I recently took myself out of my comfort zone and went through the process of training for a gym photo shoot. Having based my training around strength for the past year it served as a good change up to go after a body composition goal.
Despite having nearly 20 years of experience within the fitness industry, I know that in order to get optimal results you should work under the guidance of a coach. Having already been working with the ‘mercurial’ Tom Hibbert for my strength training, I asked him if he could guide me through a 12 week shoot prep. You can find out more on Tom here: www.winning-performance.uk
A great deal of hard training and nutritional discipline are needed to get into optimal shape. I’m going to share with you some of the tips and tricks that helped me get to my leanest body fat – measuring 7.5% on the Metabolic analytics software at nearly 40 years of age.
Tom keeps things very simple when it comes to nutrition (which I really like) as some coaches can really over complicate this. The premise was to implement one new nutritional habit every week. Much in the way we work at CoActive when advising clients, it makes sense to start with simple habits and then progressively build on them. I have outlined some of the key nutritional habits which I felt had the biggest effect:
The first thing I had to do with my food was to rotate it every 3 days. This is something I was first advised to do nearly 5 years ago by Steve Grant, yet for one reason or another I was not implementing it. As soon as I got organised it became relatively simple yet surprisingly effective.
There are many reasons for rotating your food but the key benefit is that it is excellent for gut health and thus lowering inflammation. You can apply this to all the macro nutrients but the most important one is protein:
- Day 1 AM – Beef
- Day 1 PM – Chicken
- Day 2 AM – Venison
- Day 2 PM – Turkey
- Day 3 AM – Lamb
- Day 3 PM – Salmon
I also made an effort to rotate my veg, fats and carbohydrate sources.
Probably the key factor in driving my fat loss was systemically manipulating my carbohydrates. As we know, carbohydrates can be both the best and the worst of food options depending on the situation and the individual. Learn more about carbs.The key steps that I followed with regards my carbohydrate intake were:
Phase 1: Take away post workout carbohydrate supplementation.
Having come off the back of hypertrophy training this was the obvious first step as using whole food will always be a better option than supplements.
Phase 2: Reduce carbohydrate intake to the post training meal and the last meal at night.
This meant I would get 2 carbohydrate feedings on training days and 1 on non training days. I should note that prior to this I was having up to 4 carbohydrate meals a day.
Phase 3: On non training days, take out carbohydrates and stick to only veggies and fish or poultry.
This meant that 3 days a week I would only have white meat or fish along with veggies and healthy fats. This obviously led to a drop in calories on these days.
This is tied in with carbohydrate manipulation but deserves it’s own section as it had a powerful effect on my body comp. The idea is that you run your bodies glycogen stores very low over a period of time before having a big ‘high glycemic’ carbohydrate meal to replenish them. High gylcemic meaning sugar!
If done correctly this strategy can significantly boost your metabolism and thus boost fat burning. The big increase in carbohydrate stimulates leptin which is responsible for regulating appetite and energy expenditure. The extra calories also help stimulate your thyroid to ramp up metabolism, which if you timed your re-feed correctly should continue even when you go back to reducing calories. The net result is reduced body fat.
Weighing nearly 100kg and being as active as I am meant that initially I was re-feeding every 4-6 days. The premise being that as soon as I dropped at least 0.5kg below my pre re-feed weight, I’d have another one. My re feed of choice was a box or 2 of gluten free cookies!
Nutrition day in the life: (non re-feed)
- Salt and lime
- Fillet steak / fried egg / cashew nuts and raspberries
- Beef strips / salad / olive oil
- Beef strips / salad olive oil
- Aminos 2 scoops during 1 scoop after
- Chicken / whole grain rice / broccoli stems
- Chicken / whole grain rice / broccoli stems
I drank plenty of filtered water and usually a green tea in the morning.
The training was a bodybuilding protocol based on a 4 x a week split with different body parts being targeted each day:
- Workout 1: Lower body quad dominant
- Workout 2: Upperbody chest dominant
- Workout 3: Lower body Hamstring dominant
- Workout 4: Upperbody back dominant
In general the training was designed to deplete glycogen stores and give enough stimulus to hold onto muscle mass even in a calorie depleted state. Needless to say, it was pretty tough but ultimately satisfying!
Training day in the life
Lower body Quad dominant:
Upper body Chest dominant:
Tom added in some HIIT training to the end of my sessions for the last 4 weeks, these really helped shred the last few % body fat. Learn more about cardio.
After 11 good weeks of training and dieting I was in decent shape but to really maximise results there are a few little tricks you can do in the final stages.
This involves hyper hydrating for a few days before ‘cutting’ for the last 24 hours. The effect being that once you stop drinking excess water the body continues to excrete thus giving you better muscle definition.
Epsom salt baths
I used these in the last week to help boost magnesium and sulphur levels and to also help optimise sleep.
Fortunately we’ve had a great summer this year, everybody looks better with a tan!
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