By Paul Stevenson, Senior Coach
Okay so we understand what you are going through, you had one personal trainer tell you ‘do not stress’ just follow IIFYM move some weight, do not do cardio and you will drop fat! You then had a second personal trainer tell you I need you eat 126.2 grams of grass-fed organic chicken breast within 15 minutes of finishing your workout and if you touch something that isn’t on your plan you will gain body fat!
The truth is, neither thought process is wrong per se, it’s just that you need to understand what level your nutrition and training is currently at to dictate what advice you follow and what will work for you at this current moment. The level of nutrition and training you are at will dictate how much detail you will need to consider in regards to your fat loss journey.
So following an in depth initial consultation our Sydney CBD and Chatswood personal trainers use a results based three step guide to dictate where we start our clients journey to get the desired results based outcome! Everyone’s journey starts as a beginner so let us take at the standard level one-beginner protocol recommendations we give out in our CHFI Performance PT Certification program. Keep in mind that beginners have the most potential to make the most amount of progress with the least attention to detail. Oh how would we all love to be a beginner again!
Training Stage 1: Beginner
Here is how you may be categorized within the beginner level:
- Training age of less than 6 months
- No extensive history of playing or training for sports
- Low education and understanding of training and nutrition
Let’s admit it, most beginners are eating a ‘typical western diet’ consisting of lots of processed food, plenty of take away/fast food, not nearly enough protein or vegetables but plenty of carbohydrates. Quite often it is simply a lack of nutritional education, which is why correct education and guidance is especially important for beginners to be shown the correct way from the start of their journey.
As for nutrition, with just a few tweaks, plenty of progress can be made from a health and body composition perspective. Firstly, beginners do not need to consider nutrient timing at all. So a focus on eating 3-5 meals per day, eating a serving of protein and vegetables with every meal, focusing on whole food sources, and drinking 3 or more litres of water a day will suffice. A few baseline supplements to support optimal health and training recovery may be useful too, such as a protein powder, magnesium, fish oil and Vitamin D.
From a training perspective, a beginner only needs a low amount of volume and intensity to make progress (as little as 9 sets per body part week). To begin with, focus on improving the main movement patterns such as the squat, deadlift and lunge and slowly building up the weight used. There is no need for specific body part splits just yet, perform training sessions that are full-body in nature, with a moderate to high number of reps. It is critically important for a beginner to use slower lifting speeds to ensure control, safety and in grain correct movement patterns.
Tempos such as 50X0, 4010, 3210, 33X0 should be the flavor of the workouts. Remember like mentioned above beginners have the most potential to make the most amount of progress with the least attention to detail so progress and increase your weights at a gradual linear manner. There is no need for any special program periodization.
Summary for beginner clients:
- Eat 3-5 meals per day, focusing on whole foods
- Focus only on basic supplements
- 3-4 training sessions per week
- Full body workouts are the most simple and effective
- Focus on compound lifts such as the squat, deadlift, overhead press, pull-up push-ups etc.
- Moderately high rep range, in the 10-12 and 12-15 rep bracket
- Frequency per body part – 2-3 times per week
- Focus on basic tempos as described above?
Training Stage 2: Intermediate
Progressing from a beginner to an intermediate trainee happens when:
- Following 6-12 months of the advice within the beginner recommendations
- Finding that strength, hypertrophy and fat loss progress is coming at a slower pace
- Feel psychologically ready to make further lifestyle changes
An intermediate trainee will require another level of detail to ensure they keep making progress. This is the category most of the population will fall into.
From a nutritional standpoint intermediates can probably start to consider calorie intake, macronutrient ratios and nutrient timing to a greater degree. If they have come from eating a ‘typical western diet’ and have made some of the suggestions above, they won’t need to consider counting their calories straight away. Making small changes such as increasing protein intake, reducing processed foods, drinking more water to name a few will likely see a reduction in calorie intake anyway. Once these key habits have been installed you’ll find after a period of time a plateau will be met.
However now is a good time to start to consider how many calories they require, both on a daily and weekly basis. Likewise it may be prudent to start considering how much protein, fat and carbohydrate they might require as well. As a person becomes more advanced, so the post-workout ‘anabolic window’ becomes shorter. So, for an intermediate trainee, we can widen the focus and put greater emphasis on fueling the body in the 6-12 hours post-workout.
An intermediate trainee may also find it wise to add some further supplementation to their baseline ones. Products such as creatine, beta-alanine and BCAA’s can be added to improve workout performance.
An intermediate trainee should now have a much greater understanding of training especially around technique and having a greater mind to muscle connection. A greater amount of volume and intensity should now be considered within their programming. Lifting speeds can be increased due to greater control of the movement, especially placing more of a focus on an explosive concentric portion of the lift. A greater variety of exercises will now be required as the body is learning to adapt a lot quicker to the stimulus being placed upon them.
Summary for intermediate clients:
- Greater need for calorie counting and macronutrient ratios
- Need to pay greater attention to nutrient timing, as specificity is king!
- 4-6 training sessions per week, so a greater training frequency
- A focus on both compound and isolation exercises (greater overall exercise variety)
- Lower rep range on average (more reps in the 6-15 rep range)
- Higher overall intensity
- Faster lifting tempos, such as 30X0, 20X0, 40X0 etc.
- Frequency per body part: 2-3 times per week
Training Stage 3: Advanced
Now we are getting to the nitty gritty of nutrition and training, the advanced trainees, and the top 10%. These are usually the ones you will see pop up in your social media feed lifting incredible amounts of weight and presenting an impressive physique. We at the Clean Health Fitness Institute are world renowned for getting our members across the line from that intermediate trainee to the advanced trainee state and here is how we identify them:
- Training age of 5 years and over
- Advanced level of strength, so the ability to deadlift over double bodyweight and squat 1.8 x bodyweight
- A mindset and lifestyle that prioritizes health and training as a way of life
Once a trainee has reached this level, it is safe to say that an even greater attention to detail is required. A trainee has reached this position it is hard to find one who doesn’t use a coach, if you are an intermediate trainee looking to progress your training and do not have a coach, this is your call to action. Attention to detail becomes far more important and broadening the knowledge base from an experienced personal trainer becomes more prevalent.
When one of our Sydney CBD or Chatswood personal trainers creates a nutritional plan for our advanced trainees nutrition there is a great emphasis on calorie and macronutrient targets, using the iNutrition Pro system we designed. Nutrient timing plays a much bigger role, especially if trainee is training twice a day (which is often the case for advanced trainees). The post-workout ‘anabolic window’ for these trainees is far shorter, so ensuring optimal food post-workout is crucial to recovery with the correct nutritional strategies.
Supplementation here can play a greater role in particular more target compounds such as inositol for CNS recovery and stress management and curcumin to help with joint inflammation.
From a training perspective, once again an even greater amount of volume, frequency and intensity is required to ensure progress is made. Periodization for advanced trainees therefore becomes far more relevant. Trainees at this level will be extremely close to their genetic potential in terms of muscle growth and strength, so every little detail counts at this point. Our Sydney CBD and Chatswood personal trainers have had great success using advanced techniques such as the modified super accumulation program from Clean Health Fitness Institute founder Daine McDonald, using intensifiers like forced reps, drop sets, cluster sets and occlusion training.
Summary for advanced clients:
- Nutrient timing crucial for recovery
- Greater reliance on supplementation for recovery and health
- 6+ sessions per week
- Even lower rep range on average (most reps in the 1-8 range)
- High overall intensity (working closer to 1RM)
- Fast lifting tempos
- Frequency per body part: 3+ times per week
So as you can see, if you want to make progress with your body composition, there is much to consider. However, the level of detail needed very much depends on the level of trainee you are, Don’t over-complicate things early on in your fat loss journey, but as you become more advanced you become the more you need to be sure to note that the ‘devil is in the detail!