No matter where you may be on your fitness journey, everyone has a physique goal. Hell, even people who don’t care about their fitness probably spend a good deal of time wishing they had arms like Dwayne Johnson or a booty like Beyonce. If only…
But if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re already on your journey and have the drive and desire to make your goals a reality. The problem is, you’re making some common mistakes along the way that are pushing your journey to the scenic route rather than the fast-track.
Today, you’ll learn about three crucial, seldom-regarded mistakes you’re likely making that are causing you to spin your wheels. You’ll learn why they matter, and how you can go about changing them to help you bust out of any plateaus or sticking points you may find yourself in.
Whether you want to lose fat, gain muscle, get stronger or completely overhaul your appearance and performance, taking heed of these mistakes will allow you to get closer to your optimal rate of progress.
1. You’re Not Respecting Your Circadian Rhythm
Didn’t expect me to start here, did you? Like I said, these are mistakes that most people simply don’t know that they’re making, and this mistake ranks right at the top because of the major implications it has across nearly every facet of your life.
So what is your Circadian Rhythm, anyway? Your Circadian Rhythm (CR) is a daily cycle of biological activity that roughly follows a 24-hour cycle. Sleeping and waking is probably the most noticeable cycle of activity that follows this pattern. However, nearly every bodily process has an “ideal” time of day to be performed.
For instance, it would appear that weight training would best be performed in the evening for maximal strength and progression. Heart rate, body temperature and certain hormone ratios all peak in the evening, allowing you to push harder and recover faster. Menno Henselmans wrote an excellent article digging into the details of the optimal training time, so click through to that link you just skipped over to learn more.
Does this mean we all have to train at 6 PM? Maybe, but A) this little thing called “life” tends to get in the way and B) that would make for some pretty crowded gyms.
Instead, we need to focus on picking specific times to do certain activities and stick to them as often as possible in order to create a sustainable rhythm for you.
As mentioned in Menno’s article above, if you train at a “non-optimal” time (say, in the morning) consistently, your body will eventually accommodate and make up the majority of the performance decrement.
This is where the rubber really meets the road: your body will adapt to whatever you consistently do at specific times and improve your ability to deal with that stimulus. For anyone familiar with the Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands (SAID) Principle, this should be very familiar.
If you have a physique goal, this has major implications. If you simply train, sleep and eat whenever you feel like it, you’re putting your body behind the proverbial 8-Ball.
Research shows that even just two consecutive nights of sleep restriction can increase ratings of appetite and hunger in healthy young males by nearly 25%. Restricting sleep to six hours, which many people claim they’re “lucky to get,” can increase calorie intake by 20% in just four nights.
As for meal times, and inconsistent pattern can cause your body to produce more insulin in response to a meal and burn fewer calories metabolizing it.
What’s worse, other things that we do throughout the day can compromise our body’s ability to adapt to the set rhythm it craves. Having caffeine too late in the evening (I’m looking at you, pre-workout junkies) and exposing yourself to artificial light close to bedtime can disrupt hormonal rhythms and destroy sleep quality.
In short: your body craves consistency. Give it what it wants.
By doing things at specific times, we can essentially turn our progress to autopilot. It all starts by constructing a sustainable CR.
The Takeaway: Try to keep the time that you fall asleep and the time that you wake up as consistent as possible, and aim to get at least eight hours of consecutive sleep each night (more is generally better). Try to start your training session within the same hour each day. When it comes to meals, you have a little more leeway: try to eat within a two-hour window across all days. You don’t have to stress about nailing everything to the minute, but the closer, the better.
Limit your caffeine consumption to at least six hours before bedtime (if not further). And finally, it may be a bit tricky to do depending on your job or lifestyle, but manipulate light exposure in your favor. With artificial light and digital screens everywhere we look, we can easily strong arm Mother Nature and create “artificial daytime.” Limit screen and light exposure to daylight hours as much as possible, and leave your phone/tablet/laptop/TV out of your bedroom. Your sleep quality will thank me.
Example Day (A.K.A. My Routine):
8:00 AM: Wake Up, Take Body Comp Measurements
8:30 AM: Meal 1
12:30 PM: Meal 2
4:30 PM: Meal 3
6:30 PM: Train
8:30 PM: Meal 4
11:00 PM: Sleep
Bust out the calendar, look ahead, and pick times that you can stick to for the long haul.
A final note: life will get in the way. Some days you’ll be stuck in traffic when you’re supposed to be eating, you have a meeting scheduled during your training time, or you fall asleep later than usual. THAT’S OKAY. Just make sure that the vast majority of your days resemble your consistent routine and you’ve won the battle.
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The techniques, strategies, and suggestions expressed in this website are intended to be used for educational and entertainment purposes only. The author is not rendering medical advice of any kind, nor is this website intended to replace medical advice, nor to diagnose, prescribe or treat any disease, condition, illness or injury.