Over my years of training, I’ve drastically changed the way I think about getting in shape. The tips I read in magazines before I started training are just about all wrong. The tips I got from my certification are not set in stone. Even past trainers I’ve had have given me detrimental advice!
How do you weed out the good advice from the bad? How do you know who to listen to?
Well, I devised a little plan of action that seems to work well for me: I test everything on myself before recommending it to anyone else.
That’s right. I make myself a guinea pig to see if the advice I read about really does work or if it’s just another tip they used to fill space in between ads for protein bars.
Below, I’m going to share with you some of my findings that may just blow the lid off of the standard health and fitness advice you’ve been raised with.
Read up and take notes; you’ll want to remember these…
1. Don’t work out every day
So about a year and a half ago, I went through some major overtraining. It ain’t pretty. I was training to gain some muscle mass as well as drop body fat. I was doing 4 strength training sessions alongside a 5-day cardio program.
Since my muscles didn’t have enough time to recover in between workouts, my body started eating itself… and not in the good way. I started losing muscle while gaining fat, not to mention my bone density even went down! So pretty much the opposite of what I was going for.
Rest at least once a week, more if you’re doing an intense workout program.
2. Fat’s good for you
Before I was a trainer, I was a carboholic fat-phobe addicted to cardio. I thought that, because fat is more calorie-dense per gram that I could eat more if I stuck to carbs and protein. Big ol’ wrongo there.
I had a really tough time shedding weight and when I did, I felt lethargic and weak. My body fat stayed at about the same percentage even though I was losing weight (meaning my muscle mass went down as well).
When I added fat back in, I started feeling healthier, more energetic, and more satiated throughout the day. My hair and nails are stronger and I end up eating less while working out harder. Oh, and I shed fat more easily this way- carbs are instant gain for me… more on that in a few.
3. Eat crap… 10% of the time
I used to be a yo-yo dieter: I would diet and lose only to gain it all back (and more) when I couldn’t resist cookies any longer.
I MUST HAVE MY COOKIES!!!
A year ago, I signed up for the Precision Nutrition certification (developed by John Berardi). It is the most sane, comprehensive, intelligent nutrition advice I have ever read. But I couldn’t just go on what I read, now could I? I wanted to test it all out on myself.
Berardi recommends eating clean 90% of the time, then allowing those 10% opportunities to go off-plan. Since I eat about 5 times a day, I get 3-4 “opportunities” every week to eat whatever the hell I want! Woo, cookies!
Eating this way keeps me sane and happy while I stay fit. After adopting this nutrition mindframe, I was able to relax into my eating regimen and enjoy life just a little bit more.
It works better than any other eating plan with my personal training clients, too: they know how many opportunities to allow, so they don’t get too hard on themselves for going off-plan as long as they count it as one of their allotted 10% meals.
Give yourself a break and have a GD cookie!
4. Cardio is NOT the best way to burn fat
So I mentioned above that I used to be a cardio addict. Well, I still love me a good run for the calming aspects of it (aerobic training is proven to have a calming effect on those who suffer from anxiety and stress… ie ME), but for fat-burning purposes, it’s not the end-all be-all.
Tons of research has been released in the past couple of years proving that long, slow cardio sessions are not the best way to lose weight. Sure, you burn more from fat while you’re in the session, but the after-burn effect is minimal. Conversely, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) produces a higher level of EPOC (Exercise Post-Oxygen Consumption), which means you’ll burn more fat after your workout for up to 48 hours! Since you work harder in a shorter amount of time with HIIT, your appetite doesn’t kick up a notch, allowing you to reign in those post-workout munchies you’d get after a long run or elliptical session.
Less time working out + less hunger = more calories burned + less calories ingested => leaner you with a social life outside of the gym. Yay!
5. Lifting heavy weights won’t make you Mr. Universe unless you train for it
Now, this one depends on your genes. I naturally tend to bulk more than many of my training clients do because of my genetic make up. If I don’t eat like a football player, however, I can avoid it.
For most women and men, bulking up is hard to do. Having trained numerous clients with high weights, I can tell you, adding on the pounds takes more effort than just training alone. You have to eat to load up those guns.
Women often come to me saying that they “don’t want to bulk up,” to which my immediate retort is often, “Well, unless you’re eating 4,000 calories a day, you probably won’t.”
Guys, same thing goes for you. If you’re aiming to add on some weight, you have to start eating like you want it. Fill your diet with lots of nutrient-dense foods (like lean proteins, whole grain carbs, and TONS of veggies) and pay attention especially to your post-workout meals. Make sure those are in place, otherwise your body will turn catabolic, meaning it will pull from your muscles rather than fat. You want to give it something else to feed from, so have a healthy meal or protein shake right after your workout. You can even start sipping that shake during if you want maximum gain.
6. Signing up for a half-marathon or marathon isn’t guaranteed weight loss
This is one lesson I learned the hard way. In 2009, I trained for the Disneyland half marathon. I initially signed up because a) I wanted to prove to myself I could run that far, and b) I wanted to lose my belly chub.
Well, I succeeded at A.
Losing my belly chub, however, was an accomplishment I wouldn’t achieve for another few years. I actually gained weight when I was training for the half because of the training load (lack of rest) and my diet (which wasn’t really a diet as much as it was a constant “carb-loading”).
If you want to sign up for a distance race to prove to yourself that you can do it, by all means go for it. If you’re aiming to lose weight through it, though, seriously consider lifting weights or sprinting instead. It’s easier to maintain and requires less work to see results without the increasing hunger quotient that comes into play with an intense running program.
7. You don’t need grains
This is one I fought against for a long time.
I used to be a vegetarian which meant I survived on carbs. I was hungry a lot of the time and got tired pretty often throughout the day.
When I started eating meat again, and cut out all starchy carbohydrates from my non-opportunity meals (see # 3), I was pretty freaking amazed at the difference I felt in my hunger and energy levels. I felt full eating less and my energy stayed pretty consistent over the course of a day.
Many of the sources of information out there will tell you that grains are an important part of a complete diet. With the amount of people I see benefit from cutting them out completely (the majority), I respectfully counter with, “Bullsh**.”
Every BODY is different, so you may find that your energy dips when you cut out grains completely. If it doesn’t come back up after the initial 2 weeks it takes for your body to adjust, add them back in. Only you can tell if your body was meant to live without starchy carbs.
8. You can’t out-train a bad diet
So this is one you may have read of “pinned” before. I just wanted to emphasize the importance of it here.
As I learned while training for my half marathon (# 6), you really can’t out-train a bad diet. You can work out for hours and still eat more calories than you burned in 15 minutes.
Pay attention to what you put in your mouth. Prioritize vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats no matter what your training load.
9. Coffee could be your new favorite training partner
Most people who know the amount of coffee I drink tell me I should cut down.
You know what I say (besides “mind your own effing business”)? Coffee is one of the best training partner’s I’ve found so far.
Before I work out, I make sure to have a coffee. When I do, I focus more easily and am able to exert more effort in my workout, yielding better results.
And you know what else? There are quite a few health benefits to coffee:
- helps protect against Parkinson’s disease, Type II Diabetes, dementia, stroke and certain cancers
- lower risk of depression in women coffee-drinkers
- good source of antioxidants
- you’ll likely train longer and harder than you would sans caffeine
On the other side of the equation, not everyone metabolizes caffeine in the same way. If you feel shaky, anxious or in any other way bad after you have a cup of joe, coffee could be to your detriment. If you fall into that category, skip the java; you’ll do better without it.
10. These and all other health and fitness tips aren’t rules; they’re guidelines
As much as I preach certain advice, there are always exceptions.
I’ve come to find that every BODY is different. Yours may not respond well to some of these tips above.
This is why I developed my own rules for self-experimentation; I had to find what works for me.
Even if you hear tips from a well-respected fitness magazine or blog, you can’t be sure what their motives are for writing it. Who knows if they have personal biases, or if they sold out to a large company that paid them to post that article.
You just can’t trust advice until you try it yourself.
You know what the worst thing to do is, though? Not try anything at all for fear of failure.
If you never try anything, you’ll never know what works for you. What matters is that you are healthy and fit, whatever that means to you personally.
I’m not going to tell you what to do. That’s not my job unless you pay me to do it.
I implore you, however, to get out there and try to be healthy. Try to have fun getting fit. The cool thing is, once you start trying, you start proving to yourself that you can, and that it’s not that hard.
How else are you going to know if I’m bullsh***ing you? Go try it!
Amy Clover created StrongInsideOut with the mission of empowering you to overcome life’s obstacles through fitness and positive action. She recently released her premier ebook, MakeThisYourMoment: AStep-by-StepGuidetoChangingYourLife… forGood. Check out the StrongInsideOutFacebookpage and like for near-daily inspiration!