A back-to-basics guide for everyone that thinks they know what they're doing!

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How many times have you picked up a fitness publication for the first time and blatantly did not have a clue what the articles were going on about? Furthermore, they all seemed more focused on the advanced trainers out there.

For people just starting out on the bodybuilding lifestyle, things can get confusing. Here is a little test to see if you have overlooked the basics in your training and nutrition. If your answer to the question is YES, then move on to the next checkpoint. If your answer is NO, then read the paragraph below.

Are you eating 5-6 small meals per day?
If you eat small amounts throughout the day you will experience better and less fluctuating energy levels, a faster metabolism (the speed at which the body burns calories) and your body will be less likely to store that unwanted and unsightly bodyfat. You will also feel less hungry and be less prone to snacking and ruining your diet.

Do you eat lots of carbohydrates after 6pm?

You are less active in the evening, such as going down the pub or watching television, therefore any energy released from carbohydrates will not be in demand and will be stored as excess bodyfat. Ensure that protein is higher In the evening.

Do you have a regular 7-9 hours sleep every night?
Sleep is vital to allow your body to recover from the daily demands placed upon it. If you do not get enough regular sleep your body will not recover and adapt to the training demands placed upon it.

Are you drinking at least 2 litres of water a day?
Muscle is made up of nearly 70% water. You can survive without food for around 60 days, but water, maybe 24-48 hours. Dehydration causes much stress to your body and has a detrimental effect to your energy, fat burning and muscle building goals.

Do you participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate activity per day?
This is the current recommended government guidelines for good health. If you’re a ‘pencil pusher,’ walk or cycle to work or go for a stroll at lunch time. Exercise reduces stress, increases energy levels, enhances sleep and keeps you lean!

Do you always eat a good high protein breakfast?
Breakfast is the most overlooked meal of the day, but it is the most important. Your last meal was probably over 8-12 hours before. Your body is in demand for nutritional replenishment for energy. Protein in the morning is vital to prevent muscle breakdown. People who have big breakfasts perform far better at work than those who don’t. Can’t find time..? use Max-Meal Bar or Progain. Great nutrition in under 60 seconds.

Are you consuming at least 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day?
Protein stores need to be replenished every 2-3 hours, in order to prevent the body breaking down muscle tissue and holding onto new muscle you have just built. If you can’t find time to eat 6-7 protein meals a day, don’t panic, eat your normal 3 meals and consume a good protein powder, such as Promax or a high protein weight gain (Progain ) in-between meals or before bedtime.

Does your diet consist mainly of sugary foods (e.g. chocolate, sweets etc)?
Do you suffer from lethargic periods throughout your day, where you just feel like sleeping. One minute you’ll be energetic and the next you’ll feel, weak, drained and sleepy? This is due to blood sugar fluctuations. When you consume simple sugars, such as white rice, chocolate, cakes, etc… your blood sugar levels shoot up, causing a hormone called insulin to be released, which removes this excess sugar from the blood. This results in a low blood sugar level, making you feel sleepy, etc… You are then desperate to eat some sugary food again to raise energy levels. This kind of binge eating is very effective at storing excess bodyfat and is the most effective way to cause diabetes. Stick to complex foods (brown rice, pasta, vegetable, Max-Meal bar , fish, chicken, etc..) in small meals and you will not have this problem and stay leaner far easier with much higher energy levels.

Do you drink a lot of alcohol throughout the week?
To put it simply alcohol consumption is bad for your training. It is a useless nutrient and is easily converted into bodyfat, which then has to be burnt off. Excessive alcohol (more than 1 measure, 3 times a week) dramatically reduces Testosterone (the male hormone) and increases estrogen (the female hormone). Alcohol consumption beyond this will dramatically reduce recovery, increase bodyfat storage, water retention and reduce muscle mass and strength.

Are you a regular smoker?
Smoking reduces your ability to absorb oxygen into the body. As a result you will suffer from less endurance, stamina, performance and intensity in the gym. Not only will it have an effect on your training, but smoking also removes valuable nutrients from the body, lowering your immune system, resulting in more illnesses and time off training.

Do you rest in between training sessions?
If you do not give your body the time it needs to recover then it will not be able to adapt to the stresses being placed upon it in the gym. For example, if you train and your muscles are still sore from the last session then you will be doing more harm than good, (they will get smaller!) You want to have at least one pain free day, which means your muscles have now recovered and are adapting (growing) for the next session. If you are not taking steroids, anything more than 3-4 intense weight training sessions per week, is usually over training.

Do you take regular vitamin and mineral supplements?
Vitamins and minerals play such important roles within the body that a deficiency in just one or two can cause problems, with a good multi vit & min (Protrient) , you can be sure you do not experience a deficiency, keeping energy and immune system at peak levels.

Do you feel stressed at work?
When you feel stressed (deadlines at work, arguments partners etc..) your body dumps out the highly destructive hormone Cortisol. Cortisol converts muscle tissue into glucose for the flight or flee response. Stressful ‘on the edge’ people find it very hard to put on muscle mass because of this. If this sounds like you and you want to put on muscle…take action, change jobs, stop driving to work during rush-hour, get rid of moaning partners or learn to deep breath and relax. You’ll be amazed at the difference.

Do you spend longer than 1 hour doing weight training?
If you train with weights for longer than 45-60 minutes, your testosterone and energy levels significantly drop, so much so, that not only will your workouts suffer, but your recovery will be severely hampered. You will also find a reduced sex drive if this regime is maintained. So keep your workouts short and sweet, with emphasis on the intensity and form, not duration.

Are you progressively increasing the intensity of your training sessions?
How many of you are still pushing the same weights as you were this time last year or even 5 years before… Or running the same route, in the same time and at the same speed? If you run the same speed, or push the same weights week in and week out, then do not expect to experience any increase in muscle strength, etc… If you want to increase your lean muscle tissue then you must systematically increase the poundages (or distance or speed, as in running!) when I say increase poundages, don’t be silly and add 10kg to each side of the barbell curl and get injured. Remember going from 6 to 8 reps is an increase in intensity. Putting on tiny 2lb plates each week is an increase in poundages. Over a year it becomes a massive difference and you will have the muscle and strength to show for it. Start taking control in your very next training session.

So how did you do? Were you perfect on everything or have you got into a rut, that you need to change. With all the fancy magazines that are out there, it is easy to think that there are thousands of ways to train and eat.

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