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By Raphael Calzadilla


Monday, April 21, 2008.


Whenever I discuss fitness issues, I never separate exercise and nutrition - never. Exercise and proper food intake go hand in hand: Tom and Jerry, George and Mildred, jelly and ice-cream. Some things just need to stay together.


Most of the blunders in the world of fitness stem from lack of knowledge or misinformation.


With so much fitness and nutrition 'news' around, it can be difficult to tell fact from fiction.


The thing that bothers me most about fitness blunders is that sometimes people will continue to do something in error - even after they’ve received the correct answer. It’s hard to change our behaviour and belief system, but if we don’t we end up being the person who says, "I’ve tried everything and I just can’t get this weight off. I give up."


Believe me, you don’t have to be that person.


The following is a list of five common blunders and what you can do to correct them.


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Blunder 1 - Believing that eating a little less and going on a diet will get the results you seek.


It’s what most people think, though it is a dietary strategy popularised prior to the 1980s. People would go on crash diets like the grapefruit diet and lose weight - meaning muscle and fat. They assumed just eating less would take care of everything.


Today, we know total calories are important, but so are the amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fats in the diet. A slight calorie deficit must be adhered to as well as eating small meals and snacks every two to three hours. This helps to control blood sugar; and it is a fact that blood-sugar control will help you to lose fat.


It may look confusing, but our online programme takes all the planning and hassles away by doing it for you. I always recommend some sort of structured nutrition programme. Just guessing doesn’t work.


Blunder 2 - Attempting 100-percent perfection on your nutrition program all the time.


Sure, this is a great thing to do if you have a strict timeframe for fat loss, but it’s a disaster waiting to happen for most people.


Haven’t we learned that we love food and we need to find a way to build in modest amounts of treats that we enjoy? I trained a client several years ago who asked me to design a nutrition programme for her. She was somewhat depressed as she told me she just knew she had to give up eating the four chocolate-chip cookies two to three times per week that she had with her kids. She was overjoyed when I told her she didn’t have to give them up.


However, I mentioned that I was going to reduce the number to two cookies and it would fit into the overall nutrition solution. Yes, she did lose body fat with this realistic approach, and she also enjoyed her treat.


We need to make progress, but a sane approach encourages consistency and avoids that dreaded denial feeling.


Blunder 3 - Performing countless abdominal crunches thinking it will get rid of the ‘pooch’ area on the lower tummy/abdominal area.


I see this comment or get a question related to this issue approximately 20 times per week. It is not possible to spot reduce any area of the body.


The only answer is to reduce overall body fat through a slight caloric deficit, and add resistance exercise (weight training) to stimulate the metabolism and cardiovascular exercise to burn additional calories. That’s the way to fat loss. Performing crunches will never reduce the abdominal area because they only serve to strengthen muscle, not flatten a specific area.


Just as 200 bicep curls will not make the arm smaller, nor will 200 abdominal crunches make the waist smaller. You cannot spot reduce any part of the body. It’s just not physiologically possible.


Blunder 4 - The "gym queen" mentality.


When I first heard this expression, I knew exactly what it referred to. It’s someone who goes to the gym and spends endless amounts of time on the same machine there, in the hope of losing body fat. Some people go up to 90 minutes and longer on a cardio machine like a treadmill. The problem with this strategy is it’s completely ineffective. It’s a poor method to lose body fat and a real time waster.


You can workout for long sessions with moderate intensity or use shorter sessions with higher intensity (based on your fitness level). You can’t do both!


The shorter, more-intense session will burn more overall calories and preserve muscle, which will make you look tight and lean when you get to your scale weight goal. In addition, the shorter/intense sessions will have a more profound effect on the calories you continue to burn 24 hours after completing the session. This is referred to as the 24-hour afterburn.


Want to lose fat efficiently through cardio? Pick up your pace a bit and try to get a more intense and efficient 30 to 45 minutes. You don’t need to be huffing and puffing for dear life, just increase the intensity a bit and keep it sustained at a higher level within your target heart-rate range.


Blunder 5 - Not having a realistic workout schedule that fits into your lifestyle.


Most personal trainers will tell you that a plan is essential, but in reality you have to have a plan that works based on the way you live your life.


If I structure a plan that has you working out five to six days per week and you have a demanding job, several young children and other responsibilities, then what have I accomplished? Unless you’re super motivated, I’ve most likely set you up for failure.


If I understand your lifestyle and start you at two workouts per week and then increase to three workouts in the third or fourth week, doesn’t that make a whole lot more sense? I’m not suggesting that some degree of sacrifice isn’t necessary, but we do have to make sure our plan is one that will ensure compliance.


I can easily come up with more blunders, but these five are vital. If you’ve read my articles in the past, you already know how important it is to perform resistance exercise, cardiovascular exercise and to have a nutrition program that matches your activity level. It’s the only way to achieve a healthy, strong and lean body.


As always, check with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise programme.


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