From smart people, I still hear things like; "I stop eating at 8pm to lose fat." And, "I'm doing high reps to get toned." My personal favorite is, " I don't eat carbs after dark." These are fitness minded individuals that have been "exercising" for years and for the most part have a sensible diet, while keeping up to date with the latest fitness trends. But therein lies the problem.
This information overload is created by fitness phonies to endorse placebo products that don't work. I come from a family of unfit individuals. I myself am a fatty turned fit. I know the pain, and the struggle to see results and keep them going for the long term.
Here are some truths I've learned from self-experimentation and training clients, male/female, and young, old, fat and thin:
#1 - If You're Not Hungry, Wait to Eat BreakfastIf you're not hungry for breakfast, don't eat until you are. I haven't eaten in the A.M. hours in 2 years (besides the occasional splurge-tastic Sunday brunch) because I prefer a larger lunch and an even larger dinner.
And no, calories eaten before bed don't store as body fat. Unless you go over your calories for the day it doesn't matter when you eat them. Remember, our ancestors would hunt for food all day and feast at night. They slept like babies and were jacked!
#2 - You Don't Need Frequent FeedingYou don't need food every 3-4 hours. Your metabolism won't slow down if you skip meals, as long as you don't skimp on your total calories over a 24 hour period.
#3 - You Can't Out-Exercise a Horrible DietYou can't outrun your mouth. Believe me I've tried. Unfortunately the gym is just a tiny catalyst for fat loss. You need a correct diet and nutrition to see results and lose fat and gain lean muscle.
#4 - Stop Fearing the Foods You LoveDon't deprive yourself of foods you love. Human willpower is only so strong. It's just a matter of time before you binge and find yourself face planted in chocolate peanut butter brownies and moose tracks ice-cream. (My sweatshirt has the chocolate stains to prove it.)
#5 - Listen to Your BodyYour body is a smart machine; listen to it. If your triceps are hurting for a few days in a row, don't perform overhead tricep presses or rope pushdowns. Take some time to heal, rest, and grow bigger and stronger muscles. The gym will still be there after your ligaments repair.
#6 - Attack Stress by WalkingDon't underestimate walking. If you have a lot of stress and deal with some anxiety like I do, standing up straight and going for a nice brisk walk will lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone), attack stubborn belly fat, and put you in a cheerier mood.
If you have a lot of stress and deal with some anxiety like I do, standing up straight and going for a nice brisk walk will lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone).
#7 - Dump Boring CardioUnless you enjoy jogging a.k.a. steady-state cardio or need it for health reasons, being a hamster on the wheel serves no purpose. Instead, climb, sprint up a hill, chase your kids and/or pet, shoot some hoops and have fun. Do some High intensity Interval Training where short bursts are followed by bouts of low intensity. You see those ripped sprinters right?!
#8 - Water, But Not Too MuchHydrate, hydrate, hydrate. But, don't over-hydrate. I've confused my body many times, undereating due to feeling bloated from too much water and coffee/tea. Eat to perform at your best!
#9 - BYOM - Bring Your Own MusicFind YOUR best playlist whether it's Beiber, Metallica, or even some Broadway musical number that is stuck in your head. Jamming out can really enhance your workout performance. Don't underestimate the rhythm of the beats.
#10 - Get Caffeinated, Improve Pain and Fat LossCaffeine works miracles to improve pain tolerance, reduce early morning muscle weakness, while increasing focus and energy. (Most supplements have caffeine as the main ingredient anyway). Save some money and get a cup or two of Joe an hour before your workout.
Caffeine also increases fat mobilization; just a fancy way of saying you'll burn more fat pre-workout.
#11 - More Rest and Recovery for Sports InjuriesAnti-inflammatory foods help, but they are not a saving grace if you really are dealing with a sports injury. I had a mild pectoral tear last year and tried garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, onions, and omega-3 foods.
My exercise prescription should have just really been more rest and recovery.
#12 - Fasted Training is Not Needed for Fat LossDuring the past 2 years, I have often trained in a fasted state with nothing but coffee in my veins and Eminem blasting in my ears. However, it's not necessary for fat loss results and to get the lean body of your dreams.
#13 - Lift Angry, Run HappyLift angry. Run happy. I just like the motto and believe you can take out your daily stresses on weights and then run to achieve that happy place.
#14 - Create an Eating LifestyleFad diets are just that. A diet that works is not a diet at all, but a lifestyle you can maintain for the long term.
#15 - Long-term Low Carb Can Make You WeakerGoing low-carb for too long sucks and definitely makes you weaker in the gym. For me personally, I get foggy when it comes to thinking throughout the rest of my day when my carbohydrate intake is too low.
Unless you enjoy steady-state cardio or need it for health reasons, do some High intensity Interval Training where short bursts are followed by bouts of low intensity.
#16 - Gluten is NOT the DevilGluten is not the devil's spawn, unless you are intolerant or have Celiac disease. (In that case I recommend avoiding it like your Aunt's Thanksgiving Ambrosia salad). Many lose weight when eliminating wheat because they just end up eating fewer calories.
Most pre-packed foods found in the middle aisles of the supermarket have wheat, i.e. Oreo's, pretzels, breads, cookies, cakes and pies. Stick with whole foods like lean meat, fish, fibrous vegetables, and fruits that provide fullness and real nutrients.
#17 - Overtraining is NOT a MythOvertraining is REAL and with age comes the need for more recovery. Better yet, be smart and start prioritizing younger.
Make sure to take rest days. Put them into your calendar just like your workout days. I don't want to be that guy at 50 who can't raise his arm over his head.
#18 - Have "Regular People" Meal DaysThe term "cheat meal" carries the wrong connotation. They should be classified as "regular people" days.
It's just a day you can eat what you've been craving all week, no guilt or shame. Eat until satisfied. This can be alone or with friends and family. (I've gone a month straight only craving and indulging in Chick-Fila and Taco Bell).
#19 - Focus on Compound MovementsIsolation exercises, i.e. curls, flyes and leg extensions, are worthless to get a lean and mean physique. Focus on compound movements that are multi-joint which engage numerous muscle groups like the bench press, deadlift, and squat.
You will get stronger and leaner. Don't be afraid to start light and build up each week.
#20 - Find Your Intrinsic MotivationIntrinsic motivation is the only way to sustain progress in the gym and in life. Extrinsic factors can work initially, but they fizzle out before you can scream BEACH SEASON! Be proud to have a strong and powerful body.
#21 - Live a Balanced LifeDon't let the gym own your life. Going away on vacation? Enjoy being lazy, stretch out on your hammock and drink your frozen chunky monkey cocktail.
Having dinner with your girlfriend at the new Italian restaurant in town? Dive into that soft and gooey, pillow-shaped gnocchi.
Life really is too short to deprive yourself of simple pleasures. The gym is a means to enhance your life, not steal it away.
#22 - You Can Work Around Some InjuriesYou can workout through SOME injuries. I've dealt with elbow tendinitis, back spasms, leg cramps. I can tailor my workout and strengthen weaker points I've neglected in the past while the other muscles rest.
#23 - Choose Chalk, Not GlovesI really feel stronger when I put chalk on my hands. With gloves, I don't feel at one with the weights and for some lifts I need a stronger grip. Hence the happy medium, some chalk on the hands.
#24 - Weak Grip Might Equal Fatigued CNSThe iron doesn't lie. Don't underestimate grip strength.
Like I said earlier, your body is a smart machine. If your grip is off, it could mean your central nervous system needs a break or there's too many other stressors in your life to train at the moment.
#25 - Know Your Supplement StaplesSome supplements work and some don't. Fish oil, branched chain amino acids (especially if training fasted), and whey protein are all beneficial to complement your diet. The other thousands of celeb-endorsed products on the market you really don't need.
MTS Nutrition Machine whey a quality protein brought to you by the man who brought ethics back to the industry, Marc Lobliner. Learn more here.
#26 - Carb-Backloading Works, But is Not MagicCarb-backloading, where you keep your insulin suppressed all day and enjoy the majority of your carbs at night works for fat loss, but its just another tool. Its not a magic pill if your diet sucks.
#27 - Eat Wisely When Using Intermittent FastingIntermittent fasting works, but if you break your fast with Twinkies, cupcakes, donuts, and Dominos then it doesn't matter. You will gain fat if you're in a calorie surplus.
#28 - Get in the Right State of MindBig compound lifts require a certain mental preparation. The brain controls the body. The right state of mind goes a long way to breaking through physical plateaus.
#29 - Don't Be Afraid to GruntGrunting can enhance performance. Those tennis players grunting with every serve and volley are onto something. It forces you to breathe with each movement.
#30 - Learn How to Stop a BingeMinty gum and brushing your teeth will help you prevent or stop an eating binge.
You won't want another bite of that meat lover's pizza or jelly filled crème donut after you've car-washed your mouth full of fluoride.
#31 - Abs are Made in the KitchenYou don't need to do abdominal workouts to have a six-pack. Focus on your diet and compound exercises that engage your core.
#32 - Break Your Low Carb Diet ProperlyRe-feed days are necessary if you do have a lower carbohydrate diet (most likely a lower overall calorie diet as well). Stick to foods high in carbs and low in fat such as: cereal, breads, potatoes, rice, and pizza with little cheese, low-fat muffins, and waffles.
The key here is to have foods high in carbs, but low in dietary fat to minimize the potential for fat storage.