Thursday 5 January 2023

Body Transformation: Fast Results or Lasting Results?

At the start of each New Year, gyms are full of highly motivated people looking to transform their bodies. They demand fast, dramatic results. If you want to make the fastest results you possibly can, I will show you how to do it. However, few understand that rapid body transformation comes at a price that you might not want to pay. 

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

The fitness industry is full of fake body transformations (thanks to photo editing software and app filters) as well as countless drug-assisted transformations (often by those who claim to be #allnatural). If you are a drug-free, non-genetic-freak, here are the practices you need to achieve and maintain your best body:

  1. Do 3-4 scheduled, hard training sessions per week. 
  2. Use a personalized training plan and use exercises that suit your structure. (For examples see Squat and Deadlift Right for Your Body Type)
  3. Train really hard (by “hard” I mean close to close to true failure while maintaining proper form – most people train far from their true limit).
  4. Keep a training log and focusing on progressing your exercises.
  5. Adjust your training as needed to avoid nagging aches and pains. Seek professional help from appropriate health care professionals (e.g. chiro, physio, massage) as needed.
  6. Increase daily movement (e.g. consistently hitting 10,000+ steps per day). 
  7. Do 1-2 meal prep sessions per week.
  8. Consistently hit your daily calorie target (depending on your goals, this might be a slight deficit, maintenance, or a slight surplus).
  9. Consistently eat a higher protein intake (e.g. 0.75-1g/lb of body weight).
  10. Emphasize nourishing, minimally processed foods.
  11. Eat foods that help you feel great after eating and avoid those foods that make you feel gassy, bloated or sleepy (you can know this by paying attention to have you feel and perform after each meal).
  12. Do not use recreational drugs. Avoid or limit alcohol. 
  13. Adjust your schedule to get 8 hours of quality sleep per night.
  14. Have a bedtime wind-down ritual to help you prepare for sleep.
  15. Experiment to find the nutrition and lifestyle habits that improve your sleep quality. For ideas, see Cheap, Effective Sleep Aids.
  16. Have rest & chill time each day (e.g. 10 minutes of deep breathing).
  17. Take one full day off per week with no work and no hard training.
  18. Be wise in how you live your life. Many people make foolish decisions that add huge amounts of unneeded stress to their lives.
  19. Structure your schedule to ensure you are living at a sustainable pace of life.
  20. Invest time and effort into building quality relationships (e.g. God, spouse, kids, family, friends, etc.). Relationships are crazy important for a great life. If your relationships suck, your life will suck! 

If you do all these practices at once, you will achieve, relatively fast results (though still not as fast as the mythical world of internet marketing claims). However, starting all 20 of these practices at once is a radical lifestyle change. As a result, very few people are able to sustain this approach. When they lose these practices, they also lose their results. This is why you see so many movie stars get ripped for a movie and then shortly after are very out of shape. This is why even the legit before and after “success” photos you see on social media rarely last.

Is there ever a time for pursuing fast, dramatic results? Sure. Maybe you are trying to peak for a physique contest, get ready for your role in a new action movie, or prepare for a photo shoot. In cases like these, you are trying to get in the best shape possible for a defined period. This requires an all-in approach. You might get some impressive before and after shots. However, you might burn out, get injured, and/or get sit. You also need to accept that you are unlikely to maintain your changes (or the physical or mental health benefits that come with these short-term changes). 

This year, why do you try something drastically different than 99.9% of people are trying? Instead of pursuing rapid change, pursue sustainable change. Try an approach that will lay a foundation for decades of excellent health, performance, and body composition. Instead of trying to radically alter your life by starting all 20 items from the list above, start with self-reflection. Look at your current needs and habits. Then, pick one item from the list. Start slow. Don't worry about "optimal" just yet. For example, if you don’t train at all, start with even just a few minutes per day. If right now, you are only getting 6 hours of sleep a night, try adding another 15 minutes. Gradually build up. Once that practice is a habit for you, it will not require willpower. This frees up your willpower to work on creating a habit with another practice. Over time, you will have dramatically altered your lifestyle by changing your habits. These new habits will (again over time), improve your health, performance, and body composition. 

Three important notes:

  1. Everyone is different. Do not compare your results or your body to others. At some point, the time and effort to push your body further towards your "ideal body" will no longer be worth it. For example, if you have a naturally larger body, you may find that trying to get lean requires such restrictive eating that it is better to just to focus on healthy habits, stop stressing about your weight, and start enjoying life (and some of your favorite foods). 
  2. Trying to get extremely lean is not sustainable. This why even drug-free physique stars (with great genetics and incredible discipline) do not (and cannot) stay in contest shape year-round. 
  3. Most of the fitness industry uses drugs. As a result many people have unrealistic expectations of what they can achieve. Once they learn the truth, many people feel they "have" to resort to drugs to see results. While using bodybuilding drugs will often give you fast improvements in performance and body composition, they come at the expense of your long-term health, performance and body composition. Again, drug-free is the way to go for lasting results! 

Ultimately, the choice is yours. If you want to pursue fast change, go for it. However, habit accumulation will leave you fitter, happier and healthier in the long run. 

Happy New Year! 

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