This topic has a bit of sentimental value to me. I hear of so many people who constantly fall into the trap of buying-in to the latest quick fix. In the hope that this magic pill is going to make all the difference, they almost, always neglect the basics from the start. At the end of the expensive quick fix, it all goes back to the way it was. I always ask, “what was the point?” So in this article I would like to discuss what the basics are why they are so important.
What are the “BASICS?”
The basics are the things we should be doing regularly. The things that form part of our routine. They should be our foundation. Generally speaking, if we did the basics, we wouldn’t need many of the supplemental measures that we jump at so easily. (Subconsciously because we want the easy way)
To name a few:
- Adequate sleep
- Good nutrition
- Quality movement
Seems simple enough right? Now here is a list of some supplemental methods:
- Nutrition Supplements (fat burners, Creatine, BCAA, Steroids)
- Only train twice a week with EMS or Electromuscular stimulation!
- Detox plans
- Juicing (consumables not needles)
- Specific training programs (Booty Builder, 6-week Abs, Big Biceps)
- 4-week Transformation challenges
- Accelerated rehab plans
- And of course, Medication (anti-inflammatories, pain killers)
Recognize any of these? If you can honestly say that you are eating, sleeping and training well, and that has been maintained for longer than 6 months, then you are on track. But if you find yourself doing any of the following:
- grabbing the easiest food options like takeaways or precooked pies, but compensating with a fat burner,
- not getting enough sleep during the night, so taking sleep tablets to sleep and pre-workout to train,
- or you are training less than 3-4 times a week, not really exposing yourself to enough fundamental movements, so you do EMS training for 20min twice a week because that is “all you need” so they say
…then I suggest reevaluating your basics.
Before I go any further, I would like to clarify that I DO NOT write these supplemental methods off. Many of them have a place in health and fitness. I myself use creatine when I am in a heavy training regime. We at Limitless Athletic create some of those “specific programs”. The truth is that they work, but they are not sustainable methods on their own and work best when the basics have already been covered. Which is why we always encourage our members to get the basics right during consultations.
Now lets take a deeper look at what the basics mean.
There is enough evidence out there to prove that you need 7-9 hours of sleep. It is also suggested that you aim to get your deepest sleep between 10pm and 2am. Yes you can function on less, but when you are sleep-deprived or your circadian-rhythm has been tampered with, you may experience a lack of concentration, fatigue or even moodiness. Imagine experiencing this when you are starting an exercise program…FUN!
Other things that may affect your sleep are coffee, cellphones and television screens or monitors. The effects of these things may seem minimal, but are surely making a difference to how you are functioning on a daily basis.
You might think coffee doesn’t affect you, you might be sleeping, but it may prevent you from getting that deep sleep you need. You might wonder why you are still tired the next day. Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system in various ways. Mainly, it competes with adenosine, a neurotransmitter that also plays a huge role in your circadian-rhytm. Adenosine binds to receptors in the brain, signaling your body to DOWN-regulate, making you drowsy. When caffeine is present, it fights with adenosine to bind to these receptors. When successful, it will UP-regulate, making you more alert. This = less deep sleep.
Cellphones and monitors display light, which communicates with your body to stay awake. The hormone melatonin is released when it is time for you to wind-down and go to sleep. But the blue light emitted by screens inhibit the body’s melatonin release and therefore disturbs the circadian-rhythm.
So a few guidelines to get better sleep are:
- Do not drink coffee or consume stimulants after 2pm (rule of thumb)
- Stay off your phone, computer or television at least 60min before going to bed
- Try do your exercise at least 4 hours before bedtime
- Set a schedule eg. in bed by 9pm, set alarm for 5am
Some say the percentage split of importance between nutrition and exercise is 80/20 respectively. I am not sure if it is truly 80/20 but I do believe nutrition has a large impact on your health. If you can nail good nutrition, you have a big one of the basics down. I am personally not a fan of suggesting meal plans and strict diets, but more setting guidelines.
Through my CrossFit learning, I came across this famous quote or guideline by Greg Glassman. It really sums up good nutrition better than I have seen in any other text book:
Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.Greg Glassman, CEO CrossFit
Yes, there are more complexities, but the point of this article is to get back to BASICS, so do not over think it. Just focus on getting good quality whole foods in and reducing processed foods. This is a great way to start. If you are a fundi and obsessed with counting calories and nutrients, then by all means go for it, but don’t let that take away from choosing the right sources of calories and nutrients.
There was a joke that everyone used to tell about CrossFit: How do you know if someone does CrossFit? They will tell you…
Haha, well I am sure you can tell I am a fan of CrossFit. So I will go right ahead and use the definition of CrossFit to illustrate what quality movement looks like:
Constantly Varied, Relative High Intensity, Functional Movementscrossfit.com
In all of my experimentation, nothing has proven to be more effective. Yes, there will be someone who will object or criticize this, but then say the same thing using different terminology. Note: I am not talking about competitive CrossFit, those guys are something else. But the prescription of a varied program, with 3-4 higher intensity (70-80%) sessions per week, using compounded movements like squats, deadlifts, pull ups or rows, push ups, running, jumping, skipping, cycling etc etc. will largely benefit your health.
Here is a link to CrossFit’s 9 Foundational Movements on YouTube for your interest. I do suggest having a coach analyze your techniques when trying these out so that you can master them before adding substantial loads.
Focus your resources (time money and energy) on the basics before considering the use of supplemental methods for best results. Once you have hit a plateau with the basics, and you have left over resources, go ahead and find what you can do in addition to get to where you want to be.
Please note that this post is not a direct prescription, but a guideline to use. This guideline is a general one and may note hold true for every individual. Therefore, I highly recommend that you consult a medical professional before implementing any of these guidelines.
Once you have obtained medical clearance for the above-mentioned guidelines, go ahead and get it! If you have any questions, feel free to comment below and we will do our best to answer them. If we do not have an answer for you, we will steer you in the right direction.
If you are wanting to consult with one of our coaches, please get in touch with us and we will gladly assist you. Look out for Tip No.3 next week.