Clarity is power.
The first step to solving any problem is first clearly defining it.
When a task is left vague and unarticulated, it can seem bigger and more intimidating than it actually is.
But when you specify what you’re trying to accomplish, you instantly make it more manageable and approachable.
As a result, you’re more likely to take action.
What is it that you want?
This question can animate itself in an endless possibility of answers, so we need to narrow its focus.
Let’s try to narrow your choices down to 3 possible outcomes for your fitness and lifestyle-related goals.
- Performance: Improve the outcomes for your sport-related goals
- Longevity: Feeling and moving your best, improve your quality of life
- Change in Body Composition: Gaining lean muscle and/or losing body fat
The idea here is to determine the broad, more immediate goal you’re intent on achieving.
You may want to change your body composition AND improve your longevity (longevity is in one way meant to increase your healthspan and lifespan, a topic for another time). However, there is more than likely one that you’d like to do more than others right now. That’s the one you’re going to choose.
So, which of these most accurately points to your desired outcome?
Have your answer?
Good, let’s move on.
How Do You Measure Success?
Next, we need to establish how success will be measured along your journey.
This is entirely individual-based.
I make sure to give as much time as necessary for my clients to get to the bottom of the WHY and HOW .
In relation to say Change in Body Composition, some people might measure success more subjectively by how they look in the mirror, by how they fit in their clothes, by their muscular definition, or by how they feel after losing extra weight.
Others may measure success more objectively by the change in their waist circumference, their percent body fat, or their total amount of lean muscle.
What matters here is that you know what matters to YOU. This way, your progress along the journey can be measured in a way that actually matters to you.
So think about it…
Are you more apt to measure your success subjectively or objectively?
Are you surprised, motivated, or afraid by what you care more about?
Now we’re getting somewhere.
This process is sometimes short and sweet, and sometimes deep and interactive.
Again, this depends on the many factors of YOU.
Now that you’re starting to get the idea of the importance of establishing your WHY and HOW, we’re going to get into some tools to help you along the way.
Tools To Help You Lay A Foundation
Of the goals listed above (Performance, Longevity, Change in Body Composition), there will always be nuances and unique variables to be managed to tailor your program towards your specific goals. Things like your health, diet, medical, and fitness history are all big ones.
However, in a general sense, many of the changes one can make come from a series of foundational principles.
These principles are the base for many of the positive shifts that occur along their fitness and lifestyle journey.
To name a few of these principles:
- Law of Thermodynamics (Energy In vs. Energy Out)
- Individualized Calorie & Macronutrient Targets
- Periodization (adjusting the difficulty level throughout your program, including your training and nutrition routine)
- Workout Nutrition
- Meal Frequency & Timing
- Refeeds & Diet Breaks
I’m going to focus on just the first two principle categories for now, and will touch on the others another time.
What’s coming next are a couple of foundational assignments that I take all my clients through in each of the specified categories.
The Schedule Audit is an exercise that brings to the surface your daily routines and the habits built in and around them.
I assign this task to my clients early because so many of them have no idea how the many unknown factors are at play throughout the day that direct their energy and attention in ineffective and sometimes harmful ways.
Many times, bringing unknown factors to the light can have a drastic impact on how and why you may be acting or feeling particular ways.
Such things as how eating a breakfast high in sugars or fats but low in protein can lead to more hunger further along the day.
Believing you lack time to do things for yourself (such as exercise) is actually something you can control if only you zoomed out and reorganized and reprioritized a few tasks in your day.
The reason you feel groggy and tired every morning is that your meal timing and caffeine intake are out of whack, leading to energy/sugar spikes during the wrong times of the day.
The list can keep going, but I’m not here to point out the many ways we ALL fail to manage ourselves and navigate our environments effectively.
The Schedule Audit is one tool of many that can put things in perspective.
It gives us just enough clarity and leverage to identify obstacles in our lives, come up with solutions, and make previously unknown drivers in our lives a thing of the past.
Give this exercise a shot, and feel free to send a picture of your audit my way, and I’ll help you break it down and make some real changes.
2. Law of Thermodynamics – Calculating Your Maintenance Calories
The Law of Thermodynamics implies that we must create an energy balance that is specific to the result desired. Meaning if you want to lose weight, you must create a caloric deficit. If you want to gain weight, you must create a caloric surplus. If you want to maintain your weight, you must have an energy balance that is centered.
There is one factor, however, that each of these results has common that allows them to be effective and sustainable long term…
That factor is starting in a homeostatic metabolic state.
Homeostasis is our ability to sustain a balanced internal environment which brings equilibrium to the system as a whole. Homeostasis is when energy in = energy out, when our hormones receive the proper signals for healthy function, when we get enough sleep that batteries are filled for tomorrows challenges.
Prolonged imbalance in even just one system can negatively impact the homeostasis of the entire system.
In context, this could be living in a caloric deficit for WAY too long and your body maladapting to an imbalanced resting state – one that usually has a negative impact across several systems of the body such as metabolism, hormone function, energy levels, post-exercise recovery, etc.
This could also occur due to overconsuming food and lacking physical activity to the point that our bodies maladapt by storing extra calories as fat and our metabolism slowly becoming less efficient due to less activity.
As the previous statements just made very clear, homeostasis is a BIG deal.
The following equation is a tool to calculate a range of calories you can use as a target to achieve homeostasis (metabolically):
You may be wondering, “What are BMR and TDEE?”
Before I show you how to calculate both of these to help you find your maintenance calories, here is a brief explanation of them both.
BMR BMR is the number of calories you burn to fuel your body’s basic functions at rest. Essentially it is the amount of energy we need to maintain our weight if we didn’t do any activity at all.
TDEE is the accumulation of calories spent throughout the day, which includes:
- BMR – which constitutes the majority of TDEE at 60-75%
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
- Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
- Exercise – constituting roughly just 5-10%
These four components make up your TDEE.
I won’t be diving into the details on these at this moment. That will be for another time.
On to the calculations.
To most accurately calculate your BMR, you can use some modern tech like an Inbody Scanner, or even more advanced, a DEXA scanner (often not worth it for the average person).
If you don’t have access to either, you can do it the old fashion way and pump out some math.
- MEN: BMR = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) + 5
- WOMEN: BMR = (10 x weight in kg) + (6.25 x height in cm) – (5 x age in years) – 161
Here’s a little help on the conversions; as we all know, we Americans have no idea how to use the metric system.
To find your weight in kg, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. (185 / 2.2 = 84.1kg)
To find your height in cm, multiple your height in inches by 2.54 (75 x 2.54 = 190.1cm)
Punch the math, and you’ve got a strong estimate of your BMR.
I calculated a BMR of 1,900 cal/day from the above example.
To measure your TDEE, gauge the amount of activity you perform each week.
- Little to no exercise, sedentary job = BMR x 1.2
- Light activity, train 1-3 days weekly = BMR x 1.375
- Moderate activity, train 3-5 days weekly = BMR x 1.55
- High activity, train 6-7 days weekly = BMR x 1.725
- Extreme activity, usually a professional athlete = BMR x 1.9
Most of us will range between the first three levels. Even for myself, exercising as much as I do and having an active job, I use the moderate activity level. If you’re certain about being a very active individual, day-after-day, then consider that option.
Now to run the math:
1,900 x 1.55 = 2,950 cal/day.
This individual would require 2,950 cal/day to maintain metabolic homeostasis, which we learned is a healthy internal environment that represents equilibrium.
*Note, I usually do this for my clients. However, I’m sharing this to give you insight into the tools themselves
So what can you do with this number?
I start my clients with logging the number of calories they’re currently consuming and see how they match up.
I find more times than not, the calories coming in are off by quite a bit from their maintenance.
The next steps must not be taken lightly as they vary heavily on the individual, which is why I often give the answer of “it depends.” This is where coaching can make a tremendous impact. Each one of my clients is different and needs a different approach; but more specifically, they all reach different plateaus for different reasons. This means that their dietary adjustments need to be different as well.
I don’t share generalized approaches for this very reason, they often can do great for one but harm to another. However, I can say for certain, don’t just blindly change your diet outright. Ease into changes of any kind when going it on your own.
A coach can absolutely assist in determining the best approach for you in scenarios such as these.
If you’re ready, you can click here right now and jump on a complimentary strategy call with me. I’ll chat with you about where you’re at, where you want to go, and exactly how I can help you get there. Having a guide for your journey is far more productive than going at it alone, wondering where to go and how to get there.
I will wrap this up pretty straightforward by stating just how important our health is to our well-being and to the well-being of our communities. We’re all able to put a better step forward when we’ve done our due diligence in taking care of our health and establishing lifestyle habits that elevate us, rather than diminish us.