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Sunday, 13 May 2018

Too many programmes?

By Pete Ryan

The world is full of ideas, whether these are diets, exercise, business or lifestyle, you can read a new idea everyday for a year and still hardly of scratched the surface. The secret to discovering the ideal programme for you is to hold it up to consensus. Does this idea share the basic principles of the majority of other programmes out there?
If we look at training, the idea is obvious. Firstly the system should progress, it should do every major facet of the body, it should have an ‘outcome based result’ (that is as you do the routine you are actually moving towards your goal), it should not cause injury or pain, it should allow you to recover between sessions, and it should be enjoyable.
For diets we need to look at commonalities between what most experts say.  The first thing is it needs to contain enough calories to survive, but tailored to whether you are trying to add muscle (higher calories), or lose fat (lower calories), secondly you need to minimise junk food, thirdly increasing the amount of vegetables you eat is common amongst many diets.
If you look at the above examples you can see that many, many system can fit within this framework. If you want to lose fat, you need to eat less calories than you burn, minimise junk food and be eating a variety of vegetables.  To add lean mass, you need a surplus of calories, while still minimising junk food and eating a lot of vegetables. For exercise a routine the results will depend upon your goals, so it should actually improve you athletic prowess, your strength, your muscle size...or whatever your goal is, while avoiding injury, also allowing you to recover and have some fun doing it.
Within the boundaries above you can do whatever you like.  If you have been online then you have seen exercise routines and diets that do not follow these rules. I am not suggesting that these never work, it is just that the vast majority of experts in the field do not agree with those ideas as being the ideal for the majority of people. What I am suggesting is that you follow the advice that will work best for most people, while keeping you as healthy as possible.

My advice for diet is to eat as much whole food as you can, eat a wide variety of plant foods, minimise junk foods and eat enough calories to achieve your goals.  There are special points, like I suggest a B12 and vitamin D supplement, but apart from a few minor tweaks, I do not care if you choose potato, sweet potato, yam or rice; tofu, seitan or beans; nor do I care if you want spinach, kale, pak choi or another green vegetable.  All that matters is overall calorie intake and not eating too much junk and that you are enjoying your food.

For exercise I do not care if you do HIT training, DC training, German Volume, Matrix training, supersets or Bulgarian style exercise.  The important factors are that you are doing the whole body, you should have a system that progresses as you exercise (gets harder over time by adding reps, sets, weight lifted, or lowering rest times between sets or other ways to increase the difficulty), you should be moving towards your goal, you should not be suffering injuries, you should be recovering between sessions and enjoying the process. If that is happening then your routine is sound.

Let’s look at some good and bad examples of diet and exercise

For a bad diet I would like to suggest the “All meat diet”.  This is a relatively new dietary idea, you eat no vegetables and only survive on meat, so far the exponents of this diet have shown several negative symptoms; low testosterone, high blood sugar levels, high LDL cholesterol, but the people adhering to this diet swear that it is a magic formula for health despite having such bad blood markers. For a good diet let us look at a mainly whole food vegan diet. This gives you ample nutrients, increases health and vitality, lower inflammation and aids in the overall goals of health.
For bad training let us look at ‘bros’ who do biceps and chest every session. Over time this will cause imbalances in the body, lead to shoulder issues and the lack of leg and hip exercise will lead to the person developing ‘Chicken leg syndrome’, not ideal if their goal is an overall aesthetic look. For a good routine we could look at a full body routine done several times a week. This will hit the whole body every time you work out, you could have a focus each session, so day 1 lower body focussed (followed by all the upper body work), day 2 upper body pull focus (followed by legs and upper body push movements), and day 3 you could have an upper body push focus (followed by legs and upper body pull movements). You could use a double progression system to slowly ramp up the intensity, and 3 days a week allows you plenty of time to recover.

One thing to avoid is to hop programmes too often (with either the diet or the exercise).  Give something 8-12 weeks to really see how it is working and stick to it longer if you are enjoying it.
Above are a few suggestions, if you need more advice or help sorting out how to approach your training or diet then download the book “Introduction to vegan health and fitness” and use some of the resources below to work your way through the option available to you.

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