1. Longer isn’t always better…
When it comes to exercise…longer isn’t always better! Have you ever been around that person who brags about spending three hours in the gym? It’s easy to understand why someone might think longer workouts equate to better workouts, but when it comes to metabolic efficiency and hormone production…longer workouts are less effective. Prolonged low-intensity exercise can depress levels of essential anabolic hormones like testosterone and estrogen while elevating catabolic stress hormones like cortisol. High-intensity exercise (HIIE) boosts anabolic hormones such as testosterone, growth hormone, and epinephrine. These powerful hormones help stimulate fat loss and muscle growth in men and women. On top of that, research shows that HIIE improves insulin sensitivity, another critical component of fat loss. If you’re trying to shed a few pounds or build lean muscle….less gym time combined with more sweat may be an approach to consider.
2. Too much variation
Exercise variation is not a bad thing, but like everything else, variety should be strategic. Repeating exercises will help your technique improve and allow your central nervous system to adapt to the stimulus. This leads to bodily changes such as muscle growth or fat loss. Muscle confusion is a fitness myth, so don’t focus as much on variation and focus more on mastering every exercise you perform. Repeat the same exercises per body part twice a week for 4-8 weeks. After 4 to 8 weeks, evaluate your progress and vary your exercises for the next 4 to 8 week period. As technique improves, increase the challenge of each exercise. For example, try multiple sets of an exercise variation on a leg day, or multiple sessions per week for those who want to squat, jump, or sprint. Too much change in your workout routine can inhibit fitness progress, so try to plan your workouts strategically.
3. Rest, Rest, Rest
Make sure to get proper rest after your workouts to prevent over-training. Adding volume and intensity in the weight room is only beneficial to the point where it’s no longer possible to recover from it. During your workouts, make sure to get the proper rest between sets. Most people think rest and work are opposites when they’re actually synergists. The more you rest, the harder you can work. The more you work, the more rest becomes essential. Rest equals quality work, and quality work leads to needed rest. On higher intensity training days, rest MORE. On lower intensity days, rest LESS. Changing your rest between sets is an excellent way to mix up your workouts, progress your fitness level, and prevent fitness plateaus.
4. Unrealistic Expectations
Maybe the world is obsessed with certain models or actresses, but don’t let yourself get sucked into these unrealistic expectations. Lift to sculpt ‘your’ body, not to look like someone else! Setting unrealistic expectations will only limit your fitness potential. Weight training can’t change your God-given body type, but it can maximize your unique genetics and help define and sculpt your shape. That doesn’t mean you can’t become the healthiest, most functional, best version of yourself. A healthy and functional body is beautiful. However, certain body types are physically impossible for most of us to achieve. Pick a realistic role model or a realistic fitness goal to inspire you along the way. Sure, there will be ups and downs, but hard work, dedication, and consistency will win out in the end. Embrace the body you have!
5. Obsessing Over the Scale
What if I said: you can look better and weigh the same? Yes, you read that right. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it applies to many. If you gain 3 pounds of lean muscle and lose 3 pounds of body fat, the scale will say you accomplished nothing. Scales often mislead us when it comes to monitoring fitness progress. This is why a ‘lighter’ version of you, isn’t a ‘shapelier’ or more ‘toned’ version of you. Being smaller and having less muscle means you are burning fewer calories throughout the day and must eat less to stay that way! Before you obsess over the scale, consider that a ‘heavier’ version of you might look better and burn more calories than the ‘lighter’ version of you.
6. Prioritizing Cardio Over Lifting
If you focus on cardio and neglect lifting weights; it will be tough for you to change your body shape. It’s understandable why someone might think: “losing body fat will cause a sculpted body.” There is truth to that, but don’t forget that fat loss is only one part of the muscle tone equation, and for most people, it’s the easiest part. Muscle tone requires muscle growth, a much harder fitness component and one worthy of your focused time and effort.
Muscle growth boosts fat metabolism. The more muscle you have the more fat you burn. Each pound of lean muscle burns up to 50 calories per day. By adding 8 pounds of lean muscle, you will burn up to 400 more calories per day you weren’t burning. For a better perspective, walk on the treadmill and see how long it takes to burn 400 additional calories. Compare that to the potential of burning these calories while doing nothing!
7. Sugar and Dietary Inconsistency
When you eat carbohydrates, the body breaks them down into sugar. When the liver and muscle stores are at capacity, the body stores the remaining sugar as fat. When you exercise after consuming an excessive amount of carbs; instead of burning fat, your body will use carbohydrates from your bloodstream to fuel your workouts. As a result, you will never get to the fat-burning potential of your fitness routine. An easy way to reduce the number of carbs you consume is to replace the fruit in your diet with vegetables. There isn’t a nutrient found in fruit that can’t be found in a vegetable. Try to eat one gram of protein per pound of body weight each day. Eating more protein will help curb your carb cravings and promote muscle growth. Train your body to use fat for energy. Dietary fat promotes a feeling of fullness and is utilized efficiently by the body as a fuel source.
Consistency is everything! When you have a ‘bad’ eating day or a series of ‘bad’ eating days; don’t quit or lose motivation. No one said it would be easy, get back to eating clean and let your dietary cheating motivate you the following days to stay consistent and stick to the principles that you know will lead you to your fitness goal.
8. Impairing Your Fitness With Alcohol
Oh yes, it’s the dreaded alcohol talk. I wish I could tell you differently, but as you already know deep down inside, alcohol will not help your fitness journey! When we drink, fat and sugar burning comes to a halt. You may think this happens directly, but alcohol leads to an indirect storage of fat by changing your metabolism. Let me try to explain how: ethanol, the alcohol found in drinks, has toxic metabolic byproducts called acetaldehyde and acetate. Both by-products help create that queasy, nauseous feeling you get when you’ve put back a few too many. When you consume alcohol, your body converts the ethanol into acetaldehyde. The acetaldehyde is further converted into acetate and acetyl-CoA.
This creates a problem. Neither acetate nor acetyl-CoA is an efficient fuel source, and your body can’t store either of these metabolites. Instead, you have to burn them off. So before your body can use other fuels such as fat and sugar, it needs to remove the alcohol by-products. What does this mean for you? Consuming alcohol in large quantities has a direct effect on your metabolism, causing fat to be stored instead of being used as an energy source. Most of your hard work and sweat in the gym are going towards burning the alcohol by-products consumed the night before; while sugar and fat just hang around waiting to be burned or stored.
As you flood your body with alcohol, it reacts by increasing adrenaline, which excretes sugar into your bloodstream. When you continue to sit and drink, blood sugar and hormone fluctuations result in an increased appetite and a metabolism primed and ready to store fat. That’s not the worst of it. Alcohol messes with digestion, making it difficult for your body to absorb nutrients. This is a terrible combination! The rise and fall of your blood sugar as you drink throughout the evening not only makes you hungry, it puts your body in fat-storing mode! Combine a ravenous appetite and a poor metabolic state with impaired judgment and the ‘drinking munchies’, and you can easily find yourself on a late-night pizza excursion or voraciously devouring your kitchen pantry!