On Motivation

If you want something bad enough, you will work at it until you get it.

Want to get a degree and get yourself a good job? You’ll persevere through shitty classes, indifferent profs, and bullshit tests to get the grades you need to get that piece of paper and move on with your life. Want to move up at work? You’ll bust your ass and learn things, make yourself valuable, blow the boss, whatever it takes. Want a new car? Actually, you probably won’t work hard for this one, you’ll just go down to the bank and take out a ridiculous loan and slowly pay it off over way too long, making your banker love you.

Want to get in shape? You’ll talk about it a lot, then try for a little bit, then quit because it was uncomfortable. Wait, what? How did that become the default way that people approach improving their physical fitness? Lots of people who are otherwise really successful and driven are fat fucks because for some reason they just don’t want to put in the work to get there. They will kill themselves doing 100 hours per week at work or suffer through barely being able to afford food meant for humans so they can get their business off the ground, but eating right and hitting the gym is way too much hard work for them.

I’m amazed at how often I see this in people. I mean, in people who are lazy in the rest of their lives it makes sense. At least they’re consistent in their fatness and laziness. But in people who are serious type-a overachievers it is surprisingly common as well. I have a sneaking suspicion that it has something to do with the fact that it requires at least a little physical discomfort, rather than just mental toughness and stamina. But I could be completely wrong about that.

I am in a situation where I can dedicate basically my entire life outside of work to getting myself into shape. And other than my gym time, you want to know how much time it takes me, weekly? Probably three hours at the absolute most. And that includes all of the time I spend prepping food – which I would be doing anyways because last time I checked most people require food to function on any kind of long-term basis. Tack on maybe another hour if you want to count the time I spend getting groceries. I would imagine that I probably actually spend less time than the average person on that kind of stuff, even when you toss in the fitness planning part of it.

Putting a reasonable plan together shouldn’t take more than an hour or so. If you do it in a way that isn’t completely retarded, it’ll take you about 15 minutes per week to modify if it needs any modification. Which it probably won’t.

Is it the easiest thing in the world? It sure isn’t. But on the whole it’s a lot less difficult and stressful than running my own business was. It’s a lot easier than working 60+ hours per week for minimum wage and barely scraping by day to day. And it’s a lot easier when you learn to get out of your own way and minimize the number of things you have to choose to do each day, as we have discussed previously.

But you spend so much time in the gym! True, I do currently spend about an hour per day 6 days per week in the gym. But that level of exercise (or any exercise at all, actually) is not necessary for anyone who just wants to lose some fat. You can get into pretty reasonable shape just through controlling your diet and stuffing less garbage into your face. I’m doing all the gym time to keep me busy so I don’t go crazy, to maintain muscle mass, and to increase my calorie burn so I can still eat a fair amount of food daily while losing ~1.5lb of fat per week. I’m doing it so I can get results that are a lot closer to “optimal” rather than just “good enough.” Exercise is only really necessary once you start wanting to improve being average or getting average results.

Let’s be honest here – whoever said that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” obviously never had cheesecake or bacon or peanut M&M’s. But being able to choose to do any random physical thing at the drop of a hat without having to worry about if you can handle it is pretty fucking awesome.

If it was easy, everyone would do it. If it was easy, everyone would look like the people on the magazine covers. And if it was easy, you wouldn’t value it in the slightest. Think back to school, for those of you who can remember that far back. When some game or competition happened, and every single person got an award, including the kid with serious mental issues who instead of doing the event just sat in the back and drooled in the corner, did you give even the tiniest fuck about the award or ribbon they gave you? Unless it said “first place,” and you were the only person who got that one, I really doubt it. What we don’t work for we don’t value.

So stop making excuses. If you really want the result, you will put in the time and effort. If it is really worth knowing you don’t have to dread walking up stairs, you don’t feel ashamed going out in public in anything more revealing than a potato sack, or so your children just might have a parent when they start to grow up – you will do it. And if you slip up, and you encounter setbacks, you will learn from them and get up and keep trying again.

If you decide that it isn’t worth it, and you are happy where you are, that’s ok too. You don’t have to a fitness model. But don’t complain about where you are if you are the one who put yourself there. Take responsibility for your actions. And on the off-chance it isn’t 100% your fault that you are stuck wherever you are, get over it and control the only thing that you can in this life. Yourself.

You haven’t failed until you quit. And failure is a choice when it comes to fitness. So quit failing, and get out there and be more awesome today than you were tomorrow. The short-term pain is worth the long-term reward. And don’t quit until tomorrow.

On Exercise

Exercise is a good thing, and is something that I think more people should do, and is something that will probably improve your life in a lot of ways if it isn’t something that you are currently doing in one form or another.

However.

Exercise is not mandatory for fat loss. Does it help? Absolutely. Does it speed things up and have really positive effects on body composition? Sure does. But you can get into better than average (remember that average is obese now, not fitness model) shape just by controlling the shit you put in your face.

If you eat less calories than you burn on a day to day or week to week basis, you will lose weight. And no matter what you may have heard, especially if you have a lot to lose, a good proportion of that will be fat mass, at least initially. That is why your body like to keep extra fat around – to help us survive when our food supply disappears.

The main advantages of adding exercise into your defattening plan are twofold: to maintain or even build muscle mass, and to increase caloric expenditure. Resistance training will at a minimum maintain muscle mass, and in most untrained individuals will actually increase muscle mass while you lose fat. This is considered the holy grail of body recomposition, and for good reasons – it is something that basically doesn’t happen outside of untrained or chemically enhanced people. The big difference between someone who is too skinny and looks like shit and someone who turns heads at the same bodyfat level is muscle mass. Want to look “toned”? That’s muscle mass doing that for you.

A side note for women who refuse to pick up anything heavier than a 5lb pink dumbell because they don’t want to look “bulky” like a female bodybuilder: unless you are taking massive amounts of anabolic steroids, are genetically gifted AND are dedicating your entire life to it, you will never look like that. Think about how many skinny guys you see in the gym, who have been going for years but still look like twigs. If it was possible to put on muscle mass that easily, every person who ever walked into a gym would look like Mr or Miss Universe. Last time I checked, most people don’t. Look at the women who compete at the Crossfit games and similar if you want a good example of what kind of physique you can get with proper resistance training. Not many people would call them too bulky or generally physically unattractive. Anyways, moving on.

Cardio is really good for increasing caloric expenditure. You can also just lift weights faster instead of getting on a treadmill or an exercise bike, but that carries some inherent risks if you don’t know what you are doing so if you want to go this route, shell out a couple of bucks for a session with a decent trainer first so you don’t kill yourself accidentally.

I personally lift weights to maintain my muscle mass, then spend a bunch of time on a bike. I prefer the bike to the treadmill because it is low impact and I like my joints. I can put in my headphones with some good drum and bass to set the tempo, put my e-reader on the console, and just zone out and read while I’m burning off a bunch of calories. It’s also a nice dedicated block of time that I can just read, which is something I just don’t get otherwise.

As a general rule, if you had to choose just one of the two, resistance training is probably preferable to straight cardio. Both would be ideal, but absolutely anything is better than nothing. If you currently aren’t exercising at all and going to the gym is something that is too scary/expensive/whatever for you, getting one of those newfangled fitness tracker things that are all the rage these days isn’t a bad idea. Doesn’t really matter which one you get.

Track your daily activity levels, and try to increase it by a measurable increment each week. If you are currently taking 2000 steps per day, try to make it 3000, then 4000, and so on. Every little bit helps, and small successes can really keep you motivated.

In summation: exercise good. Really good. Not necessary to lose fat. Do it anyways. Lift heavy things, then put them down. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Love your body!

If anything I ever write gets me hate mail, it’s going to be this one. Let’s get into it, shall we?

We all should be comfortable in our own skin as much as possible. The media portrays really distorted images of what is attractive, natural, and healthy. Changing just because society says you should is bullshit.

I agree with all of those statements, to a point.

There is definitely something to be said for people accepting that they are healthy and can be attractive even if they may not have chiseled abs, or a thigh gap (a function of bone structure more than weight in most women – many cannot achieve this at any body fat level) or whatever the current thinspiration/weird shit that the internet has decided is attractive this year. It can be hard to look in a mirror and be happy with what you see if it doesn’t reflect what we get bombarded with every day in our day to day lives. I struggle with this myself.

However.

I think that the current movement that is pushing hard and fast away from “skinny is beautiful” towards “the more of me there is to love the better” is misguided and taking things way farther than it should.

Yes, curves are beautiful on a woman. But ladies, curvy does not mean obese. Curves are not rolls, and you can and should have curves without being overly fat. If you are 10lb or even 20lb heavier than what the media portrays as ideal or attractive, you’re probably just fine. But if you have a BMI well over 30, or are 50lb+ over your “healthy ideal” weight, you are probably in a spot where you really should lose a bunch of weight, even if only for health reasons. If people make jokes about you having your own zipcode, you should probably work on doing something about that.

The vast majority of men do not find women who have rolls of fat to be attractive. [Well, other than 80, but he’s just a little bit special. “Dip me in bacon grease and toss me to them”? Who says that?] Demanding that people find you attractive no matter what you look like or how heavy you are shows that you are really disconnected from what reality is actually like. And if you demand that all men who are interested in you must have six pack abs and be firefighter millionaires, you need to realize that you might need to go see a therapist who can unpack the significance of that particular double standard for you.

You may have noticed that we’re kinda big on personal responsibility here at TL&K. Being fat is a choice. Ergo, you need to accept that who you are is a product of your decisions and choices. If you are fat and happy and don’t want to change, right on, get down with your bad self, etc.

But.

You really shouldn’t scream at the top of your lungs that you are healthy and beautiful and people should just love and accept you for who you are. Basically the only person who you should really give you unconditional love is your mother. Society owes you nothing. And if you are incredibly overweight, you are definitely not healthy, and I would be willing to categorically state that you are not attractive to the vast majority of people.

And I personally think that if you are obese, your mother should love you enough to say something about it and try to help you realize your life would probably be a lot better if you did something about it.

Yes, genetics do play a role in this. Some people are more predisposed to be lean and wiry, some to be muscular, some to carry a little more bodyfat. And we all kinda hate the naturally lean and wiry folks, at least a little bit. But genetics are a very small part of it, and are no excuse for being ridiculously overweight. They are a damn good reason to not make an attempt at becoming a pro bodybuilder or figure competitor, just like genetics are a good reason to not expect that you can have a pro NBA career if you are a white male who is 5’0” on a good day. Shoot hoops with your buddies all you want, but it’s probably not going to make you a lot of money, no matter how hard you work at it.

Healthy at any weight” is a flat out lie.

On a side note, why is it unacceptable in our society for someone to say anything even remotely critical of someone who is overweight, but if someone is seen as too thin the “needs to eat a cheeseburger” comments start flying from all corners? We can’t have it both ways.

I would imagine that this is primarily a western cultural thing. I remember hearing from a friend who spent a good amount of time in China that if you were seriously overweight, you would have strangers come up to you in the street and say “you are too heavy. You need to do Tai Chi” or something like that. Of course, the Chinese still smoke like chimneys compared to the west, so there’s that, and the fat it’s probably more of an image than a health thing.

If you are fat, you put too much food in your face and probably don’t move enough on a day to day basis. These are facts, and the only one who can change them is you.

And to steal a line from Paul Carter, I don’t care if you hate me for writing this. If you do, you’re probably fat. And need to take a really long look in a really wide mirror.

I know that it’s not going to help my case, but I want to state that I am not in any way stating that people need to be incredibly lean at all times to be attractive. The magazine cover fitness model look is damn near unattainable for a lot of people, for genetic reasons, and the fact that they don’t have the ability to dedicate their entire lives to their fitness.

Guys under 18-20% bodyfat or so, and women under ~23-25% are doing pretty OK and nothing in this article applies to you.

It’s when you get into the ~25%+ range for guys and the ~30%+ range for women that you start to get into the territory I’m talking about in this article. That is the point that you start to become unhealthy and need to take personal responsibility for your decisions.

Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate

No matter what you do to improve your life, some people are going to always try to drag you back down.

Talk about starting a business? You’ll hear that 75% of businesses fail in the first year. Or three years. Or it’s actually 90% in the first week. Or whatever.

Talk about running a marathon? Why would you want to do that? You’re crazy!

Talk about doing triathlon? Actually, they’re right and you’re crazy and probably need to talk to a therapist.

Talk about losing weight? People will be surprisingly supportive, until it starts to happen.

The way I see it, there are generally two main responses that people have when someone that they know starts improving themselves. One is that they might use it as inspiration to improve their own lives. The second is that they will see it as reflecting on their own inadequacies and will try to convince you it is a bad idea, that you’re going to fail, that you are going to get cancer and kittens are going to die and the sky is falling oh my god!

And the voices of the second people probably sound pretty familiar. Don’t reach, don’t try, don’t improve yourself because you might fail. They sound familiar because everyone has that little voice inside themselves saying the same thing.

That voice is probably a good thing. It’s probably the kind of thing that stopped our ancestors on the savannah from running out in front of a sabre toothed tiger that was waiting for someone to be stupid and go to the watering hole while it was hanging out there. Caution is good for the individual and good for the race as a whole.

But remember what we said about habits? If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got. And if mediocrity is fine with you, then right on, keep at it. Or try, face some sort of setback, give up, and quit trying. The people around you, the ones who don’t really care about you, they will thank you for it. Because you’re not being an example of what can happen if you succeed. If you persevere.

Because unlike starting a business or an empire, fat loss and improving your body are completely under your control, and no one else’s. If you are fat and lazy, you have no one to blame but yourself. This is true for everyone.

And if you become less fat and less lazy, you are showing up everyone who doesn’t. Who hasn’t decided that it is important enough. Those people will hate you a little bit.

Anyone who says “I just can’t lose weight” (other than people with an actual medical condition, go see a doctor, we are not doctors) was either trying some absolutely retarded shortcut plan, or just gave up because it was a little uncomfortable. The payoff wasn’t worth the work for them.

Is it worth it for you?

Drugs for muscle gain – the ultimate shortcut (?)

We’ve all seen the ads for supplements that promise that you’ll gain 10 or more pounds of muscle in a month. They usually show some jacked pro bodybuilder smiling and looking all tanned, holding a bottle of the product in question.

Well, remember how I said that the supplement industry is basically unregulated? That goes not just for product safety and efficacy, but also for marketing claims. So they can and will promise you things that are not physiologically possible, no matter what you do. I have seen many claims of supplements adding over 10lb of muscle in a month.

Lets put that into perspective, shall we? A study found a bunch untrained individuals who had never used anabolic steriods in their life (pretty much the group that would have the highest possible growth rate due to their untrained and generally unmuscly status), and gave them a pretty significant dosage of testosterone enanthenate – 600mg/week. This is higher than the bodybuilders of a few decades ago were using, and is on the upper end of what is generally recommended for new users.

The lucky guys in this study gained an average of 17lb of muscle mass in 12 weeks. That’s three months.

So, actual legitimate anabolic steroids from a real pharmaceutical company caused completely untrained individuals to gain about 1.5lb per week of muscle mass. Keep that in mind next time you see a supplement saying you can gain 10lb of muscle in a month.

Realistically, it’s just not possible. Our bodies aren’t meant to grow like that. Unless you are already a pretty hefty individual and can consume an absolute ton of food, you would probably have a hard time putting on 10lb of actual mass in a month, fat OR muscle. Neglecting water balance shenanigans of course.

Basically the only thing that is legal without a prescription that has any serious effect on muscle gain is creatine. Cheap, effective, and about as safe as supplements come. Well, creatine and food. Calories are still the best anabolic we have.

And realistically, drugs work, and anyone who tells you they don’t is deluded or selling you something. In that same study, they had some people train, and some do no exercise at all. There were steroid users and placebo controls in both groups. The steroid users who sat on the couch gained MORE muscle than the placebo group who exercised.

There are unfortunately some pretty big issues with regards to steroid use in the average user. One, they’re illegal without a prescription. If you do manage to convince your doc to give you a prescription, odds are pretty good that it will be something around 50mg/week, not the 600 that was used in the aforementioned study. So you’re going to get really minimal effect from it. If you manage to find an underground source, you run a risk of something that is under dosed, over dosed, or not what it is advertised as, or just plan bunk. And I don’t know about you, but if I was injecting something into my body, I would really want to have a pretty good idea of what was in it first. While there is pharmaceutical or “Human Grade” stuff out there, it is incredibly tightly controlled and basically impossible to get.

Steroids also can cause issues in your body over the long term if you aren’t careful with them. Use of testosterone and other anabolics shuts down your natural test production, and all sorts of other fun things. This means you have to take other drugs with them if you want everything to start working again once you stop injecting. The support, ancillary, and post-cycle therapy drugs will cost you probably twice the cost of the actual anabolics, if you want to do it safely. And you probably want to live in your body for at least a couple more years, so it’s probably a really good idea to do it safely.

Pretty much all of the issues that revolve around steroid use are a result of the illegality of the compounds. If you could ever just walk down to the pharmacy and pick up everything you need rather than having to talk to some guy at your gym who could probably bench press a small house, I would say that there probably isn’t a lot wrong with wanting to try a cycle, so long as you’re informed and not still growing and developing. But is it worth losing your job, getting a criminal record, and possibly going to jail just so you can be a bit more jacked than you would otherwise be? I personally lean towards no, but that is a decision everyone has to make for themselves.

Hard work in the gym can take you a long way, if you are training and eating right. It would probably be best if you gave that a shot first. Take a look at the guys who were winning the Mr Universe competitions in the 40’s and 50’s before drugs really became prevalent. Not many people would say that they have substandard physiques.

The drugs will help even if you don’t train right. But I have heard it mentioned by people who really know what they are doing that even with massive anabolic steroid use, progress is still 80% diet and training. The drugs just help with recovery, and allow more work to be done in any given time frame. More work = more growth.

So, to recap. Fat burners: mostly crap, and the ones that work are either minimally effective, or illegal or deadly, or sometimes all three. Muscle building supplements are the same.

I also want to make it clear that I have nothing against drugs that has any specific relation to their legal status or the fact that they’re “cheating” or anything like that. It’s just that the vast majority of them don’t give a big enough payoff for most people to justify the risks, either health or legal. I’m all for improving our lives through science, and tend to have a pretty dim view of the legal system as a whole. If you’re a top-level competetor in basically any field that requires athletics or aesthetics, you are pretty stupid if you’re NOT using drugs. Because all of your strongest competition. And that extra 2-3% of progress that the drugs give you is the difference between a top-3 and a bottom half finish at the top elite levels of any field.

Sorry guys, but for the average joe, even the magic bullet of the best drugs in the world isn’t really that magic, and will still require hard work to utilize them to their full potential if you do decide it is worth it.

Now don’t you wish you had started last week? Do you want to be wishing next week that you had started this week? The only real short cuts are starting as soon as you can, and working harder than the next guy.