Sore, Hungry, and Slow: 3
Signs That Show Your Program Is Working By Steve
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Exercise makes us feel great. It makes us
less hungry. It helps us perform everyday tasks better. Besides our health and
the way we look, feeling great, being less hungry, and performing better are
exactly the reasons we put ourselves through exercise. However, en route to
ultimate fitness, there are some hurdles we all need to clear. Mainly, they
include being faced with the opposite of our intended goals. Enter the trilogy
of grumpiness: getting sore, slow, and hungry. We tend to look at these as
negatives, but how about a little New Year's spin? You want these feelings
because they're clear signs your program is working.
Before we analyze why you need to embrace
"going backward," let's answer the obvious question: why would we design this
type of program? Certainly, there are exercise programs that don't put you
through torture. Could we have chosen such a path with
The answer is that programs lacking this
trilogy don't provide you an incentive to get in top shape. In the early stages
of any exercise program, it's possible to structure the schedule and diet
around making small improvements. I call this the Curves® template. You push your body above its
normal output, though just barely, and you keep it there. If you are greatly
deconditioned, it will yield improvements. This approach doesn't hurt, and
frankly, it helps people who've never exercisedmainly due to the mental
boost they get from feeling they can exercise. It's a nice alternative for some
people. But let's be realistic. None of them would sit through a P90X
infomercial, much less be inspired by it.
The Curves template is what we would call a
foundation phase of training for someone who has never exercised. The next step
would be one of our programs, like P90X or
in 6® (these programs also work on
the Curves template because you can choose modified variations). The upside
with this method is that each day you leave the gym feeling better than when
you walked in. The downside is that you'll never have the body of a fitness
model. To achieve a higher level of fitness, you need to periodize your
training (see "Customizing P90X for Specific Goals: Part I" in the Related
Articles section below) and eventually stare into your Nietzschean abyss.
That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger is more than a
cliché with P90Xit's your life.
Soreness is the easiest symptom to
understand. Most of us have been sore at some point. It happens anytime we do
something physical that we're unaccustomed to. From yard work to a pickup game
with your old team to a marathon shopping spree, when you push your body beyond
what you do in your normal day-to-day activity, you get sore. This is true even
if you used to do the said activity all the time. In fact, that generally makes
it worse, because you still hang on to the muscle memory of how to do the
activity, which means you can really put the hurt on if you don't have the
requisite fitness base.
Most soreness comes from the breakdown of
fast twitch muscle fibers. Our bodies have both slow twitch and fast twitch
fibers. Slow twitch fibers have a low recruitment factor, which simply means
they get fired up at low outputs. Fast twitch fibers have a high recruitment
factor, meaning it takes something more intense to get them going. A simple
example would be raising your fork to your mouth, which requires slow twitch
fibers, compared to raising a heavy barbell over your head, which requires fast
twitch fibers. Furthermore, we all have some extra fast twitch fiber for
emergencies. When you run from a bear, you're engaging these, which is why
you're likely to run faster than you ever have before.
Fast twitch fibers are repaired much more
slowly than slow twitch fibers. You can pretty much keep shoving food into your
mouth and never get tired. When you do get tired, you'll be able to resume the
activity quickly. Lifting a barbell over your head will wear you out, and it
will take some time before your body is able to do it again. The more weight
you add, the quicker you'll get tired and the longer it will take before your
body is ready to do it again. And once you've escaped the bear, you'd do well
to avoid him for a couple of weeks. Those emergency fibers you've thrashed will
take that long to recover.
Hypertrophy means muscle growth. Almost all
training programs target this, even weight loss programs, because changing a
body from rotund to svelte requires you to lose body fat. And the quickest way
to lose body fat is to gain more muscle. Muscle requires more work from your
body, even at rest, so you're body will take the nutrients from the foods you
eat and store them in muscle tissue rather than adipose (or fat) tissue.
To create hypertrophy, you need to overload
your muscle fibers progressively to keep breaking them down. As you get fitter,
you engage higher-threshold muscle cell motor units to keep the overload
coming. Breaking down exactly the number of muscle cells your body can
replenish right away is nearly impossible. This means that to advance your
level of fitness, you are going to break down more muscle fibers than you
intended. When this happens, you get sore.
Furthermore, the more varied the exercise
you do, the more you'll find areas where your body is out of balance. This
means some muscles are stronger than others. When you do new exercises, your
stronger muscles are forced to do extra work as the weaker ones catch up. This
results in both the strong and weak muscles being overworked while they sort
out the balance problem. This is the first step of Muscle Confusion (see
"Why Confused Muscles Get Stronger Faster" in the Related Articles section
below), and as you know, there is no shortage of it in P90X.
"I heard I would get less hungry and all I
can think about is eating" is a common sentiment expressed on our Message
Boards. The reason is somewhat obviousour entry-level programs have
low-calorie diets, not to mention restricted diets. Most of these people are
simply craving the junk foods we've had them cut out.
But Xers get hungry too, and they're usually
eating enough calories. This is because your body cries out for nutrients when
it's in breakdown mode, even when you've eaten all you can. Learning that this
craving is normal will greatly help your success curve.
When your body is craving nutrients, you
want to feed it. However, under the type of duress a hard program creates, you
can't possibly give it enough nutrients. Many of us try. We eat and eat. And
while eating can help ease the mental anguish your body is going through, you
can't put all of these calories to use, and some will get stored in fat
When your body is hungry, supplements
are your best friend. Most have very few calories and a lot of nutrients. Some
have targeted nutrients, which basically means they're designed for nutrient
and Recovery Formula is a prime example (see "Your Key to Great
Results" in the Related Articles section below). Although its nutrient profile
is unsuitable for many situations, during or after exercise, it is the most
efficient food for your body. Using Results and Recovery Formula as directed
will help you get less sore, and hence less hungry.
shines during an exercise program. While healthy anytime, drinking Shakeology
while your body's in flux will enhance your ability to use all of Shakeology's
But no matter how well we strategize, we're
all going to get hungry at some point in our programs. So much so that staying
hungry is a metaphor for the bodybuilding lifestyle. In the film Stay
Hungry, a bodybuilding champion (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) sums
this up with the line, "I don't want to get too comfortable. I'd rather stay
This is the hardest condition to
conceptualize but the easiest to explain. During hypertrophy, your muscles are
growing. Growing muscles are a bit like a growing person. Just as you learn how
to grow into a developing body, you need to learn how to use new muscles.
During the hypertrophy stage of your exercise program, your muscles are "big
and dumb," like the old-school concept of the "musclehead."
Larger muscles have a greater capacity for
strength than smaller ones. A large muscle isn't necessarily stronger, but if
trained properly, it will become stronger. Muscular efficiency (or absolute
strength) is what gets targeted in the latter stages of a training program.
Doing low repetitions, along with eccentric and plyometric movements, is all
about teaching your muscles efficiency—essentially, the ability to
recruit high-threshold muscle cell motor units.
We'll talk more about strength training in another article.
Today, my point is to explain the rationale behind what I call "getting slow."
While your muscles are growing, your ability to move quickly lessens. This is
why athletes do all of their body-altering training in the off-season. When you
start to feel slow, it's a sign that your program is working. Just remember
that you'll want to increase your intensity and whip those big lugs into shape
Wanting to experience the trilogy of
grumpiness should help you during your next program or training cycle. But
remember that these are stages, not chronic conditions. You should only
experience them early in a program or new cycle of training. If you aren't
experiencing them at all, it means you're ready to ramp your training up to the
next level. But if they persist beyond 4 weeks, you're overdoing it and risk
overtraining. You may also experience them each time you transition to a new
phase. In this case, though, they should be gone before you move into the next