Fitness boot camps are becoming more and more popular lately. This is mostly due to the atmosphere – group exercise is fun, you feel a sense of camaraderie, and it’s easy to find people to team up with and build a support network. Getting yelled at by a Marine as you crawl through tires and jump over obstacles can also be hugely motivating, so more and more newcomers are finding themselves at boot camp.
First things first though, when you exercise, the point is to get better at exercise – not just to burn Calories. You might be at boot camp to lose fat, but to reach your goals you need to have a plan when you go home. The reason exercise is so important is because it wakes up dormant muscle and starts your metabolic furnace rolling. The secret to a healthy metabolism is actually quite simple: keeping the muscle you have and potentially building new tissue without adding fat.
Muscle is your metabolic engine, so it’s also a large part of the secret to FAT LOSS (not weight loss). TONE is muscle. Want to tone up and lean out? You need to feed the furnace.
Follow these rules and you will have the formula for finally seeing the results you have wanted all along.
1. Don’t diet! Change your lifestyle one thing at a time. Think of it this way: if you were going to quit smoking, you wouldn’t take up jogging as well. That’d pretty much overwhelm you. If you’ve decided to spend a few days each week doing high intensity fitness stuff like a boot camp or WODs, there’s really no need for you to eat at a deficit because the workout will create one for you. That single change will help you lose body fat and tone up. While you might eventually want to reassess your Calorie intake and create a larger deficit by under eating slightly, you shouldn’t do it right off the bat.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change up your nutrition a little bit, but you shouldn’t focus on eating less while you do more.
2. Don’t pull off the Band-aid. Look, I’ve been there. I had a lot of fat to lose and I wanted to lose it as quickly as possible (and I did, many times). It might be kind of exciting to get on the scale and see that you’ve lost 5 lbs. in one week, but your progress simply will not continue at that rate. In a group setting like a boot camp, you’re going to notice that a lot of people experience this phenomenon. You’re going to see a lot of people give up too.
That’s because the “pull off the Band-aid” approach just isn’t sustainable. If you are working out hard a few days a week, you should be creating enough of deficit to see real change without losing too much weight too fast. For most people, “too fast” is more than one pound of fat a week. Anything more than that and you are often digging into your muscle which, as I mentioned before, is your metabolic engine.
3. Change what you eat, not how much. A diet of mostly meats and veggies will provide an adequate base of nutrition for most people. Throw some starchy carbs like rice and potatoes in around workout time and boom, you can eat until you’re full and get great results. Most people are slaves to convenience and find themselves in a drive thru around dinner time though. The temptation is always there.
Here is my suggestion: don’t go cold turkey, like I said if you are changing the exercise portion, dieting as well will ultimately derail you. Make small changes. if you are were eating out 5 times a week, switch that to two. Which brings me to my next point.
4. Be smart about your cravings. If you’re under eating every single day and not prepared, that bagel with cream cheese will seem more appealing when you wake up but you probably won’t enjoy it. It probably won’t fill you up either.
It often surprises people to find out that they become more reliant on processed foods (especially carbs) when they’re hungry. We suggest you keep carbs in your diet to fuel greater work capacity, but you also need adequate proteins and fat. You need “real food,” otherwise you will never get out of the trap of convenience because it surrounds all of us and if you’re hungry all of the time you are going to doom yourself to failure. So gradually make changes that keep you full and allow you to get better at working out.
5. You have to prepare your food. Life is busy. It’s even more busy when you have a boot camp workout scheduled and you’re pressed for time. As I mentioned earlier, without real food readily available, it’s tempting to take the convenience route or in some cases, not eat at all. If you go into my kitchen right now, you’ll find chicken, beef, and chopped vegetables along with salad mixes. There are also mashed potatoes and baked fries. I can have a meal ready in 3 minutes. Add some chilis and some soups and you have a number of days covered.
Here are some thoughts on getting your family to buy in: For kids, if they cook it they typically eat it. When it’s dinner time put vegetables out at first. I use Sundays as prep days. My daughters also like to go skating on Sundays so once the vegetables are chopped up and the chili is in the crockpot I drop them off. It’s not perfect – they don’t always love it – but in general, if your spouse and kids aren’t on board you’re going to make everyone’s lives more difficult, including your own.
If you don’t have a spouse and kids, you can always get together with like-minded friends – potentially people you meet at boot camp – and hang out while you meal prep. Get 3 or 4 crock pots going, and split it up. Grill a bunch of meat. Think outside the box and make things fun so you can stick to it, because that’s what it’s going to take to get from where you are now to where you want to be. Seeing results that last takes hard work and preparation. Anyone who tells you differently is selling you on misinformation.