It’s a horrible time of year.
Special K adverts are back on the screen, which means summer must be around the corner, or if you’re in Manchester, UK, it means slightly less rain is around the corner.
This is the specific time of year where you realise that;
1. your belly flab has not receded much since Christmas despite that zumba class you attended religiously for three weeks straight, and
2. you are fat, or at least more fat than you want to be, and with Summer (or less rain) approaching, times will soon become desperate
3. It’s time to hit the panic button and buy some Special K
But before you head to your local supermarket, read on.
There is another, better, healthier, more effective, more satisfying way to shed fat and gain muscle tone…
I live in Mallorca, which means that t-shirt / beach weather is coming a lot earlier to me than it is to you if you live in Manchester.
The fitness, industry, and the personal training industry in particular, wants to sell you 6, 8, or 12 week transformations, with the promise that you’ll be in the shape of your life at the end of the programme.
This works for a few – enough to get some great before and after pictures – but for every success story, there are many who fail such harsh programmes.
Unless you want to drop your calories down to
1200 per day and go very, very low carb for 12 weeks (if you’ve never done it there are 3 things to know: it works, it’s very tough to do, and impossible long term), this approach isn’t for you.
In addition, such programmes rarely teach you the habits to ensure you get to keep your results long term.
Anyhow, I’d say 16 to 20 weeks (4-5 months) is where you need to be in order to get sensational results at a pace that means you don’t want to scrape out the inside of your skull with an ice cream scoop every moment you’re awake (as well as in your nightmares).
If you’re looking forward to a Manchester ‘Summer’, that means starting sometime in February.
Enjoy the process
Every Summer in our personal training gym, we get a stampede of panicky enquiries from people who have left it too late.
This means putting in place a punishing training and nutrition programme that feels like a lot of sacrifice and punishment, rather than a true investment in yourself.
The best approach to take is one where you get to enjoy the process.
Where you re-design your life to prioritise really investing in yourself.
Where you invest in making great tasting food.
Where you look forward to testing yourself in the gym, learning new ways to use your body, exploring and maximising your physical potential. And in exploring other aspects of your physical capability outside of the gym, whether that’s running, rock climbing, or becoming a tri-athlete.
Where you re-engineer your lifestyle so you’re sleeping better, doing more things that make you happy, and feeling less stressed all while performing better in every aspect of life.
Investing in this kind of process goes way beyond a 6, 8 or 12 week programme where you drop your carbs and calories, focus on aesthetics instead of exploring your potential in the gym, and don’t learn any habits that make your results sustainable.
It’s a journey to a truly deeper, better you – the best version for you – that looks sensational, feels boundless, and performs to your maximum potential every single day.
For sure, get ready for Summer with a killer body that you feel happy in, but also remember to enjoy the process.
You can never out train a bad diet, and believe me I’ve had more than a few clients who have wished they could work out harder and eat what they want.
These individuals wish they could work harder in the gym so they can eat what they want outside of it.
But great body composition results just don’t work that way.
As a personal trainer, I always enjoyed giving those people both harder sessions and a strict diet, as punishment for asking (and so they’d get the results they came for in the first place).
The truth is that if you want to burn fat and gain body tone fast, you’re going to have to commit to your nutrition first.
Eat whole, fresh, unprocessed foods with plenty of meat, fish, good fats and vegetables that grow above ground.
Cut back on your grains.
Personally, I’ve always liked to start out with a low carb elimination diet. It just hits a bunch of really important points right out of the gate, and I’ve always had great success with it:
- it gets your nutrition in the right ball park quick smart, cutting out processed food, and relying instead on nutrient dense, whole food
- low carb re-orientates your insulin and GLUT4 receptors. That’s cool for health, but it’s also great for fat loss. It’s even better when you’re getting lean and you’re ready to start carb loading
- it cuts out most foods that cause common, but often hidden food intolerances. These hidden food intolerances can impact nutrient absorption, and cause inflammation. Neither of these are cool if you want to get lean
A diet that is gluten and dairy free is a good start (followed by re-introduction days to see if you have an intolerance), as well as avoiding foods that you know can be difficult for you to process.
For those that like things visual, you generally want things to look like our Optimised Food Pyramid:
Try a meat and nut breakfast – 5 types of meat (chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, fish), and 5 types of nut (brazil, walnut, almond, pecan, hazelnut), pairing one meat and one nut each day like this:
Monday: Beef & walnut
Tuesday: Chicken & almond
Wednesday: Lamb & hazelnut
Thursday: Turkey & pecan
Friday: Salmon & brazil
Yes, it can sound a bit weird to some people.
And yes, I know you don’t want to swap your Coco Pops for meat and nuts, but this is the fastest way to get results.
Despite sounding slightly hardcore to the uninitiated, our clients who try it (which is most of them), find it’s a great way to start the day.
I think calorie counting can be a double edged sword when it comes to fat loss and getting lean.
Calories certainly matter, but our experience is that people can get too focused on calories, in the process forgetting about enjoying food and listening to their body.
Nutrition should be more than just an algorithm.
Our approach to calories looks like this:
Is total caloric intake a part of achieving fat loss and other body composition results?
Does that mean you need to count every calorie you eat?
Calorie counting through apps like MyFitnessPal can be useful, especially when starting out. It can add value in re-orienting you to what your body really needs, and what a certain amount of food actually looks like in calories.
Longer term, once we’ve done that re-calibration, and we know what calories, carbs, proteins and fats ratio suit a person best, I like my clients to be so in tune with their bodies that they don’t need a piece of technology to tell them how much to eat.
Just listen to your body and be honest with yourself, you know when you’ve over eaten, or under eaten.
Learn to listen to your body.
In addition to calories and creating a net calorie deficit, your health status can be a critical factor in achieving the body you want.
Your hormonal, immune, inflammatory and metabolic responses to your lifestyle choices and the foods you eat are all important.
#3 Training programme
You’re going to need some resistance exercise combined with conditioning training for the best fat loss and body tone results.
Build volume (between 3-6 sets with 8-12 reps per set).
Keep rest periods short between sets – 1 minute is a good place to start – and lift medium to heavy weight (for you).
Compound exercises – bench press, squat, lunge, rows, deadlifts and chin ups are perfect.
Combine this style of workout with modified strongman training – tyre flips and hammer slams, farmers walk, sled pushing and pulling, battling ropes are all great conditioning methods.
This approach will turn your body into a fat burning, muscle tone machine.
You’ll burn plenty of fat, but the hormonal and muscular response to this kind of training is also important when it comes to your results.
I always like our clients to supplement this kind of training with some slow cardio: running, swimming, or cycling is great.
Here are some great exercises we use in our Optimised Manchester personal training gym:
Sleep is another really important factor when it comes to fat loss and muscle tone.
Because lack of sleep weakens your resolve to eat as you know you should, and work out hard.
Sleep is also when your hormones do their thing (Human Growth Hormone is released during sleep).
Repair takes place during sleep, and detoxification processes are left alone to grapple with all the awful stuff we put into or onto our bodies.
All crucial if you’re looking for fast results.
Studies also show that those who sleep enough lose weight as fat, while those who skimp on sleep lose the same amount of weight, but they lose muscle.
Cut out or minimise artificial light before bed, make your bedroom as dark as possible, and get 8-9 hours unbroken, high quality sleep per night.
Can supplements help get you faster results?
Yes, they can. But too many people focus too much on supplements as a quick fix, and too little on food and movement.
As the word suggests, supplements are there to supplement a great nutrition, training, and lifestyle plan. Not replace it.
Anyhow, here are my favourites (with more detail on each to follow in a subsequent post):
1. Fish oil
4. Vitamin D
6. B-vitamin complex
There are a ton of ways to get great results.
Many approaches these days have boiled things down to an algorithm, where you drop your calories and carbs super low, keep your protein high, and smash yourself in the gym so you can look great and take cool before and after pics for insta.
These approaches work, and a lot of personal trainers have made a lot of money from them.
We believe that creating true value in your life lies takes a bit more than this.
By truly investing in yourself, you can not only achieve a sensational body that looks great, but that feels great and is bulletproof in day to day life, whatever you throw at it.
In our experience with hundreds of Manchester personal training clients, delivering lean, great looking bodies is achieved through coaching that focuses on a 360 degree approach that is sustainable.
The tips above apply not only to getting a great body for Summer, but getting a great body, and developing a great life, anytime.
To your lean, healthy, optimised future,
Matt & the Optimised personal training team