Have you ever wondered if you’re on the right track when it comes to eating right and training properly? Making mistakes is inevitable in life, and almost guaranteed in the case of nutrition and exercise. Sometimes you learn the hard way unfortunately.
But you see, mistakes aren’t always a bad thing. If you learn from your mistakes you could turn a potential negative into a positive.
As someone who is passionate about lifting and nutrition, I figured I would share the biggest mistakes I’ve made, so that you can avoid them without having to learn the hard way.
My Biggest Nutrition Mistakes
1) Eating Too Much Fat
I love fat and I’m sure you do too. Not that kind of fat, but the fat found in foods like peanut butter, avocados, meats, and oils.
Early on in my journey I pretty much ate fat like it was going out of style. 5 tablespoons of peanut butter? No problem! It was fine though because the fats I ate were “healthy.”
It didn’t matter that I was consuming 2,000 calories from fat alone because they were “good” fats.
Looking back, this is actually pretty funny to think about. You see, it’s not that fat is bad really, it’s just that I was vastly over consuming such calorie dense foods and wondering why I couldn’t lose any weight.
Fats contain 9 calories per gram, more than double the amount found in protein and carbs. A good recommendation on fat intake is around 0.4-0.5 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight. This is just a starting point and can be adjusted dependent on whether you want to gain or lose weight.
Fats are the least important macro nutrient because they are not used as fuel for exercise. Therefore, there’s no reason to consume excess amounts unless of course you’re looking to put on weight.
2) Following Fad Diets
Oh boy, where do I start. I was a sucker for a long time. Almost embarrassed to admit it, I fell for a handful of the fad diets out there.
I was naive and pretty much willing to try the latest and greatest “diet” that would get me the results I wanted. The problem though was actually in the name all along: “Fad” diet.
Anything that’s a fad won’t stick, or be something worth following long term. Most notably of my blunders was a diet called Carb Back Loading.
The premise of this diet was to fast for the first part of the day, consume only proteins and fats until you’ve worked out, and then post workout you could eat anything you wanted. Literally anything. There were recommendations to eat cherry turnovers and ice cream post workout to benefit from an insulin spike.
Guess what happened to me? I got fatter. Much fatter. I love junk food just as much as the next guy, so following something like this was a recipe for disaster.
Some people had success with CBL, not from the fact they ate whatever they wanted at night but because they controlled for their calories. When I started, I paid no attention at all to how many calories I was consuming. I simply stuck to the guidelines of fasting, protein and veggies, workout, then crush junk food. Well it didn’t work so well for me because my inner fat kid got the best of me and I found myself devouring pizza, ice cream, and boxes of cereal night after night.
The problem wasn’t necessarily in the diet but more in my application of it. I could have counted my calories a bit more, chosen different foods post workout, and not been such a fat mess, but the notion that I could eat anything I wanted got the best of me.
You can eat anything you want. Just not in unlimited quantities if you expect to get results. Once my approach to nutrition changed a bit more, I was able to lose body fat, put on some muscle, and stick to my diet much better.
My online coaching client, Scott, uses the same approach as I currently do and has had great success already as a 1-on-1 client. Here he is down over 10lbs already!
3) Not Paying Attention to Calories
When it comes to nutrition, calories are king. Eat too many and you’ll gain weight.
Calories are the number one priority for weight loss and a huge factor that I overlooked early on in my fitness career.
It’s really pretty simple but something that I feel like a ton of people overlook. Rather than give you generalized calorie recommendations, try tracking your food using an app like My Fitness Pal. Over several days weigh yourself first thing in the morning. Depending on your goals, you can adjust the amount of food you eat. Start with lower increments and adjust from there. Add or subtract 200 calories and see what happens over the course of several days.
Much like the section on consuming too much fat, consuming too many calories will not allow you to lose weight. On the converse, if you want to gain weight but aren’t eating enough calories weight gain simply will not happen.
The first thing you want to look at is your total calorie intake before you worry about macro nutrient breakdown.
Several fairly recent examples have demonstrated the fact that calories are most important in determining weight loss.
Take this story of a professor who ate mostly powdered treats and twinkies for a 2 month period. And lost weight!
Obviously this isn’t a diet that I recommend to my clients but it illustrates that calories are the most important determining factor for weight loss.
Another story that recently came out was about a man who ate McDonald’s and lost weight. It’s amazing that calories matter this much, but it’s true, they do!
4) Eating Too Much Protein
Did he really just say you can have too much protein?
Well, yeah, actually. Despite all the bro science out there, you don’t need to eat 8 lbs of protein a day.
Research has shown that the acceptable range for protein is around 0.6-1.0 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. 0.6g being about as low as you’d want to go without risking muscle loss, and 1.0g being about the upper limit.
There’s no additional benefit to consuming way more than this amount.
I used to be of the mindset that “more was better,” and consuming racks on racks would help me build way more muscle, lose more fat, and become superhuman. I couldn’t have been more off though.
Once your protein needs are met, there’s no added benefit to excessive intake. You won’t pack on slabs of muscle at a faster rate if you double your required protein intake.
It’s similar to filling up your gas tank. Once you top that bad boy off, what benefit do you get if you keep squeezing the handle?
By consuming more protein than necessary, you cause a couple of problems. The first is that you will consume more calories than necessary due to the spillover effect. Second, you limit how much of the other macro nutrients you can take in without consuming extra calories. If you take out a ton of carbs to make more room for extra protein, you may not be fueled enough to workout hard, which is one of the primary goals of training.
If you cut fats way too low, you risk affecting various hormonal processes.
The bottom line is to stay within the optimal range of 0.6-1.0g/lb of bodyweight.
My Biggest Training Mistakes
1) Going After Too Many Different Goals at Once
After I stopped playing baseball, I got into powerlifting and all I wanted to do was lift heavy. I also wanted to get shredded, put on tons of muscle and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The problem was I wanted too many things at once. Instead of focusing my efforts on one of those, in turn I tried to do a combination of all three and didn’t make much progress in doing so.
Even though I was lifting heavier and gaining strength, I wasn’t putting on as much muscle as I wanted. Why was this?
I wasn’t training for hypertrophy.
Building muscle is best served by training at 60-70% of your 1 rep max. Getting in sufficient volume is what causes hypertrophy. It your training percentage is too high, it’ll be pretty tough to accumulate the volume necessary for growth.
If you’re trying to lose body fat, don’t think you’ll be putting on tons of muscle while you’re dieting. For fat loss you need to be in a caloric deficit. In most cases, gaining muscle requires a calorie surplus. Because of this, it’s probably best to attack them in separate phases.
Early on in my training career I lacked patience. I wanted it all, and I wanted things to happen fast. I’ve since learned that being patient is just a necessary part of getting great results.
My suggestion is to figure out your plan of attack and go all in. Sometimes it’s tough to accomplish your goals if you aren’t quite sure the best way to do so. Let me take away the guesswork and design you a training and diet plan to get you where you want to go. If you’re interested shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about working with me 1-on-1.
2) Suffering From Training ADD
I’m guilty as charged. I’ve definitely jumped around from program to program, only to wind up back at square one. Luckily, I didn’t do this for too long, and once I stuck with the basics, I started making progress again.
There were times when I would just do a workout willy nilly, with no real purpose or direction. I did exercises that seemed like fun, but were kinda hard to measure progress on.
I started to realize that all the biggest, leanest, and most muscular physiques spent time performing the basics like squats, presses, deadlifts, rows, chins, etc.
Beginners can pretty much stick to these exercises for 1-2 years at least and make incredible progress. The problem is we get bored. And that’s understandable.
In order to prevent staleness, just perform variations of the core lifts but keep the basics in mind. Most people reading this will benefit more from basic compound exercises rather than a bunch of foo-foo circus tricks you may often see in magazines.
3) Neglecting Cardio
Who knows why, but I pretty much laughed at anyone that did “cardio.” Maybe it was because cardio was thought to cause muscle loss, or that performing any kind of cardio would rob me of all my gainz.
I now realize just how stupid I was.
Like really, I worried that walking up a flight of stairs was “bad” for my progress. That’s hilarious to think about now.
Well, times have changed and cardio is seemingly making a comeback. It’s now widely accepted that doing cardio is perfectly fine and actually has benefits aside from heart health.
Cardio can help improve recovery, improve resting heart rate, and allow us to work harder in the gym. By being more aerobically fit, I no longer get as winded in the weight room. I’m able to recover faster between sets, which means I can do more work. Performing more work over time is how you improve.
The amount of cardio you do greatly depends on your goals. Just make sure you don’t make the same mistake I did and shun it completely.
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