Something a bit different for you lot this week, you’re probably bored with me rambling on about chicken and deadlifts so I thought I’d do an interview with UKBFF North East fitness competitor, Adam Hayley.
Some of you might know Adam if you’ve trained regularly at Nuffield Health or K2 in Crawley, or you may well have read one of his incredibly detailed and useful blog posts.
Adam works at Ultimate Performance in central London which is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the premier training facilities in the UK (they also have gyms in Marbella, Hong Kong and Singapore).
He’s much more knowledgeable than me, so if you want some genuinely useful training and nutrition advice, read on.
1. Hi Adam, first of all, congratulations on your placing at the UKBFF in Leeds.When did you start prepping for the show, and how much overall weight did you drop?
Thanks Joe! I really enjoyed the show and was happy with what I achieved. Well, I first decided to do this show back in January – so you could say I was ‘prepping’ for 9months. The first 5 months being eating over 5000 calories and training twice daily some days in order to pack on as much muscle as possible prior to the actual ‘diet’ phase starting.
In terms of the diet side of it, that was around 17 weeks in total. I really went overboard trying to put a lot of last minute tissue on, so gained excess bodyfat. Total weight drop was 43lbs.
2. What was your first cheat meal afterwards?
Hmmm.. Not a ‘meal’ as such, but the first thing I inhaled after the show was my girlfriends (Jade) home made brownie/cookie hybrids. They are A-MAZING. They taste just like a brownie and have that kind of texture, but are cookie shaped with white & dark choc. That’s what I was really craving all prep! That and a box of 12 Krispy Kreme’s my friend Kirsty had bought me!
We then flew straight out the next morning for a weeks all inclusive, so my first proper ‘meal’ was a Full English fry-up at the airport with extra pancakes + maple syrup on the side… and a peanut butter milkshake!
2. There are lots of people out there who aspire to compete in shows, but may not realise how tough the dieting can be, what did your diet look like in the last few weeks before the show?
Oh man, the last few weeks were definitely the toughest. Energy was very loooooow, every step I took hurt, talking was a chore etc. It’s definitely this final 2-4 week stretch that is the ‘make or break’ phase where a large percentage of competitors go off the boil and cheat on their diet.
On paper, it really doesn’t look too bad – but bear in mind prior to dieting I was on 500g+ carbs + 120g+ fats.
45g Chex Cereal 8pm
200g Chicken Breast
150g Sweet Potato
Small Handful Chopped Peppers & Onions 10pm
200g Turkey Breast
15g Almond Butter
3. And how about the training? Twice a day? Fasted cardio? Tonnes of drop sets?
This changed through-out, every 4 weeks or so. Although was based around training 6 days per week; Push/Pull/Legs/Push/Pull/Legs/OFFCardio was pretty minimal actually compared to some, due to the high frequency of weight training:
2 x 30min SSCV sessions fitted in wherever (typically PWO)
3 x HIIT sessions per week
I did introduce some fasted powerwalking at 4 weeks out, but dropped 4lbs that week so ditched it!
I cut all cardio at two weeks out as I was ahead of target and didn’t want to risk losing any more muscle tissue then needed.
4. What would be your best tip for someone who’s considering competing?
Make sure you REALLY want to do it. It’s gruelling if you genuinely do get in top condition. Toward the end; energy is low, it hurts when you sit down (very little fat on your bum lol), socially it can be tough on relationships too. So just make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
Jade & I for instance would typically eat out at least once per week, or buy small ‘treats’ mid-week with DVD’s etc. All that has to go on hold toward the final stages. At the end of a 16 hour work day having trained and feeling depleted you don’t want to talk, which of course others take personally!
I think my biggest tip actually would be a bit of advice I got given; Remember this is YOUR choice, no one is holding a gun to your head.
On those days where you do feel low, try not to take it out on others by being snappy. Don’t expect others to change their eating habits just to make you feel better either – as said – it’s YOUR choice to do this.
5. Ok, so moving onto your ‘off-season’ or regular training – do you have a particular philosophy or preferred style of training? Bodypart slipts? Push-Pull spilts?
My preferred style of training is low volume, high intensity and high frequency.
I think training body parts as a split once per week is limiting the amount of times you can stimulate that body part for growth. I
Every time you train a body part you’re kickstarting MPS (Muscle Protein Synthesis) locally in that area.
So, if you train chest every Monday… It’s likely recovered and ready to go again by Wednesday/Thursday… But, you’re giving it a full 7 days for the sake of it. This means that – assuming you take no weeks off of training – throughout the course of a year you’re sending a signal to your chest to grow 52 times.
If you managed to train each bodypart (or even just weaker/lagging bodyparts) say, twice per week.. That’s now 104 ‘opportunities’ for growth.
Of course, if frequency of training goes up then you should likely reduce volume slightly per session (though you can periodise this up/down and go through phases of ‘over-reaching’)
A real simple split I think most beginners would do well off is;Monday – Upper (Heavy)Tuesday – Lower (Heavy)Wednesday – REST
Take the weekend off and then repeat. This way you’re hitting all major muscle groups twice per week, and you’ve varied rep ranges so the stimulus is always changing.
6. What do you think is the biggest blocker in terms of gaining muscle for most trainers? Intensity? Volume? Frequency?
Frequency. Most don’t realise that the dudes in Flex magazine have crazy genetics – so follow the whole 4/5 day split thing religiously.
Aside from that, I think most forget about the principle of progressive overload too. Too many times you see guys just walk in and do the same weights week-after-week. You have to question, why would you continue to progress if you’re not challenging your body EVERY week?
7. And where do you see people going wrong with their diets?
This would depend on if we’re talking about the average person.. or the average lifter? And whether dieting or trying to add size.
For the average person: Following whatever crap they see on TV/Government recommendations. As a general rule 90% of people consume FAR too little protein (when you think about it, dinner is the only meal they MAY eat protein in).. And over-consuming on carbohydrate.
The food pyramid recommends approx. 60% of your diet coming from starchy carbs from what I remember. Now, does the typical office worker that carries little muscle, excess bodyfat, doesn’t train and sits down (commuting, at work, at home in front of the TV) most of the day – really need 60% of his/her diet coming from a direct energy source? No! And we wonder why we have an obesity problem?
The next most common mistake I see is a real simple ones.. For lifters trying to gain size, t
hey simply don’t eat enough calories consistently. They may do a few days here and there where they follow a pro’s meal plan.. But they get sick & bored and slack off.
This is where I find using a calorie tracking app like MyFitnessPal can actually help. Get them to track consistently for a week or two. Work out what they’re average intake is over that time period and make a few easy changes to bump the total calories up.
Until they track accurately for a period of time – they never know EXACTLY how many calories they’re getting in.
8. What’s your view on using heavy compound movements (Squats, Deads, Clean and Press) for muscle-gain? Can they assist, or are they only good for pure strength?
They can definitely assist! Assuming the trainee can perform them with good form and no pain, I think the first two (squats & deads) should be in most peoples programs. The latter (clean & press) maybe not so much.
That said, I don’t believe you NEED to squat or deadlift. For example, no matter what type of deadlift or position I get myself into – I’m always cripped with low back pain the following two days after them. So, I work around it using banded hyperextensions.
If I could deadlift pain free though, I would 100% without doubt be including them. They work so much more than just the spinal erectors.
9. There are a lot of fad bodybuilding diets doing the rounds at the moment – carb back loading, IIFYM, etc – do these have any credibility, or is it all about tailoring the diet to the individual?
Hmm I think ‘most’ diet systems have some credibility and if applied properly could work for some. The problem is in the first sentence though – they’re always a ‘system’.
Certain ‘systems’ will work really well for maybe 15-20% of people..But then maybe not work so well for the other 80% of people.
This is where things need to be tailored. You can take certain principles from things like CBL (Carb Back Loading), IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), IF (Intermittent Fasting) etc. BUT, as a coach to role out 1 approach to EVERY client is a recipe for disaster.
Protein & fat breakfasts for example. Personally I’m a fan of them for the majority of my clients – BUT – I don’t use it myself. As for me I function better with carbohydrate at breakfast. Probably 70% of my clients are on pro/fat breakfasts though – as I use trial & error with everyone. If I went just by what works for me, I think my results would be pretty limited!
10. Recovery is an aspect of muscle building that’s often overlooked – do you think a lack of sleep can hamper or halt progress, and how many hours do you get per night?
I definitely think it has a HUGE impact. Mainly as it raises cortisol (or is maybe even the by-product of skewed cortisol patterns) and reduces testosterone.
It also has quite an affect on fat loss too:
There was a study I saw a while ago that reported those that slept ~4hours per night had;
18% LESS Leptin (Leptin signals that you’re full… so a reduction in this hormone means you’re never really ‘satisfied’ after meals)
28% MORE Ghrelin (Ghrelin is a hormone that stimulates hunger/appetite)
The majority of the group also had increased cravings for sweet, sugary and starchy foods.As you can imagine – the above factors can have a real detrimental affect when dieting!
Unfortunately though, I’m the worst person to ask in terms of how many hours do I average per night! I’d guess approximately 5-6hours MAX.
What would I suggest? 7-9 hours seems to be the sweet spot for most.
11. Ok, let’s talk about cheat meals – how do you use these strategically to aid muscle gain and fat loss?
I have quite a few ways I approach this with various clients but I’ll try keep it short & simple.
In the off-season for the ‘average’ person that gains muscle at an OK rate I don’t recommend them to help with muscle growth directly. It’s more a case for mental sanity! I tend to let them have 1-2 ‘free’ meals a week where they can relax but try not to go OTT.
It’s VERY rare, but if I have a client that has a super fast metabolism then I’ll get them to use v calorie dense cheat meals to try and increase caloric intake easily. I’ve probably only had 1 client like this in the last 2 years though. If ‘good’ food intake is high enough – 99% of people should grow well.
With fat loss, it really depends on client psychology.
What I prefer and think is most beneficial is to lower protein & fat intake and increase carbohydrate rich foods; rice, potatoes, cereal, cereal bars etc.
This is due to the effects on leptin (hormone mentioned above).
In some cases though, this ‘triggers’ some clients into bingeing as they’re still craving fatty foods.
If this is the case then I’ll go back to the ‘free meal’ scenario – whereby for 1 evening they can go out for a meal with their partner or whatever and forget about the diet. Food choices here tend to always be fatty; pizza, curry, fish & chips etc. Out of the two I consider this less optimal in terms of what a refeed is meant to do… But, if it increases client compliancy on the diet in genereal – I’m really not too fussed!
One thing I will mention though… Is I believe most people start cheat meals / refeeds too early and way before they ‘deserve’ them. The whole point of a refeed is to stimulate leptin/T3. If you’ve barely dieted a week or two, these hormones won’t have been affected yet so is pretty pointless! You need to earn those cheat meals / refeeds!
12. And what’s your go-to cheat meal?
Hmmm.. This is tough.
Eat Out = Indian (Chicken tikka masala, pilau rice, peshwari naan and onion bahji’s)
Eat In (home made) = Sausages, mash and onion gravy! (The sausages have to be plain pork, no herby rubbish for me).
13. Ok, a bit about your work. You’re a trainer at Ultimate Performance in London, can you tell us a bit about the brand?
So, the last time I checked we were the largest PT only gym in Europe. I’m pretty sure that’s still the case as well as having the added expansion into; Marbella, Singapore, Hong Kong and a few other places lined up.
The brand is still only 5-6 years old but easily has one of the best reputations in the industry due to Nick’s no nonsense approach and results he got back when he was training clients himself. The most notable being Glenn Parker, Joe Warner and Oliver Proudlock.
I believe the reason we’re one of the most popular places to come for transformations is simply because we get results. I’d been in the industry for 8 years before coming to UP and never have I worked anywhere that has such a big drive on education.
All of the trainers help each other (unlike some commercial gyms where trainers can be bitchy toward each other).. At UP we all want EVERY client to get a great result. It’s a great atmosphere to work in.
One last thing that sets us apart is the fact all of us trainers actually train! This may sound stupid, but at my old gym there were 10-12 PT’s and I’d guess maybe 3 of us actually trained regularly without fail to set routines. The others would be just like a typical gym member going through phases of being motivated and phases where they wouldn’t train in weeks.
How can you motivate and expect your clients to nail everything their end if they can’t do it yourself?!
14. You work alongside Phil Learny, an absolute legend in the industry, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned from the master?
It’s actually something I learned on one of his seminars prior to starting work at UP.. It’s very simple but no trainers seem to do it..
Take measurements of progress for clients! Whether it’s skinfold testing, circumference measurements, bodyweight, photo’s etc.
It’s a huge motivational tool but seems to be massively underestimated – myself included until Phil’s seminar!
15. And is there anyone you recommend listening to for advice on muscle building and fat loss?
Nick Mitchell, Phil Learney (those two were perhaps obvious), Ken ‘Skip’ Hill, John Meadows, Shelby Starnes, Matt Porter, Eric Helms, Jordan Peters and Scott Stevenson are all guys that I follow and think have some cool approaches
16. Ok, final question, what’s your biggest tip on a) training and b) nutrition for muscle building and fat loss
I’ll break this down into two parts..
Training – Lack of progressive overload. People get comfortable lifting the same weights again & again. Get a log book, track your weights and SMASH them!
Nutrition – Simply not eating enough! Most people kid themselves into thinking they eat a lot.. Until I send them an example of my off-season diet and tell them to try following that for a week consistently!
Training – Suddenly training low weight / high rep girly workouts. 1) You typically stimulate metabolism further the HARDER and heavier you train due to EPOC (Excessive Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) and also 2) Hard, heavy weight training is what stimulates muscle growth when trying to add size.. It’s also what retains muscle best when dieting.
The more muscle you can retain, the higher your metabolic rate will be through-out the diet.
Nutrition – Trying to find/follow the most ‘optimal’ or ‘perfect’ diet – when it’s not one they’re able to stick to. The best diet is the one that you have the highest adherence too without feeling the need for bingeing 1-2 times per week.
That alongside not eating enough protein. I think a good goal for most is around 1g/lb of bodyweight – but most clients that come to see me fall waaaay short of that!
Cheers Adam! Some incredibly detailed, free information there.