1. Work out your maintenance calories
Your maintenance calorie (MC) total is the amount of calories you need to consume to maintain your current weight. In other words, it’s when calories in equals calories out. Once you know your MC total you can work out the deficit calories you need to lose weight and the surplus calories you need to gain weight. Without it, it’s all guesswork. The easiest way to work out your MC is through an app such as MyFitnessPal.
2. Track your intake
Would you drive your car with your eyes shut and guess where you’re going? Of course not. In the same way, you wouldn’t want to embark on a fitness journey with your eyes shut. Understanding the number of calories you consume each day is vital to your results so keep a food diary or use MyFitnessPal. It’s a simple formula – energy in vs. energy out – yet people still get frustrated by weight gain if they don’t understand they’re eating more than they’re burning.
3. Be Realistic
Any weight loss or gain journey is a long process. You might read about six week dramatic transformations but they’re misleading and unsustainable. 0.5kg of weight loss a week is what you should be striving for. Any more than that and you’re in danger of plateauing too early. When it comes to muscle gain, 2kg a year is a huge gain so enjoy the process.
4. Plan your workouts
Working on single muscle groups to increase muscle mass is a thing of the past. The more often you train a muscle the faster you’ll see results. That’s why you should try and train every muscle group 2-3 times a week. Be clever with your programming and you can fit this into as many days as you want even if you struggle for time.
5. Take a well-earned rest
If you repeatedly have lie ins and late nights every weekend, part of the reason you feel groggy on a Monday morning is you’ve simulated jet lag. Hormone stabilisation is an essential part of any fitness journey and having a routine is vital for recovery so track your sleep like you do your food. Aim for 56 hours per week and if you fall into a deficit do what you can to catch up.
6. There’s no such thing as a cheat meal
Calories are calories – it doesn’t matter if it’s a piece of cheesecake or a sweet potato they just have different nutritional content. So if you fancy some cheesecake go and get stuck in. The longer you ban foods you enjoy the more unsustainable it becomes. As long as you’re tracking your food and hitting your calorie target you’ll still achieve your goal.
7. Do what works for you
When it comes to cardio exercise there are a lot of options to choose from, but is one better than another? The short answer is no. Just do whatever best fits your lifestyle and what you enjoy. The popular HIIT method of training is time effective but if you prefer heading out for a moderate paced run or enjoy a steady paced cross training session do that. Remember, it’s what’s best for you and what you enjoy.
8. Be consistent
Hopping from one routine to the next is a really bad move when trying to build size and strength as your body, muscles and central nervous system like consistency. That’s not to say you have to do the exact same workouts every week, but on the whole your programme should stay largely the same, with the only changes being progressive overload, such as:
• Increasing weight
• Adding reps
• Adding sets
• Changing tempos
• Shortening rest periods
• Using better form
• Adding volume or work capacity by potentially super setting or adding more exercises into each session
If you can do one or a combination of these sessions, you’re on to a winner. However, progressive overload should be viewed from a time perspective, rather than simply session to session.
9. Get a training partner
Finding a training partner with similar goals is a great way to stay motivated as you won’t want to let each other down. Work out a plan that will fit around your lifestyles and then try and stick to it. Missing one or two sessions each week isn’t the end of the world but having a fitness buddy alongside you for support really helps.
10. Set yourself goals
We all want to look and feel a certain way but is that really enough to keep you going when life gets busy? To help stay focused on your end goal, write down your answers to the following questions and look at them whenever you feel you’re not getting where you want to as fast as you want.
• What do you want to achieve?
• What would be the result of you achieving it, how would it make you feel?
• How do you feel right now?
• What do you plan to do to get to your goal?
Remember, a slow sustainable process is the only way to success.