The Practical Guide to Optimal Body Composition

The Practical Guide to Optimal Body Composition

The successful way to get the body you desire is with a simple approach that includes proper training and correct nutrition so that you maintain body composition results for the long run.

A lot of people make the mistake of approaching fat loss by only focusing on one aspect. They’ll just cut calories, which leads to a drop in metabolic rate so that their bodies burn fewer calories every day and they lose lean muscle mass.

Or they try to burn more calories through exercise but pay no attention to what and how much they are eating. Studies consistently show that people “reward” themselves after they exercise, eating more calories, particularly by indulging in sweets and high-calorie foods that they’d normally steer clear of.

Therefore, it’s essential that you approach fat loss from three different angles. First, you need to exercise, doing some form of training with weights. Additional interval workouts can accelerate fat loss.

Second, eat a whole foods diet that optimizes protein and carb intake for your unique genetics.

Third, develop habits that allow you to fight against the obesogenic environment that has overtaken modern society. Do the little things that promote wellness like get good sleep, be active throughout the day, reduce screen time, and take action to manage the constant, pervasive stress that is beating us down.

This article will give you the details of putting these principles into practice so that you get the body you’ve been hoping for.

#1: Strength train with a high volume, short rest periods, and moderate loads.

Any time you want to use exercise to improve your body, your first goal should be on elevating your resting metabolic rate (RMR) by increasing lean muscle mass because this means you will burn more calories every day.

The RMR makes up the bulk of energy you burn. Burning energy in addition to the RMR when working out is great, but the impact on total energy burned is fairly small compared to the total RMR.

To build muscle, prioritize strength training, emphasizing multi-joint exercises through a full range-of-motion, such as squats, deadlifts, chin-ups, presses, lunges, step-ups, and rows. A general rule is to train in the 8 to 12 rep range, with select lower and higher range training to maintain peak strength (use 3 to 8 reps) or push volume (try 13 to 20 reps) for a greater metabolic effect.

A 4-set per exercise scheme is a good place to start, but can be manipulated for a greater muscle building effect. This should allow you to train between 40 to 70 reps per muscle group per session.

Use weights in the 65 to 85 percent of maximum range with short rest periods of 60 seconds or shorter to make your body a high-powered energy burning machine.

#2: Always count tempo and let the reps dictate the load.

Tempo refers to the speed with which you perform the up and down phases of any lift. A general principal for building muscle and losing fat is to favor moderate eccentric (3 to 6 seconds) and fast concentric tempos so that you spend a longer time “under” the weight.

It’s also very important to make sure you’re lifting adequate weight to produce changes in your body, but not too heavy so that your form breaks down. Novices are notorious for selling themselves short and using weights that are too light.

A solution is to commit to always lifting with impeccable form and let the reps dictate the load. If you’re doing 6 to 8 reps, use a weight that has you reaching failure by the 8th rep. Once you can do 9 reps with perfect form, increase your weights.

#3: Do sprint training to boost growth hormone and accelerate fat loss.

Sprint training works wonders on the body because it applies a lot of metabolic stress in the same way lifting weights with short rest periods does. Lactic acid builds up when your muscles apply a maximal effort, which leads the body to release growth hormone. Growth hormone (GH) is lipolytic, meaning it increases fat breakdown and the metabolism of glucose and amino acids.

Sprints also build lean muscle, which aerobic cardio, such as distance running, doesn’t do. In fact, nothing about aerobic cardio is in line with the goals of fat loss or muscle building because it trains the body to be efficient and use the least amount of energy to produce the greatest amount of work.

For example, in a study of normal-weight women, those who did 20-minutes of resisted cycle sprints lost 1.5 kg of body fat whereas a group that did 40 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic cycling gained about a half a kilo of fat.

#4: Be active in daily life to improve metabolism.

It should go without saying that being sedentary most of the day even if you train hard isn’t going to do your physique any favors. Unfortunately, people aren’t following through with action.

Although exercise rates are increasing, people are moving less overall, which has a tremendously negative impact on metabolism: Fewer calories get burned daily, gene signaling slows, blood sugar and insulin health are compromised, and muscle building and tissue repair is reduced.

Whether you get yourself in gear by getting a standing or treadmill desk, take frequent active breaks, track your daily steps with a pedometer, or get rid of your TV, it’s vital that you commit to being more active and inspiring your friends to do the same.

#5: Eat protein at every meal: The protein quality is most important.

Everyone knows protein foods promote optimal body composition because they’re filling, they require the body to burn more calories to metabolize than carbs or fat, and they are used to repair muscle and tissue.

But not all protein is created equally. Whole sources of protein from meat, eggs, and even beans trump foods that have processed protein added to them as a marketing scheme, such as high-protein cereal or bread. The exception to the whole protein rule is whey protein and dairy products, since both are technically “processed” foods, but the key is to choose whey and dairy that has undergone the least processing, such as whole yogurt or undenatured whey.

The second factor is to choose protein that has all the essential amino acids and as many non-essential aminos and other nutrients as possible. One solution is to get the majority of your protein from eggs, organic red meat, fish, poultry, whole dairy, and use vegetarian protein sources like beans, seeds, and nuts as condiments.

#6: Optimize carb intake based on genetics and activity levels.

Low-carb, high-protein diets are effective for fat loss. But the very low-carb diet (ketogenic range of less than 50 grams of carbs a day) that is right for overweight, sedentary people who need to reset their metabolism is not for everyone.

Here is a useful approach: Avoid all processed carbs and refined grains such as sweets, bread, pasta, and crackers. Eat fibrous carbs, especially green vegetables and dark-colored fruits that are nutrient rich and very filling instead.

Avoid whole wheat and corn and consider removing other grains. Grains are calorie-rich and many cause a very large insulin response. Though they contain slightly more nutrients than refined grains, whole grains have nothing on the majority of veggies, fruit, and protein when it comes to nutrient density and satiety.

The best times to eat high-carb foods is after working out and in the evening because they lower cortisol and promote recovery.

The worst times to eat high-carb foods is in the morning and before workouts because the increase in insulin shifts the body away from burning fat and reduces motivation.

#8: Eat plenty of beneficial fats.

Eating foods that contain a variety of fats is a surefire way to have delicious meals, support health, and promote optimal body composition. Fat is filling and it is essential for cellular health and balance of the key androgen hormones.

To optimize fat intake, choose natural fat sources and think about fat within the context of the other two macronutrients, protein and carbs. Here’s how:

  • Eat fish and grass-fed meats from beef, pork, chicken, and organic dairy frequently.
  • Use butter, coconut oil, and palm oil to cook with because these fats are safe at high temperatures.
  • Add avocados, olives, and tree nuts to meals—all have been called “anti-obesity” foods by scientists. Use olive oil for low temperature cooking or to drizzle on veggies.
#9: Take care of your digestion by getting probiotics and avoiding foods that you are intolerant of.

It’s very difficult to lose fat if you don’t have a healthy gut for two interrelated reasons. First, more than half of the neurotransmitters that send messages from the brain to cells throughout the body are made in the gastrointestinal lining. If you have unhealthy bacteria in the gut, it will negatively influence the production of neurotransmitters, leading to poor cognitive function, low mood, and low motivation.

Second a healthy gut will help you feel better by improving digestion so that your body is getting the required nutrition, but keeping you safe from all the damaging compounds and bacteria we are exposed to.

Gut health is a complex process, but two simple things are indicated by the research. First, get probiotics daily, either in a supplement or in fermented foods, such as sauerkraut or yogurt. For example, in a Japanese study, drinking fermented milk containing probiotic bacteria for four weeks led to a small loss of body fat and a decrease in belly fat of 8.2 percent.

Second, avoid foods you are intolerant of—this is anything that leads to troubled digestion or makes you feel poorly. Common culprits are gluten-containing foods, milk, tree nuts, and processed foods.

#10: Get enough of the big three: magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc.

There’s been a recent supplement phobia, but that doesn’t make certain nutrients any less essential, or change the fact that we are largely deficient in them. Magnesium, vitamin D, and zinc all directly influence metabolism. For example, adequate vitamin D in the body will increase fat oxidation, but it also suppresses the production of enzymes that cause the body to store fat.

Magnesium makes the cell receptors more sensitive to insulin, and this mineral has been shown to be inversely linked to body fat—higher magnesium means you’re likely to be leaner. Zinc also plays a primary role in insulin health by improving the production of enzymes that protect the cells, and it helps detoxify inflammatory biomarkers that get in the way of metabolic function.

#11: Improve your sleep by optimizing light exposure.

Lack of sleep makes people feel hungrier, make poorer food choices, and eat more (as much as 300 calories a day). In addition, insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance drop when sleep deprived.

In addition, men experience an acute drop in testosterone when they are sleep deprived, and both sexes suffer from lower growth hormone release since you experience the bulk of GH release during sleep.

A simple and profound way to get better sleep is to optimize your light and dark exposure. Light serves as the major regulator of your “master clock,” which controls your circadian rhythm. To “anchor” your master clock, you want to get bright outdoor light exposure for at least 30 to 60 minutes a day, preferably in the morning right after waking up.

#12: Adopt habits that promote leanness.

Research has revealed a number of habits that correlate with leanness and a better body composition. Here are a few of the simplest, most practical ones:

  • Avoid late night eating. Finishing your last meal by 8 p.m. promotes circadian rhythms and hormone balance for better sleep.
  • Pick a meal frequency and stick to it. Constant hunger and nearly uncontrollable food cravings are signs that hormones are out balance and blood sugar is off. Solve this by having a set meal frequency.
  • Do meditation or other mind-body activities. Meditation, even for a few minutes a day, has been found to lower cortisol and improve balance of hormones like testosterone and growth hormone. Martial arts, deep breathing, and yoga have also been shown to improve resilience to stress and aid in sleep and immune function.
  • Supplement. Caffeine, creatine, and whey protein can all improve body composition results with training.

Taking creatine consistently leads to greater gains in muscle and better athletic performance becaue trainees are able to work harder.

Caffeine enhances motivation to train hard, lift heavy weights and move fast and powerfully. This can lead you to burn more energy during exercise but also to achieve a higher post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which is associated with a higher calorie burn in the 24 to 48 hour recovery period after high-intensity exercise.

Whey protein consistently leads to greater gains in muscle mass by stimulating protein synthesis and aiding fat loss by raising metabolic rate and improving insulin sensitivity. For example, in a group of Division III female basketball players, those who took whey in conjunction with training lost more body fat than a group that took soy.

 

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