Nutrition has become the buzz word for the last decade in health and fitness, and rightly so! It has huge effects on our body from speeding up metabolism to reducing or increasing hormone levels. It is rightly seen as King in the transformation process.
I completely agree that, if exercise is the damaging of our body to induce change, nutrition is the provision of resources to our body to provide the change we want. So, in the past, the industry looked around to find out what the best nutrition would look like and settled on bodybuilder’s super clean and super strict diets. This was largely what our clients wanted to look like so studying what they ate and drank (and how they went about eating it) and then using this to draw up what we would coach our clients to eat seemed like a good idea. However, it seems now PT’s literally emulate the entire diet instead of using common sense.
It is this which I am going to completely blow your mind on. This was and still is the wrong way of going about doing it. This is for a plethora of reasons but I am going to highlight a few of the key ones below.
The Problem With Bodybuilders Diets
The first and biggest problem with the selection of a bodybuilders diet for you, as a client, is pretty glaringly obvious. You are not a bodybuilder! Whilst you may have ambitions at this very stage you are not looking to walk out on stage, after 6 months of 2 sessions a week, on the UKBFF shows!
At this stage in training I am looking to elicit two things from your nutrition:
- To be Expenditure Neutral. In the early stages of the program, I am actually looking for your diet to supply you with the macros and calories you need for your bodyweight. If I crash you, the very first thing that will happen is that you will feel like you’ve been hit by a train when you wake up in the morning, you won’t recover in between sessions and after about 3 weeks of resistance training, you will start to tweak muscles and feel miserable. Primarily, all I want to do with you at the start is make sure your body is happily adapting and getting stronger to the exercise I am throwing at it! I only work with people who are looking to put the effort in long term. I create bodies that last, not ones that bounce back up like a yo-yo.
- Get Your Meal Sizes and Content Right. This means we look at how much you eat in one sitting and what you’re actually eating. I do this by analysing your diet for a week, and then starting to shift things up slowly so that you don’t feel stressed. This is the key to making sure your body is getting enough proteins and carbs to build muscle, without having so much that you start making fat (and that doesn’t mean leaving fat out of your diet!).
When you start your new training program with me you are likely to be hungry all of the time! A low-carb and low-calorie diet is just going to cripple you and make your miserable. Aren’t you doing this to make life better?
Secondly, it is a well-known fact that a lot of bodybuilders are on gear! Their diet is built around providing their muscles with resources constantly around the clock. Whilst this is a good blueprint, their meal content has to be super clean. Any refined sugar mixed with steroids and you are looking at cancer.
Most of the time your body is able to clean out the broken DNA that causes cancer and remain balanced (homeostasis) unless something goes wrong. Refined sugar is starting to be linked to causing cancer in humans in normal populations. In people with highly accelerated systems, refined sugars may cause cancers to grow a lot faster than normal preventing the body from dealing with them.
This means bodybuilders have to be super strict. However, and please don’t mob me for saying this, this leaves you general population clients slightly more leeway in your choices for your meal content. Whilst you should still avoid the unhealthy high GI foods, you can at least have some sauce!
The Start of a Journey
Another issue with a strict diet plan is that as a new client you undergo a huge amount of stress when you walk into the gym for the first time. Anyone who knows anything about the endocrine (hormonal) system will know that a stress response is to seek out an endorphin raising event. This can be anything enjoyable but, nine out of ten times with new clients, it is usually tasty food; we all know that “tasty” food isn’t usually healthy food!
As a new client, you are already hard to keep on a new program when you are this fresh in the Stages of Change Cycle and, unless trained and managed properly, you are likely to fold within the first 3 months. So I fail to see the benefit of prescribing you a meal plan of rice, spinach and chicken which will only be adding more stress to an already borderline overloaded client, because you can’t have your favourite Dolmio sauce on your pasta bake!
Instead, surely an approach whereby you are getting the right macros(ish) but still able to enjoy some food, in order to reduce the overall stress of the situation, is likely to mean increased rates of adoption of a new regime and continuation of the program that will improve your quality of life and health?
I usually only have one rule with my clients and that is you can eat it if you cook it yourself and it fits the right ratio of food types. This generally means portions are good sizes, taste good (depending on who the client is), and have all the nutrients in them that are needed, but they’re not going to have any of the rubbish from machine pre-made food.
In summary, the key to nutrition to reach your goal is to actually relax with it. Cook food you enjoy or eat food you know you could cook with a little effort. Get the right ratios of food on the plate, something that your PT or I can teach you, and get the meal portions right!
Food should be tweaked slowly over time like I would do with fitness. You don’t see a new client coming into the gym and getting put straight into a set of Olympic snatch lifting so why would you expect to have the equivalent done with your nutrition.
Take it slow, Enjoy the change and reach your goal. There is time for the pain of carb cutting and low-calorie diets later down the line when you are not so stressed about being new to exercise and when you are going for Mr or Mrs Universe!