Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
Have you ever started a fitness program full of enthusiasm from the get go?
Maybe you told yourself “I’m not eating chocolate for the next 12 weeks” or “I’m not going drinking or socialising with my friends until all of this is over.”
This usually results in some short term progress the first week or two. But often around the three-week mark, temptation gets the better of us & we can no longer live up to the promises we told ourselves. Then we completely break out.
Why? Because this “all or nothing” mentality is a dangerous approach. And here’s why.
Restrictive DIets Rarely Work
What happens when you tell yourself you can’t have something? You immediately want it! In fact, subconsciously, you probably think and crave more about the food or drink than you usually would have previously.
Over the summer time, I tried (and unfortunately failed twice) out an extremely challenging program which didn’t allow any ‘cheat meals’ or any alcohol for the duration of the program – 75 days. Usually, my nutrition is pretty consistent and 90% of the time, I’m eating nutrient dense foods and enjoying them. However, like everyone, I do enjoy small treats here and there from time to time. For instance, something like a simple latté post workout would always be a staple of mine. I’d look forward to having it after my workout as basic as it might sound. On Saturday evenings I’d usually have a pizza or some ice-cream or my weakness – some cereal! You get the point! Do I eat these foods all the time? No! But occasionally I would sprinkle them into here and there and in the grand scheme of things, they don’t affect my progress.
When I jumped into this program, completely cutting out all of these foods was challenging. I suddenly craved a latté more than ever! I started thinking about pizza’s and having bowl’s of cereals much more than I previously would’ve! And guess what happened when I stopped doing the program? You guessed it – I ate all of those foods (in large consumptions) that I restricted myself from having. Effectively, I went on a binge.
For anyone starting out a program, I can understand how difficult it could be if you were to have that “all or nothing” mentality and be too restrictive in your diet. Why? Because most people have never gone a week without having some chocolate or some ice-cream or pizza. Why do you suddenly expect yourself to be able to last 6 weeks or 12 weeks or whatever the duration of your program is without having any of these things?
As mentioned above, usually around the three week mark is when the novelty of starting something new ends. Our will power is being pushed to the limit. And just like when you exercise, the more you work your muscles, the more exhausted they become, your will power is the same. There’s only so much tension you will power can accumulate before it reaches boiling point. And when we do reach boiling point, that’s when we break out and start eating all of those foods we deprived ourselves from having.
However, the break out or binge isn’t necessarily the problem, it’s what we do after it that’s more damaging. A lot of people believe that one small slip up has ruined everything we worked so hard for the last couple of weeks. So instead of picking up where we left off the next day, we quit. We tell ourselves a story that this slip up has put ourselves two steps back having previously moved one step forward which isn’t true. The next day we keep on eating or drinking and reverting back to our old habits despite the fact we feel awful about it.
A Better Approach - Flexible Dieting
A better approach to starting out a new program or doing something new is to allow yourself to have the foods & drinks you enjoy consistently such as carbs, chocolate & cocktails! Will your progress be as quick? Probably not. But will you enjoy the process more? 100%. Which would you prefer?
Doing this effectively is known as ‘flexible dieting’ which I’m a big proponent of. Flexible dieting basically involves knowing what your daily caloric intake should be and hitting that calorie target each day. Of the calories you consume, 80%-90% of them should be made up of nutrient dense, real unprocessed foods. The other 10-20% is where the flexibility comes into play and allows you to include some treats or foods you really enjoy to have which aren’t necessarily of the best nutritional value. Provided you don’t go over your calorie target and you hit your daily protein target, flexible dieting is a brilliant approach to use to find that balance between reaching your physical fitness goals and satisfying your social life and weekend lifestyle.
One Danger of Flexible Dieting
If you do follow a flexible dieting approach but find that you’re being overly flexible on some days and are on the verge of a binge and breaking out, try bring yourself back to the moment by asking yourself the following question:
‘Is this decision I’m about to make giving me short-term gratification or long term growth?’
Why is this effective? Because a lot of the decisions we make are based on instinct to change the way we feel. Usually this is for temporary pleasure. And while flexible dieting does allow you to eat some of the tasty treats we enjoy, it’s hard to say no to more chocolate after eating one bar. Or the temptation is always there to eat the full tub of Ben & Jerry’s instead of one serving. If you lack the discipline to stay within your calorie count and are on the verge of over-indulging, it can be damaging to your progress.
I know that once you’re in the mindset of a going on a binge, it can be so hard to get out of it & when you finally do finish up, it’s not good for your mental or physical health. So a way I try to catch myself in the moment and bring me back to the present is to ask the simple question above:
‘Is this decision I’m about to make giving me short-term gratification or long term growth?’
If I can bring myself back to the moment and start thinking clearly, I’m able to control my cravings and make better decisions. Try this out next time you’re on the verge of doing something that won’t make you proud.
If you are starting a new fitness program and were thinking about going for that ‘all or nothing approach,’ my only advice is be careful of the potential drawbacks. Hopefully after reading this you might be more open to having a flexible and lenient approach which in turn will increase your chances of adherence and sticking to it which ultimately is the most important thing!
If you are looking to get leaner without sacrificing carbs, chocolate or weekend cocktails, then my Lean for Life Program is made for you! It literally is the blueprint you need to understand how you can balance both world’s for long and lasting results. And yes, you can do this from home even if you have little to no equipment!
Contact me today if you’d like to learn more.
21 weeks: The length of time gym doors will have been shut in Ireland come the end of 2020. No one could possibly have planned for this – especially during the first lockdown. And while gyms door reopening or closing is out of our control, investing in some gym equipment for our home gym and taking control of our health and fitness is.
It is a worthwhile investment to have access to some convenient pieces of equipment so you can continue to train and not accept the fact that your hard-earned muscle and gainz you’ve been working so hard to build will go to waste!
I took into considerations budget, available space as well as what I believe are some of the best pieces of equipment to give you ‘full bang for your buck’ when it comes to getting a training stimulus.
With the Coronavirus forcing us all to return to home workouts and preventing us from going to the gym, a lot of us will have to return to the familiar (or maybe unfamiliar!) routine of training from our homes. First time around last March, this was a novelty to all of us. However, second time around, I feel everyone is better equipped and able to take charge of their health and fitness and not let the road block that is Covid 19 stand in our way.
Here’s my ultimate guide to getting a great home workout.
To lose weight we’re told we need to be in a calorie deficit. To build muscle its optimal to be in a calorie surplus. But how do you know how many calories you are actually taking in?
In theory this might sound simple – calories in vs out. However, managing your food intake can be tricky. Calorie counting is one way to tackle this problem and is commonly used for weight loss and muscle gain. Most people don’t count calories because they think it’s too complicated.
In this post, I’ll explain everything you need to know so you can realise its not actually difficult at all.
I still remember what it felt like. I would come home from training as late as 9.45pm, put the oats on the hob with some protein powder mixed in and top it off with some dark chocolate and a chopped banana. I would finish this meal (approx. 700 calories) as late as 10.30pm at night.
The following morning by 7.30am, I would have finished another meal – this time a big omelette I used to have to fuel my morning and start my day off. Despite the quality of my food being good (with the exception of the protein powder and 20g of dark chocolate, all foods I ate would have been real foods with no ingredients), I always seemed to feel really bloated and get a sense of brain fog. I wasn’t sure why but I knew I needed to change something which I eventually did around summer 2018. That’s when I started implementing Time Restricted Eating (TRE) and ever since, I haven’t looked back.
Adrian McDonnell -
Eat This to Tone Up & Build Muscle
Learn how to create the perfect meal with this simple 5 step guide.