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The Power of Elimination – Part One

“One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” The Power of Elimination | Part One It is a very American attitude to want to solve problems and make ourselves feel better by adding more, doing more, and consuming more.  Fitness and health are certainly no stranger to this phenomena.  I’m constantly asked what more can be done to expedite or compound results.  What I’ve come to realize is that rarely is doing more the answer.  Quite frequently it’s the exact opposite; something needs to be removed in order to achieve progress.  Be it clients trying to lose weight, athletes, or even my own personal workouts, harnessing the power of less can create better results faster.  In this three part series I’m going to talk about utilizing this strategy for different situations.

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Let’s first take a look at a commonly overzealous approach to fat loss.  The logic follows that more workouts equals more calories burned equals more fat lost, correct?  In theory perhaps this makes sense, however in reality there are a lot of things wrong with this argument.  For one, there is building evidence that long, slow bouts of “cardio” (the traditional weapon of choice for the more is better fat loss approach) is about as useful as a chocolate teapot.  Second, the likelihood of someone trying to lose fat (there are no “advanced” fat loss trainees) being able to maintain any type of workout intensity with increased training volume is highly unlikely.  The more you do, the less you do very well. Third, as Gary Taubes notes in Why we get Fat, increased exercise levels are often accompanied with increased appetite and thus increased caloric intake, negating any deficit created by the extra work in the first place.  The ultimate driver of metabolism is lean muscle mass, thus the training focus of someone looking to lose fat should be getting stronger first and foremost, not just moving around and getting sweaty and tired.  The best strength training exercises are always those that encompass multiple joints (and no, a bicep curl doesn’t count even though technically the wrist and elbow are involved).  Think of it this way, if fat loss was a presidential election, and your different muscle groups were all states, spending time on your biceps and “lower abs” is like exclusively campaigning in Rhode Island and Delaware.  Sure, the scenery is nice, but they’ve got like 3 electoral votes each.  Even if you dominate those states, you’re gonna get killed by not spending time in Texas (glutes, everything’s bigger in Texas!) and California (Lats). What’s the message to those in quest of fat loss?  Take an honest look at your approach.  Is your diet complex?  Is your workout schedule clogging your Google Calendar?  Does the guy at GNC text you when the newest variation of Mega-Thermo Laser-Guided Fat Blasting Incinerator Turbo comes in?  Now, despite all this, are you actually getting what you want from all that?  Can you honestly say you do any of that particularly well?  Ok, deep breath, here’s your simple, stripped down, secret to success.  Toss the diet, the supplements, and “extra” workouts.  Set a realistic goal for your diet, your training, and where you want to be in 6 weeks.  For example:
  • Diet – Protein and vegetables at every meal, no liquid calories, only one “bad” meal a week
  • Workout – 3 Full Body Workouts a week, Increase weights every session, complete in 1 hour or less
  • Six Week Goal – 6 lbs of weight loss, 2 inches around waist
Sounds reasonable right?  You’d be surprised how tempting it will be to stray from this simple program and add more and more as the weeks go on.  It’s like me asking you to make a simple three step recipe and instead returning some half-assed attempt at a pate de canard en croute(Julia Childs signature dish).  Basic done exceptionally well always works.  After 6 weeks and an honest assessment of how well you followed the plan, let the next stage add a little more complexity back in if necessary. Stay Tuned for Part II next week “Less is More for Athletes”