For a large portion of the time I’ve been training, it’s occupied a lot of mental space. Only recently I’ve learned that by reducing the amount of mental space it takes up, you’ll actually stop spinning your wheels and make better results.

 

I’ll explain why.

 

Approach A, the pick ‘n’ mix)


You’re constantly searching for the optimum macros to eat, you’re always reading up on new diet and training protocols, and trying to somehow incorporate them into what you’re currently doing.

flickr: cazphoto

 

Oh, John Broz has his athletes doing high frequency squatting? Awesome, I’ll start squatting every day. 

Carbs at night? OK I’ll give that a try. 

Alternate day fasting for fat loss? Fantastic. 

Oh dear, maybe the upper body pulling rep scheme I’m doing isn’t optimal, I’ll add in some drop sets. 

Better add in some dynamic-effort deadlifts twice per week to work on my form. 

Not losing fat fast enough, maybe add in some high intensity cardio, Tabata style.

 

The problem in this situation is that each of the training protocols that you’re picking have specific dietary counterparts. We cannot cherry-pick single components of one coach’s idea, each one is interrelated to other components (which you’ve left behind!) such that they will not work when taken out in isolation. Why not?

 

If you want to buy a car, what would happen if you took the engine of a Ferrari, the exhaust of a Toyota, the bodywork of a mini, and the tyres of a monster-truck in an attempt to create the ultimate vehicle? It would look ridiculous.

 

Strawberries are nice. So is fish. But mix them together and you ruin both.

Ew, strawberries AND fish? (Photo: Mandi Gaga)

Approach B: The Single Approach)


You follow a single coach’s approach for 8 weeks. Even if there are parts of it you dislike or think are sub-optimal.

 

Situation B is buying the whole Ferrari, regardless of whether you prefer how the steering wheel looks in a Fiat. Situation B is eating a fish curry, followed by a strawberry cheesecake, not trying to cram both of them into a blender.

 

Whether you can see the coach’s rationale for certain choices or not, they have their reasons. Their choices are in the context of other components of their approach, so don’t screw with them! This is why we honestly believe getting a consultation can be one of the best things you can do for your physique: all of the thinking is taken out of it, and overthinking is stopped dead in its tracks.

 

 

I’ll end with a ridiculous example by Jonn Kiefer:

 

“I once had a stay-at-home mother tell me that she loved back-loading, but she couldn’t figure out why she was gaining weight. After a few questions, it became clear, she never exercised, barely made it off the couch during the day, yet, at dinner every night, began slamming cupcakes, brownies and ice cream. Hmmm…I wonder what the problem could have been. But she worked out—which, to her, meant putting groceries away, doing chores and vacuuming every now and again, pushing the stroller around in the store.”

Of COURSE she loved back-loading! Here, she took the fun part of the approach, the carb loading, ignoring the part she didn’t like, the heavy resistance training.

The point of loading carbs is to replete glycogen that you’ve spent the day depleting through heavy training. If you can deplete your muscle glycogen by doing household chores then I’ll eat my hat. By taking an element in isolation and out of context she ended up getting fat.

 

 

Conclusion

Although it’s good to challenge your assumptions, find a source you trust (for example, PropaneFitness!) and if you’re going to follow its advice, make sure not to cherrypick. If you follow advice comprehensively and it goes wrong, you’ll know who to blame, and you can make an informed decision at the end on what to do next. If you mix and match, you’ve learned nothing and only have yourself to blame!

The Next Step

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8 responses to “Pick ‘n’ Mix: Why You’re Spinning Your Wheels By Overthinking

  1. Really good read, I think its important not to over complicate training/diet routines. I mean a successful diet and training program is a consistent one, so by over complicating it you’ll destroy that consistency!I have to say I’ve been guilty of doing this! :P

    “Passion has a funny way of trumping logic” – Vince Lombardi

  2. I really believe in adopting a philosophy or method completely and sticking to it for a good while. obviously this can breed narrow minded ness, but sometimes it can help.

    Rather than being garaunteed a ferrari i think of it like its better to have a ford mondeo that works than junk parts from ferraris, aston martins and prosches that you can’t do anything with

  3. I have to say I’ve been guilty of doing this! :P

    Ha I think we all have. I should maybe have mentioned in the article but of course experimentation is OK provided you understand the principles behind what you’re adding in to your program. Just often in the past I only thought I did.

    I really believe in adopting a philosophy or method completely and sticking to it for a good while. obviously this can breed narrow minded ness, but sometimes it can help.

    Yep, fastest way if someone hasn’t got time to experiment.

    “I have been making sure to maximize the amount of protein I consume by using high protein shampoo and condition” – Dom

  4. i dunno if its about having time to experiment, you can experiment within a method (imagine westside)

    experimenting doesn’t have to mean trying lots of totally different things (in fact in my view by experimenting you are trying to look as few things as possible to actually determine what makes a difference)

    imagine someones spends a year experimenting with a bulgarian system of training

    someone else spends a year trying every fad they read on t nation for weeks at a time

    who will have learnt more?

    really the first person will have much deeper knowledge of his system than the other person, while the other person will have a much broader but shallower knowledge of different approaches to training. he might not even understand a single one anywhere near as well as the person who spends a year absolved in something even if he narrow-mindedly thinks his approach is the only or best one.

  5. imagine someones spends a year experimenting with a bulgarian system of training

    someone else spends a year trying every fad they read on t nation for weeks at a time

    who will have learnt more?

    I guess I didn’t express myself clearly enough but I totally agree with this.

    Joe said:
    great article yusef, i’m so guilty of this haha.

    Thanks – good to see you back!

  6. I guess its what the article was saying, expanded to a year

    I think so many people are guilty of this not just you Joe

    “have you heard about this I’m gonna do it for blah blah”

    two weeks later different thing

  7. 2011 was the year of Martin Berkhan for Propane
    I predict 2012 will be year of Keifer

    Good article, so true. Lol @ every fad on t-nation for a year. Think I’ve only ever done 2 proper programs, 531 and 5×5.

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