Skip to main content

Fairytales from the gym: The copycat program


Story time.

Once upon a time fitness nutrition was all about carb loading. Endurance athletes were king and they needed a lot of carbs to fuel their long, punishing training regimes.

People who wanted to be fit, but weren't professional athletes followed their lead and ate loads of carbs. But they weren't running for 8 hours a day, I was too young for the fitness world then but I imagine they were doing something like this for an hour a couple of times a week.


So funnily enough, fuelling your body like an endurance athlete, when you aren't an endurance athlete isn't a great plan. What happens is you take on too many calories which your body helpfully stores as fat. Also people started interpreting "carbohydrates" as highly processed starches and sugars, rather than wholegrains and vegetables. So then people started saying that carbs were terrible and we should perhaps cut them out completely because they made people fat.

So then people started saying, "let's eat loads of protein and fat, because it's carbs that are bad, not fat". And that was great for some people, but for others it was just the pits, because people are not all the same in terms of physiology or activity. Also, once again, when these diets were originally tailored for athletes to fuel specific training schedules, the general populus who tried this were taking in the fuel for a regimen they weren't taking part in (or were only doing a small part of) and the excess fuel was..... stored as fat.

It makes sense that when we are inspired by athletes and admire them, that we might choose to train like them, or eat like them. But the gym myth I want to consider today is the idea that you can take a selective part of a pro's balanced training regime and expect a scaled version of their results.

Let's take a common example. Body builders train super hard in the gym, every day. They do a lot of damage to their muscles and many take some form of hormone supplementation to accelerate muscle growth. As a result they need to consume a lot of calories to fuel their workouts and enable them to bulk up. They also need a lot of protein to build and repair muscle fibres. They tend to eat very carefully balanced diets but to ensure that their protein needs are met, they consume protein supplements (often shakes). They eat an unusual diet to fuel an unusual lifestyle.

Now the guy who turns out to the gym 2-3 times a week is living a lifestyle far closer to "usual" than "bodybuilder". If that guy starts consuming 6 protein shakes a day, is he going to get bodybuilder results? Probably not. He's consuming 6-1200 calories of expensive drink. Either he is going to be over his calorie needs - in which case it is wasted or stored - or he'll not be getting enough of his calories from fats and carbs, potentially missing out on the micronutrients that come with those. It would be much better that he ate balanced meals including fresh veggies and a portion (or 2) of protein with every meal, and perhaps added on a shake after resistance training.



There's nothing wrong with protein supplementation, but it is a *supplement* which means you need to be sure that you are eating a healthy, balanced diet to start with and just using the shakes to "top up" when you need it.

The point I'm trying to make here though isn't about protein shakes, or any specific regimen. I mean to highlight that it is not appropriate to take a small sample of a programme and expect it to work. If you want those results, you can't pick out the bits that look appealing, because they work only as part of a greater whole. And you can't necessarily clone someone else's programme and expect it to work for you in exactly the same way - we are all individuals. 

That's why Personal Trainers like me work primarily with individuals, to understand their unique circumstances, along with the measures that they are willing and able to implement to get the best results possible.

It's great to have idols and people to look up to. It's fascinating to find out how elite athletes train and fuel their training. It's also fun to chat with other fitness fans and find out what is working for them. If you are looking for the best plan for yourself as someone who exercises for fun and health, then your best starting point is the general guidelines for healthy living, and small adaptations from thereon.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Training with Fibromyalgia - a primer for Fitness Professionals

Fitness and Fibromyalgia
The second of my posts about training clients with chronic illness (the first on EDS is here)

Learning how to achieve fitness in a chronically ill body was first my way of life, and later, my profession; as I train or programme for a number of Personal Training clients. I have EDS and Fibromyalgia (which commonly presents alongside EDS).

While the physiology and mechanisms behind EDS are relatively well understood, at least in terms of recognising the roles collagen plays in our bodies and the effects of an anomaly, fibromyalgia is a bit of a tricky one. The diagnosis, causes and management of fibromyalgia are not very well understood, and while progress is being made in terms of recognising physiological markers etc, we are still very much in the dark.

One thing that is generally agreed on however, is that exercise is good therapy for fibromyalgia, and that's where we come in.


Scope of practice
Here we go again...

Fitness professionals are there to help …

But how can you be an athlete when you are sick?

Training through chronic illness - living life on the edge.
I'm living a double life.

My superhero persona goes to the gym and lifts enormous weights. She's vital and has her life together. Endless to-do lists in a bullet journal, juggling work and kids and being an athlete and performer with theatrical effortlessness.

Then there's the secret side people don't see, where I lie on the sofa in my flare day leggings and fleece, clutching a cup of tea for the slight relief the warmth affords my stiff, clawed hands.

I know I'm not the only one. I know a lot of athletes living with chronic illness. Outwardly fitter and busier than the average person, inwardly wracked with pain and fatigue.

There are two ways people tend to interpret this. Either we are not as sick as we claim, or we are stupidly putting our health at risk doing sport that seems counter-intuitive to our well being. The reality is a lot more complicated. I wanted to formulate a decent answer to "why …

Training Ehlers Danlos Athletes - a primer for the Fitpro.

When you have a rare health condition, it's pretty exciting when you encounter someone who knows about it. Even more so when you encounter people who are interested in it and more importantly, understanding how to bridge the gap and work with it.

This is why I am really happy to be seeing more and more fitness professionals asking "I have a client with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, what do I need to know?"

As a fitpro, and athlete living with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome I am always happy to chat to trainers looking to broaden their understanding, and as I am often answering the same questions, I thought it would be good to do a write up.


Quick disclaimer before we start - I'm not a medic, and this is not for medics. I'm going to provide you with as many references as I can, but please seek specific medical input from your/your client's health care professionals. And with that we get to our first point.

Scope of practice.
Quick, check your job title. Are you a personal tr…

What's the deal with yoga and hypermobility?

I wanted to address a question today that keeps coming up on various hypermobility and EDS forums that I frequent. It comes up so often in fact that I feel like I have to write this all up in one place, to save me 1000s of key strokes of individual responses and distil some of my opinions and thought processes on the matter.

It always goes like this. Someone asks a question like "I've just been diagnosed with hypermobility, I've been told I can't do yoga anymore..."

The responses are always a mixture of "yes, my doctor/physio told me yoga was the worst thing I could do for my hypermobility" and "I do yoga and it's been the best thing for my hypermobility".

So what gives?

Well, I'm firmly in the "yoga is useful" camp, and I have to disclose that. I'm a yoga practitioner of around 20 years and a perinatal yoga teacher, as well as a personal trainer and bendy person.

While I have the deepest respect for the medical professio…

I'm going to help you find the best diet for you!

It's the most common question people ask me when they find out I'm a Nutritionist:

"What's the best diet?"
So today, I am going to tell you... You are welcome.

The best diet for what?
So the first question I will ask is... what are your goals? What are you actually trying to achieve?

Gym culture tends to revolve around bodybuilders, because it tends to glorify that aesthetic. But a bodybuilder's eating habits are really not very helpful for someone who is working out 3-4 times a week and trying to lose weight.

Eating for performance is a very different beast from eating for weight loss, and both of those can be very different from eating for good health.

[for instance the protocols I would use to help a physique competitor cut fat for stage are very different from how I would handle a non-athlete wanting to lose fat for health; and also very different from how I would support a weight-class athlete, like a boxer or powerlifter, cut weight for competition.]

Whe…