My year long odyssey gaining 20kg of muscle. A cautionary tale
On December 13, 2014 I decided to start weight training (which I had done previously) in order to gain as much strength and lean mass as possible to see how it influenced my Jiu Jitsu game. My intention was to personally experience Jiu Jitsu like my heavier or stronger students do as I had always been the 170lb lanky guy until that point.
My starting weight was 75kg although it was down to 71kg only months beforehand at the peak of my cycling fitness. 12 months later, on exactly December 13, 2015, I weighed 95kg and my bench press, squat and deadlift had all exceeded 200kg for work sets which I think is "quite darn strong!".
Just to debunk a few muscle magazine myths, this was all done on a vegan diet without protein supplementation and I only spent 30 minutes in the gym, 3 times a week. No steroid cycles, peptides, creatine, pre workout drinks, HGH or whatever else is in vogue these days was used in case anyone thought I was on the "Eastern European training program" (-:
So what were the results of all of this?
Well my BJJ stayed the same! Of course I was stronger however my submission rate lowered in favour of typical "big guy position based bull headed" BJJ. Most importantly though, I felt like I had moved away from the romance of BJJ...... that a small student can defeat a student who is bigger and stronger.
On an obvious note I spent time each week away from my family, hobbies and teaching to lift inanimate objects which created a mental drain which had me studying less Jiu Jitsu each day than normal. As a true BJJ nerd, I spend on average 3 hours daily on Jiu Jitsu research which I know seems high but to me is a healthy application of my OCD tendancies which helps me and my students tremendously!
I was eating 24/7. I remember when someone asked me if I was on steroids (ironic considering my lanky physique) and one of my students chimed in that I ate at least 3 times as much food as him whilst away on a training trip. However for those who have studied any global health studies on longevity, they will know that total lifespan is directly correlated to minimising caloric intake whilst maximising micro and phytonutrient intake. So this began to concern me especially when I began seeing my blood pressure rise to cope with all the added muscular weight added to my body.
So where am I at now: I now weigh a lean 84kg and boy did I find that all of this excess muscle dropped away quickly when I stopped weight lifting and the consequent binge eating came to a halt! I do believe in strength training and personally train simple dumbbell and gymnastic type bodyweight movements to increase strength to weight ratios for my body whilst rounding out my exercise routine with stretching, cycling and rock climbing. These activities I find are fun, free, healthy and make my life richer and happier for doing them.
So the moral of the story is this...... Ask yourself if you do achieve your goals, are you going to be happy? I was taught this by a mentor and he called it analysing your 'anti intentions'. That is to say, if you achieve your primary intention (for example being a BJJ world champ) what WON'T you like about your life. In that case, will you be 'happy' training 6 hours a day and not having a social life etc? So like all things balance is the key. Do I believe in being strong? ABSOLUTELY!!! But not at the expense of health, fitness, lifestyle, hobbies, jiu jitsu or time with my family. So find your ideal balance and above all, enjoy working hard for your future whilst not forgetting to have fun living today.
- Coach Tom