The Minimum Effective Dose

As coaches, we have seen a lot of different attitudes when it comes to fitness. A lot of times when people decide to make a change to better their health they want to go all out – training 6 times per week, doing cardio 20 x per week to lose weight, and cutting out everything and beyond in their diet.

This is NOT the way you want to approach a big life switch. You want to make every change you do slow and consistent. Not just for adherence, but also for best results.

If you are trying to go couch to powerlifting meet champion (this is just an example), let’s rethink your goals.

In other words, what is the minimum effective dose of training?

Short answer: it depends where you currently are in your training.

But let’s break this down:

If you haven’t been doing much of anything for working out, then you need to start slow. First we recommend hiring a reputable coach/trainer who can help you figure out where to even start. A good place is focusing on building up mobility and stability through your strength training. This will probably look like perfecting bodyweight movements 1 or 2 times per week. On the other days, just WALK.

It is imperative that you DO NOT OVERDO THIS.

You will burn out. Your progress will stall fast. You will probably not want to come back to the gym or have anything to do with fitness again if you try to change too many variables at once. Over time, you can add in training days (appropriately programmed) to up the volume and intensity as you will need to because you will plateau – this is why you don’t want to do much too fast. Your body is made to ADAPT. If you do it all now, where will you go when you plateau?

Many of our clients are fitness professionals so this minimum effective dose will look differently for them. This is true for any fitness enthusiast who is looking to step up their programming. First step is to find out their current volume with their resistance training. Next is to find out their goals (We know, DUH right). Most fitness enthusiasts do way too much. Generally, a well structured program has anywhere from 2-3 foundational lifting days per week along with other active recovery movement sessions on the off days. Again, this will vary for the person but MOST people absolutely should not be lifting 6 times per week – you are probably doing more harm than good.

Focus on adding one thing at a time

When it comes to nutrition, if your diet is filled with processed junk and you know you aren’t eating well, we like to focus on ADDING things before we ever consider taking anything away. The reason is that we want to get rid of this restrict/binge mentality. A lot of people will go on a junk food and alcohol bender before they know they are about to try and eat healthy. This looks different for every person (again depending on where you are starting).

Example First Step: Add in a big salad or big serving of green veggies during the day no matter what. Doesn’t matter if you know you are going out and eating pizza, make sure you get your big salad in.

This is just one example. Over time you will notice that these healthier choices you are adding into your diet will result in naturally getting rid of the processed crap you have been eating beforehand. You will start to connect to how the healthy foods make you feel and most likely, you will not want to indulge as much as you did before because you are more AWARE.

Trying to cut every processed food out at once, increase your protein, do tons of cardio, and lift 5+ days a week at the beginning is not the answer.

Think of it like a study. If you want to learn what’s working, MANIPULATE ONE VARIABLE AT A TIME.

Over time, you’ll get big return for much less work and turn your body into a machine.

If you want to learn more, check out our Q&A #49 on the ‘Stronger than your Boyfriend’ Podcast. And if you’re interested in learning more, join our facebook community.

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