Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  Diet  Weight Loss  Nutrition  on Jan 26 2017

As a strength athlete we are always chasing performance or at least we should be. Sometimes we get a wild hair up our butts and we chase after aesthetics, thinking that will yield to a better performance on the platform. Although I agree with the notion that leaner more muscled physique will usually produce the best lifter on the platform it does require quite the long term commitment to get there. This quest for both strength and aesthetics is important to understand and has only been pushed to the forefront over the past 6-8 years. in years past we would see a lot of big dudes but with guts and not the greatest physique but man were they strong for that time. Now we see guys like Larry Williams, Dan Green, Kevin Oak, and Steve Gentili pushing the aspect of why not have both and the records have fallen due to it. Is it because the genetics are better, maybe the drugs have improved, or maybe these guys understand the importance of maximizing the most amount of lean tissue to fit into a weight class will yield the best results.


So now comes the question of this article should I try to gain weight or cut down and the answer is it depends. I will say that a lot of people are hurting their true potential by constantly trying to drop a weight class to be more competitive. If you are always in a calorie deficit trying to get to a small weight class when exactly are you taking the time to occur lean body tissue?? The answer is never because in order to add muscle you need to be in a calorie surplus unless you are new to drugs or a complete newbie to training beyond that the likely hood of gaining muscle is slim to none. This is extremely important to note, stop trying to drop a weight class to be more competitive at a local meet!!! You are hindering your ultimate progress and not allowing your body to lay down the groundwork of a solid foundation. 


So should you cut or gain, the answer if you have to ask is you should try to drop excess body fat first, not because you are trying to drop down a weight class, this is only to set yourself up for better growth potential. The more body fat you have the more likely you are to add more body fat while gaining over lean tissue and the reason behind that is your body is not as efficient at utilizing the nutrients when you have excess fat. Typically people who have more fat have higher insulin resistance which means if carbs are high you will be more likely to store more fat and your body doesn’t signal and release hormones like it should. So by dropping some pounds and getting closer to 12% body fat for males and 20% for females you are putting yourself in a better place to grow lean tissue. A good rule of thumb when cutting as a strength athlete is if you are starting to feel like your performance is suffering end the cut and start a slow reverse diet. This also brings me to a good point when it comes to a cut don’t go all out from the get-go. First I would get your diet in order and ride that out as long as you can and once you plateau I would add in a bit of conditioning nothing crazy just 2x a week. The main point is to not go to extremes right away that will shorten your cut and make it not nearly as effective. Approach the cut with the mindset that this is setting you up for a better and stronger physique and to not worry about chasing numbers during this but instead be more focused on just training really hard and using different training modalities.


Gaining weight also needs to adhere to certain guidelines, you don’t want to gain bad weight but keep in mind if you are in a calorie surplus you will get fatter that is inevitable, but the ability to add good quality muscle is a lot and I mean a lot harder than losing fat so we can learn to accept a little fat gain for the gain of lean tissue. You can only gain weight for so long without having some negative side effects. The biggest telltale that your weight gain is coming to an end is when you start to notice the fat to muscle ratio gain is skewing more towards fat and a lot less towards muscle. You will also lose those pumps in the gym and you’ll just start to feel kinda sluggish. This is a sign that you are not partitioning nutrients effectively and that your insulin has lost its sensitivity. The best way to advance the weight gain process is to slowly reverse diet out of a cut and to not go apeshit crazy and gain 20lbs in a week, your lower back will thank me later. At first, when gaining I would look to increase your overall protein intake by 10% give or take, here is an interesting study on a high protein diet

After letting your body adjust to that for 5-7 days I would then increase carbohydrates but only around your workout so looking to increase calories 250-350 cals per 2 weeks is a good approach. Obviously, if you add calories and you are still losing weight keep adding them in but do it in segments of every 5-7 days. This phase sucks and is a bitch to stick to because you will be starving but if you can ride it out for 1-2 months your gaining phase can last 6-8 months instead of 4-5 months. 


If you do get sloppy and can only add weight for 3-4 months before you come to the conclusion that you are just getting fatter, but you are also not near your weight gain goal. I would highly recommend a mini diet for 4-6 weeks and then jumping right back into the smart approach this time of weight gain to learn more about mini cuts check out my article

Posted by Tony Montgomery under Weight Lifting  Diet  Training  Nutrition  on Jun 03 2016

You might begin to see a theme in a lot of my articles, the key to success is to do things in a way that is sustainable and will create longevity. There are a ton of really strong guys that show up and in a year you never here from them or we all know the people who dieted super hard but couldn’t sustain it and ended up gaining all the weight back and few more for good measure. Now I respect these people because they go hard and go all out but there has to be a smarter way to approach things so you can maintain what you’ve built. We’ve all been there to some extent, starting something new is always exciting and we always want to start things off right so we go into the gym and blast a body part because we feel good and training makes us feel good, but we push to hard to the point where we can’t even move for a few days because of DOMS. A classic case of going in to strong and without the idea of progression and after this destruction we are left with a decision to miss the next couple days or to keep pushing harder and harder next time, until 3 weeks down the road we are burnt out and decide to pursue yoga instead. This is a bit of a stretch i know but you get my picture and for a few of you this may have happened. The same thing goes for dieting, start to low on calories and to high on cardio that you just can’t sustain for more than a few weeks and when you plateau you have to add more work or less food. You can clearly see the dilemma here.


The way to avoid this problem with training and diet is to come in with a plan that you can build on week to week to get better. Lets cover training first, how you approach training should be on a week to week basis so that you can build each week. You can do this by adding weight, reps, or sets each week so you start off with an easy week to get back into things, followed by a slightly harder week by making the small proper adjustments. For example I started my offseason plan with higher volume, after a meet the volume was low and weight was heavy, so I just did the opposite when I came back to training but not at a crazy pace. I started slow with DB movements and keeping everything somewhat light and easy. The next week I introduced barbell movements and started with a lighter weight that I know I can add to for the next 3-4 weeks. It’s a slow building process as I am not concerned with anything but building a solid foundation and staying healthy. The bigger the foundation the better the peak and if you can repeat that process over the course of 5-10 years you will be an extremely strong person as long as you stay smart and healthy. This is done with smart exercise choices and listening to your body. I’m not saying don’t push things but it doesn’t have to be every session all out failure and fatigue. You want to look for clean and smooth reps, not grinders or missed reps. A huge reason for doing things in a slow and methodical approach is it allows you the opportunity to develop proper motor patterns and technique, the best way to do this is not by maxing out it’s by sticking with reps and sets in the 65-80% of your 1 rep max. 


Key takeaways here

  • Start off slow, lighter and easier workouts without pushing to failure
  • Build each week by adding weight or sets or reps not all at once though
  • Stick with building better movement patterns over lifting heavy weight


Nutrition is definitely the hardest of the two to be patient with, when you are at the gym easing into things you are still putting in work and training hard, with a slow and methodical start on nutrition, although it will yield huge dividends at the end, it is tremendously hard to wrap our heads around in the beginning because we want to lose weight and get lean now!! So the regular person starts with a ton of cardio and starts with an extreme diet like a no carb, paleo diet. This is a recipe for disaster because if you start out fast like this yes you will lose weight and fast but what happens when you stall? You have to do more extremes and more because you started at the high end already the only way to keep the train rolling is to do more and eat less. By a month into this approach you go binge crazy and quit everything all together. Taking things slow and get the most out of the least at the start, because once you hit a plateau you have to do more or eat less and if you already start with an extreme deficit you have to keep going and thats not sustainable nor is it healthy. Look into your current diet and if it is compete crap like you drink 6 sodas a day, cut them down to 3 week one, than 1 week 3 and finally eliminate them. Once you get that down you can go into a set diet with balanced macros, never eliminate any macro if you are a performance athlete, because you’ve already dropped the junk and the next step would be to get organized. For cardio same thing start with walking 10-20 minutes for 2-3x a week. Than week 2 you can add another day and so on and so forth. Its an easy thing to do it just takes a ton of patience which is hard to do because we want results and we want them now. Slow and steady progress will yield longer and more sustainable gains, in reality if you are losing weight at a rapid rate you are also losing muscle so look to shoot for a 1-2lbs a week depending on size of athlete.


Key takeaways here

  • Don’t go into a strict diet right away if you are not use to it, slow cut the junk out week to week until gone
  • Do the least amount at the beginning so you can make adjustments when a plateau hits
  • Look to lose bet 1-2lbs a week depending on the size of the athlete
  • Start slow with cardio a little will do a lot if you don’t do anything


The giant takeaway here is to slowly build into things and have a long term view of the process. Key word here is the process, not the end goal, you must learn to enjoy the process of building. You don’t want to get to down and you don’t want to get to high just know that throughout the journey there will be a lot of bumps in the road and a lot of victories. Take it day by day and week by week and try to get a tiny bit better every time. Keep in mind the guys and ladies you look up to have been training and eating right for decades so don’t expect their great results after a 3 month training/diet plan.

Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  Diet  Weight Loss  Nutrition  on May 03 2016

I am sure you've seen this time and time again and you've probably tried it yourself a time or 2 with the same results. You want to drop down a weight class and you want to do it all within a 12 week prep cycle. What usually happens is you drastically drop calories, throw in a bunch of unnecessary cardio just to make it happen by any means. Training starts off well and you think man this is easy I am dropping weight and getting stronger, than as the weeks go on you get smaller and smaller and more rundown. Your lifts start dropping but you are reassured everything will be ok so you keep fighting forward because at this point in time you think I don't want to gain my weight back and still be weak so I'll keep dropping to justify my weaker lifts. The meet comes you make weight, congratulations are instore and you go pig out on some breakfast and eat like a gluttonous pig because you know if you get a little bloated and put weight back on you'll be all good. Meet day is here and time and time again the lifter fails miserably and decides you know what cutting weight just is not for me, I just need to be big. So they proceed to eat like they just did a 20 week diet and as if food will no longer be around if they don't eat it all. Their weight balloons back up and they pack on way more fat than ever, but they are strong, YES!!! Exatcly what they wanted so they do their next couple meets as a bigger, stronger, and fatter lifter. Hit big numbers but ultimately decides they feel like shit and they don't like they way they look. So guess what happens, they do the same exact thing, extreme diet, excessive cardio and fail. If this sounds like you, then I have the solution for you. It's not going to be easy and it will take time but it will get you to where you ultimately want to be.

The problem is most lifters have this next meet mentality where they only see things in 12 week meet prep cycles. They don't plan for the year or years to come they want to be the most competitive at this meet and this meet is all thats are their mind. Which brings me to another point if cutting a dramatic amount of weight is going to make you more competitive than you are not strong enough so just focus on that, it is powerlifting, not subpar small totals at a lighter weight class so I can win a 3rd place medal in the 18 different sub categories I signed up for or is it??? 

Lets think in terms of the Olympics where athletes put everything they have into 4 years of training to peak at this one event. 4 years of training, that means they have a plan to take them to that point. Sure they compete throughout the years but they aren't concerned with the outcomes as much as they use these competitions as markers or indicators of how well their training is going and make adjustments. So in terms of weight class sports, lets say a lifter needs to add some size they will spend a whole year or two doing so and trust me when I say they don't take the kitchen sink, wheel me out in a wheel barrell approach. It is a slow and methodical approach to add X amount of kg's to their frame per month. This same approach is taking when dieting them back down to their original weight class. So yeah while they are gaining weight they might be outmatched in their heavier weight class but thats not their goal. The goal is to be ready for the Olympics not the next local meet. Do you see where I am going with this, everything they do is detailed out so that they are ready when they need to be ready.

Another example of this is the Russian powerlifters, when Krill broke the All Time bench record people forget that a year before he smashed a 716lbs Bench that looked like he could have broke the record that day, but that was not the plan. Same thing with Andrey and his squats, people seem to think he only wants to break it a little at a time and why not just shoot for that 1st 500kg squat but everything he does is well timed and when its time for him to squat that he will. Its called having a game plan that goes far beyond the upcoming meet. Same thing goes for dieting, you have to develop a game plan that will set you up exactly where you want to be in the next 2-5 years and i know that may seem like a lot of time to dedicate to this but nevermind if I have to explain to you that this is a marathon and not a sprint you probably quit reading this a long time ago because it was a secret diet/recipe to get you ripped and strong all at the same time and in only 12 weeks.

So now that you know what this is going to take and have mentally prepared yourself for the task at hand, lets begin down that journey. The goal of leaning out or dropping a weight class needs to be made well ahead of time to allow for a slow and methodical approach leading into your next meet. Starting a cut phase or diet is best done right after a meet, i know some people tend to think you need to pound calories to help with recovery but lets be honest those people are usually fat and not really the greatest lifters. Starting to diet right after a meet is ideal for two reasons, one is that after a meet you will start doing a lot more volume and GPP so the best way to keep muscle on while dieting is to do more volume and adding in some type of cardio. Think along the lines of how bodybuilders train leading into a show, because the key to a successful cut is to be able to drop fat and maintain as much muscle as possible. Number two reason is that it will give you plenty of time to slowly work yourself down in weight, I highly recommend people give themselves at least 20-24 weeks of dedicated work to get down to the next weight class and stay. That doesn't mean you can't compete just be mentally prepared to not be as strong during this time. Which is fine because we are building for the future not the next meet. 

Now I know alot of you didn't start powerlifting to improve your physique, in fact most people gravitate towards it because its been known to be a sport where you can eat whatever and just lift. This is no longer the case if you want to be good, do you think its a coincidnce that the top guys and ladies are usually pretty lean and look like bodybuilders. So if you want to be the best than you must change your approach and mentality about nutrition, unless you are a super heavyweight than god bless you eat whatever. Why 20-24 weeks that seems like a really long time to be dieting right and it is but the approach to take is to diet hard for 8 weeks and than spend the next 8 weeks slowly adding in calories, than diet hard again for 4 weeks and spend the last 4 weeks slowly adding calories. The key here is to try to keep increasing your starting calories of the cut so you can keep dieting on more and more calories. Disclaimer here that is extremely important before we get into the cut and reverse plan is that if after these 20-24 weeks are up and lets say you don't get to your weight class, don't panic and go on and extreme diet just for the sake of the weight class, be patient and extend the process until you get there.

Lets say that you start your dieting phase at 2500 calories and by the end of the 8 week cut you are down to 1500 calories in hopes to lose about a .5-1lbs per week rate, this seems to be the ideal rate for most, from that 1500 calories each week you will increase them by 150-175 calories so that by the time this 8 week phase is up you will satrt your next diet phase lighter but up to 2700-2900 calories. You just keep going back and forth with this process until you have reached your desired weight class and preferably slightly below. Why slightly below you may ask and thats because if you are below you will have more wiggle room for more calories going into the next phase which is the maintence phase. This is the phase where you start to get your old strength back. This is the pahse where you will start to increase calories over a 20-24 week time frame but not letting your weight get over 5% of your weight class. So there may be a few times in there where you may not add any calories for a couple weeks until your body adapts, you train harder, or you add in some cardio. The key to this whole process is patience, consistency and a long term goal oriented focus. This approach will help you from having the huge ups and downs of cutting/feeling sorry for yourself and gaining all kinds of unwanted weight for the sake of being stronger again. 

Posted by Tony Montgomery under Diet  Weight Loss  Nutrition  on Dec 31 2015

Beach season is here and everyone is eager to get back in shape. The gym gets packed and people are in a great mood to get the results they desire. Every year its the same thing a bunch of people show up with high expectations and end up quitting after the first month or two. When I use to train at a commercial gym I enjoyed seeing a bunch of new faces and would do everything I could to help them out. I am always bummed to hear or see people not reach their fitness goals, it is definitely a hard path to take. Exercise and eating good in and of it self is not hard but changing bad habits accumulated over years and sometimes decades is an extremely arduous endeavor. Hopefully these 5 tips will provide some help to get you and keep you on track.

1. Be Patient

Seems simple enough but no one ever seems to do it at least not the ones who quit and retry every year. Keep in mind fitness and healthy eating is a lifestyle and it takes a lot of time. Think of it this way if you’ve spent 10 years trashing your body with zero exercise and bad eating you will need at least the same amount of time to fix those habits. Yes body composition changes can happen fast but don’t fall victim to the dreaded get lean in 30 days post that some of these scam artist try to pull on you. Give yourself 3-6 months to shift your lifestyle to a healthier on and than another 6 months to see some good results. If you keep this long term and patient approach to this new healthier lifestyle I will guarantee you success in 2016

2. Meal Prep, Meal Prep, Meal Prep

This is by far the most important thing you can do to be successful in any diet. It is taking the time to one learn how to cook and two prepare food ahead of time so you always have food readily available. Learning how to cook and make heathy food taste good is almost as important as having it ready to go. So really take the time to cook food properly, spice food to taste and find low calorie condiments that you can use. The worst excuse I hear is I don’t have enough time to prep, to me thats a clear sign that this is not that important to you. If anything is important you find the time to get it done. I like to cook proteins every 4 days and carbs every other day. That way I can switch things up with taste and different foods.


3. Don’t Change Everything All at Once

Small changes will take you further than making huge changes. It may yield the fastest results but I bet it will allow you to stop making getting in shape a new years resolution. You can’t expect yourself to completely change your lifestyle in a day so doing small changes here and there will go a long way. Things like going from soda to diet soda to flavored water, to water. These small changes made on a week to week basis will ensure that you will be successful at reaching your goals and also maintaining them throughout the year.

4. Know its Not Suppose to Be Easy

Yes it is not all rainbows and unicorns, it will be hard work and it will not come easy. Healthy food is not as tasty as junk food and every weekend will be somebodies birthday or BBQ. You will also see a lot of your favorite social media people promising you 30 day quick fixes and get shredded fast plans. Do not fall victim to that and don’t let other people dictate your goals or make you feel bad for trying to eat healthy or go the gym. Your goals, your live make them count!!

Posted by Tony Montgomery under Diet  Weight Loss  Nutrition  on Nov 24 2015

So we already discussed the importance of calories and the use of all the macronutrients in a diet in a simplistic approach. I preface these and all my articles with this is just my beliefs based on my years of training clients and the books I’ve read and coaches I’ve worked with. Take these basic concepts and start to implement them into your diet because you will never know what works for you until you try it for yourself. With that being said lets get into the last installment of the back to the basics series, nutrient timing.


Nutrient timing is simply defined as when you eat your meals and what kind of macros with that meal. A very basic approach to nutrient timing with macros per meal is quite simple. You keep fats away from carbs and vice versa. So if you have high carbs in one meal you want to lower the amounts of fat in that same meal. The reason behind this is once carbs are ate your body will create an insulin spike, insulin will help shuttle carbs to empty glycogen stores once those stores are full they transfer to fat stores. Now if fat is in the equation it will equally transport fat and carbs to fat cells. If your meal is higher in fats than you want to lower the carbs for the same reasons as stated above. Fats are needed in a diet so don’t neglect them just know when its appropriate. Which brings me to the timing of meals throughout the day.


When timing meals for the day you want to start with your workout. Pre, During, and Post workout meals should be high in carbs low in fat, the reason for this is that fat will slow down the absorption rate of the nutrients you consume. This will slow down the muscle recovery and muscle building process which is something we don’t want around a workout. After those meals depending on your goals you will start to drop the carbs and raise the fats with the mindset of keeping the calories where they need to be to reach your goals. Along with nutrient timing of meals for a day, now we will go into the timing of days throughout the week.


This is a pretty simple idea really, the days you don’t train you drop carbs substantially and raise fats. Carbs are really only needed on training days. On your training days you want to have higher carb days on lagging body parts or lagging lifts and less carbs on the other training days. Now that you have the basics down start to build your diet and be patient with the process and reap the rewards.

Back to the Basics | Macronutrients 

ack to the Basics | Calories

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