Here's how Coach Thibaudeau fought back, took control of his health, and still managed to get stronger and leaner.
For those who didn't know, I had some pretty severe health issues four years back: kidney damage (focal segmental glomerulosclerosis), which is the leading cause of kidney failure in adults. So I decided to put health at the forefront of my life instead of simply trying to be the strongest and most muscular.
It seems to be working because my kidney health markers are back in normal range and were the best they've ever been since 2012. This also coincided with me being able to get in great shape again – being capable of adding muscle and get super lean.
It's my belief that when you're young, your body isn't as "used up" and you can get away with doing things that are bad for your health. But the older you get, the more health and hypertrophy become interrelated. Here are some things I changed in my lifestyle:
I walk 45-60 minutes on an empty stomach at least three times a week and up to five. I know that I wrote about not doing fasted cardio in the past, and maybe it could be detrimental to muscle mass. But a recent study reviewed in an article by TC Luoma has made me change my mind. Morning fasted cardio might not burn more fat directly BUT it increases the enzymes responsible for using fat for fuel.
So over time you might actually be programming your body to rely more on fat, which will help you get leaner. Since I train at 6:30 or 7:00 AM. I wake up at 4:30 and go walk 45-60 minutes. Then I either have a light, easy to digest breakfast or Plazma™ and go train. Note that I'm walking, not doing moderate intensity cardio; it doesn't have the cortisol spike that would hurt muscle growth.
I now eat a ton of veggies. I used to be really bad with nutrition. I stayed fairly lean because I didn't consume a lot of daily calories, but the way I was eating (no veggies, no fruits, a lot of cold meats, frankenfoods, etc.) wasn't optimal for my health. When I started to eat more veggies it had a noticeable impact on how I felt and also on how my body looked. I started to retain less water and I lost fat more easily.
I reduced volume and training time. I used to train for an hour or more. And while I could power through the workouts, it made me feel lethargic and almost depressed throughout the day. I'm a stimulus addict and I'm sure that doing too much for too long had a negative impact on my gains and health. Now I limit my sessions to under an hour and train at a faster pace.
I increased my rep ranges. I used to do most of my big lifts in the 1-3 range, now I do them for 6-8 reps. Still heavy, but not so much that it increases the risk of injuries or nervous system fatigue. I also do more mind-muscle connection work (slower tempos, isometric holds, constant tension reps, etc.)