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Randy strolled over from the locker room, a huge grin on his face. Either he had scored with Japanese twins last night or he had some other smashing success to report. "200 pounds! I'm 200 pounds on the dime! Soon I'll be 220 like you, Ron!" This charade had gone on long enough. I hated to be the one to burst my young charge's bubble, but I had to put an end to this before it got out of hand.
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I Had To Put An End To This
Before It Got Out Of Hand.
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As I have said before, Randy has a high metabolism and is naturally very lean. When I met him he was 170 pounds with a clear six-pack and good separation in most of the muscle groups. He had maintained this low level of body fat until he reached 188 or so, right after he hurt his back three months ago.
Since then, his definition had progressively faded away over to the point where he no longer looked like the lean and mean stud-boy he had been. I had started to notice this about three weeks before this day. It was now time for me to intervene, as brutal as it was going to be.
The Hard Truth
"Randy, you're getting fat." Immediately I saw the shock turn to defensiveness on his face, which was no longer as chiseled as it used to be. In fact, I thought I saw the beginnings of a double chin.
"No I'm not! Why would you even say that?" He was clearly feeling hurt.
"I say it because I care, ya big dope," I replied. "My main mission with you is to keep you from making most of the mistakes I have made, and this is one of the worst ones. Many times I got caught up with the weight on the scale and ignored the fact that I was gaining more fat than muscle."
"Well, I might have gained a little fat, but..."
"Zip it, De Nile ain't just a river in Egypt. When I was 21 years old I bulked up to 230 pounds by slugging down four 5,000 calorie weight-gain shakes a day on top of enough food to keep a Somali village well-fed. I had dimples on my thighs and more chins than a Chinese phone book."
"That's okay, I used to be Fat Bastard. I was convinced I wasn't fat even when everyone around me was dropping subtle hints, like mooing when I walked by and hiding the food. Has anyone said anything to you yet?"
"Ah, my girlfriend rubbed my belly the other night and said something about Buddha and good luck, but she was drunk anyway."
"I brought something for you."
It had been a while since I had used my Parrillo Bodystat calipers, and I had to consult the manual to get all the right places to measure. Randy was reluctant to let me do this, but at the same time he had to know for sure what was going on with his body. When I had crunched all the numbers, it was time to drop the bad news.
"Your body fat is seventeen percent, junior."
"What? No it's not, it can't be that high! Do it again." Sighing, I repeated the whole process and came up with the same result. "200 pounds and seventeen percent body fat. That means you have 166.5 pounds of lean mass."
"Yeah," huffed Randy, "but that's more than before."
"Not really," I explained. I would say at the most, your body fat before was about ten percent. If you were ten percent at 185, that meant you had 18.5 pounds of fat, and your lean mass was..." I had to use the calculator again, as I am mathematically challenged.
"166 pounds. You have gained a half pound of muscle and almost fifteen pounds of fat."
Randy was not a happy camper. Rather than let him slide into self-pity, I fired off some questions to get to the bottom of this newfound flab.
Finding The Cause
"What have you been doing differently? Have you been eating a lot of junk food or something?"
"Yeah," Randy admitted. "I was looking in the bodybuilding magazines and I saw how the pro's get so huge in the off-season. I thought I would try bulking up. So I quit playing hoops and started eating crap. I think I used every Domino's coupon I got in the mail for the past six weeks."
Having the vertical leap of a hippo and the hand-eye coordination of a slug, I had never understood the whole fascination with basketball. Sometimes I felt guilty wearing the latest Air Jordans, knowing I was living a lie. But Randy had actually played for his high school team despite not being the tallest guy, and still went to a local park for pick-up games with his friends two or three times a week. He never needed to do much in the way of cardio at the gym because of this, but now that source of calorie burning was out of the picture.
"Let me explain something about the pro's I think you already understand," I told him. "They are not regular human beings. They are genetic freaks who are programmed to be able to build muscle without ever getting fat. Even when these guys get up to 300 pounds or more, they can still see some kind of lines in their physiques. The rest of us are not like this. We get fat when we eat too much and reduce our activity levels. We may not want to admit it, but we do. You simply can't rush muscle gains, and all that fat isn't helping you.
There is a saying from many years ago, 'you can't flex fat.' It's so true. Arthur Jones had another good one. He used to say that a car would still run with a couple hundred pounds of sand in the trunk, but it would probably run better without it." Randy was bummed, inspecting himself in the mirror and not liking what he was seeing one bit. For a kid whose vanity I often had to keep in check, this was fairly painful to watch.
Arthur Jones Made That The Point That A Car Can Run
With Trunk Full Of Sand But It Runs Better Without It.
Getting Back On Track
"Relax, Randy, this is not a big deal. You haven't gone too far into tubby territory yet, so stop crying. All you have to do is start eating normally again and rejoin your buddies on the blacktop." I didn't mention that Boston had somehow turned into Seattle and rain was almost a permanent weather forecast this spring and summer.
"Just stop worrying so much about what the number on the scale says and think about adding quality muscle. A little bit of fat along with that is okay, but you have to watch it. From now on we're going to start measuring your body fat once a month."
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Randy had no problems reversing this trend, as I had predicted. By the next week his face had already gotten back the cheekbones that made the young ladies swoon. The whole incident had also forced me to admit that I had let myself go a bit, and I too tightened up my diet and started getting a little leaner. Fat has a way of creeping up on you. It's why so many folks get married looking all trim and fit, then five years later the guy has a pot belly and the wife has a dump-truck butt and elephant thighs.
Unless you can objectively look into the mirror and assess whether or not you are gaining adipose tissue rather than muscle, I highly suggest measuring your body fat on a regular basis. I know I can easily start slipping back toward my chubby look if I'm not careful. And if a kid like Randy can start chunking up, anyone can. Don't make the mistake of thinking you can force-feed muscle by chowing down on pizza, ice cream, and potato chips. Eat plenty of food, but make sure it's clean and nutritious, not worthless empty calories. And always include cardio even if you don't need it to stay lean.
It's great for your heart, the most important muscle there is. And regular cardio also builds capillary density and allows you to train longer and harder, as John Parrillo has been saying for years. Always remember that weight on the scale never tells the whole story, and although it's nice to be able to say you weigh a certain amount if gains have always been a struggle, you can't flex fat!