We are all finally starting to come to terms with the fact that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ program when it comes to nutrition or exercise. It’s been proven time and time again that different things work for different bodies and – hooray! – we get it. Now the important question that I’m getting asked more and more often is, “How do I know what works for me?”
In no field does the adage, “paralysis by over-analysis” occur more than in the nutrition and fitness realm. A quick peruse through our Facebook timeline or Twitter feed can leave even the most rational person starting to second-guess what they’re doing, and is it any wonder? Our friend posts a video of their 13 unassisted chin-ups or a pic of their beautiful sculpted legs and suddenly we have an urge to recklessly abandon the program we once swore by only to start doing whatever they are doing!
So, how do we finally stop jumping on the latest trends and find something that is right for us? The following are some things for you to take into consideration…
What makes you happy?
A nutrition/training protocol is only as effective as your ability to adhere to it. You may have the best plan in the world but if you aren’t able to follow it, then what is the point? When mapping out your plan, I believe that you should ask yourself the following:
- Will I enjoy this?
- Can I stick with this?
- Will it enhance my health?
- Is it in line with my goals?
The answer should be yes to all of the above; 3 outta 4 ain’t gonna cut it.
Be the science experiment
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make while seeking physique changes is that they overhaul their entire training and nutrition program every other week because it’s “not working”. How can something work if you don’t give it a chance? This is like planting a seed and then digging it up the next day to replace it because it hasn’t sprouted yet. Sheesh! Give your program some time (4-6 weeks) and then if you still don’t get any desired results, tweak the variables. More of this, less of that… you get it. Don’t overhaul everything at once or you’ll never be able to figure out what is or isn’t working. I’ve seen people pinball from Paleo, to Veganism, to Carb Cycling, all within 8 weeks while claiming “nothing is working”.
“Look at your body like a science experiment. Add a stimulus. Measure response. Adjust as needed, one variable at a time.” – Craig Ballantyne
Ask people that have done it successfully
If you are trying to decide between a couple of different nutritional & training protocols, ask people that have used them successfully. People love to offer their opinions in general and I’m sure they’d be happy to help! Conduct little interviews and ask them what they like about the plan, what they dislike, how long have they been following it, and what kind of results they have gotten. Tell them a little bit about yourself, your goals and your lifestyle and ask them if they think that their plan would be a good one for you to try. Books and science are great, but getting a friend or acquaintances unbiased perspective is worth much more and they will shoot you straight.
Trial and error
If you are anything like me, the “trial” doesn’t sound too shabby, but the prospect of “error”? Ick. Well guess what friends? We have to suck it up and prepare ourselves to make some mistakes, because it’s going to happen, and that is okay! Finding what works for our body typically comes with a learning curve. We’ve got to throw a lot of noodles at the wall before we find out what sticks. And rest assured that once you do find that sweet spot your body will change which will inevitably create the need for revision to your programs. It’s a never-ending journey of tweaks and adjustments!
Hire a great* coach
If you don’t know where to start, get the advice from an educated and trusted professional – that is what we are here for! Yes, coaches cost money, but if it means giving you direction and peace of mind rather than spinning your wheels for months, or even years, then it’s worth the upfront cost. It’s an investment in more than just your goals, health and strength (all excellent reasons), but also in your knowledge! We get so caught up and trapped into our personal dogmas that we have a tough time thinking outside of our rep/set schemes or our nutrient timing. When you have an excellent coach you will likely learn to see things from a different perspective. For example, when I was working on building my strength, I always lifted in a 2-6 rep range for my main lift. When I started working with Josh Bryant, he’d have me pull a deadlift from a deficit for 12 singles with timed rest. I remember thinking he was nuts! But, like Josh does with all of his clients, his programming made me significantly stronger. An excellent coach will help you think outside of the box that we all tend to back ourselves into! Both myself and my husband are nutrition coaches, but I’ve been a loyal client to Coach Carter Schoffer for almost a year now. Carter has taught me so much all while providing guidance, support, and accountability – worth every penny! As my good friend Alli says, “Every coach needs a coach!”
*Take the time to find somebody fantastic to help you. Check out this article where I talk about how to find a great nutrition coach. Need a reference? Email me anytime at JenComasKeck@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to help point you in the right direction!
Once you have finally found what fits your lifestyle and preferences, go at it with gusto! Don’t waste anymore time by tip-toeing through the tulips. Have faith in your program and what you’ve chosen to do, focus on yourself, work hard, monitor the results, and then ask yourself, “Is it working”?” If it is, great! And if it’s not, don’t panic – just make a couple of small changes.
To recap: Ask yourself what is sustainable, will keep you happy, make you healthier, and help you reach your goals. Treat this like a science experiment adjusting one variable at a time and monitoring the results. Ask around from people who have followed the plan successfully and enjoyed it. Prepare yourself for a little trial and error. Hire a fantastic coach.
So for those of you that are wondering, is Intermittent Fasting and Crossfit the secret? Is Carb Backloading and powerlifting the best way? Is multiple meals per day and bodybuilding the right way? Yes, to all of the above. They all work, but for different people under the right circumstances.
If you liked this article, check out: “What Do You Eat? A Peek Into the Diets of Some of the Hottest Bodies I know”
Stay tuned for my next post: Fat Loss Expectations!
JuliaAugust 9, 2012 at 8:23 am
Thanks for the post, Jen! I think you read my mind. I've spent the last 6 months trying to figure out what works for me, but like many others, find it hard to stay the course when the results don't come quickly. I'm now focused on my powerlifting in the gym with a 5/3/1 approach. And when it comes to eating, I try to just fuel my body with good stuff. We'll see how it goes come October and my first meet!
Erica MenendezAugust 9, 2012 at 10:30 am
And patience seems to be a key factor. I'm your typical person listed above…analyzing every diet approach, spending way too much money on E-books, frustrated with my lack of change. Yet, I have changed a lot in the mere 8 weeks I've been going at it. I may not see my end goal in the mirror yet,but I've come a long way since I first started. And, most importantly, is if it makes you happy and can you stick with it. Really nothing else matters except that thought.
Jen Comas KeckAugust 9, 2012 at 10:34 am
It absolutely takes time and consistency to stay on track, especially because the results NEVER come as quickly as we'd like – which is basically overnight 😉
You're definitely following a solid program by using 5/3/1! Good luck at your meet!
Jen Comas KeckAugust 9, 2012 at 10:37 am
Wonderful point Erica! Patience is paramount when it comes to making changes. I think it's fair to say that we are all tempted to make changes and bounce around to different programs when we don't see changes for a week or two. However, we have to stay the course and remind ourselves that fat loss and strength gains are never linear.
My next post is about Fat Loss Expectations, and I think it'll be something that we can all relate to 😉
Congratulations on the progress you've made so far! I have no doubt that it will continue to come as you work hard and stay your course!
Tara @ Sweat like a PigAugust 9, 2012 at 11:17 am
Great post! There are so many different ways to approach training and nutrition out there, and almost all of them work if you give them a proper chance. We're living in an age of instant gratification, so it's natural that people struggle when they don't wake up the next day looking ripped.
Jennifer BlakeAugust 9, 2012 at 11:28 am
This is spot on. It is WAY too easy to get caught up in all the info out there. I really started digging into strength training in January–I would read one article/book or see one webcast and think, "I need to this!" Then I'd read/see another and think, "No! I need to do THIS!" The internet is literally black hole of fitness and nutrition info. One thing I knew for certain was to learn the basics first. I've spent a lot of time learning a proper squat, deadlift, etc, simplifying my nutrition (no more Chili Cheese Fritos, at least for now!) all while reading,learning and picking the brains of people who have achieved the goals I want to achieve. Your advice is exactly what I've decided to do–experiment with what works best for me. Trial and error is key; just change one thing and see what happens. If it's something I can sustain and am happy with the results, I'll keep it. If not, I'll move right along! Everyone is worth the time it takes to find out what works for them and I LOVE the Craig Ballantyne quote you included, it's perfect. So THANK you for this post, it came along at just the right time. 🙂
Adrienne GiryaGirl HarveyAugust 9, 2012 at 11:28 am
I found Primal Blueprint simply because I liked the recipes – it wasn't even about weight loss at all, ironically. The types of things they described in the recipes appealed to me and I found them very satisfying. Sticking with it has been a moot point. I feel better eating this way, why would I want to eat something crummy, it's not worth the stomach ache anyway.
Jen Comas KeckAugust 9, 2012 at 12:56 pm
Not only do I agree Tara, but I've been guilty of expecting drastic changes in one week and when I don't get those results (of course I don't) I have scrapped everything and started over. Oops! Lift and learn 😉
Jen Comas KeckAugust 9, 2012 at 12:58 pm
Thanks for the input! It sounds like you fell into a wonderful program! And I agree about the stomachache, although I still have a hard time avoiding my beloved dark choco raisins 😉
Jen Comas KeckAugust 9, 2012 at 1:00 pm
so glad that you enjoyed it, and that quote from Craig has been a long time favorite of mine. I've had to remind myself of it a few times when I've been tempted to do an extreme overhaul 😉
I think you are going about it exactly right. Research, choose something, work hard, monitor the results and then make little tweaks. Perfect!
Thank you for your input!
Amanda Perry @ Sistas of StrengthAugust 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm
I love this! I always tell clients that we need to start slow and create one habit at a time. The habits need to be things that they are comfortable doing MOST of the time. You're right…you're gonna mess up, but if your plan is one that works for you, you'll get right back on the wagon for the next meal, next day, etc.
GinaAugust 10, 2012 at 6:48 am
I swear, you always have great, insightful posts!
I was watching an old video of you on YouTube (baseball pullups/monkey bars) and was wondering if you normally wear gloves or nothing at all. I'm having a hard time with my hands (ripped calluses/blisters from pullups) and I have heard tons of different things. Has anything worked for you?
MarianneAugust 10, 2012 at 11:16 am
Hey Jen, thanks for this post! I too fell into the "trying everything" trap. I am so glad to have found what works for me. I hope many others will too 🙂
Naomi(Onefitfoodie)August 11, 2012 at 8:22 am
amazing tips, per usual, Jen! One thing I will NEVER understand is why people jump around from diet to diet week to week without giving their bodies time to adjust. The body needs time to realize what is happening when any sort of stress is placed on it and whether that be a new diet or exercise program, I suggest waiting at least 4 weeks and THEN assess how you feel.
most importantly over everything…is to BE HAPPY. Make it work for you. Find a coach just like you said and find a plan to fit your needs. I love everything you said here…SPOT ON
Jen Comas KeckAugust 12, 2012 at 9:15 am
That is absolutely great advice – what can you stick with MOST of the time? Love it!
Jen Comas KeckAugust 12, 2012 at 9:18 am
Ahh, I had so much fun messing around on those bars! I think I've overdue to give them another shot, too!
I never wear gloves or use straps, and I very rarely ever use chalk because I naturally have a deathgrip 😉
I'd recommend that you use chalk. Ripped calluses and blisters are typically from your hand sliding on the bar. The chalk ought to help give your hand some sticking power.
Jen Comas KeckAugust 12, 2012 at 9:19 am
I think we all fall into that pattern for awhile until we find our groove!
Jen Comas KeckAugust 12, 2012 at 9:22 am
Diet is absolutely where I see people bounce around the most, too! We all desire instant gratification – which is understandable, just not at all logical – so we assume things aren't working when they probably are!
"Be happy", indeed! That has been the mantra of my life over the last year and my #1 priority, as it should be for all of us!
Christopher SarnowskiAugust 12, 2012 at 11:23 am
I've been on a two year journey to find out what works for me. I spent a year doing Crossfit I loved the community aspect of it, and it introduced me to a lot of cool aspects of fitness. Not quite what I was lokking for though.
From there I went to Defrancos WS4SB for six months and that wasn't quite it. I finally tried this program I had heard a lot about 5/3/1. The results have been amazing. The way it's set up works for me. Slow steady gains over time forcing me to trust the program. Also knowing what I'm going to before I get to the gym is key for me. I can get distracted if I'm not careful.
Dropping a lot of the carbs out of my diet and getting enough sleep have done wonders for my fitness. I think the best advice I could give someone is That consistency is key and it's a lifestyle. My biggest problem was going nuts every session and leaving nothing in the tank, so my weights were not moving up and I wasn't recovering properly. We all see someone beautiful like yourself or Super strong or well muscled and want to get after it. But none of those things happened in a day or even a month.
Thank you for what you are doing for the women. I like the perspective you have and Although I'm not a girl gone strong I enjoy your blog.
GinaAugust 13, 2012 at 6:11 pm
Thank you for your response! We have lots of chalk, but I never use it! I'm going to start and see if it makes a difference.
Tim ChavisNovember 24, 2012 at 5:05 pm
I can relate to "Trial and error" situation, our life is full of surprises and experiments though we need to be extra careful to do the things we are not used to do. It is better we think first the consequences before deciding on what we will do so that in the end, there are no worries and hurt feelings.