After a year of quarantines, chaos and cold weather, many of us are getting the warm weather itch, and we all know what comes with that…

The desperate overhaul of our winter hibernation diet and training regimens.

In a desperate attempt to drop not just the unwanted weight from some of our muscle gain phase, we now find ourselves trying to lose the “quarantine – 20, according to a recent study that found the average American gaining 2lbs a month.  The study analyzed data obtained from 269 participants who were involved in an ongoing cardiology study, the Health eHeart Study and found about a .59 lb gain every ten days.

So, to put an end to this unwanted weight gain, make sure you stay clear of these mistakes when working towards that summer six pack.

  1. Excessive cardio:

Over the course of my ten years in gym ownership, it’s the biggest mistake I see being done. Yes, we need cardiovascular work, but not to the extent your workouts comprise primarily of it.

Constantly hitting the pavement and cardio equipment can chronically elevate cortisol, making fat loss much more difficult. Remember, cortisol’s main function is to mobilize stored energy, so dieting and limiting the energy available then doing lots of cardio can be a recipe for disaster.  Not to mention the wear and tear on your body if you are one for HIIT and running.

Your move:

Treat strength training as the main entree and cardio as the side dish. If going through a cutting phase I would go more than 45 minutes 5 days a week of mixed types.

Pick things you enjoy so you are more likely to stick to them. For fat loss purposes, adding a variety is something I suggest. Go for a hike one day, push sleds the next, hit the bike on another for intervals and attack a hill for a quick session!

  1. Volume rules nearly everything in your workouts.

Abundant volume is a muscle killer. Too many of us get the idea that “more is better” so when trying to get lean we often try to go the extra mile. More sets, more exercises, longer workouts and even double days.

While this may seem plausible to begin with, it can quickly backfire. I’m not against two-a-days or longer sessions for a short duration (~2 weeks), but anything longer just isn’t sustainable nor beneficial.

The problem with too much volume in either sets, reps, or exercises starts with fatigue. Think of your workouts like a tiny filled gas tank. This tank gets the most work when it’s used sparingly and effectively. No one wants to just drive around pointlessly just to drive, right? We need to conserve that precious tank that costs some of us $70 or more to fill!

Same goes for your training! If you start doing 15 minutes of mobility, 15 minutes of warm up sets superseding with fillers that serve no purpose, you are just burning the fuel so that by the time you could be “peaking” your central nervous system is fried and the weight you could potentially be lifting seems like it’s a weight you may see in your dreams.

Ever have some of those days in the gym? Think about what you did prior, the day before, or even as your warm up or earlier portions of your session. You could be your own reason to blame.

Your Move:

Less is more! Now, I am not saying 2-3 sets all the time, every exercise will do the trick, but you need to remember to cut out the junk volume. If you are spending 15 minutes or more getting to your working sets because you are “scared” to get injured, then you first need to re-access your weak points and/or program.

Pick a solid 3-4 exercises for your sessions. Don’t over think it. Add some fillers to target problem areas and reinforce the main lifts and add a solid secondary lift plus some assistance. Do metabolic finishers if you want or save your cardio for later in the day.

  1. Supplement Savvy

Instead of attacking the ‘diet’ portion, which you know can also easily fit here, I would rather use this for my final topic simply because it always seems to be a question a get weekly during this time of year!

“Mike, what supplements do you take to help with weight loss?”

My initial response always goes with this…

Before asking me about supplements, tell me what your sleep and stress are like.

Pre-workouts, thermogenics, powders and pills are truly a waste of money if you are not sleeping 7-9 hours or controlling your stress levels.

I would even lean more towards saying 90% or more of the supplement industry is a waste of money, but what gets my juices really going is when I see people get their supplements in the mail and post all over social media about their “new beginning” and how they are ready to get “shredded” with their new box of junk, but yet can’t figure out for the life of themselves how to track their macros, sleep more, or stop their weekend cheat meal escapade.

Supplements are just that, they “supplement” a healthy lifestyle. They should not replace it nor be the sole focus of your daily nutrition. In fact, many companies without quality sourcing or testing (NSF is my standard for a quality product) could potentially be containing dangerous toxins that are cheaply added or carelessly found in their products.

To be safe when buying them, make sure they are inspected and certified.

For many of you looking to take supplements, I’ll share my go-to list –hint, hint, it’s not long.

  1. Creatine Monohydrate
  2. Whey/Casein Protein (If you have a dairy sensitivity, stick to pea protein)
  3. Fish Oil
  4. Zinc/Magnesium
  5. Potentially a greens powder if you are one who hasn’t seen a green vegetable in months. Otherwise, it is not a world’s end if you don’t take it.
  6. Again, if you eat a lot of pre/probiotic foods and have a healthy gut, may not be for you.

That’s it. Need a pre-workout? Go for it! Not here to burst anyone’s bubble about them, but relying on them is where you can go wrong.

  1. Unrealistic Expectations

We all dream big! We envision ourselves looking like the cover model of your favorite fitness magazine, when in reality, you’ve neglected your health for over 2-3 years. Expecting serious change in 8 weeks in unrealistic. So, make sure you set goals and get images out of your head that are not feasible.

Focus on smaller victories and over time you will see better consistent progress!

For example, try setting a goal to stick to 3-4 workouts a week for 8 weeks. Trying to set “image-related” goals can be harder to achieve and have opposite effects when you don’t see results as quickly as you would hope.

What is something too far out of reach? Thinking your will go from no visible ab definition to a six pack in 8 weeks. Instagram may show you otherwise, but the truth is, this process takes TIME!

Practice good habits first, then get consistent with them! Positive residual behavior has been proven to better correlate to an individual’s success rather than someone who tries to overhaul everything at once with a maximal effort.

  1. Thinking it will be easy

Ask any competitive bodybuilder, cover model, actor, or professional athlete and they will tell you the same thing. You can’t “shortcut” success. Sure, we can all benefit from a solid set of genes to aid in our ability to get where we want, but ultimately it is the work you put in. The more you obsess over supplements, cardio, dream bodies and quick fixes…the more unlikely you are going to get there and sustain it.

The quick list to a more successful fat loss phase:

  • Track Your Calories (every nibble and bite) for at least 2 weeks.
  • Get 7-9 (*preferably 9 in a fat loss phase) hours of sleep
  • Eat a BIG salad everyday
  • Increase Your NEAT
  • Prioritize strength training
  • Cook more, eat out less
  • Protein First!
  • Do Cardio, Not TOO much
  • Hydrate! Don’t mistake thirst for hunger

Above all, understand that fat loss is easy once you realize how hard it is!

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