We’re nearly five months down the line into that New Year’s resolution you promised you’d stick to this year. After one too many roast dinners, Thursday night pints and indulgent desserts, your middle section had gone from being firm to flappy and this was the time you were finally going to do something about it. You’ve committed to the gym, actually started to enjoy running and stopped finishing each day at work with a potato-based meal, yet your body’s not exactly responding how you thought it would this far down the line.
Whilst you hardly expected a miracle quick fix, you understandably anticipated some serious progress by now. The truth is, though, you may be unwittingly sabotaging yourself.
There’s a much quoted adage in gyms up and down the country that “muscle is built in the kitchen, not the gym”. This couldn’t be closer to the truth. Diet is crucial if you’re going to achieve that dream physique. No matter how many kilograms you push or pull, or how many kilometres you run each evening, that rock-hard muscle isn’t going to be arriving anytime soon, unless you’re eating enough of the right stuff for your body to build it.
Nutrition, or lack thereof, is the number one culprit for stunting muscle growth or weight loss among gym goers and park runners. We addressed the issue in our muscle building series.
In essence you need to be eating more calories than your body needs in a day to build muscle after exercising – a calorific surplus. You also ideally need to be hitting macronutrient targets, ensuring your protein, fat and carbohydrate intake is at the required level.
In order to drop fat and lose the gut, the opposite is true – a good balance between protein, fat and carbohydrates needs to be achieved, but you have to operate on a daily calorific deficit. That is, eating less calories than your body is using each day.
You’re 10, 11, maybe 12 weeks into a new exercise regimen, but you’re not feeling all that different than you were after 5 or 6. What’s up with that? Well your body isn’t stupid, far from it. It quickly adapts to exercises, learns what you’re doing and makes it easy as possible to complete them.
Yes, your body is subconsciously cheating. Whilst you’re mustering up all of the willpower in the world to drag yourself out of bed, your brain has worked out how to not put in the 100% required once you start working up some sweat.
What’s happened is, your routine has become precisely that, too routine. Come the 6-week mark, you need to mix it up. Tweak the current plan, even if it’s just by adding a few extra sets with a lighter weight, or the occasional interval of sprinting rather than jogging, and your body will be shocked into every inch of effort.
Your body needs sleep to repair itself, it also needs enough of it to keep hormones balanced. If you’re regularly spending one too many nights a week up that bit too late, you’re self-sabotaging your mission to get in shape.
Being deprived of enough sleep can lead to a spike in not only stress levels, but hunger controlling hormones, meaning physiologically your willpower’s just taken a major hit. That means, taking the extra hour or two in bed when you can and hitting the hay earlier on a school night will yield better results and discourage those increasingly frequent indulgences.
You’re not rewarding yourself enough
If you’re the kind of man who enjoys a square (or bar) of chocolate, going totally cold turkey isn’t going to be easy. The same applies if you prefer a pint as opposed to a slimline vodka tonic. Not treating yourself on occasion is a surefire way to burnout. Sustained success in fitness is about changing habits but not depriving yourself of the things you enjoy every once in a while too.
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