So you’ve decided that you just HAVE to get fit.
Maybe you looked in the mirror one day and saw that there was more stuff there than before. Maybe you had to take the stairs and it was a lot harder than you remember. Or maybe it was the pile of old clothes that you try not to think about that don’t quite fit the way they used to.
So now you’re strength training 5 days a week, cycling to the gym, doing cardio in the evenings, doing intermittent fasting and not eating carbs.
What could go wrong?
If the sarcasm wasn’t already evident, let’s make it clear: a lot.
It remind me of the Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (please watch it if you haven’t already).
While you might get full marks for enthusiasm and effort, that’s not going to lead to the results you want.
You can’t force progress.
It might work for a few weeks or even a few months, but you will eventually reach a point where your body rebels and shuts down.
Let’s use your (hopefully healthy) bank account as an analogy. Every new ‘thing’ you do to force progress amounts to a withdrawal. This will include:
Cutting carbs/restricting calories in any way
The other side of the account will have everything that will help your body recover from all the stuff you’re throwing at it:
Adequate sleep (7+ hours)
Adequate water (3+ litres)
Eating sufficient vegetables and protein on the daily
If you make too many withdrawals without being responsible about your deposits, then your cheques will bounce, ‘loan recovery agents’ will be at your doorstep, and you’ll soon be out on the street sleeping in a cardboard box.
(Ok, that got dark quickly)
But the point is this: your body is smarter than you. It will find a way around all that you do and it will stall fat loss. Refer to our post on stress for more on this. But in brief:
Inflammation goes up, you secrete excessive amounts of hormones like cortisol that promote fat storage.
Your metabolism ‘slows’, usually by reducing spontaneous, unconscious activities like fidgeting. This can account for up to 1,000 calories for some people!
You sleep less, are perma-stressed, and have the temper of a hippo with an ingrown toenail.
Rather than only making more withdrawals, you should look at the deposit side too:
Do you have enough good lifestyle and nutrition habits in place that will support all the exercise and dietary choices you want to make?
So what is a good starting point?
Start with 3 days a week of strength training.
Aim to get 10,000 steps every day (most phones have a step counter).
Drink 3 litres of water every day.
Eat 3 servings of protein every day.
Repeat for a few months.
If you’re doing ALL of the above consistently for at least 3 months, then you can add:
4-5 days/week of strength training.
Play a sport/run/swim/cycle 1-3 times a week.
Pick one nutrition strategy: track calories, intermittent fasting OR go carb-free for one meal.
Repeat for a few months.
Remember, you can’t force it! Do the basics and let the magic happen.