For most people, this week is first week back after the Christmas break, and the time when most people will start taking their new year’s resolutions seriously. Every year when I ask people what their resolutions are, they’re usually rather similar: to give up chocolate, cut out mid-week drinking, cut out all carbohydrates, give up smoking, or to spend less time glued to their laptop after working hours. The thing all of these have in common is that they are giving something up, or cutting something out. I personally don’t think this is a constructive way to make a change, as one failure or slip up can kill the whole resolution, and means everything goes back to the way it was, until the following year, where it all starts again. Instead, I encourage my clients to take things up. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in the gym - it could be starting a new hobby, or making that career progression you’ve been thinking of, anything really that's going to make a positive change to your life.
In this article I’ve listed my top recommendations on how to transform diet, training and wellbeing in the new year by adding things in, not giving them up.
Diet & Nutrition
When it comes to diet people often fall down at two hurdles: hydration and protein consumption. People underestimate the importance of proper hydration, and often struggle to take in enough water throughout the day. Water can have a great impact on weight loss.In one study, drinking 500ml of water prior to meals resulted in a greater weight loss (2kgs across 12 weeks) due to the reduced food intake in the subsequent meal . Water has been shown to 'trick' our brains into feeling full. The signals for hunger are extremely similar to the signals for thirst, so they become intertwined and can be easily confused . As well as weight loss, dehydration can lead to a drop in exercise performance when an individual is dehydrated by as little as 2%. Losses in excess of 5% of body weight can decrease the capacity for work by about 30% (Armstrong et al. 1985). Get adequately hydrated by hitting your daily hydration target. A good place to start would be 0.044 litres x body weight in Kilos. So, if you weigh 70kg, you’d need to drink 3.08 litres of water per day for optimum health, and ideally this should come from water alone. A great app I like to recommend to clients is Waterlogged. It allows you to set up your daily target and gives your reminders to drink, as believe it or not, it’s very easy to forget!
My next dietary tip would be to eat more protein. Protein should be the first of the three major macronutrients to be addressed, but like water it is often neglected. Having an adequate protein intake is important for non-training individuals because protein is the building block for our cells and tissues, and it will also help to maintain your current muscle mass. If you're inactive maintenance of skeletal muscle mass is that much harder. For individuals who exercise and are trying to increase muscle size and/or decrease body fat protein is a necessity. A high protein diet has been shown to increase levels of satiety meaning you feel fuller for longer, with several studies showing the advantages of a high protein breakfast over a carbohydrate one for better calorie control and consumption . Higher protein diets have also been shown to favour increased muscle development and strength gains . For example, a study of college football players consuming 2g/kg/day of protein over 12 weeks resulted in 14.3 kg greater increase in maximum squat strength over control groups . When it comes to the consumption of protein women should aim to consume 1.6-2g of protein per kilogram per day, while men should aim to consume 1.8-2.3g . This is of course dependent on training goals, individual circumstances and outcomes.
Exercise & Training
Funnily enough, when it comes to training people make the opposite mistake, and try to take on too much. Don’t fall victim to the January rush, and promise yourself that you’ll go from no sessions in the gym to four or five a week. Or if you only go once or twice don't suddenly increase it to five or six times per week! While the motivation is great, such a drastic change is unlikely to stick in the long run, as you haven’t allowed time for training to become a gradually bigger part of your lifestyle, or have an adaptive response on the body. If you don’t visit the gym at the moment, set a reasonable goal and aim to go for two or three sessions a week. If you can stick to this for a few months, think about increasing it. Remember, when it comes to training less is more.
If you already train, think about what you may be missing. Many people who strength train neglect stretching and mobility work. Rather than adding in more strength based sessions, add in some time to spend on flexibility work. Other strength based trainees leave cardio work out, but HIIT has been shown to compliment any muscle building work, and can help increase quad size when twinned with resistance training. Try to make time for a decent HIIT session per week. This will also aid any fat loss attempts. An example of this may be 5 sets of 40 secs full out effort with 2 minutes of rest.
Those who just do steady-state cardio should also look at taking up strength training. Even those whose main focus is cardio can benefit from resistance training, as a well structured programme can increase cardiovascular performance, strengthen up lagging body parts, and prevent injury.
Rather than slogging away with your old programme adopt a new training principle such as HIIT, increase core work, take up a training method such as 5x5 Method, German Volume Training, or Wave Loading, or it can be as simple as adding tempo into your lifts. All of these techniques will help to increase strength and encourage fat loss. For more training methods and tips on fat loss check out my seminar on Training Principles for Fat Loss!
Although diet and exercise are important, there are changes made outside the gym that have a huge impact on performance. Sleep is a key factor. A new resolution could be to make more time for sleep, improve the quality of sleep or create a better nighttime routine. Stress also affects training negatively - adopting better time management and sticking to a solid structure can help combat stress, as well as giving you time to achieve goals outside the gym.
Whatever you have decided to do this new year, make sure it becomes a habit, and make sure you set yourself measurable and achievable goals. Despite the common myth that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, according to Lally and her team it actually takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a habit with 66 days being the average . Sticking to something for three months allows it to become a part of your daily routine, with one study showing positive habit-based results for weight loss at around 3 months . Using a website such as habitforge.com can be a really helpful way of tracking your progress and taking a step towards a healthier new year. Good luck and remember; a resolution isn't just for the new year but for the whole year. Results take time so give it the time it deserves and don't give up!
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About Chris Hall
As the founder of Hall Training Systems, it is my mission to provide you with the very best personal training experience. I set up Hall Training Systems as Oxford's leading personal training service in nutrition, performance and weight loss, ensuring I can deliver the very best in training techniques.
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