6 ways you’re sabotaging your fitness goals
Don’t let your progress hit a standstill. Avoid these six common fitness and nutrition mishaps
1. Always doing the same workout
It’s great to have a solid routine you can bust out on a weekly basis, but eventually you’re going to hit that dreadful phase known as a plateau. “If you’re getting consistent weeks of no change at all, then you need to shock and put a new demand on the body,” explains Gidon Gabbay, president of G Force Home Training.
This could mean trying a new form of cardio, like swimming or jumping rope, to adding an additional day of exercise. Plus, changing up your routine isn’t just good for your muscles, but your brain too.
2. Not fueling pre-workout
You may not be getting the most out of your workout if you’re not fueling yourself properly beforehand. Just like a car needs gas to run, your body requires carbohydrates to feed your brain and fuel your muscles. Having adequate energy allows you to exercise harder and burn more calories-but don’t overdo it.
“A pre-workout snack is only important if it has been four hours since your last meal,” says registered dietitian Jennifer Hill. Morning exercisers should aim to have something beforehand to get the metabolism going. Hill suggests a half-glass of 100% fruit juice mixed with a half-glass of water if you are working out within 20 minutes. If your body has at least an hour to digest, try a smoothie made with frozen fruit and plain yogurt.
3. Forgetting to stretch
We’ve all done it. Your workout is complete so you skip the mats and make a beeline for the showers, but there are more than a few good reasons to take five. “Stretching helps your body and muscles recover, so you can heal faster and have an effective workout next time around,” says Gabbay. It also helps put your body back in alignment and could even speed up your metabolism.
Aim to stretch after your workout to prevent injury. “Once you start to stretch your body turns off its protective nerves that protect the body in a workout,” explains Gabbay, who recommends stretching every day whether you workout or not.
4. Letting loose on the weekends
Monday to Friday you packed your lunches, prepared healthy snacks and avoided temptations, but now it’s the weekend and your healthy habits are out the window. The problem with this type of thinking is that it’s not sustainable in the long run. “There is room for pleasure and indulgence in every single day of the week,” says Hill. “If you want chocolate, [you can] have chocolate, no guilt, but be mindful of the experience. Eat slowly without distraction.”
Dieting and then pigging out not only is emotionally unhealthy, but it wrecks havoc on your metabolism. Once you listen to your body and enjoy the pleasures of food with your full attention, you’ll find you won’t need a cheat day (or weekend), promises Hill.
5. Not letting your body recover
It’s easy to plunge full-speed into a program, especially if you have a goal in sight, but taking a day or two off is just as important as working out. “A lot of people think more training means more results, but you want quality over quantity,” says Gabbay. “Three to four days of strength training and cardio should be enough if you’re getting quality workouts and proper nutrition.”
Overtraining can cause injuries, as well as drain you both mentally and physically. Plus, if your body is overused and starts burning muscle instead of fat, your metabolism will slow down too. So enjoy that day off. You earned it!
6. Eating too much protein
Between shakes, bars and the protein-rich fad diets, it seems like protein is the magic answer to your diet woes. And while you do need protein, you need carbohydrates more. “Carbohydrate is actually the key nutrient in strength and endurance training,” says Hill. “It is the key fuel source for muscles.”
A moderately active woman only needs 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight, and eating more doesn’t provide any additional benefit to your workout, explains Hill. Plus any excess that goes above your caloric needs will be stored as fat, not muscle.