How to choose a suitable diet and training program
When it comes to choosing an appropriate fat loss or muscle gaining program, it can be hard to know where to start, and what to choose. There is a bewildering amount of information available on the internet, and everyone seems to claim that their methodology works best. If you select the wrong type of program you risk failing to achieve the results you desire, and you may end up quitting halfway through, even if it works for a short while. Here are some tips to help you get off on the right foot and build the best body you’ve ever had.
Is it too good to be true?
Lose 15 kilograms in two weeks? Strap yourself to a machine and build a six pack with no exercise? Take a magic pill and watch the fat simply melt away? Unfortunately, these are weight loss scams, and amount to nothing more than people trying to swindle you out of your money. Some people will always seek to take the easy way out, to avoid putting in the hard work and effort it takes to create a lean body.
If your program doesn’t have you eating a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly, then please don’t start it. You don’t want to build false hope and waste your time and money on a product that won’t get you any results. The only way you’ll burn fat is if you eat less and exercise regularly, and the only way you’ll build lean muscles is if you start lifting weights, combined with an impeccable diet.
Think about it this way: if there was a magical solution to achieving the perfect body then everyone would be thin and there wouldn’t be major problems with obesity around the globe. Don’t be swayed by the celebrities and fitness models who endorse these products. They’re paid thousands - if not millions - to do so! The sooner you accept that there is no magic answer except hard work, the sooner you can start building the body you’ve always wanted.
Is it long-term and will it make significant changes?
Another important factor to consider is whether or not you can actually stick to your program long enough to see results. A proper muscle-building or fat loss program should not be short-term – you won’t build a six pack in a single week. If you want to see proper results and make significant changes to your body, you need to be following a program that is at LEAST four to twelve weeks long, if not longer.
Is it sustainable?
In order to sustain adherence to your chosen program and reach your goals, make sure that you’re eating enough food to begin with. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends eating no less than 1200 calories a day. This means that before you get started on your diet plan you must make sure that you’ll be eating ENOUGH food to keep yourself going for the next few months. If you want to function effectively, both physically and mentally, you need to be fueling your body.
I’m sure you’ve come across “gurus” that claim you should eat 800 calories a day or less. While you will definitely lose weight on a low calorie diet, it will only be water and muscle, meaning you will eventually gain it all back, plus more. Not only does this risk damaging your metabolism, but how are you going to function at work, socialize, progress in the gym and enjoy life on just a few hundred calories a day? Most people will find themselves unable to exercise on a low calorie diet and will follow it for a few of weeks before they crack and binge. In the end you’ll be left with nothing to show for it but decreased muscle and a slower metabolism.
Another important factor to consider is what happens if you start following a low calorie diet, then hit a plateau? If you are consuming 1800 calories a day and you hit a plateau, you can then reduce your calories to 1500 to reignite the fat burning process. If you are only eating 500 calories and your fat loss comes to a halt, you won’t be able to cut back any further. When I was in training for my competition I dropped down to a size zero and I was consuming almost 2000 calories a day! I would never have reached my three-month goal if I hadn’t fueled my body and my mind, enabling me to keep going.
Does it include exercise?
Any body transformation program should include lifting weights and doing some form of cardio. Why be sedentary when you can speed up and maximize your results, as well as improve your mental and physical health? Dieting alone will leave you with loose skin and soft muscles. Exercise will tone you up and build jaw-dropping muscle definition. It will also boost your metabolism and protect your lean muscle.
You are NEVER too old, too fat, or too unfit to lift weights or exercise at the gym. If you want to build more muscle and lose fat, you should be pumping weights at the gym and using aerobic activity to increase your heart rate. If a nutritionist or fat loss “guru” gives you a diet plan and tells you there’s no need to exercise, run away as fast as you can.
Is it restrictive?
Any good nutrition program should not restrict you, but your meal plan should include a wide variety of healthy food. If your plan calls on you to live off nothing but apples on a daily basis for a week (yes, I’ve heard this before!), then you’ll know you’ve come across a red flag. Nobody can live a normal and functional life eating only apples, or limiting themselves to similar ridiculous rules. People might believe these gimmicks work, but the truth is they only appear to work because you burn more than you consume.
Your diet should have you eating a combination of unprocessed, nutritious foods and should eliminate all fat-storing junk food (except as occasional cheat meals). There’s no need to cut out any healthy fats or carbohydrates. Bodybuilders and fitness models reach super-human levels of low body fat, and they never eliminate carbs or fats completely from their diets. The same rules apply for exercise. Your program should give you the freedom to incorporate exercises you enjoy and it shouldn’t restrict you to one form of exercise unless you have injuries. If you like running, hit the treadmill or go for a jog. If you want nice glutes, start squatting.
Don’t listen to any professional who tells you not to do a particular form of exercise. I’ve met doctors who told me to stop lifting weights altogether - ironically, they were all majorly overweight and out of shape. Don't listen to armchair experts!
Can you transition into a lifestyle?
It’s important that your program also educates you on how to maintain your new body once you have reached your goal. If your plan doesn’t offer any explanation of the aftermath, you might assume you have finished your “diet” and can go back to old eating habits or cease to exercise. What will happen if you do? The fat will eventually creep back. You should keep striving to maintain a healthy lifestyle once you’ve reached your goals. This should consist of eating a well-balanced diet of natural foods with controlled portions, exercising and occasionally indulging in cheat meals.
A fat loss program will have you eating the SAME foods as before, but reducing portions and doing more exercise to burn fat. A muscle-gaining program will follow the same principles, but you’ll be eating more of the same foods to bulk up. Make sure you aim to switch to lifestyle mode (and know how to do it too!) once your program is over, to keep on enjoying the euphoria that comes with being fit and proud of your body.