After you’ve included regular workouts into your daily routine, the only thing left to nail down is your diet. The training aspect for some people is mentally easier than adhering to the nutrition plan needed to achieve their physique goal. It’s a cliché to say that it’s 80% nutrition and 20% training but I would have to agree with it.
I spent years of trial and error to nail down what was needed to sculpt my body in the way I desired. I’ve tried everything from low carb diets, excessive amounts of cardio, carb cycling, and the list goes on and on. In hindsight it was quite obvious where I was going wrong and many people are following the same path that I used to take.
Often people are held back by their lack of understanding of the dieting process. I’ve listed below some common dieting mistakes.
Simply eating clean will get you shredded
Foods that are generally considered clean are often high in satiety for relatively low calories. Satiety here refers to the feeling of being full after eating a particular food. Think of lean proteins sources, salads, vegetables etc. When you switch from a diet consisting of high calorie junk foods, which are lower in satiety for relatively higher calories, you will automatically reduce your calorie intake to an extent. Eating in a calorie deficit is what’s needed to reduce your body fat levels. So by switching to clean foods, you will experience some success but generally only to a certain point. To maximise results you have to learn about calories.
The majority of people that have had issues with their weight will generally have problems with appetite control. Even clean foods have calories and you can easily overeat with clean goods, albeit a more difficult task due to the satiety. Unless you intuitively understand how much food you should be eating for your goal, it’s essential to understand the importance of quantity control and energy balance. It’s not just about what you eat, it’s about how much.
Not learning how to track calories and macro nutrients
The very first time I could see my abs was when I figured out how to track my calories/macros. Without this skill it’s hard to truly establish if you’re in a calorie deficit and whether or not you’re eating the right types of food for your goal. I won’t go into too much detail here but macro nutrients refer to the proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that are in the foods you consume. This was a huge breakthrough for me, not only on a personal level, but as a trainer you don’t have much credibility with your clients if you don’t even have the knowledge and ability to get yourself into shape. Prior to this breakthrough I was able to get reasonably lean but never as lean as I wanted to be. It might seem like a daunting task to learn how to use apps such as MyFitnessPal but once you master it, it will give you the tools to achieve the body you’re striving for.
Eating too much early in the day
This might not apply to everyone but by having a huge breakfast and consuming over half of your target calories in one meal, it leaves you less calories for the rest of the day. If this happens then the likelihood of giving into hunger cravings will increase, thus resulting in overeating. I like to fast for the first few hours after waking up so that I have more calories banked for the rest of the day. It’s easier to not eat after waking up, than going to sleep hungry from my experience. It’s a false myth that eating after 6pm increases fat gain. It’s simply a matter of calories in vs calories out and timing your mealtimes that suit your lifestyle, leading to better adherence to your planned diet.
Going too extreme
Ideally you should try to eat as much as possible and still manage to lose fat. Anyone can get leaner by eating 500 calories a day. But this wouldn’t be healthy as you would be lacking nutrients and your metabolism would slow down. Not to mention, that you would most likely rebound and gain all the weight back because it would be too hard to eat so little in the long term. Fat loss should be slow and steady so that you can mentally adapt and keep making progress in the long term. You want your progress to be sustainable. Extreme dieting can even lead you down the path of an eating disorder. Gradually decrease your food intake and slowly increase your activity level. Trust the process, stay consistent, and be patient.
Eating out too often
It’s easier to accurately track your food intake if you weigh everything out yourself with home cooked food. If you’re serious about making proper progress you should be willing to do this during a fat loss phase. I’m not saying that you have be this meticulous forever or for every single meal. But it’s definitely the most effective way of controlling your food intake according to your goal. Once you get a good grasp of food measurements at home, it makes it easier to estimate food quantities when you eat out later down the line. Eventually you should be able to intuitively eat according to your goals once you have a better understanding of food quantities. You can always use clean food delivery services that do the calorie/macro calculations for you if time is a problem. The choice is yours.
Dieting is just as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. It’s important to manage your expectation of how much you’re willing to dedicate yourself to versus your expected results. Everyone can dramatically improve their body shape if they really want to. With the right guidance you can get there much faster.