Training While Confined: Are Mass Gains And Fat Loss Still Possible?
So here we are… Everywhere on the planet, pretty much half of the population is confined to their houses. Talk about the experience of a lifetime. I mean, our grand-parents lived through World War II. Us? We will have to contend with COVID-19 crisis. I’m not saying it’s tremendously impactful in many way though. For a lot of people, it can be a long and painful moment. For others, it will be heart-breaking. Whether it’s because you lost a loved one to the pandemic, lost your job, fell into debts, etc… The negative impact can be emotional as well as economic, if not both.
We don’t have control over the progression of this situation (well, not directly). The only thing we can do to help is to stay home and take all the necessary precautions. So let’s be proactive. Better do something in order to get as positive an outcome as possible.
But there is also an endless list of things you can take the time to do to improve in your lives. Since you are a Thibarmy follower, why not evaluate the elements that affect your training and diet since that’s what we are good at.
What to do with your diet?
In the last week or two, this question has been asked very often. People are now training at home. Unless you are part of the lucky few who have a full home gym, most of us must rely on their bodyweight or very few pieces of equipment. Does that mean you are doomed to lose all your hard-earned gains? Not at all. Solutions do exist, such as Christian Thibaudeau’s Beat The Apocalypse programs [INSERT LINK]. No matter how you train though, it will require some adjustments to your training methodology. But the main objective is still the same: finding ways to make a simple bodyweight exercise harder. This is exactly what our Beat The Apocalypse programs workout series does. Like most of you, we, too, have had to find innovative ways to continue to train our customers and ourselves
First things first: what to do with your diet? Honestly, do you think I would have created a ”confinement diet”?? Or the “anti-COVID-19” diet?? As in, what’s the best diet to fight the coronavirus? And promises such as “How to boost your immune system so you won’t catch this virus”? I hope not. I will never be that disrespectful to you and I know you are smarter than that
What I can do however is help you tweak your diet so you can keep pursuing the goal you were striving for before all of this happened. You’re probably feeling like your training sessions are not as efficient at building muscles or strength. That’s possible. But then, what of the calories you eat and macro split? Well, to counter that, what you can do is to try to make the training sessions as productive as possible. And just like with training, the nutrition side of things need some adjustments to fit these new training sessions. So here are some quick tips you can apply to your diet and still achieve your goals.
Fat loss is probably the simplest and easiest goal to pursue, even when confined. The equation is the same: you have to burn more calories than what you are ingesting. Now it’s possible you feel like your training sessions are not as hard as they used to be, and that consequently you don’t burn as many calories in a single training session. While that might (might!) be true, you can compensate with different types of activity that will make you burn more total calories, whether daily or weekly.
Here’s an example:
One of the clients I work with was on a 1950 kcal/day diet, with a macro breakdown of 40% protein, 30% fat, and 30% carbs. A standard and well-balanced plan. Now that he is confined at home and not working his usual desk job, he is doing lots of manual labor and yard work. He lifts and carries a wheelbarrow full of rock every day. After a couple of days, he texted me and said that he was feeling exhausted, as if he was not recovering enough from a usual workout. So I had him write a daily log of his activity and exercises.
Here is the rundown of a typical day:
7:00 am – Hill walking or mid-pace jogging outside for 30-40 minutes in a fasted state.
8:15 am – Breakfast
10:00 am – Workout with bodyweight exercises and resistance bands for about 45 minutes.
Noon – lunch
1:30 pm to 4:30 pm – Working in the garden, renovating his house
5:30 pm – Dinner
7:00 pm – Walk outside for 30-40 min
Now compare to his former, pre-Covid19 training regimen and daily activity:
6:30 am – breakfast (and all the usual family stuff such as driving the kids to school and face traffic to get to the office).
9:00 up until noon – office work, seated
noon – lunch
1:00 pm up until 4:40 pm – office work, seated
5:00 pm – Workout for about an hour and a half with moderate volume and 20 minutes cardio
7:00 pm – Dinner and relax until bed
10:00 pm – Go to bed
That client was still able to lose fat and fuel his workout with 1950 calories daily and a little daily energy expenditure, save for his workout session. But now, he is moving around a lot more, lifting heavy stuff, walking and jogging. Even if bodyweight workouts leave him feeling like he is not working as hard compared to squatting and benching heavy, he is still burning a lot more total calories in a day. No wonder he felt like he was not recovering!
Bonus point, working in the yard is not something that he is used to, which represents a new kind of stimulus. This explains the new aches he felt every day.
The solution was to increase his calories, mainly carbs, to compensate for his increased glycogen need. We increased his calories by 400 kcal, increased the carbs and reduced the fat intake a bit. The end result was more total calories in the form of carbs. We played around with his macros until he was again losing fat while being able to sustain is increased workload.
Fragment your workout
Believe it or not, the present situation may be a blessing in disguise for your body composition goal. This is especially true if you are currently working remotely or not working. While the latter is not great financially (sorry for you if that is the case), there are still a lot of things you can do to be proactive with your exercise regimen. After all, you have more time on your hands and there are a lot of possibilities for activities that will burn more fat. Let’s focus on that silver lining.
One simple method I recommend to increase your daily caloric output is to do multiple short workouts instead of a longer one. Doing a quick cardio session before each meal can be a significant help in the fat loss game. It will also improve macro-nutrient partitioning, which is the way you metabolize your foods. For example, another client I work with kept the same meal plan but the following: he added a 15-minute cardio session (just a brisk walking at a 110-120 bpm pace). This kickstarted his fat loss. We also split is bodyweight workout in two sessions. One session is done in the morning, and the other one in late PM. This client now feels fuller all day and benefits from a better partitioning of his macro-nutrients.
What about adding muscles?
Yeah, I know: gaining muscle with bodyweight workouts seems impossible when it’s already hard to gain muscle with a gym chock full of heavy barbells and dumbbells. Well, think again! Gaining muscle is all about the tension and the volume you put on your muscles.
A few easy examples on how to train hard at home:
-Find push-up variations that require a less advantageous lever.
-Slow down the eccentric of your pull-up
-Give single leg squat a try
-Put some water bottle or food can in a bag and curl it up
There’s a myriad of ways to make the most basic exercises harder. If you have more time to train, you can add more total volume, fragmenting your workout and increasing the frequency to your workouts. The only rule is to apply more tension and more training volume to your muscles.
The rules don’t differ from what you are used to do in the gym; you just don’t have the barbells you used to.
If you apply these tips properly and still train hard, you will still need that calorie surplus to build muscle. And this, my friend, is no different than any diet plan to add mass. You won’t get fatter because you can’t train ”in” the gym. As long as you can justify these calories to your body, you’ll get the same results.
So instead of waiting for the gyms to reopen and worrying about losing all your precious gains, take the bull by the horns and kick your butt with the hardest possible training.
The world may be in a significant era of change. Maybe we won’t live the same way after all this. We will surely have to rethink some of our lifestyle habits (for the better, I hope!) But one thing is for sure: the way your body work won’t change. And achieving your goals is not a matter of the equipment available to you. The training rules have not changed. The same goes for nutrition. The rules for fat loss or muscle mass are the same.
Remember, the essential thing you muscle needs to grow is ADAPTATION.
And the same goes for yourself: adapt to the situation to succeed.
Stay safe, stay home, and train!