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Muscle for life

MFL Podcast 48: Dell Farrell on biggest fitness lessons for women

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MFL Podcast 48: Dell Farrell on biggest fitness lessons for women

In this podcast I interview coach and bikini competitor Dell Farrell and we talk clean eating vs. flexible dieting, feeling intimidated at the gym, dealing with water retention, and more…

TRANSCRIPT

Michael Matthews: All right, so let’s start with your story. Who are you? Why should people listen to you? That’s what our people want to know.

[laughter]

Michael: Who are you and why should I care?

Dell Farrell: [laughs] My name is Dell Farrell, or sometimes known as Ice Cream Gal, icecreamgal.com. I am a personal trainer from Australia. I started off with the traditional pro-science approach, because that is what I was taught through my certification. I did CrossFit, and Clean Eating, and then I went strict Paleo. I was always…

Michael: I was going to say, “You didn’t go Paleo?” But you did. You went there.

[laughter]

Dell: Yep. I was so OCD Paleo, and I read all the books, and I was like, “No grains, no legumes, no anything, no fun,” and always told, from my personal training certification, “Sugar is bad. Carbs are bad.”

Even though I was doing CrossFit and Muay Thai, a lot of volume, I was always restricting on carbs, apart from on my cheat day. I would even restrict cheat days to, like, once a month, because I wanted to lose weight. I was maintaining my weight, but I was…

Michael: You must have felt terrible.

Dell: I felt like shit.

Michael: It must have been so bad, all that training with no carbs.

Dell: My CrossFit coach was like, “Oh, it’s because you’re not eating enough fat. You need to eat spoonfuls of nut butter…”

Michael: “300 grams a day, go. Drink olive oil.”

Dell: If Bulletproof Coffee was a thing then, then they would probably have told me to have a whole stick of butter in my coffee.

Michael: Like, “You won’t gain that.”

Dell: I was looking worse and worse. I looked softer. I had access to a bioimpedance scanner, so I would get that, like, every six weeks, and I was losing muscle, even though I was lifting, and I thought I was doing everything right, and I got to a point where I’m like, “Screw it, this isn’t working, and after three years, I look worse than from when I didn’t even do any exercise.”

Michael: At least you were willing to confront reality. A lot of people, it takes them longer, or they never get around to it.

I know this one girl, and she’s really into CrossFit, and she’s gone through different diets. Now, her latest thing is this stupid 80/10/10, where you eat absurd amounts of carbohydrate, and no protein.

Dell: No fat. They’re anti-fat, anti-protein…

Michael: She doesn’t track numbers, so who knows what her numbers actually are, but that’s what she’s doing. She looks terrible, and looks worse and worse, but in her eyes…she’s always posting selfies.

For some reason, she is seeing progress, but I have had people that I know, people that know her, they’re like, “What is she doing?” I’m like, “I don’t know? She doesn’t see what we see. She sees something else. Maybe she’s happy, whatever.” [laughs]

Dell: I took on a screw the system approach. I saw from Instagram, people eating Pop-Tarts, and ice cream, and pizza and looking amazing. It wasn’t just on person. If you looked at the flexible dieting, IIFYM hashtag, I was like, “All these girls have abs and they are eating what they want. Why isn’t sugar making them fat?”

I researched the Leangains method, and a few different things, and I started having chocolate and ice cream, and as soon as I added in carbs, my body was like, “Thank you.” I lost weight really easily. I had stopped CrossFit at the same time because I was like, “I can’t deal with this Paleo nonsense anymore.” I went to a coach. I was just…

Michael: Well, you were persona non grata then. [whisper] “She quit Paleo. She stopped it.”

Dell: [laughs] It’s like a religion. It’s like I left the Church of CrossFit and Paleo.

Michael: You were excommunicated.

Dell: But my savior was weightlifting, and flexible dieting, and knowing that foods don’t have moral values. Sugar isn’t toxic, and you can eat what you want.

I have protein with my meals to keep me satiated. I have the more filling carbs. I don’t go have Pop-Tarts at every meal, but if I want a Pop-Tart, I will have a Pop-Tart. If I want oats, I will have oats. So I have a very balanced approach, rather than an all or nothing approach.

Michael: That’s the downside, that’s the dark side of flexible dieting. Funny in how you found it, it kind of represents the dark side of it, which is as a point of bragging. “Oh, shit look at what I just ate. Look at what you didn’t eat. Look how I look, and look how you don’t look.”

But a lot of those people are…funny enough, OK so you went down that Paleo road, and you were misinformed, and whatever. But you were buying into it, until finally you were like, “OK, I need to actually see what’s going on here.

Dell: Yeah.

Michael: I think that those people are as equally deluded, in that all they care about is body composition. And yeah, sure, you can look a certain way and eat a bunch of junk food. You can, but what about health? What about longevity? What about five years from now, is that good for your body? Those are the uninformed flexible dieters that think, “It’s just macros. I don’t give a shit. When do I actually hear my numbers?”

But in 15 years, when your body is broken, because you didn’t take care of it, because you’ve been deficient in all these vitamins and minerals for so many years…I think the general approach…

Dell: I still definitely think food source, where you get your protein, food choices matter. But as long as you’re getting good quality protein sources, and you’re getting your fiber, and you’re having feelings…if you’re on a cut especially. You’re not just going to eat refined carbohydrates, because you’ll be starving, and you’ll feel like shit.

Michael: Also, how are you going to get your nutrition when your calories are…a guy that works for me is so stupid when it comes to cutting because he has a weird relationship with food, where he has to eat sweet stuff every day.

His dinner, for instance — and he’s one of these guys — is some lean meat, the leanest meat, some chicken, so he doesn’t waste any macros on this protein — and pie. That’s it.

He thinks that’s awesome. But when your calories are restricted, and that means your body is getting less nutrients as it is, in between that and Clean Eating, that’s where it makes sense. Clean Eating has its heart in the right place. It just doesn’t have science, in terms…it doesn’t have enough specificity, and enough, “Why are you doing this?”

Dell: In some areas of it, it does go full retard, like, “You can’t have white potatoes, but you can have sweet potatoes.” White potatoes are full of micronutrients, and they’re so satiating, and they’re my preferred carb source when I’m cutting, because…

Michael: A lot of nutrients, too. It’s actually the most nutrient-dense food for volume. It’s at least one of, if not the most. Isn’t it the one food that humans can live off of indefinitely? I remember reading that in a book somewhere. It’s the one food that you could eat everyday for the rest of your life and you wouldn’t die, essentially.

Dell: I thought that was coconuts.

[laughter]

Michael: No, not coconuts.

Dell: Maybe that’s if you’re on a desert island, I don’t know…

Michael: If you get like 80 percent of your calories from nutritious foods…and also, you can go to the standard government advice of, whatever it is, a few servings of fruit and vegetables a day. One serving being a fist, or whatever that standard that’s been around forever. That’s actually based on good research.

People that eat more fruits and vegetables live longer. That correlation is there, and that’s been known for a long time. Again, if you want to look at the bigger picture here, there is Clean Eating as an ideology, as a dogma. That’s where it gets…

Dell: Yeah, the ones that say…

Michael: You can stay healthy!

Dell: “Don’t have fruit because it’s bags of sugar.”

Michael: Because of the fructose. The fructose, exactly. All that shit is dumb.

Dell: I definitely make sure I have fruit and vegetables every day.

Michael: Same.

Dell: I don’t even worry about the 80 percent whole foods, 20…because I don’t even have to think about that, because if I’m feeding my macros, and I’m hitting my fiber number, I’m doing that anyway.

Michael: Exactly. That, also, is a good point, that if you are actually following a sensible breakdown of macros, it’s hard to…you’re forced to eat healthier foods, and then you can fit in little things.

If all you like to eat is pizza, hot dogs, and chocolate, with protein shakes, good luck trying to even make that work, period. You’re going to have a protein shake, and then you’re going to have a pizza, and then you’re going to have nothing left for the day, except for shakes. Quickly, you’re going to learn that doesn’t work.

Dell: When you’re getting stricter, especially when I was doing comp prep, I would tend to not have pre-made foods or take out, because that’s the average. It’s not exact.

Michael: Yeah, you don’t know.

Dell: It could say 10 grams of fat, and you could be getting 30. They don’t care about your macros. If you want pizza, make it yourself, and you can use a lower fat cheese. You can have more veggies on it, so it’s more filling. Then you can make like a 600 calorie slice 300 calories, and it’s just as satisfying.

Michael: Speaking of low calorie foods that taste good, have you ever heard of Halo Top ice cream?

Dell: I haven’t.

Michael: You need to check this shit out. I got some yesterday. One pint is like 280 calories. A pint! It actually doesn’t taste bad. The macros on a pint is like 30 protein, 50 carb and like 12 fat.

Dell: You can get it from Whole Foods?

Michael: Yeah, that’s where I got it. Free advertising for Halo Top because that shit is good. It’s not Talenti. Talenti is still where it’s at for good tasting gelato. Have you ever tried Talenti?

Dell: No, I haven’t actually.

Michael: It’s so fucking good.

Dell: I’m at Mike Piconte’s apartment at the moment. I was here the other night, because we were filming some videos and I got four pints of Ben and Jerry’s to try the different flavors because I’ve only ever had one flavor before and then we got Arctic Zero as well just to compare.

Michael: I heard that shit sucks. I heard that just tastes like flavored water.

Dell: It tastes like frozen water. Apparently, there’s a newer one that’s a little higher in calories and, apparently, that tastes better but I heard that from someone who’s comp prepping and I know when you’re comp prepping…Even broccoli tastes amazing when you’re prepping.

Michael: You put some sugar and you’re like, “That’s actually really good.”

Dell: I had diet jello almost every day when I was comp prepping, for something sweet and I was like, “Man, this tastes so good.” As soon as I competed, I was like, “How did I like this?”

I used to have it in the morning. I used to mix my pre workout in and put it in the fridge and then have it in the morning.

Michael: That’s clever.

Dell: …Because it was during my fasting.

Michael: There’s a product idea. Pre workout jello shots.

Dell: It was delicious.

Michael: That’s funny. Halo Top. Check it out. It’s really good.

Dell: I will.

Michael: I have a few questions or a few things that I run into fairly frequently from women. Different questions or different problems they run into. Let’s start at the top here. One is, feeling intimidated by getting into weightlifting as an activity and also gyms are kind of intimidating.

With all the sweaty, creepy-looking dudes all over the place and then what happens when you go in there and they’re always trying to give you advice or they’re staring at you all the time or whatever.

I didn’t realize that that’s as big of a…I guess just from minor actions from women, especially if they’re new to weightlifting or they really want to, it’s a pretty big hurdle to get over, at least psychologically in the beginning.

Dell: Yeah, definitely. I experience that even now I can go into a new gym that I haven’t been into before and even though I know what I’m doing, I can wander around looking a little lost while I’m trying to find where pieces of equipment are.

People will approach you and try to hit on you or try to tell you what to do.

Michael: Try to help you out.

Dell: Yeah, but a lot of people are just genuinely trying to help like they don’t want you to feel like you’re lost. A lot of people feel like, “Everyone is looking at me like I’m an idiot,” but most people just are staring in the mirror at themselves most of the time.

They don’t really care either way what you do. They aren’t judging everyone. They’re probably just as self-conscious as you.

For girls, there’s always the option of going to a female gym. There are a lot of women-only gyms if you are really concerned about being around males, or there’s the women’s weight room. Honestly, once you start going, you’ll realize that it’s not a scary thing. Everyone is there for the same reason.

Wearing some big over-the-ear headphones, if you don’t want to get bothered, is a good idea. Just go in, do your program, get out of there.

Michael: That’s generally what I tell women. A lot of times if the guys…If you feel like they’re looking at you a lot, it’s not because they’re talking shit about you or even thinking negative thoughts.

A lot of the time, especially if you’re training hard and you’re not just dicking around, it’s because you don’t see that very often in gyms.

They’re like, respect.

Dell: They’re like, “Damn that girl is lifting some heavy-arse weight.”

Michael: Yeah, she’s actually trying. Then also, I don’t know, guys are just biologically programmed. If a girl looks good, it is what it is, she’s going to get looked at. Whatever. Guys that look good are used to that anyway really.

Dell: Yeah. Sometimes you’ve just got to deal with it.

Michael: Also I think at first, it’s going to be a bit awkward, you’re going to be learning different exercises and like any activity, I find that you compare weightlifting to a sport and it’s way less awkward because you’re in there by yourself.

You’re just doing your thing. You’re learning form and your weight sucks and maybe you’re all wobbly on squats even though you just started using the bar but what does it take? A few weeks to get really in the groove to where you feel comfortable with everything and at least you know what you’re doing.

That’s nothing. I grew up playing sports and with sports, you come in, you’re the new kid. You come into, especially if you’re new to the sport, you’re on a team. You’re the worst player on a team. Nobody likes you because you’re just bad and every time you’re out…

I played ice hockey growing up. Every time in the beginning, I just accepted, I knew nobody cared about me because I sucked. I was just learning to play. Every time I was on the ice, the rest of the team looks at me as if I’m holding them back.

If someone else better were in my spot, then they would be playing better. In the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty mild. At least you’re not the black sheep and everyone’s like, “Why the fuck do we have to have him?” You know what I mean?

Dell: You’ve got to remember as well, it’s practice. It’s not like you’re going into a competition every time you go into a gym. You just have to get one percent better every time. You don’t have to be the best person in there. It’s just practice.

If you stuff something up, then that’s a lesson that you’re learning for next time and you’re only going to get better. The more you go in and tackle your fears then the easier it’s going to get.

Michael: Those are important points also that, one, don’t get too into comparing yourself to other people. This is a bit more applicable to guys, just because guys…I’ll hear from guys now and then, they’re emailing and especially they see these transformations on the Internet and they wonder, “Why haven’t I made progress like that dude?”

In many cases, you don’t know what you’re looking at. A lot of the transformations, especially when there’s a lot of money on the line like someone is going to win $100,000, then you better believe they’ll be doing everything they can.

Every drug they can get their hand on.

Dell: Going to extremes.

Michael: Extremes but also the whole game is…It would be someone like me, let’s say right now I stop training. I do nothing and I just get fat. I just eat food for like six months and then I just look terrible. That’s the beginning of my transformation.

I have 13, 14 years of weightlifting experience and now I’m going to start my transformation. My four month, or six, three month, whatever transformation. I’m going to take every drug that I can and I’m going to have muscle memory so within three months I’m going to go from disgusting to fitness model.

You don’t know all that backstory, you just go, “Damn, he looked bad,” then three months, four months, whatever, you’re like, “What the fuck? Why can’t I do that?”

Dell: I actually know a trainer — and this is quite bad — they posted on their Instagram, one year transformation and it was actually, he posted photos that were three years apart.

Michael: That’s common too.

Dell: He’s done a lot of drugs. I know that trainer and I’ve seen him train. He’s not natural and he posts this, “Buy diet and training programs off me because that’s how I got my physique.” I’m like, “No, actually that’s not how you got your physique.”

Michael: There’s a lot of that too. I’ll run into that even because I get people that email me that, or been in the program of mine for just that in a book. I don’t even charge. I don’t do workout programs for people. I just say, “Hey, you can spend $10, read this book.” That’s what I would tell you to do anyway. What do I need this charging more for that?

I hear from people all the time. They will send me pictures. I can’t personally verify everything. There are sometimes when they say, “Oh, six months.” I’m like, “Hmm. I don’t know about that. I’m going to check their Instagram.” I’m going to actually see. I’ve run into every once in a while there is someone that tries to forge numbers.

For the most part, people who are reaching out to me are honest, and that’s cool. That’s because what’s there incentive to lie, but sure, when there’s money on the line, the more money there is on the line, the more shitty people are going to be out there bullshitting, basically.

I see that in an extreme sense being in the supplement industry, [inaudible 19:55] line of [inaudible 19:55] company, line of workout supplements.

I know just through people, people in this space, they’re selling pills in a bottle, shit garbage, but they’re doing a hundred-plus million dollars a year in sales. When there’s that kind of money on the line, the lengths that these guys go to scam and to be shady would blow your mind.

It’s a full on government operation status. That’s how scammy these guys get.

Dell: You’ve got to remember, especially people in the fitness industry, it’s their job to look good. They have the extra time. They have all the knowledge available to them. They’re training different people everyday. They’re learning from their clients, as well. It’s like that.

Their whole life is sort of revolved around staying shape, whereas, if you are working long hours, and you’re in a shitty environment where people [inaudible 20:59] , there’s always unhealthy choices around. It’s hard to get workout in.

Maybe, like the extreme workouts and the extreme crazy diets that someone who’s extremely dedicated and has all these time and…

[crosstalk]

Michael: But also, I mean, those extreme diets are related to…You can’t do. You can’t do that. You can’t be in a huge calorie deficit and still retain muscle and lose whatever, 20 pounds of fat in two months or something like that without drugs. You just can’t do it.

Dell: That’s where before I competed, I was like…I remember saying to my [inaudible 21:43] , “Oh, I don’t know if I can do it because all the fitness models and the girls around me that I used to look up to, I’ve realized that they’re taking all these stuff. That’s why they’re Clean Eating diets that they don’t even track macros. That’s why they work fitness.

Michael: Exactly.

Dell: She did exercise programs. I did a 20-week crap. I didn’t rush it. I did everything reasonable way and didn’t do. I worked out four times a week, looked after my body, and after which, I didn’t have a crazy rebound like everyone else because I did it in a sustainable way.

I think it’s just a matter of getting out of this, “I want it now” mindset and thinking “How can I make this whole process really enjoyable, looking at non-scale victory, getting stronger, getting more confident in the wide room.”

Other things like that, not just focusing on, “Oh, I don’t look like this person yet.”

Michael: Yeah, totally. Speaking to that point, that’s an important point of just that like, for me, if I get one more rep with whatever, let’s say I’m always starting my workouts with heavy compound stuff. If I get one more rep on my heavy squats, I get one more rep on my heavy [inaudible 23:06] I did over the last week.

Even for the rest of my workout is exactly the same. If I can’t do anything better, then I’m happy with that. I got a little bit better. I know that if I can do that again next week, I’m doing again next week, then I can go up and wait. That’s just the point of…instead of comparing yourself like you’re in there to do your workout, just try to get a little bit better.

Even if that means one rep more on one exercise, that’s a little bit better. Instead of you having jumping up and down for it. That’s progress.

Dell: I just say, one percent better everyday. I find that if you always fixated on this and goal that it’s really hard to stay on track.

It’s like you’re tying your happiness to this future physique or this future goal. Whereas, if you have daily and weekly goals, maybe you can pick one thing with my training. I just need to get to the gym and be consistent, and make progress with my weight each week.

Or maybe, I know that I hate, sometimes screen my diet up in the weekend by snacking off to dinner. Maybe that goal is just to not snack off the dinner. You can have small win each day rather than just thinking, “I’m terrible right now and I’m only going to be happy when I get to this goal.”

[crosstalk]

Michael: Just look in the mirror and being like, “What the fuck.”

[laughter]

Dell: With the weight fluctuations, as well, like girls who weigh themselves would be like, “Oh, no. I’m half a pound heavier. I have to stop eating for three days.”

[crosstalk]

Michael: I know a guy that weighs himself at 4:00 PM everyday. If his weight is above a certain number that he has set, it’s his number, whatever, he just stops eating. He’s not a fitness guy. He’s actually, he’s, I don’t know.

[crosstalk]

Michael: That’s psychologically healthy.

Dell: If you are going to weigh yourself, it’s just one metric. You don’t use it as your only metric. I say, first thing in the morning, before you eat or drink, and after you’ve gone to the bathroom. That’s going to be more accurate than you drink water, you eat a meal, you workout, your weight has been changed.

Michael: Also I like averaging, taking seven or ten days away and getting an average. That’s when you want to see changing. The day to day fluctuations don’t mess with you so much.

Speaking to that, anybody who start to get used to your body, you see that your weight is in a range. Obviously, if you’re wanting to lose weight, you want to see an average going down over time. If you want to gain weight, you want to see it going up.

But if you’re just looking like, right now, for the past six months or so, I’ve been just maintaining, I’m fairly lean, I just like the way my body is now. I’m just going to stay like that. I don’t see reason to bulk and I can…If I need to get really lean for something, I’m four weeks away from that.

I just like to see that on the morning, my weight just somewhere between 189 and 191. That’s just where it is everyday, depending on water, depending on sodium, potassium, carbs, whatever. If I were to consistently be weighing 194, then I know I’ve most have done something wrong. I ate too much or something. Something is wrong.

It’s never going to be spot on. Weight loss is not, and weight gain. It’s not always a linear thing. It’s not where you just get in, every time you wake up and step on the scale, you get to see, “Oh, I lost another 50 grams of fat.” You know what I mean?

Dell: Yeah, sometimes you have a high carb free for day and you’ll be heavier the next day. The day after that you’ll be two kilos lighter than you were before it. Don’t think that daily fluctuations or anything to go by, an average is always going to be better.

Michael: Yeah, totally. [inaudible 27:08] next point here. Let’s talk about water retention when dieting to lose weight and how that is. Everybody has to deal with it. Girls have to deal with it more than guys. What’s your experience with that? How does it go? How do you deal with it?

I hear from women quite often where if they’re not expecting it, they just…the two most common things are when they start dieting, their weight doesn’t change for the first few weeks. All of a sudden, you have this “woosh” effect where overnight, they suddenly lose three pounds. Then it starts to become a bit more regular. It’s just strange. It’s just something I’ve noticed working with a lot of women.

Of course, there’s the period issue with all water that comes and then knowing to just not weigh yourself during that period. That’s my general advise. I don’t even have anything better to say. Just ignore the scale of that period. I don’t even know what to say. There is no hope.

Dell: When in that time of the month, even if you like the day before…I don’t know who likes our crazy [inaudible 28:13] . Even the day before, if you look exactly the same the next day, you can look in the mirror and look the same. You’ll be a tiny bit heavier and you’re like, “Oh, my God. I look terrible. Nothing is working.” After that, again, you look the same and you’re like, “Oh, no. Actually I look great.”

It’s just your head messes with you. You got to know that it is just water weights. I say, don’t weigh yourself around that time. Just make sure you’re really consistent with your macros and your training. Again, I never really say your scale weight is a good indicator of progress.

Michael: Waist shrinking in mirror are going to tell you a lot.

Dell: Yeah. I do photos, waist measurement, and weight measurement. If we do, say get your period on the first of every month, maybe that would be your day that you have a week off. Weighing yourself then the next week, how do you waist measurement, the next week do scale, the next week do photos. Every time you take photos, it’s four weeks apart so you can see the difference.

It gives you three good metrics to go by. As I was cutting down, I would be doing everything perfect to [inaudible 29:43] , “Why isn’t this working?” Like you said, all of a sudden, you drop two or three pounds. Then know, just keeps coming off like a lot faster. It’s like…

Michael: I’ve found that diet that with women, particularly, because you’re dealing with hormonal differences. That’s the main difference where the more estrogen means were water retention. I haven’t worked with women that are getting regular blood works. I can’t say that with cortisol levels that they’re necessarily higher with women.

Obviously, dieting puts your under stress. Cortisol goes up. Your body starts to hold more water. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something related to cortisol. The long story is short is because of the hormonal environment. Women are just more pre-disposed to holding water.

Is there anything that you found besides just keeping you sodium, potassium in check, or this balance not dramatically fluctuating? Anything you found helps…keep minimize it I guess?

Dell: Just a high fiber to make sure that you are hitting your fiber numbers. High water intake. Don’t just drink coffee all day and not drink any water.

Michael: On the fiber, just in case listeners are wondering. I think the standard recommendation is on a 2,000 calorie diet. It’s like 40 grams a day. I want to say, give or take, for less, less calories obviously.

Dell: I usually aim 30 to 35.

Michael: Makes sense.

Dell: The other thing, when I was doing Clean Eating, I was bloated all the time and I’m like, “What the hell.”

[crosstalk]

Michael: Too much fiber.

Dell: I was having 90 grams of fiber a day. No one know, why did [inaudible 31:32] .

[laughter and crosstalk]

Michael: That’s just solved, just holding water. Here’s like [burp sound] .

Dell: That’s why I switched to more [inaudible 31:39] and refined carbs. I was like, “Oh, my stomach is so fat. I feel lean. Maybe I should stick to the Pop-Tart diet all the time. [laughs] To get your fiber, I don’t mind going crazy with the fiber.

Obviously, with cortisol, you’re going to retain a little bit more water. Just make sure that you’re not super stressed. Obviously, dieting is a stressor. Training is a stressor. It’s good to have some stress, but…

Michael: Like life [inaudible 32:08] it all adds up.

Dell: Yeah. I recommend if you can do yoga or just some — I’m not a spiritual person — but meditation. You can just get the guided meditation. You can wake up and listen to it or before you go to bed and it will help you sleep better.

Sleeping good is really important. If you’re trying to gain muscle or lose weight, just prioritize sleep. Don’t think, “My training in diet is perfect. I don’t need to worry about anything else,” because sleep has a huge impact.

Just make sure that you’re keeping everything in balance. Do something that — the meditation is good, just taking a breather…

[crosstalk]

Michael: Or it can even be taking a bath, or…

Dell: Anything that relaxes you.

Michael: …or essential oils, like lavender oil and there’s the g-oil…I forget the name. It’s some geranium. I don’t know. It’s not that. Anyways, there are a few oils. I’ve written about it, even. Essential oils that have a bit of research that show they actually relax the body.

Dell: Anything that is an activity that relaxes you. For me, it’s horse riding because I have horses. For my old boss, it was going to fly his helicopter. Maybe you can go steal a helicopter or something.

Michael: Grand Theft Auto shit. Go steal a car.

Dell: That’s so stressful. [laughs]

Michael: Cool. Cool. Let’s talk hunger and cravings. These are things that everybody has to deal with, but in my experience and seeing that girls have to deal with more, particularly cravings. What’s your take on that? What do you see working with people? How do you help them stick to it?

Dell: If you’re getting cravings, make sure that your carbs aren’t dramatically low. If they’ve been really low for some time, then maybe implement a refeed day or eat a bit closer to maintenance. You’re going to be hungry if you’re in a big deficit all of the time.

Then, make sure that fats aren’t too low. Having a good balance. Get enough protein, but don’t have ridiculous amounts of protein. A grand per pound for girls is plenty.

Michael: For everyone? I mean, really.

Dell: Yeah. There’s no real reason to go through more than that.

Michael: The only caveat to that is — there is a particular paper that I had, it might have been from Australia, it was like AUT University — in the case where people that are already very lean or lean like guys are 10 percent or under — you see really lean girls at 19 or 20 and under and very active — there may be more muscle preservation if you go a little bit higher, like upwards of 1.1 grams, 1.2 grams per pound, but again, that’s a minor difference you’re talking about.

A few more bites of protein each meal. It’s not like you have to go to two grams per pound.

Dell: Sometimes, people have a preference to have more protein over anything else. I know I hit my protein numbers really easily, so sometimes I’ll have a little bit higher, but as long as I make sure I am getting enough carbs because protein is satiating, but to have enough of it, it’s not more satiating than anything else if you’re having excessive amounts.

Michael: It’s also not energetic. Carbs are energetic. That’s their whole point. It’s the easiest source of energy for the body. Going back to your past, when you’re on all that low carb shit and how bad you felt. I am sure you’re eating lots of protein, though.

Dell: It was drilled into me. Got to have protein. Protein, protein. Every meal, six times a day.

[laughter]

Michael: I used to do the same thing, where protein shakes are double or triple scoop. You’re like, “Ugh.” Chugging them down…

Dell: You’ve got to have your post-workout shake as soon as you finish your exercise, otherwise all your muscles will fall off. [laughs] Then, choosing satiating foods as well. If you are in a surplus and you are trying to fit more food in, have more refined things that are not as filling.

But if you are trying to cut down and you don’t want to be starving all of the time, then have things that are high in water content and fiber like oats, veggies, lentils, legumes, fruit. I find having an apple in between meals is really satisfying. I think the texture as well, it just keeps you going until the next meal.

Then, whole food sources of protein. If you’re having like Quest bars and protein shakes all the time, you don’t have to digest as much, so [inaudible 37:28] .

Michael: There’s quite a bit of research that shows that food volume is actually what is satiating. It’s not the calorie content. It’s the volume of what you’re eating. I wrote about this recently. I forget where it originated. I ran across it in a book. Then, looking into the research and it makes sense, but that’s really what your body is responding to.

In one of the studies, there was a shake that had a certain number of calories. I read this a while ago, so I’m just [inaudible 37:59] off the top of my head. The other one was whipped with air, so it looked — the volumes were the same, but the shake that was whipped with air had like half the calories.

They were equally satiating. There’s interesting studies. There’s another study done with hamburgers that showed that as long as the volume is the same, the hamburger could be 2/3 or 1/2 of the calories, because a lot of that volume was provided by vegetables.

People still felt just as satiated. Filling your stomach up is the priority, as you were saying.

Dell: That’s when my diet jello came in handy when I was cutting. It would feel like a full meal, but it’s like hardly any calories. Sometimes, I’d put my pre-workout in it or I could put some fruit in it if I wanted to have some more texture. There’s like a bunch of recipes that you can use it in.

I know, over here, we don’t have this in Australia, but you can get the diet pudding. It’s the same — gelatin and whatever. There’s a whole bunch of flavors.

Michael: I have to question what that is though. I always joke that shit’s just straight cancer. It’s like the Walden Farm’s syrup.

Dell: Delicious chemicals. [laughs]

Michael: What the fuck is that actually? Some things are off my list.

Michael: I know. That was created and there’s nothing even potentially in nature like that.

Dell: The Walden’s Farms one, it tastes like chemicals.

Michael: I haven’t even tasted it. Right when I heard about it, I was like, “Man, that’s got to be bad for you. There’s just no way.”

Dell: Someone gave me a whole bunch of them. The only one that tastes OK is the pancake syrup. The rest of the ones, it’s just like, “Ugh. I wouldn’t go there.”

Michael: Exactly. There’s even a point where Clean Eating or whatever, there is that point where I am like, “Eh. That’s got to be bad for you. My body doesn’t need that. I don’t need syrup that bad.” Or I will just use the real thing and deal with it.

Dell: It’s funny, speaking of chemicals. When I was in Vegas before I competed, I was drinking because I was like, “Oh. They have Diet Dr. Pepper over here.” We don’t have it in Australia. I was drinking one of those at the airport with our team.

I think only two of us were flexible diets. Everyone else was a clean eater. One of the girls was like, “Why are you having that? You can’t drink diet soda if you’re prepping.” Had a go at me. The other girl who [inaudible 40:31] , she’s like, “Oh. I haven’t tried that.”

We’re both drinking Diet Dr. Pepper and she was giving us an evil stare. She goes over and gets Starbucks with the sugar free vanilla syrup. It’s like, “What?” [laughs]

Michael: That has the caramel coloring. The dude that sucks at cutting who works with me, he was doing the same thing. It has caramel coloring. Caramel coloring is legitly carcinogenic. That has been proven. That shit is bad. You can just Google it — caramel color carcinogen. You’re going to see all kinds of research out there.

It really should be something that you want to stay away from. This dude was doing two or three pumps of that stuff everyday until his stomach just started feeling really bad. He finally cut it out and it went away. That shit is bad.

Dell: It’s like people who like to have double standards. They like to tell you that their diet is better than yours. I’d like to tell people, “Don’t be a diet Nazi. The opposite of what you know is also true. Don’t think that your way is right and everyone else is wrong.”

Michael: That applies to people that are more flexible. I hate labeling — flexible dieters versus clean dieters. Regardless of whatever you’re doing, what you can rest assured is that in 20 years, we’re going to know that stuff we are doing right now is not optimal.

Twenty years from now, they are going to look back and be like, “Damn. That’s dumb.”

Dell: Science is always evolving. We’re learning new things. It has no absolutes. It’s not like we found this out and this is the one way that is always going to be right. It’s just always getting closer to some sort of truth. You’ve got to take everything with a grain of salt.

Michael: Yeah. Exactly. Then, on the cravings point, one thing I always tell people. An easy way to fight cravings is to eat the stuff that you’re craving. Just be moderate with it. What do you crave? You crave chocolate? I really like chocolate too. Everyday, even when I’m cutting, sometimes I drop it out because that I’d rather use those calories for something else.

But while I’m maintaining, 2,700-2,800 calories a day, plenty of room. I’ll have between 150-200 calories of chocolate every day. I am always trying new bars and turning into some weird kind of connoisseur chocolate person, but I never crave chocolate, because I eat it every day. I don’t restrict it.

Dell: If I crave something like that, I will be like, “OK. I can have this. I can have as much as I want, but I’m going to have it tomorrow.” Sometimes, the next day, you’re like, “Actually, I don’t really feel like it that much anymore.” You can go out the next day and buy a single serving size. [inaudible 43:23] are also good, because it’s like one single serving size.

The skinny cow — you can get an ice cream cookie or whatever. If you keep something in the house that you know you tend to overeat, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Michael: That’s a good tip.

Dell: The other thing — eat at the same times everyday, so that your body is used to, “OK. I know I’m going to skip breakfast…” If you skip breakfast, if you always eat breakfast at 9:00, your body is going to be hungry at those times. It’s less stressful for your body if you have set eating times.

Then, you never get too hungry or too full because you’ve starved yourself half the day and you’re like, “Oh, my God. I am so hungry.” Then, you eat all your calories in one sitting. Just planning ahead and being mindful.

Michael: I think it’s called hormone entrainment I think is the technical term, where you are growing in leptin levels. Your body gets into a rhythm and it just gets used to however you eat is when it wants food.

Dell: I noticed this so much going back to sleep. If I sleep less than six hours because…when I was getting up super early for work, I would sometimes working through the night, like working on articles and things. Then, I’d have to get up at like 4:00 AM or 5:00 AM to be at the gym at 5:30.

I would be so hungry the next day. No matter what I ate, I’d still be hungry. I’m like, “OK. It’s time for a nap.” Make sure you are sleeping and drinking enough water.

Michael: There’s research that associates sleep deprivation with weight gain or impaired weight loss because it messes with your cortisol levels. The higher the cortisol level is, the more you hungry you feel. You can just deal with it. You don’t have to gain weight if you don’t sleep enough or not, but it just makes it harder.

Dell: It’s making it an uphill battle. I’ve been reading the research on it because I’ve been writing an article at the moment. It messes with your insulin sensitivity. Even short term sleep deprivation messes with your performance, your ability to gain muscle and lose fat.

Sleep is a big thing.

Michael: How much sleep do you need? If you don’t set an alarm, how much do you sleep?

Dell: I’m pretty good seven or seven-and-a-half hours, but if I’ve had a lot of stimulants and deprived myself through the week, then I can sleep for 10 or 11 hours on a weekend.

Michael: That’s intense. For years now, and I just randomly came to [inaudible 46:15] I was the same way, maybe seven hours, the exact same thing. For years now, I sleep anywhere from five-and-a-half to six hours a night, for years. That’s all I actually sleep. I don’t even have to set an alarm. I will wake up after six hours. That’s it.

I’ve talked with somebody from…I forget. He was a doctor, really smart dude. Basically, he was saying that the general advice of seven to eight hours is fine for everybody, but — I was wondering am I going to ruin my health? Am I supposed to just lay there in bed and just be like, “Uh.”

Dell: I get the sense, because I would wake up and my body weighs…even if I’ve gone out drinking right before and I am hung over. I’ll just wake up at 5:00 AM or 6:00 AM like, “I’ve got to get up now. I’ve got so much to do.” I’ll get up and I’ll write an article or I’ll do something.

I feel like I have to force myself to sleep in if I want to get more sleep.

Michael: I hate sleep. I would pay a lot of money to never have to sleep again. My life would be complete actually. I would be so happy, so happy. I hate sleeping.

Dell: I think I’ve said that to people before, like it’s inconvenience.

Michael: It’s such a waste of time. It’s such a waste of time.

Dell: That’s when it got to the point where I was sleeping like four or five hours, but then…

Michael: I tried that, and I did not feel so good. I tried for a couple of weeks doing the four to five. I was like, “That’s a bad idea.” It’s been years. I’m never tired. There’s no negative side effects. I wake up after six. Whatever. I’m going to roll with it because it gives me a lot of extra time over the week to get shit done.

Dell: The guy who owns the RTO where I did my set three and four in fitness to be a PT, he was big on, “Oh, you don’t need to sleep that much. Arnold says, “If you need more than five hours of sleep, then sleep faster.”

Michael: Arnold said that?

Dell: Yeah. It’s something like motivational thing. Then, the same guy that was saying this is on a whole bunch of performance enhancing drugs and…

Michael: He’s not going to live to be his 80s.

Dell: Yeah. He’s huge and he doesn’t sleep much, but can you get that same result if you’re natural, probably not. Sleep is important.

Michael: This is not really a fitness thing, this is more just a life thing. It takes a lot of time to, especially if your drive is career and you really wanted to build up something, it just takes a lot of time. Forget about social life. Forget about hanging out with people. Forget about doing any of that shit.

That and you’ll find it, or at least I found it, not even in this world, now. Just knowing people. I’ve met a lot of very successful business people. A very common thing that I’ve noticed in all of them is that they do not sleep that much. The same type of thing, they sleep for five or six hours.

[crosstalk]

Dell: You get so much done when you’re waking up before [inaudible 49:27] and going to bed later. The time when everyone else is asleep. You’re like, “It’s my time to have distraction free work time.”

Michael: I get up early so I can get my workout done when the gym is empty. I don’t have to work for anything. It’s the same little crew of people. Nobody is going to come up to me. It just saves a lot of time. I’m going to roll with it.

Dell: The other thing is that if you want to fit more hours in your day…a lot of people are like, “Oh, I have to train six or seven days a week. I have to do an hour of cardio.” If you count your macros and you train smart, then you save so much time. You don’t have to…I’m sure everyone has hobbies or things that they love doing that they need to spend more time on.

Don’t let fitness consume your whole life so that you can never progress in anything else. It’s important to have that balance.

Michael: Very true. I know from before, back in the day, I didn’t really know what I was doing. Now, I do, relatively speaking. Yeah. I’d be in the gym for two or three hours. That’s what I thought. You go through these magazine workouts. That’s what they are. It takes two hours to do that workout.

If you don’t know, you just think that’s what it takes to get anywhere. But, no, it doesn’t. The most I probably exercise is six hours a week. That’s weightlifting and cardio.

Dell: I tell people, as well, especially mothers that I train. You probably don’t need cardio if you’re cleaning up after kids all day or carrying your kid around.

Michael: Or breastfeeding. That alone is like 600 calories a day. What else do you want 800 calories a day? Sign me up. Can I breast feed some babies please.

Dell: [laughs] When I was doing my comp prep, I have a set amount of calories per week that I needed to do in cardio. If you put your heart rate monitor on and you vacuum your house aggressively and you wash your car, then it…

Michael: High intensity car washing.

[laughter]

Michael: That’s great.

Dell: It saves you time. You can kill two birds with one stone.

Michael: I like it. I like that. That’s good. Let’s go into one more thing here. I don’t want to go on forever, even though it’s fun talking to you.

Let’s talk about weight training, because standard if girls want to look good, the standard thing is that weights make you bulky. Just do a ton of cardio and starve yourself. Eventually, you’ll look like these Instagram girls or whatever.

Obviously, that’s not true. Your experience, tell us about…let’s break it down. Let’s talk about weightlifting first. Weightlifting and making women bulky. What’s your take on that?

Dell: Usually when you see women and they work out and they look bulky, it’s the fat on top of the muscle that makes you look bulky. When I was losing muscle and I had a lot of fat, I looked like I lifted, but I did look bulky.

As soon as I’ve started, I changed from all this high rep weight training and everything fast and lots of cardio, I changed to low reps heavy weight. I tightened up straightaway and if you lose weight and eat too much, you’re going to look bulky. If you lift weight and eat too much, you’ll look bulky. If you lift weight and make sure you are on a deficit, then you’re going to look better even at maintenance.

Michael: Yeah, exactly. Not necessarily a deficit, it depends on what you at. I think the point is that, and this is what I always tell women, if you are going to lift weights, you have to care about your body fat percentage. You have to. Don’t get into weight-lifting if your body fat percentage is too high and you are not willing to do anything with diet, you just want to eat heavy, you want to eat and that’s it. It’s just going to make you bigger, that’s it.

Dell: If you are maintaining your weight as you are getting older, but you are losing muscle like it’s worse for your health, you’re going to look worse so you don’t want to just try and get [inaudible 53:59] . You always want to be maintaining or trying to build muscle.

Michael: What would you say is the body fat percentage where…what about you personally where you feel you look your best, you having some muscle, you have a lot of weightlifting experience. What’s the range where you’re like, “All right, this is where I need to be or I just end up looking too big?”

Interviewee. I would say from my body fat on, like skin color piece which I know isn’t as accurate.

[crosstalk]

Michael: Or range?

Dell: Probably 14 to 17 percent. I’m happy. I’m comfortable there. It’s maintainable. If I’m just trying to maintain, at the moment I want to…I’m competing with at the end, in September. I don’t want to look as small as I did last time. I want to gain some muscles. Going into a surplus, obviously going to be a little bit…

[crosstalk]

Michael: Sure, higher.

Dell: …higher. I still and a lot small than I was when I was doing higher up lower weight, and doing silly things with my diet. Definitely, anything between 15 and 20 percent for females, I think is a comfortable, reasonable place to be.

You see these girls posing photos on Instagram like a ridiculously low body fat percentage. You don’t realize that it’s probably for a photo shoot or it’s comp photos. They like that for one day. That’s when they’re depleted.

Michael: Holding no water, full tan. Usually there’s diuretics, that’s how you get so thin.

Dell: It’s important not to have unrealistic expectations.

Michael: I’ve found the same, that it seems most women are happiest somewhere around 17 percent, give or take.

It seems to be, once they’ve put on…let’s say, take a girl. She’s never done any weightlifting before, just normal girl, whatever. Over the course of however long it takes, puts on 10 to 15 pounds of muscle, and then gets into the 17-ish percent body fat area.

That seems to be where most girls…that’s the look that they want, where now, you look very athletic. You look very lean, but you have a butt. You have legs that have some shape. Your arms look good. You don’t just look starved.

Dell: You look tighter and more toned. The other thing is, the more muscle you have, the more you can eat without gaining fat. You’re going to burn more energy…

Michael: The higher your BMR is.

Dell: If you love food…I love food, and I want to not have to starve myself all the time, so I want to optimize how much muscle I have. Once you look at it like that, you look at muscle as a fat-burning machine, then it just makes sense to lift weight, and don’t be going for the pink, two-pound dumbbells, and doing a thousand reps. That’s a waste of time to me. [laughs]

Michael: It is a waste of time. Something that I run into fairly frequently, overweight people don’t realize is, that it doesn’t cost that much energy to be overweight. Fat is not a metabolically active tissue, like muscle.

You can have somebody that actually has a lot of fat, and they’re not even that physically active, so it’s not like they’re carrying it around for 150,000 steps a day, or something like that. They’re sitting at a desk, or whatever.

But your basal metabolic rate, and your total energy expenditure, can actually be quite low, even though you are quite overweight. That’s where you can get these people that they don’t eat a lot, but they’re overweight. They got there by eating a lot, and then finally, they brought it back. That’s the shitty maintenance. You’re maintaining a shitty physique.

But if you do what you’re talking about, where, add some muscle, get rid of the fat, it’s going to take, just like it took concentrated effort to get that fat…that long, that much over-eating, that takes work.

It takes work to get back to a better state, but then, that maintenance is, they can eat more than they’re eating now, and eat different, more foods they enjoy, but look exactly how they want to look. It’s just, you got to keep that in mind. That’s the long-term goal.

Dell: When I cut down, because I was actually up around, at my highest, I was around 32, 33 percent body fat, so I’ve lost a lot of fat. At the same time, I’ve gained muscle. The leaner I got, I was like, “Everything is so easy…” like my hill sprints, I feel so a lot. I just have more energy because carrying all these extra weight around that it’s dead weight.

Michael: Car seatbelts don’t give you any problems anymore. The little things.

[laughter]

Dell: It’s being a certain weight isn’t going to make you happy, but definitely, if you stay consistent and you’re healthier because you’re carrying around less fat, it’s going to improve a lot of those aspects of your life. It definitely is worth it.

Michael: It’s like money. Money doesn’t make you happy, but life with money is better than life without money. It’s like being fit is going to make you happy, but it’s easier to be happy fit than not fit.

Dell: It definitely depends to how you get there. If you get there in an unsustainable, miserable way, then you’re going to be miserable. If you do it the right way, then you can keep going, keeping cutting for longer and you enjoy it. You weren’t going to be like, “Screw this. I’m just going to go back to where I was and eat a pizza.”

Michael: It’s like money. If you’re a shitty piece of shit, you make a bunch of money, you’re not going to enjoy it as much as if you earned it honestly.

Dell: I always used to hear, “Oh, it’s about the journey. It’s not about the destination.” You don’t really realize how much that’s true until you…

Michael: Until you’ve done it.

Dell: Until you do it the right way.

Michael: I totally agree. Awesome. We can go on and on, but where can people find you, find your work, if they want to reach out to you, get coached, have questions, whatever?

Dell: If you want to find me, I’m pretty active on Facebook. Facebook.com/doyouevenicecream is my…

Michael: You like ice cream.

Dell: Yup.

Michael: You haven’t tried Talenti. You need to go to Halo Top and go get Talenti. Eat Halo Top first or it’s going to be ruined. Talenti is the best.

Dell: I’ve actually seen that since I’ve been over here. I’ll go. There’s a Whole Foods down the road. I’ll go have a look.

Michael: A thousand calories a pint, though. I’m just warning you.

Dell: Worth it.

Michael: It’s fucking delicious. It’s so good.

Dell: Then icecreamgal.com is where you’ll find my blog posts and articles and things like that. Then I have, with Road to Ripped Gregory O’Gallagher, we brought out an e-book. Kinobody.com/becauseglutes is my program for females.

If you have any questions about coaching or any questions about the show today, you can just shoot me a message on Facebook. That’s the best way to get a hold of me.

Michael: Great. Awesome. Thanks for taking the time.

Dell: Thanks for having me.

Michael: Sure.

Hey, it’s Mike again. I hope you like the podcast. If you did, go ahead and subscribe. I put down new episodes every week or two where I talk about all kinds of things related to health and fitness and general wellness.

Also, head over to my website at www.muscleforlife.com where you’ll find, not only past episodes of the podcast, but you’ll also find a bunch of different articles that I have written. I release a new one almost every day, actually. I release four to six new articles a week. You can also find my books and everything else that I’m involved in over at muscleforlife.com.

Thanks again. Bye.

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