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Do You Look Like You Train?

Ask a hundred gym members why they train and guess what they'll say? The overwhelming majority do it for the look. Sure, some will say it's for health; others will say it's because of how it makes them feel. A few even do it to improve their performance in sport or out of necessity for rehab or medical therapy. Others do it to burn off their habits of indulgence, but most of us visit the gym for one reason only, to effect change in our physical appearance, and this is commonly done by pumping iron and sweating out the excess on the treadmill.

The problem is however, that only a handful of those who train day-in and day-out actually look like they train. Never mind the ones that don't, their alibi is airtight. But what about the majority who train but you can't tell by looking at them? They want to look buff, that's why they go. But the sad reality is, and I speak from experience as a gym owner, a clinical sports nutrition consultant and a Canadian Masters champion bodybuilder, that what they have built over the years is either hiding under a layer of unwanted bodyfat, or they haven't built enough of what they need to make a visual impact.

If you train routinely, and it's part of your life, there's nothing more discouraging than when someone you haven't seen for awhile asks you if you've been training? Or when you meet someone new and they ask if you train at all. Isn't it obvious you think? Don't I look like I train? After all, that why I'm bloody well doing it! Maybe it's them. Maybe they don't know what to look for. But then again, maybe it's me…or maybe it's just because they can't see my physique with this jacket and all these clothes on.

I remember meeting Frank Zane for the first time in Palm Springs. He won Mr. Olympia three years in a row, and yet when I first saw him dressed in a casual suit he didn't look like a stereo-type musclehead bodybuilder. But up close he oozed vitality and his jaw-line was as tight as a drum! He also had that look of a champion. Reminds me of what Dr. Franco Columbo, also a former Mr. Olympia once said, "You can always tell if someone is in shape by looking at their jaw line and chin".

It's a wonderful thing to have someone tell you how good you look. And it's even better if you're over 40! Maybe they're impressed with your muscle, your shape or just how good you look in whatever you're wearing. But there's no denying it. It feels great to receive such a compliment and its just one of the many attributes that comes back to you like a reward for all your effort and discipline. But the effort isn't just what you're doing in the gym. It's the effort you put into nutrition and it's the discipline you MUST APPLY when it comes to eating. I mean eating with precision, eating with knowledge and eating with pride.

If you've been training for more than six months, but have yet to achieve the aesthetic calibre you desire or your full potential, there's a reason why. It's almost always connected in whole or in part with what you're eating outside of the gym for the other 22 or 23 hours. The other main cause is related to the training itself in terms of layout, intensity, technique and progression.

I can recall taking an out-of-shape 40 year old client through a six month training routine and really seeing some impressive changes. First we started with a complete fitness assessment at Simon Fraser's University Performance Lab. That experience really motivated him plus we discovered what his lean mass so we could be precise with his nutrition requirements and supplement dosages.

His arms grew, his chest puffed out and people began to comment on how good and strong he looked, and he loved it. His waistline went way down and his sex drive went way up. His wife was thrilled! The diet I recommended wasn't complicated or strict like a bodybuilder in competition, but it was clean and fresh and whole. Like how I eat myself year round.

Protein shakes became a standard before and after each workout, and refined starches like bread, muffins and bagels were replaced with fresh fruits, salads & vegetables. Night-time binges of cookies and ice cream were replaced with a delicious protein shake and the desire to binge was modified by following a diet during the day in the same way he followed his training and exercise routine. He paid attention and followed a game plan just like how he followed his business plan. Eating decent food anchored by low-fat high-quality protein at three hour intervals made all the difference in the world. Insulin sensitivity improves and blood sugar stabilizes when you eat right. When you do something right the evidence is always revealed in the outcome.

Water was consumed throughout the day and always during each workout. One of the keys was knowing how and when. He drank 30ml of clean, pure water per kg of his lean body mass, not during but 1-2 hours after meals. He also developed the habit of carrying a water bottle in his car, in his briefcase and invested in a home and office water dispenser and bottled-water delivery.

Supplements included a multi, Vit C & E, whey protein isolate, The Sport Oil, creatine monohydrate, HMB, L-glutamine, glucosamine sulphate, a good electrolyte mix, just a solid basic program with the proven classics taken in the right amount at the right time. Over time he developed a connection between food and how he looked and felt. His shakes and supplements became just as important as the training itself, the lifestyle he learned, was something he had control over. Food and training were equal in terms of effect on health, but when it came to diet, he realized that no matter how hard he trained, it was what he ate and when he ate it that gave him the LOOK he secretly desired.