Take one course of action and see it through
One of the biggest reasons people fail to see any significant change in their body composition over time is a lack of consistency.
Personally, I have made more progress in the last five years of my training life that I did in the previous 10. If I’d have known then what I know now that I’ll be in a much better position.
Setting goals is a great way to give us clarity on what lies ahead but reaching those goals is determined only by our ability to be consistent, adherent and remain focused. Distractions, loss of focus and motivation alongside the ability to see past our own personal emotions and opinions undermine our ability to reach our true potential. And with this in mind, it is easy to see and understand the value that coaching can provide, not only from a knowledge perspective but also for objective reasoning.
One thing I see in most commercial gyms is the “bulk and cult” approach. However, the decision about whether to bulk or cut is often determined by emotion, rather than reasoning. “I feel fat” and “I feel skinny” are the two phrases I hear that are the main triggers for taking either approach.
Feeling something is an emotion and when decisions are based on emotion, they are often unwise.
People often ask me whether they should “bulk” or “cut” first. And although there is no hard and fast rule, we need to accept that from a physiological and biological perspective, muscle building is hard whereas losing body-fat is relatively easy. If you don’t believe me, just pop down to your local supermarket and check out a 1kg joint of beef. How long do you realistically think it will take your body to synthesise that muscle tissue?
Remember, we are talking muscle building here, which isn’t to be confused with lean body mass. (Lean body mass consists of bone mass, blood, skin, organs, muscle tissue and water)
A harsh fact is that most people don’t carry as much muscle as they think. If you’ve ever started a diet and thought “I look skinny” you’ll know what I mean. This is not because you have lost muscle mass, merely you’ve lost fat mass which was occupying internal space. Muscle is much denser than fat and therefore occupies less space. This is where the importance of remaining focused on the goal ahead becomes extremely important.
So back to the question in hand, should you bulk or cut first?
Well, one thought process is that the leaner you are the more efficient your body is. From metabolising fuel substrates down to hormone function and regulation. So it would make sense from a physiological perspective to get lean first.
However that being said, if you are new to training then making big improvements to body composition is entirely possible by training at maintenance calories, as long as you are consistent and accept that it might not be “optimal”. This allows you to train with good intensity, does not impair recovery yet still facilitates muscle repair and growth.
However, if you’re looking to build some quality, lean muscle tissue, then a question worth asking yourself is this:
“Am I happy to gain body-fat at this moment in time”.
The reason this is important to ask this question because fat-gain is inevitable. And whilst it’s something we strive to keep to an absolute minimum, it is very much part of the process. Other than in the world of #broscience, the term “lean bulk” really doesn’t exist. So if the thought of gaining any additional fat at this moment in time scares you, then maybe it’s an idea to get into a leaner and more efficient level of body-fat first.
I’ll just take a moment to note that your individual body-fat percentage as a reading is not important, which coach Joe covers in his blog post here.
Now you’ve made the decision to either “cut” or “bulk” (I’ll repeat I don’t like either term, however, that’s what people understand), now is the time to take action. However, taking action has to be a long-term process. And by long-term, we are not talking 4-6 weeks, I am talking months.
This is THE main reason why people fail to get results and why I see people looking EXACTLY THE SAME, year after year. They lack consistency and patience with their approach. Take your average gym goer who is relatively lean that want to gain some muscle tissue. They more often than not, make one of the following mistakes.
- Overeating. They have no real awareness of their calorie requirements and just hit the high-calorie, low nutrient-density foods on the premise that this will help them to build muscle. Whilst a calorie surplus is required for growth, too many calories can be counter-productive and will need to excess fat gain.
- Lacking patience. As I already eluded to, muscle building is a long, hard process which requires consistency and patience. It’s easier to see visual changes when dieting down (losing fat) than it is when trying to gain tissue. People can often become disheartened at the lack of progress, which leads to a period of stagnation, loss of focus before they decide to “cut” again.
- Feeling self-conscious. As fat gain is inevitable, it requires an acceptance that this is part of the process. Far too many people get scared at the slightest gain in body-fat and then decide to drastically cut their calories in order to get back to their start point.
This is why it’s important to take one course of action and see it through. I often liken it to trying to catch two rabbits at once, you’ll end up frustrated and empty handed. However, if you focus on catching just one, the challenge becomes much easier.
So the take-home points for this article are:
- Set a realistic goal
- Be consistent, taking daily action
- Be patient, knowing that it will take time
- Play the long game, not basing decisions based on feelings
- If in doubt, get the advice from a reputable coach.
If you feel ready, you’re committed to change and you want to achieve a set of results you never thought would ever be possible, head on over and apply for our #Leanwithalife The 12 Week Online Coaching Programme.
If you’re a little unsure but still feel like you need a helping hand and some guidance to get you started on your transformation journey, head on over and start our FREE #Leanwithalife 7-day trial.
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