy weights
- Supplement your heavy sets with lots of 10-20 rep accessory movements
- Sprint once a week
Gain weight (hard gainers):
- Eat a ton of calories
- Follow the foundation recommendations
- Eat a ton of calories
- Make mega shakes of fat, protein, and carbs
- Eat a ton of calories
- Eat a ton of calories
- Eat as clean as possible
- Get on a supplement program: Vitamin D, Fish Oil, Magnesium/ZMA, digestive enzyme, green tea, black coffee
- Eat slow
- Utilize IF with an 8-hour feeding window followed by a 16-hour fast.
Stubborn body fat on an already lean/strong physique:
- You are doing too much and the stubborn fat stores are from stress. They will NEVER go away no matter how hard you train
- Train less and spend more time on recovery
- Sleep should be of paramount importance
- Cut out shakes, bars, or other quick-digesting snack type foods
- Watch your sugar intake and stay low carb
- Eat more freaking calories
- Especially protein and fat
- Consider doing less steady-state cardio
- Endurance training should be cut down
- Go for short-fast-hard sessions and lots of weight lifting
- Utilize protein shakes of fat and protein if you have trouble consuming enough calories
Big/strong but no abs:
- Watch sugar intake
- Watch calorie consumption when you do eat (these often overeat)
- Eat slow
- Walk everyday
- Avoid shakes and eat whole food
Focus on The Trinity. This is going to be enough for 95% of you. Most of you are lacking in multiple categories. The closer to 10 you get on the compliance scale, the closer you will get to your goals. It’s that simple and that powerful. If you are already strong in one category, yet weak in another, than you know exactly what you need to focus your time on. Get in there and do the work.
The most difficult part of the trinity is mental stress in my opinion (it could be different for you). Most of us are blind to our subconscious. The simple act of thinking about thinking can do wonders. The next time you get angry, remind yourself that you are angry. Remind yourself that your anger is making you fat.
Remember, a spike in your emotions is a spike in your hormones. A spike in your hormones is bad because it causes fat gain and destroys muscle mass. Besides, angry people are weak minded and pathetic. The truly strong have control of their emotions and bodies. They are in control of their food, sleep, and stress. They are in control of The Trinity.
“Strong people are harder to kill and more useful in general.” -Mark Rippetoe