When it comes to improving your appearance there are a lot of myths out there.
The biggest problem is that people want it fast and they want feedback to justify the hard work they are putting in.
Some coaches and supplement companies know this so they promote unrealistic expectations or things that aren’t sustainable for you.
For example, take this supplement and you will lost 30lbs in 30 days.
Or do this workout that burns 800 calories and lose 15 lbs in a week.
Cut out this food and lose 10 lbs.
The list goes on and on.
Some people see results from these things and people can post testimonials about this stuff.
However, anything can work in the short term, and even if something seems to be going in the right direction is best for our health long term?
For example, seeing the scale go down 30lbs in 30 days, is that really great for your health long term? Probbably not in most situations.
In this blog I want to go over things that you think will improve your appearance but really doesnt, especially in the lng term.
Eating too little for too long
We know being in a calorie deficit is needed in order to lose weight. This usually requires an increase in activity and a decrease in how much food you eat.
However, doing this for too long can hurt your progress.
Why? For one your body doesn’t like to be in a calorie deficit, and it has mechanisms in place to fight this. Hunger and cravings increase, energy decreases, your mood goes to shit, and your libido can also take a big hit.
The other thing is that you gym performance takes a hit when you eat too little for too long.
Adding muscle to your frame is what is going to give your body that shape you desire. So when you aren’t eating enough food building muscle is nearly impossible.
With online clients we focus on periods of time of eating less, we call these fat loss phases . They usually last anywhere from 8-16 weeks, and maybe a bit longer depending on the person and their goals.
The big takeaway here is to make sure you aren’t only and always trying to lean out.
Only judging your workouts on how tough they were/ how many calories you burned
One of the biggest complaints I get from newer clients is I’m only burning (insert number of calories) when I weight training, when I used to run and do HIIT I would burn way more!
You see how many calories you burned in your workout and you then think you can go and eat that amount of food in whatever tasty food you desire.
Newer clients will also complain that the weight training workouts don’t feel as tough as, say, a bout of cardio.
The goal of your workouts should be to send the signal to your body to build/maintain your muscle mass, not to feel beat up after every single workout.
Which one is more sustainable in the long run?
Recovery is a very important part of your fitness journey, and one that too many people overlook.
In today’s world we glorify hammering yourself into the ground, if you aren’t hurt or feeling beat up then you aren’t working hard enough.
While this mindset may be good for a few select people, for most of us this is a recipe for disaster.
There is a time and place for tough workouts, but if they make up the bulk of your workouts then that’s where it starts to interfere.
I get it though, you want quick feedback to show that what you are doing is working, and feeling sweaty, tired, and beat up is a good indicator that you worked hard.
With online clients instead of focusing on how many calories they burned, we instead focus on a step goal, weight train to build/maintain muscle and staying consistent with their calories consumed and then make any adjustments we need to based on their results.
More cardio/less weights
Another common myth is that in order to look better you need to do more cardio and focus on losing weight before lifting weights.
Again, building muscle is what gives your body that shape you desire.
Doing more cardio just leads to people wanting to do more cardio and continuing to keep losing more weight, essentially they are never satisfied with their look. We call this the “skinny fat” look.
Your body does a really good job at adapting to cardio, especially when you are eating low calorie in combination. What happens is your body just gets more efficient with each movement, so you use less energy for every movement you do.
Maybe when you first started running or doing cardio, 10 minutes at a certain intensity expended 200 calories, but now it may only expend 100 calories (totally making up these numbers, I don’t know exactly how much the body adapts, but I am just trying to make an example).
With online clients we have them aim for a step goal or any cardio modality they enjoy, and then make sure they combine it weight training. Usually anywhere from 2-6 days per week.
Restricting your favorite foods
The last myth is that in order to improve your appearance you need to cut out your favorite foods.
I hear this all the time on strategy calls with potential clients “ I just need to cut out carbs” “I just need to stop eating pizza”.
Usually its because they had success in the past cutting these things out (but it didnt last) or they read up on certain diet protocols that say things like carbs or sugar are the devil.
Working with over hundreds of clients, I can tell you from experience that restricting people from eating foods they enjoy will all but guarantee they won’t stick to it in the long run.
There may be a time during a fat loss phase where you have to limit these types of foods, but other than that we focus on making sure the clients still eat their favorite foods.
It becomes an issue when you eat what you want, when you want, and in the amounts you want.
At some point you do need to put a limit on the last two things if you want to keep your favorite foods in.
What I mean by that is, while we don’t want you completely cutting out foods or food groups, there still needs to be some sacrifices, because at the end of the day, too much of anything is a bad thing and energy balance is still king for manipulating your bodyweight.
This is important to point out because sometimes when I tell a client that you don’t need to restrict foods to lose weight, they automatically assume they can eat whatever they want when they want.
However, if you are getting 70-80% of your food through whole/nutrient dense foods, then you will be able to fit your favorite food in from time to time.
Here is what is actually important to maximize your appearance now and in the long run:
Periodize your nutrition
Go through periods of fat loss, followed by periods of maintaining your weight, and then for some people who want to build a good amount of muscle then also go through periods of gaining weight.
Read here on nutritional periodization.
Prioritize lifting weights
You should aim to lift 2-6 times per week and on progressive overload.
Focus on quality workouts/sets over quantity.
Here are tips on how to build muscle:
- Make sure each set is around the 5-30 rep range.
- Each set is at least somewhat challenging.
- Training each muscle group about 2-4x per week.
- 10-25 sets per muscle group per week seems to be best.
- Make sure you are getting an adequate amount of protein in per day (around .8-1g per pound of body weight per day).
- Eating enough calories to help with training performance and recovery.
- Sleep 6-8 hours per night.
Prioritize quality foods atleast 70-80% of the time but then add in as many tasty foods that gets you into the energy balance you desire
If you are looking to gain weight, then make sure that whatever amount of food you are ating/activty you are doing gets you to gain weight over time.
If you are looking to lose weight then make sure that whatever amount of food you are ating/activty you are doing gets you to lose weight over time.
Focus on a step count
During a cut maybe you get more steps to help you get into a calorie deficit. The good thing about this is that you can make this apart of your everyday life, whereas with formal cardio sessions you have to dedicate a certain amount of time to doing that, and over time that can make adherence challenging.
If are struggling to see results OR you just want to take your training/nutrition to the next level then fill out the link here!