By Naomi Rabon, NW Fitness Team Trainer
It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to accomplish ‘errythang’ when it comes to your fitness goals. I am guilty of this at times too, even though I know better. It’s particularly easy to want to accomplish multiple goals when you have an interest in or – even worse – a passion for particular physical aesthetics (achieving or maintaining a certain look) and athletic performance goals as well (running, triathlons, obstacle course events, tennis, etc.).
WANTING IT ALL
One of the first questions a trainer or coach typically asks a client is: “What are your goals?” Almost every time this question is asked, the answer is generally met with the equal repetitiveness: “I want to gain muscle, lose body fat and build strength.” Man, if I had a dollar every time I heard that. You want it all: the muscles, the ripped, shredded look and the athletic performance to go with it. And why shouldn’t you? People achieve all of these things, so if it’s attainable and that’s what you want for yourself, it’s only normal to have those as your fitness goals right?
NARROWING IN ON YOUR TARGET
Well, of course it’s not that simple. Let’s break this apart:
1. Gaining Muscle This can takes months, even years, of consecutive heavy (I mean, heavy!) lifting; being in at least a caloric maintenance or, better yet, a surplus; keeping cardio on the lower side in order to allow for optimal muscle growth; and most of all, being patient. Building muscle is almost like growing a mighty Sequoia tree.
2. Losing Body Fat The process of losing body fat can be tricky if you are trying to lose a lot while maintaining the most amount of muscle. This is more about finding the right amount of cardio and caloric deficit window where you are able to lean out but not completely deflate. The primary difference here between the target goal of gaining muscle vs losing body fat is being in a deficit vs being in a surplus, which means you’re expending more calories than you’re taking in (deficit) vs. taking in more calories than you’re burning (surplus).
3. Athletic Performance Achieving athletic performance goals can be all over the board with regard to workouts depending on your sport and your specific improvement goals. The biggest difference with regard to nutrition for performance vs. body composition goals (building muscle/losing body fat) is that eating for a specific “look” is irrelevant, for the most part, and your main priority with athletic performance is eating (fueling your body) for optimal performance in the sport you’re participating in. The same goes for your workouts. If your goal is to increase your speed, endurance, agility, strength or athletic performance, then your workouts should be geared toward strengthening your muscles, flexibility, agility, etc. that will help you improve your performance in that sport. As a side effect, you may see improved physique changes, but for athletic performance goals, your workouts won’t primarily be geared toward aesthetic improvements, such as increasing the width of your back, or filling out your glutes.
It’s not to say that you can’t have all three goals – gaining muscle, losing body fat, and achieving or improving an athletic performance goal – but you should focus your fitness program to one of those three goals at a time. Because each of these goals can require such different workouts, cardio and nutrition protocols, trying to accomplish all of them at the same time will pretty much guarantee you won’t be able to achieve any of them, or at least not achieve them to the capacity you’d like to.
For example, doing an athletic event while in a caloric deficit to lose body fat will greatly affect your performance. By the same token, trying to gain muscle while attempting to achieve an athletic performance goal (depending on what the sport is) can affect both your ability to gain muscle and affect your performance if the two goals are not complementary to one another.
The bottom line is, the more specific you are about your goals and the more specifically you narrow down a goal to focus on for a particular length of time – in other words, aiming for one target at a time – the better your success rate will be of achieving that goal.
ABOUT NAOMI RABON
One of the trainers on Nicole’s elite NW Fitness Training Team, Naomi is a certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is a NPC Figure competitor who has been involved in the health and fitness industry for over 12 years.