Time For Bed: Improve your sleep

Improve your sleep
I’ve always been a bit of a night owl, staying up until the early hours and happily sleeping away the day. That’s not a sustainable routine when working or studying and it’s definitely not the optimal setup if you want to see the benefits of your work in the gym.

Sleep is essential to allow the body to recover and grow – you should consider it in the top three elements of bodybuilding / fitness alongside what you do in the gym and your nutrition. A lack of sleep can lead to an increase in cortisol which has in turn been linked with slowing down the fat burning process and reducing protein synthesis.

So, with that in mind, here are some tips to improve your sleep…

As I’ve mentioned before, I generally like to hit the gym later in the day. It means that my mind is 100% focused, I’ve eaten my meals for the day and I work quicker if the gym is quiet. The problem is, sometimes it can be difficult to come down / cool down – particularly when you are taking a pre-workout late in the day.

We need to aim for AT LEAST seven hours sleep per night, with closer to nine probably optimal following tough gym sessions, so make sure you plan enough time for your body temperature to return to normal and the pre-workout effects to fully pass before you hit the sack.

This next tip might feel a bit child-like but I’ve noticed real benefits in sticking to a regular bedtime. If you add some consistency to your daily routine, your body will become accustomed to your schedule.

And lastly, if you are cutting weight, you might find benefit scheduling your last protein intake of the day just before bed. A slow digesting casein will make sure you don’t have your sleep disrupted by hunger pangs!

How do you make sure you get enough sleep? And do you ever wake up with hunger pangs??

Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.

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You Gotta Deload to Reload

Reload to Reload
Studies tend to show that taking a short time away from the gym doesn’t have any significant impact on muscle mass or strength, meaning that you can factor them into your schedule every couple of months as required.

However, some of us don’t like taking periods of time off which is understandable given the HUGE benefits to overall wellbeing and mental clarity. A way to ensure you don’t miss any days while also avoiding burnout is to deload.

But what is deloading and when should you consider it? A deload is a period of time, generally lasting around a week, during which you take a break from your normal training routine; giving your muscles, joints and nervous system the opportunity to recuperate from weeks of hard training.

There are a few different ways to deload but all essentially focus on a reduction of output, which you can achieve through either less volume or less weight. Personally, I like to focus on lower weights, which I use to help improve form and mind-muscle connection. I generally to stick with the same pattern / routine that I’ve been running in the weeks previous but pushing up into the 15 rep range with around a 30% reduction in weight.

I don’t like to plan deloads in advance, instead listening to my body and looking for hints in terms of plateaus and increased recovery time to signal when it’s time to step back slightly. Another reason for doing this is to make sure you don’t miss out on any sessions when your body and mind feel 100% but you’ve decided in advance to take it easy; potentially losing out on PRs and all kinds of gains!

Obviously, you can reduce the need for rest through optimising your nutrition, supplementation and sleep but most natural lifters will eventually find aches, pains and plateaus creeping up sooner or later. When they do, it’s time for you to deload to reload.

Do you factor periods of deloading into your training plans? Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.

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How to Train for Weight Loss

It’s true, training for weight loss isn’t the most enjoyable part of any fitness or bodybuilding journey but it is one we will all tackle at some point. There are millions of complex diets and fad products preying on those with weight loss goals but, truth is, the core drivers of weight loss are fairly straightforward.

So, to help you along the way, and keep you away from the fit teas, here are some tips on how to train for weight loss…

Lower the Calories

Weight loss will be achieved through creation of a calorie deficit – the bigger the deficit, the more drastic the weight loss. Initially, you should aim to eat at around 300-500 calories under your maintenance requirements per day as a starting point. Anything more than this will risk muscle loss alongside the fat.

Increase the Cardio and Up the Volume

Another way to maintain a calorie deficit, particularly if you enjoy your food (and don’t we all!) is through an increase in cardio work. Coupling this with your diet is the most sustainable plan and the one most likely to deliver results. Just keep in mind that it’ll take you 20 minutes on the treadmill to burn off that bar of chocolate!

An unfortunate by-product of training on a calorie deficit is that you will notice a decline in strength. It’s inevitable and almost impossible to overcome for natural lifters. You’ll need to accept this and may benefit from focusing more on volume rather than strength during your workouts.

Maintain Consistency and Continually Adjust Macros 

This might seem like an obvious point but weight doesn’t fall off in even measures and you might go some time without any noticeable drop in the scale. Remember, as you lose weight, you will need to keep on top of your daily calories and macros as they will drop as your weight does. For example, if 1,800 calories took you from 170 – 160 pounds and your goal is to lose more, you’ll need to recalculate, and lower to account for your new weight.

Keep your Protein Intake High

Maintaining muscle through cutting weight is the most difficult element for those not partaking in questionable substances. Your best chance of keeping the gains is by sticking with a protein intake of around 1g per pound of body weight.

So, those are some tips on how to train for weight loss. Do you equate minutes of cardio with chocolate bars? How do you deal with declining strength on a calorie deficit??

Let me know on Twitter or in the comments below.

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