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10 Biggest Bodybuilding Mistakes

Bodybuilding is 90% nutrition. Champion pro bodybuilder Shawn Ray echoed the sentiment:

The weights, the gym, the training, I can do that part in my sleep; it’s fun and relatively easy.
It’s the other stuff, the dieting and supplementing, that demands the discipline.

And he’s not alone. Most top professional bodybuilders weight, measure, and record every bite they put into their mouths. By the same token many of us sabotage our progress with fundamental mistakes that we may not even realise. Here are 10 reasons why your hard work and effots in the gym may not be paying off:

1. Eating Too Much

Building muscle is the number one goal of bodybuilding and body fat is the bodybuilder’s number one enemy. We all know the biology – excess calories are stored as body fat. If you are overweight, the simple act on consuming less food will cause you to lose weight. However, be aware that if you eat less but retain your current food profile, you will just construct a miniature version of your old self, and your proportion of muscle to body fat will stay the same.

To lose fat and retain muscle you need the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat. You need to become nutrient conscious. Read the labels on the food you eat. To hang on to muscle, you need to up your protein, and you need to moderate your carbs and fats. This means lots of lean proteins, (like lean red meat, chicken, fish and dairy – and don’t forget the protein shakes), plenty of fresh green and fibrous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, zucchini, moderate amounts of good carbs like rice, sweet potato and oats, plus moderate levels of good fats from food like nuts, avocado, and olive oil.

2. Eating Too Little

Under eating is as bad as overeating. Physiologically, it’s impossible to build muscle if your diet lacks proper nutrients. Ample amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and yes, even fat are necessary to build muscle. The trick is balance – you need enough high-quality food to grow muscle, but as mentioned before, not so much in excess that it gets stored as fat. One key strategy is to confine your eating to ‘clean fuel’, nutritionally dense foods with little or no fat and sugar. A serious weight trainer who additionally performs regular cardiovascular work will need to the extra nutrients to cope with the additional metabolic demands.

3. Insufficient Protein

The fact remains: Protein is the single most important nutrient for muscle regeneration and building. However, protein and fat usually coexist in food sources. High protein sources such as meat, fish and dairy can also have a high fat content. In the old days, we did not worry about such inconveniences. As a result, heavy protein consumers developed nasty clogged arteries and astronomical cholesterol rates. The fault wasn’t in the protein, but the fat attached to the protein. Nowadays, serious weight trainers confine protein to low fat sources. Lean cuts of meat, egg whites, fish, skinless chicken, and of course that staple of weight training, protein powder. These foods represent powerful, clean protein sources. Aim to get around 2 grams per kg of body weight per day. To stay anabolic, divide the total intake into 5 – 6 equal portions and eat these low fat protein sources at regular intervals throughout the day.

4. Failing to Cook For Yourself

Meal preparation is a critical skill. To successfully build maximum muscle, you should be able to prepare your own food. Nutritious foods eaten throughout the day are necessary to obtain anabolism. You shouldn’t rely on others to give you the right foods to reach your goals. Do it yourself to make sure you are getting exactly what you need. Prepare your daily meals in advance, several serves at a time. Then just refrigerate and eat when your schedule says its time. It’s actually pretty easy once you get in the groove. Don’t be afraid to use you imagine and get creative with your meals. Tuna and egg whites need not be dull. Get online and look for recipes, use spices, read low fat cook books. Assemble your ingredients, set aside some time and go at it.

5. Not Keeping a Nutrition Log

As cumbersome as it might sound, the muscle elite keep daily records of what food and supplements they consume and when they consume it. This allows them to keep a running tally of their nutritional progress. Tracking results, identifying trends, finding what works, discarding what doesn’t, a log becomes your nutritional report card. You can make truly accurate assessments and implement intelligent corrective action when you base your adjustments on factual data and objective analysis. These days there are a number of good apps that trainers can use to track their nutritional progress. Jump online and do some research.

6. Too Much Fat & Sugar

The twin demons of nutrition. Fat is calorically the densest of all nutrients, with nine calories per gram. Fat is hard to digest and is the body’s preferred storage material. Though a certain amount of fat is needed for brain and other bodily functions, the little that’s required is easily acquired through regular low fat eating. Excess sugar is easily converted to fat once in the body. Buyer beware: A food may be advertised as low fat and still be loaded with sugar. Quite a few a few of the sports drinks and nutritional sports bars are loaded with sugar. Limit fat intake to roughly 15% of your total caloric consumption, and try to avoid or dramatically reduce sugar intake – your metabolism will thank you.

7. Not Drinking Enough Water

Your body is almost 70% water, and to keep properly hydrated you need to drink enough water throughout the day. Water is involved in virtually every biological process, and we lose a significant amount daily through normal bodily functions. The bottom line is you need around 2 litres per day for normal functioning, but potentially much more if you train hard or live in a hot climate.

8. Lacking Positive Nitrogen Balance

Positive nitrogen balance is the physiological state in which muscular growth is possible. We can achieve this by taking in a fresh supply of muscle building nutrients every 2 – 3 hours. The human body works most efficiently when given small feedings at regular intervals throughout the day. These evenly spaced feedings should be composed of high quality protein and carbohydrates. If the rigors of a job, family and real world responsibilities make it difficult to eat a meal every 2 – 3 hours, a quality protein bar and a glass of skim milk can supply 50 grams of protein and 50 -100 grams of carbs. It doesn’t take very long to eat a sandwich, drink a protein shake, or have a piece of fruit and a chicken breast. This also ties into food preparation – pack clean food snacks and graze throughout the day. When an athlete is in positive nitrogen balance, the body is ready, willing and able to grow.

9. Lacking Food Balance in Meals

The optimal feeding for building muscle is a blend of lean protein, starchy and fibrous carbohydrates, low levels of fat and no sugar. The proportional divisions vary depending upon individual characteristics. Some folks are carb sensitive and need to keep starchy carbs to a minimum, otherwise they can pack on fat quickly. Others thrive on a diet heavy on potatoes and rice with no ill effects.

How you metabolise food is very individual. You need to determine how foods affect you. Rule of thumb for proportional balance: 50% calories from carbs, 35% from protein and 15% from fat. This is a good starting point, and careful monitoring once on this 50-35-15 regimen will dictate any necessary adjustments. The goal is building muscle and reducing body fat. Without carrying a set of scales, calorie book and calculator around with you everywhere, aim to fill 50% of your plate with carbohydrates. Half of these should be dense, starchy carbs (rice, potatoes) and half should be fibrous carbs (broccoli, green beans, lettuce, etc.). The other half of the dinner plate should consist of lean protein (skinless chicken, turkey, fish, etc.). Don’t worry about the 15% fat… it’s there!

10. Ignoring Supplementation

We all have little holes and shortcomings in our diets, and supplements help us round them out. All elite athletes and bodybuilders use supplements. The expense, hassle and confusion of diet supplementing scares off some trainers. Big mistake. Use a daily multivitamin. In addition, a quality protein powder 2 – 3 times a day will make a big difference. Branched Chain Amino Acids and Glutamine can dramatically boost recovery and aid new muscle growth. Think about Creatine – it’s one of the most studied supplements of all time – because it works! Pre-Workouts are worth trying as they can help you go harder – but they aren’t for everyone.

Then we can get into many other areas, like fat burners, test boosters, intra workouts. Before you start spending your hard earned cash on these make sure you have your basics right, cos a test booster won’t help if your protein intake is too low!

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