We tend to like to overcomplicate things in our fitness and nutrition because:
- simple isn’t nearly sexy enough to be able to brag about to anyone who’ll listen, and
- simple can’t really be effective. Can it?
The truth is, that the basics, done well and done consistently, will take you further than you could ever believe, while still being able to enjoy the occasional doughnut.
This is the area where most people struggle with basic. We love to be part of a club, part of a special group, so we tend to identify with whatever dietary group appeals most this month – Paleo, Keto, IF. etc. And if these approaches are sustainable in your life, and you actually enjoy them, then you will have success in whatever body comp change you are looking for. Even if keto is less than optimal for hypertrophy goals.
What these do well is to give you rules to follow – you can only have this group of foods, or you can’t have that group of foods. This makes it easier to stay on plan.
Getting back to basics.
Focus on protein and veggies. These 2 groups should make up 80% of your meals and funnily enough, almost every diet agrees on having these as the foundation of their approach. Adding in some carbs and fats will help round out meals and provide the appropriate fuels for whatever activities you are doing around your meal times. Carbs for higher intensities, fats when intensity drops.
Drink mostly water.
Or zero cal drinks. Honestly, a Coke Zero now and again isn’t going to do any harm, and there is evidence that zero cal soft drinks can be useful for fat loss as they provide a way to satisfy a sweet craving without taking the calorie hit. But water should be your main go-to option.
Eat only until you are satisfied.
Portion control and trusting your satiety cues can be difficult to get to grips with. At least at first. But given some time and practice, you can start to figure out your ideal portion sizes and learn to recognise your body’s signals that you’ve eaten enough. If you struggle with this, you can try tracking your food intake and compare that to how full you feel after meals, that way you can start to learn how much food you need to achieve a satisfying level of fullness and make it easier to tune into those signals again later.
This is another area where fancy seems to beat out basic, at least in appeal, if not in the results. There is a reason that the basics have been around for so long and fads and fancy protocols come and go.
Lifting weights has been getting people stronger and building better shapes since forever. Push, pull, hinge, squat and carry heavy-ish objects 2-4 times a week, with an aim to make progress in load, movement quality and volume each week. It doesn’t always mean you need to lift heavy, that will only take you so far. Deloading now and again and working on the quality of the movements and learning how to really own the positions can make a massive impact on your ability to handle increasing loads and maximise your results.
Move every day. Most people have sedentary jobs, sit on their commutes and sit some more at dinner and in the evenings. That is going to add up to a major bunch of issues in the long run. Taking some time to work part or all the way to work, getting out at lunch, or after dinner can do wonders for opening up those tight hips and shoulders as well as improving your cardio fitness and boosting your grey matter.
Walking is probably enough for most people to take advantage of the benefits on offer, but whatever you enjoy doing, do that. If you enjoy distance running/ cycling etc, then you will have to be a little smarter in how you program your resistance training in order to complement your cardio training. But both complement each other really well.
I have a new found appreciation for recovery and sleep since becoming a dad. There’s nothing like a little sleep deprivation to make you realise how important sleep, stress management and recovery is.
Getting enough sleep is essential for health, performance and recovery. Aiming for 7-8 hours should be the goal for everyone, and having some kind of bedtime routine to aid your journey into sleepy land is a good idea.
Yes you need that much sleep, and no, you don’t “need” to stay up to watch that new TV show.
Sticking to the basics and focussing on doing them really really well, will take you a long way towards your goals. They might not be the sexiest methods, but the results can be incredible.