Ok, so in Part I of my blog series, I wrote about setting a goal, getting into a routine and planning. Part 2 is about actually doing it.
For me, this has always been about a lifestyle change. So I treat it as such and go about it in this way. This is not a short-term fix. I want to be strong, healthy and look good long-term. If this is something that you want to accomplish as well, then read on!
I’ve tried all sorts of quick fixes in the past – crash diets, meal replacement shakes, slimming pills, and this is probably the most embarrassing one (I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about this one), during my late teens when I was heavily overweight, I bought an ‘appetite suppressant wand’. It basically looked like a mascara wand and you had to sniff it several times a day and the claim was that it ‘tricks your brain into thinking you’ve eaten’. I kid you not.
Did any of these things work? I might have lost a bit of weight initially (except for the wand which just gave me a headache and made me look ridiculous when using it), but then I packed on more than I lost and probably harmed my body in the process.
Eat Well. Train. Sleep. This may be such a cliché, but it’s true.
Get these three basics right, get the balance of these right, be consistent with it and your results can not only be amazing, but sustainable. I’ve listed a few tips which have personally helped me:
EAT FOOD FOR FUEL (MOST OF THE TIME)
Food should make you feel great, not just whilst you are eating it, but for hours after. If you feel lethargic, bloated, get cramps, etc – probably best to avoid it. Listen to your body.
Eat food to nourish your body, to fuel you for training. Don’t ‘reward’ yourself with food, e.g: “I did 30 minutes on the treadmill so I can eat a chocolate bar” – this is counterproductive! Don’t ‘punish’ yourself with food, or rather, lack of. e.g. “I had a boozy weekend and ate a kebab so today I will just eat salad leaves”.
I caveat the heading above with ‘most of the time’, as I’m not saying that you shouldn’t enjoy food and adopt an extreme chicken/broccoli/sweet potato diet. I especially love social occasions involving food – I’m just saying that you should know what you are eating, and how it affects you. Below I’ve listed out food sources that my family and I enjoy.
BIGGER PICTURE OVER MINUTIAE
Unless you are preparing for a contest or some other goal which requires you to track calories and macronutrient percentages, I wouldn’t count calories apart from maybe initially keeping a food diary to get an idea of how much you actually consume. The aim would be to be able to ‘eyeball’ your food and know roughly how much you need, of what.
Remember, this is a lifestyle and for many people it is not sustainable to weigh out each gram of food.
This goes for supplements as well – supplements are just that, they ‘supplement’ a good training and nutrition programme, they don’t replace it. For example – protein shakes/bars. Don’t get me wrong – these are great for convenience, and for increasing your protein content, but if you can get a high protein intake through eating real and basic food then in my opinion this is preferable. You only have to read through the list of ingredients of many protein bars to realize that there are so many added ingredients that you probably don’t want or need.
THE BEST TRAINING AND NUTRITION PROGRAMME IS:
Drum roll…one that you can stick to! Why force yourself to do something if you don’t enjoy it, or if it is very restrictive? Chances are long-term it won’t be sustainable.
If you are having to cope with work and family related time constraints, then short and intense workouts and healthy meals prepared in advance will be more sustainable than hours at the gym and having to prepare each meal from scratch or worse – compromising your health by becoming too reliant on microwave meals.
I only have to think about my own current journey to illustrate this point.
I am currently 3 weeks away from stepping onto stage for my first bodybuilding show – and whilst I have enjoyed the preparation for the most part, honestly, I could not do this long-term. I haven’t yet stepped on stage and I know already that if I choose to do another competition I will take at least 6 months break. The hours of cardio, isolation style weight training and strict diet, for me, is not sustainable long-term. I miss the explosiveness, dynamism and camaraderie of training for and playing rugby, as well as a more flexible approach to nutrition, and this is what I can’t wait to return to.
So – find what brings you joy!