It’s often said diet is 70% of fitness. What you eat defines your fitness.
This is largely true, but remember when we spoke about individual focus? This applies here in a massive way. We all have different body types and structures, and we all have different diets.
I’m not a qualified nutritionist, I’m only going to give very general points here on nutrition, it’s best to consult a dietitian or nutritionist to get a personalised idea of what the best diet is for you.
Your diet and nutrition will depend on your body type, current diet and your fitness goal. If you want to lose weight you’ll have to cut down on foods high in saturated fats and sugars. If you want to put muscle mass on you’ll need to up your calorie and protein intake.
Generally speaking, when exercising and getting fit, there are a few simple nutritional guidelines:
Eat smaller meals, more often. If you eat 3 heavy meals a day now, make it 5–6 lighter meals a day. Increase your intake of water, fresh food, fruits and vegetables. Increase your intake of protein. Decrease your intake of saturated fat, like desserts, fried foods (especially deep fried), processed foods (fast food and the like), and try not to eat excessive carbohydrates.
I must mention carbohydrates and protein here. There are 2 very common misconceptions; if you want to lose weight you should cut out carbohydrates completely, and if you want to put muscle on, you should consume as much protein as you possibly can. These are both nonsense.
We get most of our energy from carbohydrates. When trying to lose weight, the idea is to use energy from your fat stores to fuel your workout, but if you cut out carbohydrates completely, your blood sugar will drop and you will have no energy to do anything at all. The idea is to not to consume excess carbohydrates, as carbs not used are converted into fat.
We need protein to fuel and repair our muscles. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for protein intake is just under a gram per kilo of body weight for someone who doesn’t exercise intensely. So for someone who weighs 70 kilos and doesn’t exercise often, 60-ish grams of protein per day is enough to sustain them. When exercising, that need may range anywhere between 1.5–2 grams of protein per kilo of body weight. Consuming more than needed over an extended period of time can lead to strain and problems on other bodily systems, especially the kidneys, as they have the job or breaking it down and flushing it out.
I’m slim, I’ve found it difficult to put muscle or mass on. I have friends who are naturally heavier-set, and others still who seem to be fit without even trying. I’m pretty lucky, I can eat what I want without gaining weight (apart from beer), and having a dietitian for a mother I always had a good diet growing up. I love salad and vegetables and am not a huge fan of fatty or fried foods, so when it came to fitness, I didn’t have to change my diet that much.
I wanted to get rid of my beer belly, so I knew that meant cutting down on beer. It didn’t mean cutting it out completely because that’d be restricting myself. When we restrict ourselves our minds push us to want the thing more. It’s the essence of the scarcity principle, that which is unobtainable becomes more valuable and we want it more. If you restrict something completely you’re likely to want it more and binge when you get it.
Cutting down on something but still allowing yourself to enjoy it every now and then is the best way to go. I did it with beer. I’d have a pint every now and then because I enjoy it, and also I was working out so hard one pint here and there hardly mattered anyway, which made it that much more enjoyable.
The same can go for desserts, fried or fatty foods. You don’t need to cut them out completely, just cut down on them and allow yourself to enjoy them to every now and then.
I will reiterate, before embarking on any kind of drastic nutritional change, please consult a qualified dietitian or nutritional expert first. Everyone is different and has different needs. You won’t find a tailored, individual plan from hearsay or articles like this one.
Again, sorry for the selfies (and the shorts).
So How Exactly Did I Change The Way My Muscles Respond to Exercise in 6 Months?
I combined cardio, strength, stretching and balance exercises. All 4 of these were combined in the Insanity workout anyway so I did just that for the first 2 months.
After doing Insanity one time round, I loved it so much I did it again for another 2 months, this time I added in 3–4 workouts a week of 20 chin ups, 20 tricep dips, 40 push ups and 40 hanging leg raises/twists (for abs).
For the last 2 months out of the 6, after finishing Insanity for a second time round, I was familiar with the sessions and cut it down to about 3 insanity sessions per week instead of 6. I did one big stretching and balance (pilates) workout per week and 2–3 strength workouts per week.
I upped the reps to 40 chin ups, 20 wide grip chin ups, 40 tricep dips, 60 push ups, 30 V-push ups (for shoulders) and 40 hanging leg raises/twists per session.
I changed my diet slightly to fit my own personal needs. I upped my protein, water and fresh food intake, ate more often, and decreased my alcohol/beer, processed and fatty food intake. I didn’t bother with protein shakes or supplements.
From doing this, I found myself far less stressed, far happier and more balanced personality-wise and addicted to the feel-good factor of exercise. I was more confident, had a far better physique than I’ve ever had and my clothes fitted perfectly. I was a better person all round.
And now, because I hit it hard for 6 months (although it became easy after 2 months of working out because I became addicted to the exercise high), my muscles now ‘remember’ how to build. I never expected it; it’s just a very, very happy accident.
I can workout like I used to for 1–2 weeks and have a physique resembling the one in the picture at the very top. 3 weeks and it comes back fully.
I’m generally lazy and I did it. You can do it too.
Before embarking on any exercise programme, though, consult as many professionals as you can. Fitness trainers, sports injury specialists, osteopaths, nutritionists. As I’ve mentioned many times already, an individual plan is the best way to go. You’ll only get this from speaking personally to professionals in their field about your body, lifestyle and goals.
Happy working out 🙂