Cheat Sheet - How to Pick the Right Workout, Diet & Supplements
By: Joshua Hockett
There are endless places to find information and advice on training, diet, recovery, and supplementation. This access to resources can be both a great blessing and a dire case of information overload.
I cannot tell you how many times I've had clients and even athletes ask me who to trust, what to believe, who to listen to, what to read, what to avoid, etc. I can't fully blame them.
Even with an advanced degree and multiple certifications in the field, I often have to do some work to find credible, valid, and trustworthy information. Formulating an evidence-based practice, and trying to stay abreast on the changing state of the fitness and exercise science industry can be challenging.
Without such a formal background I can see where people can either be lost in the chaos. It's easy to confused on what to do, and what to focus on most and least as it applies to their own goals.
The result is constant program/diet-hopping, looking for “the one final answer.”
On the other hand, I have found people who do find something that sounds and looks appealing, but in reality it is pure hype or awful dogma. What they decide to follow has little to no basis of actual merit on scientific principles.
Making matters worse is the fact that in fitness the phrase “more than one way to skin a cat” could not be more true. Harrington Emerson was quoted as having said this perfectly. His words have stayed with me as a practicing professional strength and conditioning coach for years.
“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”
This statement supports what I see in exercise science and fitness training. There are hundreds of methods (pebble matters) or workout plans, diet plans, supplements, lifestyles, etc… They can - and do - lead to successful outcomes that you, me or your best buddy may be seeking.
If it works and you like it, then do it! The catch, however, is knowing what these underlying principles (big rock matters) are to begin with so that you can better understand if that method is right for you or not.
So here I offer a cheat sheet of items to ask yourself when trying to pick out the diet, workout program, supplementation plan, wearable tech gadget, etc., that is best for you. Look for principles and focus on the big rocks, not the tiny pebble issues.
Your Workout and Nutrition Cheat Sheet
Training plan selection
DUP, linear, non-linear, conjugate method, Westside method, split routines, once per week or twice per week, high rep or low rep, high or low volume?
- Does it use a periodization method over the month, year?
- Does it use progressive overload in some form?
- Do you enjoy this kind of training program/style?
- Do you track weekly progress in your performance?
Dietary adoption and application
Intermittent fasting, IIFYM, flexible dieting, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, vegan, Paleo, etc.
- Can you see yourself doing this by the book in one year or more?
- Can you afford the program long term?
- Can you follow the program within your social circle (family, friends)?
- Is it too restrictive for you to enjoy and comply?
- Does it eliminate common foods you enjoy eating
- Is it beyond your culinary skill set?
$41.1 billion industry in USA alone in 2016.
- Does the supplement have 3rd party independent test approval (NSF, Informed Choice, Consumer Labs, USP, BSCG)?
- Can you afford the product long term?
- Does the supplement have scientific validation in multiple meta-analysis based studies (check JISSN for open access research position papers or Examine.com to look at consensus statements)?
- Does the supplements have a purported ergogenic benefit relative to your goals (e.g. why take a thermal when bulking, and why take a weight gainer when cutting)?
- Only use what you REALLY need! Not what you want to try or think you need!
What recovery methods to use?
- Is their validated evidence to support the tactic? Search NLM (National Library of Med) for JSCR (Journal of Strength & Conditioning) abstracts by keyword to see what has been covered and the outcomes.
- Is the method practical (foam roll vice contrast baths and cryotherapy)?
- Can afford it? $60 weekly sports massage anyone?
So to recap this list. Think about the principles first.
Know what it is your looking to accomplish and become educated as to what principles have merit and have stood the test of time. Most of the time this will reside as a middle ground approach, not the extreme ends of latest and greatest or new and flashy.