Tag Archive | "fitness"

Avoid These 5 Weight-Loss Pitfalls!

Losing weight is a challenging task for many people. After all, reaching your goals takes dedication, time, and consistency. But with mounds of information—and misinformation—floating around in magazines, videos, and marketing fads, it can become easy to lose your way. Effective, long-established methods to shed unwanted body fat can become twisted, warped, and misconstrued, and what you actually end up doing might lead you to sabotage your results without realizing it. Believe me, it happens.

If you kill it at the gym, bring sufficient intensity to your workouts, and follow a strict nutrition plan, but still don’t see results—or even worse, you gain additional body fat—you’ve likely fallen into a weight-loss pitfall. Learn how to avoid dietary disaster with these 5 tips!


Dieting: Let’s briefly analyze the concept itself. Most people jump on the dieting bandwagon with a specific timeframe and goal in mind. The logic might go a little something like this: “If I cut carbs for six weeks, I can fit into that pair of pants,” or, “If I replace sweets with veggies for the next few months, I’ll lose those last 10 pounds in time for my high school reunion.” No matter their reason, most people have something they’re striving for and a due date for when it has to be completed.

The reality is that we all want things done now. We want everything to be fast and effortless. Whether it’s a 30-day challenge or a 90-day transformation plan, it seems that nearly every goal has a date or finite time associated with it. While a sense of urgency might initially get you off the couch and into the gym, will it dramatically change you in the long run? Probably not.

“If you regularly add caramel, creamer, and whipped topping to your coffee, try reaching for fat-free milk and nixing the sweet stuff.”

Avoid It! Make a Lifestyle Change

Breaking years of bad habits is hard and can’t be done overnight; you’re not suddenly going to ditch pizza for rice and baked chicken. The key is to slowly start making changes you can sustain and integrate into a new, healthier lifestyle. Rather than banning certain foods completely, start by utilizing healthy substitutions. For example, if you regularly add caramel, creamer, and whipped topping to your coffee, try reaching for fat-free milk and nixing the sweet stuff. While it might be difficult at first, these small changes will eventually become habits, and you’ll stop slurping down coffee that contains as many calories as a deluxe cheeseburger.


These days, supermarket shelves are lined with buzzwords such as organic, natural, gluten-free, farm-raised, sugar-free, and fat-free. Keep in mind that these phrases don’t mean calorie-free!

On a daily basis, people come up to me and ask why they aren’t losing weight, even if their diets consist solely of organic meats and fruit. Foods, even if they’re organic or fat-free, still contain calories.

Avoid It! Expend More Than You Eat

You can debate whether all calories are equal until you’re blue in the face, but effective fat loss really comes down to calories in versus calories out. If you’re looking to lose weight, your calorie consumption has to be less than your caloric expenditure. Basically, you have to burn more than you eat.

“While fruit is great for you, and contains high levels of natural vitamins and minerals, its sugar content can be relatively high. One cup of grapes, for example, has 23 grams of sugar per serving.”

Organic produce is better for you and your body, but it’s all the same in macros. It’s important to be aware of what you’re consuming. Take fruit, for example. While fruit is great for you, and contains high levels of natural vitamins and minerals, its sugar content can be relatively high. One cup of grapes, for example, has 23 grams of sugar per serving.1

I’m not trying to deter you from eating fruit, but here’s some food for thought: If one piece of fruit has that much sugar, a mixed fruit smoothie from your local health store is likely loaded with the sweet stuff. This can quickly add up to a calorie bomb. Eat well, but eat (and drink) portions that meet your goals.


“I’m trying to lose weight, so I’m not going to eat breakfast.” So goes the mentality of many dieters. Many people think starting their day fasted will allow them to burn more calories. Alas, the opposite is usually true! Because people who skip breakfast typically get hungrier later in the day, they tend to overeat at lunch and dinner.

Avoid It! Fuel Up For Your Goals

Skipping breakfast isn’t directly correlated with gaining fat, but it won’t help you reach your goals. Trading in a potential muscle-building meal for, well, nothing, can leave you feeling depleted for any upcoming workout. Your body will be running low on fuel, so you won’t have the optimal energy to lift as intensely or put the fire to stubborn body fat.

Exercising and eating well-balanced, nutritious meals are still the best ways to lose weight and keep lean muscle mass. Don’t think that skipping one meal per day will reap magic rewards. Instead, check out the Bodybuilding.com Recipe Database for breakfast recipes that will fuel your body and support your fat-burning efforts!


There’s one point I can’t drive home enough: Eating fat doesn’t necessarily make you fat. However, it’s important to note that not all fats are created equal. Trans fats and excess saturated fats are bad for you because they have the potential to raise your “bad” LDL cholesterol, and may even increase your risk for heart disease.

Avoid It! Eat the Right Fats

Instead of fearing all fats, turn to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have the potential to lower LDL cholesterol, and may even reduce your risk of heart disease. Essential fats like omega-3 fatty acids also provide a number of benefits to your physique and performance goals, so they’re not to be missed.

While healthy fats like omega-3s and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) can help you burn fat, moderation is key. When you think about the fat you eat on a daily basis—almonds, fatty fish, oils, and seeds—you’ll see that the calories in a high-fat diet add up pretty fast. In the game of numbers, fats carry roughly nine calories per gram, so be aware of how many you consume.


Today, chemists can create flavors that mimic just about anything. Chances are that new, bright green, lemon-lime-flavored soda wasn’t Mother Nature’s doing. To make your favorite snack foods “healthy,” chemicals mimicking natural sugars are used. These chemicals can often trigger you to crave more sweets later.

Beyond the gastrointestinal problems that these foods may cause us, there are other problems to consider. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered some frightening facts that should make us all swear off diet drinks and products.2 The two most alarming:

  1. Diet sodas raised the risk of diabetes more than sugar-sweetened sodas.
  2. Women who drank diet sodas consumed twice as much as those who drank sugar-sweetened sodas because of the addictive nature of artificial sweeteners.
Avoid It! Ditch the “Diet” Products

Alas, even zero-calorie colas come at a price, and none of them are a fat-loss magic bullet. Instead of trading cola for diet cola, ditch the cola entirely and stick with natural options like green tea or water, both of which can actually contribute to your fat-loss efforts! Green tea has a mild calorie-burning effect thanks to its high catechin content, while water is essential to performance and can help you feel full.

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Avoid These 5 Weight-Loss Pitfalls!

Posted in Bodybuilding, Diets, Exercises, Nutrition, Uncategorized, Weight lossComments (0)

Fitness Is A Skill, Not A Talent: Here's How To Develop It

Fitness Is a Skill, Not a Talent: Here's How to Develop It

As a fitness coach and the co-founder of Fitocracy, I’ve been exposed to the success stories and fitness challenges of countless people. When they fail to meet their fitness goals, people often tell me that they don’t have innate talent. Instead, they should think of fitness as a skill to be refined and improved upon.

This post originally appeared on Fitocracy and Bodybuilding.com

Despite these success stories, most people fail at fitness and obesity rates are increasing. Yet, if people understood the secret to fitness, success would eventually be inevitable.

You see, the one thing that I hear the most is “If I just had the motivation…” People think that the secret to making a successful fitness transformation is about finding motivation.

They think motivation is like some sort of fitness Tinker Bell that you can pull out of your pocket at any time. She’ll sprinkle magic pixie dust that makes you instantly hate the taste of pizza and love the treadmill.

You know who does have motivation? Your average Joe who joins a gym in January. He’s motivated as hell. Sadly, he doesn’t stick around come March. He stops going to the gym, feels guilty, then blames his lack of willpower.

Little does he know fitness success is not about motivation. Motivation is fleeting and unreliable. Most importantly, it’s not a skill that you can improve.

The truth is that despite the fact, everyone is capable of achieving his or her ideal physique. What’s the secret? It’s realising the following:

Fitness Is As Much Of A Skill As Riding A Bicycle

Fitness Is a Skill, Not a Talent: Here's How to Develop It

If you find your own transformation difficult to achieve, then you’re about to find out why and learn how to improve your fitness “skill”.

But first, let’s talk about an important concept — mindset. In psychology, people can be bucketed into two different mindsets — a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

Those with fixed mindsets believe that success is based on innate talent. You’re born with these characteristics, and you either have them or you don’t. Failures — such as the failure to follow a diet — are the result of a flaw in character, such as self-control, discipline, or intelligence.

Those with a growth mindset believe that success is reliant upon improving their different skill sets. That is, through hard work, learning and experience, these people can improve their success in different facets of life.

Some subjects, like riding a bicycle, are universally seen through a “growth” lens.

If you fell and scraped your knee the first time you attempted riding a bike, you wouldn’t say “Something is horribly wrong with me — I don’t have the willpower and discipline required to ride my bike”, would you?

That would be silly. Instead, you’d realise that you just haven’t fully developed that skill yet. You’d think about why you fell. Perhaps you didn’t know how to navigate your bike through new terrain, such as a bumpy road or a patch of grass.

Unlike riding a bicycle, however, fitness is almost always seen through the lens of a “fixed mindset”. When people slip up on their diets, they automatically beat themselves up for being undisciplined and lazy, rather than think about why they slipped up and how to prevent this same mistake in the future.

Unfortunately, those with a fixed mindset try to “brute force” their success with willpower, which is a recipe for failure. That’s because willpower is a finite resource; relying on it will not lead to success.

The Five Skills Of Fitness

Fitness Is a Skill, Not a Talent: Here's How to Develop It

If fitness is a skill, then by definition, it can be improved by improving its component skills. Let’s take a look at what they are and how to improve them.


Knowledge is simply the evidence-based understanding behind training and nutrition. It allows us to create a plan and execute on it.

Knowledge can be either basic, like understanding the tenets of calories and how they impact your weight, or it can be relatively advanced — correctly incorporating a carbohydrate refeed in order to raise leptin during your diet, for example.

You can improve your knowledge by reading sites like this one. Find a credible fitness pro to trust, and absorb their encyclopaedic knowledge.

Beware, however. Knowledge of nutrition and fitness is very important, but paradoxically, it can be used to mislead. There is more information about fitness now than ever, thanks to increasingly-easy access to scientific research because of resources like PubMed. Because of this, knowledge is often glorified and romanticised. A modicum of truth can be exaggerated into a misleading fitness tip. Many, in fact, actually think that knowledge is the only fitness skill, a fatal mistake when it comes to improvement.

Knowledge can easily be overdone. After all, what good is understanding the optimal meal timing to optimise muscle protein synthesis if you cannot, say, stop binge eating. But this is where mindfulness comes into play.

Mindfulness And Self-Awareness

Mindfulness is the examination of your feelings, surroundings, and being self-aware. For example, b elow is a common conversation with a client.

Client: “I fell off the wagon yesterday and messed up my diet. It was bad. I binge ate and just ate all the things.”

Me: “Can you elaborate? What happened and what triggered it?”

Client: “I ate all the things… like I failed epically and had no self-control.”

Me: “Hahah, no you goober. I mean what were you feeling before the point of binging? What triggered this feeling?”

Client: “Huh? I mean I just messed up.”

In the conversation above, the client sees a binge as a failure without any underlying context. They’re actually confused by the fact that you can expound on a binge.

An interesting thing that I’ve noticed about failing in fitness more so than any other area is that people do not learn from their mistakes. In other subjects, such as business or relationships, people look for patterns so that they don’t make the same mistakes again.

Me: “Think back. What were you feeling at the time? What caused that pattern?”

Client: “Well, let’s see… on training days you have my calories at about maintenance. I actually ate 50 calories above maintenance and I figured I screwed up anyway. That led me to feel anxious. Eating everything in sight was a way to cope with that anxiety.”

By practicing mindfulness, the client eventually broke down their binge into discrete events and related them back to the decisions that were made. We objectively agreed that going 50 calories over maintenance is hardly a slip up.

The next time this client sees this same pattern, he can use previous experiences to disrupt his usual course of action.

Think of this self-awareness as fitness wisdom. It’s the ability to learn about yourself and your feelings. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to learn from your mistakes. You can improve mindfulness by following what I call the “totem exercise.”


What are the typical feelings of someone who messes up on their diet? Hate. Guilt. Self-loathing.

For many people who have never been able to lose weight, their failures have created a lifetime of these feelings. Yet they keep trying over and over again, often relying on willpower to overcome their deficiencies. Each time, they face the same disastrous outcome.

The solution for these folks is to think of fitness as a skill, and research has shown that developing self-compassion allows people to do just that. Those who show self-compassion forgive themselves for their mistakes so that they can try again.

While this is slightly “meta”, think of self-compassion as “the skill that allows you to think of fitness as a skill” and therefore something that can be improved.

The next time you mess up, cut yourself some slack, then exhibit mindfulness to figure out what went wrong.


The first time I heard Martin Berkhan of “Intermittent Fasting” fame mention that “Breakfast is not that important,” I was outraged.

Seriously, Martin? Everyone knows that breakfast is obviously the most important meal of the day.

Think of a time that someone credible presented fitness information contradictory to what you knew to be true. You were probably angry, no? What you felt is what I affectionately call PubMed rage. (It’s usually displayed by an “internet warrior” in a fitness forum of some sorts.)

It turns out that this reaction is normal. Research has shown that when people’s deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory, credible information, they actually cling on to their existing beliefs even harder.

Personally I later found out that Martin was correct. I started skipping breakfast and was rewarded for doing so; as an entrepreneur who works 80+ hours/week, skipping breakfast has added countless hours to my productivity. (There are considerations to suboptimal muscle protein synthesis, but I’m willing to make that tradeoff.)

The only way that I was able to realise that was showing humility — suppressing my ego and being open to the possibility that I was wrong. The more you learn about fitness (or any other skill for that matter) the more you realise the amount that you don’t know.

Humility is the skill that gives you the motivation to improve all other skills. Without it, we would stagnate. Whenever you feel the need to be an internet warrior because someone contradicted your beliefs, make sure to examine your beliefs and be open-minded first.

Discipline And Habit Building

Decisions are taxing from a cognitive point of view. If you’ve ever felt mentally exhausted after a day full of meetings, then you know what I mean.

This poses a problem when it comes to fitness. Subjecting yourself to this cognitive overload depletes the same pool of resources that you need to exhibit the willpower and self-control to do things like go to the gym. Hell, thinking really hard depletes self-control so much that it impacts maximum voluntary strength.

Put another way, making hard decisions at work, deciding whether or not to go to the gym, and saying no to that piece of cake all compete for the same pool of mental resources. How do we solve for this pesky little problem? Luckily, Mother Nature provided us a nifty solution.

When something is repeated often enough, the decision to execute that task moves to a part of your brain called the basal ganglia. Once there, the decision is processed in the background and no longer requires a costly conscious decision. This is what’s known as a “habit.”

Discipline is the skill that allows us to create habit. You do this by repeating a task over and over again — going to the gym at the same time every day, preparing tomorrow’s meals at the end of every day, etc.

Habits require willpower at the start, but it is a smart and useful utilisation of willpower. Discipline allows us to utilise willpower as the “battery” that starts the car, as opposed to the energy source that keeps it going.

So What’s Next?

Like any other skill, you’ll need to improve by doing. First, find a diet and training plan to follow for at least eight weeks. This takes research and adding to your “knowledge” skill set. You’ll have to invest some time to find a plan that fits your goals and lifestyle.

Now, here’s the important part. Stick to the program as best as you can, but expect to slip up along the way. When this happens, go through the skills in order that they’re listed here (I was sneaky and listed them in order of priority) to find out what needs to be improved.

Did you find yourself straying off your diet frequently? Exhibit mindfulness to find out why. Perhaps you feel guilty after skipping multiple training sessions and can’t get back on the horse? Time for a dose of self-compassion.

Perhaps you realised that the morning is the only time you can train. Utilise some discipline and create habit around waking up early every day, no matter what. Run through each skill and determine what you need to improve. Sometimes, improving a skill — like mindfulness — is as easy as being aware of it.

Do you see the difference in understanding that fitness is a skill? Small failures can be examined and improved upon. If you do not think about fitness in this way, failures are all the same, big or small, and they are all tied to your sense of worth.

Want to know what’s the best thing about embarking on your own fitness transformation? It’s that it makes you an even more amazing person. You will become disciplined enough to do the mundane, tough enough to relentlessly forgive yourself when you fail, and brave enough to be willing to being wrong.

That’s because a successful transformation on the outside first requires a transformation within. Good luck!

Fitness Is A Skill [Fitocracy]

Dick Talens is one of the founders of Fitocracy. He is now bringing his passion for health and fitness to as many people as possible through online training. He’s been named one of the world’s most influential people in Health and Fitness, but isn’t one of our 30 Under 30… only because he wrote it. Want to train with Dick? Get in the best shape of your life by January 1st with his new Fitocracy Team: Your Ultimate Transformation.

Image by Venimo (Shutterstock). Additional photos by Aaron Brinker, U.S. Navy (Flickr).

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Fitness Is A Skill, Not A Talent: Here's How To Develop It

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20 Dumb Mistakes Fitness Models Make

By the time you see a picture of a fitness model on a website or the cover of a magazine their physique looks, in a word, perfect—like that person never missed a single rep, meal, or hour of sleep in their life. But as someone who has been on the business end of the camera a few times and spent countless hours working and training with models, I know that’s far from the truth.

Just like everybody else, fitness models and bodybuilders shoot themselves in the foot on a regular basis. They make extreme choices when prudent ones would be better, let their weaknesses and cravings hold the steering wheel, and otherwise sabotage their results. And then, rather than recognize their mistakes, they stubbornly plow ahead and do the same thing again. Hey, I’ve been as guilty as anybody!

Enough already! Even more so now that I’m a parent, I believe the world needs less “try, try again” and more “try, stop, think, change, and then try again.” Take heed of lessons others like me have already learned the hard way, and cut a few miles off the distance between “before” and “after.”

1 Developing a phobia about carbs

Carbohydrates are the fuel you need to kick ass in the gym, no matter how long you’re there. But if you’re there for a long (>45 min) workout, as many aspiring fitness models are, carbs are even more important, because they’re muscle-sparing—meaning your body will use them rather than resort to breaking down amino acids for fuel.

“Carbohydrates are the fuel you need to kick ass in the gym, no matter how long you’re there.”

I know it’s hip these days to believe that the best way to get super-lean is to cut carbs out almost entirely, but it’s not the only way. I got down to 4.8 percent body fat (according to a DEXA) while tapering my carbs only down from 250 to 150 grams per day, up until the week before a show. Most definitions of low-carb set 125 grams per day as the upper limit. You can do it too, but there’s a catch: You need to give yourself time.

2 Dieting too extremely

What’s an extreme diet? To me, it’s anything drastic enough that your training quality suffers as a result. Low-carb can be extreme, as I just discussed, but so can low-fat. So can low-cal. Low-hydration and low-protein may seem like obvious no-no’s, but more people than you might think are guilty of cutting both—the latter as part of an overall calorie drop

Once and for all: Training hard allows you to burn the fat off your body, not starve it off. One type of transformation has a decent chance of lasting; the other bounces back with a vengeance.

3 Initiating a cut at too low of a caloric intake

This is one of the most common problems I see, so I’m going to give it a bit more space. Let’s be clear: I have no problem with cranking away in a caloric deficit to meet a deadline. However, a well-designed taper is a whole different animal from the sort of slash-and-burn many lean people think is necessary to get their definition sharp.

A common recommended energy deficit is 500 calories per day. If you’re taking in 1,500 calories per day, you would burn 2,000 calories per day. However, at that low of an intake, you’re probably missing out on many important macro and micronutrients that can help you to lose fat. If you shoot for a calorie intake of 2,500 calories instead—just an example—and a calorie expenditure of 3,000 calories, you’ll get more of the nutrients you need to work harder, balance hormone levels, and burn that stored fat.

Here’s your three-point plan:

  • Up the intensity level of your workouts.
  • Increase your calorie intake accordingly.
  • Make your food choices as nutrient-dense as possible.

4 Cutting calories too drastically over time

It sounds so simple. To burn fat, get in a caloric deficit. To burn more fat, get in a bigger caloric deficit. But it doesn’t work like that.

When you cut calories too drastically, it sets off a chain of events which actually slows fat-burning. First, your thyroid reacts by holding on to as much fat as possible. Also, your leptin levels will decrease, further slowing fat-loss. Some people actually gain fat on a low-calorie diet because of this cycle. I’ve never taken a client under the classic benchmark of calorie needs = 9-11 x body weight, and if you have a coach taking you lower, fire that coach today.

5 Worrying about the competition

Other people aren’t the reason you lose. If you don’t win, it’s because you’re not ready to win, whatever the reason. Take your lumps, learn the lessons you still need to learn, and get back to work.

6 Believing you can transform your body alone

Here’s the cold hard truth—and I don’t say this to try to sell you something. If you’re able to transform your body by yourself, you didn’t set your goals high enough. Good physiques are achieved alone, but great physiques require a team effort. You’ll be doing the lion’s share, of course, but other people have a lot to teach you if you’ll set aside your ego and let them.

“Good physiques are achieved alone, but great physiques require a team effort.”

7 Arguing online when you should be in the gym

Debating with forum know-it-alls—or anyone for that matter—is a revolving door that inevitably ends up confirming your own bias. Plus, last time I checked, the best way to “win” a debate online is either:

  • post more links to (possibly ill-informed) PubMed studies faster than the other guy; or
  • make the last post, which also usually happens to be the nastiest.

Notice how neither of those options means winner is actually correct. The person who has nothing better to do with his time always wins. Don’t be that loser.

8 Bringing protein intake down along with other macros

Research has shown time and time again that when you are cutting calories, you need to increase your protein intake to avoid muscle catabolism, especially if you’re training at a high frequency and intensity. If you’ve been taking in 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, you may need to increase that to 1.5 g per pound or even 2 g, reducing your other macros accordingly.

“Research has shown time and time again that when you are cutting calories, you need to increase your protein intake to avoid muscle catabolism, especially if you’re training at a high frequency and intensity.”

9 Focusing on numbers but forgetting about nutrients

If you’re allowed 200 g of carbs per day, getting those grams from high-fructose corn syrup is going to demolish your fat-burning potential—and your health—whereas getting them from sweet potatoes and berries will help both.

No, I can’t say all the reasons why, but how about fiber and micronutrients to start? You need them, whole foods have them, and industrial sweetener-sludge doesn’t. Calories matter, and must be reduced gradually to sustain fat loss, but don’t get so focused on numbers that you lose sight of the importance of nutrients. Your multivitamin isn’t enough to save you!

10 Avoiding red meat

Most fitness models who don’t eat meat simply look soft and lack muscle hardness, in my experience. Unprocessed, naturally raised meat is extremely healthy, and there is an abundance of evidence-based reasons to eat it—and be proud of it.

I consume a different red meat source at least twice a day up until the day of my competitions. I know that I look like crap without it. And if you think high-quality meat is out of your budget, just read this and get back to me.

11 Counting veggies in your macros

Just because I’m a big fan of meat doesn’t mean I think it’s all you need to eat. No meal is complete without veggies. Even my beloved meat and nuts breakfast has a big handful of spinach in the frying pan.

“If you’re looking to take your physique to the next level, experiment with a minimum of 2 cups of veggies per meal—every meal.”

Seriously: Have you ever met a person who got fat by eating too many veggies? It’s pretty much impossible for anyone but our four-legged friends, and even they have to spend all day grazing to pack on the pounds. For the rest of us, I think there’s only one thing all nutrition camps agree upon: Eat more plant-based foods.

If you’re new to nutrition, start with a minimum of 1 cup per meal, and don’t worry about how they fit with your macros. If you’re looking to take your physique to the next level, experiment with a minimum of 2 cups of veggies per meal—every meal. I guarantee your stomach will tighten up faster than ever.

12 Cheat meals you haven’t earned

As I’ve said before, I believe that until you achieve 10 percent body fat for a man, or around 16 percent for a woman, your body has not earned a cheat meal. I admit, however, that scheduling one treat meal per week can be a great psychological tool for many clients I’ve worked with, so this one isn’t black and white. But even then, you’ve got to earn that cheat meal with plenty of hard work during the week.

13 Skipping meals

Meal frequency doesn’t matter blah blah blah. If we’re talking about building an elite physique, the only guys who really believe this live in textbooks or are certified keyboard warriors. The rest of us know that skipping meals is one of the worst things you can do.

“When you’re living a hard-training lifestyle, waiting too long to eat forces your body to eat into muscle tissue for fuel.”

When you’re living a hard-training lifestyle, waiting too long to eat forces your body to eat into muscle tissue for fuel. Your blood sugar drops and the temptation sets in to eat any food in sight. I’ve raided bulk sections at the grocery store at odd hours of the night after skipping meals. Plan your meals ahead and join the rest of us in the real world.

14 Too many diet foods

Egg whites, chicken breasts, plain rice, unseasoned broccoli, whey protein—oh my gawd, I’m getting sick just typing this out. Come on people. One of the best decisions I made was to hire a professional chef to teach me how to cook. After meeting her just a few times, I hired her again for 20 more lessons.

Dieting isn’t hard if you know how to prepare delicious food. It’s healthier and prevents you from losing all your friends because of your nasty gas.

15 Fearing multiple workouts per day

I realize this may not be possible for people who are already extremely pressed for time and can barely make time for one workout. However, this is my go-to principle for charging up fat-loss, and I strongly recommend that you try it if at all possible.

Getting two workouts per day requires a commitment, but is surprisingly workable for many people. It may mean getting your first workout before work, and your second one during your lunch break or after work. Use your morning workout for high-weight, high-speed, low-rep workouts, and do your higher-rep, lower-weight or cardio training in the afternoon or evening. Two-a-day training is super-powerful if the workouts are designed progressively, and it’ll get you ripped to shreds in the final few weeks before a deadline.

16 Not getting blood tests

It boggles my mind how fitness people have no problem spending thousands of dollars on supplements and gym memberships each year, but they won’t spend a penny to see what’s really going on in their bodies. It’s actually simple to analyze things like hormone levels. These hormones are ultimately responsible for whether your efforts in the gym are productive, or you just bust your ass to no place fast.

Let me spell this out: If your chemistry is off—meaning your hormones are subpar—you can have the perfect macros and training split, hire the most expensive trainer, and take the best supplements, and you’ll still spin your wheels with nothing to show. Get your blood analyzed at least once or twice each year. You’ll thank me.

17 Avoiding hypertrophy-centered workouts

Sure, fitness models don’t need to be huge like Mr. or Ms. Olympia, but they need symmetry, development, and definition. As far as I’m concerned, you’re not going to get them from swinging a kettlebell, doing CrossFit WODs, or knocking out a million bodyweight exercises. If you want muscle, you need resistance in the form of good old fashioned—and intelligent—bodybuilding-style workouts. Hypertrophy training builds the muscle, and it keeps the muscle.

“If you want muscle, you need resistance in the form of good old fashioned—and intelligent—bodybuilding-style workouts.”

18 Loading up on trashy carbs post-workout

Carbs have two roles post-workout: to stop catabolism and to restock muscle glycogen. But if you’re trying to lose fat, you want your body to keep burning fat as fuel, so you don’t necessarily want to completely top off your glycogen tank. However, you still want to stop that catabolic process and lower your cortisol levels, so you still need some post-workout carbs.

So what’s the sweet spot? Research has shown that 30 g of carbs are sufficient to stop that catabolic process. Anything above that is just more stored-up glycogen. You can get 30 g from a glass of cherry juice or another quick, nutrient-dense snack. Don’t go overboard with trashy post-workout candy carbs, when you can get enough from something simple and nutritious (remember number 9?).

19 Thinking you can gain size while keeping all six abs popping

I talked about this a lot in “10 True Confessions of a Pro Fitness Model.” The only guys who can stay shredded and grow at the same time are genetic freaks and, of course, those supposed “fake natty” lifters everyone loves to call out online. If you want to gain size, get comfortable with a four-pack while you provide your body with more fuel to train harder and grow. I gave up on the dream of having abs all year ’round a long time ago because frankly, I love pizza and wine too much. They’re never too far away when I need them, though.

20 Hang around guys who train like pansies

Have you heard of the law of five? Basically, you’re the average of the top five guys you hang out with most. So if your top five friends are broke, your finances are probably a wreck, too. If your top five friends are divorced, Splitsville probably isn’t too far over the horizon for you. If your top five friends are fat, then the only “visible abs” you see are on Bodybuilding.com.

“Surround yourself with the people who you want to become like, and you’ll find yourself getting to their level faster than if you only watch them from a distance.”

This applies to training, too. If your top five friends train like pansies, your training needs an honest assessment and an upgrade of both the physical and social variety. Surround yourself with the people who you want to become like, and you’ll find yourself getting to their level faster than if you only watch them from a distance. Now go find your inspiration and live up to it!

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4 Ways To Deal With Fitness Disappointment

Have you ever gone into something will all of your heart and soul and come up empty-handed for unexpected reasons? Have you ever been preparing for a big competition or event and been struck with a crisis? A sudden trip to the hospital or an injury can leave you sidelined and force you to take time off from the gym.

Next thing you know, all your visions of the ideal physique, and all of the fitness plans you’ve organized to achieve it, are derailed.

There’s nothing more irritating in the human experience than disappointment, especially when it occurs for reasons beyond your control. Worse still, perhaps it’s something you caused that could have been avoided in hindsight.

Next time you’re groveling in the pit of despair, don’t forget how integral—albeit frustrating—a part of life disappointment is. Understand these four simple truths, and you’re well on your way to dealing with disappointment like a champ.

Truth 1:

This isn’t a foreign concept to anyone, is it? It started when you were a child. Do you remember wanting that Christmas present from Santa that wasn’t under the tree? How about the shattering realization that the crush you had on that guy or girl was unrequited? Can you remember a time that you slaved over your homework, expecting a high grade, only to be devastated when you barely passed?

“No matter where you are on the ladder of life, we’re all vulnerable to disappointment and change.”

Why, then, does disappointment in adulthood come as such a shock? While we’d all like to think there’s a lifetime max capacity for it, that’s not the way things work. You can make one of two choices: Duck and miss or swing and try to hit the ball.

No matter where you are on the ladder of life, we’re all vulnerable to disappointment and change. So breathe and put things in perspective. Remember, it’s not a personal attack.

Truth 2:

Adversity and learning to deal with disappointment in a mature way can lead to insight and wisdom. It can also be your chance to lead by example. Whether it’s your co-workers seeing how you handle the unexpected, or your kids looking up to you as a role model, you alone have the chance to shine in moments of misfortune. It’s not always easy, but sometimes it’s the only choice you have.

I’ve experienced this in my own fitness career. In 2009, I had to scratch from a show halfway through because I messed up and missed half of judging. It was beyond embarrassing. I had been training for four months to get on stage and in the end, I completely dropped the ball.

Still, I tried to make the best of it. Sure, I wished it’d gone smoother but, by channeling attention away from my loss, I gained a bit more insight on how to triumph over disappointment. Plus, on the bright side, I got to eat pancakes 20 minutes earlier than I was expecting to. How bad could things be?

Truth 3:

Physique competitions in particular have a way of showing yourself and others who you really are at your core. I have seen it all backstage: tears, swearing, throwing shoes, even sabotage. But I’ve also seen women who rush to help with a suit malfunction or a smeared contest tan, MacGyver broken shoe straps back together, and provide unwavering support and comfort to competitors backstage. Competing really brings out the absolute best or the absolute worst in people. This again is where disappointment and your ability to keep your composure come into play.

“Physique competitions in particular have a way of showing yourself and others who you really are at your core.”

A disappointing placing after months of dieting, training, and sacrificing your social life hurts—especially when you know you look better than the last time you got on stage. You feel like you earned a higher placement, yet the cards didn’t fall in your favor.

Disappointment instills leadership skills to help others in the same position later down the road. You might know how this feels or, if you haven’t personally experienced the sting of defeat, you can easily imagine what it feels like. Why not help someone in that situation? When you’re in the world of fitness, you have a beautiful opportunity to lead when someone comes off the stage feeling defeated, their shoulders slumped and eyes lowered. It’s your responsibility to point out the bright spots and reassure athletes that their hard work wasn’t a waste of time.

Truth 4:

Hubris has been the downfall of many. Overconfidence and cockiness happen in every pursuit. In the world of fitness, it’s almost a daily occurrence.

Nobody should be on a pedestal and, from that perspective, disappointment can be humbling. Disappointment brings people down a few notches. It wipes the slate clean and reminds us that we’re all on a level playing field and that we need to treat others with respect and compassion.

A humble attitude, gracious sportsmanship, empathy for others, and ceaseless modesty are all long-lasting consequences of disappointment that end up as the foundation of empires and legacies. The humility learned through unfortunate experiences can be healing, motivating, and inspirational to others who have been slapped down by the hand of disappointment.

It’s Your Choice!

Disappointment can own you forever or change you completely; the choice is yours. Whatever you’re going through right now, find the lesson, teach others, and keep your head about you. Perspective, especially when it comes to overcoming unexpected circumstances, is everything! Not only can it help you, but you’ll have a chance to help someone else later down the line by setting an example. Pay it forward with a humble heart, and you’ll find that wisdom always trumps the disappointing times.

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4 Ways To Deal With Fitness Disappointment

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Cat stretch + thread a needle

Cat stretch + thread a needle Feeling stiff? The cat stretch is a great Pilates exercise to increase flexibility in the lower back.How toKneeling on hands and knees, exhale to curl tailbone under to round the spine and stretch lower back; inhale to return to flat back.Add rotation: Thread right hand under the left arm and rotate torso to the left, return to start and reach right hand to ceiling and rotate to the right.NEXT: 10-minute flexibility workout>>Don’t forget to join our fitness community on Facebook.

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Cat stretch + thread a needle

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AMP: Marc Megna's 8-Week Aesthetics Meets Performance Trainer Phase 1, Day 2

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Cardio output training consists of steady-state work done for an extended period of time. Today, you’ll choose your cardio weapon of choice—the treadmill, the stair climber, or the stationary bike—and work for 40 minutes. You’re not doing intervals or sprint work, so you’ll keep a consistent speed for the entire workout. This type of cardio will build your work capacity and cardiovascular function, which helps you perform better. Cardio workouts will also help you burn fat so you can uncover that excellent physique.

The goal of this workout is to keep your heart rate at 130-150 beats per minute (bpm), but measuring your heart rate can be difficult without a device. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, go by feel. Your heart rate should be elevated, but you should not be so out of breath that you can’t hold a steady conversation.

Don’t forget that your nutrition habit for this phase is to eat every 2-4 hours. This is an essential part of the AMP trainer. If you’re not fueling your body often and with healthy, whole foods, you won’t see the results you’re after. This habit might be difficult for the first couple of weeks, but it will soon become second nature.

  • Jogging-Treadmill Jogging-Treadmill Cardio Of Choice
    40 minutes at 130-150 heart beats per minute

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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 13

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If you’re still sore from your ramping set workout two days ago, we apologize! Many people find that when they experience delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), it’s actually worse two days after training than it is the first day. This may seem unfair, but it’s really common.

But if you’re rubbing a tender chest or lat muscle as you read this, hearing that you’re not the only one isn’t much consolation. You want to know how to make it better! And we can help there, too, because today, you’re going to learn about self-myofascial release, also known as “foam rolling.”

Ultimate 30 Day Beginners Guide To Fitness:
Watch The Video – 02:53

Day 13 Challenge

  • Perform another “ramping” workout, this time for the upper body.
  • Learn about foam rolling, and try it if you’ve got a roller at your gym or house.

Roll With It

There are a number of different self-release techniques, all with the same goal: to help spur the natural healing processes of your soft tissues. These techniques apply pressure to the tight muscle tissue, which it interprets as “Danger! Too much tension! Relax!” This causes a reflexive reaction that simultaneously causes the muscle to lengthen and relax. Effectively, it could be thought of as a light switch that turns off a muscle that is in danger of hurting itself. Although, to be clear, we aren’t putting muscle in danger!

The concept of what we are doing is the same as that of a deep-tissue massage. The main difference is that it doesn’t cost much since you do it to yourself. There are various ways to incorporate this technique into your training, but the most common method is foam rolling either before or after your workout.

Before a workout, rolling can be a great way to increase your mobility and range of motion in the area you’re working—for example, rolling your quads and IT band before leg training. After training, plenty of people find it helps them recover or avoid that “restless leg” feeling that can come with hard lifting or cardio.

How much tightness you have and how much discomfort you can handle will determine what device or surface you can roll out on. The white foam rollers, which are probably the most common, are a good place for inexperienced people to start.

Someone who has been at it awhile may find those too soft and prefer something harder, like a black foam roller or knobby rumble roller. With time, experienced trainees will use everything from foam rollers to PVC pipe and lacrosse balls to help them target specific muscles.

These are probably the five most common muscle groups people foam roll:

  1. Calf
  2. Latissimus dorsi
  3. Gluteus maximus/minimus
  4. IT Band
  5. Quadriceps

Here’s how to begin: Lie down on the floor. Apply pressure to the middle or “belly” of the muscle you want to work, using your bodyweight to increase the compression. Slowly roll over the muscle, pausing on “hot spots” when you find them for about 20 seconds. Don’t roll over the joint itself; stay on the muscle.

An important key here is to relax. You won’t want to, because if you have any tightness then this will be uncomfortable and you will attempt to brace yourself. Don’t do it. Find your happy place, breathe deep, and relax. This will take experimentation, so be patient and try to learn to enjoy the pain!

Need more instruction? We’ve got guides to rolling the major muscle groups in our Exercise Database. We’ve also got other articles packed with techniques to help you get over your DOMS and get back to training more quickly!

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The Ultimate 30-Day Beginner's Guide To Fitness Day 12

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People who hike and climb in the mountains like to say that food never tastes as good as when you’ve cooked it yourself after a long, hard day. This applies to fitness, too. Food tastes great when you’ve done your time in both the gym working up a sweat, and in the kitchen making it. If your food isn’t delicious and nutritious, don’t fret. You just need some new recipes!

Ultimate 30 Day Beginners Guide To Fitness:
Watch The Video – 02:57

Day 12 Challenge

  • Explore Bodybuilding.com’s recipe database and recipe content.
  • Try your hand at cooking a new recipe!

Get familiar with our recipe database, and you might find yourself getting excited about cooking for the first time in your life. We’ve got recipes to last all day, from breakfast to your post-workout shake, healthy snacks to salads, marinades to make your meat tastier, and even fool-proof protein desserts. We also have recipes to fit every event and season, courtesy of Kevin Alexander of “Fit Men Cook,” Anna “Protein Pow” Sward, and plenty of other regular contributors.

Earlier this week, we told you that you’ll most likely eat more than you’re used to in this trainer. This should be a prize, not a punishment. As you rest up from yesterday’s tough workout, today’s challenge will seem simple enough: Find a recipe that makes you go “Hmm,” and give it a go!

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Mind Over Muscle: Your One-Rep Max Mental Checklist

While bodybuilders aren’t known necessarily for doing single-rep maxes, your one-rep max (1RM) on key lifts means much more than determining your pecking order among the gym’s elite. The 1RM is also useful for directing your future training plans, which makes it essential to occasionally max out on major movements.

While knowledge is power when it comes to planning, it also has a heavy influence on strength performance. Despite the high-tension physical strain of lifting—muscles and tendons pulling on bones, human frames overcoming iron and gravity—1RM testing isn’t dominated by the physical form. It’s actually a carnal demonstration of a robust mental state.

When you venture into the territory of testing your physical limits, you’re more likely to succeed if you follow a process—a mental checklist of sorts—that prepares your mind to lead your body in battle against metal and inertia. That battle can often be won or lost before you even touch the weight.

Follow these five steps to dominate your next max-effort attempt against a massive load of iron.

1 Visualize the Lift

Let’s start with visualization, which begins days, weeks, or even months before your body even engages the barbell.

My college defensive coordinator drilled visualization into my training habits. Our daily instructions were to visualize successful plays when we woke up and again before we went to bed. On Saturday afternoons, it was as if my team had already played the game because we spent so much time visualizing the outcome. Lifting is no different.

Throughout your training cycle, visualize yourself successfully lifting your goal 1RM. In your mind’s eye, picture your performance: the weight on the bar, the gym around you … see your body forcefully defy gravity.

As you visualize, feel. Feel yourself strain to move the weight; feel the positive emotion from accomplishing your goal. The goal of visualization is to create the entire environment in your mind so your neurology is accustomed to it at game time.

Start visualizing every day—morning, night, and between sets while training—at the beginning of your training cycle. Keep visualizing your success until the moments before you attempt your 1RM.

In your mind’s eye, picture your performance: the weight on the bar, the gym around you … see your body forcefully defy gravity.

2 Set Your Mental Intensity Lever

Psychological intensity is the lifeblood of heavy lifting. Moreover, you have the ability to practice controlling said intensity by creating a mental intensity lever.

Psychological intensity is the lifeblood of heavy lifting.

This practice is rooted in visualization. I can’t give you the exact visual—you’ll have to create one with your own imagination—but you need a lever and numbers to rate your intensity. Start by imagining an actual lever that, when pulled, increases your concentration and strength. My lever ranges from 1-10, where 10 is maximum intensity. During warm-up sets I systematically crank the lever, working from 5-10.

Even though you’re not maxing out during a regular training day, you need to get used to feeling what maximal mental output feels like and associate it with your lever. So crank it up to 10 just once during your last warm-up set, drop down to 8 or 9 during most of your working sets, and get to a full 10 again during your last working set.

Let’s use the deadlift for a tangible example of how the lever works:

As you approach the bar, close your eyes and picture the lever next to your right hand. Grasp the lever and pull it hard until it reaches your desired intensity. Grab the bar, set your position, and match your performance intensity with your lever intensity.

It’s abstract, and it seems a bit New Age, but this really works. Build your mental intensity lever and put it into practice right now. When your big-lift game day arrives, you’ll find a new intensity level you didn’t know you possessed.

3 Engrain Coaching Cues

No matter if you coach yourself or outsource your training process, sound coaching cues are necessary for strong lift performance. Like the previous two checklist entries, coaching cues are engrained in your procedure months before your max attempt. The goal is to make these cues automatic, so conscious thoughts about starting position, lift engagement, and lift completion become unnecessary.

However, revisiting cues before approaching the bar for your ode to “human conquest over inanimate iron” is always a good idea.

As you practice your final visualization in the moments preceding your lift, remind yourself of your coaching cues for all phases of the lift. Start with your setup and make sure you master the necessary steps for good positioning. Move on to lift engagement: Is your first movement guiding you to your final destination? Are you in good position to lock the weight out?

Develop a list of 2-3 cues for each part of the lift and rehearse them religiously before yoking the bar to your will.

4 Get Aggressive

In 2014, aggression is viewed as an archaic psychological relic, a remnant from centuries gone by, and unnecessary for function in the civilized world. Yet it still hangs about, cultivating land within our psyches. A 1RM attempt is the perfect opportunity to harvest its yield as mental nourishment.

Getting angry is a “to each his own” type of process. I can’t offer you a step-by-step primer on rousing your inner beast to let loose on a barbell. I can, however, recommend that you find a dark place in your psyche and provoke it. This provocation coincides with ramping up your mental intensity lever. The combination turns aggression into applied performance.

Be mindful, however, to not disregard your coaching cues. Blind anger is a hindrance; focused aggression is an enhancement.

Blind anger is a hindrance; focused aggression is an enhancement.

5 Take Care of the Little Things

We’ve journeyed through mental territories that most training articles detour. We also engaged in processes that most don’t consider. Acquiring exciting new skills and perspectives, however, doesn’t award us license to disregard the diminutive, seemingly mundane tasks that keep our minds worry-free.

Start with procuring a trustworthy spotter. Knowing a person is there to save your skin—should any hazard reveal itself—is priceless for peace of mind. No need to waste mental energy that would be better spent on accelerating mass.

Sometimes collecting the little rocks permits us to move the big ones, so be sure to secure sturdy weight clips tightly to your plates, clear your lifting space, and make sure you’re not attempting an ego lift.

Now, check your list—check it twice if you have to—and go crush your next 1RM.

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Mind Over Muscle: Your One-Rep Max Mental Checklist

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