Of course, you want to get the most benefits out of your workout, who doesn’t? You may be working hard to get lean and defined but also doing things that make it harder to get results. How many of these six things are you doing to sabotage your workout gains?
Being Undisciplined in the Kitchen
Does a little voice whisper in your ear, saying you deserve that brownie because you worked out? Some people think exercise allows them to be more liberal with their diet. If that’s the case for you, you’re making it harder to get the results you’re looking for. Brownies won’t build muscle or reduce body fat.
Even the most intense exercise program can’t make up for a poor diet. You can shovel in the wrong foods a lot faster than you can burn off the calories through exercise. It takes about 30 minutes of running at a moderate pace to burn off two chocolate chip cookies. Take a reality check by keeping a journal of everything you’re eating and drinking – meals and snacks. Add up the calories and take an objective look at what’s going in your mouth. Are you out-eating your exercise sessions?
The composition of your diet can sabotage you too. Processed carbohydrates put your body in fat storage mode by causing insulin spikes. Stick with whole foods as much as possible and include enough lean protein along with moderate amounts of healthy fats. There’s no room for junk food when you’re trying to improve your body composition.
Restricting Calories Too Much
Some people go to the other extreme when they’re trying to get leaner. They lower their calorie intake to the point constant hunger sets in. Your body is smarter than you think. When you do this, your body makes behind-the-scenes adjustments to compensate. Your metabolism slows and you end up in a futile cycle of eating less and exercising more to lose weight. Not a healthy situation or one that’s sustainable. Approach your fitness goals from a long-term perspective and don’t use the “crash plan” to get into shape. Slow and steady will give you more sustainable results.
Being Too Redundant
Are you doing the same workout every day? If so, you’re limiting your gains. How so? Your body adapts to doing the same exercises all the time. Once an exercise starts to feel easy, you know your body has adapted. One thing you can do is simply increase the resistance. That’s what progressive overload is all about.
You can also keep your muscles guessing by varying the weight and reps you use during your workouts. One day lift heavy with fewer reps and another day go lighter and do more reps. Use different exercises to target the same muscle groups or add some plateau busters like supersets, negatives, drop sets, etc. Vary the type of workout you do too. Try a step DVD or a spin class to work your body in a new way. Don’t get into a workout rut.
Not Training Hard Enough
Are you maximizing the intensity of your workouts? You don’t have to “max out” every workout but you should feel like you’ve given it everything you have unless it’s a planned “light” day. Think about how you feel when you get to the end of a workout and realize you’re barely sweating. Then think about how you felt on a day you gave it everything. At the end of your workout, you felt exhausted but satisfied because you put everything into it.
Don’t be afraid to push yourself. You have to move out of your comfort zone to change your body. Most people stop a little short because they don’t want to feel uncomfortable.
Focusing Too Much on Cardio
There’s no denying the importance of cardio. After all, your heart is your most important muscle but you don’t need to do an hour of moderate-intensity cardio to improve your cardiovascular fitness. You can get the same or superior benefits with shorter, high-intensity workouts. Research suggests intensity is more important than duration for cardiovascular health.
If you’re spending an hour doing cardio and 15 minutes of weight training, you can’t expect to build strength and muscle definition. Adaptations to endurance exercise are different than how your body adapts to strength training. The two forms of exercise interfere with each other to some degree. Long periods of cardio create a catabolic state that makes it harder to build muscle. Plus, too much cardio zaps your energy reserves so you have less energy to devote to weight training.
Shorten your cardio sessions and make them more intense. Then devote the time you save to weight training. Cardio may burn fat but weight training builds lean body mass. More lean body mass will raise your resting metabolism. Plus, it will change the appearance of your body.
Not Sleeping Enough
You should be getting at least seven hours of sleep a night, at the bare minimum, eight is better. Lack of sleep raises your cortisol level. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that makes it harder to build lean body mass. It also reduces insulin sensitivity. Plus, too little sleep lowers leptin, a hormone that helps control hunger, and increases ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates your appetite. It’s during the deeper stages of sleep that growth hormone is released to help you build muscle and burn fat. Getting adequate sleep is an important part of the recovery process. Don’t shortchange yourself!
The Bottom Line?
Changing the composition of your body takes commitment and discipline. Make sure you’re not sabotaging yourself by making these common mistakes.
Medscape Family Medicine. “The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism”
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