There are great lessons to be learned from the great heroes of literature. For one thing, they can teach you how to eat to build muscle, lose fat, and crush the competition.
Don’t believe me? Then you haven’t read Beowulf in a while.
In the story of Beowulf, warriors speak purely in the present. They mention the past in passing and rarely look beyond the next fight. Kings, however, speak differently. They first review history, then they sum up the present and give us a hopeful look ahead.
In short, warriors live in the present while kings live in a world where they need to look backwards as well as forwards to assess what to do next.
Now, I’m a coach, not a king. But I’ve gathered a little wisdom during my four decades of under-the-bar experience. For example, I’ve noticed that many strength and fitness athletes tend to look at food like a warrior: here it is, I eat it. Sometimes that’s exactly what you need. Other times, it’s better to look upon food as a king in Beowulf.
Let’s start by reexamining our relationship with food.
First, let’s look at a “warrior” approach to food. A few years ago, I thought about doing the Velocity Diet. I “thought” about it, but it sounded too painful. Then I performed badly in several Highland Games and a major track meet. Literally, in a hotel room in Pleasanton, California, something deep inside me called out, “Velocity Diet!” (After the V-Diet, I broke a state record in the snatch.)
Folks, the V-Diet is warrior all the way. It’s “all in.” There’s no moderation here. As I’ve written before, fat loss is an all-out war. With the V-Diet you attack body fat for four weeks with everything you have. It’s not a lifestyle choice; it’s a battle. Moderation is for sissies, at least for 28 days.
The V-Diet is Warrior 101. A dozen or so bottles of protein, a blender, and some supplements is all you basically need for the next few weeks. When someone asks, “Is it good for you?” you reply, “Have you seen my abs!”
In the past few months, I’ve been adding the MAG-10® Pulse Fast into my training cycle. I’ve done it twice and both times people have asked me if I went tanning or have been training harder because I “look great.” Just a day and a half of following some simple directions seems to do more for me than meticulously following an intelligent eating plan for a few weeks.
In other words, for fat loss, the winning approach is living in the pure present: be a warrior.
Moms vs. Warriors
About five years ago, I had the opportunity to work with some people at a military workshop who were doing a form of intermittent fasting.
Due to the location, we could only find one place still open for dinner, a popular fast food place with a red and gold clown as a salesperson. These five guys hadn’t eaten all day, and I’m sure every mother and father in the place shielded their children’s eyes from the spectacle that took place.
It was a sight to behold as burger after burger was flushed down. As one guy explained it to me, “I only eat once; I have to eat a lot.” For the record, these guys were all ripped and in great physical condition. It may have been frightening, but it worked for them.
That’s the warrior mentality. Look at what you see here:
- There isn’t a lot of cooking in any of these examples.
- This isn’t the way your mom told you to eat.
No, the warrior way probably involves a number of things that mom doesn’t want you to do. But let’s make this clear: for fat loss and short-term goals, I’m not convinced that anything works better than the warrior approach.
Getting ripped, truly lean, isn’t about taste buds, satiety, or gourmet cooking. It’s about using food as a tool and dealing with hunger. And I believe you can do it for short periods throughout your life.
Eat Like a (Grown-up) King
For all other goals and any kind of lifetime approach, I recommend following the king i.e. have a long-term focus.
Someone recently asked me about “the secret to nutrition.” Seriously, you don’t know what to do about food? Here’s an idea: eat like an adult.
Stop eating fast food, stop eating kid’s cereal, knock it off with all the sweets and comfort foods, and ease up on the snacking. And don’t act like you don’t know this: eat more vegetables and fruits.
Really, how difficult is this? Stop with the whining. Stop with the excuses. Act like an adult and stop eating like a television commercial. Grow up.
It reminds me of what they tell students at top universities: “Look to your right. Now, look to your left. Every person around you was a straight-A student in high school, class president, and valedictorian. Get over it.”
Every success in your life doesn’t call for several extra rounds of beer, a salutary doughnut, and high fives from everyone. You’re an adult now; you don’t need a cookie every time you do something special.
Great athletes score a touchdown, goal, or point and just keep moving along. It’s your job, so get over it. So, if you want to look good in the future, you have to start looking at food like, well, food and not a reward.
Step one to the kingly approach to eating is to have a long-term focus. We all know that vegetables, lean protein, and fresh water are probably the best choices meal-in and meal-out the rest of your life. If you hover around those choices for the bulk of your meals, you’ll be fine. You know this. Do this.
The next issue with the kingly approach is cooking. You should do it. Mommy can’t always be there for you. I offer two classic strength-training cooking methods: grilling and Crock Pot (slow cooker).
It’s funny to have dinner at Mark Rippetoe’s house. Mark began by showing me some twigs. “Usually, this time of year I go with pinion as you can foul up with the mesquite.” I believe that’s what he had said, but what really struck me was the effort – the love – that Mark was putting into his grilling.
In the strength world, there are many extraordinary strong men who are also brilliant cooks. In Dallas, the best barbeque I ever had was at a shot putter’s place.
The point here is important: big ribs, chickens, beef and pork prepared well and eaten a lot seems to make you big and strong. Now, I know that some of my readers prefer tofu with sprouts and you are, I’m sure, beloved by the universe. But, and I am saying this nicely, big iron demands the big meals.
My favorite breakfast is “crack oatmeal.” We call it that because it’s addicting. Check it out:
- Real oatmeal, not instant, about two inches of it in the bottom of the slow cooker
- Raisins. A lot.
- Cinnamon, both the ground kind and a stick or two.
- Any kind of fruit, dried or fresh, you have handy. Throw it in.
- A little bit of vanilla. This will give it a smell that makes you want more and more.
- Chia seeds, a few spoonfuls
- Water, milk, or cream to cover the dry stuff. Stir once.
Put this on low for about three hours. Then, turn the slow cooker off and add Metabolic Drive®, probably two scoops and some extra water, milk, or cream. Make sure it’s a little soft and soggy. It’ll continue to thicken overnight. The raisins will really plump up, too, indicating you’re on the right track.
Let it all sit overnight. Upon rising, crank it up to hot for about ten minutes and mix it up nice.
Need dinner now? Try this:
One Pan Stew
- Olive oil
- Stew meat (A pound or two)
- Frozen stew veggies
- Can of tomato soup
- One can of French onion soup (the secret ingredient)
First, add the oil to a big pan and brown the meat. Then, add all the other stuff. Stir to a gentle boil, cover, and wait about five minutes. That’s it. It’s very good.
Finally, to eat like a king, you need to shop like a king. Take one day per week, like Sunday, to do nothing but shop and prepare meals. (Sunday and Wednesday cooking days will definitely have you covered.) That’s a kingly approach to food. And, it seems to give the best results for fat loss that stays off.
So, yes, the warrior approach to food is absolutely correct. Sometimes. When you need to zero in on fat loss or another equally focused goal, I can’t think of a better idea than the Velocity Diet, MAG-10 Pulse Fast, or other choice that basically divorces nutrition from thought. It’s a meal. Eat it. Deal with it.
For the bulk of our lives, however, I suggest developing a kingly relationship with food in which you plan, prepare, and consume with a vision of satiety, leanness, fullness, and long-term success.
You know, eat like an adult. But keep the warrior mentality handy.