Skinny Girls Still Exist

On my way back to Denver last week I sat next to a thin young woman who told me that she aimed to gain some weight. We talked throughout the plane ride and she said something to the affect of, “Wow, I didn’t realize everything I knew was wrong. I have so many friends that are skinny just like me.” Really? I forgot about this demographic. You can’t blame me since around 60% of Americans are overweight or obese. Girls typically are wanting to “lose weight” and “get toned” when they get involved in fitness stuff, so you don’t run across too many that are trying to grow.

Women like this need a sandwich

It’s hard for these women like this to actually grow, even if they are “doing weights”. Assuming they get the advice to lift some kind of weight, that advice is followed by recommendations to move 15 lb. dumbbells around a few times a week. I suppose that’s better than sitting on one’s ass all the time, but it isn’t going to help a skinny girl grow.

The principles are the same: get stronger with compound, full body movements and eat to have an abundance of protein and caloric surplus. Squatting, pressing, benching, and deadlifting are the foundation. Skinny girls owe it to themselves to gain weight for the sake of practicality as well as aesthetics. I’m not a woman, but I would think that a woman would want a curvy figure. Squatting and the related exercises help develop this wonderfully.

There are some problems that a skinny girl will run into. She’ll need help understanding why getting stronger will help, and why eating much much MUCH more protein is necessary. Compound movements that help make you strong cause some natural damage to muscle. This causes a lot of disruption in the body as well as in the relevant muscles used. In order to repair and help that muscle grow, an appropriate amount of protein is necessary along with adequate calories. “Appropriate” and “adequate” are much much MUCH higher than what Skinny Girl has been taught, and these fallacies need to be rectified. The gal I spoke with on the plane probably weighed 95 pounds. If she wants to be 110 pounds, she needs to eat like a 110 pound girl. That means she needs 110 grams of protein. I bet she was getting less than 30 grams before talking to me.

Females in general don’t eat enough protein, so having them plan their meals around their protein is the first step. Getting them past that “conventional wisdom” and “social barrier” of not eating a lot of food is necessary so that they will actually get enough calories to grow and…well…survive better. I wouldn’t place any dietary restrictions on a skinny girl if she was trying to gain weight. If after 5 or 6 weeks there is noticable bodyfat, then we can adjust things. But, I’m telling you, if she eats the minimum protein amount and is squatting three times a week, she won’t have any problem with bodyfat.

It’s actually quite simple, but the fitness and nutrition industries have fucked things up so bad, most women are handicapped before they even start their quest of gaining weight, looking better, and feeling better. I hope that we can help change this silly mindset one Skinny Girl at a time…

I know that was boring for a lot of you dudes, but it’s for the best. Hopefully the following video will entertain you. This was on the Friday before the Raw Nationals meet we went to in Denver a couple weeks ago. We had just gotten our rental car and I only recorded two clips, but they are worth watching. Brent is being his usual pain-in-the-ass self, Chris is exasperated by his behavior, Mike is saying random things that don’t make sense, and I generally don’t acknowledge any of it. Oh, and Chris apparently called shotgun right before I turned the camera on. I like how Chris and Brent are bickering from the get-go.

Making the Cut

“When I was a lad I ate four dozen eggs every morning to help me get large.”

You’ve done it! You have completed linear progression. Along the way, you gained twenty-five pounds, put 100 pounds on your squat and deadlift, and busted through a few pairs of jeans. You have also acquired a bit of belly fat you don’t care to keep around anymore. So what to do?

For starters, you need to clearly identify your next set of goals and how you are going to get there. Performance goals take priority. So you might decide that you’re going to add 30 pounds to your squat over the next four months. Or that you want to win your class at the next strongman competition. Or that you want to go 5 for 6 and total 245kg at your next weightlifting meet. Then, of course, you plot out how you’re going to get there.

Next comes the body composition goals. As much as I like to eat and talk about eating, you are going to feel better and be healthier at a reasonable body fat level. Being healthy and not having moobs is a good goal. Looking like The Situation after doing Fran is not.

There are now a googol diets out there. Zone. Paleo. Warrior. Velocity Diet. Ketogenic diet. Lean Gains. Lyle Macdonald’s various iterations. The No S Diet. And there are a host of fitness/nutrition gurus and TV shows to go with it. The Biggest Loser. Honey I’m Killing the Kids (or whatever), Andro Friday Hall of Famer Jillian Michaels, Sears, Cordain, Eades, Dr. Phil, the sweet clean Sarah Dussault from DietHealth (every one has their guilty pleasure youtube subscriptions), and that villainous pseudo-scientist, the evil Robb Wolf.

So where do we go? Who do we believe? The answer is Grandma.

Grandma didn’t prepare healthy meals as a goal. She prepared healthy meals because all she had was real food and real ingredients. That’s your first directive: EAT REAL FOOD. If you’re over 215 pounds and actively training for a strength sport (or otherwise large volume) you might have to supplement whey. Otherwise, keep it real.
Lesson: eat real food.

Grandma also made you mind your portions. It wasn’t because she was worried about you getting fat. It was because food was expensive and resources were scarce. Most of you guys are younger than I am, but my grandparents lived through the Great Depression. And Depression Era folk don’t waste a damn thing. That went for food, too. Sometimes we got seconds, but it was usually just to finish off what was left.
LESSON: Control your portions.
LESSON: real food doesn’t keep for long in the refrigerator!

Grandma made meals, not a la carte items. She never just made a roast and left it at that. There were always greens, a salad, fruit, and assorted veggies. You didn’t eat meat without equivalent portions of veggies. This takes care of all that macronutrient ratio and hormone balancing crap you read about now. It just makes good sense.
LESSON: eat meats, veggies, fruits, and fats together.

Finally, after supper, the kitchen was closed. You didn’t eat again until morning. Why? Because Grandma was an early riser, which meant she got to bed early, too (are you getting this?). Once supper is done, unless you’re doing a forced bulk (purposely consuming calories to keep insulin high into the night), shut it down after six or seven.
LESSON: No eating or snacking after supper.
BONUS LESSON: Going to bed and getting extra rest helps improve body composition.

Grandma did other things too, like clean whole turkeys and fowl. She didn’t buy fish sticks; she filleted catfish. She made three meals a day and didn’t mess around with snacks. She served water or tea—mostly water—and she’d occasionally squeeze some fresh fruit. She didn’t worry about the cholesterol in eggs or the fat content in butter.

For those who are upset at the lack of strict guidelines here, I’ll put it like this: eat 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight, more if you’re training heavy at least three times a week. Do this with lean meat as much as possible. Eat enough carbs to fuel activity (weightlifters don’t need as much as cyclists). Colored veggies are particularly good for this. If you need dense carbs, look to tubers. Don’t go nuts on your starch and do NOT avoid fruit like some would have you do. Eat enough good fats to fuel recovery. If you can, get your fats from nuts, avocados, and healthy oils, not so much from milkfat and animal fat.

If you’re over 20% bodyfat, don’t worry about macronutrient ratios. Just quit eating so much crap. Once you creep down to the mid-teens, you can start removing the bloaters like refined sugars, starches, artificial sweeteners, grains, and dairy. If you want to get down in the 11-12% range (you can’t go too far under this without a dip in performance), you’ll have to remove almost all of the things I just listed, as it becomes a hormone control issue at this point. If you want to get under 10%, do some meth, buy yourself some skinny jeans, and get your emo self off of this site.

Don’t think of this as a diet or even the hackneyed “lifestyle change.” It’s just the way you’re going to eat. People complain that “when I come off this plan, I’ll just gain the weight back.” Well yeah, dumbass, that’s why you were fat in the first place. You have to get it under control by removing the emotional and social connections you have with food.

Don’t trick this up, folks. This is more birthday party than physics class. When you’re bogged down in the diet minutiae, remember Grandma. She just made real meals—damn good meals—with real ingredients, for real people, who did real work. And that, my friends, is the key to achieving good body composition and good health.

This post is dedicated to my maternal grandmother, a saint of a woman who lived to the ripe age of 94. She prepared many a fine meal of biscuits and gravy, chicken and dumplins’, turkey and green beans, and butter-fried T-bones. Heaven’s kitchen smells a little better now that she’s cooking in it.

The BMI Is Getting Old

I understand why the Body Mass Index (BMI) was created — it’s so much easier to let the computer divide two numbers (mass (kg) / height^2 (m)) than to implement some kind of bodyfat measurement. But using it as a metric to inform people whether they are healthy or not? Are you kidding me?

The general public was introduced to the BMI in the late 1990s as an initiative for healthy eating and exercise. If the government didn’t officially recommend a shitty diet in the first place, we wouldn’t have as large of a problem, but that’s another story altogether. In any case, Americans who are ignorant in the realm of health and/or exercise bought into this crappy hysteria, thinking that if they were “overweight” by the BMI standards (AKA government standards), then they needed to lose weight (ignoring body composition completely). The BMI is horse puckey because it doesn’t take into account lean body mass; it is merely a ratio of height and weight. This means that anybody who has some muscle (i.e. adult males) are considered, at the very least, overweight. And now that I think about it, I blame the government for acting as the catalyst that made America think being small is not only okay, but preferred. This is what we’re up against folks; government and society.

Anyway, this article points out how Mike Tyson (in his prime) is considered “obese”, and Lance Armstrong is considered “overweight”. On a similar note, the military uses the BMI to gauge health in their preventative health assessments. Not to mention the Air Force’s PT test includes a waist circumference measure that accounts for 30% of their total grade. And height isn’t taken into account, so a 6’7″ guy in the Air Force (I’ve met one) is measured to the same standards as a 5’7″ guy. And this somehow makes sense…?

Click to see the BMI chart

Look America, the BMI is getting old. I don’t know how you’re going to gauge the health of your citizens — the logistics are your problem. But this index is convincing everybody to be pretty much small and worthless, and that is despicable. There are plenty of bodyfat measures, although all the bio-impedence tools are almost as worthless as a 135 pound “guy”.

Weakling society and stupid regulations aside, the BMI is branding anybody who is decently strong as “unhealthy” when this couldn’t be further from the truth. When strength is maintained properly throughout life, it serves as the primary aid in old age. Get strong, stay strong, train/exercise consistently, eat moderately healthy, and you’ll be prepared for longevity to the best of your ability. If you can ignore the doctor claiming that you’re obese…


This isn’t just “working out”

There are some people who are not familiar with the primary method of training implemented at the Wichita Falls Athletic Club to get 70’s Big. If 70’s Big is the goal, then strength is the goal. A novice will make the most successful strength gains doing a simple linear progression with five basic barbell lifts: squat, deadlift, press, bench press, and power clean. These movements are extensively analyzed and taught in the text “Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training, 2nd Ed.” by Mark Rippetoe and Lon Kilgore. The explanation of how the body adapts to strength training as well as how to program the barbell lifts is elaborated on within “Practical Programming for Strength Training, 2nd Ed.” by Rippetoe and Kilgore. There isn’t a better resource for any level of trainee and coach regarding strength training. You’ll need it if you are on the quest to being 70’s Big.

The local fitness gym is full of people working out. The skinny girl is running and the upper body boy is doing curls in the squat rack because that is what they decided to do that day. Their goals are vague and typically revolve around being nude with the opposite sex. Moving around and getting sweaty without a plan is called working out (or some kind of activity with the opposite sex). Training, on the other hand, has a goal in mind. Each training session has a task that is known before hand, and that task aids in accomplishing the known goal of training.

The majority of people who are actually training for a sport would benefit from improving their strength. Strength is the fundamental capacity for all other physical attributes. Strength and/or strength training, when done properly, will improve everything from speed to flexibility. Since this is the case, it would behoove the majority of trainees to exhaust the potential of making linear gains in strength for as long as possible. When this is done correctly, an increase in muscular bodyweight will occur.

An increase in muscular bodyweight will not be detrimental to performance regardless of sport. With muscles comes more force production ability that translates into performing the desired task easier and more efficiently. A bigger motor does not slow the car down. On the other hand, excessive junk in the trunk can.

In order to ensure that in an increase in strength and subsequently size occurs, proper recovery is required. Recovery is dependent on nutrition, particularly protein and total caloric intake. The amount of these two variables is independent to an individual, but most individuals will be in a position in which they need to gain muscular bodyweight. It has been recommended in “Practical Programming” that a person in this situation should consume at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

Protein alone does not ensure proper recovery and/or weight gain. Total calories will affect the recovery from structural and metabolic fatigue. In this case, an excess of caloric intake is necessary. The amount of other macro-nutrients (fat or carbohydrates) that should be consumed with protein are typically unimportant at this point as long as a caloric excess occurs. This emphasis of macro-nutrients may change with advancement.

A perfect way to consume enough protein and calories to get 70’s Big is to drink a gallon of whole milk and consume AT LEAST three hearty meals a day. Requirements change depending on an individual and their specific circumstances, but this is a good rule of thumb to abide by (and The Dude abides). No one is suggesting that all people need to drink a gallon of whole milk a day, but those who are in need of muscular bodyweight would be foolish to not do so.

The emphasis here is that eating is not only equally important to training – it IS training. You don’t get stronger in the gym, you get stronger from eating and recovering outside of the gym. And chances are that you aren’t eating enough.

To continue with Doug Young Week, here is a video of a short interview with Doug Young along with footage from the 1977 IPF World Championships. Doug won the world championship with a total of 1956 pounds (699-545-710) — with three broken ribs. It is one of the most impressive performances in powerlifting history.