So what happens when you go to the gym for your workout and bi-weekly weigh in, and you discover you've gained 4-5 pounds in just a few days?
First, you forget that the scale means everything. It means something, of course, but it's merely one of many numbers. There are other important numbers:
- waist circumference
- chest circumference
- chest, arm, and leg circumference
- how much fat you can pinch in various places
- how much weight you are lifting, pushing, or pulling in various exercises
- how do your pants fit?
Shall I go on?
As you may have gathered, this was my experience today. Yep, it's hard not to feel some measure of discouragement, but be careful: you may actually be chastising yourself over...PROGRESS.
See, in the mundane world of carb faces, added weight means that 75-90% of it is fat (piling on fat also stimulates some new lean growth to carry around the extra tonnage). And even in the realm of advanced paleo diet and fitness, fat stores fluctuate. But so does water retention and just plain old metabolic dynamics.
This is a good time to check your premises, by which I mean to assess the principles you're operating from. The true and fundamental appeal of the paleo approach is that we are attempting to operate pre-neolithic, i.e., in a manner our bodies and minds evolved to optimize, which is the role of natural selection. Keep in mind that prior to the advent of the neolithic 10,000 years ago, that man had evolved to the epitome of fitness within his environment, which of course can vary depending upon your genetic lineage (dark, yellow, red, white, and the general corresponding latitudinal regions, et cetera).
Let me make it more simple: we're allowing our inner animal to flourish.
So, that raises two questions:
1. do animals in nature have weight fluctuations up & down?
2. If yes, is that odd only when it's an increase, or is it necessarily odd at all?
The point I'm getting at is that if you are pretty paleo in diet, are hitting the gym for brief and intense exercise 1-3 times per week, and are episodically skipping 1-3 meals in a row 1-3 times per week, then you're living the life of the animal and you CAN NOT FAIL.
Listen: it's going to take just about 100% of people about 100 times longer to get the washboard abs than they would prefer. They say that Rome wasn't built in a day. Well, what if it took 20 years to destroy Rome? Should we be too fretful that it takes 2-3 years to rebuild it?
My own downward slide began in 1992. It peaked in 2006, 14 years later at 230 pounds. I'm now in the 180s and within real reach of my goal of 10% BF, which I shall achieve. But that too is a number. I have already achieved everything necessary; so, it's just icing on the cake.
So, what happened in my case? I suspect two things, and it's probably some of both. Since that allergy attack of the weekend, I have been constantly thirsty. That ended this morning, but the last couple of days I have consumed at least a gallon of water each day. I just could not drink enough. It was weird, but I just listened to my body. So, there may be some water retention issues with that much going in.
Second, my workouts have changed dramatically. As an example, I did only three exercises today: incline bench press, dumb bell bent-over rows, and back squats (not on the Smith). I used to do a dozen exercises, most isolation movements, and at three sets of ten repetitions each. Now, reps are rarely more than 5, and I don't even count sets. I just keep piling on weight. It's far less structured, and I love it.
On the bench, I worked up to and managed a couple of reps at 185, then a couple negatives over 200. I hadn't tried the incline in a long while, as I always had trouble with stability, even at 135. It's comforting to go back and smack off 8 reps at 135, wondering what the hell your stability issues was about, before.
The rows were interesting, too. I haven't done them for years, and I recall only getting up to 40 pounds. Today, warmup was at 50, and then I did multiple sets at 80, and 80 is one damn big dumb bell.
Oh how I love back squats. This, along with dead lifts and bar bell bent-over rows, is truly the king of exercise. When I had asked my trainer about doing them quite some months ago, we went over to the Smith machine, which turned out to be a mistake. My lower back just didn't feel comfortable, which I now know was improper foot position. But if you do them just free, you don't have to worry about that, and I have yet to have the slightest back problem.
For the last 2-3 sessions, we worked mainly on technique, as it's a curiously graceful exercise in terms of what you've got to do with balance. So, after a couple of sessions, I was up to about 115 pounds. Well, today, he let me lose and I did multiple sets of 5 reps at 215. I was blown away. I have no idea of what a practical goal would be.
Maybe I'll email Keith on that.
I love it, and so the weight gain, whether water, the big weights I'm hitting, or a little of both, there's no discouragement here.