New Year, New You: Focus on movement and nutrition when creating a fitness program
Editor’s note: This is the second of three columns from Dogma Athletica about getting fit and losing weight successfully.
We discussed getting honest with yourself and dropping excuses in the first installment. This column will focus on two of the keystone habits necessary for a positive, lasting change: movement and nutrition.
Whether your goal is weight loss, athletic performance, increased energy, better cognitive function or a happier life, developing good habits in movement and nutrition are essential. Both of these deeply impact your energy. Your energy is everything. It’s the foundation of how you live your days.
Humans are designed to move. And to move a lot. Even in our Vail Valley community, which is much more active than the national average, we end up sitting far more than optimal. Think about a typical day for most people: Wake up and sit down to eat something. Sit in a car to make our way to work. Sit at some form of a desk or work space for several hours. Sit again to eat something. Sit at the desk for another several hours. Sit while driving home, only to sit for dinner and sit to watch TV. It’s no wonder why most people have postural distortions, loss of mobility, low strength for their weight and dismal energy. A day like this is in complete contrast to your body and brains evolutionary design.
From escaping predators and chasing prey to squatting for foraging and for the dexterous engagement required to build shelter, our physiological plate was full for eons. Now, we’ve constructed a world in which most of the population survives by performing minimal physical activity.
We know humans need three pillars of movement for optimal health: metabolic conditioning, functional strength and mobility. But most of us, even if we don’t consider ourselves sedentary, end up focusing on just one of the three. We do what we like to do. It is great to develop the habit for routine, but it is easy to get into a routine rut which will stall any progress toward the change you seek.
Metabolic conditioning will tax your cardiovascular and muscular systems. It will help you burn up excess calories. It will keep your heart and blood vessels fit. It will release enzymes in the brain to create new brain cells. It’s important to vary your metabolic conditioning between steady state, moderate intensity, aerobic exercise and high intensity interval type training.
Functional strength will make you strong for your body weight. It will improve your posture and how you move. It will tax the type II muscle fibers that consume glucose. It will help you lean out. It will dramatically improve your self-confidence. Good functional strength involves compound movements across many joints. Think of full body exercises such as squatting, deadlifting, lunging, rotating, pressing and pulling. Invest in a good movement coach or trainer if these drills are new to you. The investment will pay huge returns in your health and actualizing the functional and aesthetic body you want. Mobility training will help you be more athletic. It will increase your range of motion and decrease chronic pain and discomfort. You will reduce injury probability and you will be more at one with your body. It will allow you to de-stress and help your mind and body be in sync. Mobility training can include a yoga practice, martial arts, Pilates or an athletic mobility class. At Dogma, we created a Live It Group program with three distinct classes that target all three pillars: Live It Lean, Live It Strong and Live It Loose.
Just as our modern society doesn’t support the necessary, regular movement for optimal health, 21st century culture has destroyed the way humans are designed to eat. We can take barely 10 steps and go to a stocked refrigerator and eat something that has more calories than we may expend in an entire day. But for most of human existence, we had to put out a lot of expenditure to track, forage or hunt for our food.
This is why our body’s enzymes are most advantageous in processing food optimally right after exercise. We also are designed to go extended periods of time without food. We are not designed to have this constant stream of calories from three square meals and snacks throughout the day. This constant state of being fed is the root cause of much chronic disease and sub optimal health.
Whether you want to lose weight, decrease risk for illness and disease, improve your focus and productivity, increase endurance or just feel less weighed down, there is one nutritional tool that is most effective: time restricted eating or intermittent fasting. For the purposes of this article I will refer to it as time restricted eating.
Time restricted eating is the one lever you can pull that takes care of so many other things we look for in a good nutritional program: improve insulin sensitivity, reduce chronic glucose in the blood, help the body metabolize fat for fuel, improve the ratio of the hunger and satiety hormones — ghrelin and leptin — and improve brain function. There are many solid nutritional programs available, as well as many that are snake oil. But time restricted eating is shown to be effective in nearly every facet of improved health.
For those whose goal is weight loss, some of the benefits of time restricted eating include not having to worry about counting calories and giving you leniency on certain macronutrients. It will dramatically reduce cravings and the cycle of always feeling hungry. It will help your body mobilize fat for fuel and minimize caloric intake from being stored as body fat. It will give you extra time in your day and improve your mental clarity. You will feel less sluggish and have increased energy.
There are several forms of time restricted eating, but what we use at Dogma Athletica for our New Year’s Hustle for the Muscle Six-Week Challenge is an 8/16 method. This is where you would consume all your calories during an 8-hour eating window and consume nothing of caloric value in the 16-hour window. If this is new to you, at first it can sound daunting. But it actually is simple. You will find the “hangry” version of you will disappear and be replaced with a leaner, sharper, productive and more energetic you.
As you start refining your goals for 2020, get honest with yourself. Write down what is most important to you. Write down what you have been doing in the past that hasn’t helped you move forward. Know you must engage in creating sound habits. Two of the most important are movement and nutrition.
In the third installment I will address the three other habits: sleep, mindfulness and community.
Rod Connolly is an exercise physiologist and owner of Dogma Athletica in Edwards. He has been working in the fitness industry for more than 30 years and has coached many clients through transformative health experiences over that period. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Dogma Athletica, visit http://www.dogmaathletica.com or call 970-688-4433.