Welcome to my first Koru Gym blog post.
Over the coming weeks I’m going to go over a variety of topics in more detail which I hope will offer some food for thought and hopefully help some of you with your own fitness pursuits.
If any of you reading this have any general questions or comments related to the topics covered – or even suggestions on future topics for that matter – then please fire away in the comments box on FB.
- Living in the digital age means we are often overloaded with information when it comes to exercise and nutrition.
I’m as bad as anyone about trying to learn about the latest training and nutritional information, but one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that there is no “secret”.
There is no mysterious diet, wonder food, secret book, perfectly programmed training method or magic diet pill that you haven’t yet discovered.
Using a bunch of Latin words nobody understands and trying to explain to yourself or others every scientific detail on molecularly bio-chemistry, talking about neuro-muscular rate coding or posting links to Pub-Med studies on glut-4 transportation – has very little effect on your progress and not everyone responds the same way to any of those aforementioned variables (nutrition/training…etc.).
Debating every little nuance and nit picking about all the “in-betweens” does nothing but cause paralysis by analysis and is the reason why so many people feel so confused these days.
Breaking things down to their simplest components usually helps, so here goes –
Get around 1 gram of protein per pound of lean bodyweight. Manipulate the rest of your caloric intake with carbohydrates and fats depending on your goal (gain muscle, lose fat…etc.).
Don’t overcomplicate this by falling on the bandwagon of the latest diet fad or arguing if an organic orange is more anabolic than an apple! Leave these silly debates to the lab coats and internet keyboard warriors.
I agree that calories that come from carbs or protein or fats all do something different in the body metabolically, however at the end of the day, week, month…etc. a surplus gets you fatter/bigger and a deficit gets you leaner.
So let’s apply common sense….
- I need to lose weight – I will eat less
- I need to gain weight – I will eat more
The next question is WHAT TO EAT?
A simple solution to this is to compile a list of foods that fit in the scope of what you deem as “quality” or “healthy”. You can use this list regardless of the type of goal you have – fat loss or weight gain.
“Quality foods” are basically those that are minimal processed and yield a high nutrient value.
If you eat from this quality food list only 80-90% of the time, you’ll be able to accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish. The only caveat to that is if you want to get leaner you obviously have to eat less and if you want to gain weight, eat more.
The only thing that should really change is the quantity of food you’re consuming, not dramatic changes in food choices. For example; you’re not going to go from eating chicken nuggets and chips 3 x per day to cabbage soup and broccoli.
Eventually you have to come to terms with the fact that you are not dieting, but changing your eating habits.
Lift 2-4 times per week as a baseline.
Structure your training around basic multi-joint exercises – Squat, presses, deadlifts, chin ups, rows, dips…etc. use the tools available to you, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, bodyweight, strongman equipment, resistance machines – they all “work” and simply different ways to provide resistance/overload to the body.
If you’re a beginner, don’t get fancy by trying to do technical exercises right off the bat. You need to develop a strength base first in order to actually hold your body in certain positions (which is often confused as a mobility issue).
Sets of 3-5 generally work pretty well for top end strength
Sets of 8-12 generally work pretty well for hypertrophy (size).
Progressive overload is THE most important component to just about any type of training regardless of the routine or programme you follow (although certainly not the only component).
That is….if you go to the gym and spend your entire workout going through the motions, it won’t matter how many exercises, sets or reps you do…you’re unlikely to make any appreciable progress.
Example: Let’s say you have two twins with long legs. Both choose the hack squat as a main exercise to target their lower quads since, due to their inherent structure, they find they have a hard time fully targeting the quads with normal squats.
One twin never goes above 2 plates on each side and does high rep sets, drop sets, and supersets hack squats with leg extensions. He works out “really hard” and throws up at least once a month whilst training legs, bragging to his gym buddies about how hard-core he trains.
The other twin simply takes a no holds barred approach to increasing the bar weight (progressive overload) on the hack squat so that after 2 years he is working up to 12 reps with 5 plates per side.
Which twin will have better lower quad development? The one hack squatting 5 plates per side or the one squatting 2 plates per side? The answer should be obvious.
The point here is – You shouldn’t just do work for the sake of work unless you’re getting something back in return. No different from any other job!
I know everyone wants to sound hard-core these days and post memes about “No pain, no gain”, but no one cares about how many push ups or crunches you did or how you “killed it” in the gym if a year from now, you’re still doing the same thing and made zero progress.
Instead – set yourself small measurable goals and go after them. Everything else is a distraction. These small goals might be adding 5kg to your best set of 8 on squat over 6 weeks, increasing the amount of chin ups you can do, improving your 100 metre row time…etc.
This makes training much more objective and purposeful than just going through the motions and doing repetition for the sake of repetition. Understand there is a different between exercising and training.
Of course, not every single exercise has to be done with this principle in mind, but ideally it’s good to have at least one or two basic movements or exercises in your workouts that you strive to make small, measurable increases on consistently.
Cardio: Include some conditioning work 2-3 times per week – sprints, cycling, rowing, interval training…etc. to keep your cardiovascular system in shape, maintain a basic level of fitness and keep your metabolic rate in high gear. Even a couple of long walks per week can go a long way here if you’re a heavier individual.
Remember, all forms of exercise are going to provide “cardio”…breathing!
Half the products sold by supplement companies will do nothing for your overall progress apart from burn a big hole in your wallet.
Contrary to what the companies actually selling the stuff may say, supplementing with some of these fancy formulas will improve your training performance by such a small fraction that it’s not worth it.
A quality protein powder, a basic multi-vitamin/mineral or greens/fruit & vegetable powder to cover your micronutrient basis and a good quality omega 3 fish oil for the essential fatty acids – is a good starting point that is affordable for most people.
Looking and feeling good on the outside doesn’t always tell us what’s going on inside.
I highly recommend getting a general health screen or blood test done a few times per year (www.medichecks.com) or even every couple of years.
This will give you a good overview of how certain lifestyle factors/food choices are affecting your overall health, any potential deficiencies you have and help you make more informed choices – cholesterol profile, liver and kidney enzymes, inflammation markers, blood cell count/haematocrit…etc.
This is like getting an MOT for your body.
Most of these markers can be managed through dietary changes and supplementation (if you have deficiencies).
Monitor your blood pressure regularly.
Mental health, sleep and minimizing stress is also extremely important and shouldn’t be overlooked.
In my mind, sleep plays a much larger role in this than most people think.
Try to get at least 8 hours quality sleep per night. Take some time out to relax and introspect on the important things in life, spend time with people who have a positive influence on you.
- ENJOY THE JOURNEY
Most importantly – learn to enjoy the challenge!
Every person who goes to the gym is fundamentally doing it for the same reason…..to feel better physically and mentally.
Even a guy who wants to lift big weights or look like Conan the Barbarian has more in common with the lady trying to drop a dress size than they realize! We do this to feel good in ourselves and for personal satisfaction.
For some that satisfaction comes in lifting a heavier weight, for others it might be dropping 5lbs of body fat. Whatever your goal is – learn to have fun with it and enjoy the journey and not base your entire sense of self-worth or persona on your reflection!
“Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.”
Jesse is a Personal Trainer at Koru Gym Bishop’s Stortford. If you are interested in training with Jesse, please contact him on 07759 258127.