Unless you live and train in your own personal fortress of solitude, you deal with the same never-ending bits of advice and suggestions that confuse us all. Everyone and their cousin knows someone or read something that has the exact answer to your fitness goals.
Dr. Oz has some new bit of miracle advice at least once a week. But his advice conflicts with what you heard from the nice lady with a juicer to sell on the other TV show. And finally when you asked your friends on FaceSpace they all just argued with each other about what was right and wrong.
Finding definitive answers to questions related to health, fitness, and food only gets more challenging as more (mis)information becomes available and more products are pushed. In the end though, there doesn’t have to be one definitive answer or way. Maybe the answers are all somewhere in the middle for most and many of these debates can be put aside for more important things anyway.
How we eat
Eating practices are probably the most fiercely debated of topics in health and fitness. I think this is because the way that we eat also plays big role in our social lives and how we perceive ourselves. It's important we remember that there are no "Good Foods" and "Bad Foods". What we choose to eat is just that. It's not a judgement on our self-worth or moral standing.
Diets are personal
People that eat similar types of diets tend to eat together. Makes sense right? So when you tell a vegan that you don’t think their eating practices are best, they might feel as if you’re criticizing them or their friends personally. The flip side could hold just as true for paleo eaters or any other type of dieter. Rather than criticizing other eating habits, try meeting people where they are. Try their food without complaining so long as it allows you to stick to your own general eating plan. At worst, you don’t enjoy it; at best, you increase your own repertoire of food options.
Meal Frequency Should Work For You
When calories are held constant, research doesn’t seem to support that any particular meal frequency is better for fat loss than others. The most important factor is adherence. You’ve got to determine what makes the most sense for you and your lifestyle so you can sustain your good eating habits indefinitely.
Don’t choose an eating schedule that feels like a chore or leaves you feeling unsatisfied. Be mindful of your eating habits and choose an eating routine that works with you. The only eating plans that work are the ones we stick to for the long haul. So make sure yours lines up with your own food values and needs.
Commonalities in Diets
I really like this article from Do You Even Nutrition to sum up some points about lots of various diets and how their secret to success likely has more to do with the commonalities that the differences: http://dyenutrition.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/diets-of-exclusion/
How We Train
Just as there are endless details in our food to disagree over, there are equally as many squabbles to be avoided in our training regimens. Everyone wants to tell you how you should workout. And how should you get your swole on? Most of the time you find the best answer is, annoyingly, “it depends.” Nonetheless, some are beholden to one variation or way of doing things and will argue it to the death as the best and only way.
Which squat exercise is the best exercise?
Squatting ass to grass has numerous benefits but creates as many challenges for some. Getting your squat below parallel requires great mobility, strong activation of the hip flexors and core strength. Sometimes this can be worked through with some simple coaching and other times there may be some real underlying physical issues that create real limitations. If that’s the case, goblet squats, parallel squats, and box squats are all great options.
Funny thing about it though. When people squat consistently without getting hurt, they seem to get real strong. So who cares how you squat, so long as it works for you and keeps you pain free! The same holds true for almost all types of exercise variations. Pick the one you like. Go squat and get real strong!
Aerobic Training vs HIIT?
There are great benefits to both cardio options. Unless you’re a very very specialized athlete you would be silly to not include some form of both in your training plan.
High intensity interval training can help you get a lot of bang for your buck in a limited amount of time and it pushes your limits. That being said it’s not always a good fit for someone that’s not already fairly fit. It can also leave you feeling run down if overdone. Or just make you hate exercise and never come back.
Aerobic training may take a little longer and not be as in vogue, but it has it’s own benefits. When you think of aerobic workouts, don’t think of them as gains killers. Think of them as work capacity and recovery enhancers. Improving and maintaining your aerobic capacity can help your recovery between workouts and even in between sets of workouts.
And so on and so Forth and Then Some
There are a thousand other ways to frame these types of questions. Like if we should use heavy weights or light weights. Walk or run. Do total body workouts or focus on muscle groups. Stretch or not. Do Crossfit or join some other cult. We don’t have to get into all those here though, because...
None of this Really Matters
How you choose to workout, eat, and live is really entirely subjective. There is no right way or wrong way to lift, no good foods or bad foods. There are only options. Some of which will work better for you than others. Pick the ones that keep you interested and see them out. If something isn’t working, you can always make adjustments to improve your methods.
What Really Matters
What does matter is finding what works for you, resonates with your beliefs, and excites you. To be successful you have to believe in your plan, be able to fit it to your life, and it has to hold your attention long enough to get results. Find a community of people that support you. Those around you should share your enthusiasm for your success and lift you when you struggle. Move more, get stronger, swallow vegetables sometimes, and laugh with good people. These are things that will keep us able-bodied and hopefully a little happier.