Q: Dear Cory, I know weight training plays an important role in fitness, health and strength training. I’ve heard and read many theories pertaining to how I’m supposed to train. Could you explain some of the principles that you use yourself in gym and share how they helped you win the Canadian Masters Natural Bodybuilding Championships?
A: In this third and final installment, I’d like to focus on what I call the Essential Keys to Training Success. They include Nutrition, Consistency, Intensity, Sleep and Attitude.
The First Key is NUTRITION. Nutrition involves the consumption of the elements essential to life and conducive to optimum function. These include light, air, water and food. Food is basically composed of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, trace elements, enzymes) and various components such as fiber, chlorophyll, alkaloids, lactones, glycosides, etc. Whole foods provide an organic source of thousands of unique naturally occurring nutrients and phytonutrients that interact with the structure and immune function of the body. This is why it is so important to be aware of the influence of food and to understand how it relates to our health and performance.
Resistance training is a form of mental and physical stress, which generates increased demands on the entire system. Training intensity and frequency are two determinants that determine calorie needs and nutrient requirements. More protein, for example, is required if you are trying to increase muscle size and strength. Most bodybuilders and strength athletes consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight as a minimum standard, although it is more accurate to base protein requirements on lean mass. Depending on your athletic class, I recommend 1.5-3.0 gm of high-quality protein per kg of lean mass per day. The objective regardless of training format or goals is to maintain a positive nitrogen balance. This is where meal replacements, protein shakes and sports bars can come in handy.
The second key is INTENSITY. Intensity is a loose term. It means different things to different people. Some think of intensity as maximum physical effort or equate it with achieving a state of 100 percent momentary exertion. Others associate it with temporary exhaustion or what it takes to cause a certain muscle or group of muscles to fail.
Intensity of training refers to how hard you work out or the difficulty of your training. It can be defined as the average amount of weight lifted or described as a percentage of how much weight you can lift for one repetition. Intensity has also been used to define the magnitude of the load employed, while others define it as the rate of the actual work performed.
All out effort forces the body to compensate by increasing the dimension of individual muscle fibers or the force they can generate via neurological activation when they are called upon to contract through recruitment. This is how the body adapts to the stress of training, provided it is adequately rested and supplied with the raw materials required for adaptation. Going through the motions does not challenge the body, so no additional positive changes will occur. Athletes must train and live progressively if they expect to improve performance.
CONSISTENCY is the third key. To derive any benefit from the effects of training you have to actually workout and train, so the first rule is you’ve got to get to the gym! Ideally, your workouts should be strategically planned and viewed as a top priority, not just for building or toning muscle, but for the maintenance of health and the security of well-being. Each of us has an inner athlete locked into our DNA just waiting to be expressed and part of what drives us forward is the acknowledgement of this fact!
Exercise demands time, energy, and a strong commitment. If we expect to achieve a high level of physical health & athletic performance then we must remain loyal to the cause and demonstrate allegiance to what optimum health requires. Like the archer, we have to keep a sharp eye on the target we intend to hit.
Achieving a lean abdominal region or adding inches to your biceps is no easy task. Without clarity of purpose and ferocity of intent, any original commitment to exercise will get swallowed up in the sea of procrastination or shelved on the wall of personal idleness. Consistency is a brother to persistence. It is that quality in everyone that pushes us through the hard times and past the myriad of excuses which are used to justify missed workouts. Once again, you cannot make any progress if you don't work-out and if you don’t lift you will experience what I call the ‘muscle slide’.
The fourth essential key to training success is SLEEP and this is a big one. Why humans require sleep and what happens within the brain hemispheres during sleep is not entirely understood. It appears that the body and mind are regenerated and that specific glands, tissues and organs are given a metabolic rest.
While sleeping, the pituitary gland releases growth hormone cyclically, which is essential to recovery, muscular growth, fatty acid metabolism and immune system function. Melatonin is released and as an antioxidant protects neurons from damage. Foods consumed during the day are broken down and assimilated into human tissue, and muscle cells injured through training recover, adapt, and grow a little larger or more powerful. In essence they are remodeled.
Heavy training demands longer periods of rest and sleep. Remember, your body doesn't grow in the gym. It recovers and grows at night during sleep. This is why sleep deprivation leads to loss of energy, poor concentration, irritability, reduction of strength and power and increased risk of injury, infection and immune system dysfunction.
Nutrients and herbs known to sedate and calm the nervous system or prevent insomnia, include calcium, magnesium, lecithin, niacin, inositol, tryptophan, 5-HTP, melatonin, St. John's Wort, GABA, glycine, valerian root, hops, scullcap, kava kava, passion flower and chamomile. There are many others including some good homeopathic remedies, but at any rate, don’t forsake the benefits of a good nights rest.
The fifth and final key is ATTITUDE. Attitude of mind is the master key that unlocks every door because thought is the most powerful substance in the universe. Motivation, which gets you to the gym and determines your workout intensity, is generated through and from your mind. Your state of mind predetermines your state of body. Thought is the cause; your life is the effect. If you think in positive terms, you will get positive results. If you think in negative terms, you will get negative results. You must visualize your goals and imagine how good and how wonderful it will feel to achieve them.
Our mind is like a sponge, soaking up everything it receives through the sensory organs of the brain and central nervous system. It can be likened to a huge magnet, attracting particles of information from all sides, both consciously and unconsciously. Reading articles on exercise, health and nutrition will program your inner computer to change your behavior toward that end. Attend seminars, listen to CDs, read books, subscribe to journals and enroll in home study education courses. Knowledge and objective, science-based education increases our ability to execute correct living habits that will improve our level of wellness and quality of life to the fullest.