The New Father
You may recognize this guy. He stumbles out of bed feeling as though he hasn’t slept. That’s because he really hasn’t. He doesn’t have the time for a real breakfast so he hits the drive thru for a breakfast McFatty.
By 3 p.m. he’s ready to face plant on his desk. He resorts to a designer coffee or a cola from the vending machine hoping for some energy.
He plans to hit the gym after work, but by the time he leaves the office he’s exhausted and starving. His wife is just as exhausted, so he picks up some Chinese take-out and heads home.
In the last two months, he hasn’t had a shower that lasted more than five minutes or slept for more than four hours straight. He used to curl 80 pounds, but he’s down to curling ten – however many reps it takes to change a wet diaper.
Yep, he’s a new father. You may even be him. I had no intention of being him but I narrowly escaped being him, but only because I planned ahead, took some positive steps and had a great deal of help with some of the biggest health and fitness challenges that a new father faces. I learned a lot during the process and I want to share what I’ve learned with others that are expecting a new child, whether it’s your first or your fourth.
Becoming a dad is absolutely incredible. However, nothing can prepare you for it. My B.M.W. (beautiful marvelous wife) give birth to our precious baby girl during a hot summer day last August. She is almost 5-months old and every moment with her is more magical than the last.
I’m sure every parent thinks their child is the most beautiful thing ever. I’m the same and my wife and I like to say, “God must have spent extra time making our baby girl!” I really love being a Dad and this is by far my greatest accomplishment and I wouldn’t trade her for the world. With that said, it’s time to get real.
It’s No Longer About You
Becoming the father of a newborn is huge game changer. Life is no longer about Vince’s workouts, Vince’s food, Vince’s business, Vince’s movies and Vince’s trips. After having a baby, it’s no longer about me, me, me.
Being the father of a newborn is incredibly challenging. If you’re also trying to gain or maintain lean muscle and eat healthfully, it’s even more so. But being a new Dad doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your own health and physique.
In fact, by incorporating these tips into your life, being a new Dad may be one of the best things that could happen to your fitness goals.
I want to share what I’ve learned with you about the five biggest challenges facing a new father: Sleep and stress, diet, focus, accountability and time.
Challenge #1 – Sleep and Stress
Shortly after my daughter was born, I had the Koenigsberg test done to check my adrenal gland function because I was eating in a caloric deficit but couldn’t lose any fat. I was exhausted and stressed and wasn’t very surprised to find that my adrenal function was at an all-time low.
Guys, stress, lack of sleep and the stress caused by lack of sleep will wreak havoc on your hormone levels and throw them completely out of whack. When that happens, you’ll be fatigued, you’ll start to gain fat (or store fat like I was) because of high cortisol levels and your testosterone levels will be too low to continue adding muscle.
Unfortunately, in the first weeks or even months after the baby is born, sleep is going to be a prize, not a guarantee. You may be one of the lucky fathers whose baby starts sleeping through the night almost immediately, but the odds are better that you’ll be getting up at least once a night to either change or help feed the baby.
We all understand the importance of getting enough rest as it relates to muscle recovery and fat loss, but lack of sleep will do a lot more damage if you don’t take steps to get more rest.
At the same time, you can’t let your wife deal with the late nights on her own either or else she’ll have a mental breakdown. Accept that you’re going to have interrupted sleep and irregular sleep patterns for a while and try to counter it by getting to bed earlier, or even getting up later if your work allows it.
Because I have a business to run and because I like getting a jump on the day, I started going to bed earlier. In fact, I go to bed earlier now than I did when I was young enough to be told to go to bed. I’m in bed by 9:30 p.m. each night and wide awake at 6:00 a.m., it’s quite an empowering feeling. That extra time means I can still get eight hours of sleep, even if it isn’t all at once.
Because my body and my health are a priority, I’m fine with missing nights in front of the TV or working late on projects. In the meantime, my adrenal glands are now functioning as they should and I have a lot more energy, burning fat and gaining muscle.
Challenge #2 – Diet
Eating a healthy diet and hitting all your macros is challenging at any time, but even more so when you have a new baby in the house. If your wife usually does most of the food shopping and cooking, she’s probably not able to do as much as she used to. She shouldn’t be expected to either.
Even if you usually share the kitchen duties, time is at a premium and it’s so easy to fall into the trap of ordering out or nuking your meals. But this is a dangerous road to fat gain and poor health.
One of the best things I’ve ever done for my body and my family was to spend $2,400 on cooking lessons with one of Toronto’s top gourmet chefs. I learned how to cook meals in bulk so that I could always have healthy meals on hand that tasted good and covered all my macros.
I have to say, I’ve cooked some seriously good food and the meals were easy-on-the wallet and ten times more delicious than my old “bodybuilding meals”.
In fact learning how to cook in bulk had such a huge impact on my energy, health and body that I’m making it the focus of a new season of Live Large TV. In this season we’ll teach you mind-blowing recipes and how to prepare up to a weeks worth of meals in less than an hour.
This has saved my health and energy levels but it’s also saved me a huge amount of time and money. Every day after I have my first meal and get my workout in, I have an hour set aside to cook all of our meals for that day and sometimes the next.
Believe me, you can cook up to a weeks worth of food in about the same time you cook a days worth of food when life is really busy. Giving my diet a makeover and having nutrient-dense foods ready to eat at any given time has saved me from the fat gain and slow muscle gains that’s typical to new fathers.
Challenge #3 – Focus
Staying focused is a constant battle for some people. For others, it’s fairly easy because they’re driven. But if you’re a new father, you’re going to have a lot of obstacles to staying focused on your personal bodybuilding goals.
Things are chaotic at home, there’s a lot more to do to keep everything functioning for your family and you will be wrapped up in this incredible new baby. Staying focused is a challenge, but there are things you can do to help yourself stay on track and still get everything done.
What worked for me was to script my day. I have a set schedule that I follow each day where I perform the most important tasks first before something else has a chance to get in the way.
I can’t stress enough how essential it is to focus on the most important things first. I need to work out, I need to eat well (and make sure my wife does too) and I need to run my business so those tasks are scheduled first.
I get up at 7 a.m. and eat and then work out from 8-9 .a.m. From 9-10 a.m. I cook that days meals. By 10 a.m., I’ve taken care of working out and prepared healthy meals for the entire day. From 10-4 I work and then 4-8 p.m. is for spending time with my wife and daughter and having a good dinner. Our daughter goes to bed at 8 p.m., which gives me an hour and a half to spend relaxing with my wife and doing something fun. I do my best not to go back to the computer in the evening unless there is an emergency that can’t wait.
Even if you normally hate having a set schedule, I can’t recommend it enough. We have a very limited amount of willpower, especially when we’re tired and busier than usual.
Decide what you must get done each day to stay on track and take care of your family. Write a schedule that allows you to get the most important things done first. Then commit to that schedule. A lot of guys balk at following a schedule because they don’t like being told what to do at any given time, but don’t forget that you’re the one creating the schedule and it’s your goals that the schedule was created to meet.
Challenge # 4 – Accountability
On that note, let’s talk about accountability. Needing and using accountability is nothing to be embarrassed about. Some people find they do better with accountability at all times. Other people just need it during particularly challenging times. That accountability might be something as small as having a buddy at the gym to check your progress or run sprints with you.
What I chose to do was hire renowned coach Ryan Faehnle to write my workouts and write my meal plans, eliminating all guess work and giving me a structured and progressive program to follow.
Hiring a coach is one of the smartest things I’ve ever done and I have never believed in being your own coach. Any time I’ve coached myself, I get worse results. Not only do I get to benefit from his incredible knowledge and unique techniques, but I get to hand over the reins to someone else so that I could focus on other priorities responsibilities.
I still need to manage my business and a team of ten people. I need to support and help my wife. But I also need to have definite goals to hit and a specific program to follow. By letting Ryan create my workouts and meal plans, I freed myself up to focus on those things.
I realize that not everyone can afford to hire a great coach and I’m not saying you can’t get results on your own. But I will say that you’ll always get faster results if can find someone to help you stay accountable to your workouts and meals. Join a community, either locally or virtually. Partner up with a friend who’s interested in working together.
Enter a transformation contest with a deadline. Follow a program designed by someone you look up to. Spend a few bucks on a program so that you put some money at stake. Donate money to a charity you hate if you don’t achieve your goals by a certain deadline. There are many ways to hold yourself accountable.
Challenge #5 – Time
Time. You used to have a lot of it. Now you don’t, plain and simple. Even if your schedule was already jammed before you had a newborn, now it’s completely covered up. Aside from focusing on what’s important and creating a schedule that reflects that, the best thing you can do for you and your family is to get some help.
No matter how amazing your wife is, she’s not superwoman. Don’t expect her to be able to take care of the baby and everything having to do with your home life as well. Your wife very well may be working outside the home as well, just as you are. Do whatever you can to help each other, but don’t be afraid to get help from others.
Even if you can’t afford to pay for a cleaning service or help with the yard or whatever else, maybe you can find ways to barter for it. If you’re an accountant, maybe you know a guy who can maintain your yard in exchange for help with his taxes.
Maybe your wife’s a hairstylist and knows someone who would gladly clean one morning a week in exchange for free haircuts or color. You get the idea. Let the in-laws and your parents or your friends help out when they offer. It’s temporary and it’ll save your health and your sanity and keep your marriage healthy as well.
I’d like to leave you with one last tip that has become my mantra every time the baby is pushing us to our limits – “This too shall pass, soon to be replaced by something else.” It’s one of my favorite quotes and it’s so appropriate to the first few months of raising a newborn. It’s just for a short time, guys, although I hear the bigger the baby becomes the bigger the problems become!
Take steps to make sure that you stay on track so that you don’t have to start from square one when it’s over and remember to cherish every single moment with your newborn as these are moments you’ll never get back.