Are you sticking to your gym regimen diligently, never skipping a single rep on leg day, and still not getting the results you want?
Don’t give up yet. The gym is just part of what should be a holistic, comprehensive lifestyle change.
First, determine whether your goals are realistic and sustainable. If they are, here are the top ten ways you might be accidentally getting in your own way and falling short of being your best self:
1. Your diet doesn’t match your goals. No amount of cardio or strength training can undo a bad diet.
A calorie deficit is required to shrink fat cells, and the average person needs at least half their body weight in protein grams daily to sustain muscle (i.e., a 150-pound person needs 75 grams per day for maintenance).
If you want to build muscle, a 150-pound person needs 150 grams of protein. Talk with a nutritionist to get on track.
2. You’re sabotaging yourself with alcohol. “Saving caloric room” for alcohol is troublesome and can lead to dangerous eating disorder habits.
However, even if that’s not your strategy, alcohol is pointless calories that do nothing good for the body.
3. You’re not staying in your “zone” during cardio. A lot of people hate the stair machine but love the elliptical.
The elliptical is gentler on the knees, but it’s also easy to make it—well, easy. Your target heart rate depends on your goals, age, gender and numerous other factors but if you don’t feel like you’re working hard, you probably aren’t.
4. You’re not strength training. Fat doesn’t go away without surgery. You can only shrink and grow fat cells (which is why target fat loss isn’t possible).
Most people say they want to “tone up” but what that actually means is they want to shrink fat cells while growing certain muscles (hypertrophy).
Everyone needs proper strength training, but some people tend to shy away from it for various reasons.
5. Poor sleep hygiene. Americans are chronically sleep deprived, and that's no surprise.
Looking at screens within two hours of bedtime, sleeping with electronics (especially phones) in the bedroom, and priding themselves on just a few hours of sleep are all hallmarks of contemporary life.
Lack of sleep causes the body to cling to fat and puts nobody in the mood to workout.
6. Our foods are full of non-natural ingredients. Sometimes it feels nearly impossible to find food that's local, seasonal, organic, and non-GMO.
Even more, Americans rely at least sometimes on convenience foods packed full of preservatives and strange ingredients.
Eat whole, healthy foods whenever possible and train yourself to fuel up on natural goodness.
7. Milk is still a part of many American diets. Milk consumption is steeped in controversy, but if you're struggling with fat loss, it might be worth decreasing your milk intake.
Humans are the only species that continues to drink milk past weaning—and the only species that consumes other animals' milk.
Cow milk is designed to get calves big and to pack on fat quickly. Try swapping milk for almond, cashew, or coconut milk.
8. We’re always sitting. Even if you stick to a solid gym routine and have a healthy diet, the American lifestyle reveres sitting.
In cars, at desks, on the couch and even at the gym on some machines. Walk when you can, trying typing at a standing desk, and stand on the bus or train for a little extra no-sit time.
9. Some cognitive reconditioning is in order. A society that reveres sarcasm and self-deprecation means most people aren't speaking very kindly to themselves.
If you tell yourself "this is too hard" or "I'll never get to goal weight," then you probably won't. Change how you speak about yourself and change your results.
10. The Instagram era. Wean yourself off of social media. If you’re comparing yourself to celebrities and Instagram stars who use photoshop apps to make themselves appear perfect, you're destroying your self-esteem—and your motivation.
Getting to the gym is just a small part of the battle. What you do there and everywhere else also plays a role in your results.