You are unique. You are different. Your exercise programme and nutrition plan should reflect your individuality. Unfortunately it rarely does.
The first step to getting in shape for many of us is often to copy someone else. Usually someone who has already achieved our desired result.
This often seems like a good idea at first. After all, if it worked for them, why wouldn’t it work for you?
It’s also an easy way to get started. There’s a new celebrity workout DVD released every other week. Diet and healthy eating plan books are in every supermarket and book store. And of course you’re only ever a few clicks away from YouTube tutorials where literally anyone can share their advice…
The truth is, although it may be easy, it’s not the best way to get started.
Let’s say you’re a 16 year old newcomer to exercise with aspirations to become the next top bodybuilder. You saw Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s workout programme in latest Men’s Health magazine and decide to give it a try.
As it turns out, a programme that works for a 230lb Professional Wrestler isn’t as effective for a 140 lb 16 year old who is new to training. Who would have guessed it?
Queue the sore joints, muscle strain and exhaustion…
Although the above is a somewhat extreme example, it does illustrate the flawed approach of blindly copying what someone else does.
The Problem With Copying Exercise Programmes…
The above example may have been extreme. But even small, subtle differences between individual needs can cause an exercise programme to work well for one person, and not so well for the next.
The vast majority of ‘off the shelf’ training programmes produce sub-par results, if at all. This is because they simply do not account for the unique and individual needs of each person.
For example, here are just a handful of the factors we consider when creating a unique and tailored exercise programme for our clients here at our private personal training studio:
- Your Specific Goals – yes, they might be similar to your friend or favourite celebrity on paper, but is the underlying target so identical that the same process will get you both to your target?
- Your Starting Point – are you getting started after years of inactivity and expecting to follow the programming of an active athlete? Whilst the intention is admirable, the execution is a recipe for injury and disappointment.
- Your Experience – your experience and maturity in exercise is important. It’s entirely possible for two similar people to have very different training experience. Crafting the same programme for both would be ineffective.
- Specific Muscular Imbalances – your body has lived a unique and individual existence, and has developed it’s own imbalances. For example an office worker, a car mechanic, a shop assistant and a warehouse employee are all going to have very different exercise requirements to correct any differences in their functionality.
- Injuries – many clients who start working with us have at least one injury or niggle. Addressing this injury or niggle is an important part of their programme design. If we were to simply pick a programme off the shelf this wouldn’t be taken into account and could well make their injury worse.
- Enjoyment Factor – people are motivated by entirely different things. For example you might be very target driven as an individual and would thrive when presented with a programme that allows you to work on personal records every training session…
…Or, you might get bored and demotivated should an exercise become too frequent within your training programme, which would mean regularly rotating the movement selections to facilitate greater results for you. If you aren’t enjoying the process of training, there’s a far higher likelihood you’ll give up.
The right programme for you is one you’re motivated by, and that isn’t necessarily going to be found in the latest fitness magazine or google search.
The Problem With Copying Nutrition/Diet Plans…
As with exercise, nutrition requirements vary from person to person.
I’ve had clients that have thrived on a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet. I’ve had clients who’ve felt lethargic and weak following the same protocols.
I’ve seen people lose fat at a rapid rate through intermittent fasting, and then I’ve watched as the same principles have resulted in decreased energy, drive, focus and results in another individual with the similar goals.
There’s absolutely no denying nutrition can be a highly confusing topic – even for me as a trained Precision Nutrition coach!
With all these different approaches to nutrition, there’s simply no way an ‘off the shelf’ diet plan can account for your individual dietary requirements.
Here’s the approach we use to tailor our nutritional advice to our clients at the studio, rather than using a ‘one-size-fits-all’approach.
There Are Underlying Nutritional Principles That Remain Consistent
A sensible first step in improving the nutrition and eating habits of our clients is to ensure these fundamental principles are taken care of.
- Eating predominantly nutrient dense, whole foods instead of processed foods.
- Maintaining sufficient hydration by drinking 2-3 litres of water per day.
- Eating mindfully and slowly whilst paying attention to your hunger and satiety cues.
- Increasing fibre and vegetable intake.
- Ensuring balance between protein, carbohydrate and fat intake.
Once these fundamentals are in place, we can begin to get more specific and tailor the advice to you as an individual…
Get the basics right are you’ll have a solid nutritional foundation. You may even notice your body shape changing…
But, if you want to get the best results for your personal body type, goals and lifestyle, further individualisation goes a long way.
One great way to do this, is to identify your genetic somatotype.
The Three Somatotypes:
(Image courtesy of Precision Nutrition)
An Ectomorph is typically characterised as being thin and naturally lean but would struggle more to put on muscle mass. They are typically very active individuals.
An ectomorph can usually tolerate higher quantities of carbohydrates than most. A typical nutrient distribution for an ectomorph would be 55% of their calories from carbohydrates, 25% from proteins and 20% from fats.
Don’t worry, we don’t advocate painstakingly counting out every calorie you consume! Instead, if you fall under the ‘ectomorph’ category of body types, simply follow the higher carbohydrate, lower fat approach.
A mesomorph tends to be naturally muscular and has a lean athletic body, with broader shoulders. They typically can add muscle mass without increasing body fat fairly easily.
This type of body tends to perform optimally on a balanced nutrition split, so a starting point might look somewhere around 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat.
These are your typically larger framed individuals, who may have a reasonable muscle mass but also tend to store body fat easily. They are also usually usually less active than the other somatotypes.
This body type usually responds well to a higher fat, lower carbohydrate diet. A good starting point would be somewhere around 25% carbohydrate, 35% protein and 40% fat.
Once you have established your body type and the correct nutrient ratio, you can of course tailor your nutrition by eating more calories or less calories for your specific goal such as muscle gain or fat loss.
There’s an excellent info-graphic that also summaries the above information nicely which we recommend viewing to aid your understanding. You can view this image by clicking here.
Bringing It All Together:
The above are simply guidelines and are not set in stone. The guidelines will certainly help you get started, but do keep in mind both your training programme and nutrition plan evolve over time and should be adjusted accordingly.
Everyone responds differently to varying training and nutrition stimulus. What works well for you might not work for me, and vice versa.
The solution is to make an educated decision on a training and nutrition principle to follow, and stick with it for a minimum of 6 weeks.
For that 6 weeks, record your results to assess the effectiveness of the principles you have chosen.
You may wish to record strength progression, body measurements, body weight and energy levels. It can also be good to record if you felt bloated or lethargic after a certain meal or if there was a time of the day you felt particularly alert.
All of this can help to establish whether the programme you have chosen is right for you.
Making an educated choice based on your goals, training history, imbalances and lifestyle is key to successfully starting any transformation programme. However, adapting to the response your body has to such practises is vital for the longevity of your progression.
We have done our utmost to provide enough information to help you understand more about tailoring your exercise and nutrition to you as an individual. We understand this can be a very confusing topic and are here to help if you require it. For more information see below.