Strategy, Structure and Inevitable Success.

Real talk though you lot.
I talk a lot here on the blog and elsewhere on social media about how valuable and how crucial a STRATEGY is, and that’s legit. I talk a lot here on the blog and elsewhere on social media about how valuable and how beneficial it is to have STRUCTURED habits, particularly eating habits to ensure that you meet your fueling requirements across the course of the day. That is legit.

Big or small, just about anything you want to achieve in life is going to be a hell of a lot easier with a strategy, and with a structured approach. Those words are practically synonyms in this context.

A strategy! Not just random actions. A strategy and a structured approach rather than an erratic and inconsistent one. Just saying “well here’s what I’m trying to achieve, and here’s what I hope is going to happen… so like… uhh… some things, I guess?” isn’t really a very good bet. It’s pretty much what most people are doing though, isn’t it?

You need a strategy. What’s even more important though is to have an attitude that has you looking for ways to MAKE THINGS WORK rather than reasons why you’re screwed and might as well quit before you even get started. Right? Am I making sense? Of course I am.

Let’s recap though:

  1. You need to be looking for ways to make things work.
  2. You need… actually scratch number 2.
    “a way to make things work” is what a strategy is anyway.

OK, now PAY ATTENTION HERE because I’m about to hit you with your free strategy and all you gotta do is DO IT, right? Just do this stuff I’m about to tell you, exactly the way that I tell you to do it. That’ll work. Right?

NO. Well… yes, but not in the way you might be expecting.

Here’s why “just tell me what to do and what to eat” doesn’t work.

Imagine that I tell you “eat a small meal every 2 hours” or some such nonsense. However, you can’t do that because you have a job where you actually have to do work and can’t just vanish whenever you feel like it to warm something up and cram it into your face… so that’s that & you just can’t do it.

Or I tell you “these foods, not those foods” but you hate all the stuff I’m trying to force you to eat… so that’s that & you just can’t do it.

Or I tell you “fasted training at 5am before breakfast” but you work nights and can’t get up at that time or maybe you are just not a morning person. Morning person? Hell I’m barely a person at all that early in the morning. So anyway, that’s that & you just can’t do it.

Here’s what I’m driving at.

People out there… people who are a little lacking in imagination or empathy are always going to be like “why can’t you just do this? why can’t you just do that?”… and a lot of the time they’re a little judgmental and a little dismissive about it, as well. Well, this may be a revelation for them, but it’s a lot like Blaze Bayley said; “they don’t understand my life, or yours”.

When people start giving you generic sort of advice similar to the examples I gave above, really what they’re doing is suggesting options. They may actually be suggesting non-options, depending on your circumstances… but either way… these are suggestions of options that you might consider as a part of a strategy. However, they’re not “the one and only” much less “the morally superior” way to get it done, the way people tend to infer when they start helpfully letting you know all the things you should be doing.

Let’s wind this up. It’s not about doing what someone else did, or someone else hasn’t actually done but figures you ought to be doing. It’s about you, not them. It’s about your unique personal circumstances, and about taking you from where you’re at now to somewhere closer to where you’d like to end up.

Sounds horribly complicated right? Well fortunately, it really isn’t at all.

One: Start with what you can do.

Look at this as a balance between what you could potentially do, and what you’re actually prepared to do. Again, something inconvenient that you can only force yourself to stick to for a couple days until it just gets annoying is no use to you.

Here’s an example, very simply.
“Well… I could have three meals, six hours apart and a snack half way in between. Breakfast as soon as i get up before work, lunch at noon, and dinner after training in the evening.”

That’s something you could do. Maybe you’re someone who hates eating breakfast as soon as you get up though, and you’d rather train first thing in the morning. That’s fine too. Set the structure that best suits you though, and don’t be in the habit of putting off eating until you’re famished.

Two: Schedule it around what you have to do.

Obviously, right? No point scheduling things when you can’t actually take a break from work or some other time you’re unlikely to actually be able to do it. Take advantage of the most suitable opportunities, like someone who is looking for a way to be successful would do.

Three: Including what you’re likely to do whether you make it part of the plan or not.

Be honest with yourself. If you know you’re going to end up having those two chocolate biscuits at supper time with your cup of tea no matter what, don’t kid yourself. That’s the next thing you work into your strategy.

According to conventional wisdom, this is the stuff you’re supposed to be cutting out. The stuff you’re not supposed to want. The stuff you’re supposed to see as a problem that you need to overcome. Why though? Something is a problem if you make it a problem. We’re here as people who are looking to make things work, not looking for problems to get tripped up on.

Four: Take all that and shape it into something that will get the job done.

You’ve set the structure and the schedule to be the best fit of what you’re able to do, around the other things you have to do, and incorporating some things you were probably going to do anyway, but we’re seeing them as a part of the strategy that will be more conducive to good adherence, rather than making a problem of them unnecessarily.

Now we need to look at the specifics. We have a target range for an appropriate total energy intake that we need to work to, we need to meet an adequate amount of protein, our minimum recommended 2 pieces of fruit, 5 serves of vegetables, and I recommend 30 grams of nuts as well assuming you like nuts. Choose the foods you enjoy the most, in amounts to meet those requirements, at the times of the day that best suit your schedule.

That’s what flexible dieting is. It’s quite a simple concept, and there’s no good reason why it should be done any other way. Why would there be? To prove something to other people who want to see you doing it the hard way and not getting anywhere? Fuck those people if they’re not happy to see you happier and making progress towards your goals.

Exceed your minimum requirements, do not restrict below them.

For benefit of the new people or any who might have missed it the 8mililon times I talked about this already.

My philosophy is that the best approach is to be working to a set of targets that represent your MINIMUM energy and macronutrient requirements, with the intention of EXCEEDING those minimum targets.

Now what most people do is an arbitrary low calorie target which is actually far short of their minimum requirement, but they treat it as a maximum limit. What these people are doing, unfortunately, is ensuring a LACK of results by depriving their bodies of the energy and other resources that they REQUIRE not merely to fuel exercise and daily activity, but chiefly to RECOVER and ADAPT to training.

The purpose of training should not be merely to “burn calories”. The purpose is to adapt favourably to training with the creation of a stronger, fitter, more durable version of “you”. Simply put: you can’t build something out of nothing. How can you expect to recover & adapt to training with improved performance and improved condition without providing enough of the necessary resources via delicious food?

You just can’t.

So we should work on the principle of determining and then exceeding our minimum requirements. For most people it is entirely sufficient to simply be “in the ballpark” somewhere between what is “adequate” (aka minimum requirement) and what is “optimal” (aka maximum usable energy intake), and it is not necessary to fine tune a plan down to the last gram, last calorie, or last percentage point.

Working to a plan to meet and exceed your minimum requirements ensures success. It is not about going hungry, having willpower and resisting the temptation of enjoyable and indulgent treats once in a while. It is simply about providing the fuel, the energy and nutritional resources that your body requires, and training it to put as much of those resources as possible into the muscles where you want them to go, while drawing a little more on any fat stores to fuel less intense, non-exercise activity.

SURELY this makes 1000% more sense than assuming that a strong, healthy and athletic body comes via the imagined moral virtue or strength of character it would take to only “eat clean” at all times? Surely it makes 10000% more sense than thinking you can starve your body into strong, healthy and athletic shape via low calorie dieting?

For the vast majority of us, we need to be in the right ball park between adequate and optimal intake as often as possible. A little under or a little over on the odd occasion will not make a lick of difference, but habitually, on average, by default, we should have eating habits that are conducive to a “not inappropriate” total daily intake.

But I need to lose weight, first.

If your goal involves losing a small or even a more significant amount of weight, the first thing you need is an approach that is sustainable. It needs to actually be suitable to supporting your goal condition, and it needs to be something you can do habitually without stress or difficulty. Attempting any restrictive form of diet, whether restriction to a low calorie target or restriction of food choices is unworkable as you simply can’t expect to stick to it for more than… who knows? A few days, or a few weeks at a time?

By the way, while we’re talking about it: Failing to adhere to a restrictive diet is not an indication of poor character, weak mindedness, lack of discipline and so on. It is a physiological impossibility. Your body will DEMAND the energy that it has been deprived of, before too long. When that happens, you end up over eating and / or quitting the diet. But that is an inevitable outcome due to an unworkable approach. It is not a personal failing that other people would have been able to tough out.

No one succeeds on those approaches, ever. No one ever has, and no one ever will.

Even if you could stick to it, it would not be conducive to your goal. Not a lot of people seem to understand this, but while “calories in / calories out” is still the basis of any good strategy for long term success, when your “calories in” are too low and especially when your “calories out” is also too high, your body has no choice but to prioritise the conservation of energy and the preservation of fat stores. Think about that for a minute and consider how horrendously misguided all of these “1200 calories and 3 hours of cardio” type weight loss plans really are.

Here’s how I would probably build your plan if you came to me for help.

This varies depending on the circumstances but generally speaking, something like this.

For a person who’s about your height, your age, your sex and is getting started with a little activity, about how much total energy would they require to maintain a relatively lean, normal weight range?
For overweight people, this might just be “closer to” a normal weight range.
Also note that for athletic people, what is “normal” goes out the window anyway as we’re packing on more muscle and building stronger bones, so we’re more concerned with “strong and healthy condition” than with “normal weight” per se. But still, we need to start somewhere, and closer to this “historically normal” weight range is where we base our initial calculations.

That’s probably our MINIMUM requirement, to get started with.
Based on your height, age, a suitable goal weight range and what’s required to fuel a little activity.

“A little activity” is not what we’re doing though, so as we progress with training, we’ll need to increase further from this initial minimum requirement to a new minimum that is more representative of what you require not just to fuel some activity, but to perform, recover and adapt optimally to training.

So we start out conservatively but still significantly higher than the sorts of numbers people usually associate with “weight loss”, “dieting” or “healthy eating”, and then we strategically increase further towards what should be optimal intake for total energy and macronutrients.

Take all of the emotion out of it and just consider on purely logical grounds. Isn’t this exactly how you’d expect to produce results from training? Rather than by going hungry and abstaining from all of your favourite foods?

Jump to the Online Coaching page for video testimonials about how well this approach works out for my people.

There are no easy answers, but I will tell you the correct one.

Before we get started, just for the record I doubt you are looking for an easy answer in the first place. Not on this page, you’re not.

Far from being an easy answer, my observation of virtually all types of diets is that they’re based on the idea that it is designed to be quite difficult and that you sacrifice enjoyment at meal time, and then you deserve to be rewarded with success, providing you have the strength of character to stick with it for long enough. Because you want it bad enough to suffer for it a little bit.

Low calorie targets, gross shakes instead of breakfast and lunch, inconvenient or otherwise unappealing food choices and unnecessary restrictions… all manner of difficulties and unpleasantness. Expensive is good too. Expensive foods you can’t get at the local supermarket, especially.

My observation is that people will resign themselves to struggling with a near impossible, fruitless task as if it is just their cross to bear, and they’ll accept that it would work out better for them if only they were good enough to deserve it a little more. Something like that anyway.

On the other hand, you might be more like I was, trying your best at training but “don’t talk to me about diet, I eat the way I eat and I can’t change that”.

Either way. Whatever.

The reality… the ACTUAL REALITY of the situation is that this is simply a matter of mathematics. A lot of people want to cling to these superstitious ideas for some reason. It is not the middle ages. We have landed a damn spaceship on a distant asteroid. Another on Mars. Actually, two on Mars if I am not mistaken, and various others photographing the planets and moons of the solar system. All made possible through mathematics.

If we can do all of that and more, we can damn well crunch numbers and figure out how much energy YOU require to maintain a suitable weight range & activity level without going hungry. It is entirely down to mathematics and not any sort of quasi-religious matter of proving your worth as if body condition was the result of earning good karma or something like that.

It is down to mathematics, and from then it is merely a matter of organisation skills. Planning to meet that suitable range of energy intake with some consistency.

We all have our personal demons, insecurities, self esteem issues, whatever else. None of these matters actually effect your weight or your potential to achieve a physical goal through training. Not directly, anyway. At worst though, those issues might influence you to make a bad decision and choose an approach on the basis that it feels more appropriate to someone who doesn’t really believe they deserve to be successful, rather than an approach that would ensure success in due course.

So to emphasise and perhaps clarify a little; personal issues may influence you away from getting started with an effective strategy, but by no means whatsoever do they mean that you would not be successful if you did.

If you are already putting in the effort with any decent training program but not seeing a change in condition, there is an issue with the amount of total energy and the balance of macronutrients that you are in the habit of consuming. It is not an issue of “eating the wrong foods”, but a matter of putting the foods that you do eat into a plan that meets your requirements to fuel, recover, and adapt to training. And if you simply assume that this means you need to “eat less”, you could be making a very serious and even more common error.

If you’re not in the category I described in the paragraph above but you’re more of a person who struggles with various “diets”… well, stop doing that.

You are not obliged to continue to struggle against unworkable dieting strategies and ascribing their inevitable failure to some short coming in your own character rather than to the diet itself. Rather, success can be assured and is inevitable by simply establishing and developing the habit of consuming the appropriate amount for your goal condition, type and amount of activity, and to satisfy your appetite, psychological and social needs.

As follows:

Learn your requirements.
Determine appropriate target ranges for total energy, protein, carbohydrates and dietary fats. That’s something I can help you with, by the way.

Practice hitting them.
Schedule your meals as best suits you, with the selection of foods that most appeals to you, including more fruit and veg to cover your other nutritional requirements but also including some choices purely for enjoyment.

Schedule training or some form of physical activity regularly.
If you have a specific goal, you’ll want the most effective and efficient strategy you could expect to produce that result. Again, that’s something I can help with.
Otherwise, just choose whatever appeals to you and schedule it whenever best suits you. This activity level should be factored into your energy requirements above.

Try your best, as often as possible.
You will not be perfect 100% of the time and you should not expect to be.
Fortunately perfection is not required. Use your organisation skills, be mindful not to get complacent, and if you do notice you are starting to drift off the track and back towards your old habits, just get back on the track again.
Be enthusiastic, and take time out at least once a week to reaffirm your intentions and renew your enthusiasm.

It does take consistent effort and a view to creating a lifestyle that is congruent to your physical goal, rather than an unsustaintable, short term approach in pursuit of a temporary result.

Only through establishing permanent habits can you expect to maintain sustainable results. If the approach is not something that is sensible, flexible and sustainable then the results will not be sustainable either.

There are no easy answers in this that don’t involve making the decision to get organised and take action, and to maintain that action for as long as you care about being healthy and in good condition. There are no easy answers, but you will find that the correct answer is much simpler and less difficult than you have been lead to believe.

No, unfortunately I can’t talk to your friend about his or her diet for you. Here’s why.

I’ve become known for being a straight talker and for not getting on board with any restrictive nonsense, and for helping people to see the results they’ve been looking for by ditching whatever misguided approaches to dieting they’ve been struggling with, and by not being afraid to fuel up appropriately to perform at training and see the changes in body condition that go along with that improvement in athletic performance.

Diets that teach people to be afraid of eating certain types of foods, or eating at all for that matter, are a load of garbage. Diets that force people into strange, restrictive or inconvenient eating habits to “trick the body into burning fat” are a crock as well. Very simply put, you’re either consuming the appropriate amount for great results within a suitable goal weight range, or you aint. If you’re trying really hard and still not seeing results, the problem might not be that you are eating too much. In my experience, very often the problem is due to trying to get by on too little.

That’s my message and I’m proud to say it has helped a lot of people so far.

Because of this, I tend to get a lot of requests to add someone’s friend and talk some sense into them, or to join some low carb or “clean eating” group where they’re all giving each other terrible, disordered advice and get in amongst it and straighten them all out.

No. Unfortunately I just can’t.

I’ll explain why. Actually, multiple reasons.

I work with a handful of locals and a few dozen people online from all around the world at any one time. People who I know are going to appreciate and act on the advice that I give them, are going to see great results, and are going to be very happy that they did so.

Or I should say, people who already are doing all of that.

Now, my people know they can hit me up for guidance or advice whenever they need to. A lot of the time it is enough for them just to check in to the mandatory report posts in the private support group to say “yep. Doing well, feeling good, making progress”. Other times they might want to message me in private to discuss some issue. Sometimes I ask them to check in with me in private if I feel we’re due for a review and perhaps adjustment to the program, or if my intuition tells me something is up that they haven’t told me about yet.

It’s not really fair on my paying clients to ask me to give the same kind of one on one time to somebody else who isn’t part of the program. It isn’t really fair on me either, to ask me to give that time and make the emotional investment in the well being of a person who hasn’t actually decided in advance that they’re going to act on the advice that I give them.

As to online communities or groups with dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of people all trying to do things a certain way… I can’t just show up and start arguing that they’re doing it all wrong and expect that to go down well. As much as I do have the ability to use tact when it is called for, there’s a lot of guilt and shame tied into certain approaches to dieting, where the approach is difficult and people are made to feel like a failure for not being able to adhere to all of the restrictions all of the time. I’m told a lot of the communities can be quite nasty and judgemental as well, so there’s an element of denialism too, where people aren’t going to admit that they’re struggling or be receptive to hearing about a different approach. Also, what am I going to do? Just show up and start posting sales pitches like some low life spammer?

Being receptive to the message is the real issue. People need to come to me ready to change, rather than me going to them to talk them out of something they’ve decided is their best or only option, however misguided that decision may have been. They need to come to me ready to see results where they haven’t seen them before, by letting go of all the shit and all the bad information that has been holding them back. However, they need to come ready to actually take the necessary action as well. They need to be prepared to set their meal schedule, know their targets, and put together a plan to meet those targets with the choice of foods that most appeals to them. And they need to hit the gym following the training program that I’ll give them.

If they haven’t already decided to do that, how can I help them?

If I was a great sales person maybe I could coax or coerce them into signing up for my program, even if they’re not really ready for it. That’s not what I’m about though. I count on the idea that people are going to follow my page, take all the information that I constantly put out and make an informed decision.

I talk about a lot of the same things, over and over again. If you follow an effective training program with some level of consistency, results come down to meeting appropriate macronutrition intake. Nothing else. Not eating clean, not going without your favourites, not proving you’re a good enough person or whatever other nonsense people are selling. Total energy intake and effective training. At some point, that’s going to get through to people and they’re going to say “he’s right, I can see it working for other people. I want to do this too and I want to start feeling good about myself and my progress, instead of how I’ve felt up until now getting nowhere with all this nonsense”. And when that happens, those people come in not merely knowing what’s going to be required of them, but actually optimistic and enthusiastic about getting stuck into it as well.

That’s what I need. Not people I can talk into it with some kind of sales tactic, but people who are kicking down the door wanting in to the program to start taking what they damn well deserve out of life.

Here’s what you can do though. I can’t give one on one coaching time to people who aren’t on my program, but I do pump out a tremendous amount of free content that people often find very helpful. Also I share a lot of other quality information from the people who I like to learn from. Have your friend follow my page, or just share some of my posts or articles. The best option though? Have your friend register for the free information program and get the real, straight talk backed by science on what really is and is not important when trying to get into shape.

The subscription box should be just there on the right of screen, a little way up.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Your plan my vary, but mine always includes a heap of delicious fruits.
Your plan my vary, but mine always includes a whole heap of delicious fruits.

Great quote, innit? And when it comes to getting your nutrition right to ensure success in seeing great results from training… well… it’s not always true, but it often is.

Some people just have generic “good” eating habits. They have a conventional meal schedule and happen to mostly choose foods that are conducive to meeting an appropriate total intake without needing to think too much about it.

You know some people like this, no doubt. They just eat “the right foods”, right?

Nope. That’s a reasonable conclusion to come to, but it isn’t correct. Certainly they’re making good choices of foods, but by no means does this infer that you can’t be successful with some other choice of foods. For results from training, including weight loss goals, what’s important is that we do indeed meet an appropriate total energy intake. There’s a little bit more to it that we’ll get to shortly… but for the most part that’s what it comes down to.

Now, other people might have a less conventional meal schedule, and less conventional choices of foods. When people are successful in maintaining their goal weight range and body condition via less conventional / more ecclectic eating habits, it can be easy to imagine that there’s something special about the set of circumstances that is especially conducive to good results. They’ve “tricked the body into burning more fat”, or something like that.

Clever marketers and bro-scientists will even come up with fancy explanations to convince everyone else to start doing the same for magical results, because only they have the secret to fat loss. They haven’t though. They’re simply making the choices that best suit them in attaining an appropriate total intake. However quirky those choices or that schedule may seem to the rest of us, there is nothing “special” about them other than that they happen to best suit that individual to achieve an appropriate total energy intake. That’s all.

What about everyone else though? We’ve talked about people who just have conventional, every day, run of the mill, basic “good” eating habits. We’ve talked about the people who march to the beat of their own drum with a meal schedule and food choices that might seem unusual or eccentric to the rest of us. People in either of those camps might be highly successful in making progress towards their goal, or in maintaining a suitable weight and athletic body condition, for no other reason than because their total energy intake and the ratio of macronutrients within that total is appropriate. Whether because they have good intuition, because they’re doing what someone’s told them, or by trial and error… they happen to be in the habit of consuming an appropriate intake of energy and other nutritional resources.

But what about the people who aren’t so successful, and the people for whom an appropriate total intake is not so easily so easily attained?

My observations vary.

Often when an active person first comes to me frustrated with unsatisfactory results from training, we find that they have been working to inappropriate total energy targets. Usually targets that are too low, and insufficient to provide the energy and other resources necessary to fuel for performance, and then to recover and adapt to training. This is easily addressed.

In the vast majority of cases though, and especially with people who are new to regular exercise and training, the issue is simply that they do not have any set meal schedule, much less a real plan to meet appropriate total intake and macronutrient targets. This may be in part due to being convinced that there is a “special” way that this has to be done, and that special way not being a good fit to their preferences and lifestyle.

With no plan, no targets and no set meal schedule people are likely to alternate between missing meals and going hungry, and then over eating later on… often on less than ideal choices as the body is demanding maximum energy as quickly as possible. Despite being hungry a lot of the time, the end result is quite likely to be excessive total energy intake while still falling short of the mark on other nutritional requirements.

The same can be said for when people are trying to shoehorn themselves into a particular approach that does not suit them. Not being terribly enthusiastic about the “allowed” selection of foods, you tend to under eat. Under eating inevitably leads to over eating, as described in the paragraph above.

A healthy diet that is suitable to produce results from training doesn’t have to look a certain way. It needs to meet certain requirements in providing energy and other nutritional resources, which will vary from one person to the next depending on a variety of circumstances. How best to meet those requirements will also vary from one person to the next, and the only “best” way to achieve it is whichever way best suits you.

What best suits someone else is irrelevant. This is about you.

Bottom line: Plan to ensure success. Set your schedule however best suits you. Know your requirements, and plan to meet them with the choices of foods that best suit you.
There is nothing difficult, unrealistic or outlandish about any of this.

Going back to the title of this entry, a slight variation on the theme is “if you fail to prepare, you are prepared to fail”. Being prepared to fail doesn’t mean that failure is inevitable, but it does mean that you consider it an acceptable possible outcome.

Why accept failure, when you could ensure success?

Why exercising to burn calories is a fool’s errand.

New year, same message.

For the new people following my blog, my facebook, twitter or whatever else… you are going to read a lot of similar stuff over and over again, just worded a little differently each time.

This is because the truth is the truth, and it does not change. We can learn to understand it a little better, explain it a little better, implement and apply it differently… but what is true is just what is true. This blog isn’t about fad chasing and doing a big “we thought it was that, but now we know it is this and that changes everything” thing once every 7 months or whatever unlike a lot of the fiction based “health” pages out there.

Now since it is a New Year and you have probably decided something along the lines of “this year I will actually stick to my diet and this time I will be successful in getting into shape”, well… that’s good!

The key there will be to develop your own diet that meets your needs, doesn’t leave you hungry, includes all the stuff that you like to eat (a little of the indulgent stuff, more of the nutritious stuff) and gives you every reason to believe that you will be able to stick with it, long term. It shouldn’t be about forcing yourself to stick to something joyless, restrictive and difficult. It should be about making appropriate choices that make this easiest for you as an individual. Those choices might not be the same as what’s most suitable and easiest for me, or anyone else.

That’s not what I want to talk about today though.

Today let’s talk about RESULTS FROM TRAINING.

Diet is one half of the equation. One side of the coin. If diet is Ying, training is Yang. It’s not so much to say “one without the other is not much use” as it is to say that you should see diet and training as two inseparable aspects of the same singular thing.

Now if you actually do want to see RESULTS FROM TRAINING this year where you might not have in the past, the change in mindset that you need to make is to actually focus on and act in accordance with a goal of “results from training” rather than “exercise to burn calories”.

To achieve a physical transformation in terms of body condition, we must do two things of equal importance. We must provide an appropriate total energy intake via our choices of foods, and we must provide the stimulus that tells our body how to prioritise the allocation of these resources.

On the diet side there is slightly more to it than just “appropriate total energy intake”, but not much more. Within that total energy intake we need enough protein and enough fiber. We need a good spread of vitamins and minerals, so getting our recommended number of servings of fruit and vegetables will help there. The best ratio of carbohydrates to dietary fats will vary from one person to the next depending on a variety of factors, but they’re both important in making up that “appropriate total energy” intake within which all these other requirements are met.

By “appropriate total energy intake” what I really mean is the appropriate amount to maintain a suitable, healthy goal weight range. Not a specific, pin point, precise weight, but somewhere within a suitable range while facilitating improved performance, recovery,and adaptation to training.

People do have a tendency to pick out one specific idea about nutrition in isolation, rather than within the context of “appropriate total energy”. This isn’t terribly helpful. Doing a better job of eating more nutrient dense vegetables is an excellent idea, but if doing so at the exclusion of more energy dense food choices means you are falling significantly short of your requirements, you will not see results from training. You cannot starve yourself into great, healthy, athletic shape. Getting enough vegetables to meet your micronutrient requirements does not mitigate the fact that failing to meet your minimum energy requirements is still a starvation based approach, and it will not work.

When you deliberately restrict energy intake, the result is often that at some point you will involuntarily over eat to make up for the deficit. In which case, often people’s intake on average ends up being in excess, even though they have tried so hard to under eat. So you have two possible outcomes of being underfueled whether deliberately or otherwise; in the one case you fail to see progress due to not providing the necessary resources, or you end up in excess total intake on average, and fail to see progress for that reason.

Here’s another possible situation for people not focused primarily on “appropriate total intake for results from training”. Imagine you’re told “more protein is good, for all these reasons”. More protein IS good. But only within the context of an appropriate total intake. Adding a couple of protein shakes to an already excessive total intake only puts you further into excess, which leads you further from your goals.

It’s funny because I said I wasn’t going to talk so much about diet and was going to focus on training, and look how much I just talked about diet. It goes to show, to my way of thinking the two aspects really are inseparable. Suffice it to say, there are many aspects to nutrition that are helpful or important, but “appropriate total intake” is always king.

Training though. I was supposed to talk about training.

Ok so… now we’ve talked rather a lot about an appropriate total intake to maintain a suitable, sensible, healthy goal weight range. If you’re currently above that weight range, you’re no longer consuming enough to maintain your current weight and you can expect it to change accordingly. The question now is; what sort of condition do you want to be in, within that goal weight range, and what is the most efficient strategy to get closer to that goal condition and goal weight range.

Now hopefully the article title has given you a hint that “exercise and burn more calories” isn’t the right answer. It’s what most people are taught though, it’s what all the exercise programs, gadgets and stupid diet pills seem to be marketed on too. But really, the only purpose”burn more calories” serves is to replicate the effect of deliberately (or accidentally) under eating, and we’ve already covered at great length why that is not a beneficial strategy.

The point of training for results as a distinction to just “exercising to burn calories” is not merely to expend energy as if energy has no value and is something to be gotten rid of. We have allocated the appropriate amount of energy and other nutritional resources, and now we want to ensure it is all put to use in becoming stronger and healthier, with more lean mass in terms of strong, dense bones and firm muscle tissue. We also want to encourage our body to draw more on energy stored in body fat to fuel non-exercise activity as well.

We do not achieve this merely through burning calories with exercise that serves no other purpose. We do this by training for strength, endurance, cardiovascular / respiratory fitness, and so on.

Your body is designed or has evolved to become more efficient at whatever it does regularly. In strength training this means moving more weight for the same amount of reps, or the same amount for more reps. In running or swimming it means going a greater distance in less time. It means doing any of these things with less energy expenditure, rather than more. Training productively means your body will put more and more resources into recovery and adaptation to training, meaning greater performance and greater results.

Exercising just to burn calories, especially if you are also restricting your energy intake only means that your body gets better at conserving energy. This is the opposite of what you want. The purpose of training is not merely to expend energy, but to put it to use in creating your goal body condition.

You must train strategically and consistently, and you must fuel appropriately.

Oh, now if you are interested in an effective training program and guidelines to help you meet your energy and nutritional requirements with your choice of foods, head to the Online Coaching page and sign up for more information.

This holiday season, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

That’s the advice I have given my clients about the coming few weeks.

This is about balance. There are going to social engagements and strict adherence to our nutritional targets is probably not on the cards. So what though? We can loosen the reigns and enjoy ourselves like everyone else without everything falling apart.

Just be mindful about how often and how much of those indulgences you are … well… indulging in. There’s a difference between loosening the reigns, and throwing yourself out of the saddle and off the side of a cliff. But unless you really set out to sabotage yourself, you probably won’t.

If you only have one or two engagements, for example work Christmas party and family Christmas dinner… I would barely even give it a second thought. Perhaps leave a little extra room in the plan with a lighter lunch than usual. Easy.

If you have several engagements to attend, let’s say department Christmas party, social club Christmas party, company Christmas party, you’re invited to a client’s Christmas part as well… well, use your intuition. Remember that going without earlier in the day is likely to lead to over eating later on. Find the balance.

Really though, even if you do over indulge a little over the next few weeks, let’s put it into context of being people who train consistently and have appropriate eating habits about 50 weeks of the year… and what do we really have to be worried about? Besides which, in January we are going to dial it in and tighten it up. Not to “make up for” anything, not out of guilt or any of that nonsense. We do it because we CAN and because we are ENTHUSIASTIC.

Pick your moments. A crucial part of a strategy for long term success is knowing when is the appropriate time to step it up, and when is the appropriate time to cut yourself some slack. A healthy approach and a healthy attitude is crucial.

If you’re as enthusiastic as we all are about stepping it up in January and getting the new year off to the right start, pre-register via the Online Coaching page right here.


DaveHPT Online Flexible Dieting: 100% Success Rate

Considering creating my own line of belts, as my clients keep needing smaller ones.
Currently considering the creation of my own line of belts, as my clients keep needing smaller ones.

Well… that’s what I like to be able to boast about, anyway.

The truth however is, I don’t always get it right first time.

That’s alright though, because within a 12 week season of my Online Coaching system, we can review the targets as many times as necessary until we do get it right. And once we do, things start to happen as if by magic. Even on the basic Flexible Dieting package for the more budget conscious people, we set “stage one” targets for the first two weeks, we monitor and assess the results, and from there we can fine tune or set entirely new targets as may be required.

This is not some slash & burn starvation approach like a lot of hack coaches would use. This is about finding the optimal level of fueling required for each individual client. People are at different stages in their journey, different body types, different levels of activity outside of training. They need the right targets to hit… merely “adequate” targets to begin with, and then trying to get closer to “ideal” as their confidence and enthusiasm increases due to the easy results they’re already seeing.

So what’s required of me is to set the appropriate targets to start with, and what’s required of the client is to hit as close to those targets as possible with some level of consistency. Usually this is enough to produce results, but if not I have accurate data to interpret when setting new targets which will almost certainly do the job.

Sometimes it still takes a little longer.

As an example, imagine we set an introductory target that is more than the client has been consuming so far on some conventional low calorie diet. We don’t see physical results right away, although the client reports feeling more energised, improved performance at training, and general feelings of improved well being and happiness. That’s a great result, but I’m not satisfied. Since we’re eating more, feeling better, performing better but not actually gaining weight… we can logically conclude that all of this extra fuel is doing the world of good and certainly is not in excess of requirements. If it was in excess, we’d have a bad result on the scales, do you see?

So how do we interpret this result? Clearly, it’s still not enough fuel and we need to increase again.

In the case I have in mind, the result of this new and further increased set of targets was still no change on the scales, no change in appearance, but further improvements in performance and feelings of well being. Most tellingly though, the client reported to me that despite eating so much more than previously, she is waking up in the night ravenously hungry!

How do I interpret this result? Clearly, her body is starting to get used to the idea of being fueled more appropriately, and is sending a clear message of “more, I need this!”

At this point I remember crunching the numbers yet again, almost second guessing myself, and then telling the client “fuck it, no less than 2600 calories per day and if you are still hungry listen to your body and give it what it needs”. Now, this is for a younger lady training regularly at a high level of performance, also with a physically demanding job during the day… so perhaps it should be obvious that such an intake is appropriate to adequately fuel such an active lifestyle. Still, you need to do these things with a strategy both for the client’s piece of mind and for my own!

At this stage, the client drops one belt size per week for the next…. I think it was 4 or 5 weeks straight, I will have to double check. Now… how many people out there have a super active lifestyle including training regularly, but are on lower than low calorie conventional diets and still not seeing any results?

This is the way most weight loss companies, coaches and unsuccessful dieters do things and as you can see, they have got it all wrong. You don’t just keep slashing intake in an attempt to starve the weight off. You start with a conservative target, and increase strategically until you find the magic number at which the best results from training can be attained. At this point you can also start fine tuning the ratio of carbohydrates, to dietary fats, to protein if you so desire.

With a system like mine, success is absolutely assured and inevitable.

Of course, you (the client) have to hold up your end of things too. That’s easy though, your end is to maintain your level of activity and make sure you eat enough to meet and exceed the minimum target that I set you. I do recommend planning a day in advance to ensure meeting these targets at first, but most of my people can “wing it” easily enough before too long.

The ultimate goal being to just have your requirements, your appetite and your habits all in harmony so that eating enough to fuel your lifestyle and produce the best results from training is intuitive and automatic.

Skeptical? You should be.

Be skeptical of any product that claims to be good for solving all manner of problems, rather than a specific one. You know, like you keep seeing on facebook and so on… these miracle pills they’ve made out of some magical fruit only found in some remote and exotic location, with a list of literally every illness and ailment known to mankind which it supposedly cures? It’s a pretty safe bet that a product is an outrageous scam, if it claims to be some kind of “cure all”.

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about my Flexible Dieting & Online Coaching Program and I’ll tell you what it has proved useful for, so far.

  • Weight Loss.
  • Body Sculpting.
  • Body Building (male).
  • Improved Performance In Sports.
  • Eating Disorder Prevention & Recovery.

It’s quite a list, so I wouldn’t blame you for being skeptical.

For those who don’t know about it already, the program is set up online and it consists of a number of different training routines, each of which are customisable to suit each client with a variety of options for each exercise. I happen to work out of perhaps the greatest gym in the world, with virtually unlimited options… but that’s a luxury, not a requirement. The program is set up so that we have options in the event that a certain piece of equipment is unavailable, as well as to suit each client’s level of confidence and ability.

So we have a great and effective training program, and when we match the training program with appropriate fueling we have a system that really can’t fail to produce results. Just like with the training program though, the nutrition side of things needs to be tailored to each client. People have different fueling requirements, different activity levels outside of training, certain foods might be unavailable or just unappealing to them. You can’t just deal out the same “eat it, it’s good for you” meal plan to everyone and expect it to be suitable. A lot of people DO do that, but they shouldn’t.

Let’s just talk about the first four points for now. How can one program deliver results for such a variety of goals?

Well the program is unique, and yet not so unique. The way I’ve grouped the different movements is somewhat unique, then you have the choices of rep ranges and rest durations between sets for the different movements and exercises. The fact that the program is so customisable is certainly quite unique. At the same time though, it is just one example of how a competent and knowledgeable trainer might design a program to produce results.

In designing an effective program, there are certain bases you’ve got to cover. Certain movements that you really do need to include, or you’re left with a much less effective, and unbalanced program. Once those bases are covered and all the most important elements of the program are in place, I can add a choice selection of secondary exercises that complement them. That wasn’t enough for me though. What if it is a more advanced client who has already been training for some time? What if it is a brand new client who’s not as confident or physically just not ready for some of the big moves? I wanted to be prepared for all possibilities as best I could.

So, the program works the way a program should, and it delivers the results that it should. When we talk about weight loss, we want to develop and maintain more lean mass (muscle and bone density) at the expense of body fat stores. When we talk about body sculpting with a female client, we want to develop and maintain lean mass at the expense of body fat stores. When we talk about body building with a male client, we want to develop and maintain lean mass at the expense of body fat stores. That’s what any effective program should be designed with a focus on.

Having developed more muscle mass and strong bones while shedding excess adipose (fat) tissue, doesn’t it also stand to reason that performance in other sports would improve? Especially if this is the first time you’ve also been properly fueled for performance and results, as I find is often the case. Note that this is the distinct opposite to being “on a diet”.

Now, we’ve talked about what makes a program effective in terms of covering the bases with the most important stuff that actually promotes the physiological changes that we’re looking for. As I said earlier, my program is just one of virtually unlimited ways that you might choose to put such a program together. However, you’d be surprised by how rare this actually is amongst exercise programs that you’ll see advertised or freely available online. The vast majority seem only to be concerned with “burning calories”, as if simply expending energy in whatever form of otherwise pointless activity was enough to change your body condition. Others consist only of more elegant or dignified seeming exercises, which will prove entirely inconsequential due to the omission of the important stuff as discussed above.

The other thing.

I have had a few clients come to me already in recovery from a diagnosed eating disorder, so obviously it is critical importance that they do not get involved with a trainer or coach who is just going to send them back where they came from. Others have come to me perhaps realising that the restrictive approaches they’ve had recommended to them are leading them down a bad path to a place they do not want to end up, and they need a change in direction.

When people have an ineffectual training program, matched with restrictive and inappropriate dieting instructions, you can easily imagine what a dangerous combination this is. People are serious about results and are prepared to do what it takes to achieve them, even if they have to suffer to do so. Unfortunately, if you look at a lot of fitness related marketing and “motivational” type stuff on the internet, there’s a clear message that if you are not seeing results it is because you don’t want it bad enough and you’re not prepared to suffer enough.

That is a terrible message.

99 times out of 100, the real problem is with the lack of a structured and effective training problem, and even more to do with not having appropriate nutrition advice. Results from training do not come from restriction of food choices or from restriction of intake in general. It is preposterous to believe that if you “just eat healthy foods” you’ll automatically arrive at suitable total intake for great (or any) results from training, and that if you ever eat “unhealthy” foods you’ll automatically arrive at an excessive intake resulting in fat gain.

Results come from appropriate total intake, and this is best made possible by allowing people to include any foods that they enjoy in amounts conducive to meeting their requirements. By setting appropriate targets and removing any restrictions on food choices, we can ensure great results from an effective training system, while un-learning any disordered ideas about food that we’ve picked up in the past.