What You Need To Know About Functional Training + How Much Protein You Should Be Eating
Functional fitness = the new trendy way to workout - the ‘animal’ style that we’re all supposedly built to move our bodies in.
But what really IS functional training, why should you care, and how can you do it - at home, without a fancy trainer or gym membership?
Secondly, I’m about to address the keyword all fitness nutrition marketing likes to hone in on: protein. Not enough, too much - we’ve heard it all before. But how can you determine how much is right for you?
I sat down with experts from Fit Factory Fitness to finally get the low-down on each of these topics, and by the end of our chat - the answers were clear…
What is Functional Training?
Kurt (who later kicked my butt in his Strength & Conditioning class) explained it as so:
“It really comes down to working every muscle group in your body - head to toe.”
Whereas strength training tends to hone in on a few key muscle groups - and most often, the larger ones - functional training is all about working all of the muscles at once. It generally involves less weight and more movement, but is definitely still a “workout” in which you can gain serious strength.
With that said, Kurt recommends it as a complement - rather than replacement - to strength training.
The Fitness Protocol
Ideally, the suggestion is to workout 5 days a week, and 2-4 of those should be strength-training focused, with the remaining sessions following a more functional training regime.
Note that if scheduling isn’t always your friend, you can opt for a back-to-back setup whereby you do a functional training session (to warm up your muscles) followed by a strength conditioning routine directly after. Whether it’s a functional class or even just a jog outside - Kurt stresses the importance of a proper 20-30 minute warm-up prior to doing your strength training in order to avoid injury and maximize the benefits and results of your conditioning.
Simple, At Home Option?
If you’re like me, you’re essentially a Richard Simmons groupie and swear by at-home workouts...so I couldn’t help but ask Kurt for an easy go-to home workout routine.
Here are his top 5 recommended functional training movements that you can do anywhere*:
*Kurt suggests aiming for 30 seconds for each.
Okay, so now that we’re killing it at the gym - or at home in flamboyant leotards...it’s time we figure out this whole protein sitch…
What’s the deal with protein - how can you figure out how much is right for you?
Maya, the in-house nutritionist at Fit Factory Fitness, was more than happy to get straight to the facts.
“It really depends on your goals, but as a general rule, if you’re physically active you should be eating at least 0.8 grams of protein for each pound of your own body weight per day.”
That translates into about 112 grams of protein for a 140 lbs person, so think 35-40 grams of protein per meal (assuming you’re not intermittent fasting and eat 3 meals spread out during the day).
How do you know if you’re not getting enough protein?
These are the key signs Maya lists which may indicate a protein deficiency:
Trouble sleeping well
Low energy or feeling weak
Muscle, bone and joint pain
Trouble building lean muscle mass
*Note that it can take about 2 weeks for your body to get adjusted to a new workout regime, so those first couple weeks may involve slower recovery than usual, but you can consider this as normal. Beyond that, recovery really shouldn’t take longer than 48 hours.
Eating for Strength
Again, Maya suggests that the needs and preferences on the individual level is essential to determine the true optimal eating regime for each person, but the overall rule is as follows:
Goal = Gain muscle → eat a balanced meal 1-3 hours prior to your workout and a protein shake with a banana 30 minutes after. Consume BCAAs during your workouts.
Goal = lose fat → workout fasted*, and your body will tap into your existing glycogen storage (e.g. food from the evening before!). You must consume adequate amounts of protein at every meal and immediately post workout to retain muscle while you are losing fat. Also consume BCAAs during your workouts.
*It’s important to highlight that neither Maya or myself normally recommend working out on a fast - at least not on a long term basis. If you feel weak or nauseous while exercising fasted, you may want to eat a small meal, such as a high-quality whey protein shake pre-workout. I encourage you to experiment - it’s really about finding what works best for you and your lifestyle.
Same thing goes for caffeine - Maya doesn’t recommend caffeine for everyone but if your body tolerates it well, you can use it as a pre-workout stimulant only for your morning workouts in order to prevent sleep disturbances at night.
Most Common Fitness Nutrition Myth
Since Maya has seen hundreds of clients first-hand who want to improve their health - either through weight-loss and/or muscle gain, I thought it would be interesting to know the most common misconception she comes across when it comes to people’s perceptions around diet.
“Many people are not eating enough! Often times, clients come in wanting to go ‘hardcore’ straight from the start, and they think a caloric deficit is the only and best way forward because they see the weight loss happening FAST (initially), but it always ends up backfiring on them by damaging their metabolism soon afterward. So instead, I encourage optimal nourishment in a way that’s enjoyable and sustainable. That way, they can avoid injury and harmful stress on the body and in turn create the successful outcomes they are aiming for. I think people have this idea that there’s this magical diet that is going to be their answer to a rock hard body. No one wants to hear what the real secret is (and always will be): tailored nutrition, smart exercise and the commitment to be as consistent as you can with both.”
Fancy jumping right in? To get you started, I recommend fuelling up for functional success with my all-time favourite: Sarah Britton's Chocolate Chia Pre-Workout Granola.