The Three E’s: Exercise, Eat and Eliminate

The Genesis of this insight about the “Three E’s” came to me at a workshop. As many of you know, who read “Intervention” any way (why don’t you have it if you don’t?), I believe that a Reasonable Way of Eating and a Reasonable Training model (see “Even Easier Strength”) trumps insanity all the time.

So, in my last few workshops, I have gone to the whiteboard and scribbled illegibly in my scrawl that earned “D’s” at St. Veronica’s School and asked the questions:

What’s a tough workout?

Dozens of hands go up, dozens of answers.
What’s a reasonable workout?
A few hands go up, a few shy answers like “Even Easier Strength”
What’s a tough diet or way of eating?
Most hands go up with everything from the Velocity Diet to sheer idiocy
What’s a reasonable diet or way of eating?
Crickets.
Nothing.
Blank uncomfortable stares. As a classroom teacher of over 34 years, my one fear has always been passing gas out loud during a lecture. As the group stares back at me, I have one of two thoughts: either I farted or we have a problem, Houston.

I checked. It wasn’t me.

Seriously, my dear friends in fitness, some of the biggest names in the fitness industry won’t raise their hands and tell me what a reasonable way of eating is in this age of one million diets.

Years ago, at the Olympic Training Center, we were told to focus on these three things:

Protein
Veggies
Clear Water


Later, Robb Wolf summarized the most complex eating program in the world with these three memorable lines:
More Protein
More Fiber
More Fish Oil

Please note: I have stolen both of these concepts and I now claim them as my own. Remember, the first time I say something, I am quoting someone. The second time I say something, I say “My good friend, fill in the name, always says….” The third time I say something, I say “As I always say…” This is what I remember from my ethics class on the topic of Intellectual Property.

As I argued in Mass Made Simple, I think we know how to eat:
Honestly, seriously, you don’t know what to do about food? Here is an idea: Eat like an
adult. Stop eating fast food, stop eating kid’s cereal, knock it off with all the sweets and
comfort foods whenever your favorite show is not on when you want it on, ease up on
the snacking and— don’t act like you don’t know this— eat vegetables and fruits more.
Really, how difficult is this? Stop with the whining. Stop with the excuses. Act like an
adult and stop eating like a television commercial. Grow up.

And, I would have stuck to this, save for one wonderful insight a few years ago. I was
sitting in my basement watching a college football game. I am pretty sure the Florida
Gators were playing someone, but I was focused on my meal. It was a t- bone steak, several eggs, some rye toast and a Scotch. Yes, you read that right.

You see, it was Saturday of my first week of the Velocity Diet. This meal was the first
solid food I had eaten in six days. I lived on six protein shakes a day and a small sprinkling of supplements. The only thing missing from the V- Diet is food. The thing is, one begins to miss food after a while. As I finished up my meal, Tiffini looked at me, obviously concerned, and asked, “What’s the matter?” “Huh?” Then I noticed tears were streaming down my cheeks. I couldn’t get over it, and I would have laughed at anyone else with this response. Response?

Yes, I was having an emotional response to food. After all those years of making jokes
about “comfort foods” and “eat like an adult,” I was caught up in a swooning moment
of literally instant depression at the notion that I wouldn’t drink booze or eat anything
fun again for seven days. I wasn’t sobbing, but I was clearly emotionally ratcheted down.

Since that moment— and things got much better after that on the V-Diet by the way— I
have a real appreciation for people who mention an odd relationship with food. I can understand how someone might sit and eat a box of cookies after an emotionally charged day (I would prefer you did not). I also understand why the comfort foods of youth might be attractive to someone without a great social network. I even have empathy for someone who might eat fast foods now because as a youth the family couldn’t
go out very much due to financial issues.

Good. Let’s hug it out. Now, let’s get back to the point: Eat like an adult!

People always ask me about the book, Mass Made Simple, and whether or not they should read it. I think it is, by far, the most Bus Bench thing I have ever discussed. It is my ultimate “Do This!” training program. The whole tone of the book is like this selection and usually I am much nicer. (I was going to write “more nice,” but I only a few people would catch the fact I was joking and not just stupid.)

So, at some level, we can’t even agree to what is a reasonable way of eating. This insight from this past autumn and winter spurred me to look into a method of eating that isn’t eating:

Fasting.

Now, before I start in, I know this: I am going to get emails or rude posts that somebody else invented this. I really like the new book from Men’s Health,

but some of the negative reviews claim that the author stole the information from other sites. I love this explanation by Nick Horton (I love his blog, by the way. Anyone who talks about O lifting, Vodka, Oscar Wilde and meditation has me at hello) about his approach, and he includes quite a few references at the bottom for other insights.

I will also include John Berardi’s step by step approach and his experiences with fasting, too. Intermittent-Fasting_Precision-Nutrition

I first heard about the diet in the long departed magazine, Mind and Muscle Power, which I wish I would have kept instead of loaning out. Ori Hofmekler wrote about 20 hours of fasting and four hours of eating a day.

Frankly, as I write this in Lent, I have often thought that fasting has been part of the tradition for a long time. Jesus fasted forty days and Moses lead the people for forty years eating a paleodiet of quail and manna. Nassim Taleb’s “Antifragile,” one of the most amazing books I have ever read, does a great job showing us how traditional religious fasting practices are marvelous for one’s health. I love his work and he challenges me by the hour as I read him.

So there, I said it: I started daily fasting. I will call it “Intermittent Fasting” with the understanding that I am going to get dozens of emails claiming that someone else invented and that I am a thief.

That bothers me: I am a MASTER thief. Get it right.

Before I get into the basics, I think I knew a lot of this before I decide to dive in about two months ago.

First, the Eades wrote a book a couple of years ago that simply never took off and they abandoned the website almost immediately. The book, The 6-Week Cure for the Middle-Aged Middle: The Simple Plan to Flatten Your Belly Fast!, advocated three protein shakes a day and one meal. The problem with the book, and you can see it in the Amazon reviews, is that it is like a few pages of “here you go and do this” and the rest is recipes.

But, they made a good point. In middle age, the belly fat just gets a mind of its own. When I talk with other people over thirty, we all laugh at this bizarre ability of the body to suddenly decide to layer its self with “apple fat” around the belly button. Their answer, the three shakes and the single meal, works well. Chris Shugart offered this originally as part of his Velocity Diet, but people just didn’t get the psychological hit from the full 28 days of suffering. Thanks Chris for the pain.

Second, I agree with my audience: I read articles, blogs, and books about nutrition and I take classes on eating, preparing and shopping for food and I honestly can’t tell you what is good or bad. Coffee will kill you and it is the answer to all your prayers. The same goes for…wow, everything.

So, I have discovered that NOT eating, fasting, is easier for me to do that deciding what to eat.

Follow the logic here: my limited amount of free will seems to do better with simply choosing to eat nothing than to try to figure out how many pints in a peck, whether or not I will die from eating legumes and if the nightshade family of veggies really is going to take me gentle into that good night.

Third, I discovered, like Nick Horton, that I thrive in training hungry. Pavel told me this years ago about writing: when you fast, you literally hunt words. The focus, when hungry, is literally stunning. I’m not the first to say this as the famous anonymous poet who wrote “Pangur Ban” (White Fuller) said it better:
I and Pangur Ban my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.
(There is much more to this wonderful poem. Read the rest here)pangur_ban_by_sequana-d31ja7y

But, I discovered doing Bikram Yoga that training fasted works very well for me. I can’t imagine doing the 90 minute 120 degree Bikram class with anything in my stomach. Recently, I experimented with doing the class with no water…I’m not recommending this!!!… and discovered that my practice was the best it had been in weeks. I can’t do many of the “chin to knee” poses any way, but with food in the belly I think I would puke it all out for you.

At the Crosspointe Kettlebell Club, we begin at 7:30 and that is barely enough time for me to wake up and have a cup of coffee. Often, I add a yoga session after this…and this is when I came to my great insight: I perform better in my lifting and flexibility training in a fasted state. I can’t comment on whether or not this helps me with discus throwing or Highland Games or football.

A small comment on these two points: my lifting training versus my technical work. Laura McNally, a good friend and one of my lawyers, sent me Daniel Coyle’s “The Little Book of Talent.” He puts a line between Hard Skills and Soft Skills that gives me an insight: discus throwing is a hard skill and demands more than just someone walking over and saying “do ten more reps!” It is an insight that helps me clarify where I am heading here, although, frankly, it might not make sense to you yet, dear reader. Not every thought that comes out of my head can be, well…you know…explainified.

To the details of the program!

So, it comes down to three words that circle each other:
Exercise
Eat
Eliminate

The key is realizing that they pick up again and again and again. After eating, focus on elimination, after eliminating, it is time to exercise and after exercise, it is time to eat. So, no matter where I start explaining The Three E’s, I am picking up after the one before it.

Exercise
Let me start with exercise. I find it interesting that I have begun to train in the morning. Most of the great trainers in history have slid to morning workouts. I still think the ideal training period for most of us is three in the afternoon. It is just after school and…

Wait, after school? Throughout most of my career, I have trained and worked on the school schedule. I would insist on two meals and a snack before practice as by the time the mid to late afternoon rolled around, there wasn’t always a lot of gas in the tank. I think this led to my middle aged belly in some ways, too, as I have always noted that if I eat carbs early in the day, I eat TONS of carbs as the day progresses.

So, like Bill Pearl and many others, I now train earlier in the day. I’ve done it many times before, especially when I would discover that the discus throw would be at Nine O’clock in the morning at the Nationals. I trained myself to be ready to go at that hour.

Two days a week, I do a hypertrophy workout with the gang.
The Warm Up, for lack of a better term is often this:

The Dragon

The typical workout is something like this, and I beg you NOT to ask about specific exercises as they are just names and explaining them will take hours (or just have a workshop with me):
Press
1. LR One arm x 10
2. Windmill Stick
3. HAT

Squat
1. Front Squat x 10
2. Swings x 15
3. Pump

Hinge
1. Swings x 30
2. TRX Curl x 15
3. Overhead Squat Stick

Pull
1. TRX T x 15
2. Hinge Stick
3. B Boy Push Up
Generally, one day I would go through each of these two, three or four times.

A few days a week, I go to yoga and I also try to add two to three days a week where I do Squat Snatches with the barbell. Obviously, it works “best” to do something like the hypertrophy workout then drive off to yoga or do the O lifting then yoga.

On days I don’t train I find it harder to fast, by the way. If I do the hypertrophy yoga and the later Bikram Yoga class, I notice I am not even thinking about food until the late afternoon. If all I do is write, then I start thinking about lunch quite early!

Eat!
One thing I picked up doing John Berardi’s Precision Nutrition last year was how much I liked the challenge of eating eight servings of vegetables a day. I found this great little bowl at Trader Joe’s that has eight different veggies diced up nicely.

By spending a few bucks, my bodyfat levels dropped. Why? I have found that pouring these veggies in a bowl, lightly frying them, then adding some eggs (three or four) will fill me up after the fasting for over sixteen hours. I often add a few side items striving to focus on “better” choices, but I am full after this plate of food.

I think that is the key to breaking the fast on this program: good choices. Mark Reifkind told me years ago that fasting seems to help you make better choices. Like Pangur Ban, you are hunting for the right things. I know this: if I eat a bagel, then I will a doughnut. If I don’t eat either, I will make good choices later. I know I am not alone here.

After reading the “Eight Hour Diet,” I have noticed that I really only eat two meals a day now. I eat a Brunchy Linner somewhere between 11 in the morning and two or so, then I eat a normal dinner. Sadly, I am never hungry for dinner any more.

Eliminate!
This is going to get personal, but I need to tip my hat to Steve Ilg for much of this information. After dinner, I should be full. Before bed is where I am now taking my supplements. I include ZMA, Vitamin D, Sugar Free Orange Flavored Metamucil, fish oil and one or two little experiments in the vitamin world. One “protects” the liver and the other aids in flexibility. I am not going to tell you what they are because it might be a total waste of time.

Other people have noted that fasting tends to help you sleep. I think it could be the loss of belly and neck fat that does it, but I don’t know. My supplements also seem to help with elimination as Magnesium, fish oil and Metamucil are your best friends when it comes to bowel movements.

Recently, I bought the Squatty Potty as recommended by some friends. Do you remember when I said this would get personal? Now, it is getting weird.

I also spend quality time in the morning flossing my teeth, brushing my teeth and applying a tongue scrapper.

My dentist recommended this to me and the same suggestion was given to me by Steve Ilg. The first time you use it, you will be disgusted.

But, wait! There’s more! I used to use a Neti Pot for my sinuses (this should be sinii, but, well, no one asked me), but I moved to the Sinus Rinse. Years ago, I noted to Doctor Berkeley that “out of nowhere” I started getting hay fever. He told me that we swim through allergies through our lifetime. I also picked up that if I swam (I was training for a sprint triathlon), my allergies abated. He laughed and told me that the traditional cure was rinsing out the gunk (his term) out of your head.

Later, when I disregarded this brilliant advice and took some allergy meds, I was that lucky one percent according to the warnings that put on bodyweight. A lot. So, now I am back to rinsing out my head once a day. Follow the directions closely, by the way.

I think shaving is a natural exfoliate, but I wouldn’t mind pursuing more options in the future. I went in for a pedicure one time and amount of dead skin that came off could have built a jockey. Enjoy the image.

To prevent hunger, now I train. And, we begin the process again.

For me, it is working. I look and feel better, true, but my blood profiles (always good) are improving slightly. My triglycerides are at the same level as my HDL which is like the gold standard for this kind of thing and this Three E’s raised my HDL a bit (which is neither here nor there, but nice).

More on this as I learn more.

A reminder and apology: I get asked over and over about how do I find this book or that “thing.” So, I have been adding them into my blog. It is just a courtesy, but I hope some of you find value in this extra effort.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rob.brokaw.7 Rob Brokaw

    Thanks coach, Easy E’s I like it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004678180551 Craig Brown

    It all makes so much…sense…

    Good collection, I like what I understand of the training.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jimmymacx Jim Wood

    Great stuff Coach. The sinus rinse comment cracked me up; ” Follow the directions closely, by the way ” Hilarious, at least to those of us who have tortured ourselves :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-John/785904244 Daniel John

    I am getting emails to turn this into a book. I can only imagine the chapters on elimination.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jakfultonfit Jake Fulton

    Simple..but life changing! Thank You

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/George-Christiansen/589847303 George Christiansen

    Good stuff, Dan.
    I have been eating and training on a similar schedule (larger meals to gain muscle rather than lose fat) and am having a lot of success with it.
    I really think that the nonsense about eating six meals a day speeding up one’s matabolism and the constant attempts to micromanage one’s nutrients and macros has made a lot of people fatter and more food obsessed than they need to be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-John/785904244 Daniel John

    I never intend to make a post or blog that “this is right” and “this is wrong.” I do think that we will discover that without support from illegal or banned substances, some training and eating programs are going to fail most of us. I have been seeking the Holy Grail a long time (which is why it is called a “Goblet Squat”) and I enjoy these kinds of experiments. So, it might be that six meals a day works (and we can’t argue that it does), but it might be that X works better. I think this is the fun of it, personally. Six meals a day has always been awful for me…eat all day and hungry. It’s a weird thing…

  • ruffolous

    A simple milk crate for the pooper would have saved you 40 bucks.

  • chris markle

    Regarding the Netti pot: always use freshly boiled water in it (after it cools), and not tap water. Several people have gotten those nasty brain eating amoebas from their Netti pots, from the tap water they used!

  • http://twitter.com/CoachExcelsior James Marshall

    Interesting thoughts, elimination is one of those unmentionables but important issues.”Runner’s trots” are common. I think 8 portions of veg will help there. “Eat like an adult” is a good motto. I too find that writing stimulates eating more than exercise! Not sure about those fish oils compared to eating oily fish.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/George-Christiansen/589847303 George Christiansen

    I simply meant nonnsense in regards to the claim that eating mutiple times a day speeds up one’s metabolism. There is no science to back the claim and all of the available science points the other way. It is however trotted out as absolute fact by the majority of fitness ‘experts’.

    From a compliance point of view it may work better for some people, but I think most people’s motivations for doing it is that they believe in the false claim that they will somehow burn more calories doing so. It also seems that people simply are unable to keep the portions small enough to keep the calories where they need to be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/miles.hughes.33 Miles Hughes

    When people ask me how to eat I always try and sum it up with, “Don’t eat anything from a wrapper or a box and you’ll probably feel better”

  • Nathane L. Jackson

    Great post Dan,
    It is great to see some of the guys I have learned a ton from in the strength and conditioning world spend some time in the holistic health realm.
    Get on that skin brushing going my friend!!!!

  • disqus_lpAmwNwERf

    What do you think of 10 g BCAA’s prior to your fasted training?

  • pål AW

    Sceptical to the tongue scraper… Bacteria in the mouth serve an important purpose: starting the first part of the digestion. They are partly responsible for prepping vitamin uptake. If you think about it, we seldom have a bodily bacterial colonisation without an explicit purpose. I also like the fasting idea, fasting(ie not having breakfast) seem to offer a boost , and would like to offer an evolutionary reasoning for this: way back when refrigerators were far apart, we would need an extra boost on an empty stomach to hunt efficiently.

    Thanks for a great blog

  • http://danjohn.net Dan John

    I tried it, I didn’t think much of it, but your mileage may vary.

  • Maria Gajewski

    Dan, I’ve read a lot of your work and I really appreciate your point of view about training, aging and health. As a woman sneaking up on 40, your work and self experimentation give me insight into ways to maintain health (and a decent looking figure!) long past the age when my parents began their decline. Thank you.

  • Juan

    It all sound good but, at the end of the day you eat depending on what your goals are. You cant fast like this if bodybuilding is your goal and that is a fact, a triathlete is another example. Fasting for a few days seems like something you would do after a period of heavy eating and supplementation to clean up the GI and detox the body in order to keep making gains.Not saying that a short fast every once in a while is a bad thing, it does help the body rest.But all the same at the end not one diet is complete, it is just something we all would like to believe to simplify are choices and if its on paper it and people say that its the best than it is right? Wrong. Diets and opinions are like ass h****ls every one has one and they don’t all put out what you expect. So experiment with them if you like and when you find one that works stick to it until the results stop, then at that time is time to move on to something different.Id like to tell you that there is a one fit all diet but there is not. Do what works for you, Things do not have to be written in stone in order to work.

  • matt

    I had alot of success with carb backloading, its my lazy weight loss method. Its atkins induction with carb ups once a week. No counting calories and you can eat garbage food on the weekends a bit. Velocity Diet was just disgusting.

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