I read something interesting today that made me think a bit. I love when that happens - as it opens my eyes to new possibilities and often results in a little extra motivation for whatever I'm doing. This little tidbit was all about attitude and how we can easily get caught up in believing things are randomly happening to us, rather than proactively creating the lives we want to live.
I'm a control freak - so when unexpected things happen - it kinda freaks me out. So, I make it my daily mission to control everything I can which might be a bit OCD. But I find that when I'm in charge of my time and my activities, I'm comfortable knowing that things will generally turn out a certain way. Problem is that I can't control every variable in my life and there are going to be those things that affect me whether I want them to or not. That seems a little counterintuitive to living proactively and imposing my will on the world, but it's not. Let me explain...
It could have started anywhere...
It might have started when you watched Rocky, Cinderella Man, or Million Dollar Baby.
Maybe it happened when you were at a UFC, amateur, or professional boxing match or tournament.
Maybe a friend keeps talking about how awesome their boxing club is and the incredible changes taking place in his or her life as the training he or she is doing inspires confidence, builds muscle and burns excess fat.
I don't remember exactly when it happened, but sometime around the age of 29-30, I started noticing more and more people around me blaming their poor performance, injuries, and lack of motivation on their age.
Given the actual age of people I hang around with, it is increasingly common to hear things like "my body doesn't respond like it used to" or "it takes me twice as long to recover as it used to in my twenties."
While all that may be true - I truly believe that you only really get old when you start using age as an excuse.
I turned 40 this year - but I don't consider myself old and I can certainly still out perform people half my age in the gym or ring.
I'm not delusional. I know that at some point my body is going to deteriorate to the point where I'm not going to be able to box (or probably even walk or wipe my own ass for that matter) - but I'll be damned if I'm going to let that happen before it actually happens.
Combat simplifies life real quick.
In that moment - you fight for survival with no time to worry or decisions to mull over - and how you react in a fight says a lot about how you approach your life.
You've probably heard of the fight or flight response - the two instincts that control how you react to a situation you perceive is threatening.
I'd offer there is a third response that doesn't get talked about but is much more dangerous than fighting or running - it's quitting.
You can't run in the boxing ring - there is nowhere to go. You can move around but you'll never get away from your attacker or get a break unless your attacker gives it to you, the bell rings or the referee stops the fight.
With running out of the question - that leaves two options: fight or quit.
- Andrew Carnegie
Imagine you are in the boxing ring. Across from you is your opponent. You're both sizing each other up knowing that when the bell sounds you'll be toe to toe throwing punches.
The bells sounds and you move forward. Suddenly, just as you are ready to attack, twenty of his friends climb into the ring to offer their assistance. You have no where to go. You have to fight.
- Robert Conot
Reading that quote above, do any boxers come to mind? When I first read it, I thought immediately of Floyd Mayweather Jr. I can't think of a recent boxer who has a bigger mouth than he does. While I think a good portion of it is acting to inflate ticket prices and pay per view views, he is extremely vocal (boundless exaggeration).
The thing is that unlike other boxers, Mayweather Jr. accomplishes what he says. He walks the talk. He dissects, disables, and pounds away until his opponents are demolished.
His fights are not terribly exciting for most people looking to watch two people pound each other bloody, but for someone who knows and respects boxing for the strategy it entails, few boxers achieve his level of technical mastery.
Did you honestly think you could stick to your training plan or eat perfectly 100% of the time - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year?
I'm currently sitting in a hotel as I write this. I started a new training cycle just over three weeks ago and have diligently followed my meal plan for the same period of time. However, I am now in this hotel for a week on business. I have no access to cooking facilities or food preparation. I have a very limited fitness facility. I have to attend social functions and eat in restaurants and pubs. How hard do you think it is going to be for me to stick to my meal plan and training program?
Training wise, I have modified my program to suit what I have available - resistance bands I brought with me and the equipment the hotel does have. Although full boxing workouts are going to be on hold until I get back, I know I am going to be able to continue training.
The wide variety of people using Commando Boxing continually amazes me.
Members range in age from less than 10 to older than 80. They are a fairly even split of men and women, although the proportion of women continues to grow. About 65% are brand new to the sport of boxing and looking to see if it is something they want to pursue.
The main reasons people generally give when joining the club fall into three general categories:
Well, whatever your motivations are for being here, I first and foremost applaud you for getting involved in the sport. No words I type are ever going to convey how beneficial boxing can be in your life. It's something you'll have to experience for yourself and thousands already have.
I'll get to the guinea pigs in a minute but first I want to help you understand how similar you and I are.
We're built the same. We both have super small structures that work together as cells to form the various tissues and organ systems that make up our bodies, keep us healthy and performing well.
Every single one of our 100 trillion cells (for the average 150lb adult), contains an instruction manual that tells it what to do and make to ensure our bodies function properly.
That instruction manual is a set of genes that forms your genetic code - and 99.9% of my genes are the same as your genes which are the same as your grandma's genes which are the same as Arnold Schwarzenegger's genes.
But - there is that .01% difference to keep things interesting. The differences are called genetic polymorphisms and they explain why you and I may react differently to the food we eat.
If we were all 100% genetically the same then a one-size fits all diet would work for everyone and it would be a simple matter of testing all foods to see if they improve or do not improve health and performance. We could keep all the good foods, get rid of the bad and the obesity problem would be over. Problem solved.
But we're not the same - so a diet of certain foods that makes me feel good and perform at my peak may not be the optimal diet for you.
For instance - every one has a gene in our livers that makes an enzyme that breaks down caffeine. In some people that enzyme breaks caffeine down quickly leaving the beneficial antioxidants behind and they get health and performance benefits from 1-3 cups of coffee a day. Other people's genes make an enzyme that breaks caffeine down slowly so the same 1-3 cups of coffee may have detrimental health effects.
It really does matter what you eat...
Certain foods have bioactive components that upregulate (turn on) genes - also referred to as gene expression.
Brocolli has a component called isothiocyanates that will switch on a specific gene in the liver that detoxifies cancer-causing chemicals and other toxins.
Cooked tomatoes contain lycopenes that turn off growth-promoting genes in the prostate. No cooked tomatoes in the diet = higher risk of prostate cancer.
Fish oil (specifically DHA - fatty acid found in fish) tells genes in the brain to make a chemical that helps keep Alzheimer's away. If you take fish oil you have better cognitive (brain) function as you age compared to people who don't.
Noteworthy: there is a fascinating branch of science called nutrigenomics that studies how nutrition influences gene expression.
It's interesting to think that what you eat is causing things to turn on and off in your body.
I know I just spent a few minutes listing the ways we are all different enough to make a one-size fits all diet unworkable - but there is one diet that works for 100% of human beings on the planet. It's the guinea pig diet.
Now don't go frying up the family pet quite yet.
Since at least the 1700s, guinea pigs have been the subjects of a host of experiments for the benefit of mankind. Guinea pigs played key roles in germ theory, standardization of vaccines and antivirals, and have even been launched into space on numerous occasions.
Indigenous groups of South America eat guinea pigs and since 1960 there has been a push to use the animal for food consumption outside of South America - but I'm not telling you that guinea pigs are a super food you need to add to your diet.
Go ahead and breathe that sigh of relief...
The guinea pig diet is a method for building your optimal diet using yourself as your own guinea pig.
It's a framework for experimenting on yourself to see what works and what doesn't in a world of nutrition information that seems to contradict itself at every opportunity.
Given your unique genetic profile - you won't know what your super foods are until you test how you react to those foods and objectively measure the outcomes.
As you grow up you kind of do this intuitively anyways. You figure out at a young age that eating too much of something like super rich chocolate cake or ice cream can make you feel bad or anxious. The guinea pig diet takes it a step further to make you really pay attention to what's good for you and what isn't - and it's totally unique to you and your genetic profile.
The guinea pig diet is a framework for building a list of foods unique to you that you can and should eat to achieve optimal health and performance.
That framework consists of envisioning a goal, establishing a baseline and then testing foods against that baseline to discard the bad foods and keep the good ones in your diet.
Said another way - the guinea pig diet is a method for determining what foods and drinks in the right amounts at the right times will enhance your performance and health.
Over the course of the next few articles we're going to dive deep into each component of the guinea pig cycle pictured above:
This process takes some time. You can't build your perfect diet overnight - but stick with it and eventually, incrementally, you'll be eating a whole lot better and seeing the results with better health and performance.
If I had the chance right now to change one thing in your life that would give you the body that you want - I know exactly what it would be...
I would snap my fingers and eliminate all added sugar from your diet.
Let me tell you why...
That picture up there is when I once lost 15 pounds in one day. It was during an ultra-marathon where I ran for just over 23 hours and consumed very little food. My Garmin lasted for about 20 of those hours and at that time told me I had burned just over 10000 calories.
That translates into about 3lbs of fat (~3500 calories = 1 lb of fat) which is the primary source of energy your body uses during such long distance endurance events. Unfortunately, my body did not just burn fat - it ate its own muscle as well.
In total, the weight loss was a combination of water loss (I was completely dehydrated), muscle loss, and fat loss - and it's really hard on your body. Doing an ultra-marathon is a great experience - but if you don't fuel correctly, you're in for a world of hurt.
More recently, I lived in a place where it was damn near impossible to eat a lot of the foods I usually eat at home in North America. Everything was made from scratch. No processed foods and little to no sugar. I found it very difficult to maintain my weight at 180lbs and hovered around 155lbs for most of my time there even without a lot of cardio-type exercise.
Contrary to how I felt after the ulta-marathon - despite some issues with the quality of the food (I won't go into why I carried toilet paper everywhere...) - I felt really good.
I use those two stories to highlight the fact that exercise alone is not the way to the body of your dreams. Training speeds up the process and sculpts the muscles hidden by all the fat on your body, but you can't rely on exercise to fix the problems you cause yourself by what you put in your mouth.
To put it into perspective - it would take a 180lb person more than an hour of heavy bag training to burn off one McDonald's Big Mac which probably takes about 5 min or less to eat. If the whole process was as simple as calories in and calories out, you simply do not have enough time in your day to create the negative energy balance required through exercise alone to cause massive changes in your body.
The problem is even harder to solve because foods are not all of the same quality. Some things you eat are more lipogenic (apt to be turned into fat).
Well, besides being the most addictive poison and destructive force to society I can think of, sugar comes in three forms:
Further, insulin is released when your blood sugar levels are high. It is used to deal with the high levels of sugar in your blood by either moving it into cells to be used or put into storage (i.e. fat). Fructose doesn't increase insulin production which means your blood sugar levels stay high for extended periods of time. This is what leads to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes. Your brain actually registers the high blood sugar levels as a threat and the resulting immune response causes all sorts of problems and damage to cells and even cognitive defects such as those relating to Alzheimers.
Now that you've had a science lesson. Let's just break it down into what matters.
Sugar is poison. Sugar is addictive. Most of us are sugar addicts. We need rehab. We need to stop eating added sugar and processed foods.
I'm going to try and move you quickly through the 5 steps of grief that will inevitably occur when I say you shouldn't eat your twinkies, morning breakfast cereal, favorite dessert, or drink pop ever again. Let's just jump over the denial, anger, bargaining, and depression and move right into acceptance shall we?
Ultimately you need to deal with this loss on an emotional level, but here are the rational, logical reasons that should really resonate with you about sugar:
I hope that today is the day that I can make one change in your life that will actually have a real and almost immediate effect. It's time for a sugar detox. Stop eating sugar or foods with added sugar - full stop. Don't just cut back. Go cold turkey and cut it out completely. One of two things will happen:
Good luck - let me know how your detox goes? Maybe I should start offering the little badges you get for being 1 week, 1 month, 1 year etc... free of sugar...