You may recognize this guy. He stumbles out of bed feeling as though he hasn't slept. That's because he hasn't. He doesn't have the time for a real breakfast so he hits the drive thru for a breakfast McFatty. By 3 p.m. he's ready to faceplant on his desk. Hoping for some energy, he resorts to a designer coffee or a cola from the vending machine.
He plans to hit the gym after work, but by the time he leaves the office, he's exhausted and starving. His wife is just as exhausted, so he picks up some Chinese takeout and heads home. In the last two months, he hasn't had a shower that lasted more than five minutes or slept for more than four hours straight. He used to curl 80 pounds, but he's down to curling 10, for however many reps it takes to change a wet diaper.
Yep, he's a new father. You may even be him. I had no intention of being him when my wife gave birth to our precious baby girl during a hot summer day last August. Nine months later, I can say I narrowly escaped being him, but only because I planned ahead, took some positive steps, and had a great deal of help with some of the biggest health and fitness challenges of my life.
I learned a lot during the process, and I want to share what I've learned with anyone else who is expecting a new child, whether it's your first or your fourth.
The Same ... But Different
Becoming a father is huge game-changer. Life is no longer about Vince's workouts, Vince's food, Vince's business, Vince's movies, and Vince's trips. After having a baby, it's no longer about me at all.
Becoming a father is incredibly challenging—even more so if you're also trying to gain or maintain lean muscle and eat healthfully. But despite what you'll hear from some people, being a new Dad doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your own health and physique. In fact, by incorporating these tips into your life, being a new Dad may be one of the best things that could happen to your fitness goals.
Think of it this way: The challenges you faced before having a father are the same ones you'll face now: Sleep and stress, diet, focus, accountability and time. But you'll experience them in an entirely new way.
Challenge 1 Sleep and Stress
Shortly after my daughter was born, I had the Koenigsberg test done to check my adrenal gland function, because I was eating in a caloric deficit but couldn't lose any fat. I was exhausted and stressed, and it wasn't much of a surprise to learn that my adrenal function was at an all-time low.
Vince DelMonte 5 Tips To Improve Your Sleep Quality
Watch The Video - 6:17
Stress, lack of sleep, and the stress caused by lack of sleep will wreak havoc on your hormone levels and throw them completely out of whack. When that happens, you'll be fatigued, you'll start to gain fat—or just store fat like I was—because of high cortisol levels. Pretty quickly, you'll find your testosterone levels will be too low to continue adding muscle.
This is the point in article where I'd usually tell you to sleep more. Unfortunately, in the first weeks or even months after the baby is born, sleep is going to be a prize, not a guarantee. You may be one of the lucky fathers whose baby starts sleeping through the night almost immediately, but the odds are that you'll be getting up at least once each night for a changing or feeding.
Are My Hormones Trying to Tell Me Something?
The adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys, are one of the first bodily systems to respond to declining health, particularly in response to stress, lack of sleep, or insufficient nutrition.
By measuring the chloride levels in your urine, the Koenigsburg Adrenal Test gives a window into how effectively your adrenals are producing the hormone aldosterone, which regulates the body's salt, potassium, and water balance. Alternately, you could get cortisol or androgen levels tested, either by blood or saliva, to see if you have a hormone imbalance or deficiency.
Do this through your doctor's office (recommended) or by purchasing a direct-to-consumer test online. Expect to pay between $30 and $125 for a test.
I don't consider letting my wife deal with the late nights on her own an option, and neither will you. Simply accept that you're going to have interrupted sleep and irregular sleep patterns for a while and try to counter it one of two ways:
- Going to bed earlier
- Getting up later
Because I have a business to run, and because I like getting a jump on the day, I started going to bed earlier. In fact, I go to bed earlier now than I did when I was young enough to be told to go to bed. I'm in bed by 9:30 each night and wide awake at 6 a.m., and it's actually quite an empowering feeling. I can still get around eight hours of sleep, even if it isn't all at once.
Because my body and my health are a priority, I'm fine with missing nights in front of the television or working late on projects. In the meantime, my adrenal glands are now functioning as they should and I have a lot more energy to devote to burning fat and gaining muscle.
Challenge 2 Diet
Eating a healthy diet and hitting all your macros is challenging at any time, but even more so when you have a new baby in the house. If your wife usually does most of the food shopping and cooking, she probably won't be able to take care of you to the degree she used to. She shouldn't be expected to either. Even if you normally share the kitchen duties, prep time is now at a premium and will be for quite a while, and it's so easy to fall into the trap of ordering out or nuking your meals. But this is a dangerous road to fat gain and poor health.
One of the best things I've ever done for my body and my family was to spend a chunk of money on cooking lessons with a chef. I learned how to cook meals in bulk so I could always have healthy meals that taste good and cover all my macros. I have to say, I've cooked some seriously good food and the meals were easy-on-the wallet and 10 times more delicious than my old bodybuilding meals. Learning how to cook in bulk had such a huge impact on my energy, health, and body that I made it the focus of the latest season of my online series, Live Large TV. I'll share some of what I learned in my next article for Bodybuilding.com.
Improving my kitchen skills rescued my health and restored my energy levels, but it also saved me a huge amount of time and money. Every day after I have my first meal and get my workout in, I set aside an hour to cook all of our meals for that day and sometimes the next. Believe me, you can cook up to a week's worth of food in about the same time you cook a days worth of food when life is really busy. Having nutrient-dense foods ready to eat at any given time is absolutely crucial if you want to avoid the fat gain and muscle stagnation typical to new fathers.
Challenge 3 Focus
Staying focused is a constant battle for some people—even before they introduce a family into the mix. For others, it's fairly easy because they're driven. But if you're a new father, you're going to have a lot of obstacles to staying focused on your personal physique goals. Things are chaotic at home even in the best of times, there's a lot more to do to keep everything functioning for your family, and you will be totally fascinated by this incredible new baby.
I navigated these unpredictable circumstances by scripting my day. I have a set schedule that I follow every single day, where I perform the most important tasks first, before something else has a chance to get in the way.
I can't stress enough how essential it is to focus on the most important things first. I need to work out, eat well—and make sure my wife does too—and run my business, so those tasks are scheduled first. I get up at 7 a.m. or earlier, eat, and then work out from 8-9 a.m. From 9-10, I cook. From 10-4, I work. Then, 4-8 p.m. is for spending time with my wife and daughter and having a good dinner. Our daughter goes to bed at 8 p.m., which gives me an hour and a half to spend relaxing with my wife and doing something fun. I do my best not to go back to the computer in the evening unless there is an emergency that can't wait.
Even if you normally hate having a set schedule, I can't recommend it enough. We have a limited amount of willpower, especially when we're tired and busier than usual. A lot of guys balk at following a schedule because they don't like being told what to do, but don't forget that you're the one creating the schedule, and it's our goals that the schedule was created to meet.
Challenge 4 Accountability
Needing some extra accountability is nothing to be embarrassed about. Some people find they do better with accountability at all times, while other people just need it during particularly challenging times like after a birth. That accountability might be something as small as having a buddy at the gym to check your progress or run sprints with you, or it could be something you pay for. It only has to make sense to one person: You.
I chose to hire renowned coach Ryan Faehnle to write my workouts and meal plans, eliminating all guess work and giving me a structured and progressive program to follow. I've never believed in being your own coach, because any time I've coached myself, I get sub-optimal results. Not only do I get to benefit from Ryan's incredible knowledge and unique techniques, but I get to hand over the reins to someone else so I can focus on my other responsibilities.
I realize that not everyone can afford to hire a great coach, and I'm not saying you can't get results on your own. But I will say that you'll always get faster results if can find someone to help you stay accountable to your workouts and meals. Join a community, either locally or virtually. Partner up with a friend who's interested in working together. Enter a transformation contest with a deadline. Follow a program designed by someone you look up to, and don't be afraid to spend a few bucks on a program so that you put some money at stake.
Challenge 5 Time
Time—you used to have a lot of it. Now you don't. Even if your schedule seemed jammed before you had a newborn, now it's completely covered up. Aside from focusing on what's important and creating a schedule that reflects that, the best thing you can do for you and your family is to get some help.
No matter how amazing your wife is, she's not Superwoman. Don't expect her to be able to take care of the baby and everything having to do with your home life as well. Your wife may be working outside the home as well, just as you are. Do whatever you can to help each other, but don't be afraid to accept help when it's there for the taking.
Even if you can't afford to pay for a cleaning service or help with the yard or whatever else, maybe you can find ways to barter for it. If you're an accountant, maybe you know a guy who can maintain your yard in exchange for help with his taxes. Maybe your wife's a hairstylist and knows someone who would gladly clean one morning each week in exchange for free haircuts or color. You get the idea. Let the in-laws and your parents or friends help out when they offer. It's temporary, they'll love being able to spend time with your baby, and you'll preserve your health, sanity, and marriage along the way.
I'll leave you with one last tip that has become my mantra every time the baby pushes us to our limits: "This too shall pass, soon to be replaced by something else." It's one of my favorite quotes and it's so appropriate to the first few months of raising a newborn. Take steps to make sure that you stay on track so you don't have to start from square one over and over again. Along the way, remember to cherish every single moment with your newborn. These are moments you'll never get back!