The Mathematics of College Success
Chances are if you are reading this blog you have completed your fair share of workouts. Shit, there’s over 1,500 students who clock in the gym at my college within 8 hours a day alone. Despite all the sets of benching, endless amounts of curls, and hours spent on the elliptical, the real truth is that most people who workout don’t really make a lot of progress after having made their original newbie gains.
In a world where we are overly concerned with being as efficient as possible and making sure our time is spent on things that will further our interests, this seems highly paradoxical. Yet, we still keep wasting our time and hard earned money on gym memberships.
Before you start justifying this by saying “I do this for health reasons and not because how I look” or “I don’t want to get too big anyways, I just want to feel good”, be honest with yourself and ask: when is the last time you made large leaps in weight on your bench press? If you are doing this solely for health reasons, has your blood work changed for the better in the past three years? Sure, you don’t wanna look like a bodybuilder, but do you even have a body that remotely resembles what you want it to look like?
Take a look at yourself, your training partner and all the regulars you see in the gym: the truth is that only a very small minority ever makes changes in their physique. To put it in business terms, I’d label getting a gym membership a pretty terrible ROI for the majority of the people out there.
Before you think this article is going to confirm the fact that you have shitty genetics, that having six-pack abs and a magazine cover body is unattainable and you are now doomed, just know that my goal in writing this article is to increase that ROI. You know, every single living organism on this planet is capable of lipolysis ( fat loss) and guess what… that sure as hell includes humans.
So why why do most have so much trouble getting fit when they are biologically programmed to be able to do so? Because they refuse to accept that biology.
You see, it’s simple: there’s a war going on right now inside of your body. On one side you have muscle protein synthesis (which we call MPS) and on the other side is muscle breakdown (which we call MBD). The following table will provide a breakdown of what constitutes each of these categories.
- Getting adequate sleep and recovery
- Living a stress-free lifestyle
- Eating a caloric surplus
- High Protein consumption(Being in a positive nitrogen balance)
- Frequent feedings
- High amounts of physical or psychological stress( includes working out)
- Lack of sleep
- Eating in a caloric deficit
- Lack of protein consumption( Being in negative nitrogen balance)
- Inconsistent feedings
Thus, the amount of muscle that you walk away with is a reflection of how many more points MPS has taken over MBD. For you math geeks:
If you only take a single thing away from this article, make it this formula. Memorize it, print it, flashcard it, tell Siri to remember it or tattoo it all-over-your body a-la- Christopher Nolan… whatever you do, don’t forget it. Trust me when I say this formula is the holy grail behind your fitness journey.
Let’s see how this formula applies to our case studies. (You will note that every activity of MPS is awarded +10 points, every activity of MBS is a -10)
Mission: Alex wants to lose weight and gain definition in his abs, arms and chest. In order to do that, he has to lose fat and gain muscle.
Alex’s typical day
- Wakes up at 11, skips breakfast ( -10)
- Eats lunch consisting of some lean protein a Panini from Panera (+10)
- Does not eat for four hours and hits the gym ( -10)
- Trains for 2 hours (-10)
- Has a whey protein shake (+10)
- Does not eat for 3 hours, goes out with friends and has some pizza (-10)
- Has a few drinks (-10)
- Goes to sleep on an empty stomach ( -10)
Muscle gained: 0
Mission: Jenna has been slightly overweight all her life. She want to lose some fat and “tone up”. In order to do that, he has to lose fat and gain muscle.
Jenna’s typical day
- Wakes up at 10 AM, feels guilty about indulging last night so skips breakfast (-10)
- Has low-fat chips and a Caeser salad with a diet coke for lunch (-10)
- Has a low-fat smoothie from Jamba Juice ( -10)
- Does 90 minutes of cardio and plyos at the gym (-10)
- Does not eat after training because she is afraid she will gain back all her calories she just lost ( -10)
- Starts to get hungry, binges on cookies and any sweets she can find (-10)
- Her total daily caloric intake is close to 900 calories (-10)
- She goes to sleep for 7 hours (+10)
Muscle gained: 0
What we can take away from these case studies is that the absolute most important thing in reaching your fitness goals( and like always…just like anything in life) has to do with the looking at the big picture. People often get bogged down in numbers, scales, carbs, proteins and fats without looking at grand scheme of things.
For example in Jenna’s case, Jenna is doing “everything” that she is told she should be doing:
- Eating Low carbs
- Eating Low calories
- Doing Lots of cardio
On paper, this means that she has to be losing body fat; after all calories in<calories out= fat loss. Is she defying logic? No, not really. The reason why she isn’t losing much fat DESPITE her doing all these things is because her levels of MBD cancel out any type of MPS she is experiencing. So in the microcosm she is doing the right thing, in the big picture, she really isn’t.
The same goes for Alex. He is using the latest pre-workout, even added a nice whey protein supplement and some creatine and has mastered his form on the bench press. Still, he continues to look the same for months if not years. Instead of looking at what he is doing during the whole day, Alex is focused solely on the time he is working out. So, he invests in more supplements, invents the most gut-wrenching workouts and spends hours in the gym. He fails to realize that working out is a highly muscle wasting activity and that the supplements only work when you have more MPS happening that MBD. So by working out more, he is increasing MBD and working against himself. Alex might even lose muscle!
Takeaways for College Success
Now that we have identified the magic formula, I wanna leave you all with some tips on how to apply it to your daily regimen and see immediate success.
#1: For 1 week, keep a journal and track every single thing that you do in a day, including the amount you sleep, the amount you ate, the length of your workouts, the gallons of water you drank…everything. Then breakdown each one of those activities and assigns yourself points like I did above. Your goal should be to be in a positive range of MPS per MPD.
#2: Increase the amount of protein servings each day. If you can, have at least 1 serving of protein with every single meal you eat. As I highlighted in the Nutrition Crash Course, Protein is the only macronutrient not stored by the body. This means that if you don’t have enough of it each day, your body will start to cannibalize your own muscle tissues and you’ll be unable to undergo any type of body recomposition( No, eating protein won’t make you fat)
#3: Here’s another formula for you: Never skip BPPW. B= Breakfast; P=Pre-workout; PW=Post-Workout. These are arguably the MOST important meals of the day. Not only do they prime you for your workout, but they directly affect the rate of your metabolism, your ability to lose fat, and prevent muscle breakdown.
#4: Do the math and balance it out. If you sleep was poor the night before, make sure you eat adequate protein during the day and that you are not missing any of your meals. Although this won’t make up for the lack of sleep, it will ensure that you don’t regress too far.
Apply these four tips on a daily basis and you’ll be bound to see immediate change!
At Campus Elite we are all about thinkin’ and living big. So don’t short change yourself by being focused on a house when the whole city is yours for the taking. Think big and dare to Be Elite!