Last week I wrote a short post on instagram about how fitness has an art to it. I feel like this statement deserves a longer explanation.
Let's get something clear right away, I 100% believe that fitness is backed by science. There are people out there who's job it is to conduct scientific studies on how the body functions, how it interacts with food, how it burns calories, how it responds to training stimulus and much more.
Fitness professionals review these studies and find the best way for people to implement the findings in their lives. This is where the art comes into play.
The science gives us something concrete to go on. Do lower reps at a higher intensity to increase strength. Eat in a calorie deficit to loose weight. These have been scientifically proven.
How you choose to achieve this varies between individuals. You see, one thing that science cannot take into consideration is the unique lifestyles that we all have.
Take two brothers for example. Greg is a single doctor at a general hospital and Bill is a software developer, father of two children. They both have the same genes. They were both raised with the same habits and traditions. Up until their last year of university, their lifestyles were probably very similar. Ate the same food at home, had the same amount of time to exercise, and the same amount of time to do leisure activities.
Now, Greg does shift work, he works for 4 days and is off for 4 days and is also on call 4 days each month. Bill on the other hand, works 9-5 five days a week and has weekends off. He does take care of his little ones after work and spends a lot of time with them on weekends.
I hope you can imagine how different each of their lives are. But if they both want to get stronger and leaner, they will have to do the same fundamental fitness regimen: heavy weights and a calorie deficit.
Let's take a look at how each of them could implement this.
Bill can have a more traditional approach because he has more of a routine lifestyle than Greg. Bill can workout any day of the week before bringing the kids to school or every day of the week right after work if his partner can take care of the kids. He could also workout during the weekends. His workout can be full body, he can train as hard as he wants any day of the week. He could easily fit in 3-4 workouts each week which is plenty for his goals.
His twin brother Greg, with a more sporadic shift schedule, has it a little more complicated.
Lifting heavy weights properly and safely requires a good amount of recovery between workouts. For this reason, he may not be able to lift heavy weights as often as Bill. He might only be able to train super hard twice a week. He could do a heavy upper body day on his second day off and a heavy lower body day on his third day off. The third workout would be during his 4 days on and would have to be lower intensity to minimize stress on the body and insure he gets quality sleep.
During his working days, Greg may not have the energy to maintain the same intensity during his workouts. He can still go to the gym but his focus will have to be different. He could focus more on technique work, focus on a weaker muscle group, cardio, or other training aspects that will help him reach his goal.
Greg could also do a different workout split than Bill, doing a leg day and a back day (which are usually harder than a chest or arm day) on his days off and do a chest day and shoulder during his shift work.
As you can see, the programming is unique to every one. Greg and Bill's programming already looks pretty different and this is assuming that they have no injuries and have the same level of fitness. Otherwise things would be even more different.
We haven't even touched on diet yet.
How do these two, identical humans eat? Surely with their different lifestyles, their diets will be different.
Our doctor Greg will probably go through long periods on not eating (12+ hours) during his shift work. He may be only eating 1-2 meals a day during his shift work and then more regularly during his day off.
Our software developer Bill can eat the exact same way, day after day, week after week. Everyday he can have breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner at the exact same time.
Here are a few options they have:
- Meal prepping is important for both of them
- Greg could focus more on a form of intermittent fasting protocol to accommodate his schedule
- Greg could focus on a form of calorie cycling protocol, eating more calories on his days off (which are also the days he trains hard) and less calories on his on
- Bill could do either of those if they bring him joy, or he could stick to a classic eating schedule since his life has more of a routine to it than Greg's
Both would have to eat in a calorie deficit to get leaner. They would both need to focus on eating the same foods: high protein and high veggies with a moderate intake of healthy fats and healthy carbs.
Even though they are eating the same things, the way they need to organize their meals is going to differ quite a bit.
As you can see again, the strategies are different when it comes to food. And this is assuming they have no food allergies or restrictions.
Tying it all together
When we look at all the resources available to us out there, books, articles, youtube videos, the flow of information might get overwhelming. A lot of people are saying many different things. Do this workout split, eat like this, avoid doing that, never eat sugar, always eat sugar at night, never skip leg day. Some fitness experts flat out contradict each other and the confusing thing is that sometimes each of their arguments is valid.
So how do you figure out what to do?
Simple. You take ownership of your fitness life. Know your goals. Know your weaknesses. Once you know these things, you will understand how to filter all the information given to you.
Someone that is celiac will get their information from a certain expert. Someone who is vegan may use another expert.
If my goal is to put on weight and your goal is to lose weight, we most likely will read different articles about how to get there.
Science is an exact, absolute concept. Applying science is the art. There is not a single method for eating in a calorie deficit (although there are a ton a bad methods...)
Likewise with training, there are many different protocols for lifting heavy weights.
What's important is that you try different methods and find the ones you like. You know a method is a good one when you are reaching your goals AND feeling happy while doing so.
Have fun exploring,