Ok. It’s time for me to vent. Now I don’t want to make this a place where I whine and complain, but this one I need to get off my chest. I have been working in the fitness industry for almost ten years now, and I have seen some pretty crappy stuff. It wasn’t until I became interested in the bodybuilding/ figure competitor world though, that I started to see and hear some REALLY crappy stuff. Most of this I heard online in the never ending fight between clean eating and IIFYM , horror stories of metabolic damage, bikini and figure girls being run into the ground and put on drugs, but I never really came across the mess first hand until the other night. And this is what happened:
I was at work and a girl came in for some information on getting a job. She mentioned she was a “bodybuilder” so I smiled and said “oh me too”! (And just for the record this was not at a fitness related job). As she’s filling out her application, without as much as asking me my name she asks:
“So what’s your body fat percentage?”
Whoa, whoa, whoa. No. That doesn’t happen in real life.
And it continued… “how many shows have you done” “what did you place” etc., etc. I could only think to myself ‘this is a strange conversation’ but I have this thing where I am nice 😛 and I answered her questions and smiled.
She asked me everything from what I ate, how many calories, who made my suit, who did my hair and the list continued. I understood she was excited and so passionately enthralled in her new love for the sport, and I thought this was a chance to help guide her into hopefully some of the healthier prep ways I had picked up.
Once we got pass all of the “too much information” type questions that threw me for a loop, she started to talk, no preach, about her prep.
She had to eat every three hours so her stomach didn’t stretch, her only carb source was sweet potatoes, no dairy or fruit allowed, 3 oz of animal protein at every meal, an hour of cardio everyday, 14 weeks out and down to 1100 calories, and the list went on.
Now, I am not the type of person to preach to or to tell someone who I don’t know that what they’re doing is complete and utterly stupid. Therefore, I kindly nodded and spoke about my prep experience when I could fit a few words in. I casually mentioned how:
I had no food restrictions, ate when I wanted, never more than 30 minutes of cardio at a time, never less than 1200 calories, and always a variety of foods and nutrients. I spoke to how we did a lot of research and used a more scientific approach to prep. I mentioned how one should be careful being so restrictive and to do research to find a healthy approach.
I hoped not to change what she was doing, but maybe give her a chance to reflect upon the differences and start questioning some of the things she was being put through. She was so brainwashed into what her “coach” was telling her though that her response was “My coach has produced champions so I trust him, plus having some restrictions is another mental challenge and just makes me tougher”.
What made me the most upset was that although she only started exercising for the first time in her life 6 months ago, someone had convinced her to do a show, and on top of that she was now giving diets out to other people she knew.
Now, I am not saying I am a know it all and this girl was set up for failure, but I don’t think she is ready to compete, just from a knowledge standpoint of nutrition, metabolism , and ultimately what competing and restricting can do to you mentally and physically. If I could go back in time these are what my responses would be:
- To answer the “what’s your body fat percentage” question:
First, my name is Kim, its Kim. I do not wish to share my body fat percentage with you because ultimately it’s none of your business and doesn’t tell you anything about me. As I wrote in this post; the scale, my weight, and even my body fat percentage do not define who I am. If I am leaner than you it doesn’t make me a better person than you, and the same if you are leaner than me. So yeah, its Kim, thanks for asking.
- Eating every three hours so her stomach doesn’t stretch:
This isn’t really a thing that matters, especially 14 weeks out. When you’re eating in a caloric deficit every single day, it’s unlikely that you are filling your stomach enough to “stretch” and ultimately stay at that “stretched” out state. Years and years of over indulging can ultimately cause your stomach to get bigger and therefore capable to hold more food, but let’s be real this is a bunch of guru BS. I choose physiology.
- Sweet potatoes are her only carb source and she’s not allowed to eat dairy or fruit/ the restrictions make her tougher.
There’s no scientific evidence that says sweet potatoes will make you lose more weight. There’s also no scientific evidence that says eating fruit or some dairy will cause you to gain weight. These foods are not bad; sweet potatoes aren’t the magic answer we’ve all been looking for to leaning out. In fact by restricting yourself to such a limited intake of foods you are limiting the variety and balance of vitamins and minerals that you would get from a variety of food sources. Research shows a diet limited in food choices leads to deficiencies in essential micronutrients. Also, restricting doesn’t make you tougher, it makes you crazier. There is in fact scientific evidence showing that such restrictive diets cause bad relationships with food, binge episodes, and eating disorders.
- 14 weeks out, 1100 calories a day, and an hour of cardio.
I would leave this answer to Dr. Layne Norton and this video. This is not a safe or ideal way to prep, and you are setting yourself up for serious hormonal and metabolic issues. Sure you will get lean enough, but is it worth dropping your calories down to 700 per day and doing hours of cardio? What is that doing to your body? I would suggest not competing and taking some time to learn how to improve your metabolic capacity and diet safely.
- Her coach has produced champions.
I interned for a few years at a Division 1 University with the strength and conditioning staff. One of the best things I took away was that when you are working with high level athletes who are extremely talented and genetically gifted, you can pretty much do anything with them and you really aren’t going to make them that much better, or worse. There are plenty of crappy coaches out there with people that win all of the time. It may not be their coaching that is doing the winning, just sayin. Just because your coach has produced champions does not mean he is the best coach for you. Does he place your health and well being at the top of his priority list? No? Well then he’s really not the best coach for you, sorry to say.
- She writes diets and workouts for other people.
Professionals go to school for a long, long time to give exercise and nutrition advice. Please, after 6 months of eating better and working out do not think that you have the knowledge or capability to give other people workouts and diets. And please don’t spread this nonsense you are following to other people! Those of us who have studied for 8+ years in college and want to give people a healthy and sound way to reach their goals would really appreciate it.
What I am trying to get across in this post is that competing is a serious thing and should not be taken lightly. You can do some serious mental and physical damage to your body if you are not ready to compete or do so in an unsafe way. It is a sport of extremes, but it is important to keep things sane in an insane world. I do not wish to pick on this girl, but this is a mild example of a story where an individual is being miss guided by a so called “coach”. This conversation left me angry for days, not at her, but that people out there preach these extremely unhealthy habits to the unknowing.
If you think that competing is something for you make sure that you are ready mentally and physically. That you have done research and understand the process and what will be best for you. Before you even look for a coach you should decide what type of prep you want to have, what methods make sense to you etc. Then, go out and find a coach who fits your standards. Do not find the local “coach” down the street who has had some success out of luck. It is your health, your body, and your mind that we are talking about, and you have an obligation to yourself to protect those things. If you don’t, who will?
What do you guys think? Any unsettling things you have seen in the fitness world that you want to get off of your chest?