Working Out on the Mediterranean Diet

Intensity, frequency, periodization etc of workouts on the Mediterranean Diet or any other diet depend on your goals and many other individual things that make all of us - different. That doesn't mean that you have to be a 'rocket scientist' to have great workouts even on low calorie Mediterranean Diet :o)

Defining Goals

md-mojca-2As usually with many aspects of life, defining goals is one of the most important things in quest for health, wellbeing, aesthetic looks, athletic performance etc. When you define your goals (point B) and when you determine your starting point (point A), all you have to do is to find the path between point A and point B. Which is not always simple.

Define realistic goals - don't be modest, if you are determined to do something, do what is needed to achieve that goal. On the other hand, if it took you 10 years to gain 40kg of fats, don't expect to lose them in 4 months without huge sacrifices (And, yes, it is possible to lose 40kg in 4 months! Not the healthiest thing to do, but ...).

Body Types

We are all different in many ways, body types included. There are three basic body types (ectomorphs, mesomorphs, endomorphs) with all other possible combinations (endo-meso, meso-endo and ecto-endo).

For more about body types and their importance, please check Mediterranean Diet for Men article (link opens in the new window).

Remember - consider your genetics as 'half full glass', never 'half empty' and never use it as an excuse for not achieving your goals. It is all in the head...

Age of a Trainee

Age of a trainee is very important. It is not the same to create workout and diet program for, for example, teenager going for football scholarship, pregnant woman or some 50 year old woman/man having desk job and having to drive to and from work.

So, we have to think about many things such as goals, body types etc - all data that must be taken into account in order to see 'the big picture'.

Also, with age, metabolism slows down, so we burn less and less calories - and therefore we need to eat less calories just for maintenance. Being 40-50 years old means that you can't eat as you ate when you were 20!

Regeneration also slows down - you can't train exactly as you trained maybe 20-30 years ago. That doesn't mean that you should stop training at all - on a contrary, train, but train smarter!

 Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Workouts

Many people ask, what is better for becoming and staying fit - anaerobic or aerobic workouts? Well, they all have their pros and cons, and if your workout program include both of them in a smart way (they should complement each other), you can and you will benefit from all of them.

Aerobic workouts include sports like running, cycling, fast walking, basketball and similar sports. Anaerobic workouts are gym workouts, but if you ever did giant sets, super-sets, clusters etc, you will disagree that gym workouts are 'anaerobic only' workouts :o)

There are also sports that fall somewhere in between, for example Martial Arts with various styles, which are great choice for anyone wanting to stay in shape.

 Intensity and Periodization of Workouts

md-mojca-1Simplest programs work for every beginner. These simple programs are often used by advanced trainees as workout programs between more advanced workout programs in order to 'reset' both body and the mind.

But in the long run, to achieve goals, every workout program must deal with intensity of workouts and periodization of workouts.

Sets, reps and intensity of workouts are very important if we want to stimulate targeted muscle fibers (slow twitching, fast twitching) and achieve their growth in size, strength or both. Periodization of exercises can be done during the same workout session or from workout session to workout session. This second approach is preferred one, but if you lack time for workouts, first approach in combination with full body workouts can do wonders - just be sure to start slowly!

Advanced gym workout techniques like giant sets, drop down sets, clusters, negatives etc when used smartly in combination with other workouts and proper nutrition can do wonders in building aesthetic bodies capable for great physical achievements in terms of speed, strength, agility, flexibility etc.

 Frequency of Workouts

How often we work out depends on many things, but most often on how much free time we have. But if you have time to train or if that is your profession, than frequency of workouts is just one little (but important) piece of the big picture.

If you combine, for example, full body gym workouts with trail running, it is hard to have more than 2 (two) weekly gym sessions and 1 (one) running session, without having them negatively influence each other ('negatively' - if you did, for example, squats day before running and you can run normally, your performed miserably on squats!).

On the other hand, if you workout on some 4-5 days split program and you combine periodization from cycle to cycle (for example, you do one cycle with lower reps, second with higher reps etc) than you can train much more often with maybe one day per week off.

Injuries and Overtraining

md-mojca-4Injuries are common part of any physical sport. After all, we are deliberately stressing our bodies and minds to achieve something. Don't mix feeling tired (although you can be tired so much that your entire body hurts) with pain caused by some injury. Most common injuries in the gym are problems with joints and tendons, but others are not uncommon. If something hurts, stop doing it - often it is very easy to say than to do it, but if you have problems with, for example, bad shoulder, first thing to do is to stop doing what is causing pain (for example - flat barbell bench press), rest for few days and then try to find exercise that can substitute 'problematic' exercise, at least temporarily.

Overtraining is a physical and emotional state of body and mind that occurs when the intensity and volume of workouts exceed our capability to recover. In most cases, overtraining is overestimated, especially for beginners (yes, little bit of pain, stress and some beginners start to scream that they are overtrained! Oh, just shut up, train, eat and sleep!) . But, it can happen even in the cases of highly motivated advanced trainees, that are preparing for some very important event and that are having spotless workout and nutrition programs. It is very important to recognize first symptoms of overtraining (for example, having problems with sleep, not performing physically as expected, feeling tired, muscle soreness, cramps, feeling agitated etc) and not mix them with other things that can cause you to feel the same way (usually personal and professional life and issues). When you (or your trainer) suspect that you have problem with overtraining, first thing to do is to take few days off. If this is not acceptable for some reason, then continue with your workouts, but decrease both volume and intensity and increase slightly your calories for few days (300-400 kcal more than planned for 3-4 days will not make you store tons of fats on your frame, but more food can be great stimulus!). Also, consider taking some preworkout energy booster to keep performance levels high. Just be careful if you compete in some sport association - some of energy boosters (even for workout sessions) can be banned!

Worst case scenario with overtraining - take week off and forget workouts. Adjust calories to your current physical activity (should be low), but don't be hungry - you have to recover both physically and mentally.

OK, but what all of this got to do with Mediterranean Diet?!?

md-meal3Hm, good question :)

Seriously, being on a diet, any kind of diet, doesn't mean that you are starving or eating below your maintenance level. But, combining workouts and nutrition with all these things is not an easy task to do. Good thing is that Mediterranean Diet is one of the best diets (planned and organized nutrition) for bulking, for maintaining and even for losing fats (not just losing weight!).

Mediterranean Diet and Mediterranean cuisine in general, provide more than enough building blocks and energy for any task that lay ahead of you, just be careful about planning and putting it into practice.

Very often, beginners trying to lose fat, gain muscles and generally wanting to become and stay fit, have great success just by going on a moderate Mediterranean Diet and working out on some 3-day split gym workout program. Monitoring progress and changing thing or two (to say the least) from time to time regarding nutrition and workouts, assures that progress will continue over time and that boredom and stagnation will not appear.


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All photos of Mojca Polsak were used with her explicit permission and cannot be reused without her approval.

Mojca Polsak works as fitness model and personal trainer.

She can be contacted regarding personalized workout programs and customized nutrition plans over her Facebook Page.

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