It's ironic and a little unfortunate that we've been conditioned see getting into shape as being about restriction and deprivation; going without enjoyable food, going on very little of any food, and so on.
It's GOOD that we have such a strong movement now steering people away from pursuing unrealistic body image goals through unhealthy means, but it's terrible that we've been lead to believe that's the way to go about it in the first place.
The reality is that if you want to be in great shape... let's define "great" as healthy, fit and strong... you get that way by doing more of the good things, not via destructive means.
Good things include:
- Strength training.
- Cardiovascular & endurance training.
- More non exercise activity.
Talking a walk, using the stairs instead of the lift. Little things like that.
- Rest & recovery. Getting enough sleep.
- Including more nutritious choices of foods.
Fruit, veg & whole grains instead of white flour, for example.
- Getting an adequate amount of protein into your diet.
- Having an appropriate TOTAL energy provision from your diet, as well.
The last point is crucial. A lot of people might be "dieting" or "clean eating" with a view to getting lots of fruit and veg, but within a total energy provision that is woefully inadequate, especially at their level of activity. That's not healthy, despite consisting mostly of really great & healthy choices.
Note also the difference between a productive & strategic approach to training, rather than non-productive "calorie burning". This is also crucial. You get into great condition by BUILDING a great condition, and you can't do that by squandering an already insufficient supply of resources aka energy and nutrients from an inadequate intake of foods. That's called "exercise bulimia", and again, it's unfortunate that these are ideas that so called "fitness programs" are sold on; "it burns more calories than the rival brand". Bullshit. So fkn what if it does anyway? What's good about that?
The purpose of training is to instruct your body to take up a greater amount of nutritional resources and put them all to good use in building your healthiest, strongest physical condition. In an inactive person, energy is either burned or stored as fat. In active people who are training strategically, a third and preferred option is introduced: utilisation.
These are things I talk about it practically every blog post. In pursuit of your goal condition, do more of the good things that will get you healthy and strong.
You can't expect a specific result from vague notions, alright?
To begin with, sure.
From inactive to more suitably active. From activity to more strategic training. From excessive or inadequate calorie intake and less nutritious foods, to more appropriate calorie intake and more nutritious foods. All of that will go a long way, is exactly the place to start, and is well worth getting started with, right now.
However, once people are active and training consistently, but have ceased to see further improvements in condition, nutrition is the area they look to in their attempts at problem determination and resolution. This is probably quite logical, but we need to approach this in a way that is logical as well.
There is no point whatsoever in clutching at straws.
Thinking "maybe I need this" or "maybe I need more of that" is pointless, as while whatever it is might be a good thing generally speaking, all you're really doing is considering a vague suggestion. To ensure ongoing results requires strategy.
- First: you must be consistently working to an adequate fueling strategy.
If you are not being consistent to begin with, any change is irrelevant.
- Second: assess your strategy.
You may require an increase or adjustment to fueling targets that are closer to optimal, or you may need to refine your strategy for meeting those requirements.
- Then: you can start considering "perhaps this meal schedule", "perhaps more of this macronutrient at this time of the day", and even "perhaps more total calories on these days and less on those days". Any or all of these within the context of a plan, of a strategy to meet more optimal fueling levels for improved results and condition are invaluable. Outside of that context though? It's just a vague and meaningless notion and we can't predict or expect any specific outcome from it.
- Finally: assess the results of this new strategy. This should be unambiguous as either the strategy works as expected subject to consistency, or it does not. Your strategy should be such that if an expected result is not seen, the reason why is self evident and the necessary change in strategy is inferred. There should be no guess work or clutching at straws at any point in the process.
The question is always "what is the optimal level of fueling at this stage, and how can I best plan to consistently meet it?". Further to that I would add "on a weekly basis" to allow for a more practical and nuanced approach. At the very least we must be consistently doing something that is appropriate and adequate.