It's the new year, and many people have fitness goals to hit in 2016. Whether it's getting stronger, putting on muscle or looking great at the beach, they definitely have something in mind.
However, most people don't start their journey toward their fitness goals the right way. They start by jumping on multiple internet sites to find a magic bullet or hop on the supplement bandwagon.
There are many ways to reach your goals, but you need to endorse a few principles before trying a new training program or nutrition plan.
Here are 3 ways to kick-start your fitness goals for the new year.
1. Be consistent
The best training plans reward consistency. It's a cliché, but it's true. If you're a beginner, trying some random workout might help you put on muscle, but the longer you train, the more consistent you need to be.
One of the key factors for muscle strength and size is volume. You need to progressively increase your training volume over time to create a stimulus for your muscles to adapt. If you're always hopping from one training program to another, there's no way to know if you're actually increasing your volume, because the number of variables make it hard to track.
Besides that, lifting is a skill; and to get stronger, practicing a specific lift over and over reinforces good technique. The more exposure you have to an exercise executed with good technique, the more proficient you will become at that exercise. This is also why the strongest powerlifters and weightlifters practice their competitive movements in every training session.
Being consistent allows you to track your volume and refine your technique, both of which are important factors for long term success.
2. Understand the basics of nutrition
Good nutrition is extremely important for reaching your fitness goals. No matter how much you train or exercise for strength or weight loss, if you're in a caloric surplus, you will not achieve your goal. It's tempting to try new supplements, but without first understanding the basics of healthy eating, you will realize no benefit from any of them.
This article is certainly not a nutrition textbook, but understanding the basics requires you to know the importance of energy balance, macronutrients and food choices. Energy balance should be dictated by your goals. If you want to gain weight, take in more calories than you burn; and if you want to lose weight, expend more than you eat.
As for macronutrients, most people do well with approximately 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day; 20 to 30 percent of their total calories from fat; and the rest of their calories from carbohydrates.
3. Monitor your lifestyle
Getting your training and nutrition dialed in is great. However, it's also critical to understand how these elements fit into your lifestyle. If you seek long-term results, you need to think about sustainability.
If you're having a tough time at school and need to go home to finish your homework, it's unrealistic to train five times a week for two hours every session. But if you're a student on break with time to spare, training twice a week would not even fully exploit the time you have. There will always be an "optimal" or "best" way to train, but to make long-term progress and achieve results, you need to understand the difference between optimal and realistic.
Professional athletes can train several times a day because all they do is train, eat and rest. For the lay person, factors outside the gym play a huge role in stress and recovery. If you subject your body to more stress than you can recover from, you might not get the results you want or even regress.
Here's a simple summary of things that produce stress and promote recovery:
Stress: training, school, work, late nights, emotional fatigue, lack of food
Recovery: food, low-stress environment, sleep, relaxing activities
Evaluate your lifestyle and see if it promotes more stress than recovery, then fit your training and nutrition in to help you hit your fitness goals.