Estimated reading time: 11 mins
Getting back on track in 2021
What a shamble of a year 2020 was... deadly bushfires, a deadly virus and no gyms open. No one would have thought this was going to be the outlook for the year. But now its 2021 and most Aussie cities are open for business again, so it’s time to get back into the swing of things.
Goal-setting in this climate has never been more important to get you back on track and kick start you into 2021. For many of us, lockdowns have given us no motivation to keep healthy and get outside. In addition, working from home has made it harder for many as home-schooling has become the new reality. This still applies to some of us; however, everything is starting to open up again including gyms!
The most important thing in my perspective is not to be harsh on yourself be nice. Yes, you may have gained weight and you may have more fat than normal but that is okay this can be fixed. For most cases this has been a year all out of your control as working from home eliminates all the incidental exercise that you get for example travelling to work, walking around the office and going outside during your breaks. This over the day can easily reach up to 5000 steps.
The same applies to your training in the gym, muscle breakdown has occurred unless you were extremely lucky to own any gym equipment. Most didn’t have an opportunity to train as equipment was so inflated on eBay going for 100s and thousands of dollars for basic equipment. For most cases, everyone had an excuse not to do weights.
But it’s not all doom and gloom as if you speak to most people, they can take some positives out from 2020.
I also have some good fitness news for you. We are primed to make progress in the gym again thanks to muscle memory.
Don’t stress if you missed some time in the gym or put on a few extra kilos because muscle memory will help you quickly recover your fitness gains.
Recovering the muscle gains you may have lost
Bickel (2011) reports from the National Library of Medicine and found that dropping your training volume to 1/9 has shown that muscle mass is maintained on average for 32 weeks. For many of us we would have been close to this just by doing bodyweight workouts on basic dumbbell movements. Given our lockdown lasted from March till October give or take was approximately 28 weeks. We are well and truly covered by this theory by Bickel (2011).
Another part of Bickel (2011) research to prevent muscle loss was dependant on how many calories you consumed and how much protein was in your diet.
How many calories were you consuming?
For many of us, we would have been in a calorie surplus due to not moving as much or going to the gym and being surrounded by food in the pantry. Good news is that if you were eating at maintenance or in calorie surplus you would have prevented muscle loss.
To determine what your maintenance calories are for fat loss or muscle gain head here How to determine calories for a lean bulk and The guide to kick starting your summer fat loss diet.
Determining your caloric requirement is critical in achieving your body composition goal.
How much protein was in your diet?
Protein, as we know, is the building blocks of muscle growth however you may be over or under consuming of this macronutrient. I found for a long time especially as a youth I was overconsuming this macronutrient and under consuming carbohydrates on the myth that carbs will make you fat. Oh, boy was I wrong. Caspero (2020) recommends that active adults have between 1.2 and 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, to boost recovery after training and to promote the growth and maintenance of lean muscle mass.
For example, an 80kg male should have at least 160g of protein per day at 2.0grams per kg of bodyweight.
70kg female should have at least 84g of protein per day at 1.2grams per kg of bodyweight.
Both these numbers are generic to both females and males. Females may need more depending on their type of exercise. However, males generally need more protein than females.
But how do I consume that amount of protein every day?
This is where protein supplements come in handy and convenient. No one has the time to be over the stove cooking extra protein sources late at night just to meet your protein targets for the day. There is absolutely no need to get all your protein from meat despite what you might see in the mainstream bodybuilding magazines.
Let’s take a look at Bulk Nutrients range here is a quick snapshot at protein option. A good place to start is a whey protein of any kind. The breakdown is as follows;
Whey Protein Concentrate - More affordable, good amount of protein slightly higher in fat.
Whey Protein Isolate - Slightly higher protein content per serve and lower in fat.
Thermowhey - Fat loss protein with added thermogenic ingredients to enhance your ability to lose body fat.
Earth Protein - Vegan protein powder made from pea and rice.
Future Whey - Vegan friendly that is made up of BCAA’s (Branched Chain Amino Acids). Cordial consistency and easy to get down if you have a dairy intolerance.
Also, use BenDiss5 at checkout for a discount off your first order.
After determining how many calories to eat, it's time to calculate the amount of protein, carbs and fats you’ll need to reach your calorie requirements.
Introduce fats and carbs for a balanced diet
Once protein is in check your diet must have a range of complex carbohydrates such as
Higher carb vegetables for example potatoes, carrots, peas and corn.
Don’t forget to add in some healthy fats;
Just be very mindful of the calorie count on these as without tracking these they can quickly add up comprising of 9 calories per 1g of fat.
Progressively overloading the body when exercising is the best way to achieve results from training.
Now onto the next pillar of health; exercise.
This may not apply to everyone; however, this may be your chance to overlook what you are doing to accelerate your results and not spin your wheels yet again for another year. One of the most important factors is progressive overload. In short, progressive overload refers to the process of gradually overloading the body with either volume, intensity, frequency, or time to reach a specific goal.
Volume is the number of sets and reps lifted. Not all volume is equated to be equal due to weight and intensity and compound moments such as the back squat which incorporates your hamstrings, quads, glutes, calves and core. However, as a general guide, you need to make sure you are changing up the volume is some way to ensure progressive overload. An easy way is to simply add an extra set if you can’t increase weight any further without compromising form. Ideally, keep a workout log in your phone or on paper, but you can keep track of it in your head however that process has plenty of flaws.
Frequency - Try to train each muscle group twice per week
Frequency is the number of times you train a muscle group per week. “When comparing studies that investigated training muscle groups between 1 to 3 days per week on a volume-equated basis, the current body of evidence indicated that frequencies of training two times per week promote superior hypertrophic outcomes compared to one time.” A push/pull/legs split will achieve hitting body parts multiple times a week or alternatively, an upper/lower/rest split will work.
Intensity - “Time under tension"
Intensity can be harder to track especially if you aren’t tracking the time of rest you are getting between sets. However, intensity includes how you execute the reps within a set. If you are at a sticking point with your volume and you can’t progress weights or sets try adding slower reps or pause reps this will add that extra workout stimulus to keep progressive overload.
Sleep is arguably the most important pillar in improving your overall health.
Diet and exercise in check what is left?... Sleep!
Suni (2020) from Sleep Foundation writes about guidelines for how much sleep we need. He advises that “healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep powers the mind, restores the body and fortifies virtually every system in the body”. I am certainly guilty of this being a shift worker and working night shifts. He writes on the importance of sleep hygiene that includes your bedroom setting and sleep-related habits. Here are his tips for a better nights sleep;
Sticking to the same sleep schedule every day, even on weekends.
Practising a relaxing pre-bed routine to make it easier to fall asleep quickly.
Choosing the right mattress that is supportive and comfortable.
Minimising potential disruptions from light and sound.
Disconnecting from electronic devices like phones or laptops at least half an hour before your bedtime.
The most important tip for me is about switching off electronic devices. We are all guilty of this. your Instagram feed will still be there in the morning. Suni (2020) confirms that scientists have found the light from electronics has the potential to disrupt sleep because it sends alerting signals to the brain. In particular, the blue light from mobile phones and laptops has shown to delay the release of melatonin.
Sleep quality supplements
If you struggle to find issues with your sleep and can’t find a routine that works, Bulk Nutrients are here to help with their sleep products in focus ZMA.
ZMA is a mineral supplement containing Magnesium, L Aspartate, Zinc Piccolinate and Vitamin B6. The use and effectiveness of supplementing with ZMA has been studied widely. A study on American Footballers by Lorrie Brilla, Ph.D. found that ZMA had various positive effects on the athletes. A group of 12 competitive NCAA football players who took ZMA nightly during an eight- week training program had their muscle strength and functional power measured and the athletes that supplemented with ZMA nightly over an 8-week period had 2.5 times greater strength gains and doubled the functional power gains compared to the placebo group.
Make the most of your 2021!
That is a wrap for this article, I hope you all have taken something from this article and it can motivate you to find a better you in 2021. My two goals for 2021 is to closely track progressive overload and lose my phone at least 30 minutes before I go to bed.
Happy New Year to everyone and hope everyone has enjoyed their break over these summer holidays!
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Alexandra Capero (2020) “Protein and the Athlete- How much Do You Need?”. Retrieved on the 7th January 2021 from www.eatright.org.
Bickel (2011) “Exercise dosing to retain resistance training adaptions in young and older adults”. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved on 7th January 2021 from pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
Eric Suni (2020) medically reviewed by Dr. Abhinav Singh from Sleep Foundation (2020) “How much Sleep Do We Really Need?”. Retrieved on 7th January 2021 from sleepfoundation.org.
Brilla, L & Conte, V, Effects of a novel zinc-magnesium formulation on hormones and strength, Journal of Exercise Physiology Online 3(4):26-36 October 2000
Brilla, L & Conte, V, Effects of Zinc-Magnesium (Zma) Supplementation on Muscle Attributes of Football Players, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 31(5):S123 · May 1999
About the author
Ben Disseldorp lives and breathes health and fitness. He loves hitting up the gym for a PR and a pump and is dedicated to fuelling his body to keep reaching his goals in and out of the gym.
By prioritising good nutrition and putting in the hard yards at the gym, Ben has completely transformed his physique. Starting out as a typically skinny ectomorph kid, he’s now a bodybuilder who is stronger, fitter and happier.
Ben is passionate about Bulk Nutrients and we are lucky to have him on board! His role at Bulk Nutrients is writing fitness blogs and working at the many events Bulk sponsors throughout the year. If you are ever at an event, please come up and say hello!
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