How to Overcome 5 Common Diet and Exercise Mistakes

Getting the right balance when you start a new training or nutrition plan can be tricky, especially if you’ve never trained before. Here are the top 5 diet and exercise mistakes the team at Plexus have seen, and how to avoid them.

1. Too fast too soon

One of the biggest diet and exercise mistakes you can make is going all in right from day one. Exercising too much, or overly restricting your diet just isn’t sustainable and you will likely burn out and give up.

At Plexus, we believe in making small, sustainable changes that improve our clients’ quality of life. Rather than embarking on an eight-week challenge which can be difficult to maintain once it ends, we work to create a healthy routine that improves our clients’ everyday lives. If you are looking to make a sustainable change to your health this year, we recommend simply starting with two days of strength training a week, and a daily walk. Remember, often the hardest part is making a start.

An all-or-nothing approach also isn’t the best way to get results. The body needs rest between workouts to repair and strengthen itself. Each time you do a strength workout, you will create microscopic tears in your muscles. While you rest, your body has time to repair the muscle and build it stronger than before, improving your strength and resilience. During this time your muscle glycogen (the body’s store of carbohydrates) is also replenished and repaired, which is important for maintaining stable blood sugar levels [1].

However, a rest day is not an excuse to spend all day on the couch. During rest days, we recommend our clients do some light cardio. Active recovery, such as walking, yoga and swimming, improves blood flow, bringing nutrients to the muscles to help them rebuild [2].

2. Setting unachievable goals

Setting unrealistic goals will set you up for failure. To make your goals achievable, they need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely [3]. Even if you want to achieve drastic change, you will be more likely to succeed if you break your goals into smaller chunks. Making small changes over a long period of time will create positive habits which compound into incredible results [4].

The first step to setting achievable goals is to be realistic. Consider what you may have tried in the past and analyse where you may have gone wrong. If you are unsure about what might be achievable for you, get advice from a professional. A Personal Trainer can help you set realistic goals and keep you on track to achieve them. You can find more tips on how to achieve your goals by reading 5 Steps To Achieve Your Health & Fitness Goals.

3. Not tracking your progress

If you don’t track your progress accurately, it will be difficult to identify your success. While the scales can be helpful, most of them won’t tell you what changes are occurring in your body composition. We encourage our clients to take progress photos and other measurements, such as the circumference of their waist. These will help capture the detail that the scales may not – such as a leaner body composition.

Remember that any fitness journey – whether you want to lose weight or build muscle – is rarely linear. It is normal for there to be daily fluctuations because your weight and strength depends on many factors. For example, a high intake of sodium or fluctuating hormones can result in water retention, and therefore a higher number on the scales [5]. Pay attention to your average progress, not just day-to-day. If your measurements are still trending in the direction you want them to, you are doing well. If they are not, it’s time to reassess and tweak your approach.

4. Not eating enough protein, or eating too many calories

To achieve body composition goals, whether it’s weight loss, maintenance or muscle growth, you need to have the right nutrition. Even if you are training regularly, without adequate protein you will not be able to gain muscle. Likewise, if you don’t eat less calories than you use, you will not lose fat [6]. If you are not aware of exactly what you should be eating, and how much, it can be easy to make mistakes. For information on how to calculate your calories and macros, click here.

Just like you need to start small and gradually make changes in your training, it’s important to do the same with your diet. Start by being conscious of what you are eating, and then make adjustments. At Plexus, we recommend our clients base their diet around their protein requirements and whole foods, without overly restricting themselves. If you work towards making small, sustainable changes, you will see long-term results. If you go on a “diet” and feel you need to go overboard on a cheat meal, then that diet is not sustainable. You need to find a balance that you can adhere to on a day-to-day basis, even if that means satisfying your cravings with the occasional glass of wine or bit of chocolate.

5. Doing the same thing, over and over

If you’re not getting the results you want, something needs to change. Whether you are following an unsustainable diet which difficult to stick to, you get bored of the same routine, or you are making other diet or exercise mistakes, you need to change your approach. Through exercise, your body adapts so it can handle more load. If you continue to do the same thing without increasing your weights or adjusting your nutrition, you will eventually plateau and struggle to get results. This can lead to a loss in motivation.

To manage this, monitor your progress regularly and reassess your goals. If you’re not on track to reach your goals, consider how you could tweak your approach. Perhaps you’re not getting enough sleep, your goals aren’t realistic, or your calories are too high or too low. A trainer can help you identify areas for improvement, and keep you motivated when you need it most.

If you would like help setting and achieving your goals in 2021, and avoiding common diet and exercise mistakes, book a consultation.

References

[1] https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/the_importance_of_rest_and_recovery_for_athletes

[2] https://www.healthline.com/health/active-recovery#benefits

[3] https://cleanhealth.edu.au/setting-reaching-strength-goals-with-your-clients/

[4] https://medium.com/@aidanhornsby/notes-on-atomic-habits-c021e38eeae7

[5] https://www.healthline.com/health/water-retention#causes

[6] https://www.verywellfit.com/nutrition-vs-exercise-80-nutrition-wins-3121406