Busting the myths: How TO and how NOT TO change your body composition.
There are 3 major things that will influence your body’s composition.
This is not an exhaustive list, but these are 3 key things you have full control over if you want to change the way your body looks and increase the performance capacity in which your body holds.
Within this, it’s your ability to increase your muscle mass and/or reduce body fat that will determine how “good” you look. (remembering that this is a subjective term and totally up to you and your mental state to decide what good is. If you’re looking to be “healthy”, that can sometimes be a different story, however, healthy is also determined by objective measures of BF% and muscle mass).
Myth 1: My Friend lost ‘weight’ from doing (x), should I do the same?
Let’s get this part straight before diving any deeper. There’s weight loss and there is fat loss.
If you want to lose weight, you can do the following: cut off an arm, sit in a sauna, dehydrate yourself, juice detox, cut off a leg etc…
However, if you want to lose body fat, you just need to make sure that you’re body is in a slight calorie deficit (200-500 per day) and ensuring you are eating enough protein to satisfy the body’s ability to sustain metabolism and build/ repair the soft tissue.
Just because your friend did (x) to lose weight, it usually isn’t the full story and is just a process they used.
Don’t follow processes, follow principles.
Myth 2: I am only going to do cardio because it helps me lose weight faster than weights.
There is some truth to this statement. Cardio is a great way to help increase the amount of calories burned that day and therefore help you be in a greater calorie deficit → more fat loss (assuming that you’re eating adequate protein).
However, this is a sure fire way to help you reduce your overall size, leaving you with no tone, no definition and no shape (aka runners bod). (Unless of course you are someone who miraculously has great lean muscle mass from all of those previous years of bodybuilding/ hard labour.)
A lot of people forget that weights are still a great calorie burner and will continue to help you burn calories well throughout the next 24-48 hours whilst your body attempts to grow and repair itself.
Simply put: a minimum of 3 weights sessions a week and if you’d like to burn some extra calories so that you’re able to eat a few extra at dinner time, then by all means, it’s a great idea.
Myth 3: Weights make me bulky and that’s why I don’t want to do them.
That’s exactly like saying, I don’t want to start running incase I turn into an olympic sprinter.
Weights will only make you bulky if you’re eating in a calorie surplus and you’re increasing the size of your muscle mass and the size of your fat mass at the same time.
Simply put, you’re getting bigger because you’re eating too much. Stop blaming the weights.
If you can honestly prove that you’re getting bigger and putting on size whilst you’re in a weekly (not just one day) calorie deficit, then I’d love to see it and help you figure out what’s going on.
Myth 4: I can’t seem to put on size, is it because I’m doing too much cardio?
Possibly, but once again, it comes back to your weekly net calories and whether you’re in a surplus or a deficit or bang on the money.
If you want to grow, make sure you’re in a net surplus, which incorporates your TDEE: your TDEE will be made up of these elements cardio, weights, BMR + non-exercise activity etc.
Also making sure that you’re consuming adequate protein and carbohydrates so that you’re fuelling your muscles and allowing the biological pathways to do their thing.
(In particular, the m-Tor pathway and its relationship with protein synthesis, for all you muscle nerds out there).
Make note, just because you’re doing a conditioning piece, doesn’t make it “cardio”.
When we talk about cardio, we are referencing a single modality movement like running, sitting on a bike/ rower or skipping.
If you are hitting a high volume conditioning piece like wall balls, lunging, box jumping etc, that is just extra sub-maximal volume accrual.
This will actually help you grow muscle if you’re eating properly.
Just because you’re sweaty doesn’t mean it’s making you lose weight.
Once again, it’s not usually the training style, it’s your ability to match your nutrition to your training and tweaking it based on results.
You train for 1 hour a day and you’ve got another 23 hours to make sure you either make it work, or “fuck it up” for lack of a better term.
Myth 5: You can’t get big with CrossFit
Once again. The training stimulus is definitely there with crossfit style workouts, it comes back to your ability to match your nutrition and ensure that if you want to build muscle and size, you stay in a calorie surplus and if you want to lose fat, you maintain a calorie deficit.
There is often a lack of horizontal pushing and pulling components to a lot of CrossFit programming (deemed “not functional) which is a big mistake.
There is also a lack of ‘time under tension’ throughout crossfit/ competitive fitness style programming, due to the fact that everything has been objectified and turned into a race format.
Therefore movement efficiency and expending less energy has taken priority over movement quality, which leads to time under tension being thrown out the window and the whole point of exercising (in its traditional format) has been altered for a reason other than changing your body composition.
So, this statement is still considered a myth, due to the fact that the programming (if completed with the right intentions) provides a lot of stimulus and total training volume accumulation, which is perfect for muscle growth.
Once again, your results will be highly correlated with how you execute the program and how you eat afterwards.
Simply put, if you want to increase muscle size, ensure that your programming includes a variety of rep schemes and movements, that you include a variety of intensities and tempos, that you are constantly and progressively overloading to ensure there is a stimulus which promotes growth and that you’re eating in a calorie surplus with adequate protein.
Even more simply put, if you want a certain part of your body to get big, then make sure it gets adequately trained and adequately fuelled with food.
E.g. To get a bigger chest, ensure you bench, push up, handstand and focus on your actually building a bigger chest at least twice a week and make sure you’re in a calorie surplus of around 300 calories a day.
Myth 6: I got told I need supplements to lose weight and supplements to get bigger. True or not?
Supplements literally mean “filling in the gap” between what your body is getting and what your body is needing.
So, if your nutrition plan was on point, there would be no need for supplementing.
For whatever reason, you aren’t able to hit your recommended protein intake of 2g per kg of body weight through normal food, then of course it would be smart to “supplement” with a delicious protein filled shake.
Same goes that you could just as easily consume a deliciously tender 200g chicken breast (40g PTN).
It’s just that some people prefer to drink their food rather than eating it.
The only “proven” supplement to conclusively work in scientific studies, is creatine monohydrate.
It’s benefits lie within being able to replenish the ATP-PC pathways after they get depleted from short-sharp bouts of intense workouts (like lifting weights or sprinting).
Replenishing this source has be shown to increase recovery and add overall strength.
The more total training volume and therefore more muscle mass or decreased body fat depending on a million other factors mentioned above.
Simply, supplements are a great way to ensure you’re getting enough of a certain macro or micro nutrient in your diet so that you can recover better and therefore train harder.
However, if you’re already looking for short-cuts with supplements rather than looking to change your nutrition tactics, are you really in the right mindset for success?
Myth 7: I’m Big Boned.
No you’re not. Prove it to yourself by getting a DEXA scan.
More than likely you’ve just got excess fat.
You can either keep telling yourself that or you can get an objective measurement which won’t lie.
Myth 8: Carbs are the devil
No they’re not. They are just the most easily consumed and over-consumed macro nutrient due to taste and flavour, so most people will easily over indulge carbs and therefore increase their total calories.
Too many calories → increased fat storage
Outcome, reducing carbs works for most people because it allows them to eat a diet higher in protein and good fats, so their foods are now bigger volume with less calories.
Athletes will need to take a different approach.
Myth 9: You need to count calories to lose weight or put on weight.
You don’t NEED to count your calories to lose weight, just like you don’t NEED to check your speed whilst driving.
However, if you keep getting caught speeding, you would more than likely start checking your speed more often.
Likewise, if you are consistently getting fatter or not changing as fast as you’d like, it is a sure fire way to make sure that you are definitely going to reach your goals in the shortest time possible.
Short answer: Yes, count your calories and macronutrient intake if you want to increase or decrease your body weight.
Until you can recall without hesitation how many calories and macronutrients in every single food that you’re going to put in your body, you should track them using myfitnesspal.com or something similar.
I spent about a month memorising these details for over 200 regular foods that I eat and now it is second nature.
It does seem quite extreme, however, there are some very easy trends you’ll pick up along the way and see some patterns.
10: Concluding statement:
If you want to get bigger it will come down to your training stimulus coupled with nutrition. You need to make sure that you’re delivering enough stimulus for your muscles to grow and then making sure that your nutrition fuels that process and doesn’t backfire on you.
If you want to get smaller (aka fat loss), you need to also make sure that your training stimulus promotes muscle growth so that you actually have shape when your body fat disappears.
You need to ensure that you’re in a calorie deficit, whilst still consuming enough protein to keep your metabolism firing.
Too many people are following theories and systems (questionable ones at that), however, these are the principles of results that will stand the test of time.
Turn-up to training and eat well for your goals.