The pursuit of fitness is not exactly a piece of cake (in fact, there’s usually very little to no cake involved). With change comes sacrifice; as the old adage goes. ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’ Wise words, there.
Now, I don’t want to appear condescending by listing all the obvious ‘naughty’ stuff. I’m pretty sure you know that pepperoni pizza and Jammie Dodgers don’t heavily feature as part of a body transformation plan. Instead, let’s cut to the chase; I want you to consider five habits that are often overlooked, and how these might be jeopardising your results – perhaps without you realising.
Training can become addictive, leaving you with a ‘heady’, even euphoric sense of achievement (that is, once you get past those initial sessions, where it feels like you’re either dying, or actually dead). That’ll be those endorphins kicking in – the body’s natural high.
First off, well done for getting to this phase, as many never make it this far. However, it’s important to emphasise that sometimes, less is more. Training for too long and/or too frequently can undo the hard work you’re putting in. Without factoring in adequate rest periods, you’re at risk of slipping into a catabolic state (muscle breakdown), and subjecting your body to physical stress that could damage your health. The pay off could be that you’re forced to stop training altogether for a few weeks, in order to recover. Uh-oh!
Break from training for one or two days per week, and dedicate enough time per session to reach your optimal performance level – no more, and no less.
2. Lack of sleep
A lot of us are guilty of not getting our forty winks, whether it’s because of work, family commitments, stress, or another reason. Remember that muscles are built during sleep, so lack of shut-eye can potentially affect your progress. Making a conscious effort to rectify this can reap dividends to your success.
3. ‘Fat phobia’
Dietary fat – for the most part – has been misconstrued over the years, no thanks to its portrayal by the media. Healthy, natural fats are essential to your athleticism and well-being. They’re required to maintain healthy brain and nerve cells, lubricate the joints, and assist metabolic function. The belief that they’ll cause you to gain weight or are otherwise ‘bad’ for you, is by large, a misconception. Include good sources in your diet, such as avocados, coconut oil, nuts, and oily fish.
4. Being too zealous on the cardio front
Of course, this one is subjective to your goals. If you’re training to be the next Usain Bolt, then I’d say run – run like the wind. However, if building muscle is the aim of your game, then keeping a check on your cardio work is advisable. Whilst activities like HIIT can be highly valuable in helping you to strip body fat, overdoing things can hinder mass gains. Effective training is about reaching a state of flux, whereby you avoid getting into a rut, and consistently re-evaluate aspects of your routine.
5. Cheat eating
Mixed opinions exist regarding ‘cheat’ days. Some fitness experts believe that a day off the diet can help you to stay on track. However, I’m of the mindset that a cheat day can easily turn into a cheat week; before you know it, you’re buried underneath a pile of Crunchie wrappers (just something I heard). I just think this puts you at risk of ‘falling off the fitness wagon’ altogether.
So, does that mean you can only eat cleanly now for the rest of your life? No – a little bit of what your fancy does indeed, do you good. It’s important to stress the little bit part of that phrase, though. I’d say enjoy a cheat meal, a dessert, or a couple of beers – once a week. Leave extended indulgences to Christmas and other such occasions. You can do it!