Less fat, more muscle for 2016

balanced diet and nutrition

'Less Fat, More Muscle' came across loud and clear as the prime objective from our recent Body Composition Analysis sessions with members. With Nick, Yat and Tom on the stand, ably supported by a number of our fab Personal Trainers, we were able to learn more about your objectives, and give you direction for a great start to 2016.

Having analysed the body composition of over 200 of you over the three days, here are our top five recommendations.


1) Establish the foundation:

  • Start incredibly simple – record and just accept where you are now, today. Yes, your January measurements will probably reflect a bit of holiday excess, but they will also provide a very clear foundation on which to formulate and then track health and fitness objectives for 2016.
  • Visualise the things you want to change, and avoid a long post mortem of the Christmas excesses. Those are in the past – your focus should be the things you can now do to achieve change for the next few months of 2016.
  • List the body areas of muscle and fat, and understand the current body composition of each area. 


2) Establish the plan: 

  • What is it you want to achieve? It's less about losing or gaining overall weight, it's more about a focussed plan to lose body fat and/or to add muscle – or for some of you it may even be to maintain the status quo. There were also a number of you who had obviously already done some great work in 2015!
  • Again, list the areas by body area for muscle and fat, and make some notes – increase, decrease, maintain. If you want to reduce body fat in the trunk area, and add muscle in the legs, you might add 'more squatting'. See Terri Snelling's great blog article  as to why compound resistance exercises, particularly for the legs, are so good for many things including fat loss. 
  • Our PT Teresa Waite sums up this importance of focus well: 'Random workouts are better than no workout, but not as effective as they could be. Follow a smart plan with exercise and nutrition.' 
  • And for those of you wanting to focus on your stomach area, our nutritionist Nick Owen reminds us firstly that it's a consistent nutritious eating regime that will have the best results. Nick also reminds us to avoid adding 'more ab exercises' in the pursuit of that defined mid-section – it will make so little difference as we use our abs far more effectively in our big compound lifts, and unilateral exercises such as single arm shoulder press and chest press, or even a forwards and backwards lunge routine.


3) Understand how to train for maximum impact:

  • The most effective training for muscle building and fat loss is driven by a foundation of resistance work, alongside maintaining mobility, cardiovascular fitness and functional fitness. Our PT Sam Armour comments, 'You can train these different elements of fitness by first learning how to move your body well and then by adding variables of load (more weight or difficulty), speed (increasing intensity and/or demand on coordination) and duration (more reps, another mile or completing a task in less time). Above all, try something new and have fun!'
  • It is also vital to have an eating plan to support this. Nick Owen, our club nutritionist reminds us to eat real food rather than a reliance on convenience foods and supplements; to eat a balance across all food groups (including plenty of carbohydrate and fat), and plenty of different coloured vegetables. If we aim to eat healthily for 85% of our diet, most of us will progress towards the results we are looking for. He also reminds us that we are all different – so it is also our responsibility to listen to our body, and if we aren't achieving the results we want, to review our regime. His final point is a succinct reminder that 'We can't out-train a bad diet.' 
  • For more information, Nick recommends two useful articles: 


4) Understand the basics of weight, muscle, fat and metabolism:

For most of us overall weight is not the most effective measurement; like BMI, it fails to differentiate between muscle and fat. If we really want to start focussing on some tangible objectives that will improve our health, aesthetics and mental capabilities, we should understand how weight, muscle, fat and metabolism all link together.

  • Muscle has a greater density than fat – so it is possible to follow a training regime that makes you look more athletic, with less body fat, and to be the same weight. If you are starting from a point of a relatively low muscle mass, likewise it is actually possible to add extra body weight as muscle, and to continue to reduce body fat and improve overall health and physicality. Our PT Richard Allsop stresses the role of resistance training. Richard says, ‘To reduce body fat more efficiently through exercise, don't just do more cardio. Utilise the muscle mass you already have and build on it with more resistance work to speed up your fat burning potential. Stronger, denser muscle means you're better able to burn fat more quickly.’
  • For some individuals, their weight and BMI are in what is considered to be the healthy zone – but the more detailed analysis of muscle and fat reveals a lack of muscle and an excess of fat. This is often referred to as being 'skinny fat'. For more information, see this recent piece from TIME magazine
  • Muscle is more metabolically active than fat – in simple terms, this means muscle has a greater requirement for energy every day – and so a person's overall energy needs are higher. This explains why people of the same overall weight, with different muscle and fat composition, can have very different energy requirements. McKinley Health Centre at the University of Illinois puts it succinctly, ‘Remember, muscle is the biggest contributor to your metabolic rate.'
  • Resistance and High Intensity Interval Training have a significant impact on metabolism through the after-burn – more technically known as EPOC (Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption). This ups our metabolism for many hours to come if we have trained in a certain way – see this useful article from ACE (American Council on Exercise). 
  • So what can you do at the Central YMCA Club to add muscle? There are the obvious routines using the weights room, but there are a whole host of other options too including circuits, kettle-bells, the rig and bodyweight. If you are new to any form of resistance training, why not start with a wonderfully effective Sculpt or TRX class? There are also a number of classes that will include High Intensity Interval Training routines. Check out our class timetable here – or speak to Adrian, Hamit or any of the gym team to find out more about how these classes will help you lose body fat and improve your lean muscle.


5) Ditch the Scales!

  • To finish with a simple one, stay away from the scales and that all too frequent weighing. Go by how you feel both mentally and physically. See how your clothes feel; if you are trying to lose fat you will be looking for your clothes feeling looser round your waistline; and if you are wanting to add muscle and definition, you might want that t-shirt to be feeling a little tighter. Notice too positive changes in your mental energy, your concentration, your stress levels, as well as your immune system and general health – and if you are getting that food and hydration right, an improvement in the radiance of your skin too!

Here's to a great start to 2016. Be consistent and be confident that you will achieve the changes you desire...

About the Author

Nick Owen is a qualified nutritional adviser, holding a Diploma in Non-Medical Nutritional Advice. Nick uses nutrition to support a wide variety of client goals including weight management, fat loss and muscle building, general health and well-being; and improved energy levels, concentration and complexion. Nick’s approach is practical and realistic, starting with an analysis of current eating patterns and lifestyle, making recommendations for change and then working over a series of consultations to support achievement of the desired goals.

To follow Nick's forthcoming blog posts for 2016, sign up via his website here; or follow him on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.


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ymca | 8 February 2016