This is my first blog of 2013 and I think I should make this very clear–I’m dedicated to helping everyone find a healthy plan that is sustainable. Sometimes that means sharing information that might appear contradictory. Carbs Vs No Carbs? I think both approaches can work. It’s a matter of preference, and one that you ultimately have to decide works for you. Some things in health and fitness are absolute, but most are very debatable.
My fitness and nutrition education is an ongoing process that is the combination of concepts shared by many people much smarter than me. I am constantly learning from people that often times stand on opposite sides of the health and fitness spectrum. And most of what I will share this year is designed to provide direct service to you. After you read a blog post, you should walk away with some knowledge that you can apply to your life.
Why am I saying all this? Because some very good lessons have fallen through the cracks and remain unanswered. For whatever reason, they never make their way into the mainstream media. But to prove my commitment to you, here are a 8 truths that you might want to share with your friends. Whether you accept them is up to you.
An Absolute Diet Solution Does NOT Exist
Year round I do my absolute best to keep myself healthy. This means exercising 3 to 4 times a week, eating healthy meals, and engaging in recreational sport (football, running, hiking etc). Sometimes I train more often and other times less. The key is consistency. At least twice in my life I have been peak physical shape. Lean and muscular.
The problem? Each time I took completely different approaches. In one situation I was eating 6 meals a day, training 5 to 6 days per week, and eating so many carbs that you would expect my insulin levels to explode. The other time I was “only” training 3 days per week, and generally following a Paleo-type approach of protein, fat, and veggies.
The fact that my results were essentially the same opened my eyes: Many diet and fitness programs can and do work. Everybody is different and what works for you may or may not work for someone else. Anyone who tells you differently is just fighting their viewpoint. Most diets are inherently good, some invariably are BAD but all diets depend on an unpredictable variable—YOU! So find a plan that works best for your schedule, lifestyle, and is above all sustainable.
I know this should seem like common sense, but too many people are either looking for a quick fix end- all-be-all diet, or some magic pill but that’s just not going to happen. Sorry.
Here’s what does work: Find the symptoms that lead to your dietary struggles. Take a step-by-step approach to changing the behaviors that make following a healthy diet difficult.Before you can find the miracle diet, you must identify why you struggle. Make a list of everything that is difficult (hungry all morning, overeating at night, no time to exercise, no fruits or vegetables, lack of protein, oversnacking at work), and then begin working one step at a time.
You can Survive with Less Sleep
Don’t take this the wrong way–sleep is still one of the most important elements of good health. We’ve all heard that you need 8, or 9 hours of sleep to be healthy. This is true, but there are exceptions. Sometimes you’re just not going to get that much sleep.
For better quality, you should focus on a few key things. To start, you should try to avoid electronic media before you go to bed. The light from a TV or computer actually affects your brain in a way that negatively affects your sleep.
Exercise can also help you sleep better by priming your hormones for restfulness and recovery. Avoiding alcohol, eating carbs (YES carbs, they’ll make you sleepy), or even a colder room can all make for a better night of sleep.
Reps and Sets are Misleading
I recently read this great article by Jon Goodman. Basically, he says, and I 100% agree, that counting reps is an archaic form of training. The point is, some days you have more energy for your workouts than others and you shouldn’t be upset when you don’t reach your rep goal of say 10. Reps are usually formed in a range, for example 6-10 reps, and it’s ok that you don’t always hit your target. Just make sure you pushed yourself as hard as you could during your workout and don’t worry about it.
Muscle “Tone” is BS
Sorry, muscle “tone” is one of the most misleading concepts in fitness. Most people are familiar with the idea: Train high reps for “muscle tone.” Only problem is high reps oftentimes won’t make your muscles look more toned.
In reality, if you want muscle tone this occurs when you use heavier weights at lower reps. That’s exactly why women should be lifting weights–and not just the tiny ones.
Does this mean you can’t get “toned” without lifting heavy? Of course not. But many more women have proven that you’ll get the lean look you want–FASTER–by using heavier weights. Intensity is the key here. Push the intensity and you’ll be surprised how quickly your body will change in the way you want. Men will look healthier and stronger and women will look leaner and sexier.
Muscle Confusion is Hype
This is not an attack on P90X. This is just a reality check for people who wonder why they oftentimes don’t see physical improvements. There’s absolutely NO need to change programs so often. In fact, taking a little more time with the same program to develop your form will do your body good. Changing programs too often is a quick road to failure. This is exercise science and something that’s been proven for decades.
I know that you don’t want to become bored with your training. But a good program doesn’t mean that each and every workout has to be the same. Someone who understands how to design a workout should have enough variability to keep you challenged and entertained. More importantly, you’ll be seeing results.
Being In Good Shape Makes Life Easier
The leaner you are the easier it becomes to maintain your body, gain lean muscle, and eat the foods that you like. A variety of factors play into this, but improved insulin sensitivity (from lower levels of fat) is a big influence.
This should provide you with even more motivation to get into the shape you want. Because once you do, everything becomes easier. It’s no different than anything else in life. With your job, you typically have to grind until you reach the top and once you do, you have more perks and benefits. Your body is the same way.
I know lots of people who are strong, healthy, and fit and could never appear on the cover of a magazine. Does that make them unhealthy? NO. Does it mean they can’t have abs? Also no. Anyone can get abs; it may take longer but you will still get there.
Some people do indeed have it easier, but that’s not an excuse. Come to terms with reality, and then make the best of what you have. The longer the journey the sweeter the victory.
Diet is More Important Than Exercise
Being in shape is not an equal relationship. If you want to lose weight or gain muscle, diet is the more important element of the equation. That’s not to say exercise isn’t important. But as the saying goes, “You can’t out-train a bad diet.” It’s the reason why many people who do everything right in the gym still are frustrated with how they look and feel.
Track your foods to improve your awareness of what you eat. Focus on small behavioral changes, and be patient.
Weight Loss Expert
Vancouver personal trainer