I have been a personal trainer for about twelve years now and I have three misconceptions and I’m about to share with you that I believe people hold when trying to lose weight. If you can try my adjustments to these three old ghosts, you will reach your goals faster. So what are they? The three biggest and most common mis-steps I see daily when it comes to fitness are:
The first thought I want to debunk is “I need to do more cardio”. When you start a fitness plan no matter what your fitness level, it’s important to make sure you keep things within reason and measurable. I constantly see people staying on pieces of cardio equipment for endless hours and hours; this just simply isn’t necessary. I’m not saying that cardio is bad for you but just like most things, moderation is key with steady state training. Don’t get me wrong, cardio is great for the heart, tightening up the skin, your circulatory functions, aids in flushing out toxins and does burn calories; I have it in my program daily. There are a lot of people out there that think the longer they sit on that machine the more fat or calories they will burn; and according to the calories counter on the machine, they’re correct. In reality, they are overdoing it, and combining this no-no with not eating enough of the right food can majorly stall results. The second you mix the two of those together the body just goes into store-mode and holds onto weight like crazy. If your goal is sport specific then different training styles and methods come into play but today I’m just talking about those people that want to burn some unwanted lbs. When starting out a workout plan try to keep the cardio around 20 minutes max per day. I’ve found doing this will allow for you not to get too bored of any one machine and you will still feel like you have had a good sweat. It’s enough to reap the necessary health benefits, but won’t be so much that your body gets confused as to “burn” or “store” fat reserves as it doesn’t know when the next 2 hour long grueling cardio session may hit.
The second misconception is “I need to eat less”. I can’t tell you how many people I have watched try to stick to these low calorie diets or fads and fail miserably. Doing a detox cleanse here or there is ok to remove sugars from our diets, and get us back on track, but why do we consistently think eating little amounts of food will help us burn calories? When you have no food (especially no CARBS) in the tank, how far do you think you’re going to get in your day, let alone in training? You fill your car up to get you to and from places and your body works much the same. If you don’t fuel the engine, your body will not have the ability to push hard while training and produce fat burning muscle tissue to help you lose weight. Having the right amount of protein, carbs and fats in the body will give you more results than eating like a bird, every time. An easy way to get started with proper fueling is to eat within 30-45 minutes after waking up; this will kickstart your metabolism and start you burning the bad calories instantly. One huge thing that I hear a ton of is when people first start off eating the way they should and getting the right amount of calories in, they start noticing what having energy really feels like. Most people don’t know what they should actually feel like in regards to energy therefore they have nothing to compare it to. Starting the day of with a balanced breakfast will trigger this feeling, and set a standard baseline for how you should feel each day. This consistency will kickstart a waterfall of better food decisions and become a positive and very easy habit. It’s important for people to realize that until you eat, your metabolism just sits at a standstill. Your body has no idea when it’s going to get food or nutrients next, and will automatically hold onto the extra stored calories in your body because it still needs to function throughout the day - your body “plays it safe” to make sure that you have fat stored up incase you deprive it again. I’m personally a huge fan of eating clean quality food whenever possible (I don’t buy into flexible IIFYM dieting myself, though we are all human and I firmly believe in indulging for sanities sake on occasion!). The most common misconception out there is about the consumption of carbs, and are they good or bad for you if your goal is weight-loss. In my experience I believe having a mixture or simple and complex carbs is VERY important, and is the only way to reach your goals. Do I believe in no-carb diets? NO! I think that when you deprive your body of something that gives you energy, helps with brain function and allows you to blast through your day, you immediately set yourself up for failure. All of us are human and go out for dinners and have cheat meals and I agree with going off-book once and awhile, this is easy to get back on track after if you already have carbs in your daily diet. The opposite being, if you run on low to no carbs in your daily diet, the effects of these cheat meals have a greater impact on you for weight gain because your body isn’t conditioned to receiving and using the carbs efficiently. Think of it this way, if you consistently incorporate carbs into your daily food intake then when you have a planned cheat, your know what to expect when you consume a controlled amount of carbs, as your body is ready for it and conditioned to burn them up. If you never eat carbs, and shock the system with a cheat meal, your body freaks out and can’t dump this small cheat within a few days as it doesn’t know when to expect this important energy source again and holds on for dear life. Eating less isn’t the answer to weight loss, depriving yourself of one of the three building blocks of nutrition (carbs) certainly isn’t either. The key is to eat as much clean and balanced nutrition as possible while still working towards your goal, consistently across the day. Keep your diet as holistic as possible, indulge on occasion, and don’t jump on every band wagon diet that comes your way.
The third pillar I always come up on with people is “inconsistency” or “giving up after a couple of days”. No matter the plan, program, new diet, new workout regime you start, make sure to give it an honest chance to work. So few people stick it out and let whatever they’re starting kick in. When starting a new food plan for instance, it takes about a week for your body to get used to the new calories and adjust accordingly so don’t give up if you don’t see results within 2 days. As a coach, I jack up the caloric intake for all of my clients, often. Yes, especially the women. They gain a pound or two and panic; I tell them to expect this, and stay on track and stick it out. After a couple of days of consistent consumption, the pound goes away, and they are now at a higher caloric intake daily allowing for them to push harder in training. I honestly can say that the first 2-3 days of eating a new program everyone wants to quit, even me. We want to try a new nutrition program, but only kinda-sorta, and we only want to stick to it if the scales moves in the right direction on day 1. I encourage you to see the bigger picture. CONSISTENCY is everything, let your body know what to expect and when. For most people eating breakfast is a new habit to be formed and it can be super tough to get it down. Stick it out because after those first couple days of being full and uncomfortable first thing in the morning, your body just starts responding with a ton of energy and you actually start to feel hungry as soon as you wake up after a few days on course. Hunger is a signal of efficient energy usage in the body, meaning you're burning your stored energy, ie: fat. Start your day off with the majority of your carbs and slowly taper them back throughout the day. Yes, this is a classic approach, and it’s always work for me and my clients. It’s not bro-science, it’s common sense. There is no point having carbs past 4-5pm unless you plan on being active after that time as carbs are lighter fluid, which you don’t need if you’re winding down for the day. If you consume carbs after this time and you’re not actively burning them off as a power source, the carbs may just sit in the system and aid in bad weight gain. The goal is to wake up a bit hungry and this is because the body was able to burn any excess carbs and fat consumed earlier in the day while you slept as a result of not consuming them in the evening. Stick with your food program; commit to it consistently for two weeks before making any adjustments so you have a baseline, and pay attention to your hungry times throughout the day.
In the way of consistent behaviour and training, showing up and pushing yourself is key, time and time again. Any new workout or exercise plan will make your body sore; This is something that EVERYONE experiences (even me, still, day in and day out) and I promise you that the extreme soreness you feel those first couple weeks will get better. Don’t allow muscle soreness to create an excuse for inconsistent training patterns. Do not give up due to this discomfort, it is the goal; before long you will be seeking this feeling of muscle soreness the next morning as it’s a sign of an effective workout and thus, progress. I have seen first hand with even my own clients that people get overwhelmed when first starting out so please keep the plan simple to begin with. Don’t try and “do what you used to” in your fitter days, and get sidelined by injury. Keep it within reason and gradually increase intensity as you get fitter. Push yourself, get uncomfortable, but be smart about it. Showing up and training at a scheduled time is key, you need to give yourself a solid month of consistent discipline to see progress, so set your goals realistically and stick to them then re-evaluate after a month and see what more you can commit in order to stick with it. More is not always better so follow a program that is achievable and keeps you coming back. Setting short and long term goals along with taking measurements are so important for you to keep you on track and stay dedicated. These behaviors will solidify results and focus on the important outcomes; many people get caught up with the only goal being weight loss and they forget the secondary results that may be more important - for example, sleeping better, more energy, joint and other ailments going away and taking less medication for starters. These are the outcomes that should be first and foremost focused upon, and as long as you are being consistent with food, exercise and just conscience of staying on the right path, weight loss will happen automatically.
So how do you action these concepts into a plan? Start small with these takeaways:
You aren’t required to believe everything you read, including my point of view. Use common sense, which is what I hope to have outlined here for you, and strive to your health and wellness goals. Change is scary for all of us, especially when it comes to health and wellness, but trust my experience when I say I know you are capable of these adjustments to reach your goals quicker. Ignore the fads and start with the basics and you will achieve success without getting bogged down with the usual stumbling blocks.
This article was authored by Alan Dyck | Alan is the owner of NXTLVL Performance, and certified personal trainer