Every single day of the week includes a workout. The schedule is tough; this program has you alternating between strength training and cardio every other day or treats weight training like a full-time job. This routine has dominated your life for months, and you haven’t missed a session. Despite all that commitment, the results are lackluster. Barely any progress has been made at all, and you wonder what you could be doing wrong.
Commitment is necessary, but you might be overlooking other key factors when it comes to getting results from your training. Three important concepts to consider are diet, sleep schedule, and recovery period.
Diet is about more than just eating healthy; optimizing your intake is paramount. It is also important to align the nutritional content in your meals with whatever results you hope to achieve by working out.
The first thing to understand is that all exercise is tied to calories. The word “calorie” seems more and more like a dirty word, with low-cal this and low-cal that. Calorie control is important, but remember that this is your energy. You need calories, and a pretty good amount of them, to function correctly during any workout.
If your focus is on losing weight, then know that we gain and lose pounds based on our caloric intake minus calories burned. Quality meals that are filling are key, while extra calories from snack foods and alcohol are a hindrance. Increasing the amount of protein and quality fats that you eat can help achieve that feeling of fullness, and make you less inclined to snack on junk food during the day. Livestrong suggests cardiovascular exercise three to five times a week for weight loss depending on intensity. Combine such a program with a more calorie conscious diet, and you’ll be on track to shed some pounds.
Strength Training Diet
A Diet for weightlifting is different. Calories are still important, but the macronutrients that comprise those calories play a significant role. We’ll use strength training as an example. In strength training, one of the tried and true methods to making substantial gains is through the use of three phases: cutting, bulking, and maintenance. Each of the different stages promotes a different approach to diet.
The bulking cycle is about putting on weight, so you would increase the number of calories you intake while eating healthy fats and increasing carbohydrate intake. Bulking provides raw muscle, strength, and increased body mass. The key is to balance these two phases against each other for desired results.
Cutting focuses on increasing protein intake to make you feel full while decreasing the number of fats and calories that you intake over the period. Cutting increases lean muscle mass, decreases body fat, and mostly brings out muscle; this is performed after a bulk to optimize the weight you’ve put on.
Maintenance is exactly how it sounds; the goal is to keep your body at whatever state it is in. Maintenance typically occurs whenever you’re either satisfied with a particular physique, need a break from micro-managing your calories, or simply going on vacation.It is ideal to be strict on your macronutrients to maximize your results. For most people, this can be stressful, but it does not have to be. Unless you’re trying to compete, it isn’t a big deal to miss macros from time to time. Try to stay within the range more times than not, and you’ll still see great results.
Caloric intake and macronutrients are directly tied to your bodyweight. While a dietician can give you the most accurate evaluation, this calculator from Bodybuilding.com gives you an estimate based on height, weight, gender, and level of activity. Preparing meals that help you meet these macros and keeping track of them will help you get more out of your workouts.
Your muscles will need time to recover. Working out day after day prevents your body from recuperating and makes it almost impossible to make consistent gains in fitness. Everyone need rest in between their workouts no matter how physically fit they are.
Recovery periods are difficult to gauge. Most recommended recovery times fall between two to three days, but everyone is different. Listening to your body between exercise sessions is paramount to setting your ideal recovery time. But there are several factors to consider when determining a right amount of time for rest. You could be having a lazy day, or a particularly intense workout might increase the amount of time spent in recovery. Remember to be impartial when you gauge whether you’re tired or simply being lazy. Always give yourself optimum time to recover between workouts.
If you feel a need to workout during a rest day, consider active rest; this is essentially a workout but at a much lower intensity. For cardio, this could be a brisk walk or a leisurely swim in the pool, while weightlifters may consider doing exercises that focus on more repetitions at a substantially lower weight than normal.
Sleep is tied to recovery period but deserves a section of its own. When we sleep, our bodies recover GH (growth hormone). GH aids in recovery and muscle growth, which is essential to recovering from your workouts. Quality sleep combined with quality training will create serious results.
Everyone has a different sleep cycle, but the recommended average is seven to eight hours. The more intense the training, the more sleep you’ll need. Sleeping for eight hours may not always be possible, but you should try to meet the eight-hour minimum whenever you can.
Sleep is important for another reason; preventing illness. Lack of sleep can cause your immune system to function poorly, which makes you vulnerable to viruses and diseases. Even something as mundane as a cold can hinder your performance during exercise. Read the following Men’s Fitness interview of personal trainer/strength coach Nick Ebner regarding the benefits of sleep for more info.