How do I stay in shape all year around? Do I stay in shape all year around? Is it even possible to make substantial “gains” yet maintain a photoshoot like physique for 12 months of the year? Before we address any of these questions it’s important to remember that you do NOT have to be stage lean to do a photoshoot. You actually don’t even need to be lean to do a photoshoot at all. The important point to note is that the type of shoot you are doing will obviously require a completely different physique and condition. Not only this but often the actual brand you are shooting with/for will require a completely different look. This might all sound very trivial but it is hugely important. Muscular, athletic, lean, natural, clean-shaven, stubble, scruffy, well-groomed…it is all hugely specific for the shoot you are about to do.
I have always been an ectomorph, so putting on size has always been an issue but using this to my advantage is key for me with regular photoshoots. Rarely will my bodyfat creep up enough that I lose ab definition at any point throughout the year. However, the misconception is that you need to “bulk” to put on muscle. This is not the case! Slow and steady additions in lean muscle tissue can more often than not be a lot more beneficial in the long run, allowing you to stay in relatively good condition and avoiding downregulation of a lot of key hormones that occurs in the drastic bulk/cut style of dieting.
If possible, try and increase your calorie expenditure on a daily/weekly basis. This may include morning cardio, post workout cardio, longer resistance training sessions or regular classes like boxing, spinning, yoga. Even things like taking the stairs rather than the lift, a powerwalk rather than the bus, or fun activities every so often like rock climbing, squash and hill walking. It sounds very basic but if you build these into your routine and enjoy them you will see a massive benefit. For me, morning cardio while answering client emails, writing blogs and planning my day is the perfect start to my day.
Try if possible to get into the habit of choosing calorie-sparing foods over calorie dense foods when not sticking to a nutritional program. For example, sweet potatoes and quinoa rather than white rice, bread or white potatoes. As well as this, if you are going low carb and keeping fats high just be careful. You need to remember that 1g of fat equates to 9kcal where as 1g of carbs is only 4kcal. So before you start tucking into that nut butter just remember how calorie dense it is, especially protein nut butter.
Carb cycling will allow you to eat carbs from clean sources without adding body fat. The cycling element enables you to better utilize fat for burning as fuel, as opposed to burning carbs and muscle tissue for fuel by switching between the insulin pathway and the glucagon pathway more efficiently.
It is well known that high carbohydrate consumption causes the release and stimulation of insulin in the blood, helping to shuttle nutrients into the muscles, replenishing lost muscle glycogen, aid in recovery and stimulate proteins synthesis. High carb days can also be a great tool for topping up energy levels and prepare your body for intense training days. On the other hand, low carb days promote fat as a fuel source. During these days, your body will be able to burn through glycogen that is stored from the high carb days eventually dipping into fat stores for energy. This is a very effective way to keep your body more insulin sensitive and improve fuel utilization efficiency and your ability to also trigger muscle building.
Exact protocols vary in terms of specific numbers, but all are based on that simple structure. For example, you may do 4 low-carb days, followed by a high-carb day, and then a no-carb day, and then start over. Or you may do 3 low-carb days followed by 1 high-carb day, and then back to the low-carb and so on.
Way too often I see people go on a 6-week cut or a 6-week bulk without an end goal. The key to success is to form a lifestyle rather than a diet. I try and encourage all my clients to get a solid plan, training and nutrition, which can be maintained for a sustained period of time. Staying in shape all the time is all about finding a balance and a lifestyle that suits you the individual, your goals, your life and is therefore more enjoyable and most important, it is a lot easier to stick to. Keep consistent. If you can keep consistent and integrate your “diet” into your daily life you will see results. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will the physique of your dreams, so be patient and look to achieve steady gains while maintaining a relatively good level of conditioning.
For me, getting ready for shoots or being successful in the fitness industry can be tough at times but without doubt the most underestimated aspect of success is your company. The support network and positive influence from others is massively underestimated in my opinion. In such a world (and industry) saturated with hate and negativity, being surrounded by positive, likeminded people can be invaluable. Sometimes these may be friends, family, peers or colleagues but make sure you have a good network. Most importantly make sure you don’t have negative people in your life. I’ve been guilty of holding onto too many negative people in the past and I find it a lot with my clients who struggle. Negative people in your life can be like a disease that spreads throughout your success. Once you have a stable support network without negativity you will be successful. Most people succeed even without eradicating the negativity, so just imagine how much more productive you could be if you did.
by Chris Spearman
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