I get asked a lot about the best exercises for fat loss or how often someone should train each week…

In my role as a Human Performance Coach I believe that performance is more than just exercise. There is never a one size fits all programme for each client to follow and I often find that the exercise programme I create is usually the last thing that is going to have an impact on the performance of an individual, let me explain…

I believe it is my job as a coach to enhance high performance by obtaining a clear picture of each clients overall health and well being. (I will go into details of how I achieve this in later posts)

Each programme I create is founded on the premise that energy is the currency of high performance and I aim to focus on strategies to increase energy and manage it more effectively.

So how do you create more energy?

The Holistic Approach To Training

I have found that unless you treat the body as a whole, you won’t experience any real/ lasting change. One thing always affects another. We are often told that exhaustion from too much training has a negative effect on your energy and progress in the gym, but I don’t believe in the concept of “over-training”, the whole purpose of a training session is to push beyond your previous capabilities and overload the body. Where I find problems with energy levels is when clients under recover.

I’m very aware that putting a client through a tough session when they aren’t eating properly, sleeping properly or are under excessive pressure at work, will do a lot more harm than good.

The stress hormones will reek havoc with their body. High stress hormones equals low energy, less progress, and ultimately – less health.

If this is getting you thinking then take a look at my hierarchy of fitness below. Understand that human performance is much more than just exercise and remember that you can’t move up unless you improve the basics.

Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

Yes, my first and most important item is the foundation for your hierarchy of fitness is rest. Even if you got every single other thing right, if your sleep schedule is off, it wrecks havoc in your entire system.

Within just four days of poor sleep, your body can no longer use and regulate insulin properly. Insulin is the hormone that tells your cells to use the glucose in your blood. When you are short on sleep, insulin sensitivity drops. This means that you need more insulin to properly use up the glucose and so your system starts producing more.

The catch?

You can’t burn fat when insulin is high. It’s biochemically impossible.

But the trouble doesn’t stop here. Research has consistently shown that sleep deprivation can also:

  • Mess with leptin, the satiety hormone, this will therefore make you hungrier.
  • Significantly decrease cognitive function, including memory and decision making.
  • A risk factor for deadly chronic disease, including cancer.

Bottom line? Strive to get at least 6- 8 hours every night. If this isn’t achievable can you incorporate an afternoon nap? Or catch up at the weekends? Research has shown that keeping a weekly sleep target can still be effective and not cause you to stress too much about the odd late night. Understand that sleep is vital, but you don’t have to miss out on life by going to bed at 9pm each night in order to hit your target!

Hydration

Water is literally the essence of life, staying hydrated will protect your joints, help your body rid itself of toxins and it is also key for maintaining optimal health.

Every cell in you needs water to function properly. And yet studies show that most of us live in a state of constant dehydration. One common reason for that is we confuse hunger and thirst. Try this: next time you crave a snack, drink a glass of water first. Your body will thank you.

But how much water do you really need in a day? 8 glasses? A gallon? However much you want?

In theory, your thirst should be enough to guide you. When you are dehydrated, though, you tend to lose sensitivity for thirst. Thankfully, there are tools that could help you figure it out. I personally love this calculator but there are lots of others you can find online.

Food As Fuel

The importance of good nutrition can not be overstated. You are, quite literally, what you eat. It’s not just abs that are made in the kitchen, it’s the entire state of your body. Without the proper nutrients, your system can’t function right. Normal biochemical processes are altered and in the long run, you risk serious damage to your health, not just your figure.

You don’t need complicated diets and eating schemes. Focus on eating plenty of vegetables and lean protein at every meal. Limit the processed food you consume. Consider cutting out added sugar and reduce the amount of wheat and dairy you consume.

I know, I know, my advice is hardly revolutionary. The diet and nutrition industry is an industry for a reason. But no matter how hard they try to sell you the next fad diet, the simple tips will never go out of style. Food is fuel for your body and improving your diet will immediately enhance your wellness.

Stress Control

Yes, controlling the levels of stress you experience can be tough. You can’t control external factors and learning to manage your responses isn’t always easy.

But consider this:

Stressors have real, measurable physiological responses on your system. What begins purely in your consciousness affects everything from hormones to your brain and internal organs.

The over-secretion of stress hormones like cortisol makes you more likely to gain weight while burning fat becomes harder. Even your brain is affected, especially the areas associated with long-term memory.

Since chronic stress can have such a detrimental effect on your performance, implementing stress management techniques will dramatically improve your well-being. My personal de-stressor of choice? Meditation.

We are learning more and more about the benefits of meditation every day. Neuroscientists are only just beginning to discover the power of such a simple exercise.  I love the Master Your Mind Course by Live and Dare and also the Headspace app.

Finally, Exercise

Yes, exercise is the last item on this list. Is it really the least important on this list? In my opinion, YES.

You see a great training programme won’t get you great results if your body is completely run down, stressed out, dehydrated and malnourished! Build the strong foundations of sleep, nutrition, hydration and stress management and I guarantee you will turbo-charge your results in the gym.

On the flip side, good habits tend to follow one another, working out will often improve your sleep quality, reduce stress and perhaps even encourage you to eat a little better.

However, it can’t and should not be an end in itself. Wondering where to start with fitness? Check out my five favourite exercises to get some ideas!

Change your focus from just simply trying to improve your fitness and aim for ways to increase your energy  and your overall performance.

This is the opening article in a new series in which I will detail numerous techniques, hacks and lifestyle adjustments you can make in order to see huge improvements in your mental and physical performance.

Stay tuned!

David Osgathorp