If you train hard and eat right, but still are not getting the results you want, you may be committing one of a litany of lifestyle sins that are holding you back.


Training and nutrition are only part of the success equation, and the things you do outside of the gym and kitchen can have a big impact on your success.


If you feel you should be getting more from your workouts and diet, make sure you aren’t inadvertently sabotaging your progress by committing any of these sins!


1. Insufficient sleep

Sleep is critical for all training goals. It doesn’t matter if you want to get stronger, leaner, or build muscle, your body needs plenty of restful, quality sleep. Most adults need between 6-8 hours of sleep per night but many get by with considerably less. Large numbers of the population are chronically sleep deprived.


Too little sleep can impair muscle growth, repair, and recovery, as well as robbing you of the energy you need for your workouts. Too little sleep also tends to increase carbohydrate cravings, and can undermine even the strongest willpower and motivation.


Make sure you get enough sleep by going to bed early enough. Fixed bedtimes, keeping your bedroom dark and cool, and banning things like TVs, tablets, and smartphones from your bedroom will also help.


2. Too much stress  

Exercise is a form of stress. It takes you out of your comfort zone, and your body responds by increasing your fitness and strength so that, the next time you encounter that same stress, you are better prepared. This process follows a cycle – exercise, rest, recover, repeat!


However, stress comes in a variety of guises, and while there are different sources of stress, they all affect your body in a similar way.


Common sources of stress include:


  • - Work

  • - Finances

  • - Relationships

  • - Commuting

  • - World affairs and politics

  • - Illness

  • - Injury

  • - Low self-esteem

  • - Poor time management


Your body doesn’t really differentiate between types of stress. That means if you exercise AND are dealing with lots of other forms of stress at the same time, your body is under constant bombardment and that will affect your ability to recover from your workouts.


Prolonged, elevated stress will cause cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that breaks tissue down. A little cortisol is what triggers the entire rebuilding and recovery process, but constantly elevated levels mean that growth and recovery will be sluggish at best.


If you train hard and you are also very stressed, you are undoubtedly sabotaging your progress. Learn to cope with stress more effectively to get better results from your training, and also improve your health.


3. Too much time spent sitting

Sitting down all day is arguably one of the worst things you can do to your body. Long periods of sitting can leave muscles tight and weak, while playing havoc with your posture. Poor posture can make otherwise effective exercises much less so, and can render some all-but impossible. Poor posture also increases your risk of injury.


Long periods of sitting can also reduce your metabolic rate, making weight loss and burning fat that much harder. Four or five hours of exercise per week is great, but what about the 160-odd hours that remain? That’s more than enough time to undo many of the benefits of exercise.


Although it may be difficult, do your best to sit less and stand more. Get up and move for five minutes every hour. Go for a walk at lunchtime rather than sit and eat at your desk. Watch less TV and go for a walk instead. Do whatever you can to break up long periods of sitting.


4. Binge drinking

The occasional alcoholic drink will have no long-term effect on your fitness on your health. In fact, a drink every day or two might even be good for you, reducing your risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.


However, many people drink not only too much too often, they consume a large number of drinks all at the same time – binge drinking.


It’s normal enough to have a few drinks too many on social or celebratory occasions, but for a lot of people, this is a weekly occurrence.


Large amounts of alcohol place a huge strain on your body, and the effects are never healthy; not to mention the huge number of calories you’ll ingest. Large quantities of alcohol increase your risk of suffering depression, diabetes, stomach disorders, kidney and liver disease, various cancers, and alcohol-fuelled accidents too.


The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking where men consume five or more drinks, and when women consume four or more drinks in a single sitting.


A drink every day or two or the occasional big night out is one thing, but if you habitually binge drink, you will be undermining your progress.


5. Smoking

We all know at least someone who smoked all their lives and lived to a grand old age. This, for many people, is the excuse they need to keep smoking when all the evidence suggests that it is not just unhealthy, but will lead to premature death. There are always exceptions to the rule but, in the majority of cases, smokers suffer worse health and die sooner than non-smokers.


Smoking will also affect your fitness. Your red blood cells carry oxygen to, and carbon dioxide from, your muscles. However, in smokers, they also have to contend with large amounts of carbon monoxide. This means your red blood cells are much less able to do their essential job as they’ll be busy doing something else.


Also, smoking causes blood vessels to lose their elasticity which will increase blood pressure and reduce blood flow to your extremities. This is problem enough during everyday activities, but becomes a real problem during exercise.


All in all, eating healthily and exercising will not produce the results you want if you smoke as well. Like binge drinking, and the two often go together, these lifestyle factors are not conducive to a healthy life.


Training and eating healthily are only part of the fitness and health equation. What do the rest of the time is of equal importance. Align your lifestyle to your health and fitness goals and you WILL get the progress you deserve. However, if you don’t, your workouts will never be as productive as they could be.