January Fitness Funk- Two Strategies for a New-New Year Fitness Plan
Article by Ben Coomber
The internet was flooded over Christmas with articles, all telling you to avoid the potatoes, not to skip the gym and to curb your drinking to an absolute minimum. Granted, all of these are valid (but obvious) points, and if we are honest, deep down we all know what we should or should not be doing, and only the extremely dedicated will adhere. But what if we’re practically a month on and the ghosts of Christmas past-diets are still lingering? Well I’m offering 2 strategies that you could take away right now and implement to make tangible gains in the fitness / diet lull after the festive period.
Information is great, but it’s got to be practical, right? It’s only fair that you want to finish this article and know that you have spent 5 minutes of your valuable time having actually gained some practical knowledge that you can take away and try. So, where is this article leading? The remainder of this article is your NEW-New Year plan- the delayed kick start to the New Year that you really need. Indeed there has been some fat gain, or there might be fat you want to lose anyway that didn’t magically eradicate itself on the stroke of midnight and somehow remains firmly attached in late January. This strategy will also work wonders on people looking to lose 4-6% body fat in a few weeks. Get ripped here:
The 2 practical strategies I will outline are:
1. Carbohydrate type restriction, not calorie restriction
2. German Body Composition training.
Many will have indulged over the Christmas period and also through these wintery, dreary January days, in an attempt to stave off the back-to-work blues. This has led to neglect in adapting their training programme or diet to accommodate their change in lifestyle. The most likely change to your diet will have been an increased intake of calories by indulging in treats such as roast dinners, chocolates and booze. These poor diet choices have retained their stranglehold long after they were invited with the stray month old selection box or forgotten biscuit tin that shouldn’t go to waste. You will more than likely accompany this with sitting in front of the TV for many hours and the fitness routine of 2010 seems like a distant memory. So now what we need to do to shake you out of this slump is two things; turbo-charge your gym hours and manipulate your diet so that the fat comes off at the same rate it went on. Most guys and girls observed in the gym burn off 200-300 calories at best with a weights session. The program shared in this article will burn off 500-600 calories minimum and also strip both fat and build muscle.
Strategy 1: The low-carbohydrate / Ketogenic / Anabolic Diet
One of my key philosophies is earning your carbs if you want optimal body composition. As a whole we are a fairly inactive bunch. Yes, we might go to the gym, but we spend the majority of the time sitting down due to our work lives, which coincidentally is not what we were built for. Our energy expenditure is not often adequate enough to consume a tonne of starchy carbs such as potatoes, your morning porridge and pasta salad. So, here comes my secret weapon, the vegetable. Nutritionally packing more than any starch has to offer, vegetables should be your key carbohydrate intake, period.
Diets similar to this one have been around for a long time, it’s nothing ground breaking, ketogenics, anabolic, whatever name you’ve heard it under, this is my version, and if you want to get ripped quickly it works. Now I recommend it’s done in two week cycles, so perfect to start long after the gym card has collected a holiday dust layer. But be warned, there is no cheating on this diet, it needs to be followed 100% on the strict days or results will be slower due to the internal physiological changes not being allowed to happen.
So how does such a diet work? At rest, the rate of lipolysis (fat burning) is exquisitely sensitive to insulin (Ref 1), remove carbs and we solve the majority of this issue as even modest reductions of insulin are of benefit to weight loss (Ref 1). Many studies have shown the benefit on body fat % with very low carbohydrate diets (Ref 2, 3) while increasing fat free mass (Ref 4) due to changes in anabolic hormone levels and intake of amino acids. The short term benefits for a low carb diet has been extensively studied with positive outcomes all round. Such a diet can be adopted long term but with the use of more regular carbohydrate cycling. So let’s move on to the food on this diet:
Allowable foods: All animal proteins and fish, nuts & seeds. Whey protein. All fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, real butter and nut butters. All green vegetables and some others; spinach, broccoli, peas, asparagus, kale, courgettes, avocado, cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower, mange tout, leeks, celery, sprouts, salad leaves and watercress.
Non-Allowable foods: Everything else including dairy (except cottage cheese due to high protein ratio with minimal carbohydrates – around 5g per 200g).
In a nutshell, you are going to be a protein and fat monster, with 1-2 handfuls of low carb vegetables at each meal as above. The idea is to get your carb intake around 30g or below. The vegetables are always best raw (increasing micro-nutrient and enzyme intake), cooking is your second option, raw where possible. An example day on this diet might look like this:
Pre breakfast: 50g whey protein with water (Ideally mixed release such as total protein).
Post workout: Staying away from carbs here is trickier due to obtaining an insulin release, but can be made easy with a few supplements, these being: 50g Whey such as Whey isolate, 40g of L Glutamine,20g Lysine, and 10g Leucine. (At minimum try to use glutamine and leucine for insulin response, L Cartinine can be added for extra fat mobilisation, at least 3g). Simple sugars are the norm here for post workout insulin release, but many amino acids mimic the role of simple sugars in enough quantities, this is where the above amino acids come in negating the need for carbohydrates.
10g of BCAAs pre, during and post workout will serve as both a good fuel and an anti-catabolic while you undergo the German Body Composition thrashing. This will also help with the DOMS as you will be working all the muscles in every session. This obviously costs money so is an optional addition, no one wants to go crazy on supplements, but it can really benefit this short term process.
You will need to adapt this menu for the 12 days using different meats, allowable vegetables and fats whilst avoiding any added sauces as these can be a source of hidden sugars and yes, even a spurt of tomato ketchup counts. Also no milk, as it is too high in carbohydrates, veg only. So this plan will be done for 2 weeks (12 days), but on the 2nd weekend it all changes, this is the cheat weekend (last 2 days). This means most things are on the menu, and you will probably be more than ready for some treats, so go for it. After this 2 week cycle you can then decide if you want to do another one, if so just drop back to the 12 days of green vegetable carbs again and monster protein and fat servings. You will notice there is no calorie counting on this diet, eat to serve your appetite, the food types will do the talking.
Strategy 2: German Body Composition training
This strategy is the training aspect, in other words smashing it in the gym. After overly extended festive indulgence we need to torch as many calories as possible, and for many a change of program such as this will be just what your body needs. It will burn fat, increase fitness levels and build muscle while working every muscle as it focuses on all big bang exercises that are great at increasing testosterone and growth hormone levels (Ref 5).
This type of program is championed by Charles Poliquin (professional athletes and Olympian trainer), the exact source I learned such a method from. You will work 4 days of the week with weights, another 1-3 sessions should focus on some High Intensity Interval Training (HITT) – no steady state cardio. The program will work you hard just under your lactate threshold, the rest periods are fairly short but long enough to allow for adequate recovery, plus with the superset format you will still be able to work hard on every set of each big exercise.
This type of program as you can see is tough, it works all the muscles, through all of the big lifts a lot of the time, so rest outside your workout is going to be key. The optimal sleeping time being 10pm – 7am, 9 hours is the target with at least 2 hours pre-midnight as these are essential sleeping hours, 9 hours from 1am – 10am is not the same in terms of hormonal release to aid recovery. Remember we want lots of growth hormone during this phase as it is essential to muscle growth and fat loss.
With all the exercises never go to fatigue/failure or be pushing reps, the last reps should be a little bit of a struggle, but that’s all. Remember you’re working all the same muscles the day after so we want to minimise DOMS. This program is ideal for 2-3 weeks tops, but gauge it on your own ability and fitness level (adaptation response), this will also depend on how much you can push it with the weight with training the next day. This program is also good for women, follow the same reps/sets brackets. After all its purpose is to strip fat and pukker up some underlying muscle (ladies don’t be afraid to add a bit of muscle, its beneficial, just take a look at figure athletes). One key point is take note of the tempo, the 1st number in the tempo column is the eccentric phase, then pause, then concentric, and finally pause, but most of the tempo’s are 3 seconds down and 1 up. Of high importance is the 3-4 seconds in the eccentric bracket, follow it, otherwise your time under tension will not be long enough to stimulate the right training response.
So points to take home; use the two week diet to strip the evidence of bad habits that have crept into the New Year, but be strict and follow it closely, it will deplete your glycogen stores and burn fat with minimal carb intake while we then top up and re-load on carbs on the last weekend while still obtaining an anabolic response. Aid your body in its efforts by doing a hard training program, something that is going to push you and burn serious calories such as the German Body Composition program. Follow this plan and say hello to a more ripped frame in a short period of time. And yes they can both be done at the same time, it just takes an intelligent and disciplined approach.
1. Jensen, M. D., Caruso, M., Heiling, V. & Miles, J. M. (1989). Insulin regulation of lipolysis in non-diabetic and IDDM subjects. Diabetes. 38:1595-1601.
2. Meckling, K. A., O’Sullivan, C., Saari, D. (2004). Comparison of a low-fat diet to a low-carbohydrate diet on weight loss, body composition, and risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease in free-living overweight men and women. Journal of Endicrinology and Metabolism. 89:2717-2723.
3. Youngs, C. M., Scalan, S. S., Im, H. S., Lutwak, L. (1971). Effect of body composition and other parameters in obese young men of carbohydrate level of reduction diet. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 24:290-296.
4. Willi, S. M., Oexmann, M. J., Wright, N. M., Collop, N. A. & Key, L. L. (1998). The effects of a high-protein, low-fat, ketogenic diet on adolescents with morbid obesity: body composition, blood chemistries, and sleep abnormalities. Paediatrics. 101:61-67.
5. Hansen, S., Kvorning, T., Kjaer, M. & Szogaard, G. (2001). The effect of short-term strength training on human skeletal muscle: the importance of physiologically elevated hormone levels. Scandinavian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 11:347-354.
Ben is a health and fitness professional working with athletes and gym goers through the online medium ‘Bodytypenutrition’ and on a consultancy and personal training basis throughout the UK, Europe and the Middle East.