Read fitness magazines and websites, and you can easily feel like it will be years before you understand it all. But the truth is, the vast majority of your results will come from just a tiny portion of the knowledge. That’s because, like everything else in life, there are a few core principles of fitness. Change any of the small stuff and you get marginal differences in results, but change these, and everything will fall apart.
Eat the right amount for your goals
You have to be in a calorie “deficit” if you want to lose fat, and you have to be in a “surplus” if you really want to build muscle. Other things (especially protein) are important, but you doom yourself to a lifetime of minimal progress if you don’t get your calories right. You don’t necessarily have to track every single thing you consume (although that is one of the best ways), but you do need some degree of awareness of how the food you are eating breaks down into numbers.
Choose a workout program and get progressively better at it
My opinion is that everyone who is able should lift heavy weights with mostly compound movements, but I am aware that this isn’t feasible for everyone in every stage of their lives. Whatever you do, always push for the next level in it. If you lift weights, shoot for higher weight or more reps each week. If you run, clock your time and try to beat your last one by a few seconds. If you train with lightsabers, try and shave one more hair off your opponent’s head each duel. Don’t be a fitness zombie and just stagger through the same workout each week. Beat your numbers; it’s the way you force your body to be better.
Get enough rest
Your body needs to recover from the things you put it through. There are some anomalies out there, but studies have shown that most people need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Find ways to make that happen. Also, provide your muscles with adequate rest before training them again. It’s probably different for every person, but a good rule of thumb is to separate workouts for the same muscle group by 48 hours. You can have your workout and meal plans perfect, but if you don’t allow your body the time to rebuild, you’ll see little progress.
Let’s say I buy a chainsaw and call myself a lumberjack. I put the right amount of fuel into my chainsaw, crank it up, and set the ambitious goal of taking down an entire forest (for a really good purpose). If I don’t have the right amount of fuel with me (food), I won’t reach my goal. If I only have the chainsaw running every now and then (exercise and training), then my progress will be very slow. And if I try to run the chainsaw for several days straight (rest), it will likely give out. You need all three elements, or your returns will be minimal. Fitness is the same. Eat for your goals, train to make your body become what you want it to, and give it time to come back stronger from the training.
Happy New Year!