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A no-nonsense guide to changing your body composition

A full-body strength training plan, plenty of whole foods and enough sleep will go a long way toward helping with this

A full-body strength training plan will help you build muscle, decrease fat, and reshape your entire body
A full-body strength training plan will help you build muscle, decrease fat, and reshape your entire body (Pexels)

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Do you have bat wings, a potbelly, or “thunder” thighs? These are just a few strange names my clients refer to their unloved body parts during their training sessions. When people grace my studio, they generally look in the mirror and begin poking and prodding at the body parts that drive them crazy. They may ask me to get rid of their arm wobble (but keep their bum), lose their belly (but keep their legs) or tone up their thighs (but keep their calves). These kinds of requests are referred to as “spot reduction.”

Also read: Why BMI is a flawed way of determining health

Spot reduction is what you think it is-- targeting a body part through specific exercises to reduce it in size. However, spot reduction is a myth. Despite what health and fitness magazines and their glossy headlines tell you, targeted exercises only strengthen the muscle under the skin. In getting fit and looking our best, we have to stop looking at exercise as a way to fix individual body parts, like plastic surgery. Instead, a full-body strength training plan will help you build muscle, decrease fat, and reshape your entire body.

Full body strength-training plan

Understandably, the weight lifting section scares many people. When stepping into the gym, most people will head over to the cardio machines in the hopes of sweating their way to the body shape they are looking for. However, if you’re looking to reshape your body, the hard truth is cardio alone won’t get you there.

The efficacy of strength training comes down to how many calories your muscles burn at rest. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns to keep your muscles fuelled. Although cardio can burn more calories during your actual session, it doesn’t build the amount of muscle required to keep your calorie burn high after your session is complete. Strength training may burn fewer calories while in the gym. However, your muscles will work overtime and burn more calories throughout the day.

Body recomposition aside, strength training should be a crucial part of anyone’s exercise plan because it can also improve our coordination, balance, flexibility, and bone density.

Muscle is denser than fat, so having more muscle yet less fat can make you look smaller but still weigh the same (if not more). This phenomenon can be demotivating for people who live and die by the scale. Therefore, I encourage you to weigh and measure yourself only 1-2x a month. Instead, chase non-scale victories like feeling more energetic, getting stronger, or seeing muscle definition in the mirror. To see results:

1.Start by doing a full-body strength training plan 3-5x a week for 30-45 minutes sessions.

2.Start by working on movements related to your basic everyday activities; squat, deadlift, lunge, push, and press. If strength training is new, use resistance bands to challenge yourself and move to free weights when you feel comfortable.

3.Aim to do three to four sets of 12 repetitions with good form and core engagement.

Once you feel comfortable with your new routine, add gentle cardio (walking, jogging, swimming) throughout the week to relax and restore your muscles.

Find the right nutrition plan

Many people dismiss strength training because they don’t want to become bulky. However, the truth is that it’s not the kettlebells you should be wary of; it’s your fridge door. The reality of any successful transformation lies in reducing your calories to a point where your body burns your fat reserves as fuel. The balance is tricky to master. If you reduce your calories too much, you may start experiencing heightened cravings, increased appetite, and other physical symptoms like losing your period, increased fatigue, and a higher risk of injury. If you don’t decrease the calories enough, you may not see the results you’re looking for.

Eat more whole and natural foods
Eat more whole and natural foods (Pexels)

Instead of focusing on the exact amount of calories you should cut, your first step is to eliminate all foods that aren’t providing your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive, such as junk food, fried foods, and refined flour products. These foods have “empty” calories, meaning very little nutrition in exchange for consuming calories. It also means cutting desserts, reducing your sugar and caffeine intake, and increasing your whole, natural foods like vegetables, fruit, smart carbohydrates, essential fats, and lean cuts of meat. You’ll notice that because these natural foods are lower in calories, you can eat more food in the day and feel more satisfied while losing weight!

Fix your stress and sleep

Two unsung heroes of weight loss and reshaping your body are to reduce your stress and increase your sleep. Stress can cause you to gain weight predominantly around your middle and retain water, which causes you to look puffy in appearance.

One way of reducing the feelings of stress is to try something called “box breathing,” which lowers your heart rate and calms your mind. You start by inhaling through your nose for a count of four, holding your breath for a count of four, exhaling for a count of four, and then holding your breath again for a count of four. Repeat this process with your next inhale.

The leaner you want to become, the more sleep you need
The leaner you want to become, the more sleep you need (Pexels)

A little-known fact is that the leaner you want to become, the more sleep you need! Sleep deprivation is a significant hurdle for weight loss and becoming building muscle. If you’re someone who routinely has inadequate sleep, it can decrease your calorie burn by up to 20%! Your goal will be to increase your sleep to 7-8 hours per night.

Also read: How honouring your hunger can improve your health

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else

It’s worth noting never to compare your journey with someone else. The transformations you see on the internet only show two points in time - before and after, they rarely highlight the hard work in between.

Weight loss isn’t a quick process, no matter what diet companies will have you believe. Within two weeks of starting your new program, you may start feeling better and more energetic. Around 4-6 weeks, you may start seeing some definition budding throughout your body. Only after approximately three months, you’ll start seeing your transformation begin.

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