I hope you’re not looking for an actual ‘quick fix’ type secret. You will end up being quite disappointed.
The secret isn’t Dr. Bernstein’s or any other specifically itemized diet.
The secret isn’t the bowflex, or any other piece of fitness equipment
The secret isn’t P90X or any other group exercise program.
And there is no magic pill you can ingest that will make the fat go away and the muscles magically appear.
The secret is the application of the phrase common sense and moderation to almost any bio-energetic variable. Granted, these terms are very subjective and the world of physiology is obviously based on objectivity. Having said that, I urge you to apply this subjective phrase to some of the variables listed below and I think you’ll be amazed at how quickly the science can turn in your favour.
In order to simplify the variables, let’s presume that:
- Calories in and calories out dictate how much we weigh.
- The type of calories we take in and the type of activity we perform (lifestyle and/or workouts) determine the type of weight we have (muscle vs. body fat).
Let’s apply the phrase to variables within the Nutrition, lifestyle and workout realms.
- Common sense: The body will perform at a more efficient level if you provide it with the proper nutrients. That means you’ll sleep better, have more energy and be more productive with everything you do. In addition, pre and post workout intake can have an effect on the gains or losses you achieve. Muscles aren’t created from thin air. If you don’t take in the proper building blocks you’re gains will be quite limited….no matter how hard you work. If you fail to apply common sense and eat foods that are lacking in nutrient value, you may find yourself satiating the hunger pains but you’ll end up being quite lethargic and perhaps moody during your days. Not a lot of fun for you or your friends and family.
- Moderation: You can’t eat almonds with every meal and there is more to life than anti-oxidants. Your body needs fruits and vegetables and it needs protein and carbohydrates. It requires water and it also needs fats (although they are rarely hard to come by). You won’t be able to have everything with every meal so spread it out. If you find yourself taking in too many useless calories you won’t have room for the useful calories. Replace a few cups of coffee with some water or juice, replace a couple of cookies or chips with some fruit and a granola/yogurt snack and all of a sudden you’ve found yourself 5 lbs lighter at the end of the year and much more productive on a daily basis.
Lifestyle (difficult to summarize in 100 words or less…):
- Common Sense:
- Take advantage of the energy paradox. The more you burn, the more you’ll have. In other words, work and play hard but provide the body with the rest it needs.
- Do your best to make positive choices in life. Mistakes will happen. Learn from them and try to make the next experience a more positive one.
- In many cases state of mind can be a choice.
- Choose to have perspective and value the good things in life.
- Earn your indulgences and be proud of your accomplishments.
- I’ll not bore you with further clichés that I enjoy but I do suggest you spend some time thinking about what matters most to you in life and while changing priorities in your life, come up with some clichés of your own.
- Moderation: Obviously it would be wrong for me to tell you what you want to do on a daily basis. What I’d like to convey is the experiences I’ve had working with people who want to see changes in their body or mind but are hesitant to change their lifestyle. If you’ve been walking the dog every day for 4 years and haven’t seen the weight loss you want to see….don’t waste time complaining that you’re not seeing changes in your body. Take an objective, self reflective approach and you’ll recognize that you’re going to need a change in your routine if you want to see a change in your body. If you’re working 11 hours per day plus driving in stressful traffic for another 90 minutes maybe it’s time to change your pattern in order to alleviate the stresses that are becoming more difficult to manage. I’ve seen many successes in these regards and although some people benefit from the ‘all or nothing’ approach, I’ve seen many more people benefit from moderating their lifestyle activities on a regular basis.
- Common sense: fewer workouts mean more intense workouts are required for changes to the body. High intensity workouts means more recovery time is required. Provide it! Spend the one time fee of $50 or so and get the correct information from a professional if you’re at all unsure.
- Moderation: Pending your goals, you’ll likely need to spend most of your time on the areas you want to improve; however, you also need to maintain other areas vs. neglect them altogether. How much time and energy can you afford? How important is your body?
- Common sense: Building muscles and/or cardio-vascular efficiency does not come easy. You will need to work hard in order make significant gains in these areas; however, if you’re used to doing nothing then just adding a little to your routine will result in a positive change as well.
- Moderation: If you’ve worked hard one day, take it easy the next. If you’re strength training you have the option to vary the muscles from day to day thus ensuring rest takes place. If you’re working the heart or burning calories with a high intensity workout, be sure to drop the intensity if you work out the following day. The body needs time to replenish and recover. To prevent recovery time ultimately leads to no changes or negative changes despite high efforts.
- Common Sense: The best activity is the one that keeps you coming back. There are countless activities for every health and fitness goal. Pick some that you like and try some new things every now and then. Some can benefit from running 6 days per week but they are the exception. Have fun with what you do and you’ll promote self-adherence while achieving your goals.
- Moderation: You may love spinning so much that you go to 6 classes per week. That may only last for a few months and then you’ll end up hating spinning. Why not go 2X/week for a few years and mix in some time with the kids, the dogs, the neighbors, or even the neighbor’s kid’s dogs. You’ll find you get even more enjoyment out of the spinning classes and will look forward to them vs. dreading them.
- Common Sense: What can you afford? 30 minutes, 2X/week? 60 minutes/day? Compare that with your level of priority for a healthy body. If peace of mind and a healthy body are high on your priority list you’d better afford it more than 30 minutes/week. You need your body your entire life for everything you do. In some cases your family and friends need you around for various reasons as well. Be good to it and provide it with the time it requires to be healthy and fit.
- Moderation: I’ve seen fitness take over some people’s lives. Yes, they live long and look great but do they get a chance to enjoy it? That will be up to you to decide. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve seen people do absolutely nothing for their body and live a self-proclaimed ‘kind of enjoyable’ life for 40 or 50 years. Isn’t there a happy medium? Can’t we spend enough time on our body and nutrition that we look good and feel great and live long without having life pass us by? Enjoy the process. It’s a fun ride.
Of course, genetics plays a role on one’s potential and there are always exceptions to the rule etc; however, I think you’ll be pretty safe if you apply a common sense approach to your lifestyle and moderate the extremes.
Enjoy the rewards of your efforts and smile along the way.
Yours in health and fitness,
Art McDonald, CSEP (Certified Exercise Physiologist)