If you’re like me then you want to get stronger to lift more weight, get in better condition, and move closer to your ideal aesthetic.
No problem with that.
How do you move closer to reach that?
You got to a lot of things, and there is no one right answer and never a clear, straight path to get there.
With that said, however, there are what I call “Pre-requisites” that need to be met in order for you to progress and get stronger, no matter your goal. If not, then there is almost no way for you (maybe besides performing enhancing drugs — and we don’t want that) that will get you there.
What are pre-requisites for gains?
Pre-requisites for Gains
If you’re in college, or have been, there you’re familiar with pre-requisites. They need to be taken in order for you to take your advanced level classes because if you do not then you will most likely be lost, have minimal understanding of the subject matter, and probably receive a poor grade in the class, or even fail.
Now, if you want to gain strength, put on lean muscle mass, lose fat, and get in better condition, then there are pre-requisites that you need to meet for these things to happen.
What are they?
- Proper and quality sleep/rest
- Good and adequate nutrition
- Stress management
Let’s discuss each one of these in more detail down below
Proper and Quality Sleep/Rest
The first pre-requisite you need to meet is proper and quality sleep/rest. Without it, you’re throwing gains out the window.
Before you start lecturing me on how difficult that is let me just say “Okay, I get.” I know for many it is hard to get a good night’s rest, and I have problems with this too, which can be extremely frustrating.
With that said, you need to do your best to make quality sleep a priority everyday, so your body can do its best to recover and repair itself.
It’s cliche, but your muscle is really made when your sleeping and resting.
So, how do you get better sleep or rest?
You have to make it a priority. Plain and simple.
Making sleep a priority will allow you to feel so much better that you won’t believe it unless you actually do it consistently over time. I can’t say for you, but I feel so much stronger, focused, energetic, have such a positive mood and attitude during my workouts and the day that it’s awesome. If I don’t then I feel lethargic, weak, I have a poor mood, I’m irritable, and I’m just not as sharp as I usually am.
The difference is really amazing.
Secondly, you have to make it a habit to go to bed earlier, especially before midnight. Sleeping before midnight practically counts for 2 hours of sleep for every hour that you sleep after midnight. I know there is controversy about this, but before the skeptic police comes after me, let me just ask you this: have you tried it?
If you haven’t then don’t talk.
Try this experiment.
Go to bed at 10pm for two weeks and do your best to get 8 hours of quality sleep (that means you’ll be waking at 6am or so). Next, try switching your bedtime to midnight for the next 2 weeks…even 4 weeks. I guarantee you’ll feel better with the 10pm bedtime, and not the midnight bedtime, even though you’ll get the same amount of rest.
But that does not mean I need a scientific study with laboratory conditions, and parameters in place to tell me if you go to bed earlier it’ll benefit you.
Science is slow, so if something works for you now than dive into it more, and figure it out, like with sleep.
Lastly, what will improve your sleep even further will be quieting your mind at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
That means nothing with screens: TV, your phone, laptop, computer, iPad, etc. This will help your mind de-stress from the day and clear your mind of active engagement. Very hard I know, but do this instead.
Try listening to calming music, stretching, silent meditation/deep breathing, reading a novel, or something that is calming and peaceful like that.
Again, like with everything health or fitness related, making this a habit will allow you to execute this in practice. Hard in the beginning, yes. But, try making it a challenge for a week, and it might motivate you to do it and make it a habit for the foreseeable future.
Let’s recap sleep:
- Make sleep a priority.
- Go to sleep before midnight (let’s say bed no later than 11pm).
- Calm the mind at least 30 minutes before bed.
You do those three things and it’s just about guaranteed you’ll get better sleep, and on your way to better gains.
Solid and Adequate Nutrition
Next, let’s talk nutrition.
You can train like an animal, but if the food you eat is shit, odds are you’ll probably feel like it, and not give your body the nutrients (macro and micro) that it needs.
Sure, you may know someone who eats like shit, yet they look great.
Cool, man. That’s good for them. They’re the exception (genetic freaks), and for the other 95% of us we have to eat right to make our gains.
So, how do we start?
The first thing you want to do is take an inventory of the food you eat on a daily basis.
Evaluate those foods, and try to eliminate as much sugars (sweets, sodas, etc.), processed food (anything prepackaged that comes in a box), and simple carbohydrates (white bread, flour, potato chips, etc.) that you can.
After, substitute those foods with healthier and wholesome ones. For instance, if you have a big sweet tooth, substitute your sweet craving with fruits, like berries, and maybe combine it with organic, plain whole-milk yogurt for a snack. Not only does that give you the sweet you’re looking for it is also packed with nutrients, like protein, probiotics, and good saturated fat for hormonal health. This is a much better alternative to a Snickers candy bar.
Now, what about macronutrient ratios?
Everyone will be different in this regard based on their body type, so there is no “one size fits all formula”. That said, a good place to start is with the 40/40/20 macro split. This says that of the foods you eat on a daily basis 40% will be carbs, 40% protein, and 20% fat.
This works for many, but that is why you will have to experiment (get used to it) to find what is best for your body and the particular activity that you participate in.
I know from my own experience, I like to up my total caloric intake on the days I workout. This is because I want to replenish my glycogen stores and have a boost of energy to workout with by eating more carbs. This, though, often depends on whether I’m trying to maintain weight, cut, or even bulk. Either way, I adjust my macro splits based on the circumstance and you should too.
Also, I’m sure you may have heard that you need to eat a gram of protein per bodyweight. Yes, generally that’s something good to follow, but not necessarily.
If you participate in hard athletic sport like strongman, football, or even just bodybuilding then yeah, that’s probably a good thing to do. However, if you mainly do long distance running, yoga, or a sport that does not particularly abuse your body then maybe .8 or .6 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight will be adequate for you.
The point is, experiment with your ratios, but always…ALWAYS eat as clean, wholesome, and nutritious food as you can. Period.
You do that, and everything will fall into place.
The last major pre-requisite for gains is to be able to manage your stress.
Why do I say manage and not eliminate stress?
It’s because you cannot completely eliminate stress in your life. It is just not possible.
You can reduce the amount of stress in your life, which I guess is technically eliminating it, but in some way you will have stress.
If you do not believe me then what is working out?
Working out is stress, so certain stress is not necessarily a bad thing. However, it’s how we use and respond to stress that counts.
For example, I love the Navy Seals and what they stand for, and there is probably very few professions that are as stressful as that. But, how can Navy Seals deal with life and death situations, yet perform with a calm and collected demeanor to make split-second decisions?
It is how they manage their stress.
Many things go into that of course, and I don’t expect you to become a Navy Seal. I used that example as hyperbole to articulate that stress is not the problem, per se.
It’s how we face that stress and deal with it that is the true issue.
Now, how do we manage stress better?
I’m still trying to figure that out, but I think a good place to start is to have more discipline.
If you have more discipline then you can reduce stress, and also learn to manage yourself better.
For example, if you become disciplined in your diet then you will have less physical stress on your body because it will not have to process junk all the time that puts exorbitant amounts of stress on your liver, digestive system, and body overall.
Second, discipline will allow you to have better control of your life.
Discipline sounds restricting, but having disciple in your life is not.
It grants you more freedom.
It prioritizes your life, and picks at what is really important in your life, especially on a daily basis that assists you in moving closer to what your goals are, and the vision you have for yourself in various regards, especially your health.
Discipline allows you to avoid situations that we should not be in (let’s say watching too much TV), and gives us the strength to leave or resist doing something that is not consistent with our goals (eating fast-food every week).
Think about this quote from former U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt:
“With discipline all things are possible.”
I agree with his statement and you should think about it too.
Remember, perhaps the best trait to have for success in the gym for getting a stronger, and having a better body is consistency.
In my own words, being consistent is doing more good than bad. Do that over time, and you’ll probably have an urge to be more consistent, giving you more success, especially if you want more gains.
I put like to tie it together like this:
Discipline is the crucial character trait that allows us to be consistent, which often leads to incredible results for ourselves.
Read that again, and let it sink in.
Let that thought remind you the next time you think about eating that cheeseburger, or skipping the gym for the second time this week.
If you want gains, consistency reigns supreme, and discipline is our way to make it happen.
Meeting our pre-requisites is difficult, but necessary and absolutely achievable.
It’ll take some work, but making our pre-requisites lifestyle habits, like going to bed on time, eating the right foods, and so on, will allow us to meet them with not too much thought.
Soon after, the gains we want in the gym will follow.
LET THE GAINS BEGIN!
Let me know what you think and how you’re doing with meeting your pre-requisites, by commenting down below.
As always, thanks for stopping and reading.
Until next time, be strong and be you.