Note: The below article is by Ben Tormey – we recommend subscribing to his website here, where he also offers affordable coaching.
What is optimal? What’s the best diet for fat loss? What’s the best training program to gain muscle? What type of carbs should I have after training, and how much? And how many grams of creatine do I need to take every day? If you’ve been training for a while and you’ve been exposed to articles, forums, and guides on the internet, you’ve probably asked these kind of questions. But did you ever get a conclusive answer? Probably not, because every guru out there has a different approach that they claim is the best, and they’ll often be backed by a cult of followers telling you the same thing. They can’t all be right though, surely? How do you know which approach is best, what’s optimal?
Have you ever felt frustrated with your progress? Or have you ever been depressed that you’re not achieving your goals? You’re not alone. If you’re still looking for the perfect diet, the optimal approach to your training: it doesn’t exist! And even if it did, would you really be able to stick to it for long enough to get the results you want? Human progress happens in small, logical steps. You need improve what you’re doing every day, slowly, and gradually, learning what works for you along the way. If you constantly jump from program to program, you’ll never learn that; and more importantly, you won’t understand why you got results, or why you didn’t!
Learn to make gradual, logical improvements based on qualitative feedback and clear decision processes. Have you ever gone in to the gym feeling amazing, like you were superhuman, and had a terrible training session? Or have you ever gone in and trained when you felt tired and miserable, but set a PB? Don’t rely on feelings: your feelings are unreliable. And if you ever have thoughts or feelings of frustration, depression, and anxiety, learn to challenge them by looking at the evidence before you even accept them! If you haven’t made drastic progress in a few weeks of starting your program, don’t give up on it and throw it away because you don’t feel it’s working. That means you must track your training and your diet consistently, to give you the tools to make those decisions without relying on emotions. Be mindful and aware of your thoughts, always challenge them if they aren’t supported by facts. Otherwise you’ll be on a rollercoaster ride, carried up and down by emotions and feelings, rather than being in control.
Here’s an example from our own experience with clients:
Client: “I think I need a new training program, I’ve been doing the same thing for 6 weeks now.”
Me: “Aren’t you still making progress?”
Client: “Yes, I’m getting leaner, stronger, and looking better every week.”
Me: “Great. Then there’s nothing we need to change.”
You’re achieving all of your goals, there might be a better way of doing it, but what if you don’t improve on what you’re doing now? Would you like to get worse results just for the sake of change? And is the time you spend thinking about it, analysing the smallest details and worrying that you’re missing out on some secret rep protocol or supplement going to be a wise investment of your time? Not likely. You’ll probably end up frustrated and no better off than when you started.
Sometimes it takes more wisdom and integrity to tell someone that they don’t need to do anything differently, that all it takes is time, consistency, and hard work. Remember that most people have been getting results by just doing the basics right for years and years! Even if you do find that elusive, optimal approach, hitting 100% all of the time is unlikely, and unsustainable (does it fit your lifestyle?), 80-90% might be achievable most of the time, and that’s what counts.