It’s that time again, the start of a new year, when our fitness goals are set and we engage in the challenge. Why is it that so few people manage to see their goals through to fruition and fall short time and time again?
I expect to have those typical conversations over the next few weeks, a young guy that “doesn’t want to be massive”, with a reasonably athletic shape the potential to refine their physique is in no doubt. Then the pictures of famous fitness athletes with shapes they aspire are shown, and their standards of “too big” are in many instances not even achievable in their lifetime, let alone a few months of training. So, don’t start the regime by trying to restrict progress! Similarly, the girl that wants to have a toned shape but doesn’t want to look “bulky” showing pictures of girls with the perfect bikini shape that in fact carry significant muscle and low levels of body fat. Again, you will not exceed the level of muscle any time soon and we will avoid ‘bulk’ through a balanced diet, because training will certainly not give a bulky look any time soon! Which brings me to my tips.
SET REALISTIC GOALS!
The process of building muscle is a frustratingly slow one that requires strong will to see it through. Consistently elevating protein synthesis in specific muscle fibres over time will allow muscle to develop, however individuals are all not equal in the process, with some very responsive individuals being the general exception. Also, it depends on how long you have been training to achieve muscle growth. To gain a stone of muscle will happen reasonably quickly to a new gym-goer, whilst take an extremely long time for someone that has been training for years and has a good amount of muscle already.
So, if a newbie comes to me and wants to be a stone of muscle heavier next year, I can work with that. On the other hand, a veteran comes to me wanting the same, there needs to be a realistic change in goals! Using progressive load, similar movement patterns with increasing workload over time will afford stimulus for the muscle cells to adapt or grow. As workloads are increasing the body wants to develop but the requirement of fuel to allow this process has to be fulfilled, therefore realistically to achieve good developments, eating significant volumes of food is an absolute requirement!
Someone who simply wants to lose fat again be realistic, your lifestyle will have to change, how much fat you need/want to lose will determine how dramatic that change has to be. You have to aim to be consistent, like the guy/girl that wants more muscle; the process takes time and will power! I have had clients lose up to 10 stone in a year, however see others struggle to lose 10lbs in a year. The difference is a complete change in lifestyle and thinking but you can set yourself up for failure by letting excuses rule you. For some a complete change is most effective. On the other hand, others may respond to small regular changes. For example, stop alcohol for a time, then, try to remove sugar from the diet on the next stage, cut out processed foods and so on. Small adjustments slowly add up to very big changes over time.
STICK TO SPECIFIC TRAINING FOR THE GOALS YOU SET OUT TO ACHIEVE
This point has a couple elements to it, training specificity, and the extension of my last point, don’t try to achieve too much at once. If the shape you desire is one with significantly more muscle than you currently have, don’t try desperately to be shredded throughout the process. This will require you to restrict the diet to afford a deficit, which hinders or potentially halts the process of gaining muscle. Aim to achieve hypertrophy/muscle growth, when you start to plateau try to steadily achieve greater condition. That being said if you are carrying significant body fat, I recommend achieving condition before you try to pack on muscle. With a leaner body, insulin sensitivity will improve and thus energy make its way to muscle cells more efficiently and fat deposition from excess kcals is less of a problem. Specificity is often completely over looked due to a lack of understanding of training principles. People jump on the cross-trainer working away at start of the New Year, the goal in mind to have a firmer, more toned looking shape.
Similarly, they might religiously attend spin to get shapely legs and that booty they have always wanted, and yet it never quite materializes. You only need to look at athletes, the light marathon runner that has a very energy efficient body, limited dense fast twitch fibres that add unwanted weight. These thick fibres have limited oxygen capacity, they are useful for moving fast or heavy lifting so the body tends to catabolise these in endurance-based programs and build them in strength-based programs. Male and female, sprinters, lifters, pole-vaulters, throwers, multi events, team sports, athletes all have different shapes depending on where they are on the spectrum of strength through to endurance. So, I train people to the shape they desire, if they want more shapely legs and bum then heavy lifting and sprinting like those athletes that illustrate such physical characteristics. Equally the same athletes tend to have the lowest body fat levels, especially relative to time-spent training. This is due to the nature of anaerobic training allowing only a very limited period of high output, yet a large and sustained energy usage that will work in your favour when it comes to metabolizing fat!
Of course, diet has to reflect the training load and desired shape. Same for guys that want a strong athletic shape, the training has to reflect your goals, I see excessive moderate intensity training by guys that want fairly heavily muscled physiques. It’s like swimming upstream, think strong, fast and flexible, heavy work, some bodyweight rings and rope work added in, perhaps prowlers and sprinting. If you are setting out to run a marathon well then again, the goals are different and train accordingly!
GIVE YOURSELF A REALISTIC TIMELINE WHEN IT COMES TO FAT LOSS
I identify with this and not the common term “weight loss” as they aren’t one and the same! Fat may have taken some time to develop, it will not be lost overnight either. The only way to lose the excess fat effectively is again a consistent approach often over many months. Again, this will depend on the amount you wish to shed however. My approach revolves around allowing the hormonal triggers in the body to work more efficiently to regulate volume of food. Taking out additional sugars is one of the most important steps for me, which then looks at all processed foods and sauces (you’d be surprised how easy it is to make your own). Alongside meats and fish the body quite quickly adjusts to regulate volumes of food as hormones and interaction with hypothalamus signals the mind to switch off desire for food.
ONCE A GOAL IS REACHED DO NOT JUST GO BACK TO WHAT YOU DID BEFORE!
When people set out with a specific time to achieve a conditioned shape for example body transformations, the minute they ‘finish’ their transformation they binge. This is at a time when the hormone profile is very vulnerable to fat deposition. I don’t particularly like the notion of transformations for this reason they are often a period of overtraining and over-dieting.
Every training session should be a step toward a lasting transformation, with a diet that is a sustainable and facilitates the level of exercise. This is still the most effective way to achieve your best physique in the shortest time! Aim to go for periods that you place restrictions your diet to ensure condition, but follow these periods with good whole-food eating pattern, it’s very hard for condition to totally fall apart whilst avoiding processed foods and sugars! So, try to keep close to achieved shape or fitness goals, and work on maintenance instead of yo-yoing!
ENJOY THE PROCESS!
Appreciate that you are taking time for you and your own development. Take pleasure in the fact that your journey is underway, discover what you really enjoy and keep challenging yourself. Remember how you felt when at your low point, and how much better you feel with the additional energy, mood, clarity of thought and improved sleep pattern when your lifestyle is at its best. When you enjoy the process you stick at it!