I’ve made a fair few mistakes in my training career, which I’m not ashamed to admit. I was told things by people who had either been in better shape than me or been in the industry longer than me. I took what they said for gospel without questioning why or figuring things out for myself.
So I’ve decided to share them with you so you don’t fall for the same myths and to show even us fitness professionals can sometimes get it wrong. The difference is not everyone admits it.
Starvation Response - I use to think and preach that you had to eat 6 meals a day otherwise you’ll be in the dreaded starvation response, skipping one meal can lead to fat storage and muscle wastage. I remember stressing if I missed a meal I’d be like “crap I’m going to store fat and lose muscle”, I was told and believed that when you are hungry that’s muscle eating itself (face palm). Obviously this is not true, otherwise our species would not have survived during times of famine.
Restricting Carbs - I never completely cut out carbs as I knew they were beneficial for performance however I did cycle them. One day I’d have high carbs, next low and the next none. I shifted a lot of body fat during this time believing it was the carbs restriction but it was actually because on the low carb days I was only consuming around 1100 calories. No shit I lost weight. There was a study in 1975 where subjects who were described as massively obese were put on a very low calorie diet but very high in carbs. In the first month their diet it was 90-95% carbohydrates in the form of rice and fruits. Then a month later they added in vegetables and then a month later they added in lean meats. They were also given multivitamins to prevent deficiencies, on average they lost 63.9kg, proving carbs don’t cause fat storage. Im not suggesting this is a healthy way to lose weight but it worked.
8-12 Reps - When your trained to become a PT you are told 8-12 reps is for muscle building and 15+ is toning(even though theres no such thing as toning). So I have always trained people and myself in the 8-12, I discovered this not to be true when I took my leg training from 8-12 reps to 20-30 reps a couple years ago. My legs grew like never before, our muscles don’t really know how many reps were doing, if we perform 15 reps, they don’t decide to ‘tone’ instead of build. As long as you are stressing the muscle and constantly increasing the volume it doesn’t really matter. 8-12 is good number to aim for because it doesn’t take forever to do a set. But if like me you prefer higher reps on certain body parts and you are increasing volume consistently you’ll see results.
Cardio Kills Muscle - I use to fear that stepping on a treadmill meant muscle wastage and doing any form of effort on cardio would make me soon shrink. This is another myth I fell for and believed for a long period of time, but it doesn’t happen. Of course you can’t be a full time marathon runner and a body builder at the same time, to be good at either you need different things. But performing cardio 3 x per week whilst lifting weights isn’t going to make you lose muscle. You just need to make sure you eat enough calories to sustain both. Look at marines, generally very muscular but also super fit.
You Must Be Strict - I use to think you had to be major strict with your food that you could only eat natural foods and need to avoid anything processed, minus “CHEAT MEALS”. In actual fact to lose weight you only need to be in a calorie deficit, some people don’t have amazing diets but they still lose weight and become lean. As long as you are burning more calories than you eat then you will lose body fat.
In some ways I do agree with being strict to a certain point, but only when going for optimal results and performance and only for short periods of time.
But this is only because Im already at that stage in my journey where I can maintain a healthy body fat level year around that I'm happy with by eating 80% healthy and 20%”unhealthy”. Then when I want to get leaner (for a holiday let’s say) I push for 90/10 with my diet. Someone who is new to training, has excess body fat levels and struggles to reduce processed foods from their diet will not benefit from this. They firstly need to learn how to get to a lower body fat level they are happy with all year around. Then if theres a wedding or a holiday they want to lean up for only then should they look to be more strict. Going for this approach before learning how to sustain a healthy body fat level year around will result in a short term fix followed by a high body fat increase after. Learn to walk before you can run.
There you have it, my top mistakes I have made during my fitness career. Do I regret making them? No, because if I didn’t make them I wouldn’t be the trainer I am today. Im sure I will make more mistakes but I will learn from them to and become and even better trainer.
Theres always a valuable lesson to be learned when making a mistake or failing, just be sure to look out for it.
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