The Simple Things Work Best
If there is one thing I know for sure, that is, many people like to overcomplicate things. In the weightlifting world, I see this happening time and time again. Go to any weightlifting forum that offers help and advice, and you will definitely know what I am talking about! People come with specific goals in mind and have an entire diet, training (and possibly, even a supplement) plan mapped out. They are all set! Now all they need is the go ahead.
Most of the time however, I see and read a lot of complicated stuff. That’s no exaggeration; really, it is a lot! The problem is, amongst all this complicated stuff, I fail to see anywhere the basics. In weightlifting, I like to call these, ‘the basics of all basics’. Why? I know it’s a weird expression! But there is a simple reason for it. They are the absolute building blocks needed for enabling all progress that you achieve. It does not matter how complicated, smart, or in-depth your plan is or sounds. Without these basics, you will always come back saying ‘Something is not working, what’s going on?’
Prepare To Not Be Over Prepared
I really don’t blame you for sometimes making things complicated. Usually, its not the intention. No one likes unnecessary complication! It just leads to frustration and can be pretty demotivating. However, on the flip side, if you want to achieve something in life (not only in weightlifting) and you have your mind set on it, then you will do anything to make that happen. That is you natural, human state! That includes making sure you are prepared. Doing your homework! Yes, even outside of school there is still homework. To be prepared, you learn and gather as much relevant information as possible. This all doesn’t sound to bad, right? I mean after all, you are doing everything necessary so that you can successfully achieve your goals. Well, being ‘too’ prepared can also be a setback. I am sure most of you (including myself), have had times in your life when you had to prepare for something. You did so much, that, at some point, you realized and said to yourself ‘ Whoops, I actually forgot that, o no! The most fundamental thing! I can’t believe it.’ All that work and effort put in and you forgot the most fundamental building blocks of it all. That must be frustrating! It happens at some point to all of us.
“No one likes unnecessary complication! It just leads to frustration and can be pretty demotivating”.
Honestly, I see the same thing happening in weightlifting. You want to gain size and strength and lose body fat, so you make sure you are prepared. In most cases, you come with a plan. It’s complicated, but it’s in-depth, smart sounding and comes packed with the latest fitness guru talk over training and nutrition. You feel inspired, enthusiastic and encouraged by it. The only thing to do now is to go do it! But, 6 months down the line, you come back and ask why you haven’t made any progress. I look at your plan and I say, wait! Where are your fundamental training and nutrition building blocks? You have everything, but the basics! Ouch, you have put in all that preparation and energy over the last 6 months, only to make little progress. It pains me to say it, but it happens a lot in weightlifting. You get so caught up in the complex details of everything that you overlook or forget to pay close attention to the most fundamental concepts. It is these overlooked ‘basics’ (your golden keys) that will bring you closer to your weightlifting goals. You won’t get these 6 months back. But, with a firm grasp of the basics, you can ensure that the next 6 months, gives you the spark needed to make the gains of your life.
Nutrition – Its Simpler Than You Think
When it comes to making size and strength gains (or losing body fat), nutrition has been, and will always be, king. If you don’t get this part right, no matter how much planning you put into your weightlifting routine, you will never get the results you want. When it comes to nutrition and weightlifting, too much emphasis is put on the smaller details rather than looking at the big picture. The smaller details include asking things such as: how many meals a day you should eat, when you should eat, should you eat after a certain time, should you be cutting certain things out, should you be eating a particular way to complement your genetic makeup or, should you be following the latest food trends (e.g. veganism – that is pretty popular at the moment!). If I look at all this, the only thing I see is over-complication and under-recognition for the basics of nutrition. I will admit, there is lots of research going on in the field of nutrition! A lot of this research, has shed light on how particular foods and diets can influence processes within the body, overall health, well-being and, sports performance. This is all great to learn about and from a general health perspective, something to pay close attention to! But from a weightlifting perspective, you don’t have to worry about all of this (at least, not for the everyday, recreational weightlifter). A lot of the nutritional gurus will probably be beating me up by now! But honestly, for you weightlifters, no matter what foods you eat, what diet you follow, or how health promoting your nutrition is to your body, without the basics dialed in, you will probably be constantly asking yourself ‘Why am I not getting results?’
“Too much emphasis is put on the smaller details rather than looking at the big picture”.
So what are the nutritional basics I am talking about? By the end of this article, I want you to remember three terms: calories, macro and micronutrients. This is what you need; anything else will just complicate things! Now, I am not going to get all complicated on definitions, formulas or numbers. There are lots of them on the Internet, and they all vary! The important thing to take away from this article is to understand their roles in helping you to achieve your weightlifting goals. When it comes to making gains, I say this –it’s all in the calorie! To be able to make progress anywhere in your weightlifting journey, you need to work out your daily number of calories needed to maintain your current weight. This forms the basis for achieving all your weightlifting goals. The rest is pretty simple! If you want to gain size, then add 300-500 calories per day onto this (consume more calories than your body uses). How fast you gain size, will depend on how many extra calories you add per day. Typically, if you want to minimize fat gains, then you would aim for a smaller calorie surplus (e.g. +200-300). Likewise, if you want to lose weight, then you would remove 300-500 calories from your daily maintenance (expending more calories than you consume). If you want to maintain as much muscle tissue as possible during your cut, then you can utilize a smaller deficit (e.g. -200-300). That’s it, really simple! Once you calculate your daily maintenance, then gaining size or loosing fat becomes so much easier! No need to read complicated nutrition books to work that out.
So what about macro- and micronutrients? Where do these fit in? Simply put, macronutrients are your carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and micronutrients your vitamins and minerals. In my experience, people pay far too much attention to this (and the foods they choose to eat), rather than the tracking of their daily calories. If you fall into this trap, then making gains can become a difficult task. From a weightlifting perspective, people will tell you all sorts of numbers and percentages to aim for! It can get pretty confusing. But, I will tell you a secret. It really does not matter! If you don’t hit your daily/weekly calorie targets, then it makes no difference anyways how creative you become with your carbohydrates/fats/proteins ratios etc.
“You will not change if your calories are out of whack and in contradiction with your goals!”. Even with a perfectly balanced, fine-tuned diet, you will not change if your calories are out of whack and in contradiction with your goals! From a general health perspective then absolutely, yes! Make sure your diet is varied enough to include all the macro- and micronutrients that your body needs for optimal function and maintenance of health. Ultimately, once you have your calories mapped out, what you do with them (in terms of macro and micronutrients) is up to you! Of course, for me, I want to make sure my nutrition plan is varied, exciting and sustainable. But also, one in which I can maintain good overall health during my weightlifting journey! That’s when I pay attention to my micro and macro’s. But in terms of achieving real weightlifting results, that good old calorie will always be your priority! No matter what the nutrition gurus tell you. Don’t forget it!
Simple Is Also Sufficient
When it comes to succeeding in your weightlifting journey, simplicity will always be key. Contrary to what many fitness guru’s will pretend, things don’t have to seem overly creative, imaginative, complex or even new, to be effective. In fact, the simpler you keep things, the less likely you are to miss the stuff that really matters. Nutrition is no different. It is true that over the last few decades our knowledge on nutrition has grown. This has given us new insights into how we can utilize nutrition to improve general health. However, when it comes to your size, strength and weight loss goals, nothing beats the old school basics. If I am honest, I don’t blame you for wanting to play around with different nutrition tactics. After all, with so many different diets, rising food trends and ways of manipulating certain foods, its not a surprise you feel compelled to test these in your own weightlifting journey. Although there is a lot of nutrition stuff out there that can be used to improve general health, from a weightlifting perspective, the tracking of your calories will be your top priority.
When it comes to nutrition, I try not to get hyped up about the latest diet scoop. For me, I track my calories (to meet my weightlifting goals) and utilize a high variety of foods (to meet my macro and micronutrients and thus my general health goals). If I do this, then I have the best of both worlds. By keeping everything simple, you are more likely to pay attention to the stuff that really matters and really works.
If you have any questions about the article or would like to discuss further some of the topics mentioned, then please feel free to leave comments down below. I would love to hear your thoughts and your approach to nutrition.