Everyone is looking for a magic bullet to make changing their body composition easier. They think there is a special pill, a charmed food, or that one exercise that is going to help them lose fat or put on muscle. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix to getting the body you desire.
The good news is there is no mystery about how to eat and train for leanness: We know how to do it.
You just have to buy in and be consistent: Your body composition is a result of what you do over the longer term. One meal or even one day of eating poorly won’t significantly alter your body. Same goes for fat loss—one or two days of the right exercise can easily leave you with no measurable results.
The solution is to be consistent: Eat the same basic stuff day after day, year after year, instead of continually overhauling your diet and lifestyle. String together a series of high-quality workouts, hitting ever exercise with full effort and attention. Take your supplements religiously. Get your zzzzs in, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
Might sound boring, but it’s amazingly effective. Exercise studies consistently show that the participants who adhere to their training programs gain the most strength and muscle. Same goes for nutrition studies: The people who stick to their diets are the ones that lean up, whether regardless of the type of diet they follow.
With that in mind, here are some tips for making consistency work for you:
When it comes to eating, most people will get better results from diets designed around real food because this improves nutrition, appetite, and palatability. It’s also more applicable to social situations, which can be a deal breaker for people who enjoy eating with friends and family.
Consistency doesn’t mean you have to eat the same chicken and broccoli at every meal. You mix the actual foods, utilizing the array of spices and flavors at your disposal (cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, cumin, curry, vinegars, lime, lemons, basil, and so on). But try planning every meal to contain protein, vegetables, and a beneficial fat. Think a big salad with tons of colorful vegetables and salmon. Or a stir fry with greens, peppers, squash, chicken, and cashews or pine nuts.
This doesn’t mean you can’t include a potato, some rice, sweet potato fries, or a dessert if you want to. It just means that you have a consistent dietary framework that you use to manage cravings and intelligently make the tough choices when you’re hungry and your rationale abilities are compromised due to stress or other things on your mind.
Regarding exercise, we know that the successful people are the ones who show up and do their workouts. Therefore, you need to pick a training frequency that fits into your schedule. It’s never going to work if you’re double booked or have to rush off after 20 minutes to pick up your kids. Also, don’t schedule workouts when you’re completely exhausted and just want to pass out on the couch. Of course, there are times when you may have to train when tired, but do everything you can to set yourself up for success.
Most people will benefit from 4 hour-long workouts a week. But if this is just impossible, do what works. Maybe you can only fit in two training sessions, or it works better to do 5 twenty-minute workouts. The key is to commit and follow through, giving full effort every time you hit the gym. Don’t sell yourself short by taking your phone in with you and wasting time on social media.
A lot of people make the mistake of doing random workouts—lifting one day, going for a run the next, and doing a yoga class the next. Best results come when you pick a training mode and stick to it. We recommend strength training because it gives you the biggest bang for your buck, building strength and muscle, improving your metabolism, boosting self-confidence, and even targeting cognition.
You need a pre-set workout program with specific set/rep/rest schemes to ensure you are overloading the body in a way that will induce changes. Plan your workouts in 4 to 6 week phases to ensure you keep adapting. For the first 4 to 6 week phase, train a higher volume, with 4 to 5 set per exercise for 8 to 15 reps, using weights that have you reaching failure by the final rep. For the next 4 to 6 week phase, train heavier weights with 4 to 5 sets per exercise but lower rep counts between 4 and 8 reps, going to failure whenever possible.
Choose exercises that train the whole body, such as squats, deadlifts, step-ups, pulls, and presses. If your goal is fat loss, adding in some interval or high-intensity training can accelerate the process, just make sure you’re not overdoing it and getting extra sore or fatigued so that you end up skipping your next session.
It’s also important to be consistent with supplementation and other lifestyle habits like sleep and stress reduction. If you’re burning the candle at both ends or finding yourself completely overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, it’s time to take action and make a change. Many people find the best stress management results from taking it step-by-step, doing deep breathing, meditation, or other stress reducing activity on the spot when things get tough instead of waiting until the end of the day or the weekend when all you can do is lie on the couch with cookies and whatever alcohol is left in the house.
Final Words: Consistency may seem boring, but developing habits can help outsmart your irrational self and allow you to avoid the need to continually overhaul your diet and lifestyle in an effort to make change. By committing to a lean lifestyle, you go all in and get that most important magic bullet to work for you instead of getting mired in inconsistency.