Fight or Flight
I woke up on the cold bathroom floor. I knew I hadn’t fallen asleep, but couldn’t remember exactly at what point I had pulled myself out of the tub filled with hot water and epsom salt. After taking a minute to climb to my feet, I find my way to the scale. My eyes are shaky so I lean closely to see a dreadful number; 175. Still five pounds away from my goal. If could only find moisture in my mouth, I would scream. After thirteen times previously cutting weight, why was this time different? Why could I feel my heart beating through my chest, and sometimes barely at all? Why would only an hour later, a doctor prevent me from fighting? While the answers were simple, it would be weeks before I realized it, and months before acceptance.
In 2009 I attended a CrossFit Nutrition Certification hosted by Robb Wolf. After following a Paleo(ish) diet for many months, I was more than excited to learn from the guru himself. In order to avoid an advertisement for the best, yet no longer existing CrossFit course offering, I will simply say it was AMAZING. Now, let’s fast forward a year…
I was now a gym owning nutritionist with a career in professional mixed martial arts. For a year I had followed a Paleo diet with the exception of one day a week (Don’t judge me. Keep reading…). I was spending 15 hours a week training mixed martial arts, with 6 hours of high intensity CrossFit training. I boasted an undefeated record of 4-0, and was highly touted as a future mma star. I was legit(ish)!
As an American child, I was obsessed with the concept of more is more and less sucks, and began employing this belief in my training. I upped both my training and strength and conditioning by several hours per week. I began filling my body with whatever the supplement industry told me would help me become recovered and explosive, and began seeing my Paleo diet as a hindrance to my goals since the diet doesn’t allow carbs (I know, I know…). I replaced my fruit and veggies with “real carbs” such as whole wheat bread, pasta, and oats. I had read that fat was good for testosterone, so I began eating a jar of peanut butter every three days while researching ways to consume it intravenously to save time.
After making all of the necessary changes to assure a wonderful career in mixed martial arts, I was now 4-1 and a month out from suffering diagnosed adrenal fatigue, and therefore being medically barred from participating in the biggest fight of my career. I was following all of the recommendations of the most known fitness gurus in the industry for advice on training, nutrition, and supplementation. What had I missed? What was this “adrenal fatigue” and how come I had never read about it in my research? Back to Robb Wolf.
During his time in the CrossFit world, Wolf was the “nutrition/anti-Zone guy”. Little notice was ever given to his expertise in the field of strength and conditioning, and even less in mixed martial arts. At the time of my aforementioned affair with disaster, Robb was gaining both fans and haters (they gonna hate) for his recent “Low Carb and Paleo” articles. In these articles, Robb dismissed even his own previous believed notions of a low carb Paleo diet and the importance of taking the practitioner into consideration when looking at fat/carb content in diet. Wolf was also gaining steam for his published views of the prevalence of overtraining in the CrossFit world, and the danger of adrenal fatigue. Once again, I sought guidance.
Robb and I had maintained occasional correspondence after the 2009 certification. Now however, I needed individualized, tough love and specific help. I contacted Robb and talked to him about my recent issues. After some time, it was clear to us both that I was an overtrained, under-recovered, overstressed, and under-rested athlete. It was time for a change…
The first thing Robb and I hit head on was my sleep. I would be lying if I say I didn’t feel like “The Karate Kid” learning seemingly pointless waxing techniques when all I wanted was the secret to hurting a man. Nevertheless, I trusted the man, and followed all advice. I began sleeping in a pitch black room, for 8-10 hours. When I got home from training, I was dissolving magnesium and dripping melatonin under my tongue. I traded TV time for a good book, and spent my last waking hours in bed focusing on my breathing and not the stresses of tomorrow that I couldn’t control from my bedroom. It was three days later while preparing my usual mid day cup of coffee when it hit me. I was so used to needing coffee at this point of the day to function that I nearly overlooked the fact that I wasn’t presently tired- at all. The next day, I poured my morning coffee simply for its wonderful taste, and not for its zombie resurrection qualities. Robb Miyagi was onto something here…
The next lifestyle change not only impacted me as an athlete, but as a coach. After learning that I followed a CrossFit programming along with my mixed martial arts training, Robb was eventually able to control his Tourette style cursing long enough to explain the insanity of my situation to me. I am a professional athlete in a very dangerous, demanding sport. As a weight class sport, mixed martial arts also puts a lot of stress on the body since one has to find a way to perfectly balance the act of eating enough calories, with maintaining weight. Furthermore, once a fight is scheduled, a fighter must begin working towards his fighting weight, which could be 20-30lbs under his walking weight. Oh yeah, and most of us have families and reoccurring injuries to add to our stress…
So, Robb questioned my adherence to a random, high intensity program that left me sore, unstable, and exhausted before even stepping into the mma gym. My 6 hours a week of CrossFit training was substituted with 2 days a week of strength only programming, consisting simply of Squats, Deadlifts, Power Cleans, Push Presses, and various gymnastic movements. After a month of the aforementioned programming, the changes I noticed astonished me. Not only was I getting stronger, which was expected, but my walking weight began to drop, my body composition visibly changed, and my cardio while training was through the roof. Everyone in the mma gym began asking me how much cardio I was doing outside to improve my already good cardio to epic proportions. In two months, I went from 210lbs to 190lbs simply by cutting the cardio and adhering to what I will share with you next.
I began eating more… A lot more. My 1,500-2,000kcal, low carb diet became a 3,000kcal diet full of carbs. I also adapted a full, 100% gluten free diet, and instead of blowing it on “cheat days”, I committed to even keeping these days gluten free as well. As a side note, I also dropped the cheat day, and just let life happen. Now, with my weight low and my diet fully gluten free, I noticed that the occasional gluten free pizza or pasta, didn’t feel like I was cheating anything! Now, I notice I can go a month or two no problem without even wanting a “bad” meal because I am completely satisfied with my day to day diet.
As you can clearly see, my lifestyle has greatly changed. I am sleeping and eating more, working out less, and weighing in at a much healthier 20lbs lighter as a result. What you can’t see though, is the impact this has made in my business, The Johnson City Colosseum. Gone are the days of over the top training methods and low carb, one size fits all diet program hocking. I have changed my entire way of thinking in terms of coaching and am seeing an
immense improvement in the health and performance of my clientele. I never thought eating crow would taste so good!
Mixed martial arts is a very “fight or flight” type sport. Thanks to my new Performance Coach, Robb Wolf, I have more fight than I ever had before. I never thought going back and changing nearly everything I had grown to accept as necessary for my sport would make the impact it has on my fighting career. In a matter of time the world will know my name and my story, and I am grateful that Robb stepped in to be a part of it!