13 May My Mistakes Series, Part 3: The 5 Biggest Nutrition Mistakes You Must Avoid
Over the past ten years, I’ve tried every diet, every macro split and every gimmick out there.
Some of the diets I’ve tried didn’t work well for me specifically, so I won’t classify these as mistakes.
For example, I know I don’t do well on high fat, low carb diets, but I know plenty of people who feel and function much better when carbs are lower.
This isn’t a mistake on my part, it was part of the learning process that everyone needs to go through to find the right diet that works for their lifestyle.
For part three of the ‘my mistakes series’, I’m going to talk about certain nutritional mistakes that apply across the board and you need to avoid.
Nutrition Mistake No. 1: Going Too High In Protein
As a skinny guy wanting to gain weight, I though it was all about protein. I blamed my lack of size on the typical low protein Indian diet, and so thought the fastest way to reverse this was to pound as much protein as possible.
When I was searching for answers, all the bodybuilders in the magazines were saying I needed to push my protein up to 2g/lb.
After months of expensive food shops, terrible digestion and no real gains, I thought something wasn’t quite right.
Because I was eating so much protein, I was so damn full that I couldn’t get the necessary calories overall to support muscle growth. That, combined with the huge stress on my digestive system meant my body just wasn’t in a position to be building any muscle.
When I reduced it to 1-1.2g/lb, that’s when I started building muscle and making some tangible progress.
In recent months during my intermittent fasting experiment, I’ve lowered my protein intake down to 0.8g/lb, and seen no detriment to progress. Which reaffirms the protein target we set for our clients, which typically falls in the 0.8-1.2g/lb range.
Nutrition Mistake No. 2: Being Scared Of Carbs
One of the reasons I put my protein so high for so long was because I was terrified of carbs.
There was even a period where for 12 months I don’t think I ate carbs for more than one meal every 7 to 14 days.
I fell for the belief that unless you were a given body fat percentage, carbs were the devil. The problem was, I’d go very high on protein and fat instead.
This continuously threw my calories off as I thought of protein and fat as ‘free calories’ (crazy, I know), so when it came to leaning out, I’d never get in shape.
Now, I’m very much a higher carb, low-moderate fat dieter for myself. This doesn’t work for everyone, it’s just the way my body responds best.
What I did learn from this though is restricting carbohydrates to that level doesn’t work for many people over a long period of time. If you are someone who thrives off lower carbs, you should still use them intelligently around your training to derive the performance benefits from them.
Which brings me onto my next mistake…
Nutrition Mistake No. 3: Not Measuring My Intake
Because I believed that protein and fat were ‘free calories’, I never bothered to measure my calorie intake.
When I look back and think why I was never able to get really lean until I competed in bodybuilding, it’s for this very reason.
I’d lavishly pour almond and peanut butter on celery sticks every night, and think of it as a ‘free snack’. I was going through a couple jars a week, so you only need to do the maths to know that I was taking myself out of a calorie deficit on a daily basis.
Almost everyone underestimates how much they eat, so if you’re not measuring, you’re guessing.
Nutrition Mistake No. 4: Planned, Regular Cheat Meals & Refeeds
During my low carb days, I’d have one planned cheat meal every Saturday, or every other weekend. This could be anything; pizza, pasta, a burger, whatever. It was a meal where nothing was tracked, and I used them in the belief I was ‘spiking my metabolism’ and ‘refuelling’ my stores.
This may have helped fill up my glycogen stores, although with the amount of protein I was eating, I’m sure a fair amount of it was being converted into glucose.
In reality, it was serving no real purpose.
The problem was, I carried over this mentality of pre-planned, regular cheat meals or refeeds into my client’s plans. I did this for years until I was speaking to Adam about why some of my clients could never get leaner despite pushing so hard.
He said it was because of the pre-planned refeeds. Instead, his advice was to only give refeeds or cheat meals when you really need it, and it serves a real physiological or psychological purpose. To learn more about this, check out this article here.
As soon as I adopted this philosophy, my results skyrocketed.
Nutrition Mistake No. 5: Falling For Supplement Marketing
Oh man, it makes me cringe thinking of all the crap I’ve fallen for over the years.
When I think back to all the money I’ve wasted on supplements, it fills me with dread.
It’s funny because now I’m completely the opposite, and so minimal on supplements.
My daily supplements are literally:
- Vitamin D3
- Whey Protein
If I train, I drink EAAs during the workout.
Besides that, I don’t take anything else year round. I’ll cycle probiotics here and there, and if I’m not eating oily fish regularly, I’ll add fish oil. But otherwise, it’s just those three on a daily basis.
But back then, my supplements required a couple cabinets alone.
I was taking, in addition to the above:
- Vitamin C
- Multi Vitamins
- Digestive Enzymes
- Liver Support
- Glucose Disposal Agents
- Fish Oil
And many others…. The list was endless.
The highlight of this supplement craze was my post workout shake.
Because I believed that any flavoured whey protein or amino acids was garbage, I’d have the following concoction:
Intra workout: 40g unflavoured BCAAs
Post workout: 50g unflavoured whey, 20g glutamine, 5g unflavoured leucine
Thinking about it while I write it makes me want to gag. I have no idea how I used to do it. But what’s funny is that I wasn’t the only one. All my friends I was helping to train at the time were doing the exact same thing; every time we talk about those days now, we can’t help but laugh.
Nutrition is something I don’t personally write about often, and it’s largely because it’s a lot simpler than most people make out.
If your goal is fat loss, here’s what you need to do:
- Multiple your bodyweight by 10-12 to give your daily calorie intake
- Eat 0.8-1.2g/lb of protein
- Ensure 20-30% of your calories come from fat
- Allocate the remaining calories to carbohydrates
- Organise and schedule the diet in a way that fits your lifestyle
Stay tuned for part 4!