After the Christmas and New Year festivities we are often over indulged in food, sugar, alcohol and probably a significant lack of movement.
There’s a whole thing now of New Year, New me? But how do you start that? Where do you start?
Your new goals may lead you to a better body or physique, a healthier lifestyle or maybe you just want to be a better version of yourself in some way. This guide is here to help you pinpoint your goals and understand how you may achieve them through better quality nutrition, moving more, going to the gym or just looking after your health.
Let’s cover some terminology first:
HIIT – High intensity interval training. This is training where you perform fast bouts of exercise with low amounts of rest. Normally in a circuit style. You aim to increase your heart rate into a high cardio or peak zone.
LISS – Low intensity steady state. This is generally attributed to cardio, which can be gentle walking, gentle bike. It’s any cardio activity which doesn’t increase the heart rate too much.
Core Work – Anything “trunk” orientated. Which includes deep core muscles and abdominal work – the 6 pack.
Plyometrics – Plyometrics are exercises involving jumping, leaping or bounding. If your feet leave the floor, it’s plyometrics. Plyo work can be great to add into HIIT work, conditioning or for sports.
Sets and Reps – When you are training in the gym you will perform sets and reps on exercise. Sets are the amount of rounds you do on an exercise. Reps are the total amounts of time you perform the exercise. Example: 3 x 15 on leg press. You perform 3 sets of 15 reps on the leg press, with an adequate 45-60 seconds of rest.
Pre-Workout and Post-Workout Meal – What you eat you use to fuel your workout and to replenish stores after. You should eat a meal 60-90 minutes before you exercise and aim to eat a meal 30-60 minutes after you exercise.
DOMS – delayed onset of muscle soreness. You know the feeling of aching and your muscles are stiff and sore after the gym? Well, that’s DOMS. It is caused by a build-up of lactic acid (a by-product of the muscles using energy). Stretching has been shown to reduce the amount of lactic acid which stays in the muscles. This gives you a good reason to stretch!!
The first thing someone does when they are new to the gym is go hell for leather on every exercise and every body part. And then this leaves them with ultimate muscle soreness (DOMS). This can be off-putting, especially for a newbie. The same applies if you have had some time off your training regime. So, make sure you ease your way back into your routine.
Here’s what we would recommend:
Newbie: 1-2 sessions a week of full body exercise (45 minutes per session)
Intermediate: 2-4 sessions per week of full body, split weight training or cardio
Advanced: 4+ sessions per week to meet your goal. How you want to train is dependent on your goal.
If your goal is to be a bodybuilder, then splitting your training into body parts is the best approach.
For strength training, focussing on heavy compound lifts often around the Wendler system. The Wendler system was created by Jim Wendler for individuals who are wanting to build up their strength to a 1-Rep max (the most weight you can lift for one weight). You do 5 reps one session, 3 reps one session and then finally 1 rep max. You can read about this system from the man himself here.
For fitness, cardio with HIIT and some weights.
For health, cardio with HIIT, some weights and even circuit classes are great.
For women, good mix of everything with training specific muscle groups with weights if you want to grow them. NOTE: Don’t listen to anything that says women should train different to men, or men should train different to women. This is not true. If you want to do weights, then do them. Weights don’t make you big and bulky – overeating will.
Remember, “What builds muscle is what preserves muscle too”. Don’t try and change your training too much. Training is dependent on the individual, and also what they are trying to achieve. But a good mix of hypertrophic style weight training, cardio (or body weight circuits) and most importantly REST days. Don’t start thinking you need to spend hours and hours in the gym to achieve the body you want – the body doesn’t work like that. Volume will automatically drop when the body is in a deficit, we simply don’t have the energy to train. And this is where mentality must take a hold – we must push through those barriers to keep training.
See below for a simple workout plan for a female fitness athlete during a dieting phase. The type of workout that you do will differ depending on the individual.
Sample Workout Plan
Day 1 - Quads and glutes – high carb day
Day 2 - Shoulders + HIIT Cardio – high carb day
Day 3 - REST – low carb day
Day 4 - Back – high carb day
Day 5 - Hamstrings and glutes – high carb day
Day 6 - REST (LISS Cardio and core work) – low carb day
Day 7 – REST.
As you can see, there are plenty of rest days which are essential for growth and recovery! And this also gives you time to spend doing other things, not just being in the gym.
What about the dreaded cardio?
In a recent interview with some of the top knowledge gurus in bodybuilding, Alan Aragon said “For bodybuilding specifically, I'd have to reiterate that the best approach is to begin with the least amount of cardio to get the results you're looking for”. Cardio should always be a staple within both off season and on season – primarily for its health benefits. However, we have to remember it requires energy, and that precious energy could be better spent during a cutting diet on a few extra sets in the gym or a steady state walk outside. Too much cardio and you tire yourself out and potentially change your muscle fibre type; ultimately losing power and strength.
The number one rule with dieting is: Don’t start following FAD diets that are out there, using skinny teas and supplements that you know will never work. Start by looking at controlling your calorie intake better.
If you want to gain or lose weight, the easiest way to do this is by tracking your calories. By actually understanding the number of calories that are in your food, you will then learn about portion sizes and be able to judge calories just by looking at your food – unless prepping for a bodybuilding competition or another extreme goal, you shouldn’t be consumed by controlling your intake.
First things first. MACROS (macronutrients). We have 3 key macronutrients: Proteins, Fats & Carbohydrates.
4 Calories per gram
50g protein = 200 calories
Note –50g of a protein source such as a chicken fillet does NOT equal 50g protein. Eating excess protein does NOT make you fat. Excess calories do. Protein is a key macronutrient when it comes to building your meals; this will be the first macronutrient that you should focus on. Protein is made up from amino acids and is the building blocks of living organisms. Adequate protein intake is critical for overall health and can be great for lowering hunger levels between meals.
4 Calories per gram
50g carbohydrates = 200 calories
Note – 50g of a carbohydrate source such as pasta does NOT equal 50g carbohydrate. Eating excess carbohydrates does NOT make you fat. Excess calories do. Let’s set this straight. Carbohydrates are NOT the devil. The danger is in the dose, as it is with anything else. Carbohydrates are your body’s main energy source but they are also protein sparing. This means they help prevent muscle tissue loss. Remember we want to focus on fat loss.
9 calories per gram
50g fat = 450 calories
Note – 50g of a fat source such as butter does NOT equal 50g fat. Eating fat does NOT make you fat. Excess calories do. Benefits of dietary fat include hormone production, transporting key vitamins and nerve function. This is crucial here. Commonly, as women drop their calories and their fats too low, they can drastically alter their hormone production. By consuming healthy fat sources (such as avocado, nuts and oily fish), you will feel fuller between meals, have a stronger immune system and better energy availability.
How do I track?
Using an app such as Myfitness Pal you can log what foods and drinks you eat. Be mindful about raw and cooked foods, and always add in which shop you have bought your food from. This makes thing more accurate and you can track the calories better.
How do I know my calories?...
To know how many calories you need as a baseline, you need to know your BMR, and your activity levels. From this, you will get an ESTIMATE of baseline calories to consume to stay the same weight. It’s really important to know that these are only estimates, but it gives you something to work towards.
If you eat those calories for a week and don’t lose any weight – reduce calories consumed or do more exercise.
If you eat those calories for a week and gain weight - reduce calories consumed or do more exercise.
If you eat those calories for a week and lose too much weight – increase your calories slightly.
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate): The amount of calories you need to consume to maintain your body if you were comatose or a couch potato (base level). You also need to know your activity levels:
1.2 = Sedentary (Desk job, and Little Formal Exercise)
1.3-1.4 = Lightly Active (Light daily activity AND light exercise 1-3 days a week)
1.5-1.6 = Moderately Active (Moderately daily Activity & Moderate exercise 3-5 days a week)
1.7-1.8 = Very Active (Physically demanding lifestyle & Hard exercise 6-7 days a week)
1.9-2.2 = Extremely Active (Athlete in ENDURANCE training or VERY HARD physical job)
WOMEN: BMR = 655.1 + (9.563 * weight [kg]) + (1.85 * size [cm]) − (4.676 * age [years])
MALE: BMR = 66.47 + (13.75 * weight [kg]) + (5.003 * size [cm]) − (6.755 * age [years])
Then, multiply this number by the activity level above to get your calorie requirement! How Accurate are they?: Rough ball-park figures. Still 'guesstimations'. So use these as 'rough figures', monitor your weight/ measurements for 2-4 weeks. IF your weight is stable/ measurements are stable, you have likely found maintenance.
Pre & Post workout Meal
Eating around your training is vital to progress. Pre workout will help fuel your performance and Post workout will help you replenish and repair. In those two meals have a good chunk of your carbohydrates whilst including a dose of protein with minimal fats. Fat sources around the workout window will slow down the digestion of the nutrients and could make you feel sluggish. The priority here is to power your training. Aim to digest a meal around 60-90 minutes pre workout & consume your post workout meal 30-75 minutes after your session. NOTE: Think about mindset here with your pre and post workout meals. What you eat, you are not trying to “burn off” in the gym. What you are doing is FUELING your workout before and then REPLENISHING stores for recovery after.
What should you be eating day to day?
It is entirely up to YOU! Great, right!? As long as you hit your daily targets and concentrate on wholesome, nutrient dense foods 90% of the time then you have plenty of flexibility with regards to food choices. By choosing nutrient dense foods you will feel more satisfied and your body will receive nutrients from quality sources. Aim to limit anything processed as it has the most calories for the least amount of nutrients. The food and exercise should fit into your lifestyle. You could have the ‘best plan in the world’ but if you cannot adhere to it, if it’s not sustainable and if it’s not long lived then it’s not for you.
Take home message: don’t follow the diet that makes you eat a lettuce leaf a day, that tells you to drink tea which means you end up on the toilet all day. Food is there to be enjoyed and savoured and not feared!
Basic Nutrition Plan
|Basic nutrition plan|
|Training Day||Rest Day|
|Meal 1||Oats with whey + berries / banana + 2 eggs 1 egg white||Oats with whey + peanut butter + 2 eggs|
|Meal 2 / pre-workout||Chicken with white rice seasoned with salt and pepper||Chicken with rice (smaller portion than training day) with green veg|
|Meal 3 / post-workout||White meat with rice + wrap / bagel and jam||White meat with rice / wrap|
|Meal 4 / post-post-workout||Red meat with rice (or any carb source)||Salmon with Mediterranean vegetables|
|Meal 5||Meat of choice with vegetables or salad + fat source (cheese / oil)||Meat of choice with vegetables or salad + fat source (cheese / oil)|
|Meal 6||Greek yoghurt with scoop of whey||Greek yoghurt (full fat) with peanut butter / nuts|
|Macros||Kcal – 2380
P – 160g
C – 300g
F – 60g
|Kcal – 2080
C – 180g
F – 80g
This is a rough guide for a woman who eats 6 meals a day and is looking to maintain their current weight, but trains hard and wants to fuel their workout. At the end of this book, there are a few meals for you to try (tried and tested might I add). Dieting for weight loss Where to start Work out the calories that you currently eat. Ask yourself, have you lost or gained weight within the last few weeks? If you have maintained your body weight and body fat, then start with an easy cut of 200kcal per day. Or, alternatively, you can add in extra exercise. If you have a high appetite, this might be preferable! Work out your weekly total calories, and then split your daily macros better according to training days and rest days. We need to ensure we still have plenty of energy for our training, and most of this energy comes from carbohydrates, so we would suggest high carb and low carb days around your training.
Dieting for weight loss
Where to start
Work out the calories that you currently eat. Ask yourself, have you lost or gained weight within the last few weeks? If you have maintained your body weight and body fat, then start with an easy cut of 200kcal per day. Or, alternatively, you can add in extra exercise. If you have a high appetite, this might be preferable! Work out your weekly total calories, and then split your daily macros better according to training days and rest days. We need to ensure we still have plenty of energy for our training, and most of this energy comes from carbohydrates, so we would suggest high carb and low carb days around your training.
As a rule of thumb, the following macros work the best for weight loss.
• Protein should be at 2-3g/kg body weight. Layne Norton PhD said “As for protein intake, almost all the data we have seems to suggest right around 2g/kg per day is plenty.”
• Fat – set at 0.7-1g per kg bodyweight.
• Carbs remainder of the calories left.
Use the table below as a guideline for macros and calories during an 8-week body fat % loss for body recomposition. You will see, the weight for the female individual didn’t change much over the course of the 8 weeks, but photos and body fat % looked totally different. Fat loss was achieved for this individual due to an increase in energy output, rather than over dieting.
|Guideline for Macros and Calories|
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3||Week 4||Week 5||Week 6||Week 7||Week 8|
|Body fat (%)||28||26||25||24||22||20||18||16|
|Protein (g) (2g per kg)||160||160||160||160||160||160||160||160|
|Fat (g) (0.8g per kg)||60||60||60||60||60||60||60||60|
When you start training, you may be fooled into buying “the gym newbie pack”. Let’ be honest, you don’t need most of the stuff that will be in these newbie packs. We’re going to cover some key products that you may or may not want to use when you start out at the gym on your new lifestyle regime.
Protein powder. There are lots of different types of protein out there. Understanding which one to consume can help promote more muscle protein synthesis which helps with either building muscle, gaining strength or retaining muscle during a cut / diet. Just generally eating more protein in the diet is beneficial for strength and even for appetite. We already have a great guide on protein sources here, so give it a read!
Creatine. Creatine is the first part in the ATP system. ATP is what gives us energy but we only have a limited store of it in our body (lasts between 4-7 seconds only). Multiple different pathways replenish the stores of ATP. Carbohydrates replenish ATP, fats replenish ATP and so does protein. However, the first compound which gets broken down is creatine. Creatine is mainly found in red meat, so if you have a diet low in red meat, supplementing 5-10g of creatine as an intra workout drink is useful to boost creatine stores and therefore boost ATP stores for energy.
EAAs. You’ll hear a lot of debate about the use of branched chain amino acids and essential amino acids and whether you need to consume them. Here’s the low down of these. If you follow a vegetarian, vegan or a low meat diet, I recommend supplementing with either BCAAs or EAAs – unless you have the perfect diet you are unlikely to hit the intake needed of these amino acids. If you train super hard, multiple times per week or even day, then consuming EAAs will be beneficial towards your recovery and in retaining muscle mass during a dieting / cutting phase.
Pre-workouts / pump formulas. Not essential if you have just started at the gym, but it’s good to know what they do. Pump formulas aim to increase the amount of nitric oxide you have in your blood. Nitric oxide makes the blood vessels dilate (open up more), enabling more blood, oxygen and nutrients to get into the muscles that are working. This makes them look bigger and fuller when you train. Useful for arm sessions to make your biceps look swole. Pre-workouts on the other hand, aim to boost your energy and focus. So, if you tend to find that you may be lacking some drive and motivation in the gym, a pre workout may give you the kick that you need.
Here is some Information about the top 5 health supplements that we would recommend to you all. These are general quantities but you may need to have more specific supplements and amounts given to you. This is all goal dependent.
- Improved insulin management
How much? Look out for 1000mg tablets. Aim to take just two a day in the morning. Omegas are found in fish, so an individual with a diet low in fatty fish should consider supplementing with omegas.
- Calcium metabolism
- Nerve function
- Hormone management
How much? Look out for 1000IU tablets. Take between 2-5 per day in the morning. In countries with low sunlight, or that are cold (so we stay covered up), supplementing with vitamin D is essential! The RDA for vitamin D is exceptionally low, so don’t be fooled when your food says 100% of the RDA – this value is too low to be beneficial.
- Powerful antioxidant
- Helps to maintain structure of cells
- Extremely good for hair
How much? Look out for 400IU and take one per day
- Cell-cell communication
- Assists fat metabolism
- Crucial role in energy metabolism
How much? Aim to find a general multi B-Vitamin. B vitamins are found in green leafy vegetables, so if you don’t consume many vegetables, taking a B vitamin should be considered. For females who suffer with PMS, heavy periods and pain, consuming B6 and B12 during this time can help to ameliorate those symptoms.
- Bone and teeth growth and repair
- Functions in blood clotting
- Involved in nerve and hormone actions
How much? Look out for 1000mg tablets. Aim to take just one a day in the morning. If you are on a low dairy diet, (allergies/intolerance or vegan) then taking a calcium tablet should be on your supplement list.
We would not recommend that you buy a generic plan from a ‘guru trainer’ on Instagram. Every person is unique and individual, so if you are wanting plans, always get a bespoke one from someone who knows what they are doing. When in doubt, ask questions. We are always learning and should learn from each other. Take home a few messages from the guide above, or note down the following to help you on your way to your goals.
The 5 rules of a nutrition plan:
• Ensure you have enough protein to keep you satiated and to keep the muscles strong
• Carbs should be high enough to support training with high volumes. Set them as high as possible whilst still losing fat.
• Don’t starve yourself. Your diet should be varied so you aren’t bored of what you are eating and you have all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to be healthy.
• Ensure you are in a calorie deficit for dieting! A calorie deficit will cause weight loss! Regardless of gender, hormones, age, whether you’re a crossfitter or not, or just because Susan says so. Dammit Susan. Likewise, be in a calorie surplus for gaining weight.
• Eat your vegetables. Yes, it’s a cliché, but ensuring that you have adequate amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals is crucial for your hormones, recovery, brain function and performance.
Five rules of training:
• Train hard and well each day. Just because you are dieting doesn’t give you an excuse to give in. Push through your boundaries. What builds, preserves.
• Have a plan. Whether you have wrote it yourself or asked someone else to help you (as long as it is personalised), having a plan to follow will keep you focussed and motivated.
• Don’t neglect the basics of a warm up, cool down and stretching. Stretching is essential to keeping your muscles loose, your joints supple and has been shown to benefit with weight training by improving muscle-nerve potentiation.
• Form is key. Don’t go silly with the weights that you lose your posture whilst lifting. Not only does this look silly (like a cat deadlifting), but your muscles aren’t actually doing the work and you could seriously injure yourself.
• Make sure you rest. If you don’t rest and recover, you won’t build muscle, you won’t build endurance, you won’t progress.