Building or Burning that is the question?

Building or Burning that is the question? or getting over the guilt and getting back to work or whatever else you want to call it!!

For as long as humans have existed on planet earth, the cold and inhospitable climates of winter have encouraged our kind to bulk up and eat incessantly during the harvest season.  This tradition is still in existence today despite the abundance we enjoy all year round, the only difference is that now we eat out of obligation to the holidays and feel guilty about it.

I say “we,”  but in truth not everyone I know feels this way, especially not those that train hard and take meticulous care of their bodies and there's a pretty good reason for this too.  For starters I think its important to separate two distinct aspects of our physical bodies with regard to diet and exercise.

1- Is your Physical development, your raw physique  your functional athletic self.

2- Is your Body fat percentage.

These distinctions are important because when I hear people talk about losing all of the results they have attained in the gym, due to falling off the training wagon, and indulging in fine delicacies for a few weeks it tells me they have not made this distinction about themselves yet. 

Firstly this is because they are either too new to the training game or haven’t been training very effectively.  Those who train effectively, and are well developed know full well that time off and extra calories are just fuel for the engine, and that the good hard work they have put into their bodies will take care of them even with a little layoff.  Also its important to recognize that simply by stressing about overindulging, you are more likely to store your christmas ham as fat, due to the release of cortisol that stress brings about.  Cortisol is a stress hormone that we all release which can temporarily weaken our immune response and increase body fat storage.

Transforming your body into the legendary masterpiece you desire is not a part time summer job for high schoolers, it is a full time career, one that has no foreseeable retirement date.  The only solace I can give you about it is that it gets easier and more rewarding as time goes by to look and feel the way you want to with only slight adjustments to your behavior.

Making the distinction between physical development and body fat percentage is the important lesson here though because most people are rating their success with fitness on a body fat scale, which fluctuates regularly, while physical strength, power and muscular development takes longer to amass, but can last a lifetime, with only moderate upkeep.  This personal anecdote will help elucidate this point for me.

I’ve had a healthy obsessions with strength and health since the age of 15, and despite my love of all things healthy, I’ve always been on  the bulkier side of things, strength and size came easy, but cuts were hard to come by.  You know those kids in high school that do jack shi* and have a six pack…. well that was never me, though i knew a few of them and they certainly weren’t training like I was. It would seem, still today  that  my body loves to hover around 13% bodyfat,(a measurement you should acquaint yourself with if you check yourself out  in the mirror every time you pee).  Nonetheless i’ve have always had a pretty muscular physique and i just assumed having a six pack or being cut up was not in the cards for me. 

This all changed when my girlfriend (now baby mama) and I decided we must have candida overgrowth issues, because how could we not?  Afterall candida is a yeast in the large intestines which thrives on sugars and can out populate our healthy intestinal flora and cause a wide array of health issues.  Its preference for all things carbohydrate, is the main reason we suspected our selves to be victims.  The main way beat Candida is by starving it of its favorite food.  4 long weeks of no sugar and no carbs starts to really change you, a lot, mentally and physically,  and to really shake things up i decided to go for a 5 day liver detox afterwards, basically eating nothing, but drinking fresh juice and taking herbal teas and tinctures.  The whole experience was pretty hardcore and in the end i felt great, my body fat dropped to a miraculous  7% which  was astounding for me, and lo abs, cuts and all,  i even took some myspace mirror selfies to commemorate my success.  Bam!!

Anyway the purpose of this story was to make the point about body fat % vs physical development.  If your whole purpose in going to the gym  is to burn off the extra calories you ate during Christmas, or dessert last night  then you are working towards a goal which has no long term benefits, and  the moment you stop exercising is the moment you stop receiving the bounty that this form of training has to offer you.  Essentially this relationship to  exercise is the equivalent of living check to check without putting anything away for retirement.  Functional strength training pays the bills now and for all time, and  you may have noticed from my story that i didn’t mention exercise at all during cleanse, and i did very little,  it was all diet that transformed my body, thanks to all of the foundational strength and physique work i had already done.  To repeat that point….IT WAS ALL DIET!  Since we know you’re never going to kick the habit of indulging in holiday pies, you might want to focus your training efforts on developing something a little more timeless  than a lower body fat percentage.  And should you decide you want to shred some unwanted body fat, remember most of you are really only 5 or 6 weeks of strict dieting from being the leanest you have ever been, possibly even having a mean six-pack.  That said, enjoy yourself and continue to strive for improvements in your physical development, strength, your freedom in movement, and your passion for life!

Thanks for tuning in;

Brian Zerega
Strength Coach, and Bodyworker at 34 North Gym, Santa Monica Ca.