When it comes to fitness, there are two main archetypes: the success story and the cautionary tale. The success story is the gym rat who has found the winning equation—a perfect blend of exercise and nutrition that has produced a physique with heaps of new muscle and only traces of bodyfat. The cautionary tale, well … you don't want to fall into that category. These are the people who just can't seem to get things right, and it's usually due to one or more nutritional snafus. They'll lift thousands of pounds in their workouts but skip their postworkout shakes. They'll aim to reduce their calorie intakes to shed bodyfat but forget to supplement right or monitor protein percentages. Cautionary-tale guys are the ones who almostget it right but keep missing the mark with food and supps.
If that describes you, allow us to help you right your nutritional rudder. As hard as you may work in the weight room, you still need to cozy up to the fact that your work in the kitchen and at the dinner table is just as important.
Those looking to get lean are often the biggest nutritional offenders. Because they're so obsessed with shedding bodyfat, they often go too far in their efforts and stall their progress or, worse, start to backslide into the awful realm of being "skinny fat" (the result of lost muscle mass without a marked loss of fat). Remember, moderation is the key to steady gains. The following three mistakes are the result of pursuing extremes.
Mistake No. 1: Aggressively Cutting Calories
You're ready to get ripped at all costs. No sacrifice is too great. As a result, you decide to slash your caloric intake in half, expecting to transform your body in just a couple of weeks. Big mistake—not only is this completely unhealthy, but your body also isn't likely to reciprocate with the same dramatics.
The reality is that aggressive cuts in calories can backfire, causing metabolism, your calorie-burning engine, to downshift into a lower gear. The better approach is to create a mild deficit, eating 15%—20% fewer calories on a daily basis. If you currently eat 3,000 calories a day, for instance, reducing that to 2,400—2,550 calories will do the trick, creating a calorie shortfall without causing your metabolism to plunge.
Still, even moderate cuts such as these can become frustrating over time. After a couple of weeks, your metabolism can adapt and burn fewer calories on its own, which negates continual fat loss. One way around that is to take a day each week to go back to square one and eat the amount of calories you ate before starting your diet—in this case, 3,000. The temporary increase actually interrupts the adaptation response, allowing the metabolism to continually burn at a higher rate.