Do You Even Lift?
July 22, 2013 1:10 PM   Subscribe

I have some questions about slimming down and bulking up inspired by a recent FPP subject.

So I watched the interview from this FPP, and I have to say that I was impressed by how good Bully Ray was looking. I haven’t followed the guy’s career in over a decade, but I remember what he looked like back in the day, and he has seriously stepped up his game. I feel as though if he can get in the shape he’s in now from where he was then, I don’t really have any excuse not to be in better shape then I’m in. I’m just wondering how feasible the method that he claims to use would be for me.

So he says that the core of his program is 45 minutes of cardio in the morning, five small, high-protein meals throughout the day, and lifting late in the day. I feel that this could work out for me because after 45 minutes of cardio I usually feel too drained to immediately go all-out lifting, so maybe having the time between the two would be a better option for me.

So my questions:

1.) Does his style work for normal people? I understand that this guy is a professional wrestler, which means that he works out as a part of his job AND he’s also most likely using steroids to some degree.
2.) I can split my dietary needs into five small, high-protein meals. How small? How much protein? I’m 6’5” and 255 pounds, so I’m bigger than most, but I’ve got a fair amount of fat that I’d like to lose and replace with muscle.
3.) How late is “late in the day”? In the interview he says he lifts around 3:00, but I have a job. I can’t normally get to the gym before 7:00. Is that too late in the day? Why or why not?

Answer these with the assumption that I know absolutely nothing about serious weight training. I won’t be offended by your presumption of my ignorance, because it will be absolutely correct.
posted by Parasite Unseen to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The small-meal thing is mostly a myth. There are many schools of thought on how you should eat. High-protein seems like a thing that works for a lot of people to reduce calories, because it's filling/satisfying. I personally eat 2 meals a day with sometimes a snack, aiming for 1g protein/lb of lean body mass.

Thoughts on cardio are varied. Do you need it to lose weight? No. By far the most important thing for losing weight is dietary restriction. 45 minutes of cardio a day may or may not help - many people replace as many or more calories as they burn, some don't.

I wouldn't lift more than 3-4x/week. Probably only 3x as a beginner.

Any program that is heavily tied to trying to time things is mostly fancy BS. Really the more specific and fiddly someone's program is, the less useful it is. A lot of people like Starting Strength for this reason. It's very simple and very effective. There's a book, there are videos, and tons of info about it on the web.
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:21 PM on July 22, 2013

(Lest you think I'm bagging on cardio, which a lot of starting-strengthers do, I'm a dedicated cyclist and I ride between 100 and 250 miles/week. Doing this has never caused me to lose anything, because I eat more also)
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:33 PM on July 22, 2013

Oh and sorry to post a lot of small posts, but, the "how much protein" question is widely debated. 1g protein/lb of LBM seems like a fine estimate. If you're 20% body fat, and weighh 250lb then you have about 50lb of fat and 200lb of LBM (lean body mass). So you'd aim for 200g protein/day, which on it's own is about 800 calories. Fill the rest up to your target calories/day with as much fat or carbs as you like.

Especially if you are eating a lot of lean meats, and some vegetables, it's pretty hard to eat above your target calories without cheating and eating something else. It's just hard to eat that much chicken and vegetables.
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:58 PM on July 22, 2013

It is safe to say that from where you currently stand you are overthinking this in the extreme.

Eat plenty of protein, plenty of fiber, plenty of complex carbs, and plenty of fats. Perform heavy compound lifts. Sleep enough to feel refreshed.

I can't speak to cardio, but if you're lifting weights longer than about 45 minutes you will hit the point of diminishing returns and that quickly becomes the point of not progressing.

Good enough is good enough. You're a dude looking to get in shape; being as fragile and inflexible in your planning as a lot of "fitness" enthusiasts is a weakness, not a strength.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:02 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm not convinced by the evidence for lots of small meals. Martin Berkhan of LeanGains debunks that myth fairly convincingly. Two or three or four meals a day all work fine. That said, I'm a huge proponent of high-protein diets for people looking to lose fat. Don't overthink it: make something meaty in bulk and split it up for quick meals during the week. Eggs are golden gifts from the gods. Eat your vegetables, don't drink soda, nix the desserts for a few months, and you're 90% optimized.

His schedule might not work for you. In fact, it's generally a bad idea for a total novice with the goal of losing extra fat and getting started at lifting to base their fitness program on an elite professional wrestler who is tweaking the edges of his genetic potential as a full-time job.

Some cardio in the morning plus lifting in the evening is a fine plan. The thing is, the timing of your workouts is a Little Thing. Being consistent with a basic beginner's lifting-and-cardio program is a Big Thing. Don't sweat the little things. Yes, it's nice to lift in the afternoon. But it doesn't really matter for someone in your position. Just start lifting, go for walks on days you don't lift, and run a little. Specific programs or references would make a good AskMe (or memail) if you detailed your time and equipment restrictions.
posted by daveliepmann at 2:03 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

All things being equal, it makes zero difference what time of day you lift or do cardio or how many meals you eat.

You are wise to observe that professional athletes generally use performance-enhancing drugs; you should therefore not pay much heed to their purported training regimens.

Check out this page and this one for good introductions to lifting and diet.
posted by ludwig_van at 3:12 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah Bully (as is the case with most pro wrestlers, and even MMA fighters) talks a lot of broscience. But it doesn't really matter whether it's broscience if it's worked for him: the best diet plan is whichever one allows you the greatest chance at long-term compliance, and doesn't kill you. For some it's a meticulous, bleeding edge of nutritional science keto-paleo-fasting plan, for others it's Weight Watchers. You need to find out for yourself which is the best fit for your individual lifestyle.

It's also worth noting that, as he says in the interview, he was an amazing athlete throughout his life despite being massively obese: even at north of 400lbs he was probably carrying something like 270 lean mass. It ain't exactly difficult to lean out with that size engine. I very much doubt he's used any kind of PEDs to achieve a physical transformation that is essentially no more impressive than any you'll see every Friday on Mark's Daily Apple.
posted by Kandarp Von Bontee at 3:16 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I started a regular exercise program including lifting last December. I know how confusing it can be. Here is what I have learned so far as well as what has worked for me.

1) As a beginner, anything will work for you. That doesn't mean you should form bad habiits. Instead, find what works for you and try to eat a reasonable diet most of the time. Don't worry about delving into the minutia until you have a steady habit of excercise established.

2) See above. Find a diet you can adapt to and reasonably enjoy. Keep it balanced. For me, that meant using my FitBit and counting calories. For you, it might mean keto or something else entirely.

3) I would only worry about the timing of your workouts if you are exercising too close to bed. That can cause problems for some people. YMMV but be aware.

When I started, I hired a personal trainer to help me set up s program and to teach me the lifts. Plus, it helped me commit to establishing a routine. Knowing I was going to meet someone was motivating for me. He set up a program around compound lifts like squats, presses, and core work, not unlike starting strength but not quite as intense, and adding cardio. So far, I have seen terrific results. The compound barbell and dumbbell lifts are great exercises, but even more important is that I enjoy them, so I keep doing them. Again, doing something you enjoy is key.

I work at a university so I utilize their facility. With the combination of working out around college kids, being close to 40, and being so far out of shape that I could barely lift the bar in some cases, it was a humbling experience. I cannot believe how far I have come since I started. Once you get started, you will too. Just get started and keep at it. That is the most important thing. Don't compare yourself to anyone but yourself.

You have gotten a lot of good advice above. If you have any specific questions or you just need some motivation from someone who was recently in your shoes, send me a message.
posted by Silvertree at 4:59 PM on July 22, 2013

The small-meal thing is mostly a myth. There are many schools of thought on how you should eat. High-protein seems like a thing that works for a lot of people to reduce calories, because it's filling/satisfying. I personally eat 2 meals a day with sometimes a snack, aiming for 1g protein/lb of lean body mass.

Myth maybe, but depending on the metabolism of the person and the constituents of the meal, it is assuredly a real thing. If you eat more calories than your body can burn off in the time it takes to process the food, some of the excess energy will be stored as fat. The more you use your fat cells, the harder they are to get rid of.

Timing of meals makes a difference too. If you eat the exact same two meals a day, and only vary the timing of when you eat, you will get different results. If you eat a breakfast and a mid afternoon lunch/supper/dinner, you will be able to use the calories more or less immediately as they are digested. However, if you eat the same things at lunchtime and dinnertime, you are running your body half the day on your fat reserves, and ending the day with an excess of calories that will get stored as fat overnight.

The way to figure out meal timing is to estimate your daily caloric requirements on a sort of hour by hour basis and graph it as a curve. Then, figure out based on your own metabolism, how long after eating certain foods the calories will be available for your body to use. Then, plan meals so that the calories from those meals are available when you need them. (IE, fill in the area under the demand curve with appropriately timed supply.)

I just lost approx 30 pounds of excess blubber simply by reducing the size of my meals in this manner. Now, it is absolutely possible that my body is more sensitive than average to meal sizes and all I did was solve a problem, and that if someone else doesn't have the same problem as I did, meal size reduction won't do a darn thing for them. But I also suspect that if someone is carrying excess weight, they probably have this problem to some extent.

As for exercise, building muscle consumes a ton of calories and maintaining that muscle mass uses a lot of calories all throughout the day. Cardio is good for health, but doesn't really build muscle or help burn calories except for the calories you burn while actually doing the exercise. If you don't have the fuel on hand while doing the cardio, you could be actually working against yourself by signalling the fat cells that their services are desperately needed because of all this work you are doing.
posted by gjc at 5:42 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Ask Metafilter threads are not for discussion, please focus on answering the question, thanks.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 6:55 AM on July 23, 2013

A really good book to look into is The New Rules of Lifting. It gives a very through explanation about building muscle, contains well balanced programs, and debunks many fitness myths. It also contains a very good section about nutrition basics. I don't like the whole 5-meals a day thing either, being obsessed with food usually causes me to gain weight, even when trying to diet. However, I am not fitness-model shape myself, YMMV.

What works for this guy is probably an overkill for a newbie. Also, the timing of your workouts does not really matter. When you hit pro-level fitness, maybe. But for an average guy, make you sure you eat reasonably well, train a lot and hard, and you'll see results.

/r/fitness on reddit has a very good FAQ and guidelines for newbies.

Also, as a guy who might want to gain muscle, you will be told to eat a lot, but be careful with that. Many guys who are trying to "gain muscle" are simply becoming fat. But as an untrained person, you can gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, so awesome for you! (this lasts for about the first year of training).

There's a lot of broscience, and many people of spread it use steroids, you can disregard a lot of their training habits and advice, they're irrelevant to untrained people who want to get into decent shape.

I'd suggest either going to the gym with a good program (the trainers who works in your local gym are not always much better than internet broscience) written by a reputable trainer or joining a high quality crossfit or functional fitness gym (the certification necessary to open a crossfit gym is a joke, you need to find a gym with reputable trainers).
posted by sockpuppetdirect at 10:58 AM on July 23, 2013

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