5 Things I’ve Changed My Mind About
I have now been a full time personal trainer since 2007! WOW! That means I am getting older and losing even more hair! But it also means I have made a lot of mistakes over the years as a coach. Like, a whole lot.
When I post on Instagram calling out fitness mistakes, it is never personal… how can it be when I myself have made so many? My goal is to help coaches and anyone into the gym learn from my mistakes. You can accelerate years of wasted efforts by learning from people more experienced than you. Why be offended by someone correcting something you are doing which is not optimal? Why not think “Wow! Thank you for helping me learn to better myself and my results.”?
For myself, I have learned and learned from all sources you could imagine since reading bodybuilding magazines as a kid to doing private internships with incredibly smart coaches around the world. Many things I have learned I still use to this day. Many things I was taught and implemented I have also learned were in fact very incorrect. We make mistakes. The goal is to learn from them to continue to strive to improve as a coach. Here are 5 “things” I have changed my mind on having learnt much more in the last 1.5 decades in the fitness industry. I have not only implemented all of these mistakes on myself but also with my clients over the years as a coach. None of these are at all terrible mistakes but more so concepts I thought were absolute essentials and must haves. Now, I realise they are far from that.
1 – Meal quality & “clean eating” is the KEY for fat loss
Starting out in the industry I was never taught about calorie control for fat loss. It was basically never mentioned what was the actual driver of weight loss. It was always just “eat clean”. I then focused on this my first few years. On myself and my clients. I was terrified of a donut. I told my clients they should not even look at chocolate if they wanted fat loss. I installed fear into my clients mindset towards nutrition as well as my own. NOT GOOD! This was due to the education I was given. Luckily, I learnt more.
Fat loss comes down to calories. That’s it. Not how clean you eat.
Yes! Eating high quality foods are crucial for health but that does not mean it’s the driver of fat loss. The best thing for long term success in weight loss is a healthy mindset to nutrition. Being terrified of certain foods doesn’t end well.
In the short term it can lead to fast results from high calorie restriction but long term, it inevitably leads to binges and periods of severe guilt… which leads to more binges. The most powerful thing I have done as a coach to drive success for clients is to teach them fat loss is about calories… and yes you can have some delicious foods in your week and still achieve great results!
2 – The bro split
Starting out, my education was 80’s bodybuilding magazine from a friend’s dad. I read them like the bible (I was at a Catholic school growing up). I read the bible, and I read fitness magazines! Interesting combination haha.
The BRO SPLIT may as well have been the Gospel.
What’s the bro split? Training one muscle group on its own day per week.
- Monday – chest
- Tuesday – back
- Wednesday – shoulders
- Friday – legs
- Saturday – arms
Repeat for eternity.
Now, having learned more, my programs don’t look like that at all for clients.
For women they tend to look more like:
- Monday – lower body 1 – (balance of quads, glutes and hamstrings)
- Tuesday – upper body 1 – (balance of chest, shoulders, back, arms)
- Thursday – lower body 2 – different exercises to lower 1 but same muscles
- Friday – upper 2 – different exercises to upper 1 but again same muscles
Now, my workouts for clients are not just millions of sets over 1 workout for a muscle.
Instead, science has shown us that training a muscle group multiple times a week is most likely more optimal for natural lifters. More frequently training a muscle group in the week over just 1 time is most likely more beneficial.
Say you do 12 sets of chest on Monday. Instead, now I try to divide that volume into 2 workouts:
- Monday – 6 sets
- Thursday – 6 sets
We still achieve 12 total working sets for the muscle group but now, we are more fresh for the entire 12 sets by dividing up the work over the week. Then we also more frequently stimulate muscle protein synthesis which is what we want for signalling to the body that we want a muscle group to train.
3 – Fasted cardio is a must to get lean
When I began dieting for the first time to get lean in my life. I remember EVERYONE in my gym was telling me to stop training late at night after school. I needed to get into the gym early in the morning and do my cardio before breakfast. That was the key. Fat loss was relied upon by using cardio to burn fat off. Combine fasted cardio with super clean eating and you had fat loss success.
The problem is… it’s not true.
The whole idea was that by doing it fasted, you were more likely to use stored fat as fuel. That means the idea then meant you burn more fat which meant more fat loss. The issue is, using fat as fuel in a cardio session does not mean more fat loss. Using fat as energy to fuel cardio is not the same thing as being in a calorie deficit and losing body fat.
With keto, you eat more fat which then means you burn more fat; burn dietary fat, not stored body fat, at a higher rate. If you have a high carb diet, you burn more carbs and burn less fats as you are consuming less fats but that does not mean in a deficit you do not lose body fat.
With cardio, there is nothing magical or superior doing cardio in a fasted state. Ultimately your fat loss will come down to your calorie deficit NOT if you had breakfast before you did your cardio. Furthermore, doing cardio in a fed state can lead to better performance since… more energy! More energy to work harder in your cardio can then result in…. more calories burned!
If you want to do cardio fasted, go for it! Just know that if you do not want to do cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach that that is ok! It’s not going to impact results!
4 – You must have a protein shake immediately post workout
Another fun fact, when I started lifting in high school I vividly remember thinking my session was an absolute waste of time if I did not get a protein shake in within 30 minutes of leaving the gym. Literally a total waste of time. Yes, protein is important but being this scared of timing protein is not warranted.
Now post workout, is it a good thing to get protein in? Yes!
Ideally get a source of protein (does NOT have to be a shake contrary to what I believed when I was young) ideally have protein within 1-2 hours of the gym.
Now, if you train fasted in the morning, then it is most likely much more optimal to get protein in as quick as you can after your workout since you have not consumed any in many hours. Training is a catabolic activity which means we want to get protein in faster post workout if we have not had any protein pre-workout.
If you did have a protein meal 1-2 hours before the gym then there’s less urgency to get it in right away but nothing wrong with that option if you do.
Don’t freak out about the perfect protein timing window after a workout and also know that a protein shake is not essential. You can simply get protein from another protein source. Focus on the big picture, not the little picture.
5 – Small meals speed up your metabolism
Our final point which I have changed my mind on over the years is that of small meals in the day. Again, something I was taught over and over from educators starting out was that “small meals in the day increased metabolic rate” and therefore were superior for fat loss over a few big meals in the day.
This is not true.
Total fat loss again will come back to calories consumed not whether or not you had 3 big meals or 6 small meals.
The idea was that the thermic effect of feeding (the cost of digesting your calories) from small meals in the day would lead to more calories expended. Therefore more calories burned helped to create a larger calorie deficit. But now we know, it doesn’t matter if it’s more small meals or a few larger meals.
If for instance you have 1800 calories in the day, you can have 300 calories in a meal x 6 times or you can have 600 calories in a meal x 3 times. In the end, the cost of digestion is still going to be the same as your body is digesting 1800 calories either way. Smaller meals did not lead to a superior calorie expenditure if calories are equal in the less frequent but larger feedings.
Don’t get too fixated with small things when most likely they don’t lead to superior results. Just more stress for you.
You got this,
Coach Mark Carroll