How To Get Maximum Results In Minimum Time
You’ve probably set a goal in the past around losing weight or perhaps building some muscle. Most likely, you’ve also experienced the frustration of working hard and eating right but not seeing the level of success you were hoping to achieve. Maybe your progress was slower than you’d hoped or worse, there was no noticeable change.
You’re not alone. Just about everyone has experienced the “WTF” (What the Fitness!?) effect. It’s frustrating, discouraging, and demoralizing. The worst part is that those reactions make the problem worse.
You might be thinking, “How could my reaction make the problem worse?” And that would be a good question. The answer is hormones. 2 hormones, in particular, Cortisol and Testosterone.
Cortisol is our primary stress hormone. Cortisol is anabolic to fat catabolic to muscle. Meaning, it makes your body store fat and lose muscle — the exact opposite of what you want. To make matters worse, when cortisol goes up, typically, testosterone goes down.
Testosterone is catabolic to fat and anabolic to muscle. Meaning it burns off fat and builds muscle – precisely what you DO want!
Cortisol is a killer. It increases fat storage and decreases lean tissue. When that happens, you get a very unsatisfactory result from all your hard work. If elevated stress/cortisol is the reason your results were suboptimal, and then you get stressed about those suboptimal results, then the problem gets worse. It’s a downward spiral.
So what can you do to fix the problem?
There are two categories we’ll explore to fix the problem. Start doing, and stop doing. I’m also going to give you the most surprising one of all.
Many of our stressors are unavoidable, kids driving you crazy, work driving you crazy, finances, family, travel, the list goes on and on. When the stressors can’t be avoided, you have to start managing your stress levels actively.
- Meditate – Plenty of research shows that meditating 10 minutes per day goes a long way in reducing stress. Meditation is especially useful in dealing with stressors that are out of your control. If you’ve never meditated before, the headspace app is the best place to start.
- Journaling – Journaling your thoughts just 5 minutes a day can have a massive impact on your stress levels. Getting the chaos out of your head and onto paper will make a significant impact on your stress levels. Journaling is especially useful when you’re feeling overwhelmed. You can use a pen and paper (my favorite), or if you prefer a digital password-protected journal Day One is a great resource.
- Tracking Your Stress Levels – Knowledge truly is power. You can get clinically accurate monitoring of stress levels by using Heart Rate Variability (HRV) on your phone. The best app for this is called Welltory. There’s a free and paid version. Both are good. But the paid version offers more advice on how to use your numbers. By measuring your HRV daily, you’ll know how to get the most out of your efforts daily.
Some stressors are self-imposed. These are the things you need to stop doing. Life is already stressful enough. Don’t make it worse. Behavior change is hard, so here are some simple things you can change or eliminate to make a significant impact.
- Going to bed too late – sleep or lack thereof dramatically increases your cortisol levels. If you want to burn more fat and build more muscle, getting more sleep should be at the top of your list. For more info, check out this Ted Talk on the power of sleep.
- Eating crappy foods – Generally speaking, you know a poor food choice when you see one. Not only are these foods generally high in calories and low in nutrients, but they also stress your body out. Some examples of foods to avoid are things like refined sugars, processed conventional wheat, unfermented soy products, factory-farmed eggs, and factory-farmed dairy.
The Surprising One:
Working out too hard. Yep, you read that right. Working out too hard. Most of us think that working out as hard as we can every time we step foot in the gym is the best way to reach our goals. I’m here to tell you it’s not.
Sometimes going hard is the best choice, sometimes it’s not. It all comes back to stress levels. Exercise is a stressor. It can be a beneficial stressor, but it can also be an unproductive stressor. It just depends on your stress levels that day.
If you’ve been eating clean, getting good sleep, and taking care of yourself then, by all means, you should give maximal effort in the gym. Why? Because exercise makes you weaker, and recovery makes you stronger. And you’ve been recovering well.
However, If you’ve been eating poorly, getting 5 hours of sleep per night, you’re still sore from your last workout, and you just got in a fight with your spouse, your body is going to be SUPER stressed. And that means your cortisol levels are going to be through the roof. Your body will be hell-bent on adding fat and losing muscle. On a day like this, the best thing you can do is use your workout LOWER your stress. You should still go to the gym, but your workout needs to be about having fun and feeling better, not beat down.
If you’re a member here at ProCore Fitness, you know that every time you come in, your coach asks you questions regarding things like sleep, nutrition, soreness, pain, and mental state. Your coach asks you these questions, so you both will know how to ensure you get the maximum benefit from your workout that day.
If you want to burn fat and build muscle, diet and exercise are the way to go. But you already knew that. The key to maximum results in minimum time is to extract the most benefit possible from each workout. When stress is high, bring in down. When stress is low, turn it up!
By actively managing your stress, being proactive about recovery, and optimally stressing(or de-stressing) your body, you will get a dramatically better ROI on your efforts. See you at the gym!
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