“If you want to lose body fat, you have to eat this way and you have to workout this way.”
“If you want to build muscle, you have to eat this way and you have to train this way.”
The fitness and nutrition world is an interesting place. The latest and greatest fad surfaces on a frequent basis with high promises of allowing you to “finally lose the weight”, or “build muscle”, or whatever desire you have when it comes to your body composition.
Many methods (fad, or not) can be portrayed in a way that people think they absolutely have to follow that nutrition method, or training program, if they want results. Oftentimes this leads people to apply a certain method that may not be appropriate for them because other people are experiencing great results.
You don’t have to do what’s popular or what other experts swear by if that method doesn’t fit your lifestyle and personality.
Here’s my primary rule when it comes to working out and nutrition – the approach you use shouldn’t put too much stress on you, nor should it require you to revolve your life around it. Now, there may be a time when you want to get strict and accomplish a goal, but these should be for predetermined periods of time; it should not go on for months and years.
When it comes to strength training and nutrition, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all-approach that will work for everyone.
When it comes to strength training, I’ll admit that I’m bias in regards to strength training methods. I like lifting heavy and use primarily barbell, dumbbell, and bodyweight exercises. I love to deadlift, squat, press weight overhead, perform chin-ups, handstand push-ups and other bodyweight exercises.
Even though lifting heavy while focusing on big compound movements works incredibly well for building strength and a strong, healthy body, does that mean it’s the only way you can build a body you’re proud of?
Maybe you like to train exclusively with kettlebells. Perhaps you want to get into Olympic lifting or train with strongman tools.
Or, maybe you love conditioning and metabolic focused training programs. Maybe you love crazy Workout Finishers or want to have the ability to workout anytime and anywhere so you use bodyweight workouts.
Furthermore, you don’t have to squat, bench press, and deadlift if you don’t enjoy those lifts, or especially if you have mobility issues or previous injuries that prevent you from doing them safely. In that case you should perform variations of those exercises that work for you.
I don’t care how you choose to engage in resistance training – find what works for you and do what you enjoy.
Nutrition & Eating Patterns
There’s plenty of controversy in the wonderful world of strength training, but nutrition is perhaps plagued with the most pervasive dogmatic views and opinions. Nutrition and diet is definitely the area where people usually experience the most confusion.
There are numerous nutrition plans and methods that have produced incredible results – various methods of intermittent fasting, Paleo, and some people still prefer to eat multiple smaller meals throughout the day.
Some people prefer strict guidelines that require them to eat a set number of calories and macronutrients at certain times of the day. Other people, such as myself, prefer to have simple, flexible guidelines. An example is simply being aware of healthier food choices which is generally a very easy way for people to lose body fat and see positive changes to their physique.
I remember many months ago two of my fellow fitness friends, Jen Keck and Ben Bruno, were discussing nutrition habits on Twitter. Jen asked Ben if he typically followed an intermittent fasting protocol. His response was, “No, quite the opposite actually. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Usually eat most of my carbs earlier in the day . . . been doing it for years. I’ve tried some other stuff but I always go back to it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?”
Bottom line with nutrition — don’t be afraid to experiment and discover what works for you.
Experiment & Discover What Works for You
I’ve tried numerous nutrition methods and diets throughout my career. For example, the first eating style I attempted was the standard “5-6 small meals” throughout the day. For over a year I followed this template every day, even though I didn’t like it. I never felt full, it was a chore to prepare and clean up after so many meals, and it made events like family dinners or going out to eat stressful.
Eating that way caused me to constantly stress out and think about my diet. But, I kept on doing it because it was the “best way” to get results.
Thankfully I later discovered that simply isn’t true. Intermittent fasting turned out to be a much better method for me to use long-term. I’ve been following intermittent fasting, in one way or another, for over five years now. It’s what works for me.
Even though I’m a proponent of IF and use it with myself and many of my clients, that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. In fact, I still have some clients who prefer to eat 4-5 smaller meals each day and hate any form of intermittent fasting.
(Please bear in mind, however, that sometimes you won’t know if there’s a better nutrition approach for you unless you give it a try).
Here are some simple questions to ask yourself if you’re unsure of the direction to go with your nutrition habits.
Do you prefer a set plan that tells you everything you can and can’t eat?
Do you like detailed guidelines for how many calories and/or macronutrients to eat, or do you prefer basic, flexible principles?
Different strokes for different folks. Find what works for you!
Don’t Force a Square Peg in a Round Hole
Bottom line – if a particular method doesn’t fit your personality or mesh with your lifestyle, then don’t force it.
As I stated, intermittent fasting works well for me. I can achieve my body composition and performance goals with ease and it’s virtually stress free in application and practice. However, some of my clients, in addition to other people I’ve communicated with, don’t like intermittent fasting. Some people get headaches, feel like they’re starving, or just don’t feel well when they fast.
I don’t bark at them saying, “Intermittent fasting is the best way to get results, so suck it up,” or anything like that. Instead, I give them simple guidelines such as eat natural, unprocessed foods and eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied, but not stuffed.
This is why I have flexible guidelines within the Train to be Awesome Guide. This way you can adjust you eating patterns and workouts as necessary to suite your needs, preferences, and lifestyle.