A young man, lets say about 17 years old, decides on a dare among friends to see who can go the longest without eating. Of the 5 or 6 friends participating, all but himself and one other drop out within a few hours. "That was a dumb Idea" is one reason for quitting so early. "I was hungry" is another, and admittedly, pretty logical.
But this young man is going neck and neck with his friend.....5 hours, 8 hours, 16 hours, overnight. By the next day, the other friend has decided to eat breakfast, but just to stick it to him, this young man STILL doesn't eat until the end of the second day.
Last period in class rolls around and this young man, who could not bench press 70 lbs decides to go lift weight with his friend. This is hour 36 or so of not eating. On go the sweatpants that don't even touch the ankles and some shirt from Goodwill that may or may not be a child's husky size.
Now things are starting to feel bad. The hunger came and then went over those two days but was replaced with a feeling of deep unease, shakiness and lethargy. Adding in what was probably a workout of pec-dec, calf raises and situps (perfect!) this young man is feeling like crap.
Luckily he WALKS to school so he can't even ride the bus home. So he walks home and immediately eats all that remains of a mac and cheese casserole and then makes a tuna melt with as much cheese as will fit on two pieces of bread.
His mom is not happy.
That was me.
I also tried to jog once when I was drunk. I mean, exercise is exercise, right?
Five Cans of Coke
When I first started seriously lifting I would buy maltodextrin (powdered corn a.k.a basically sugar) and mix 150 grams of that with 50g of protein and drink that during my training. So I would drink 800 calories of sugar and protein while I squatted, deadlifted, cleaned and curled. I also did this when I went back to community college and lifted in their weight room before night class. But I couldn't eat after because it was a 3 hour class and the blood sugar drop I would get after drinking 150g of liquid carbs was MASSIVE. That's almost 5 cans of Coke. FIVE CANS!!!!
But you know what? To a certain extent, ignorance can be a good thing. Sometimes a small or moderate amount of knowledge can be dangerous because you know just enough to try something but not enough to justify trying it.
Sometimes you just follow the advice of a trusted source and even though in retrospect it seems like a terrible choice, during the process it might not have actually been that bad.
I say not that bad because in all honesty, my training sessions always went well when I drank that shake. Was it overkill? Definitely but I never hit a wall, I seemed to recover really fast and I always had energy to train. Part of that certainly was that I was younger, male and pretty active, but still......FIVE CANS of Coke!! But I didn't gain bodyfat and my stomach usually felt ok despite all those calories while exercising.
Sometimes we make progress in SPITE of the dumb things we do but there is simply no way around making those dumb mistakes. That is part of the learning processl Anyone who claims they never did anything silly during the course of their education is lying. I think if we can accept that even at an educated level, we still don't everything there is, it opens us up to trying new things and maybe turning our attention to ideas we passed over.
Now clearly my two day fast followed by a workout is dumb. I knew is was dumb then but I also knew I wanted to push myself and see what I could do physically and mentally (and the mental side of training is very important).
Now, my foray into massive sugar intake while exercising was a well-intentioned but out of context choice. I basically read Charles Poliquin's recommendation for carbohydrate intake during a workout based off of my weight, length of exercise and goals. But I never considered it was for elite athletes and/or drug using bodybuilders. Oops.
But these two adventures in ignorance did teach me something.
There's Always A Lesson!
One was that you can go longer without eating than you think, and this was important for simply getting out of my comfort zone. I just wanted to push myself and see what I could do.
The second lesson was that adequate nutrition makes a huge difference in your training. I went overkill with the carbs but what I did see was an increase in performance, recovery and energy from adding more protein and carbs to my diet. And I think the placebo effect of drinking something that "fueled" my workouts was pretty powerful. It's also a testament to how many calories you can eat when you are A. Underweight and B. A novice lifter because I simply ate everything I could and drank my workout shake and pretty quickly went from 165lbs to 195lbs without much change in bodyfat.
What I can take away from lessons like these is that most other coaches and lifters started out doing some pretty ridiculous things in the gym and with their nutrition. My buddy Corey got a weight set in middle school and the first day did so many curls he couldn't lift his arms the next day. He basically just did curls ALL.DAY. Imagine a 13 year old who can't wave because his arms are so sore. Still cracks me up.
Getting "Less" Ignorant
The truth is that almost no one gets amazing coaching or nutrition advice from the get go. It is so common for people to pick up bits of information and gravitate towards something that either fits their personality, feeds their ego or drives their fears.
However there is almost always a mentor, a coach, a group of people who you end up with that teach you the "way".
No, don't squat on the Smith Machine.
Yes, you have to eat breakfast.
No, don't do curls instead of deadlifts.
Get. Off. The. Treadmill
You know, all that stuff. But you have to be open to it and you have to be ready for it. When I first got together with some powerlifting friends I was SO ready. I watched them lift in the gym and what they did was serious: they didn't stare at themselves in the mirror while exercising or starve themselves or run on the treadmill. And it seemed legitimate to me. So I bought in.
Coaches and mentors come from many places and teaches us a variety of things. It is so important that we experiment and try and observe and take notes but we all need a teacher.
Usually that teacher is there when you are ready, you just have to be able to humble yourself to accept their instruction. As much as I learned from doing those dumb things in the gym, would I still want to be doing those workouts and drinking all that sugar? Defnitely not. So learn and move on!
Right now I hired my own coach to program for me and handle my nutrition. Just because I do this for a living doesn't mean I am above being coached myself and it helps me to learn and grow as well. It also forces me to do things I need to do but won't make myself do on my own. That's because we are such creatures of preservation that we will usually talk ourselves out of anything outside our comfort zone unless we are held accountable in some way.
I am constantly seeking to decrease my ignorance but I know it's an uphill battle! If you feel the same, then be willing to make yourself vulnerable and seek a coach and mentor.
And for the love of God, if you PAY someone to tell you what to do, actually listen to them! Just quiet all your internal objections and trust that they know better than you, after all that's why you hired them. You can give feedback but don't try to wrestle control of the program.
P.S I also used to do a workout from a Bruce Lee book in my parent's basement in the winter in long john's. So I guess that's the male equivalent of doing a Jillian Michael's DVD?