I keep up to date on all of the latest diet and exercise research because it is an area of interest of mine. There are always new ideas coming out, partly because science waits for no man (or woman), and also because people are willing to spend a lot of money in the hopes of losing weight and getting fit.
After all of my study, and using many of these principles in my own routine, I have found that most new, “cutting edge” concepts add little to the basic diet and exercise principles I learned 40 years ago. I’m not saying they are completely useless, but they only help just a very small amount at the margin. Most of these new concepts will affect your improvement by only a couple of percentage points, if at all. And if they take your eye off core principles, then they will do more harm than good.
Recent developments that I put in this category are: diets centered around only one food or food group (e.g., grapefruit); diets and exercises that supposedly target abdominal fat; the use of “Fitbit” or similar devices to monitor all aspects of your body function during and after exercise; heart rate “training zones” to target fat reduction; and, “the 8 minute workout” (or any workout less than 20 minutes). I could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Again, I am not saying these concepts are totally useless. A device that tells you how many miles you’ve walked in a day might be useful in helping you gauge how active you’ve been. Some new workout routines are good because they harness core principles, like P90X, and some others might be useful if they just serve to break the monotony of your exercise routine and keep you motivated. However, if you simply skip from fad to fad and do not use the core principles I outline below, then you will likely not see sustained results.
So what are these “old school” principles that are so essential to success in attaining your bodyweight and fitness goals? They are:
- Reduce calories eaten to reduce/maintain your bodyweight
- Eat 4 – 6 small meals per day
- Eat mostly lean protein and complex carbs
- Avoid sugar, alcohol, and excessive amounts of flour and sodium
- Improved fitness is a function of: frequency x intensity x duration. Frequency is how many days per week you exercise, intensity is the level of effort you exert when you exercise, and duration is the length of your exercise sessions.
- Listen intuitively to your body, and adjust your exercise based on this feedback. How do your muscles feel? How is your energy level? Can you push yourself really hard today, or is it wiser to back off a bit?
In conclusion, then, if you think that 20 minutes in the “fat burning zone” is a good replacement for an hour on the treadmill, or that eating only kale is the key to good nutrition, you are putting your faith in the wrong things and kidding yourself. Focus your diet & exercise efforts on what really matters and has been proven to work. You will be spending your time and money wisely, and you will be much more likely to achieve your fitness goals.