How to Gain Muscle by Removing Workout and Diet Clutter
Take a look around. The newsstands are filled with magazines and books. The Internet is flooded with videos and articles. The world of fitness and nutrition is noisy. It’s confusing, isn’t it?
The pushing and pulling between the conflicting advice you consume sends you on a goat-rodeo. You’re stuck in the middle and you’re having a hard time deciphering what’s sound or what is B.S.
One podcast tells you to eat like a caveman, and screw all carbs. The latest best-selling book suggest you train the big lifts exclusively, and ditch any type of accessory movement. Your favorite content site boldly proclaims that steady state cardio kills your gains, and HIIT is the only type of cardio permitted. Oh, and the YouTube clip you watched from ExpertTrainer89 said that if you’re not debilitated with DOMS after a workout, you didn’t go hard enough.
You end up feeling like a small child lost at K-Mart looking for its mother.
So what’s the deal? Why so much confusion?
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Part of it is due to the fact that there are more trainers, coaches and writers entering the market. Everyone wants to share their experience and knowledge. Some are rising to prominence. Many are not. But one thing remains: The internet provides a platform for all of them to share their stuff.
This causes information overload. And you forget that you have a choice when it comes to content consumption.
Without a filter, you binge on everything that is thrown at you: Articles from twitter, videos from YouTube, workouts posted on Facebook, diet tips on Instagram, Q&A’s on periscope. Not to mention the plethora of blogs and podcasts that are available at your fingertips today.
But how much information do you really need? With the amount of information you’ve already downloaded mentally, why try to solve your lack of progress with seeking out more information?
You know enough.
The lack of information isn’t the problem. The issue is to much information. When you become obsessed with the pursuit of more information, it causes clutter in your process.
It’s like always having 10 pots on the stove, but never having anything prepared to eat.
A dominant reason why trainees don’t achieve their goals isn’t because they didn’t have a good program or coaching. It’s often due to the lack of self-efficacy (the belief that one can accomplish their goals).
Self-efficacy is dependent on having faith that what you’re doing is going to work. And in order for any diet and training program to work, it must be executed with clarity. By clearing up the clutter in your approach, you’ll increased your level of self-efficacy.
Here are the daily habits I most recommended to do just that.
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4 Daily Habits For A Clutter-Free Diet & Training Program
1. Do the Hardest Thing(s) First
A lot of people spend very little time deliberately practicing anything. In terms of fitness, 80% percent of people around the world are sedentary, spending far too little physical energy on a daily basis. In regards to nutrition, many hardly pay attention to what they put in their mouths. Nearly 70% of adults are either overweight or obese catalyzing a tsunami of health problems including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
But many of these people know, that exercising and eating well is important. So why do they make unhealthy and unproductive choices — even when they know they should do better?
Often, the answer is something along the lines of “I don’t have enough will power.” Does that sound like you?
While the claim has some validity, it’s not a reason to blame willpower for the lack of deliberate practice to achieve your health and fitness. Here’s why: Your willpower is like a muscle. And just like when a muscle gets fatigued after many reps, your willpower tank gets drained after making lots of decisions.
Every time you make a decision, it dips into your willpower reservoir. By the end of the day, after dealing with angry customers, endless emails, and managing several projects at once, your mind is tired. The accumulation of decisions required most, if not all of your willpower.
Ironically, this is the exact time when people try to hit the gym and do their meal prep for the next day. It usually doesn’t go well.
When your mind is tired, it makes it very difficult to grind out a 60 minute strength session at the gym. When you’re willpower is shot, it makes it very easy to skip the meal prep and order pizza.
If you struggle in a similar way, try moving your workouts to the first thing in the morning. The same method can be applied to your meal prepping. Instead of doing it at night when your mentally drained, pick a few days out of the week to invest your mornings into meal prepping.
By making this slight adjustment, you’ll be attacking the hardest things first when your willpower is at its highest.
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2. Be a Realistic Optimist
By all means, when you set out to achieve a goal, please be positive in your thinking. Believing in your ability is crucial to success, and a vital aspect of sustaining motivation.
However, don’t expect the journey to be like ordering pizza while you watch Sunday night football. You simply can’t sit back, relax, and wait for the results to show up at your door (even if you are thinking positively).
Your fitness goal is going to take time, planning, effort and persistence.
Even though we are in a time where positive thinking and manifestation of your thoughts feels good, I hate to break it to you, but that unicorn doesn’t exist. Visualizing effortless success, is not only untrue, but it’s downright tragic when it comes to achieving your fitness goals.
Psychologist have found that while visualizing success is broadly beneficial, spending too much time dreaming can have a negative impact on achieving your goals.
Jeremy Dean, a psychological researcher at UCL London, concludes the research by saying this:
“The problem with positive fantasies is that they allow us to anticipate success in the here and now. However, they don’t alert us to the problems we are likely to face along the way and can leave us with less motivation—after all, it feels like we’ve already reached our goal.”
It’s one way in which our minds own brilliance lets us down. Because it’s so amazing at simulating our achievement of future events, it can actually undermine our attempts to achieve those goals in reality.
Getting wrapped up in grandiose dreams about your goal derails your focus. Instead, shift your energy into making progress with consistent, daily wins.
3. Show Up… Everyday
Showing up isn’t optional.
Think about it. If the bride doesn’t show up, there’s no wedding. If the speaker doesn’t show up, there’s no talk. If the team or player doesn’t show up, there’s no game or match.
The same goes with fitness. The determining factor is YOU. If you don’t show up to the gym, there’s no training session. The amount of information you consume or resources you have access to are irrelevant if you don’t show up.
In the arts, creative minds are in a constant pursuit of inspiration. From the outside, it’s natural to ask the question: “Do these people sit in a bath tub, light a cigar, put their feet up and wait for the muse to infuse them?
If you dig pass the surface, you’ll find that writers, photographers, musicians, filmmakers, designers, choreographers and most creative minds agree on one thing: Doing great work requires that you show up.
The golden unicorn may gallop along once in a while with a brilliant idea, but most the time you’re going to have to chop wood and carry water to produce your art.
Find me a great lifter and I’ll present to you someone who shows up. Everyday. Similar to the artist who doesn’t wait for inspiration to do his work, a lifter shows up even when he doesn’t feel like it.
It’s easy to be fired up about hitting the gym or meal prepping when you’re enthused, but it’s the times when you don’t feel like doing any of it that separates good from great.
The tricky part is, this invisible margin isn’t seen by anyone. But you feel it in your bones. When you skip a training session when you know you should have gone, it isn’t a big deal externally. However, if you keep that behavior up, it’s like a slow corrosion of your self-efficacy. Your belief that you can actually succeed in the gym slowly sinks.
Tanner Christensen from Creative Something’s puts it this way:
“Even on the days you don’t feel like it, showing up can make all the difference. If you show up and start the work – even though it feels so heavy to do so – what you end up making could be all you need to keep moving, to keep creating.”
The bottom line: Nothing will happen unless you bother to show up for it.
4. Never Settle on Goals That are 100% Achievable
When it comes to building momentum and your self-efficacy, you can’t let yourself settle on goals that are 100% achievable. Here’s an example:
If you set out to do 300 roman chair sit ups in your workout tomorrow afternoon, and you only do 175 because you felt tired or you needed to head home to catch the game, that’s settling.
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This behavior will permeate beyond the gym too. Then, you create a habit of coming up short on things that aren’t even difficult to accomplish. Shoddy work and half-labored effort becomes your modus operandi.
Clutter is often a result of procrastination—small tasks put off or simple goals unfinished. To clear the clutter in your approach, attack small goals and simple tasks like a hungry dog on the back of a meat truck.
Do all the sit ups. Hit your macros. Drink enough water. Do your grocery shopping. Get to bed. Every time you a complete a simple task or a small goal that is 100% achievable, a source of clutter is avoided.
You’ve got it what it takes. You know enough to make some incredible gains. Take that fire for greatness and get laser focused with your approach. Increase your level of awareness by implementing the daily habits we just went over and drown out the noise that may be causing you to dabble with to many strategies.
These habits can have an incredible impact on your speed of progression. But they are most effective when you decide that success isn’t an option, rather an obligation. When you have a bone deep conviction that it’s your duty to dominate the gym and win at life, the habits will harness your enthusiasm and catapult you into success.
First, go all in. Then, use the habits to make consistent, daily progress. And one day, probably after many years, you’ll wake up an overnight success.
1) Halvorson, H. G. (2012). 9 things successful people do differently. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
2) Loehr, J. E., & Schwartz, T. (2003). The power of full engagement: Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance and personal renewal. New York: Free Press.
3) “Overweight and Obesity Statistics.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.