When I look around at the gym or online I see a lot of guys making preventable mistakes when it comes to their diet and training. Unfortunately there is a lot of bad information out there from so called experts that is either useless, confusing or dangerous. The majority of nutritionists and personal trainers don’t know what they’re talking about and don’t even get me started on the average person. I used to have a 250 lb. coworker lecture me on drinking from my plastic water bottle when she ate Burger King for breakfast and smoked half a pack a day.
Trigger warning: I’m going H.A.M. on this one so prepare to be called out because chances are you probably do one of the things below. With all the garbage information out there I can’t blame you, it took me decades to sift through all the junk and I can tell you I’ve made almost every mistake on this list. So don’t take it personally if you get called out, I just want to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes I did and that you have all the facts for getting healthy and strong.
Check out the 20 diet and training mistakes you need to stop making:
1) Overtraining And Not Doing Restorative Exercise
For most guys, training more than 3 days a week while lifting to fatigue on each set will wreak havoc on your body. That means joint problems, stiffness and injuries. Even at a few times a week weightlifting is taxing to your system. I have to do yoga 4 times a week and 30 minutes of stretching every morning just to keep everything loose. Carrying 50 lbs. of extra weight is hard on your body, even though that weight is muscle and not fat the body knows no difference, it still forces your joints and internal organs to work that much harder.
If it wasn’t for vanity I would never touch a weight, my training would be nothing but pushups, squats and yoga. Unfortunately that would mean I would weigh 120 lbs. which is completely unacceptable for a grown ass man. My reason for lifting is 100% based on how having a great body makes me look and feel, being able to walk around at a ripped 170 lbs. makes all the pain and struggle worthwhile. With that said weightlifting does have some positive health benefits like strengthening your bones but lets get real, we’re all in the gym to look good naked. So make sure your workouts are brief, keep training to a few times a week and add stretching and yoga to your routine.
Crossfit is an injury factory. Unless you’re a UFC fighter there is no reason to combine weightlifting and explosive movement, this is a recipe for disaster. Lifting weights should be done in slow, controlled movements with complete focus on your body at all times. Doing wind sprints into rapid sets of bad form deadlifts is just retarded and dangerous. Unless you’re a complete novice lifter you’ll never make the strength gains you could from focused training but you risk injuring yourself and being out of the gym for months.
Don’t even get me started on Tough Mudder or these other competitions Crossfitters advocate. The risk to reward is atrocious, you risk permanent injury to your body for the reward of completing something hard. Instead of playing Ironman on the weekends you could spend that time completing something hard that will benefit every aspect of your life: building a successful business.
3) Not Measuring Results
As the great management guru Peter Drucker says: “What gets measured, gets managed.” To progress in the gym you need to get stronger, to get stronger you need to measure your progress obsessively. Going into the gym with no plan and f*cking around on whatever exercise you feel like that day will get you nowhere, just like every other guy in the gym. You need a pre-planned routine and a list of all your personal bests for every exercise.
You should only have one goal when you step in the gym, beating those personal bests. You should also measure the seat position and use the same machines at the same gym every time. Even a small change to your routine will f*ck up your measurements. Look at the weight room as a science lab where you want to control every variable to make sure you’re getting as accurate data as possible.
4) Switching Routines Too Often
Switching routines to prevent muscle confusion is the epitome of broscience. Your body responds to one thing and one thing only, the strength of your muscular contraction. The amount of weight you can lift is just a measurement of the strength your muscles can contract. Therefore all you need to do is worry about getting stronger. The exception to this rule is if you have an injury or the exercise hurts you, weighted dips are a terrific strength builder but for a lot of guys it hurts their shoulder.
I’ll admit I’m guilty of this sometimes because I’m always trying to find the best exercise for each muscle group but usually I’m adding something to my routine while still keeping all the other exercises. Try and stick to the same routine built around the key compound movements and save the tinkering for isolation exercises.
Consistently running for long periods of time is the best way to destroy your joints. Running is the highest impact form of cardio there is but despite this the running cult is even stronger than the Crossfit cult. If you want to use your knees past 60, give the running a rest, especially if you’re a lifter with already taxed joints and 50 lbs. of muscle hammering the ground with each heel strike. Use the stationary bike or the elliptical instead, you won’t get the same runners high but its no impact cardio, that’s a no brainer substitution. Look at the body of a champion runner, do you really want to look like this guy?
6) Playing Sports
This was a tough one for me to give up because as a kid sports were my life. Sports are fun and as a kid being good at sports is the best way to become popular. But once you hit 25, playing sports consistently means you’re going to get injured. I’m sure you see this all the time with your friends and coworkers, like your 37 year old colleague who is hobbling around on his ankle for 2 months because he rolled over on it playing soccer. Unless you’re a professional athlete getting paid millions of dollars a year to destroy your body, it’s time to hang up your jersey.
7) Focusing On Functional Strength
This is another favorite of the weekend warriors, guys who spend hours swinging a kettlebell around for a small increase in their indoor rock climbing abilities. These are the same guys who talk about how they don’t want to get “too big” because apparently they don’t like being attractive to women. In our modern world the only functional strength you need is the ability to lift your hands to a keyboard. Chances are you get enough practice in your 50 hour work week.
I prefer to focus on panty wetting non-functional strength as opposed to the guy who spends his week f*cking around with a medicine ball for that slight edge in his coed dodgeball game. Functional strength is only relevant to a very select group of men: they’re called professional athletes. The guys that they get paid millions of dollars a year to destroy their bodies by applying that functional strength.
8) Olympic Lifts
These are the most dangerous lifts you can do and completely unnecessary for building a fit body. Olympic lifts should be left to actual Olympians, guys willing to sacrifice their health for a taste of glory as opposed to a Crossfit participation trophy. Before you think about doing an olympic lift, have another look at the picture at the top of the page.
9) Doing Barbell Exercises Without A Spotter
To get stronger you need to push to fatigue on every set, that means pushing the weight to where you can’t lift any more. If you do this on a set of bench presses without a spotter that bar is going to come down and crush your chest. Most guys are able to get away with this because they’re half-assing their training and finish every set without giving 100%. There are tons of great substitutions for these exercises like using dumbbells or machines. I’ve personally grown more from using the Hammer Strength V Squat machine than I ever did from free weight squats.
10) Hiring A Personal Trainer From The Gym
For the price of a mortgage payment your local gym will provide you with a 90 lb., 22 year old asian girl who is supposed to show you how to tack on 50 lbs. of lean muscle. She’ll do it by setting you up with known strength building exercises like jumping jacks and Bosu Ball crunches. I always feel so bad for the guy who came to the gym for the first time in his life as I watch his trainer parading him around the gym doing retarded functional strength exercises that get in everyone’s way.
The qualifications for a personal trainer at a gym are non-existent, many of the guys I see training clients are out of shape. The fact that they let out of shape people who complete a weekend certification course train others should be criminal. A good trainer will have his own business but even a good trainer isn’t necessary. Just follow my routine, study Youtube videos for the right form and practice for a few weeks with light weights until you can execute flawlessly.
11) Thinking That Eating Food Will Make You Lose Weight
Despite the miracle weight loss foods you read about online, you don’t lose weight from eating food, you lose weight from not eating food. The only way to lose weight is to maintain a daily caloric deficit. For all intents and purposes a calorie is a calorie, to lose weight you need to eat less whether it’s the ice cream diet or the atkins diet.
I eat plenty of carbs and happily maintain sub 10% body fat because I keep a close eye on how many calories I eat. To maintain my weight at 170 lbs. I need 2000 calories a day, that’s only two solid meals.
The reason people lose more weight on high protein, low carb diets is because protein is the most filling nutrient. It’s easy to eat 1500 calories of ice cream in a sitting but try eating 5 steaks at a time. The other thing to be aware of is that a high protein, low carb diet will cause you to lose water weight making it look like you’re getting slimmer but in reality you’re just manipulating your body. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just be aware of the true cause behind the effect.
12) Eating Too Much Protein
The amount of protein you need to build muscle, just like the amount of calories you need, is way less than you think. I know every forum in the world says you need a gram of protein per lb. of bodyweight but that’s actually not true. With the exception of maybe elite level bodybuilders carrying 90 lbs. or more of lean muscle, you only need at most, 120 grams of protein per day.
I’m speaking from experience here, having built and maintained 50 lbs. of lean muscle on under 120 grams per day. I’ve also choked down over 200 grams of protein per day in the past with no noticeable effect on muscle growth but a noticeable effect on my kidneys, gut and wallet. The protein myth was started by supplement companies to get you to buy their sh*tty protein powders. If you don’t believe me check out these four studies or this book by Brad Pilon on how much protein you really need:
- Walberg et al. in 1988 found that .73 grams/pound was sufficient for nitrogen balance
- Tarnopolsky et al. in 1988 found 0.55g/Lb sufficient for bodybuilders
- Lemon et al. in 1992 found recommended 0.75g/Lb
- Tarnopolsky et al. in 1992 found that 0.64g/Lb and 1.10g/Lb were not significantly different
13) Eating Six Times A Day
I’ve tried eating 3 times a day, 6 times a day and even once a day and I can tell you with complete certainty that meal frequency has no effect on gaining or maintaining muscle. I’ve settled on 2 meals a day because that’s what gives me the most energy but as long as you get enough calories in you can eat whenever you want.
The only guys who need to eat 6 times a day are professional bodybuilders who walk around off season at 300 lbs., this is because they literally can’t consume all the food they need to eat in 3 meals a day. Also, when you try to eat 6 meals a day you will never feel full. You’ll spend your day in a state of constant low level hunger. Don’t live your life out of a Tupperware container, enjoy it and eat whenever you want.
14) Treating The Paleo Diet As Gospel
Many guys love the paleo diet and with good reason, you’re eating natural foods that we’re evolved for like meat, fruits and vegetables. But just because it’s paleo doesn’t mean it’s good for you and just because it’s not paleo doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat it.
Coconut milk, a paleo staple destroyed my gut and woke me up with the most insane case of heartburn I’ve ever had. The paleo diet also advocates eating lots of saturated fat. It’s true that saturated fat is fine in moderation but tons of saturated fat is not good for you, ask any cardiologist. This is what actual scientists believe, not internet bloggers.
Don’t get me wrong, eating from an evolutionary standpoint is great but just because cavemen didn’t eat it doesn’t mean its bad for you. A delicious serving of perfectly spiced pad thai on white rice is not going to kill you, the Okinawans eat tons of white rice and they outlive all of us.
The paleo diet is also boring as f*ck which means it’s hard to sustain long term. Life is short and tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, there is no way I’m eating nothing but meat and vegetables for the rest of my life. The paleo diet is good as a base but if you want a sustainable diet you can’t be that restrictive.
White rice, bread and pasta aren’t going to kill you unless you’re allergic to them, neither is having a cheat meal a few times a week. Don’t be that guy who goes out to the bar with his friends and can’t eat or drink anything on the menu.
15) Eating Things You’re Allergic To
Most of you guys probably eat things you’re allergic to. If your stomach rumbles after a meal or you get gas or heartburn chances are you’re allergic to that food. I didn’t realize I was allergic to dairy until my late 20’s, once I cut it out my permanently congested nose went away and I stopped getting colds all the time.
The main source of food allergies are from FODMAPs. FODMAP is an acronym for foods that are poorly absorbed by the small intestine. Common FODMAPs are wheat, garlic, onions, some fruits, dairy and as above, coconut milk. For me, wheat and fruits are no problem but garlic, onions, dairy and coconut milk are.
The best way to test out allergies is by eating FODMAPs individually and monitoring your body. If you get any symptoms, cut the food out or eat it in moderation. This is crucial for building a fit body because you need to get all the nutrients you can from your food, this isn’t possible when your food is not absorbed properly.
16) High Volume Training
Unless you’re a masochist high volume training is not the way to go. A set of 40 squats to fatigue is absolute brutality, compare this to a set of 8 and you’ll never go back. There is no reason to do 40 reps when you can get the same benefit from 8. The only exception is with slow twitch muscles like the calves, they usually need to be worked at 30 sets or more – but your calves still won’t grow much if you don’t have the right muscle insertion.
Some people will even argue that you’re fine with one rep training and I would agree. If I had access to resistance machines that could measure PSI I would do one rep training with a focus on micro-increases in the amount of pressure I can lift every week.
Unfortunately 1 rep training is not a good method with weights because weights are an imprecise measuring system. You could be stuck between 0 and 1 rep for weeks at a time, not knowing if you’re getting stronger or not. So stick to the tried and tested 8 to 12 rep range and you’ll be good.
17) Reading Bodybuilding.com
Bodybuilding.com is the home of broscience and guys who will call you small because you’re only carrying 60 lbs. of lean muscle. Recognize that for sites to get traffic they need to produce a ton of content, when it comes to weightlifting, 90% of what you need to know can be explained in no more than 10 posts.
That means sites like bodybuilding.com need to pump out lots of confusing garbage on a daily basis. There is some good information on the forums, especially if you’re looking for human reviews of a product, but take everything with a grain of salt.
18) Eating Big
On sites like the above, eating bigger is the answer to almost every rookie question. Unfortunately eating big past your first 5 months of consistent training will just make you fat, I speak from experience. What they don’t tell you is that you need to eat big and take steroids to get really big. Your natural genetic potential is only 35 to 50 lbs. at the most depending on your body.
You can eat big all you want but you will never have a bodybuilder’s physique without drugs. A pound of muscle is only 3500 calories, past your first year of training you’ll be lucky to put on a pound a month, that’s a daily caloric surplus of only 116 calories. This is why most guys spend most of the year getting fat and building a small amount of muscle and then spend the rest of the year getting lean and losing most of the muscle they built. I went through that cycle at least 3 times until I smartened up.
The best way to build muscle without getting fat is to eat for the amount of muscle you expect to gain. For example a second year trainee can realistically expect to gain a pound of muscle a month which is about 3500 calories. Let’s say he works out 12 times a month, that means on training days he should aim to eat a caloric surplus of 292 calories to hit his goal.
You’ll know that you’ve gone too far when you get a small roll around your stomach. Also, recognize that gains past your second and third year of training will be extremely slow so eat accordingly. Once you’ve hit at least 35 lbs. of lean muscle and you’re not breaking personal bests after months on end, you’re probably tapped out of the amount of muscle you can put on naturally.
19) Starting Strength/Strong Lifts
Before I go in on Coach Rippetoe I want to say that by all accounts he seems like a good guy who sincerely wants to help his students. I also know that many of you guys followed or have followed his method and a lot of what he says is useful.
The core of the Starting Strength program is doing 3 sets of 5 reps on every exercise. Doing 3 sets of any exercise is not only unnecessary but is counterproductive, especially for natural trainees. On the beginner’s routine you will be squatting nine times a week and deadlifting twice, that is insane.
As we covered already, getting stronger is all that matters, that means the first set is all that counts. Unless you’re giving less than 100% on your first set, you’ll never be able to break a personal best on your second set. Arthur Jones figured out back in the 70’s that one set is all you need but unfortunately most people don’t listen to him.
20) Trying To Cut Weight And Eat Healthy At The Same Time
If you’re trying to cut weight and already eat healthy this is no problem, but chances are if you’re overweight you’re not a healthy guy. Cutting weight for an extended period of time is hard enough but adding a restrictive diet of foods you hate is torture. It’s also not sustainable and is a big reason people are not able to follow through on their diet.
If you’re trying to lose 40 lbs. on a caloric deficit at a pound a week that’s 10 months straight of cutting weight, not an easy thing to do. Instead of trying to eat healthy at the same time, just add some healthy fruits and vegetables into the mix but still give yourself a treat to look forward to at the end of the day and a cheat meal or two per week. Otherwise it’s only a matter of time before you crack and binge out at Mcdonald’s. Some good, moderately healthy, high protein options to look forward to are smoked meat sandwiches, cheeseburgers made with high grade meat and chicken shwarmas.