Your Training & Nutrition Questions Answered: Part II

Following on from Part I last week, here is Part II of your fitness & nutrition questions answered:

Question: Should I incorporate supplements into my training and nutrition plan? If so which supplements and when? Yes. There are only a few I would bother consuming, which are: -

  • Protein (view as a convenient food source - avoid whey if lactose intolerant)
  • Omega 3
  • Vit D
  • Multi-Vitamin
  • Magnesium
  • Creatine
  • BCAA’s (if training fasted or training twice a day)

Question: Is the best time to train the morning after you have fasted all night if looking to lose body fat? No, not necessarily. Acute fat burning will be greater in a fasted state, but 24 hour energy balance will be no different. In English, you will use fat as your primary fuel source if training in a fasted state. However, the amount of body fat you actually lose comes down to net energy balance across the day (and week). So if training fasted leaves you feeling ravenous after training, this could lead to over-eating and the loss of your calorie deficit. You also have to consider how hard you are able to train in a fasted state. It may be more beneficial to train in a fed state if you feel you are able to train harder.

Question: Is stretching before a session important?  No - not static stretching anyway. It is very important to perform self-myofacial release (SMR) on a foam roller, mobility work (dynamic stretching) and activation drills to ensure you get the most from your training sessions and reduce the risk of injury. If holding a static stretch for long durations you lose power output for up to 3 hours. You also increase the risk of injury if lifting heavy. However, static stretching of opposing muscle groups  may be beneficial prior to training. For example, stretching your lats before overhead pressing work.

Tying yourself in knots by stretching pre-workout is probably not the best idea!

Tying yourself in knots by stretching pre-workout is probably not the best idea!

Question: If training/eating for gains in lean muscle mass, is increasing body fat inevitable? Unfortunately, yes. It is important to try to minimise fat gain whilst gaining weight. Gaining muscle is a much slower process than losing body fat, so don’t expect weight gain at a fast rate. If gaining weight too fast you run the risk of gaining a lot of fat, so aim for conservative surpluses. Make sure you are lean when you do try and bulk. For guys this means being below 15% body fat. Females, below 20%.

Question: Is losing belly fat controlled or achieved through exercise? No, unfortunately you cannot spot reduce. Where you lose body fat is controlled primarily by your hormonal status and there isn't anything you can do to meaningfully affect this. Doing direct abdominal work may result in improved strength and increased muscle in these areas but will not result in more fat loss in these areas. 

Question: If training first thing in the morning do you recommend eating before or not? The answer to this is largely down to personal preference. Try to consume either BCAAs or Protein powder pre-training to avoid potential loss of lean muscle tissue if you cannot stomach food first thing in the morning. Whole foods always reign supreme but may not be practical if it means sacrificing sleep by getting up extra early to eat and digest food before you train.

Question: Is it true that you should not drink water within 2 hours of eating because it negatively impacts your body’s digestive processes? No, your body will produce more stomach acid in response to increased water intake.

Question: If you’re under calories one day is it ok to ‘catch up’ on another day as long as weekly total is ok? Yes absolutely. It is probably more practical to think of calories weekly rather than daily. One bad or good day in isolation has little impact on the body. So for example, if your daily calorie goal is 2,000 calories (14,000 calories weekly), you could have a week that looks like this: -

Monday: 2,000 cals
Tuesday: 2,000 cals
Wednesday: 2,000 cals
Thursday: 2,000 cals
Friday: 3,300 cals (social event friday night with alcohol)
Saturday: 1,400 cals
Sunday; 1,300 cals

So from the example above, the person has eaten in a larger calorie deficit for the 2 days after Friday to make up for the extra calories consumed. 

Take Home Message: One bad day won't make or break your results!!

Question: How strong is the link between being less stressed/getting better/longer sleep and fat loss? It is probably better to view this question the other way round. How much impact does being stressed and having poor sleep have on fat loss? The answer is a HUGE impact. Stress per se isn't bad. CHRONIC stress, however, is bad. Chronic stress will result in chronically elevated cortisol levels. It has been shown in the research that stress has negative impacts on strength levels, has a large negative impact on recovery between sessions and risk of injuries doubled. As a result stressed trainees need less training frequency and/or volume to enable them to recover from training. 

With regard to nutrition stress impacts in the following ways: -

  • Stress antagonises testosterone, resulting in decreased nutrient partitioning (i.e. more calories stored as fat rather than being used to build muscle tissue)
  • A study by Habash et al (2015) found that stressful life events caused decreased TEF of 105kcal, increased insulin secretion and impaired fat oxidation. The authors of the study conclude that the stressors observed in their study could account for 5kgs of fat gain over the course of a year.

Poor sleep has been associated with: -

  • Increased appetite
  • Decreased testosterone production
  • Unfavourable alterations in nutrient partitioning
  • Increased insulin resistance
  • Decreased well being 
  • Decreased cognitive function

So as you can see, managing stress and ensuring you get good sleep should be high up on your list of priorities if fat loss (or muscle gain) is the goal. Ignore these factors at your peril.