Strip us down to the suits we were born in, and it’s plain to see that nature has endowed the two genders differently. Go further than skin deep and you’ll find even more differences, not all of which you can see with the naked eye. Those variations mean that when we exercise and eat, men and women need to take a slightly different approach.
But are we really so different? Where does it say that the free weights area of the gym is a testosterone-only zone? Where does it say on the class timetable that yoga is just for the ladies? It doesn’t.
Yes, testosterone and oestrogen have their hormonal advantages and disadvantages when it comes to training, but I want to dispel some of the gender-specific myths surrounding training and nutrition to help you better reach your goals. Whether you enter via the bathroom door that reads ‘cocks’ or ‘hens’, not that it particularly matters on the gay scene, the tips below are in fact universal, so read both sets!
1 Get in the weights room: Don’t worry, you don’t have enough testosterone to end up looking like Popeye on a spinach binge. But you do have enough to make a difference. Lifting weights for 30 minutes is far more effective than jogging for the same amount of time. Strength training doesn’t just build and tone muscle. It’s also the most effective fat burner. Simply carrying more muscle on your body increases your resting metabolic rate. Meaning the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. All day. All night. Whether in the gym or horizontal on the sofa. With the added benefit of a reduction in the risk of osteoporosis, which women are more prone to than men in later life.
2 Ditch the scales: Stop trying to lose weight, start trying to lose fat. Weight is not an accurate measure of health. Muscle is heavier than fat, so if you’ve been training hard but don’t see the results on the scales, don’t be disheartened. The way your clothes fit is a much better indicator. So take a look in the mirror instead. Better still, take photos of yourself every two weeks to measure your progress. Just don’t let them fall into the wrong hands!
3 Do not do the Special K diet: I’m not referring to horse tranquilizers here (although I wouldn’t recommend them either). In fact, stay away from any short term, fast results, fad diet. Lose fat too quickly and you will pile it back on. And then some. If you want to lose fat, you need to change your eating habits for life, not just for a week or two.
4 Eat fat, get thin: There’s a common misconception that eating fat makes you fat. It doesn’t. Yes, gram for gram, it’s more calorific than carbohydrate or protein. But eaten in moderation, it’s essential to our health – giving us improved organ function, healthier skin, eyes, hair and nails. Ditch ready meals advertised as ‘low fat’. Sugar and unnatural chemicals are added to compensate for the loss of flavour, your sugar levels will spike and fall, leaving you unsatisfied and more likely to snack. The only exceptions here are unnatural trans or hydrogenated fats which you should always avoid, and saturated (animal) fats which you should consume in moderation.
5 Try interval training: I see so many girls spending hours flouncing around on the treadmill or elliptical machine, reading a paper or watching their favourite soap as they do so. Don’t get me wrong, cardiovascular exercise has its place, and is great for heart health. But you’ll reap the same rewards and burn far more fat if you train intensely in intervals for just 10 minutes. Next time you’re on the treadmill, run as fast as you can for 1 minute, and then walk for 1 minute. Repeat this 10 times. You’ll do just 10 minutes of work – but will burn twice as many calories, and then continue to burn calories throughout the day as your resting metabolic rate increases.
6 Drink water: Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Drinking two to three litres of water every day will keep hunger at bay, and has the added benefit of flushing out your body of toxins, leaving you looking healthier and feeling stronger. Do not drink fizzy drinks. They’re high in ‘empty calories’ and the diet versions are not much better. In fact, they’re often worse, having no nutritional value whatsoever and anti-nutrients which strip your body of the good stuff you put it into it.
7 Get a personal trainer: People succeed far better with the advice and direction of a professional. If you can’t afford a PT, at least make use of the free induction sessions offered by most gyms. Learn to eat and train correctly and see fast, long-lasting results.
1 Take a lesson from the girls and take a yoga class: Stretching and flexibility is so important when training, yet neglected by so many. Ladies are the leaders in this field, frequenting many a yoga or pilates class while we continue to hammer out bicep curls in the free weights area. Try a weekly class. The perfect treat for your body, and it will support your weight training goals;
2 Balance your upper and lower body training: Far too many guys neglect their legs because they’re more interested in showing off their disco tits on a Friday night. What they don’t know is that this actually hinders growth across the entire body and leaves you looking like a carrot. Your legs are your biggest muscle group. Train them hard and see your metabolism spike, body fat fall off and your upper body grow in double time. Squats, lunges, dead lifts and calf raises are your friends. Go heavy for optimum results. You’re men. You can take it.
3 Learn the basic compound moves: These are all of the exercises that involve using more than one joint and muscle group at the same time. They should be the foundation of every gym program, and are proven to yield the best results in the shortest time possible. Squats, dead lifts, chest press, pull ups.
4 Don’t be the show off: Lifting weights that are too heavy for you will not impress, you won’t grow and you’ll risk an embarrassing injury. It’s far more important to maintain the correct form and technique, choosing the appropriate weight to complete each exercise. Better results for less work.
5 Change your work-out every four weeks: doing the same routine week-in, week-out will not only bore you silly and leave you tempted to skip the gym in favour of a pint, it will also hinder your growth. Your body adapts to stress quickly. Mixing things up regularly will keep your body fooled and trick it into growing.
6 Get pumped for your Friday night out: Heading out for a boogie in Vauxhall but too nervous to take your top off? Then try this last minute fix to keep you pumped up until the sun rises. Get to the gym an hour or two before you head out, and perform just one intense high rep, low weight, circuit in the free weights area. Chest press, pull ups, bicep curls, tricep dips, shoulder presses – these are the muscles your fellow revellers are going to see. The idea here is to send the blood from your body into your muscles for a temporary pumped look. I stress, this will not give you long term muscle growth, but will give you dance floor confidence.
7 Get a personal trainer: See above!
SWEAT is a gay-owned personal training company operating across Greater London. If you would like to contact them for personal training and/or nutrition advice, please visit sweat-london.com, email [email protected] or ‘like’ them on Facebook.