As the 2016 Olympic Games commence, we’ll no doubt be tuning in to marvel at the athletic wonders as they yet again produce some astounding performances. What interests me more however, is some of the lean and powerful physiques on display. The cyclists have thick powerful quads and calves, the Olympic weightlifters display muscular tree-trunk legs and shoulders like boulders, the gymnasts are ripped and wouldn’t look out of place on men’s fitness magazine cover. Arguably the athletics track takes centre stage when it comes to admirable physiques. Particularly the 100M sprint finalists. The males have bulging biceps, striated shoulders and thick muscular thighs. The women can also be seen with ripped torsos, powerful glutes and lean legs. Despite none of these athletes actually training for aesthetics, they all look pretty damn good right? And even if taking it to the extreme like this isn’t for you, it still begs the question “Can we take some of the exercise and nutritional techniques used by these elite athletes to actually improve our own body composition?” The ABC fit answer is absolutely yes! Take a look below for some top tips:
Do HIIT Sprints
Amongst various other factors sprinters look good because they sprint. Sprints performed in an interval fashion melt fat fast. Studies have shown a 10-20% reduction in body fat over a 12 week period from sprints alone. This obviously depends on previous exercise background and the protocol followed, but it still goes to show the influence sprints can have on body composition. It’s also an extremely explosive activity, which means it is fantastic for activating the fast twitch fibres which could lead to hypertrophy of these muscles. Sprinting is also great at releasing anabolic hormones, testosterone and GH. Both are great for muscle building and losing body fat. You can perform your sprints outside, on a treadmill or you can use a treadmill switched off AKA the deadmill. You simply use the weight of the belt as light resistance. Let’s look at some sprint interval protocols you can try to get started. Begin each session with 5-10 minutes of steady state cardio and some SMR/mobility drills, particularly along the posterior chain muscles such as the hamstrings and glutes.
25 meter sprint
120 secs recovery
50 meter sprint
120 secs recovery
50 meter sprint
60 secs recovery
75 meter sprint
120 secs recovery
100 meter sprint
150 secs recovery
Stimulate Fast Twitch Muscle Fibres With Explosive Resistance Exercises
Resistance exercise is so important for not only increasing our strength, building lean tissue, but also for fat loss. I’m pretty confident in saying 100% of all the clientele I’ve worked with that have had body composition goals included some sort of resistance work within their plan. By using more explosive tempos with our resistance exercises it means we can stimulate the fast twitch muscle fibres. These are the ones with the most potential for growth. Safely and explosively moving against a resistance also means we can burn more energy for our fat loss goals. Compound exercises will work best, so focus on exercises such as squats, deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, pull-ups and chest presses. You would then use an explosive tempo such as 30X0. This means, three seconds on the negative or muscle lengthening portion of a rep, and X meaning to explode as fast as you can on the positive or muscle shortening portion of a rep.
The athletes are often training for hours each day, and take hydration very seriously and despite not keeping up a rigorous routine on quite the same level, so should you. Keeping your body optimally hydrated is essential not only for improved body composition, but for staying alive. Aim for 0.033L of water per KG of bodyweight per day for improved performance, focus, digestion, lean mass gain and fat loss. For a 70kg individual that’s: 0.033L X 70kg = 2.3L of water per day. You can also supercharge your waters hydration power by spiking it with a pinch of electrolyte salts. This will help expedite it’s absorption.
Manage Carbohydrates For Controlled Blood Glucose Levels
When it comes to sustaining energy levels and improving body composition, carbohydrates are King! Regardless of if your goal is to burn fat, build muscle or both, carbs are as equally important. So removing them from the diet completely isn’t a wise idea. Choosing better sources however is. We should be looking to consume starchy and fibrous complex carbs with our meals. Starchy complex carbs are lower on the GI scale meaning they take a while to breakdown and be converted into blood glucose. This helps us manage insulin levels and keep our blood glucose levels stable. When we choose poor carbohydrate sources such as sugary sweets and pastries, our blood glucose is sent on a roller coaster ride and over time insulin starts to become less efficient ie. insulin sensitivity decreases. As a result energy levels are constantly up and down, we feel tired, we’ll be more likely to store body fat and it could lead to other serious issues down the line such as diabetes. Complex carb sources include sweet potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, brown pasta and various berries. Fibrous carbs include all greens such as broccoli, spinach and green beans.
Practice And Protein
You remember that tv commercial with Mo Farah preaching “practice protein” numerous times right? If it didn’t stick, it should of done! A high protein diet will help recover and repair your muscles from exercise. Protein is also quite hard for the body to breakdown meaning it’ll require more calories to digest and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Aim for 1-2 palm sized portions of protein per meal and focus on the foods from the following list: chicken, beef, turkey, tuna, salmon, cod, sea bass, swordfish, crab, prawns, eggs, venison, boar, buffalo, zebra. Last but not least, practice all of the strategies above regularly to see gold medal worthy results!