ttacking health and fitness goals is a lot like going on a long road trip to an exotic new location. You pick your destination and then you go, right? Simple as that! Well, first you need to fuel up. Maybe make sure your oil is topped up and that your tires are inflated. But what if your transmission is struggling? What if the clutch is wearing? How’s the suspension? Do you even know how to drive standard? Oh, and don’t forget that you need coffee, and you’ve got to pick up water and supplies. Can’t forget your license and passport, either. Now, what route will you take? The highway, toll road, back roads? What if there’s an accident? Or construction? What about the weather? The truth is, you can pick your destination but there are thousands of variables that can shape your path and the time it will take you to arrive. Ignoring important details or taking risky shortcuts doesn’t mean you’ll save time or get there any quicker; as a matter of fact, doing these things will almost always result in getting lost and can prevent you from ever reaching your ultimate destination. This is a random analogy, but this is exactly how I see far too many people approach health and fitness.
“You’re smart; start acting like it.”
I’ve been a nutrition and lifestyle coach for several years now and I can tell you that understanding the basics and being consistent over time is the only way to accomplish any kind of meaningful goal. There are no shortcuts. The biggest issues I come across are when people are being lazy and trying to find quick-fix solutions or when clients try to run before they walk by using advanced protocols when they haven’t yet taken the time to engrain the simple habits that will lead to sustainable results.
A perfect example occurred back in 2011 when I heard first heard of Carb Backloading™ (CBL) through a friend, who told me I could get jacked by eating whatever I wanted as long as it was in the post-workout window. Anything? I asked. Anything, he replied. Little did I know, he hadn’t read the eBook and he stopped backloading a few weeks later because he thought he was developing “bitch tits”. I, on the other hand, read the eBook and quickly realized that CBL wasn’t a miracle diet to get huge and lean, but instead a well-thought out protocol that could be extremely effective within the right framework. The reason I stuck with the program is because this framework coincided with what I know to be healthy lifestyle, so I started playing by the rules and the results soon followed.
Protocols like The Carb Nite® Solution (CNS) and CBL are only effective if you’re covering your basics outside of the scheduled carbohydrate refeeds. Unless you’re an active, growing teenager (meaning you can get away with eating Pop-Tarts all day without repercussions), you can’t haphazardly eat whatever you want whenever you want and then employ the “fun” parts of diet protocols on a whim. Yes, I love CBL because it gives me the green light to eat doughnuts from time to time as a driver to getting strong while continuing to stay lean, but the other 99% of my life I’m staying well-hydrated, eating high-quality food and recovering appropriately. Can tackling your dream body and performance be fun? It absolutely should be! Just don’t think you can cherry-pick your way to success.
Before attempting to tackle any kind of nutrition protocol, there are basics that need to be covered. First and foremost, is there an eBook? If so, read the eBook. Word of mouth will get you nowhere. If there’s an accurate source of important information, go directly to it; do not pass go, do not collect $200.
“Keep it simple, Stupid.”
Once you understand the skeleton of the protocol, employ the human basics required to get your body healthy enough to entertain progressive change and adaptation. This includes but is not limited to:
– Sleep; an average of at least 7 hours per night (8+ is ideal)
– Water; at least 1L per 50 pounds of body weight daily
– Protein; eat some at every meal
– Green foods; at least one needs to find a way into your mouth on a daily basis
– Calories; eat more than 1000 daily (you’d be surprised how many people don’t)
Without leading a lifestyle with these basic habits in tow, how will you be able to manipulate your body in a more complex manner? Will a pre-workout supplement make up for the two hours of sleep you’re missing every night? Will fasting help you achieve a better body composition if your meal choices come mostly from fast food? It continues to amaze me how many people ask questions about these relatively minute details when they’re far from prepared to employ them effectively. Here are just a few examples that I’ve come across recently:
1) Worried about supplements but drinking less than 1L of water per day
2) Using CBL but consuming nearly 100g of carbohydrates daily before 5pm
3) Focused on advanced strength training protocols but eating less than 50g of protein per day
4) Following CNS but eating fruit and hummus most mornings
5) Employing Intermittent Fasting but can’t seem to eat enough calories in a day
The moral of the story is that it’s fantastic to be motivated and health-oriented, but you can’t half-ass your way to success. Whenever I work with clients, we analyze their long-term goals and work backwards from there, ensuring that small but important habits are in place to pave the way for sustainable results. As I’ve said many times, the body is far more complex than calories-in, calories-out; you need a well-hydrated, well-recovered, stress-controlled machine if you want to achieve any meaningful body composition or performance-type goals. Get excited and set your aspirations high but remember that it’s the boring basics that will get you most efficiently to your final destination.