Do You Need a Personalized Fitness Program?

by | Exercise, Fitness, Nutrition

No, you don't need a custom fitness plan to see great results!

No clickbait here. You won’t go through this article to find out the headline meant something slightly different.

You'll understand why you don’t need that diet that “is personalized for your individual needs”.

If you’re thinking this is about cookie-cutter diets sold as customized plans – wrong again!

Let's start with a simple question.

Have You Ever Spent Money on a Diet That Didn’t Work?

There are a lot of people who will happily sell your hyper-personalized weight loss plans based on:

  • DNA and genetic testing
  • complicated computer algorithms
  • extensive quizzes
  • your blood type
  • your zodiac sign
  • … and others

That may sound like real science. But let’s look beyond the sexy marketing ads.

  • How do you know any of those programs work?
  • Do you really want to spend your hard-earned money to test their validity?
  • How much time you have to waste before you find what works?

If you made it this far, I’ll assume you’re a smart person who can grasp a few advanced concepts. Ideas that will make it much harder for people to scam you.

How Do You Avoid Being Scammed?

Let’s talk about something called “specificity”. This is the most important concept to understand if you want to succeed in any field!

  • Specificity: the universal requirement for success in a particular field or endeavor.

Here are a few real-life examples:

To run a successful commercial company you need to make $$$. Period. If you don’t make money, you’ll violate the principle of specificity.

What about these things below?

  • marketing and sales
  • customer service
  • employee satisfaction

All those matter. But they should not be your primary focus.

Getting Work Done vs Actually Getting Results

You can have great marketing, awesome customer service, and employees may love you. BUT unless you make money, you’ll run out of business.

At the other extreme, you can do all those 3 things wrong, AND still be profitable. In fact, I know businesses that do ZERO sales and still make money.

I’m not saying this is the right way to run a business. But the principle of specificity (making money in this case) always comes first. Everything else, while important, comes second.

Also, if you’re making money the rest of the things usually fall into place.

Here are a few other examples:

  • to get learner: you have to consume fewer calories than your maintenance
  • to get stronger: you need to lift progressively heavier weights
  • to build muscle: you need to keep increasing the amount of productive gym work

It’s crucial you understand the principle of specificity. Obviously, it’s unique based on the field or task you’re doing. This is why we’ll only focus on fitness and dieting.

How to ALWAYS Get the Best Results in the Gym?

Let’s talk about the two main components of a great physique: diet and training. We need to address both.  If you want abs, diet alone won’t cut it.

It doesn’t matter whether you are

  • young or old
  • fat or skinny
  • tall or short
  • black or white
  • male or female

Nothing that makes you unique compared to other people matters a lot. If you’re a human, then diet and training specificity apply to you

What is Diet Specificity?

Calories are king – how much calories you consume compared to your maintenance.

Maintenance is when your average caloric intake leads to no body weight changes.

  • If you eat the same as maintenance – body weight stays the same
  • If you eat above maintenance – body weight goes up
  • If you eat below maintenance – body weight goes down

Are there are other factors that can influence body weight? Yes! But they all come second to the main principle of specificity. If you violate it, you won’t see the results you’re going after.

Important: It makes little difference WHAT you eat, WHEN you eat, HOW you eat. To lose weight you need to eat below maintenance (consume fewer calories). The rest has little to no effect.

These are the laws of thermodynamics, and you can’t cheat them.

What's the Best Diet to Lose Weight?

Let’s go back to all that genetic testing, and other fancy customized plans. How do we know if they work or not?

You don’t need genetic testing to tell you how to lose weight. You may be “mom’s special snowflake”. But you’re not that special after all.

Always check if a diet complies with the principle of diet specificity. If a it puts you in a caloric deficit, you’ll lose weight. This usually means eating fewer or smaller (less caloric) meals.

Training Specificity:

Progressive overload is king – you gradually increase the amount of work you do in the gym. This (usually) means you add more sets, more reps, or increase the weight over time.

The above explanation assumes you’re training to gain more muscle (aka hypertrophy training). Gym workouts can also be affected by other forms of training.

There’s some overlap between different sports. But they all follow different specificity principles. Hypertrophy training is similar to strength training. It’s also somewhere in the middle (in terms of overlap) between speed and endurance.

Important: you cannot put much muscle mass if your training includes a lot of speed or endurance training. Be very skeptical if someone tells you can put mass, get faster, and more endurant at the same time. This is simply not possible in the long run.

What's the Best Fitness Program For Putting on Muscle?

Let’s go back to “individualized training programs”. How to tell if a (hypertrophy) program will work for you?

Very simple! See if training becomes progressively harder. Usually, it means you’re using external loads that get heavier over time. Body weight and resistance band workouts can also be effective in the beginning.

When you point at specific exercise in your plan you should receive a clear answer how it fits into your hypertrophy goals.

Balancing on a yoga ball, doing extensive cardio, and light weights won’t shape the physique you want. If you’re not increasing the weights and focusing on hypertrophy, your program is probably crap.

Are Personalized Programs a WASTE of Money?

Personalization is a very important component of every diet and workout. But it’s not the number one factor for success. Not even number two, or three (those are topics for other discussions). Be aware of the general order of importance.

You can get great results with cookie-cutter programs that follow the main diet and training principles. Whereas a lot of “individualized” programs are pure hype. They may have little to do with how the human body works.

Personalization is the last touch. It’s where your individual preferences, medical conditions, certain predispositions, allergies, or injuries can be taken into account.

Don’t be fooled by people who place those things above the universal diet and training principles. It’s probably clever marketing aimed to exploit your personal insecurities. Or maybe plain ignorance on part of the other side.

Bottom Line:

I hope this made you think a bit.

Next time you’re considering a training program, ask yourself these 2 questions:

✔️ WHAT is the most important requirement to achieve my goal?
✔️ DOES this program address that issue?

Then go ahead and consider the individual approach. It’s definitely not something you’d like to overlook. That’s the difference between a good and great program.

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I hope you learned something useful from this post.

Until next time!

~Niki, Fitness Mastery Coach

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