Over the years, I’ve met a lot of people in my age range (50+) that want to both increase their fitness levels and reduce their fatness levels. I find there is a wide range of levels of interest in the detail of fitness from these people. Many of those are happy to take it to a highly-detailed level of talking numbers of calories, grams of macronutrients, day-long eating time schedules and detailed resistance workout and cardio agendas. I call this group the ‘number-crunchers’, I love them and indeed I am one myself.
But there’s another, larger, group who want general guidelines on a healthier lifestyle, they are happy to be not as focused as the earlier group, but are keen to have guidelines or rules that will help them achieve their fitness-up and fatness-down goals. For this group, I have devised some simple rules to follow, designed to be Elementary – in more ways than one. In this article, I’ll describe this Elementary Approach to Fitness.
There are three parts to the approach, each of which is just two words. So, six words is all there is. Will that do you? OK, if you want more, each of these two word phrases breaks down into a three guidelines, but if that’s too much detail, just remember those six words – two words for each of three parts. Just following those six words has the power to change your life forever…
A – EAT LESS: Most of the Western world tends to eat too much – and a considerable benefit would be obtained by many by simply reducing the amount eaten, alongside an increased movement level. That really will do it. Here are some further guidelines on this, if two words is not enough for you:
1. Within this ‘eating less’ approach, add in a view to ‘eat better’. Cut the total amount overall, but within that, keep the protein and fibre up, and the sugars and saturated fats down. Don’t try to eliminate the saturated fats completely, the body needs some, but only have those that come with protein attached.
2. Try to plan your days eating every day. Think of what you are going to eat, and approximately when, over the remainder of the day. And if you have the keenness to do so, it’s best to write that plan down. ‘Plan your eats, then eat your plan’, sums it up. My preferred plan usually has breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, and dinner at three-hourly intervals – which neatly gives me the 12-hours of eating in each 24 – plus an extra feed straight after a weights workout to make 6 meals a day. What’s that 12 hours eating in 24 about? Read on…
3. If you decide to eat something that you know you shouldn’t, make it worth it – Quality Not Quantity, is the guideline here. A glass of good wine to replace several of standard stuff, or maybe a pint of craft-brewed ale with natural ingredients rather than a few of the amber fizzy stuff. Same for bread, too. But don’t be a diet bore – if you’re going out to a social function, enjoy the event, try to follow the guidelines – and if you’ve planned your day well, then you have probably eaten less earlier in the day to allow for a few excesses at the event.
B – EXERCISE MORE: The body is happy to accept exercise in any form – going to the gym and formal training sessions isn’t the only form of exercise that counts. Your body actually wants to move, to exercise, it’s only your brain that’s advising you differently. Again, here is more info on this point if you want more than those two words:
1. Try to get some cardio in your life as a regular session – that’s a brisk walk, jog, bike ride, cross-trainer, something that gets your heart rate up for around 20-40 minutes. An ideal time is pre-breakfast, as this is the best time for the body to supply fat as a fuel, as I mention in more detail below. In addition, later in the day put in a resistance or weight training session on two or three non-adjacent days per week. There are many examples of exercises available, including on my web site, and try to include exercises for the major muscle groups of the legs, chest and back.
2. Progress incrementally, but do progress. If you can do 8 good repetitions on one exercise for example, then try 10 next time. And if you do that, try 12 the time after. Then, with success there, increase the weight but drop the repetitions to 8 as your target next time. To do this, record your exercise progress, as recording your data is key to the week-on-week encouragement this gives you – Measurement is Motivation.
3. Find exercise activities in your daily life – walk up stairs rather than taking the lift, maybe walk rather than drive for a short journey – and if you are walking, do it briskly – if you walk 40% quicker than before you will burn 40% more calories per minute! And you get to where you are going earlier – where’s the downside in that?
C – EXTEND NIGHTS: The body’s primary fat burning period is overnight, specifically the period between a few hours after eating the last meal up until when calories are consumed again. This period is gold dust to the keen fat-burner, make use of it by following further info in these three guidelines:
1. Create a 12 hour gap between consuming calories. So if you ate dinner at 8pm, don’t have breakfast (or any other calories) until 8am. So, if you know you have an early start tomorrow and have to eat breakfast at 6am, then tonight’s eating and drinking should be done by 6pm.
2. Get some light/moderate calorie-burning exercise in for some part of the 11th hour of those 12. So once you wake up, go for the 20-40 minute cardio I mentioned before. Nothing intense or anaerobic that is going to demand fuel from other than your fat reserves.
3. Have some coffee before that morning exercise. No sugar or milk, of course, as they contain calories and that would break the 12-hour no-calorie guideline. But the caffeine in black coffee is fine and acts both as a stimulant and helps the fat cells release fat to the bloodstream for use as fuel.
That’s it, just those three guidelines. There’s much more I can say about each of those points, but the above is all you need to get going. Also, if you can’t follow this on every day, then do it on some; the higher percentage of days that you can do this means the quicker you will obtain your results. The best thing about the Elementary approach is that it works. I have used it on myself with success, and have a range of clients using this approach, and they have either achieved their targets or they are well on the way to doing so.
And to remind you of the three big areas, it really is ELEMENTARY:
Eat Less – Exercise More – Extend Nights – Towards A Renewed You