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Workout mistakes and myths are everywhere you look – you only have to consult Reddit or bodybuilding forums to find people peddling misinformation.

That said, three of the most common misconceptions all correspond to the same basic problem: over-expectation.

It’s human nature to embrace a new workout routine with zeal; to jump in with both feet, prepared to give our all, yet expecting life-changing results.

But as this article illustrates, the best gains come from careful and considered consistency. 

Mistake #1: Trying to stick to extreme diets to lose weight

It was Max Wishnofsky who suggested you need to lose 3,500 calories a week to lose a pound of fat in that same window. 

In other words, a deficit of 500 calories a day.

Today we know this is a gross oversimplification of the issue and one that encourages extreme dieting. 

In reality, any deficit is going to help you shed the pounds – provided you’re consistent.

It’s first important to work out the number of calories you’ll need to maintain your weight. The number will depend on your height, current weight, age and activity level. 

To lose weight, it’s only necessary to land below that maintenance level. Even 50 calories and below, day after day, will produce stunning results. 

And since any extreme diet will backfire after a period of time (no one is a metronome, after all) it’s better to prioritize consistent, measured fat loss over extreme transformations.

Mistake #2: Trying to reach your destination too quickly 

Most of us who go to the gym aim for the perfect body. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to have ripped, muscle-bound physique that’s stripped free of fat? But in reality, measurable gains take years of work. Achieving a body you’re proud of is a long-term project – perhaps even a lifelong one.

The problem with jumping in feet first is that you undermine the importance of simply going to the gym day after day. Trying to get to a destination too fast puts you at jeopardy of falling off the path completely. 

Mistake #3: Believing it’s possible to retain strength while cutting fat

You can either get lean but lose strength, or you can bulk up and get stronger and heavier. You can’t cut fat and lift more. 

As for the people who claim to be the exception to the rule? Are you sure they’re not using performance enhancing drugs?

Let’s put it this way: your body needs fat to build muscle. Why? Because if your body thinks you’re starving, it’ll prioritize keeping you alive. Extraneous muscle is a luxury. It’s the domain of people who can eat well. And so if you want to get stronger, you need to bump up your calorie intake to match.

In the process, you’ll begin to store more adipose tissue (fat), which will begin to show in your midsection, face and legs. But you’ll also be growing muscle and getting stronger. 

So how does someone get that lean, muscular physique? Well, in bodybuilding parlance, it’s about bulking and cutting.

The bulk phase is about getting stronger. You eat more so that you can lift heavier weights and build more muscle.

From there, you need to cut the fat you’ve accumulated. So begins a grueling weight cutting program in which calorie intake is reduced and the weight-lifting routine begins to naturally taper. Weeks in, strength has been lost, but because body fat percentage is decreasing, the muscles look proportionally impressive.

Is this worth it? If you’re prepping for a movie or a bodybuilding professional – probably. But if you’re just trying to get healthier – almost certainly not. You’ll begin to feel faint, tired, lethargic and irritable. 

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