Its January guys! You know what that means....New Year, New You!
If I told you that I weighed 16lb more now than I did this time last year, would you then believe me if I said I was healthier, happier, stronger and fitter now than I was this time last year? Would you be surprised to hear that my waist measurement has hardly changed, and that my body fat percentage has reduced? How can all this be possible? Surely no one wants to put on weight? But here’s what people often forget or are not even aware of; weight isn’t an indication of fat levels. Your total weight, as in the number you see on the scales, does not account for what might be body fat or lean mass (muscle). What I mean by this is that if we had two subjects, one who is a body builder with a lot of muscle and someone else who is carrying excess fat, they can both be the exact same weight on the scales yet look totally different in appearance. We shouldn’t rely on the number on the scales to drop to gaige progress in becoming that happier, healthier and fitter new you!
The other components of what totals our weight are bone, water and other essentials such as your organs. When we all say we want to lose weight, what we actually mean is we want to lose fat, or at least that’s what I hope everyone means. If you want to lose muscle (which not only makes you look leaner and healthier, but also helps your body burn more calories on a daily basis), bone (the loss of bone density can lead to conditions later in life such as osteoporosis), water (yes, ok I agree with this one to a degree, losing excess water can be beneficial), and organs (well, please, if you lose tissue from your heart for example, it will make you more prone to heart attacks so ultimately it could kill you), then you really need to re-educate the way you think, as losing muscle, bone density and vital tissue from your organs WILL NOT give you a leaner, toned, healthier figure. It will in fact do the opposite; losing any muscle you already have will not make you smaller, as muscle is three times denser we can afford to have more as it doesn’t take up as much area over our bodies. I Think the best way to get your head round this is just to imagine our two subjects from before, both seventeen stone, one mainly muscle and one mainly fat. Who’s got the bigger waistline? The muscle is well placed and presented as opposed to fat which I think really highlights the importance of fat loss as opposed to weight loss as a rule. Getting the balance wrong will change your body to what is known as ‘skinny fat’. That is when you have a bit of a belly, and skinny arms and legs....basically, you’ll look unfit.
Ok, so hopefully I’ve started to convince you that you shouldn’t worry too much about how much you weigh, but more about what that weight consists of. So how do you lose fat, whilst preserving muscle? Tricky one! I’m not gonna lie, if losing fat was as easy as gaining fat then we would all be walking around with the type of bodies you see gracing the covers of Mens Health and such like. This isn’t the case, but there is definitely no reason why anyone can’t get a body similar to those fitness models. All it takes is a bit of knowledge on the topic, and a lot of self discipline and dedication.
When trying to drop body fat and retain muscle mass, we need to convince our bodies that it DOESN’T need to cling onto that excess FAT, and that it DOES need to keep hold of the MUSCLE.
The most important thing - Diet.
First things first, forget the alcohol. It will do nothing for your fat loss goals. Now back to real food.....
Muscle, in easier terms is protein. A lack of protein available to the body means no muscle. So having adequate amounts of protein in the diet is a must. If you aim for 1.5-2gr of protein per lb of body weight spread over 5-7 meals every day, you will be providing your body with enough protein to maintain a positive nitrogen balance, or in layman’s terms, enough to enable your body to recover/grow/regenerate its current lean mass (muscle). The best protein sources to be eating are; lean meats such as chicken, tuna, lean minced beef, eggs and nuts.
So muscle is protein, but what is fat? Surely fat is fat so if I don’t eat any fat, I won’t get fat? WRONG!!!!! Fat on the body is stored energy. Where this energy came from could be from carbohydrates, protein, or yes...fats, but that does not mean that you should cut fat completely from your diet. Fat is essential for so many reasons, so many in fact that it’s enough to warrant another article but I’m not going to go into that now. So instead, go to Google and search ‘why are fats important in our diet’, or anything similar and read for yourself why excluding HEALTHY fats is a bad idea and I do mean, the healthy fats please, not the BAD fats found in processed foods and similar snacks, some fats are to be avoided, you need to learn the good from the bad. Healthy fats are commonly referred to as ‘essential fatty acids’. The word essential should tell you something about them! They are ESSENTIAL to your diet. Your body cannot produce them so you have to ingest (eat) them otherwise your body will be made to go without. Exactly how much fat you need is a hotly debated subject. You will find recommendations of fat intake ranging from 10-50% of your total daily calorie consumption. I would personally say 20% is a minimum, and a good place to start. This can always be tweaked if needed.
Of the three macronutrients, we’re now only left with carbohydrates. These are your bodies main energy supply. If you supply your body with more energy than it requires, this energy will be stored as fat to be used at a later date. It therefore makes sense to limit carbohydrate consumption to before we exercise, and first thing in the morning to help get you going.
I don’t agree with ‘calorie counting’ per se, but more with ‘quality calorie control’. Make sure everything you eat has a benefit for your body, and if you find you’re still not losing body fat/fat loss stops, then look at your diet to see where you can reduce portion sizes to help reduce the amount of calories you’re consuming. But remember, reducing serving sizes/calories is the last thing you do. The first thing is to clean up your diet and remove all the non essentials and unhealthy food types.
Now for the bit you’ve all been waiting for....
Surely you didn’t think you could get the perfect body without actually having to get up from your seat and do some physical exercise? A good diet is a must, but a good exercise/training routine is the catalyst to your results. And you know what...it can actually be fun and very rewarding.
As with diet, you want to exercise with the purpose of convincing your body to let go of excess fat and build/retain muscle. Hhmmm, easier said than done, but again, not impossible. I’m not going to mess about and say you can have a toned body without lifting a few weights....it’s not possible. Male or female, you need to give your body a reason to build/retain muscle, so what better reason than the fact that you require your muscles to push/press/balance heavy weights? If you don’t provide your body with this stimulus then it won’t see the point in maintaining this calorie expending tissue. We want muscle, but our bodies need convincing on a regular basis that this muscle serves a purpose. If only it thought the same towards fat! It will happily store fat without asking questions! This weight training, coupled with the high protein diet, will provide the ideal conditions for getting that body your after. A little mention for the girls; don’t fear the weights! You won’t get ‘big and bulky’, you don’t have the high levels of the right muscle building hormones required to build huge muscles. Any female you have seen with a ‘man like’ build isn’t just relying on her own hormones to create that look if you get my drift? I have nothing against girls who use assistance, but I am aware that it can make others girls nervous of lifting weights, don’t be!!
So we now know how to keep hold of the muscle, now on to losing the fat. The good news is that this is possible without stepping anywhere near a treadmill/spin bike/rower etc. How? Well, do your weight training with enough intensity and you will build up a sweat good enough to put any cardio bunny to shame. If your weight training sessions take longer than an hour, then you need to question how hard you are pushing yourself. Not only in regards to the weights you are using, but also how many/how long your rest periods are. A lot of the time, the same workout that takes 1hr can be completed in 10-15min less, when the extended rest periods are taken out. That may mean ignoring your phone, or leaving it at home so that you’re not tempted by calls/texts. You could also be doing too much in terms of volume, but assuming that isn’t the problem, try and focus on getting through your workout without dawdling.
I’m not excluding cardio, not at all. It can be as simple as walking during your lunch break, or in the evening. It may mean a quick jog before/after work, or at the end of your weight training session. The notion that something is better than nothing is true. Do what you enjoy and do it as often as you can within reason. Do remember that both cardio and weight training are BOTH catabolic (breakdown muscle). Too much cardio will have a detrimental effect on your lean muscle mass. Think about Paula Radcliffe, she does more cardio than most, but does she have a lot of muscle? No. Think about a sprinter. They do a mix of weights and cardio training but they keep it short and sweet and hold a lot more muscle, whilst still retaining their fitness. Some people will prefer to go at a slower steadier pass, whereas others will prefer to get the cardio done as quickly as possible by running at a faster speed for short periods. Find what works for you, but do be careful of undoing all your hard work done in the weights room by being too keen with the cardio.
Exercise, whether it be weights or cardio, raises your metabolic rate, which in turn means you will burn more calories on a daily basis. This will help with your fat loss. It also causes the release of feel good hormones called endorphins. It’s these endorphins that give you the ‘buzz’ after exercise and makes you want to come back for more. Before you know it, you will be addicted to exercise. Not all addictions are bad for you! Exercise doesn’t have to be done alone. Ask a friend/relative to join you. You can then use each other for motivation if needed.
I’m quickly going to refer back to the importance of diet. Sometimes we can’t acquire all the things we need from our diet, for this reason we use supplements to fill in the gaps. There are hundreds of ‘magic pills’ available to buy. They all promise fat loss. They don’t exist!
There are definitely pills/powders of different forms which can help you with your goals, but none of them do the work for you.
A few products I recommend are PhD Pharma whey. This will help bump up your daily protein intake to help with your muscle building. It also tastes amazing, which always helps!
Another recommendation is PhD Diet whey bars. They are without doubt the best tasting protein bars I have tasted (and I’ve tried a lot!). I would honestly choose a Diet whey bar over a regular chocolate bar they taste that good. They also include CLA, L-Carnitine, Flaxseed and Green tea, all of which may help with fat loss
Finally, be patient. Keep at it, and don’t give up after a week if you’ve not morphed into a fitness goddess. Transforming your body takes time and determination. In quite the same way that you can’t get fat overnight, you can’t become fit overnight.