This article was originally written for True Protein back in 2016 whilst I was working for Oracle Team USA and living in Bermuda. I stand by True Protein as the best supplements company I have ever worked alongside and as a result now work with them as the True Protein in-house Performance Nutritionist. I am responsible for Product Development and innovation along with ensuring we stay on point with relevant research and evidence based practice. Enjoy the read.
“Gaining muscle and losing body fat” – this pretty much sums up the goal of nearly everybody who sets their sights on doing more exercise & improving their nutrition in order to improve their physique and health. The question I always get is “but how do I do it?” The real answer lies within.
Firstly, it is important to identify the areas where you may be going wrong. “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link” goes the Danish proverb and nothing can be more relevant than with your nutrition and training regime. Look at your daily, weekly, monthly routine and ask yourself is it really good enough to get the goals you are looking for. The process is the KEY to gaining your goals. Don’t focus on the goals - have them for sure – they are important but focus on the process that will allow you to achieve them. Saying you want a six-pack or 10% body fat is great, but it won’t happen unless the plan is solid and structured.
So the first thing I would get you to do is to complete a food diary. Being honest is key – the only person you are cheating if you are not honest is yourself. Do this for at least two weeks as a minimum. This usually provides a great insight into habits and simple issues that could be responsible for excessive fat accumulation that you might not have been aware of. The rocket science behind nutrition, especially sports nutrition, is amazing and incredibly complicated however more often than not it is very simple adjustments and interventions that bring about huge changes to your health & physique. Once a pattern has been identified and overall energy consumption established it is then a case of implementing a feeding strategy that involves total energy and a distribution of macro-nutrients (protein/fat/carbohydrates) to suit your requirements.
I believe it should always be a food first policy with you. This is where real gains will be made. Forget diets – they do not work. Focus on eating consistently with a varied selection of proteins (beef/chicken/fish/pork/lamb), fats (meats/olive & coconut oil, seeds, nuts), and carbohydrates (both high & low availability types including fresh vegetables & pasta/rice/ True Instant Oats/ True Organic Chia Seeds/bread respectively) within your feeding guideline. The use of supplements is absolutely fine and often allows a degree of convenience for those who simply struggle with time constraints due to work and/or family commitments. Utilizing products such a True Organic Green Powder and True Superfoods is a great adjunct to any solid real food program.
The most common nutritional supplement I will recommend is a whey protein isolate, for example, a great clean product is True Whey Protein Isolate WPI90. It is the highest quality protein on the market. It provides you with an instant hit of quality protein in each serve that ticks all the boxes for essential amino acids including the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These are essential for improving muscle protein synthesis and allowing for muscle development & body fat reduction. The ease of mixing 1-2 scoops into a shaker and drinking it to allow for intake of at least one feed of protein is more often too hard to pass up for a lot of clients. Again, the word consistency pops up. It is clear in the scientific literature regarding lean muscle gains, body fat reductions and improvement in strength that regular protein feeds over a 24-hour period improve muscle protein synthesis (building up) far more than one-off single protein snacks immediately after training. So, whether you have the convenience of a protein shake after your workout or as a snack in the afternoon it still serves an important purpose to keep you in a “positive” state.
The other supplement I would recommend is True Creatine Monohydrate. Simply put, it is the most researched and supported legal supplement on the market to get improvements in lean mass, reduction in body fat, gains in strength & power. If you are looking to get results, whether you are male or female, I would recommend Creapure. No need to load – just 5g per day is adequate and you will start to notice the difference when combined with quality weight lifting (Please note if any renal issues exist then creatine should not be considered or used).
If you have got this far and decided to get help with your nutrition, then you also should be considering getting assistance with your weights training. I say this because 9 out of 10 times I am talking to a client and request to see their training program and the most common response I get is:
“My trainer makes it up when I get to the gym!”
Seriously – if this is the case for you, have a think about who is training you and where your money is going. You need structure for training along with a structure for your nutrition. Consistency is important for both aspects – again, the process is KEY. A program that has you lifting at least three times per week over a period of between four to six weeks would be a good start for anyone. Consider using big compound movements such as deadlifts, squats, bench press, lunges, chin ups for each of those days rather than isolated exercises such as bicep curls, tricep rope push downs. If you do want to do these, at least save them until the end of your session. You will get much better gains from a program designed around this type of training I promise. Variations in sets and repetitions throughout the week to include strength, power, endurance and hypertrophy (growth) will allow you to make serious improvements to your body.
Your gains should be sustainable too and don’t focus solely on bodyweight. This is a common mistake that too many people make and sadly mostly women. The “magic number” everyone has in their head is too often a poor driver for health and physique improvements. The focus should be more on the reduction of body fat, if you lose weight too quickly it is usually lean mass and this can have a negative impact on you in the long run. Muscle has a metabolic capacity, fat does not. So if you lose a ton of weight quickly you are damaging the actual system that will keep you lean for the future and losing the muscle you are wanting to develop. This is why drastic weight reduction diets usually result in a +20% gain in weight after they are ceased and the yo-yo diet issue continues. A modest 500-800g weight loss each week is usually a good target to start with. Weigh yourself Monday and Friday morning at the same time in your birthday suit and take note. If you are down then you know your feeding and training is likely on target, if static you may need to consider a reduction and if it has gone up you know what the answer is! Also, take photos of your starting point and take some simple measurements such as waist girth.
It may not be the answer you were looking for; I know everyone wants the magic bullet to get the body they desire! Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it requires a little insight, some honest reflection, a degree of consistency, good food, quality supplements and some good old hard work training the house down.
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