It’s safe to say that all of us, somewhere along the line, have suffered from body image issues. Constant consumers of popular culture and social media, we see images of the “ideal look” all day long (and, be honest, even into the night when you’re scrolling through instagram before bed). Feelings of inadequacy are bound to creep in, forcing and reinforcing the voices in your head that scream too skinny, too fat, too tall, too short, too pale, too dark, too this, too that.
Our friend Spencer got sick of hearing that voice bounce back and forth in his head.
His entire life, Spencer felt self-conscious that he was too slender and lacked the muscle men should theoretically have. It’s a problem that several boys (particularly teenagers who are still developing) face daily as they watch the media fawn over bros with giant biceps who average well over six feet tall. When he hit his late twenties, Spencer was sick of feeling out of touch with his own body and decided he was ready to make some changes. He set out on a mission to overhaul his lifestyle and prove to himself he had what it took to look (and be) stronger than ever.
He started smart: Spencer reached out to Promix Founder & CEO (not to mention Registered Dietitian, Exercise Physiologist, and renown trainer), Albert Matheny, to guide him through the process of putting on lean muscle safely. Together, they broke down the 3 critical tools Spencer needed to carve out the results he envisioned.
No one wants to hear it, but every fitness goal starts with what you’re putting into your body.
Let’s talk DIET:
Spencer, like most people, had a lot to learn about nutrition. He realized that the quality of the food he was consuming in a typical day was not ideal to support the generation of lean muscle, and what’s more, that he wasn’t eating enough. He received a crash course in nutrition: 1. How to eat in surplus to gain weight, 2. How to structure his macronutrient profile to maximize muscle growth, 3. How to cook his own meals for more control over his food, and finally, 4. How to use protein supplements to his advantage.
1. Losing and gaining weight is a tricky subject, specific to every individual, but when it comes down to it, the most important principles are fairly simple:
To lose weight, burn more calories than are consumed.
To maintain weight, calorie intake must equal calorie expenditure.
To gain weight, consume more calories than are burned.
That last one was what the doctor (errr, the R.D) ordered for Spencer. He needed to drastically increase his calories in order to support the generation of new mass in his body. So it was decided – he began eating 3,500 calories per day (1).
2. Before you scream with rage and jealousy, putting on clean bulk (or, gaining lean muscle as opposed to extra fat), can be just as challenging as trying to lose mass. As much as we all would love to envision Spencer chowing down on six pizzas and a couple of Cinnabons every night, the reality of his new diet posed some interesting problems. In order to gain lean muscle and avoid a build up of body fat, he still had to limit his sugar and carbohydrate intake (sorry, Cinnabon), relying instead on fats for over 50% of his daily macronutrients (check out and example of Spencer’s personalized diet plan). In short, dude was eating a LOT of meticulously chosen food, but knowing exactly how many grams of protein, fat, and carbohydrates he needed to eat helped him plan, in addition to tracking his intake with the MyFitnessPal app. (Not sure how much protein you need to be eating to hit YOUR goals? Figure it out with the help of our Protein Calculator!)
3. Armed with his new plan and tools to calculate and measure his caloric intake, he set to work learning to cook his own meals. He found he was able to better control exactly how he was fueling when it was his hand tossing in every ingredient, and better yet, he was surprised to save a lot of money by upping the quality of his nutrition and cooking at home (1).
4. Finally, Spencer learned about the secret weapon: protein supplementation. After discovering the benefits of throwing some extra protein into his day (and by some extra, we mean 3-4 servings!), he began using Promix Grass-fed Chocolate Whey Protein in everything from smoothies to baking recipes, knowing it would help him gain muscle and shed fat while improving the quality of his everyday nutrition (in fact, he made sure Promix Whey Protein Powder was included on 2018’s “Life-Changing” fitness must-haves).
With his nutrition on the right track, it was time to actually move.
Let’s talk TRAINING:
Certainly some people are able to keep a enviable physique without adhering to any of the rules modern science and nutrition has put into place through research. We all have that friend who eats a high carb diet that doesn’t exactly translate into his or her body fat percentage. And we all know people who show off muscle and bulk they didn’t necessarily get from religiously pumping iron. When it comes down to it, some are just #blessed by the gods of genetics.
(That’s very cool and we’re happy for them.)
But for most, how we move and train directly relates to the size of our musculature and how toned it looks. Since Spencer didn’t seem to naturally maintain muscle mass easily, it was important for him to lift heavy weights to create tears in his muscle fibers that would later be repaired (thanks to that post-workout protein) bigger and stronger with the help of his new fueling system. Albert started Spencer on 3 separate workouts that he could do twice a week outside of their one-on-one sessions – 6 days of training plus one very crucial rest day that his body would use to heal itself and prepare for the next week of work.
Now, going from fairly inactive to working out 6+ times a week is not necessarily advisable for anyone who is just starting out, but under Albert’s wing, they strategized to ensure Spencer was not only set up for success, but remained injury-free. Albert’s prescribed moves focused on the basics to allow Spencer to master his form, and left options for increasing the weight he was moving when a lighter option became too easy (in fact, down the road, when participating in a “squat challenge” for work, he’d find he had to add weight to make his 100 Squats Every Day worth his time). Spencer’s new regime had some defining characteristics to give him the biggest bang for his buck at the gym: 1. Each workout was straight-forward enough for Spencer to be able to complete on his own, 2. Included a variety of total body, large muscle group work for maximum efficiency, 3. His core never went without a healthy dose of burn.
- Whether you’re a seasoned workout enthusiast or have never set foot in a gym, it’s important to follow training programs that you understand completely and can execute without assistance. Sure, Spencer and Albert threw in some spicier work in their private training sessions, and probably pushed the weights for some max effort moments when spotting was an option, but largely, Albert instructed Spencer not to max out, especially when he was working out on his own (1). Focusing on form in any movement not only ensures you are firing up the appropriate muscles, but helps you steer clear of injuries that often come along with sloppy movement. While Spencer admits it’s much easier to stay motivated while working out with someone else (3), his regime was tailored to his needs and skills so he could safely manage completing it on his own while still having the ability to increase the challenge as he gained strength.
- Spencer’s sessions contained a variety of movements to not only improve his strength, but focus on the more functional aspects of his fitness, components such as coordination and mobility. Between pushes, pulls, hinges, squats, and carrying patterns, Spencer wasn’t just bulking up: he was becoming truly strong, more powerful and agile than he’d ever been.
- Albert never let Spencer throw in the towel without a decent amount of core work. Every plan had sneaky core moves to increase the strength and endurance of his abdominals and glutes (yes, your glutes are part of your core!), large muscle groups that have a massive impact on physical function and, coincidentally, are some of our favorite muscles to look at. (Sick of your stale, boring ab routine? Ditch ineffective crunches and check out our 10-Minute Functional Core Workout!)
Diet: check. Exercise: check. Spencer was starting to see results just two weeks into his 12-week program, and a strange thing was happening, something he didn’t plan for (1).
The last (and arguably most important piece) of the puzzle is a little harder to discuss because it varies person to person, but if you ask him, Spencer will tell you straight: attitude is everything, and it’s exciting when your attitude shifts.
Let’s talk MINDSET:
Revisit the top of this post, and you’ll remember that Spencer struggled with severe body image issues. He didn’t like the way he looked and felt as though he’d never feel good about himself. The results he saw after just two weeks wasn’t due him suddenly looking like The Rock. No, Spencer felt better about himself because he was experiencing side effects of the positive changes he was making. While his diet could feel monotonous and restrictive, he felt better making his own food and was able to try new things. While he hadn’t yet put on the 20 lbs. of muscle he’d eventually come to hold (whoops, spoiler alert, he does it, guys), he was already feeling stronger and significantly more confident. His attitude had originally been anxiously focused around chiseling out his dream look, but had rerouted. He was enjoying the way his new routine was making him feel, and learning how to find balance within his other areas of his life, in his own personal circumstances.
But what started out as a plan he’d follow for a finite amount of time was becoming a sustainable, smile-inducing lifestyle (3).
Once he decided he was worth it, that he deserved to feel good, just like everyone else, Spencer became unstoppable.
Did he face setbacks and hiccups along the way? Of course. It wasn’t easy, and took a lot of hard work, but the moment his mind shifted was the moment his goals actually became within reach.
Let’s talk MAINTENANCE:
For us at Promix, the best part about Spencer’s journey was that he didn’t simply call it quits after his 12 week program came to a close. He learned that everyone is an athlete that deserve the absolute best in training and nutrition (plus, when you learn how to feel amazing, why would you go back to feeling anything less)? Spencer kept up his progress for one year, and then another… and now, he’s three years deep with no intention to stop. Walking tall – and with unmistakable swagger – he’s put himself out there to do a handful of exciting fitness challenges that would scare most of us off, like spending a month training like a gymnast, doing 100 pull ups a day for 30 days, and even inspiring his colleagues to join him in a Squat Challenge!
So here’s to Spencer, average-guy-turned-Promix-Athlete! We couldn’t be prouder to call him our friend, and hope he hits the #fitspo spot.
Want to learn more about Spencer’s journey? Read it all firsthand:
(1) Althouse, Spencer. I Gained 20 Pounds Of Muscle In 12 Weeks And This Is What Happened. Buzzfeed Website. https://www.buzzfeed.com/spenceralthouse/i-gained-20-pounds-of-muscle-in-12-weeks-and-this-is-what-ha. Published July 11, 2016. Accessed Feb 20, 2019.
(2) Althouse, Spencer. 23 Life-Changing Things That Actually Helped People Get Fit In 2018. Buzzfeed Website. https://www.buzzfeed.com/spenceralthouse/products-that-helped-people-get-fit. Published Dec 19, 2018. Accessed Feb 20, 2019.
(3) Althouse, Spencer. I Spent A Year Trying To Bulk Up And Get Swole And This Is What Happened. https://www.buzzfeed.com/spenceralthouse/fitness-original-content-post. Published March 26, 2017. Accessed Feb 20, 2019.
(4) Althouse, Spencer. I Did 100 Pull-Ups A Day For 30 Days And Here’s What Happened. Buzzfeed Website. https://www.buzzfeed.com/spenceralthouse/i-did-100-pull-ups-a-day-for-30-days. Published September 23, 2018. Accessed Feb 20, 2019.
(5) Althouse, Spencer. I Trained Like a Professional Gymnast for 30 Days and it was So Freaking Hard. Buzzfeed Website. http://www.buzzfeedu.com/amphtml/spenceralthouse/i-trained-like-a-gymnast-for-30-days. Published December 15, 2018. Accessed Feb 20, 2019.
(6) We Squatted It Out For A Whole Month And Were Shocked At Our Transformations. Buzzfeed Website. https://www.buzzfeed.com/mrloganrhoades/we-did-100-squats-every-day-for-30-days. Published Feb 11, 2018. Accessed Feb 20, 2019.