Written by Ryan Adshead
In this article, I’m going to explain a structure that has worked countless times with our members and even ourselves as trainers. At THQ we test the pyramid vigorously, it’s been tweaked to improve it further but it always produces results.
Below is the visual picture of the pyramid so it can sink into your thoughts. We often worry about the little things and miss the big picture. For example, we have had members panicking if they are doing enough ab exercises, or if they should by buying a fat burning supplement – yet their diet is out of control and they don’t make training sessions often enough.
This is like buy a new fancy bike, and you ask the bike specialist “what will make it to go faster” “should I improve the suspension or the brakes?” but the bike specialist points out that it only has one wheel, and no matter what you do, you need to sort that before you can fine tune!
Before you even start to use this pyramid – you have to be willing to CHANGE.
Your current habits have got you to where you are today with your body shape. If you’re not willing to give up some of those bad habits then this is the consequence. Getting in top shape is not easy – it’s a huge challenge. You are going to have to work hard in the gym, be dedicated to prepping meals in the kitchen, start to drop the excuses, stop nipping to the pub, not buy the bottle of wine each night, ditch the takeaways most weekends.
Once you have told yourself you are in it for the long term, you will change. That’s when this pyramid really works and comes into force – with changes you will love!
This will always be the case for losing body fat! No matter what diet you use, they all achieve the same outcome – a calorie deficit. They result in you burning more energy than you are consuming. It doesn’t matter if its low fat, low carbs, keto, cleaning eating, intermitting fasting, carnivore diet, counting calories…..whatever you can see yourself doing in the long term, is the diet that will work best (as long as it achieves a calorie deficit). For example, if you like to eat carbs such as bread, potatoes etc, then a low carb or keto diet won’t be best for you as you are eventually going to succumb and eat carbs.
From working with hundreds if not thousands of members, we have discovered that tracking and recording calories has been the most effective in achieving results. This is due to it being more flexible with food choices, the individual can make the choices on their own specific taste. No foods are excluded when tracking calories so “naughty” weekends can be factored in!
If you’ve never tracked calories before it’s well worth giving it ago, we have had many people surprised at how many calories they consume in a day & week – even though they believed they were eating healthily.
A good starting point for your daily calorie target is to weigh yourself and get your number in total pounds. Times this number by 12 e.g. 140lbs x 12 = 1680kcal each day, consume this figure EVERYDAY. Give it 2-4 weeks and weigh yourself again, your weight should have lowered. After the 4th week, weigh yourself again, times it by 12 and you will have a new lower calorie target to aim for and results will keep progressing.
If by any chance your weight hasn’t come down after 4 weeks, and you can honestly say you tracked EVERY DAY, take your weight and times it by 10 – give it 4 weeks and this aggressive strategy will have reduced weight and body fat.
To track calories, we recommend a free app call Myfitnesspal, this allows you to enter your goal and will assist in helping you record foods & calories, as it can be a learning curve at first.
Your number one task you need to do as soon as you can, weigh yourself first thing in the morning after the loo. Whilst you are doing this, take inch measurements of legs, waist and arms and a progress picture. If you don’t take any measurements or pictures then you will never truly know if you are progressing or not – you will just be guessing.
When all measurements are taken, start tracking calories and don’t miss a day or a meal. Give it time and stay in a calorie deficit for as long as you can. You will then see how quick it is to see results!
The next important element in the golden pyramid is protein. We have found that having 1g for every pound of body weight works best for the general population who regularly weight/strength train.
Whilst being in a caloric deficit (which you achieve by using formula in previous element), you must focus on preserving muscle mass. For some of you reading this, you don’t care about losing muscle and just want weight/fat loss. Yet, it’s vitally important to preserve muscle when dieting as it has many benefits. Your muscle is an organism that is active and demands energy (calories), it keeps you strong day to day, it gives the body good shape and not just the skinny fat look.
When your body is in a calorie deficit it will burn body fat, but also glycogen (carbs stored as energy) & it will also burn muscle. Muscle is a weight that needs to be carried around and the body likes to be clever in times of lower calories, so it will start to breakdown muscle as energy as a way of survival. We can stop this by keeping protein at 1g per pound of body weight e.g. 150lbs would be 150g protein a day. There is also one more strategy that we can convince the body to hold onto muscle and encourage more fat burning – this is the next important element in the golden pyramid = Strength Training
Lifting weights to get strong is the next important element in the pyramid. You should try to average out at a minimum of 3 full body workouts each week. Your focus in the sessions should not only be to keeping up intensity and burn energy (calories), you also need a focus on getting stronger. This is called progressive overload.
Each time you should aim to lift more volume (reps x sets x weight). This maybe lifting a heavier weight, doing more repetitions of a weight, reducing the time of rest in between sets. As long as you’ve progress from your last session, you are challenging your body outside of its comport zone. Meaning, it has to adapt, it has to get stronger – fitter – leaner!
When in a “dieting/fat loss” phase, most people believe they need to go to the gym to “burn fat”. The actually calorie burn in the gym is minimal, its actually the diet that creates the deficit. Your focus in the gym is to get stronger with progressive overload. This will help maintain muscle mass as the diet (calorie deficit) helps strip back body fat.
Not only do we want the body to look good, it should feel fit, stronger, energetic and weight/strength training will help achieve this.
We will get asked for every short cut, diet plan, exercise hack, best supplements stack to take, which people immediately say fine and do. Yet when I say there is one thing that works better than all of them and its sleep, they refuse to accept it! Or object by saying I can’t sleep I’m too busy!
Well if you believe you can run optimally on a few hours’ sleep – your lying to yourself, or you’ve got use to feeling like having low energy, seeing poor results in the gym, having slow fat loss is normal. You’re probably been powering through with the help of stimulants like coffee and energy drinks.
Your body recovers and recharges in the evening. Imaging your body & brain like a phone battery.
When you go to bed, it might have 10% battery left and flashing red. Just before you go to sleep you put it on charge and when you wake up, it should be at 100% – ready to last the day. Yet imagine you had to cut short your charge and un plug it after 3-4 hours, it may not be full charged. Replace the phone analogy with your body & mind and this same process is happening to you!
Plus, when you trying to operate on 6 hours and less sleep each evening, it hugely increases your appetite. Usually for high carb & fatty foods such as cakes, biscuits, crisps as they give the body the quick energy it craves.
A recent study found that a group of sleep deprived participants (deprived by only 1 hour 20 minutes less than a group who got 8 hours sleep) consumed and additional 549kcal a day! That’s 3843kcal in 7 days, which could at minimum, mean a pound a week of body fat going on if you were eating at maintenance level.
So gets those ZZZ’s. A 7-9 hour average will work well. Keep your bedroom cool, dark with no electronic devises on! Instead of using a phone or tablet before bed, reading a book for 30-60 mins will make a huge difference.
Cardio and fat loss seem to go hand in hand for some people. When people decide they need to lose body fat, they jump straight on the treadmill or pavement and start jogging.
This should be the last thing they do, like times where they are trying to get the final stubborn pockets of body fat off. E.g towards the end of a 12 week shoot . If they haven’t dialled in nutrition to create a calorie deficit & consistently done 3-4 full body weight sessions a week for at least 8-10 weeks, then they have no place to be putting all their energy into slow steady state cardio such as jogging.
If they can say, they have honestly done everything correctly with nutrition, sleep, recovery, weight training, drinking water and still haven’t got the body shape they are happy with – then cardio can be used as a tool to remove the last stubborn pockets of body fat.
Cardio can also be used as a way to create mental clarity, if you find steady state cardio a stress releaser and you unwind after a jog, bike, swim etc, then it’s perfect to keep in 2-3 times a week. Cardio is great for recovery from tough weighted gym sessions, supplying muscles with nutrient rich blood and oxygen to repair you for your next tough gym session. I much prefer (for myself and members) that you take more steps, just move more day to day, play with your kids, take the stairs, walk to the gym/work rather than allocating another pressure of having to get a timed steady state cardio session done. 8000-10000 steps each day is a perfect amount of movement to create a calorie/energy deficit, plus help with recovery, but it also very easily achievable.
So much effort is put into supplements – I suspect with the view that it could be the magic pill that we all look for. If you are not doing all the basics with calories, protein, strength training, sleeping and drinking adequate water, I’m sorry to say you are throwing money down the drain on supplements.
If, however you are doing everything as mentioned above, then supplements can help. The key is in the name, they supplement a perfect diet and training plan. They fill in the small gaps to speed up results. Just like trying to catch rain water in a bucket that has a little crack in it, you could tape or fill the little hole in – compare that to trying to catch water with a bucket that has no bottom in it, you’re not going to see results.
Supplements do vary person to person as some people have different deficiencies. My favourite supplements that can fill the gaps are as followed;
- Whey powder – good if struggling to hit protein and for recovery after training session
- Amino acids – what protein breaks down into and preserves muscle in a calorie deficit (consume whilst training)
- Fish oils (Omega 3) – to improve insulin sensitivity, meaning you use more of the food you consume to be burnt as energy rather than stored as body fat (more effective to take in the morning)
- Vitamin D3 – as we live in a cloudy county we struggle to get enough sunlight, again it has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and regulates hormones to run optimally
- ZMA – Zinc, Magnesium and B6 can help with recovery and taken before bed, achieves a deep & longer night’s sleep (which we know of benefits already)
Yes, I may get messages about other supplements that would work for one person but they may not work for someone else – these above supplements are the ones I believe are worth it, ONLY IF you are doing all else correctly.
If you have found that fat loss has stalled recently, or you are a person who always goes to the gym but never sees results then it’s probably time to get back to basics. Yes, it’s a bit boring and doesn’t provide a short cut, but it will get you results! And isn’t that what we are all after?
You may think you have been doing all of the elements in the THQ pyramid, but start to record foods and calories, monitor how many times on average you get in the gym, how many hours of sleep are you getting? If you aren’t seeing the body shape changes you want – I’m sure you have room for improvement.
Need more help with your body shape goals? Kick Start Your Results today and enquiry about THQ’s 6 week meltdown which takes you through the pyramid so that you make no mistakes. 6 weeks training and nutritional guidance all for just £99!
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