October 5, 2018
By Leo Shveyd, Co-Owner of AW-Personalized Training & Sports Performance, San Francisco, CA
With more humans being exposed to thousands of images per day due to the digital age, many individuals seek a physical transformation to what they envision as their “ideal body”. In order to accomplish this goal, there are many factors that can be manipulated. The overwhelming goal to accomplish any transformation is to upregulate your body’s good chemistry (human growth hormone [HGH], testosterone, estrogen, etc.), while down-regulating negative hormonal responses (i.e. cortisol, etc.) that cause a prolonged inflammatory state. When we are young (18-25 years old), much of this good chemistry is manufactured by the body at peak levels. As we age, our body’s production levels decline; the result is an older, less trim physique. Therefore, much of the transformation success lies in making your body believe that it is young again; full of good chemistry. This can be accomplished via changes to your breathing, stress management strategy, strength and conditioning/training, rest and recovery (i.e. sleep), and nutrition.
Breathing & Stress
Utilizing an efficient breathing strategy (light, nose, belly breathing) is often overlooked in the transformation process. In instances of long-term stress, an inefficient breathing strategy will decrease CO2 levels and change the pH of the body. “One possible explanation for the relationship between [inefficient breathing] and weight gain is that in an effort to bring blood pH levels back to normal, the body craves processed and acid forming foods”, states Patrick McKeown in the book Oxygen Advantage. McKeown goes on to share that: “[t]he relationship between stress and increased food intake is well documented, with food often being a distraction for comfort to negate feelings of anger, loneliness, financial pressure or relationship issues.” Utilizing an efficient breathing strategy combined with an awareness of your breath is the most basic form of meditation. Meditation has been shown to reduce, and better manage, stress. Managing stress is a key component of most transformations that we have observed at AW-Personalized Training & Sports Performance (AW) over the years.
Strength & Conditioning/Training
While fitness may not be the most important component of a transformation process, it is the foundation of our program at AW. We have found that individuals that are committed to a three times per week strength and conditioning/training program, are well equipped to also add working on rest and recovery, as well as nutrition. The opposite is not true. In fact, we have found that clients that focus more on nutrition (and less on rest/recovery and training) early in process, tend to give up. Our advice: start with three strength and conditioning/training sessions per week and build off that! Movement (and training) is a “keystone” habit; a catalyst for many other healthy lifestyle choices.
Rest & Recovery
There are many benefits to good sleep, such as feeling more energized, being able to train with more intensity and recovering so you can train again sooner. Sleeping 7.5-8 hours per night will allow you to realize these benefits, in addition to helping increase HGH production (a hormone associated with lean muscle mass).
Nutrition & Hydration
Once you have established a consistent (three times per week minimum) training regimen, and are resting/recovering properly, you are ready for nutrition. Nutrition is the single most impactful component of the transformation process but will be difficult to sustain (see below) if focused on initially. At AW, we customize each client’s nutrition program. However, we see many clients who start our program that struggle with sufficient protein intake, especially early in the day. Therefore, we recommend trying to increase your protein intake, by eating protein with every meal, especially early in the day (breakfast and lunch). Increasing water intake is another great strategy and will keep you full longer (dehydration is often mistaken by your body as hunger).
In making this transformation, it is important to take steps that are sustainable so that the changes can be maintained long-term. Long-term sustainability is something we hear little about in the transformation world of shows like the “The Biggest Loser”. While the production goal of The Biggest Loser is to have the contestants lose weight as quickly as possible, that should not be your goal. Individuals that resort to extreme measures for weight-loss often find themselves in the same exact position, if not worse, once the extreme measures are lifted. Instead, your goal should be to pick strategies you can implement into your lifestyle going forward. Start with easier tasks first to help build momentum. Once you have incorporated a behavior into your lifestyle, add the next sustainable piece. Unfortunately, we have witnessed different approaches over the nearly two decades in this business. Too hard, too often, too stringent, etc., in our experience, is a road to an unsuccessful transformation. Moreover, this approach can prevent even the slightest results from being realized because the tax placed on the system is too great.
Let’s face it: transformations are tough! They require a plan, dedication and are more likely successful with some form of extrinsic motivation. Having a goal, a coach, a training partner are all forms of extrinsic motivation. In the case of AW, we combine your goals, programming and coaching, along with an awesome training community, which help you stay on track during challenging times.
There you have it: simple, but not easy…no transformations are, as they come with obstacles, change and sacrifice. Yes, there will be challenges. You might experience pain, might be tempted to cheat on your nutrition plan, etc. The key is to not allow a one-time obstacle to derail your entire plan. If you are truly willing to own your potential, perhaps a sensible transformation plan is your first stop.
Wishing you lots of luck. Please let us know if we can be of help.