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Body Composition Improvement Schedule
By Gary F. Zeolla
My God-given Foods Eating Plan book is mainly geared towards encouraging people to follow a healthy eating plan. But on pages 239-243 I present some suggestions on losing body fat, then on the next couple of pages I give tips on gaining muscular body weight.
The proportion of a person's body fat and muscular body weight is known as "body composition." Losing body fat while gaining muscle at the same time would be "body composition improvement" and that is the subject of this article. Doing both at once is difficult, but not impossible. And it is worth the effort as such changes can make a significant different in your appearance.
My Eating Plan book, along with my powerlifting book, provide detailed discussions on what to eat and not eat and provide advice on training for such body composition improvement. But in this article I would like to organize this information into a sample daily schedule. I will also present some information not found in those books.
Of course, everyone's daily schedule is going to be different due to exact work hours and other obligations, so I will not utilize an hourly timeline. Instead I will organize the schedule by the basic daily activity in regards to food consumption and exercise. After the schedule I will elaborate on each point and present the reasoning behind it.
Consume glass of whey-based protein powder
Morning cardio – 30-60 minutes
Go to work
Morning break – consume snack
Lunch break – eat lunch
Afternoon break – consume snack
End of work – drink pre-workout drink
45 minutes later – lift weights for about an hour
Shower/ drive home
Bedtime – eat snack if more than a couple of hours since dinner
Number of Meals
If you add them all up, this schedule has you consuming some kind of food up to eight times a day. That sounds like a lot. It is even more than the 5-6 meals a day I recommend in my books. But it should be noted that the first "meal" is just a glass of whey-based protein powder. This would be one scoop missed into a cup or so of water. That is only about 100 calories.
Another "meal" is a pre-workout drink, while three of the other meals are snacks. Depending on your schedule, some of these snacks will not be possible. Many would probably have to combine one or more of the snacks with the closest full meal, making for eating about six times a day.
But the important point is to be consuming something about every 2-4 hours. The only exception to this time span might be in the morning where the whey protein is consumed immediately before the cardio and breakfast immediately afterwards.
The reasoning behind such a frequent eating schedule is that each time you eat you increase your metabolic rate due to the thermic effect of food. These points are discussed at length in my Eating Plan book. But here, what this means is your metabolism is elevated each time you eat. Thus by eating every 2-4 hours, your metabolism will remain elevated throughout the day, much more so than if you ate only three times a day.
Of course, each of these snacks and meals will be smaller than each of the meals of a three-a-day schedule. Initially, you should split up the total calories for your previous three meals into the six meals. So if you were consuming a total of 1,800 calories a day, or an average of 600 per meal, then each of your six meals would only contain about 300 calories. But over time, as your metabolism increases, you will probably be able to gradually increase the amount of calories at each meal while still losing body fat.
There are good reasons for the recommendations to consume a whey-based protein powder immediately upon rising and then to do morning cardio. During the nighttime hours, the body burns up its stores of glycogen. As a result, in the morning before anything is eaten, rather than burning carbs for energy as is usually the case, the body will burn amino acids and fatty acids for energy.
The amino acids will come from your muscles, something you don't want. But the consumption of whey protein will introduce amino acids very quickly into the blood stream, and your body will utilize them, thus sparing muscle tissue. Meanwhile, when you do the cardio with the glycogen stores depleted and without consuming carbs, your body will then burn mainly fat for energy. You will probably feel sluggish. But that des not matter. If you push through the fatigue, you will get a significant burning of body fat.
Now let me admit that some might find doing cardio immediately upon rising to not be possible. That is the case for yours truly. Due to my stiff person syndrome, I am rather stiff first thing in the mornings and thus not able to move quickly enough for intense cardio, so I have no choice but to do my cardio later in the morning. As a result, I personally miss out on this chance for some extra fat burning. But I would encourage the reader to try it for the extra "oomph" it might give to the fat-burning effects of your cardio.
But if you do the early morning cardio, you then need to eat a full breakfast afterwards. The meal, as detailed in my books, should contain lean protein, unprocessed carbs, and healthy fat. The same goes for each meal and snack throughout the rest of the day.
The protein will provide amino acids for your body to repair itself from the morning cardio. The carbs will replenish the now completely depleted glycogen so you will have energy for your weightlifting workout later in the day. And the healthy fats will elevate estuarine levels. All of these points are discussed in detail in my Eating Plan book. The book also provides food and meal suggestions. It is important to eat the right kinds of foods and to avoid the wrong kinds for this program to work.
The schedule has you doing cardio in the morning but the lifting weights later in the day. You thus have two shorter exercise periods rather than one long one.
One reason for this splitting up of the exercise is that just like with eating, exercise increases the metabolism. Any exercise will raise the metabolic rate for a few hours afterwards. Thus by splitting up the cardio and lifting workouts you get two exercise-induced metabolism boosts through the day.
Another important point concerns the hormonal result of exercise. Exercise increases growth hormone and testosterone levels. Both of these hormones can have a dramatic effect on body composition. But it should be noted that intense exercise increases their levels far more than moderate or casual exercise. Since most people cannot work out intensely for more than an hour that is one reason for limiting both to an hour.
Another reason for the limit is that if you do push much beyond an hour, your growth hormone and testosterone levels will actually begin to drop. So you'll be doing more harm than good. It must be noted that this hormonal response will actually have a greater effect on your body composition than the amount of calories burnt in the exercise. To put it another way, two, one-hour intense workouts spread several hours apart will provide much better body composition improvement than one, two-hour moderate workout.
Couple the two workouts with the 6-8 daily meals, and 8-10 times a day you are elevating your metabolism. That is why this schedule is so ideal for body fat loss.
It should also be noted that this schedule is for days when you are engaging in both cardio and lifting workouts. But such workouts should not be done every day. It is best to only lift weights 3-4 times a week, as discussed in my powerlifting book, while cardio can be engaged in 3-6 times a week.
If you engage in the greater frequency of cardio, it is best to utilize "cross-training"—engaging in two or three different types of activity. So instead of running 5-6 days a week, run 2-3 days a week, and then on 2-3 opposite days, engage in an alternate activity, like cycling, swimming, or my favorite, hitting a heavy bag. By cross-training, you'll strengthen different muscles, lessen the chance of repetitive stress injury, and decrease the risk of boredom.
An Aside for the Ladies
Do not let talk of building muscle mass and increasing testosterone levels scare you off of intense weightlifting workouts and the other suggestions in this article. You will not "accidently" develop a Hulk-ish, masculine physique. Women simply do not have sufficient testosterone to build large muscle mass regardless of diet or exercise. It is only with the use of steroids that some female athletes develop such physiques.
I know this to be true as I have met many very attractive women competing at powerlifting contests I have been at over the last few years. Some of these women could lifts weights that boggle the mind, but many of them were incredibly attractive. The point is, adding muscle mass while losing body fat will enable you to develop a shapely, attractive body.
Work and Post-work Schedule
Not everyone gets two breaks and a lunch at work, but many do. And if you do, that gives you a great opportunity for three distance meals during the workday. Eating regularly through the workday will prevent the afternoon "blahs" that many experience at work.
If you don't get regular breaks, there are many snacks that can be kept in your desk or other work space that you could grabbed as needed. Nuts, dried fruit, whole grain muffins, protein powders and bars, and meal replacement formulas are foods that can be stored without refrigeration. If you have access to a refrigerator, that will enable far more type of snack to be kept at work. Fresh fruit, cheese sticks, meat rolls, and the like are some suggestions.
Lunch time also needs to be carefully thought out. Again, it should contain a protein source, a carb source, healthy fats, along with some veggies. If you don't have access to a fridge, then a sandwich with whole grain bread, lean meat or turkey, and piled up with lettuce, tomatoes and onion is a basic choice. If you have access to a fridge, then any number of pre-cooked foods can be taken. A microwave will further increase the choices: chicken breast, a pre-baked potato, and some veggies would be a sample meal that can be stored in the fridge and heated up in the microwave.
At the end of the workday, it is time to prepare for your workout. Many find it is best to go straight from work to the gym. This way, you won't get sidetracked with home obligations and not make it to the gym later. That is the schedule presented here. But of course, it can be modified if you do need to go home first.
But for the former schedule, assuming it's been a couple of hours since your last break and thus snack, then you will need to consume some nutrients to power you through your workout. This is where a pre-workout drink comes in. The ingredients to put into such a drink are detailed in my powerlifting book.
But the important point here is you can put the dry ingredients into a shaker cup and keep that in you car, along with some water. Then when you get to you car, you can mix it up and drink it before driving to the gym. By the time you get to the gym (assuming an average commute), the liquid nutrients will be digested and ready to provide energy for the workout.
Of course, this is just one suggestion as to when to consume the pre-workout drink. If you have a short drive to the gym, you might want to keep the shaker bottle in your desk and drink it before work is over. If you have along drive, you can mix it up before taking off, but then drink it on the way.
If you need to go home after work, then your schedule would be somewhat different. If might be something like this:
End of work – drive home
Drive to gym
At least an hour after eating, lift weights for about an hour
Bedtime – eat snack if more than an hour since post-workout drink
Here, a POST-workout drink is drunk instead of a PRE-workout drink. Either pattern works. It just depends on your schedule. Chapter 20 in my powerlifting book addresses this issue in depth.
For each of these types of schedules, I am recommending consuming glutamine immediately after working out, then waiting about 30 minutes or so to consume any food or drink. The reason for this is glutamine is very helpful for recovering from strength training workouts. But it needs to be consumed on an empty stomach to be most effective. See Glutamine for further info on this supplement and dosing recommendations.
If it has been more than two hours since you last consumed something, it would be a good idea to consume something before bed. But this is one time when it is not wise to consume carbs, for reasons detailed in my Eating Plan book. You also want to be sure not to consume anything that will disturb your sleep. The most important nutrient to consume is protein, so some turkey, cottage cheese, an egg or two, or a protein drink would be some possible choices.
If your tried other fat loss/ muscle increase plans without success, try this schedule for a few weeks. You might be presently surprised at how effective it can be for body composition improvement. For more details on this subject, see my God-given Foods Eating Plan and Starting and Progressing in Powerlifting books.
Body Composition Improvement Schedule Copyright © 2010 by Gary F. Zeolla.
The above article was posted on this Web site August 1, 2010.
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