You want to build a great body, melt away stubborn body fat, and improve your conditioning — so what should you do? First, do more of what helps. Eat great food, lift weights, and take quality supplements to boost your results. Second, do less of what hurts. And frankly, there are quite a few things people do every day that limits their progress in the gym.
In this article, I’m going to break down the most common mistakes that kill your results in the gym and what you can do to fix them. Over time, you’ll notice faster improvements and way more health benefits overall.
1. You’re Cutting Carbs
Carbs aren’t evil. In fact, if you lift weights often and do intense training, you actually need MORE carbs.
Eating carbohydrates post-workout refuels your muscle glycogen — which gets burned during intense exercise — and helps you shift to an anabolic state faster. Carbs also spike your insulin to improve nutrient delivery to your muscles. Starve yourself from carbs and you’ll lengthen recovery times. At an overall health level, cutting carbs excessively can negatively impact thyroid health and testosterone levels.
Choose clean sources of carbs like potatoes, yams, rice, whole grains, fruits, and quinoa.
2. You’re Not Sleeping Well Enough
Poor sleep is so common nowadays, you’d think this was no big deal.
Yet sleep is vital in building muscle and getting lean. Deep sleep is when your body produces the most amount of growth hormone to generate muscle growth, recovery, and repair.
Skimp on sleep, however, and you’ll negatively impact that process.
Shortchanging your sleep can also create unwanted weight gain. In a year-long study of over 35,000 people, shorter amounts of sleep were associated with higher BMI levels and higher obesity rates for men. (That’s not good.)
Make sure to sleep eight hours every night and get high-quality sleep. Stop drinking caffeine too late in the day, reduce nighttime alcohol, stop using electronics an hour before bed, and invest in a good mattress.
3. You’re Not Recovering
Your muscles don’t get bigger and stronger while you train; they get bigger and stronger when you recover.
Yet taking a day off from the gym doesn’t necessarily mean you’re recovering. In fact, you could still be stressing yourself from work and life, which limits how quickly you bounce back from training.
To help you return gym faster, trying doing things that stimulate recovery like a good stretching/yoga/mobility routine to promote blood flow and clear metabolic waste. Or do some easy cardio to stimulate your aerobic system and add meditation to manage your daily stresses.
4. You’re Working Out Too Hard
Over the past years, fitness has shifted to a philosophy of, “Go hard or go home.”
But it’s completely unnecessary to push yourself to the limit each and every time you set foot into the gym. (It might even tip your body into “overreaching” and “overtraining.”)
Instead, do your high-intensity sessions (weight lifting with volume) 3 – 4 times per week at most. Then, spend the rest of the week focusing on recovery and regeneration.
In fact, by dialing back your intensity just a little, you might even get more results (and more consistently) than ever before.
5. You Breathe Poorly
Speaking of recovery and stress, your breathing is essential — every breath is an input as to how stressful and demanding your environment is.
If you breathe by hiking up your chest and shoulders (and over-activating your upper traps and neck), there are two problems. (1) You’re making it harder to get the oxygen you need to recover from bouts of exercises and (2) you’re telling your brain to get stressed.
Instead, breathe through your nose and diaphragm (called “diaphragmatic breathing”).
If you stick with it, you’ll retrain your body to breathe correctly and strengthen the correct muscles for support.
6. You’re Not Taking The Right Supplements
If you’re pushing your body in the gym, that’s fine — as long as you recover. I listed a few great ways to enhance you recover already, but here’s another thing you should do:
Get the right nutrition.
If you’re eating clean and drinking lots of water already, that’s where a quality supplement can really make a huge difference in how much muscle you build and how fast your body recovers from workouts.
Here are some proven supplements you can consider:
7. You’re Hanging With The Wrong Crowd
Sometimes, it’s not just the things you do that hurt, but also the people you surround yourself with.
If you’re struggling to make progress with your body and health, it might be worth looking at your social circle and their influence on you. Sometimes the wrong friends can actually hold you back from new goals and new lifestyles.
Instead, challenge yourself to meet new friends who share your passion for self-improvement and transformation. Perhaps you can hang out with people in your gym or group classes and use it as a great opportunity to encourage each to succeed.
It might just be what you need.
ABOUT ANTHONY YEUNG
Anthony J. Yeung, CSCS, is a fitness expert at Esquire, GQ, and Men’s Health and the founder of Unlock Your Fitness.