I made two big mistakes when I was pursuing financial independence…
The first was I put off my happiness until I hit FI.
The second was I also put off my health.
Doug has spent the past two years taking me from a puny computer programmer to a strong, healthy weightlifter!
It’s been a fantastic journey, with numerous unexpected benefits, so don’t wait until FI like I did. Start focusing on your health now and drastically improve your journey to FI (and your life beyond)!
- Why lifting weights is a perfect activity for improving your health
- How to build a good workout plan
- Why free weights are better than machines
- What to eat if you want to build muscle
- Why weightlifting is better than running for burning fat and losing weight
- How to progress to doing more difficult lifts
- The benefits of intermittent fasting
- Monumental Strength
- Doug on Twitter | Instagram | Email
- Monumental Strength on Trainerize
- NSCA Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning
- Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training
- Science and Practice of Strength Training
- Strength Sensei
- Stan Efferding’s Vertical Diet
- Therapeutic Fasting – Dr. Jason Fung
- FitFI Subreddit
- Leave a review for the Financial Independence Podcast on iTunes!
I’m excited to introduce my guest today. He’s Doug from MonumentalStrength.com. And Doug is actually my personal trainer. He’s been working with me since I quit my job back in August of 2016. And he’s whipped me into the best shape of my life. I feel great, I’m sleeping very well. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been. And it’s been a fantastic change.
And I wanted to get him on the program because that was probably the second biggest mistake I made on my path to financial independence—the first being I was putting off my happiness until I reached FI, but I was also putting off my health. I figured I was too busy when I had my job, so I was like, “Well, I’ll worry about health and working out and getting in shape after I hit FI.”
And that was really stupid because I would’ve felt so much better in my job and in my life at that time had I been focusing on my health. The benefits of getting into shape is so much more than just being healthy. Like I said before, I sleep better, I feel better, I’m happier, I’m in better moods, I eat better. And I wish I had taken advantage of it before FI because it would’ve made my work and career so much happier.
So, I wanted to bring him on the show to chat about everything that he’s been putting me through over the last two years. And I wanted to release it now, before Christmas, so that you get a few weeks headstart before everyone hits the gym in January. I’ve been going to the gym for the past two years consistently. And I definitely noticed some uptick in people that are there in January, and then not so much in February. And you don’t want to be one of those people.
So, don’t put it off until January 1st. Don’t make a New Year’s resolution. Hit the gym now. The first two weeks are probably going to be the hardest and the most uncomfortable because you’re not going to know what you’re doing, you’re not going to feel strong. You’re not going to really feel like you’re doing it properly.
But after the first two weeks, that’s when I started really to enjoy it. And then, that built from there.
So, if you hit the gym now—you have a lot of free time over the holidays—you can start figuring everything out while the gym is quiet. And you can take advantage of one of the best perks of working out, in my opinion, the freedom to eat a bunch of food because you’ve obviously strained yourself, strained your muscles, and you need to refuel yourself and rebuild those muscles. So any time I work out, I feel like I can just eat a ton of food and not too feel guilty about it as long as it’s pretty healthy food. There’s no better time than the holidays to take advantage of that.
So, without further delay, Doug, thanks so much for being here. I appreciate it.
Doug Berninger: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Mad Fientist: So, we go way back. We met way down in Ecuador I think in 2014 or so. It was the first Chautauqua I ever went to. And it was no doubt your first Chautauqua as well. And if I remember correctly, you guys were pretty early on your path to FI and sort of new to the whole thing. So it was quite the leap to just go down to Ecuador. Is that right?
Doug: Yeah, that’s right. Luckily, for me, my wife is pretty adventurous. I’m more of the stay-at-home kind of person. So I’m glad I have her to rip me out outside.
Mad Fientist: And your wife is J from MillennialBoss.com and the Fire Drill Podcast, right?
Doug: That’s right!
Mad Fientist: She wasn’t a podcaster blogger back then though. You guys, I think, at that time, you just bought a big house and were maybe second-guessing that decision. You were pretty new to the whole FI game. So yeah, well done to you guys for coming down—especially you because you weren’t particularly into finances and all that stuff, were you?
Doug: No, no. In fact, I wasn’t really second-guessing the house purchase until we went down Ecuador and talked to all of you guys. I was pretty happy with it. And then, I was like, “Wait! Wait a second, they’re kind of right.”
So, I do believe there were some talks about stripping the house of copper wires to get some of the money back or something at one point. I don’t know, I was sleeping in…
Mad Fientist: That’s right. You were sleeping because you were training quite hard at the time, weren’t you, for some event maybe?
Doug: Yeah! Yeah, I was training for a weightlifting competition which is actually the last one that I competed in. Actually, that might’ve been 2015 then. But yeah, it was called the American Open. I was training pretty hard for it. And that was one of my reservations to going down Ecuador. I was just a couple of months away from the competition and I knew, getting down there, I wasn’t going to obviously be able to train with weights or anything especially keeping with the same eating plan and all that stuff.
But it turned out fine anyways. I qualified for the competition and competed and all that.
Mad Fientist: Oh, nice. Yeah, because I remember you, you were always very disciplined with your eating at the meals that we had, and you weren’t drinking, and you were going to bed at a reasonable hour. So yeah, you’re right.
At some point, Jay stayed up way later than you. And we were all in a hot tub. And the bright idea was to strip all the copper wire out, and then just leave the house to rot away, which obviously, we were just joking. I’m glad you didn’t follow that advice because, as you mentioned right before we got on the call, you just hopefully closed on the house finally. So that’s behind you.
Doug: Yeah, for sure.
Mad Fientist: So, we’ve known each other since either 2014 or 2015,whenever that was. And during that time, you have offered to train me. And at that time, I was just a skinny, lazy computer programmer. And I had always thought that I would want to get into shape and get healthier and lift weights. But obviously, there’s always loads of things that always came up that would get in the way of that. But I was like, “Alright! Well, I’m going to be quitting my job soon. So I really need to take this seriously.” I took you up on it. And it’s what? It’s been like two years of you training me remotely through a really cool app.
Mad Fientist: Maybe before we dive into all the meat of this episode, maybe give people just a little bit of a background and physical fitness I guess.
Doug: Sure! So, I have a master’s degree in Exercise Science from Bowling Green State University. And basically, once I acquired that, I’ve had quite the privilege of working under some great strength and conditioning coaches, anywhere from the private sector, a place called The Athlete’s Performance—which is known called Exos. They work a lot with technical populations, NFL players, college athletes.
And then, I’ve worked at the University of Michigan, the National Strength & Conditioning Association’s headquarters. I spent about four years there as an assistant. And they work a lot in the education side. But I worked in the Performance Center as well. So I had my hands in both the education side where I was able to actually have the opportunity to co-author a couple of chapter in their textbook as well as training athletes out of their work after that as a weightlifting coach, in the sport of weightlifting, what people would see on the Olympics, for example, where you’re doing a clean and jerk […], most known.
And then, now in my current roles, I’m teaching at Seattle University. So I started there, and made it through a full school year. And I’m going into my second school year right now.
I picked a part-time job as a strength coach at a division III school, University of Puget Sound here in Tacoma. So, I’m pretty excited to give that kind of coaching as well.
Mad Fientist: That’s very cool. So, all of that is to say you’re way overqualified for getting my ass into shape because, at the stage I was in back when we met, it wouldn’t have taken all that knowledge and experience to get me into shape. I just needed to get up and moving and actually working out. But it’s been great so far.
So, maybe talk about what your thinking was when I did approach you and we talked about maybe working together—you know, what your focus was to get me from being a lazy guy that stares at a computer screen all day to actually being someone that can make some progress in the gym.
Doug: Well, it definitely starts with the person that I’m working with. So, from my perspective, you came to me and basically said, “Alright, I’m ready.” I think that’s the first hurdle that people need to get over, making the effort to—if they’re working with someone like you’re working with me, to actually come forward and say, “I’m ready to go. Let’s do this” versus most people make the effort, they might go into the gym, but then it’s a scary place. So, getting through that door is really the first step, really getting in the car to go. Once you’re there…
Like even myself, I’ve been lifting and training for probably half my life—so 15 or 16 years—even now, I still have days where I’m like, “Argh, I don’t want to go. I’ve got so much going on” and all these stuff. But once you’re at the gym, then it’s like, “Well, now I’m here. I have to work…” You know what I mean?
So, it seems like a simple step. But once you do that first step, then you’re kind of off and running.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, I actually talked to James Clear. And he was working with somebody who wanted to start getting into shape. And he just started the habit of going to the gym. And he restricted it to only being allowed to be in the gym for five minutes. So it took all that other scary stuff away of like “What do I do when I get there? How do I do all these lifts? Am I going to be looked at? Am I going to be laughed at?” and things like that.
It took all that away and he just built a habit of getting in the car, getting changed at the gym, and then just leaving pretty much—which obviously, after doing that for a while, was pointless because he wasn’t really working out. But he developed the habit of just going to the gym. And it took out all the planning and how to get there and all the preparation. It got that into a habit. And then, once he was there and was used to going, then he was like, “Well, I’m here now, so I might as well just start working out because this is crazy, just coming for five minutes every day.”
But you’re right, it’s a huge initial hurdle.
Doug: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Now, in the way that I look at it, everything I guess as far as the gym goes and training and all that, everything can be put into a continuum or a progression. So, definitely, in his instance, just going to the gym and just changing or whatever, maybe he jumped on a bike for like three to five minutes, and then left, whatever, that’s still better than not going. You’ve got to start somewhere.
So, if that’s his starting point, and then two weeks from there, he actually does some lifting or whatever or goes 10 minutes on a bike, you’re still moving in the right direction. So, if you look at it like that, I think it’s a little less scary.
And in terms of someone who’s never lifted, say they want to learn how to squat, if they’re working with a good professional, that person is not going to put them right into a barbell back squat. There’s a progression to learn that, to build up to that.
And everyone is individual. So, in terms of their learning progress, you might not get to the barbell in a month, but someone else might get there in two weeks or whatever. So, as far as the learning rate and when you’re ready, it’s going to be individualized. And you’re not going to be thrown under the bar which is the most scary thing I think to people because that’s the biggest exercise. You can do the most weight with that. You might start on a body weight squat.
And again, that’s not a bad thing. It’s just where you’re at.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, exactly. Let’s talk about that progression because it was interesting as being the person on the other side of it, seeing what you’re making me do. It was only until later that I realized why I think you’re making me do the things that I was doing.
First, you were easing me into these more complicated things like free weights and bars and dumbbells and things like that. And when I first went in there, I was like, “Oh, these things seem so hard,” and I was wondering why I was doing those versus just the machines which are pretty easy to understand and you don’t feel like you could hurt yourself. I was wondering why I was being eased into these more difficult thing. And it was only later that I realized, “Oh, these exercise with a barbell, say, or working so many different little muscles in your body that a machine is just not going to touch because, in addition to doing the squats, your core has to be there to hold up your body to hold the bar and all these sorts of things.” It was only later that I realized that.
So, maybe talk about that progression and if somebody is a beginner out there, what you would start with and what you would be trying to work towards and why.
Doug: So, when I’m running a program for someone, I would look at first obviously what is their background in terms of exercising. Especially if I’m working with someone remotely like I was with you where I can’t be there with them to see what’s going on, I always err on the side of safety. So, in that instance, whatever kind of workout I’m writing, whether it’s all upper body, all lower body, or a total body workout or whatever, I’m going to start with some body weight exercises first, and then progress that for, say, four weeks. And then, from there, we’ll go into lighter implements like dumbbells, that kind of stuff.
So, I’ve used exercises like that to start someone out just to err on the side of safety because I wouldn’t be there—or even if I was there, I’m first using bodyweight exercises, but then I can assess if I am there what’s their movement like—because movement is going to come first. And when say “movement,” I really mean technique or form, most people say.
So, once they have good technique and their movement is proper, then I would progress them into using external loads—so dumbbells, kettlebells, that kind of stuff. And then, from there, I progress to barbell exercises where you can load more and more weight on.
Mad Fientist: It was a great progression because I had been put on dumbbells or even an empty barbell, I was so weak in so many areas that I could’ve just fallen over or fallen backwards or crumpled or something just because, like all of those supporting muscles that weightlifters have, I just didn’t have any of them because it was hard enough to sit up behind a laptop for eight hours a day. That was the extent of my strength. So, yeah, it was a really intro progression.
Doug: Going back to those progressions, I’m progressing you in terms of safety and learning movements. But now, think of it in terms of you are literally physically educating yourself to build a bigger and bigger repertoire of movements that you can perform, of exercises. So now, even if you get to an advanced point, you can always go back to those simple exercises like push-ups or bodyweights squats or pull-ups. Those are never things that you’re going to totally leave once you progress. You can always go back to them. You just have a bigger repertoire or basket of exercises to choose from now because you’re teaching your body how to move in those ways
Mad Fientist: Right, right. But even a curl machine where you’re just sitting there and your arms are resting on this pad, and you’re literally just doing curls, I feel like I get such a better full body experience by having a barbell that I’m doing curls with or dumbbell curls.
Is there a difference? Is that all in my head? Or is that actually a thing? These machines seem to focus, so hyperfocus on one thing, whereas you could get a full, better experience using dumbbells or barbells?
Doug: Right. No, you’re dead on there. So basically, for the listeners, whenever you’re sitting on a machine, and you’re so focused on a seated machine curl or something, the only muscles that are going to be working are your biceps and maybe some stabilizer muscles on the shoulders or something. Whereas if you’re standing now, you actually have to support your weight as you’re standing. You have to balance. So you have all of your stabilizer muscles in your hips, your lower back is working and everything like that.
So, any time you’re using free weights of any kind and having to support the load throughout your body, you are using more musculature. So that means even if you’re doing a standing barbell curl, you’re still going to strengthen to an extent some of those stabilizer muscles. And when those muscles are working, you’re burning more calories. So if one of your goals is not only to get stronger but to maybe lose some weight, lose some fat, that’s going to be a better option than a seated machine curl. So that’s definitely one of the benefits.
And then, you can do unilateral exercises, so working one side of the body; maybe dumbbell lunges or something like that to where you now really have to balance and now you’re working a lot of your trunk musculature—the core, as most people say these days. You’re going to definitely strengthen that more than if you’re doing a machine exercise.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, absolutely. And that was only something I appreciated later on. But I really appreciate it. I’m so glad that I did take the progression through those things with just body weight exercises to feel the movements and then trying out kettlebells and dumbbells just to ease myself into the weights, and then eventually getting to the barbells because, yeah, it just feels like I’m getting such a good workout.
And this is probably a good time to talk about that actually. People probably think you would lose more weight running a marathon than working out and lifting weights in the gym all the time. But the amount of calories that are burned with some of these exercises is quite high. And lifting itself is an aerobic exercise, to an extent, is that right?
Doug: In a way, yeah. I think what you’re getting at is something called EPOC, exercise post-oxygen consumption. So basically, when you’re lifting—especially when you’re lifting heavier—it’s shown that hours after you’ve completed your session, you are burning more calories still than if you went on a run. And a big part of that is muscle tissue is active. So, the more muscle you have, the more calories you’re going to burn.
So, that’s why they say lifting is better than running or any cardio.
And obviously, I’m not saying cardiovascular exercise is something you should totally avoid because, obviously, with the heart health and things, there are benefits to that. And actually, cardiovascular exercise helps with recovering in between lifting sessions.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, absolutely. But yeah, it’s definitely something—even Jill, my wife, she ran the New York Marathon. And she trained for, I think, nine months to do that. Her weight didn’t fluctuate much at all. And then, it was just like a few months training with me in the gym, her weight had dropped more than it did for that whole nine months of working out. She was toned and feeling great.
So, yeah, it as a very different experience and not something she expected, I don’t think, because you think you’re going to run a marathon, you’re going to get in the best shape of your life. But really, her body composition didn’t change that much—not that she needed to, but she was just happier with the results from three months of lifting.
Doug: And like you said there with body composition, lifting is going to help a lot more with body composition in the end than cardiovascular exercises because, again, muscle is active. And if you’re lifting and working your muscle more, you’re going to, hypertrophy, gain more muscle size, that’s going to then allow you to burn even more calories if you’re adding more muscle to your frame and help even at rest. Even if you’re just sitting there, you’re burning more calories because you have more muscle on your frame.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, okay, that makes sense, yeah. And speaking of sitting there, just real quick, the one benefit that I was really pleased with is better posture. That was something that I was always like—you know, the worst nerd posture. I always wanted to fix it, but I could never focus on it to fix it. I just didn’t realize that core strength was the main problem.
And after addressing the core strength and increasing that, the good posture just came more naturally. Is that how it works?
Doug: Yeah, yeah. If you think about it, even standing or sitting, like you say, if you make those individual muscles stronger, they’re able to essentially hold you up better.
Everyone thinks of strength, or I should say displaying strength, as just doing an exercise. But you can display strength sitting. You have those stronger muscles to now hold you up better.
And even when you see people that don’t really know what they’re doing, they go to the gym, and they’re doing the exercises you see most people do—people call them the mirror muscle exercises, so they’ll exercise the muscles that they can see in a mirror basically facing (so the anterior or the front of your body)—most people don’t work the posterior side or your back. So we’re talking your hamstrings, your gluts or your butt muscles, your lower back, your upper back. So things like rows, back extensions, things like that, those are the postural muscles that are going to help you in being able to sit up straight and being able to walk straight and not be hunched over.
And honestly, just in terms of, we’ll call it “static health,” those exercises and those muscle groups are going to be major in your health for just sitting there. We don’t see it now, but 20 years or 30 years from now, what do you look like if you don’t do those exercises? You’ll be standing up straight for what your normal is, but you’ll be facing the floor.
Mad Fientist: Right! Yeah, no, that’s a good point. And the other thing to discuss maybe about leg day and those other muscles is those are the ones that are going to be burning the most calories. So if weight loss is something that you’re interested in, increasing the muscle size of your biggest muscles, your butt and your hamstrings and things, surely is going to be the thing that burns a lot more calories, is that right?
Doug: Oh, absolutely. Again, bigger muscle, more calories burn—especially on the guys’ side. Most guys don’t do legs, right? Friends don’t let friends skip leg day. So, if half your body is your legs, and you’re not working on them, then you’re missing out on a big opportunity. So definitely important.
And again, you don’t have to start squatting with the bar, you can start with body weight in your room if you don’t want anyone to see you doing body weight squats. But you’ve got to start somewhere.
Mad Fientist: I couldn’t walk after my first session of body weight squats. So it definitely works. If you haven’t worked out your legs ever, then just be prepared to struggle to walk for a few weeks until you get used to it. But it’s a good thing I think.
This is probably a good opportunity to talk about the main training days and the muscle groups that are focused on. I’ve obviously noticed a pattern with your training plans over the years. You maybe want to talk about the big groups and how you pair them up and things on certain days?
Doug: Yeah. I never stick totally to the same stuff. I’m always changing things up and progressing. As we said, we want to move in the right direction. So, it just really depends on what’s the priority goal for that training phase.
So, if someone is looking to gain muscle size, like when I was working with you, I can say, “Okay… well, day one, we’re going to work mostly the chest and triceps. Day two, we’ll switch to lower body, let the upper body rest. And we’ll go more of the anterior muscles like the quads and work squatting type movements. Day there, we’ll do upper body pulls, so like back stuff. And we’ll do a lot of rows and pull-ups and things like that” and so on, switching up the muscle groups. And that’s more of a traditional bodybuilding type program. So, that might be a program you’d see like Arnold and those guys back in the day of bodybuilding.
Now, if you’re talking of “I want to gain strength,” then obviously, I’m not going to get into the nitty-gritty of sets and reps and loads and things like that, but if you were going for strength, then we can look at, “Okay, three or four days a week, now we’re going to pair up, we can start pairing up muscle groups into movements.”
So then we look at it in terms of not necessarily what muscles are we working, but what movements are we working for the sessions. We could do a day one upper body press again, but now we’re pressing overhead because we’re not strict on “Oh, we’re only working the chest this day,” but now, when you press overhead, you’re working the shoulders. And then, the second day, lower body pull. So that will be like deadlifts […] where you’re working the hamstrings and lower back and stuff like that, but then you’re working obviously heavier load, less reps when you’re trying to gain strength.
Mad Fientist: Cool! And this obviously is way more complicated than we actually get into there. But are there any good resources that you’d recommend for somebody who’s looking to get started? I know you have email series that sort of gets people introduced to things like these. Are there any books or courses? What would you recommend for somebody who’s interested in getting started?
Doug: The NSCA who I work for has an Essentials for Strength Training & Conditioning textbook. The fourth edition is the newest one. And that, while it is for professionals, I think is written clear enough that somebody could take a lot from it.
If they’re not looking for such a comprehensive book (because that goes over everything right from physiology to biomechanics and things like that), there’s like one-off books like Periodization by Tudor Bompa. That’s pretty good. Again, that’s textbook size. But that’s mainly on program design. So if they wanted to learn how to properly design a program, that would be a good one.
There’s also Science & Practice of Strength Training. And that’s by Kraemer and Zatsiorsky. So that’s a go-to for me on a regular—and again, it’s not too complex to where someone couldn’t take a lot of information from it. Some of the stuff gets nuanced. But it’s pretty good overall. I think a beginner could read it and comprehend most of it.
Mad Fientist: Cool! And then, if they don’t want to learn about it, they just want to get fit, obviously, the same app that you use for me, you use for other people, right?
Doug: That’s the Trainerize app. Actually, another source that I’ve thought of just now, I’ve been really enjoying a lot of stuff from Charles Poliquin. He’s world renowned as a strength coach and works with a ton of Olympians and pro athletes and all that. Most of his writings, he backs up with research literature. So, like learning from him a lot. And his stuff is on StrengthSensei.com.
Mad Fientist: Cool! I will link to all that stuff in the shownotes. And obviously, I’ll link to the Trainerize site for you as well in case people just want to get you to do the programs which I highly recommend because, like I said, it’s been fantastic. And I love using the app as well. It’s just so easy. I just couldn’t get through everything in the gym and keep track of everything which is great.
I want to make a shift to the other important aspect of all of these stuff which is diet. So you can go to the gym all you want. But if your diet is terrible, then you’re not going to see any other results that you want.
So, what do you focus on when you’re thinking about what to eat when you’re training and maybe weight loss versus strength building and muscle mass building?
Doug: Well, it all comes down to—the main focus should always be on calories in versus calories out, how much are you taking in and how much are you burning. And so, really, for someone who’s just starting out, the first step is sit down and write out what you’ve been eating. Keep a three to five day log of your food. And be honest with it—so not only what you ate but what was the quantity or the amount that you ate.
I’m notorious for going through peanut butter like nobody’s business. And actually, my buddy just sent me a five pound tub of peanut butter as kind of a joke but also as payment for helping him with his program. You can get carried away with peanut butter pretty quick. And I’ll admit that I don’t use any measuring with peanut butter. But I usually just say, “Oh, I had this many spoonfuls” or whatever.
But most people don’t keep track or don’t think about it. Especially if you’re sitting down talking with someone and you’re eating as you’re talking to them, right, you lose track.
So, I would say, definitely, the number one thing that I try and focus on (and tell people to focus on) is just be aware of what’s going in your mouth and how much of it. And as simple as that sounds, that’s a big one that is often overlooked and plays a huge role on body composition—and obviously, performance too […]
Mad Fientist: Yeah, just like with money. You need to know where you’re at with your net worth. And you need to know your incoming’s and your outgoing’s before you can actually have a plan towards financial independence. If you don’t know that stuff, then it’s hard to build off of.
So, once you know what you’re currently consuming, are there particular foods that are great for things like adding mass. Obviously, protein, you hear a lot about. What is it that you tend to focus on if you’re wanting to get yourself to the gym and get stronger and get bigger?
Doug: I would say number one is red meat for sure, especially steak. I love steak. I can’t get enough of it. And just the amount of nutrients that you get from red meat are abundant compared to, say, like boneless, skinless chicken breast.
Another source that I like for information is Stan Efferding. He just came out within the last year or two with his diet approach. It’s called the Vertical Diet. So people can look it up. I think it’s just TheVerticalDiet.com.
To be honest, I don’t know a ton about the diet yet. I need to buy his book and read it. But he’s big into sticking with just a handful of sources of food and letting your body get used to digestion with that and taking the nutrients. And one of his biggest things is gut health.
So, there’s a ton in the recent years that’s been learned about gut health. And basically, if you’re not up to par with your gut health, you’re not going to absorb the nutrients as well. And therefore, your body is not going to function at its fullest potential if you’re not absorbing those nutrients.
So, he sticks to say like steak, white rice, carrots and a couple of other things. The reason being is also the micronutrients. So, macronutrients versus micronutrients, macronutrients are your protein, carbohydrates [shots]. Most people think of those as the focus. And his thing is you should be looking more at the micronutrients because you may be missing out on a lot of those micronutrients, say like most people, especially in the northern hemisphere, are deficient in vitamin D because of the lack of sunlight.
So, focusing on what you may be missing out on, and then getting those things, you start to feel a lot better. Just miraculously, all these stuff starts getting put into play. You feel a lot healthier. And a lot of the micronutrients are responsible for things like blood pressure regulation, insulin regulation, things like that. So it’s pretty important.
Mad Fientist: So, this is probably a good time to talk about supplements. I’ve always thought that most supplements are probably a bunch of bullshit, but there’s probably some that are quite good. In particular, I think the ones that we’ve taken in the past—vitamin D, obviously, we’re very deficient of that here in Scotland, maybe some calcium and some fish oil. Are those good? Does it all depend on the manufacturer? Are there some that you would recommend taking and some that you would maybe not recommend taking? What are your thoughts on supplement?
Doug: I’ve taken pretty much everything under the sun at one point or another. But really, the last I’ll say 10 years, I’ve tried to stay away from most supplements and get what I need from food sources.
And really, the only way that you can know if you’re deficient for sure is to actually get a blood panel drawn. So that’s kind of the first step in checking versus just going out and spending your money when you don’t really know if you actually need those things. So, if you want to really know for sure, you go and get a blood panel drawn and look and see what you’re deficient in. And then, you can make an educated decision if you really do need those supplements. Or again, you can always go to whole foods first before getting those supplements to get what you’re missing.
Mad Fientist: Cool! Okay, so I’ll just run through what I’ve been focusing on eating over the last little while. And you can tell me if I’m maybe deficient in something or if I’m on the right track. I’m usually doing quite a lot of eggs. We’re trying to eat some meats. I’ve been just eating a balance of chicken and red meat.
I’ve been doing a lot of Greek yoghurt with nuts, almonds, with chia seeds, throw some fruit in there; peanut butter as well, just peanut butter and bananas.
And then, just a balanced dinner usually of some protein source, and then some brown rice and some, I don’t know, a vegetable or potatoes, things like that. We’re trying to cook as often as we can of our own thing so that we know exactly what’s going into it.
And that’s pretty much it! And then, I’ve been doing a pre-workout protein shake because I’ve been doing intermittent fasting (which we can talk about as well after this diet discussion).
But what do you think? Are those all pretty good choices? Is there anything I should add or anything I should take away?
Doug: I mean, you could probably honestly add—I love avocadoes. So if you don’t eat those every couple of days, I’d say that would be a good addition just for the healthier fats.
Mad Fientist: Okay.
Doug: In terms of calcium, like you said, you have your yoghurt. But also, most people don’t know that almonds are a great source of calcium as well.
And then, your green leafy vegetables, like say spinach, is a great one for calcium. Obviously, if you want to build strong bones—and most of us should be thinking about ourselves in the future. Again, that’s a pet peeve of mine, not thinking about your health in terms of the future. Most people are just “What do I look like now? How am I performing now?” versus “30 or 40 or 50 years from now, what am I going to be like?”
So, with things like osteoporosis which definitely is a happenstance for a lot of people when they’re older because we’re losing our bone mineral density as we age, you want to build that up as much as you can while you’re younger. So you have your maximum amount. You start at the highest amount because we’re all eventually going to lose our bone mass.
So, calcium plays a huge role in that.
Mad Fientist: And lifting helps that immensely as well, right?
Doug: Lifting. In terms of just physical stress to your structure, to your body, lifting is the best way to build bone mass. Hopefully, people can see a recurring theme here of “Oh, this is important!” and “Oh, lifting helps with that.”
Mad Fientist: Yeah, absolutely. And we haven’t even talked about happiness and just mood and sleeping better. There are so many things that have improved in my life because of my gym routine that I’m still kicking myself for not starting this during my career. This was something I put off until FI just like most things. It was like, “Oh, once I hit FI, I can do this.” The benefits that I would’ve reaped from doing this back when I was pursuing financial independence would’ve been even greater because of the stress and all the other things that were going on when I did have a job. I just kick myself that I didn’t start earlier—which is hopefully what people take away from this episode more than anything. Don’t put off health and don’t put off fitness until FI because the benefits are just so many that we haven’t even have time to talk about. Really, it’s not worth waiting for.
Mad Fientist: So, to chat about intermittent fasting briefly, that’s something that we started over the last, I don’t know, three months or something. But I really, really like it for many reasons. It was already something I was close to doing anyway. So it fits into my eating schedule and my habits. It’s made life a lot easier because there’s less meals that I need to worry about. I also feel like I can just eat as much as I want during the feeding window just because I’m trying to maintain the same level of calories. So I’m able to eat as much as I want.
What are your thoughts on intermittent fasting?
Doug: Well, I definitely like it. I’ve gotten out of it a little bit lately because I was trying to put on a little more mass. And obviously, if you’re going extended times without eating, that’s not going to help necessarily with gaining size.
But people would be surprised in terms of strength. I did it for years consistently and was still able to break some personal records, some PR’s of mine in the gym while doing it. So, it doesn’t really negatively impact strength as much as you would think.
I haven’t read into any of the research in quite a long time. But back when I started it during my master’s degree, again, it fit my lifestyle like you said. I was doing my master’s degree. I was at school or in the gym working either with people lifting or training or I was in the office working on my thesis or whatever. I was like super busy, can’t be bothered by eating. And it’s kind of nice to not be—
I’m sure everyone out there has been like, “Okay, I just ate breakfast. Hey, what’s for lunch?” You’re preoccupied with food that it’s kind of in the back of your mind, and it’s almost like a hindrance to whatever you’re trying to do with the work you’re doing.
So, if you don’t have to be preoccupied with what’s the next meal and you can focus more, then that’s a huge win in my mind.
And then, in terms of just some of the benefits that I wrote about with it, they’ve done—as far as the studies that I have seen—rat studies where the longevity of the rats that were put through fasting, the longevity of their life span was increased quite a bit. So you got to look in terms of calorie restriction. It has been shown to actually increase longevity in mammals.
So, I don’t know, I haven’t seen any human studies, but I’ve heard that it’s at least partially beneficial. So that means someone might want to try it one day a week. You don’t have to do it every day. Just try it out!
And then, going back to daily schedule, things like that, I think it just helps with, again, not being so preoccupied with stuff. Most people get cranky and stuff when they’ve missed a meal or something. I think it helps with getting used to missing meals from time to time and not being so freaked out about it. It’s not the end of the world if you miss a meal.
Mad Fientist: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, Jill has found that because she used to get really shaky when she was hungry and always had to have meals at set times. But once she started doing the intermittent fasting, she feels like she doesn’t get that shakiness even if she’s taking 20 hours in between eating. Yeah, it seems to have changed not only how she deal with not eating, but her body’s reaction to not having food.
Mad Fientist: A reader who’s big in Reddit—he started actually a sub-reddit called for Fit for FI or FitFI (I’ll link to that in the shownotes)—he sent me a really good video of some research on intermittent fasting and how it was far superior than calorie restriction, just dieting for weight loss. And then, he went into some of the science behind it which is really interesting. I’ll put a link to that in the shownotes as well.
Is there anything that we didn’t talk about that’s important in this whole sphere of health and well-being and fitness?
Doug: I’d say maybe the last thing—and one thing that I could even do better myself about—we talked about food. Okay, what’s the food you’re eating, what’s the amount of that food that you’re eating. But also, if you take a couple of steps back, what’s the source of that food? Where did that food come from?
Take an apple, for example. We know apples to be healthy and whatever. “Eat an apple a day, keep the doctor away,” that’s the old saying. But where did that apple come from? Was there pesticides being sprayed on that apple? So, you have to keep that in mind. Where’s the food coming from? And what was used on it? Where there chemicals used? Obviously, those chemicals could potentially lead to all kinds of bad stuff, health issues, cancer, all kinds of stuff like that.
Mad Fientist: So, how do you find the good foods? Do you mostly buy organic?
Doug: I do, I mostly try to buy organic.
Mad Fientist: So, this has been awesome. I’m really excited to get some of this information out there because, yeah, like I said, it’s been such a big impact to my life over the last couple of years. So hopefully, it’s inspired other people to take it more seriously?
I usually end all my interviews with what’s one piece of advice you’d give to somebody on the path to financial independence. You could go money this way, you can go health, it could be—I’ll leave it up to you.
Doug: Yeah, let’s stick to health just because my wife, Jay, is the one who handles the financials in the family. I get all the health stuff.
I’d say when someone does reach that point when they retire—but of course, we talked about not waiting. Don’t wait. Just jump right in with two feet and get into healthier habits. But especially when they do become retired, and they have all that extra time, don’t get too overwhelmed by all this stuff because there’s a lot of smoke in the mirrors out there in the health world. And as we mentioned with the progressions, don’t be afraid to just start somewhere, start small.
Certainly, reach out to a professional if you feel uncomfortable starting yourself and don’t know what to do. Definitely, Brandon, you can share my email and people can reach out to me. But start somewhere. Realize that if you don’t have your health, then what do you have? You could have all that money that you just worked on building up, and you just retired early, but if you don’t have that health, you can’t enjoy it the same way.
Mad Fientist: Absolutely, yeah.
Doug: So, that’s always the starting point for me. And I know I’m kind of biased because I’m in that profession. But to me, that’s the most important thing.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. So that’s great advice.
How can people find you? I’ll add your email address to the shownotes. I’ll obviously link to your website on the Trainerize app. Anywhere else they can get in touch with you?
Doug: My website is MonumentalStrength.com. You can find me at LilWeightLifter on really all the social media channels.
Mad Fientist: Cool! I will link to all that in the shownotes. And yeah, thank you again so much for chatting to me about all these stuff and for whipping my ass into shape over the last two years. It’s been amazing. So I really appreciate it.
Doug: Absolutely, yeah.
Mad Fientist: Alright, bye. Bye.
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