Making any meaningful change in body composition is an opportunity to learn about the most important factor that will illicit the most dramatic progress…YOU.
Your work schedule, family dynamic, daily stresses, nutritional habits and menstrual cycle (for females) are unique to you.
No book or magazine can tell you exactly how to eat, train, and more importantly, educate you on the perceived outcome of these changes on your own day-to-day life.
They can certainly give you a great foundation to work from, but as your life is fluid, your journey to achieving the best changes in body composition must be just as adaptable.
Self-education is an extremely important part of making consistent progress.
Understanding how you work, and crucially, why any change works for you, can be a formidable tool in your quest for change.
There are some small but important steps that you can make to educate yourself.
Taking these steps will not only improve the rate in which you change your physique, but also make those changes to your routine a daily habit that lasts.
It will help answer the age-old questions of when certain foods work for you, how to offset cravings without making poor food choices, and how your daily nutrition can positively or negatively impact recovery and training intensity.
You should track the following six key factors on a daily basis to make this as effective as possible.
This can give you a more objective view on the changes you have made and the knock on effect on your progress.
All you need for this is a notepad or the Notes application on your smartphone and a little patience and consistent input.
All points are to be tracked at the same time of day to ensure consistency. Tracking for energy levels, sleep quality, cravings and mood can be scored on a simple 1-5 scale, with 1 being very poor and 5 being very good.
1. Sleep Quality
Sleep is one of the most important parts of recovery during intense bouts of training. So tracking how much good quality deep sleep you get, even though this can be subjective, will allow you to make small but smart changes to your daily routine in order to optimise the quality of this important recovery tool.
2. Sleep Quantity
How much sleep are you having? In reality, we cannot all have the recommended seven or eight hours. Our busy, over-stressed lives often do not permit it. However, this should not affect our ability to track and improve the time we do sleep. Maximising the length of deep and REM sleep can have a positive impact on results. For further reading on sleep, read our article on 4 ways to improve your sleeping pattern.
This ties in very well with points 1 and 2. Energy levels at any given time of day can affect our decision-making abilities. This can, and often does, lead to poorer food choices, increased cravings and poor recovery from training.
4. Daily Food and Hydration
Hydrated cells are happy cells. They require a broad spectrum of nutrients and water to function optimally. Nutrient transport, optimal hormonal output and nervous system efficiency are all affected by your daily nutrition and hydration. If you want to focus more, improve energy levels and reduce stress, then ensure you eat from the land and drink your H2O.
5. Day of Menstrual Cycle and Cravings
For females, understanding the monthly cycle can be a game changer when it comes to improving results. Learning when you crave sugary foods, when your energy dips, and when your sleep is compromised around the monthly changes, will give you a more proactive approach when it comes to your progress. You can make changes that will allow for continued progress while minimising the potential for making poor choices.
6. Track Your Workouts
How are you performing in the gym? If performance markers (reps performed, sets completed, load lifted) drop, then the above points will allow you to identify patterns and make changes more educated, taking way the need to guess.