I recently made an entry speaking to how being free and open minded with fitness has kept me going. The having fun aspect of it all has kept it from becoming tedious, yet it sometimes can backfire if you're not careful. I have fallen victim to this recently, in that I haven't been training for a specific goal, I just have been making sure to work out which has had some impact in my overall health but when it comes down to it, how measurable is that?
My pal, and podcast co-host Ernesto, recently hooked me up with a Polar heart rate monitor which I've been using for about two weeks now. Something he always raved about to me was how having the data from his workouts was invaluable to him, a point I could never argue against especially considering the type of work we do for a living is driven by data analysis. Therefore, I already understood how data could be used to shake future workouts and diet plans to best fit a goal. But the first step of course is to have a goal. Currently I've locked in to a very specific goal, which is to put on some lean muscle over the next few months. That being said I had to look at two areas I know I haven't been atrocious at but could be better, diet and rest.
As far as rest goes, I have always struggled with sleep hygiene. And even when I'm developing good habits I tend to go through times where I just simply don't get much sleep. My brain just seems to want to go into hyperactive mode whenever it's bed time. This has been the case since I was kid and I can't say that nothing has worked to correct it, but no one thing has worked alone. Sometimes its herbal remedies (valerian root for example), other's it's supplementation (Melatonin), even binural beats and isochronic tones have worked from time to time. But nothing seems to work all of the time so this will continue to be a work in progress.
So the other component I'll have to focus on for now is my eating habits. Over the past year and a half I've been overall pretty good with eating right. And though from time to time I felt I wasn't eating enough it never seemed to me like I as under eating all of the time. Yet, over the past two weeks of measuring my calorie output and some food tracking I quickly realized most days I was just about breaking even, or ending up at a deficit. I don't want to butcher this but basically if you want grow, it's not just about how you train, your diet and how much you rest are the bigger keys to focus on. You have to feed your body the right nutrients and allow it to recover. It's a big misconception among beginners that muscle growth happens while lifting, instead it's actually while sleep. Don't believe me? Do your research, you'll find it's actually one of the basics.
To give my example though, I average a calorie output of 2000-2400 calories a day from a combination of my workouts and BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate, another important thing to get to know about). Meaning in order for me to grow to the weight I want to be at I have to consume around 1000-1500 calories more than I burn per day. Of course this also means the calories have to be the right type, I'm talking nutrient dense calories. The easiest way to do this, and the method I'm following is to calculate what your macro nutrient breakdown should be. Basically the percentage of fat, carbs, and protein in your diet. In order to grow these three have to be at the right ratio, and none can be neglected. Idealistically I'd like to put on Muscle and cut some fat, so my macro nutrient breakdown would be either 50/30/20. In other words 50% carbs, 30% protein, and 20% fat. Or I could even go 40/30/30, which would yield a similar result but may slow the fat burning process. I'm going into too much detail for some here but I'm trying to illustrate here is I would not be able to figure all of this out without data.
Actually there is one point I'm trying to make, and that's that in order for me to attain this goal of putting on more muscle and cutting fat I'll not only have to train hard, but stay disciplined in my diet and rest properly. I've already alluded to how the sleep part is a bit tricky for me, but my eating habits can and will be adjusted specifically for this goal. If there is any doubt in this method for anyone, let me just say that any bodybuilder out there can attest to what I'm saying, knowing exactly what goes into your body for fuel, using that fuel, and then resting to recover your muscle is the way to go.
So while keeping things fun have made it so I don't get bored with the whole fitness thing, I do acknowledge there is a place for structure in the grand scheme of it all. Especially if you have a goal like mine. But at at the end of the day, the important thing is to keep the fun and structure in balance. Be free to try new things in your workout and diet regimen, but do remember to not go too far off the rails. After all, you can head out on a journey and decide you'll walk whatever path you find until you reach your destination, which can surely be an adventure. But a well laid track will guide you to the exact destination with little to no surprises. For me, and for now structure will have to be my method.