They say knowledge is power and that you should never stop learning.
But can you ever read too much fitness advice? Does it ever get to a point where things just become too overly complicated and absurd?
For the average person, I firmly believe so.
In fact, over the last 10 years I’ve noticed an interesting trend when I start working with new clients: Before I put them on a real diet, I have to put them on an information diet.
Because if I don’t, there is a very real chance of them going into analysis paralysis. I know that every recommendation I give them will most likely have a counter-recommendation by some “goo-roo” they read about somewhere.
And it’s not entirely their fault.
In an attempt to to make educated decisions about their health, most turn to the firehose that is the internet and attempt to drink in as much as possible. But with millions of blogs, videos and articles available, contradicting and downright inaccurate advice is abundant.
And that’s because your attention has become a highly precious commodity. Furthermore, in order to capture your attention, many hucksters won’t shy away from putting out “controversial” and/or exaggerated statements (e.g, eating carbs at night will make you fat and depressed).
Sadly, all this controversial advice comes at a cost — the waste of your valuable time (don’t worry, I’ve been suckered by a bunch of BS in the past as well).
So in order to help you navigate through the garbage that’s out there, I’ve compiled a list of terrible fitness advice that you should never follow. In fact, if you come across any of the statements below being passed off as something that will help you reach your goals, run the other way. And don’t look back.
Terrible Advice #1: “Foods That Help Burn Belly Fat”
This is one of the worst offenders because it manipulates a psychological trick that all humans are vulnerable to called the curiosity gap.
Here’s how it works: It ties the results you want (e.g, shredded abs) to an action that’s simple and doesn’t seem to take much effort (e.g, eating foods you can probably buy at the grocery store).
And because you’re currently not in the shape you want to be, you end up wondering if it’s because you’re grocery shopping all wrong and not eating enough of these miracle “fat burning” foods.
Or maybe you’ve accidentally bought these belly fat burning foods before, but just not in big enough quantities.
Or maybe you’re aware of these foods already, but you didn’t know they burnt belly fat, and now you’re wondering what they are.
Whatever the case may be, a gap in your curiosity has been created. And your mind has a strong need to fill this gap with the information that was promised. Also, if there truly are foods that burn belly fat, you’ve already made up your mind that that’s all you’re going to eat for the next year.
I mean, why the hell would you want to eat anything else?
The Cold Hard Truth: There are no specific types of foods that burn belly fat. None. Get over it. (Tweet This)
Fat is burnt when your body uses up more calories than it receives. And when this process happens often, you lose weight. Period.
In fact, if you want to burn off 5 lbs in the next 2 weeks then you might like the Free Fat Loss Course I’ve created. It’s simple, uncomplicated and has everything you need:
- Simple, easy to follow meal plans
- Short, effective workouts that last 15 minutes
- Video demonstrations
- Weekly motivation
Interested? Then Click Here To Get Started With The Course
Now this isn’t to say that we don’t have foods that can’t aid in your fat loss journey. The closest thing we have to “belly fat burning foods” are spices and supplements that can provide some backup. They can’t do any of the heavy lifting, but they can certainly make for great sidekicks.
Take the spice cinnamon for example, which has shown to improve insulin sensitivity and slow down the rate at which your body absorbs sugar. Then there is caffeine and green tea extract, which have shown to give your metabolism a slight boost.
Useful stuff, but at the end of the day you need to remember that all food is energy, and if you take in too much energy (even the healthy kind), you won’t be able to burn fat at the rate you want, if at all.
Terrible Advice #2: “Lose Weight By Doing This One Special Exercise”
This was popularized by the book called 4 Hour Body. While the book is fun to read, the info is filled with more holes than swiss cheese. The “one special” exercise recommended in that book was the Kettlebell (KB) swing.
Now I’ll admit that the KB Swing isn’t a bad exercise in an of itself, but if you’re on this site then I assume you want to look your best. And that means you need to stimulate your entire body under stress from many different angles and varied levels of resistance (both heavy, medium and light).
I think one of the reasons this “one exercise to rule them all” idea took off is because people are just busy these days. And sure, doing one exercise is better than nothing, but even if you’re short on time I highly recommend that you aim to perform at least 3-5 exercises that hit all the muscles in your body.
Personally, if had to live off only 5 exercises for the rest of my life, here’s what they would be:
- Barbell Deadlift
- Barbell Squat (front or back, your choice)
- Barbell Overhead Press
In fact, there’s not a doubt in my mind that with these 5 exercises I can get anyone (man or woman) strong, lean and shredded.
How am I so confident?
Because I’ve done it before. Not every client I get has access to fancy gym facilities or stays in one spot. Some have to deal with hotel gyms, some travel, some just hate machines, etc. So through trial and error I was forced to find exercises that (when combined) give my clients the biggest return on their time invested.
If you’d personally like to test out this program, shoot me an email and mention “the big 5 challenge” and I’ll send you the 1st Phase of the plan. Just remember that while it is simple and effective, it’s not a cake-walk. You’ll still have to put in serious work.
Terrible Advice #3: “You Shouldn’t Worry About The Number Of Calories You Eat”
This one’s a bit controversial because on one hand, you cannot defy the 1st law of thermodynamics any more than you can defy the laws of gravity. This means that the number of calories you take in DOES matter. You may not keep track of it on paper, but your body is definitely keeping track of the amount of energy you took in.
But on the other hand, counting numbers daily is tedious and not a great long-term strategy for both your social life, or sanity. I don’t know of any strict calorie counters that have lasted the test of time.
Hell, I don’t think I myself would be able to manage that, and I do this shit professionally.
Thankfully there are easier methods I’ve developed to keep the numbers in check for both my clients and myself without really having to worry about them. Here are three methods you may like:
Track your calories in/out using an app like MyFitnessPal. Instead of counting calories, just throw in the foods you’ve eaten throughout the day, and the app will automatically calculate how much you’ve eaten, how much you have left, and the macro breakdown of your meals. Once you hit your target numbers, you stop. Simple. This is also great for those that have what I like to call “food ADD”. So for example: instead of eating the same stuff to meet your target of 2000 calories daily, you can switch things around and play with other foods and ingredients. The choices are endless.
Create a meal plan and stick to it. Let’s say that for the sake of simplicity you’ve concluded that you need 100g protein, 100g carbs and 50g fat daily. Great, now spend 15-20 minutes coming up with a meal plan that fits this criteria. Once you’re happy with it, stick to it on a daily basis. This way you don’t have to track your numbers all the time. You’ll know that if you ate X, Y and Z then all your numbers will be on target. The only issue with this method is that when your metabolism changes (increases or decreases) then you’ll have to recalculate your numbers and make a whole new plan. Not a deal breaker, but tedious nonetheless.
Hire a coach that handles all the numbers for you, and makes the adjustments as necessary. While static tracking is totally fine, you have to remember that your body changes. I cannot state this enough. While reducing your daily calories by 500 may work for a month or two, it won’t stay that way as your metabolism shifts. For example, if you managed to lose 10lbs by dropping your calories by X amount and working out 2 days per week, but now you’ve stalled. What happened? Well your body has reached a new “setpoint”. This means your metabolism has shifted to keep you at your new weight. To jump-start the fat loss process again, you’ll have to make adjustments in your plan, and having a coach that can eliminate the guess work can really help with that. There are many great coaches out there, but if you’re interested in my services, go here for a FREE no-obligation consultation.
Terrible Advice #4: “If You Do Intermittent Fasting, You Can Eat Whatever You Want”
Fasting is not magic; it does not save you from the 1st law of thermodynamics. So if you overeat while fasting, you will not lose weight. However, I have used fasting as a successful diet strategy for both myself and my clients in the past, and believe it does have some distinct advantages. Here are four of my favorites:
- Makes going into a deficit easier: If you’re avoiding food for 16 of the 24 hours you have in a given day, it should be obvious that there’s a greater chance of you generally eating less. This is good for weight loss and burning fat. In fact, if you attempt the bigger 24-hour fast, then it makes things even easier.
- Improves hormone levels: Fasting has shown to give natural Growth Hormone levels a slight boost. While it’s nothing out of this world, it’s definitely a nice perk. Especially for those that don’t lift, since pushing iron provides similar benefits.
- Improved mental focus: While you don’t want to starve yourself forever, short-term fasting has shown to increase your natural levels of BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor). BDNF is a protein that helps neurons talk to each other more efficiently, and spurs the growth of new ones — especially in the parts of the brain that have everything to do with memory, learning and cognitive function. The key here is short-term fasting, because the brain’s favorite source of fuel is actually sugar.
- Feel fuller for longer: Because you only have so many hours to get your required amount of calories in, this allows you to eat a bigger meal than usual. And assuming your meal plan is intelligently designed (i.e not a bag of donuts) then you should be satisfied for many hours to come. This would make eating less, less of a chore.
Terrible Advice #5: “If you’re not sore, you didn’t workout hard enough”
We humans love to be rewarded for the work we put in. We love the acknowledgment, and are suckers for praise along with indicators which reveal to us that what we’re doing is actually working.
It’s why video game achievements such as points, badges and trophies are so popular; they glorify all those hours you spent killing digital baddies.
It’s also why your toothpaste foams up, and then leaves you with a tingly minty feeling after you’re done brushing your teeth; makes you feel accomplished and clean.
What? You thought tiny foam bubbles help your teeth become cleaner? Nope, it’s all a marketing tactic; toothpastes can work just as well without such features but since you wouldn’t have any feedback for whether or not it’s working, you wouldn’t buy it.
And so in a similar fashion, when you’re not sore the day after a workout, you feel like you’ve wasted your time. At least, that’s what you’ve been thought to believe. But I’m here to tell you that soreness and results don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.
First you have to understand the POINT of exercise.
Any type of training creates stress, and from that stress your body overcompensates to give you the results you want. So when you do bicep curls to failure, you’re breaking the muscles down. This is a form of stress, and it stimulates the body into not only repairing the damaged muscle tissue, but building it back stronger than it was before.
Now if you’ve been training your biceps often (say 3x a week) for the past 3 years, then you most likely won’t be as sore as you used to be when you first started. It’s just another form of adaptation, and it doesn’t mean they won’t grow back bigger or stronger.
Bottom Line: Don’t rely on soreness as an indicator. Instead, track your metrics: Did you lift more than you did last week? Did you give 100% effort in the gym? Are your muscles actually growing?
If so, then you’re headed in the right direction, because numbers never lie.
Some Final Thoughts
Obviously, this article isn’t a complete list of all the terrible pieces fitness advice that’s out there, but it’s a start. By focusing on these five, I’ve given you a basic foundation that will allow you to litmus some of the crazy shit that’s out there.
Gary Vaynerchuk, a NY Times best-selling author and successful investor once said “Marketers ruin everything”. Unfortunately, the fitness industry has suffered from their hands the most. But at the end of the day, it’s still up to you to navigate through the waters and make the choices you think are best. I just hope I’ve helped you avoid the wrong ones. And if I did, please share this article with others!
Been Burned By Terrible Fitness Advice In The Past? Tell Me!
If you’ve been duped by junk advice in the past, please do me a favor and drop a few lines in the comment section below, I’d love to chat about it.