Consistency is a word that gets used a lot in the health and fitness industry and it is certainly true that to reach pretty much any fitness or physique goal, there has to be an element of consistency involved. That consistency might be in relation to your training or nutrition and for most people with a physique or performance goal, then consistency in both is essential. As the old saying goes, you can’t out train a bad diet, but it is also true that you are probably not going to get the physique/performance results you want with a good diet but without consistent training.
One thing I have noticed though, is that people often don’t know what consistency means, at least in relation to their specific goals. In its basic form, it should be pretty obvious this relates to consistently exercising in a way that supports our goals, whilst consistently providing our bodies with the right fuel to exercise, recover and support the physical or performance adaptations we desire.
For most people this level of ‘basic’ consistency is enough to maintain a good physique, with healthy levels of body fat, a good amount of muscle and to be generally fit and healthy. But what about those people who want to be a physique athlete, perform to the best of their ability and to reach their full physical or performance potential?
In this situation, our previously mentioned consistency is only the base. Training regularly and eating well are only the starting point, they also need to ‘level’ up their consistency. When you hear elite athletes from any sport talk about consistency, they will often talk about practice and hours spent in the gym, but what they hardly mention is progression. It is not just consistency, but the requirement to consistently progress which is going to create whatever improvements you desire.
Having the right training program is a great starting point, having a solid base in nutrition is as well, but if each session you are not aiming to progress, to become fitter, faster or stronger and your nutrition is not being evaluated and adjusted to these ever-increasing demands, then you can still be consistent without consistently progressing in the way we might like.
So, where do we start with consistency and how do we develop consistent progression? Well, for most people, they need to build a foundation and that foundation should include two things: firstly, a training plan that is specific to their goals and in line with current ability, and a nutrition strategy that meets basic macronutrient and energy needs. If you are at this point it is important to focus on making sure you set small manageable goals, for example hitting the gym 3 times per week and making sure you stick to your daily calorie and protein targets.
Too many people do too much too soon and wonder why they can’t cope with trying to maintain consistency, having come from having very little consistency at all. It is more important in this phase to build small, manageable changes to training and diet and only once those basic habits have been formed, and consistency is no longer a struggle, should we think about moving on to the stuff that is going to take progress to the next level.
Once we’re at this point, we can then start to build on our foundation. We do this by increasing our training volume slowly, following a structured plan that allows for us to get bigger, faster, stronger, and fitter or whatever our goal is. If you have no idea how to progress training appropriately to your goals, then it is always worth investing in a reputable coach to help structure a training plan and create accountability.
The same applies for nutrition as well. They may be expensive, but the cost is massively outweighed by the progress you make and the time you’ll save in the long run. Alternatively, hit the books (or the internet) and immerse yourself in training principles and how to manipulate them to your goals. Learn how to structure a diet and adjust it with your goals in mind and what supplements might benefit your chosen goal. Ask on reputable forums and groups for input and guidance and to help refine your understanding and the plans you have in place.
This kind of consistency can be boring and hard work. Knowing each training session is going to get harder, knowing that food either increases or decreases in calories is going to be more challenging. To reach ‘higher’ goals is mentally and physically tough, but is what those cover models you see on fitness mags, or top level athletes do week in-week out for large portions of the year… year on year.
Consistency with food is arguably the hardest thing. Eating the same food can be boring, especially if weighing and measuring everything. Although eating large volumes of food to support muscle growth may seem wonderful at face value, trust me, to really force the body to grow and support muscle growth and high training volumes once you reach a certain point is not fun in the least.
This means that food variety and finding ways to hit targets becomes important. Buying foods in bulk can help create consistency and stop you deviating off plan, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat the same foods all the time. For example, for muscle building, ensuring we eat enough can, for some, be challenging, so choose those foods that are easier to consume and high in protein and calories and easy to digest, such as our range of weight gain supplements, whey proteins and protein bars/flapjacks to snack on.
For body fat loss, consistency can be even more crucial and if we are serious about reaching very low levels of body fat, then buying bulk foods becomes even more important for making sure dietary adjustments are consistent and having their desired effects. For most people trying to be healthy a sandwich or snack on the go might be convenient and acceptable within their daily calorie needs, however they do not often accurately reflect the actual calorie/macronutrient amounts as they are allowed to have a certain level of variation within these types of pre-packaged products.
For a physique contest/bodybuilding contest prep, every meal and every calorie counts, so when we make adjustments, we want this to be from consistent food sources that are generally whole foods with no potential unwanted calories.
Whole and high protein foods are important as they help control hunger, with egg whites, nut butters, and high protein/low calorie food alternatives being a staple of many physique athletes’ diets for this reason. This consistency also helps psychologically, knowing that we are doing everything as accurately as possible and leaving nothing to chance. This is, of course, bordering on obsessive but is important, if not essential, for success.
This level of consistency is extreme, and something that a majority of people would unlikely need to consider. However, there are different levels of consistency that are appropriate to different goals, so pick the level of consistency that suits yours, but remember that in order to reach your personal physical or performance peak then you need to be progressing consistently and the more you want to improve the more consistent you are likely you need to be.