If you’ve been training for a while, you’ve probably heard people say that to keep progressing you’ve got to keep your body guessing. But that doesn’t apply to your brain as well. The reverse in fact. Keep your grey matter guessing and it can seriously hinder those gains.
So I can’t be the only one that gets anxious about finding answers to those niggling questions we all get. Is this the right diet? Is this training regime on target?
If you’re like me, you’ll groan whenever you need to change your diet or training regime. Not because you hate change, or because you’re lazy. The problem is working out how to separate fact from #fitfam fiction.
Admit it, the first place you’ll go to prep for a new diet or training regime is probably google. Good luck. Search for ‘beginners bulking diet’ and you’ll get 1,850 results. But dig a little deeper into the detail and you quickly end up like a dog chasing its own tail:
‘What is the best rep and set range for building muscle?’
‘Should you eat carbs in the morning or evening?’
‘What’s the best post workout foods?’
It’s a classic case of information overload. You can research for hours on end, trying to find a suitable diet or routine, only to find that there seems to be more ‘best’ ways to build muscle than there are gym-goers who can’t put the weights back on the rack (pet hate).
It’s like the two door riddle in Labyrinth: ‘Which one’s right?’ ‘What if I pick wrong?’. Choice anxiety can quickly kick in. I know that sounds made up, like the ultimate first world problem, but it’s real I promise. And it can be frustratingly effective at stoking stress and stopping decision-making.
Even worse, pick any two articles giving fitness advice, even on the same website, and you can bet that they’re not just giving different opinions, they’ll stare you straight in the eyes and give you completely contradictory advice.
It’s not surprising people stick to the workout their personal trainer gave them when they first stepped foot in a gym. And then they wonder why they’re not progressing.
So what should you do? The irony of this next section is not lost on me. I realise I’ve just added another digit to the results of anyone trying to solve this problem. But I’m not here to tell you there’s a simple solution, only to give you three rules of thumb, which could help you narrow your search:
1. Bin the broscience – stay clear of the foruma – at the very least, make sure you have a big bucket of salt by your side. You’ll need it for all the ‘advice’ you’ll get. There’ll always be some kid bragging that they bulked up by drinking nothing but beer 24/7.
Stick to the experts. And that doesn’t mean anyone with a PhD after their name. A doctorate in the propulsion parameters of penguin poo won’t help you here (a real PhD, by the way). So check out people like Jim Stoppani or Layne Norton.
2. Pretend you know nothing – some would say I’m at expert at this next rule of thumb. What i really mean though is that you should ignore your preconceptions. We’ve been brought up to think that eating fat makes you fat. Wrong. But if you search for what you think is the correct answer to any question, you’ll find the result you want, not necessarily the answer you need.
It’s the same with illnesses. Think cats cause you cancer? Ask and the internet giveth. One of the first articles that pops up is actually from the Daily Telegraph, reporting on research showing cats give you brain tumours. Pretty reputable you might think.
But dig a little deeper and you find out the research has been misrepresented. Cancer Research UK criticises the ‘limited and tentative evidence’. But by this point, confirmation bias has already kicked in…and your cat has already been kicked
3. Perfect is the enemy of good – I used to spend weeks researching and trying to perfect the right diet and training regime, but because I never thought it was perfect, I’d slip back into old habits and routines.
This is the problem of pursuing perfect over good. Results are rarely immediate and the lack of progress can be blamed on the perceived lack of perfection. It’s easy to retreat back into your comfort zone, particularly if you saw results previously.
Don’t be paralysed by perfection. Do some research, come up with a plan and just give it a go. It might not be perfect, but trial and tweak. Everyone’s different, so track what you’re doing and don’t be afraid of seeing what works for you.