At first, most people think that having access to lots of information about building muscle and burning fat is a good thing.
Actually, it isn’t.
You’ve probably read a lot about how to get in shape.
But how much of it are you really USING?
You could spend the next five years running around the Internet reading everything out there on the subject of nutrition and exercise, and still end up even more confused than you are now.
Should you be doing interval training?
The 5×5 workout?
The paleo diet?
Working out on an empty stomach?
Not working out on an empty stomach?
You do a bit of research and think you know what you’re doing. Then you read something that says the exact opposite.
Most people become totally lost in this sea of information and end up with something called decision fatigue, where they simply put off making a decision because their “mental energy” tanks are running on empty.
Like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming juggernaut, they know they should do something. But they’re not quite sure what it is.
Any of this sound familiar?
If so, here are three smart ways to seek out and destroy fitness information overload.
The Input Diet
I know people who seem content to waste precious hours on forums and news sites collecting information about how to build muscle and burn fat, before proceeding to do precisely NOTHING with it.
They buy dozens of books and information products but never use them. They seem to prefer reading about ideas than taking action on them.
They get started on a program but quit after a few weeks because they come across “the next big thing” and decide they want to do that instead.
Many will justify this monumental waste of time by telling themselves that “knowledge is power” or other such nonsense.
In the process, they become a walking encyclopedia of useless information.
“The need to diet, well accepted in relation to food, should be brought to bear on our relation to knowledge, people, and ideas,” says Alain de Botton. “Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.”
I’m sure you’ve heard of the term “information overload.”
Truth is, information overload is old news. What most people are suffering from is input overwhelm.
By input, I’m talking about all the stuff being thrown in your direction — e-mails, TV, radio, RSS feeds, forum posts, Blogs, magazines, Twitter updates, Facebook posts and whatever else — that’s pretending to be information and demanding your attention.
In order to qualify as information, an input must be informative. It must have a purpose. If it no longer serves that purpose, get rid of it.
Don’t fall into the trap of keeping something around just because it’s been informative in the past, or because you think something useful might show up in future.
Once you get rid of all the junk, be very selective about new inputs that you add by using the “one in, two out” rule. For every new input you allow, get rid of two. Don’t add another RSS feed without deleting two. Don’t subscribe to an e-mail list until you unsubscribe from two first.
If that means unsubscribing from my newsletter, then by all means go ahead. There’s no point reading it if it’s just adding to your confusion.
Every piece of information over and above what you actually need to get the results you want is a cost.
You have to process it… evaluate it… decide whether to use it or throw it away.
The more of it you have, the more you run the risk of having your attention turned from what is important to what is unimportant. From the things that matter to the things that don’t.
The Goal Diet
It’s true that a lot of people fail to get in shape because they don’t have any clearly defined goals.
But there are also plenty of folks out there who make very little progress simply because they’re trying to do too many things at once.
They read about how full-body 5 x 5 workouts will help them build muscle faster. So they start doing them three times a week.
Then someone at the gym tells them how great HIIT is for burning fat. So they add 10-20 minutes of sprinting to the end of each workout.
Then they see a training montage from Rocky IV and decide they need to grow a beard and start chopping down trees in the middle of nowhere.
Six weeks later, they wonder why they’re struggling to sleep, they’ve stopped getting stronger and feel like crap all the time.
Don’t keep jumping around from one routine to the next because you can’t decide whether you want to “get big” or “get ripped,” or try to combine elements from half a dozen different routines and diets. It doesn’t work.
The Rule Diet
“An investor needs to do very few things right,” says billionaire investor Warren Buffett, “as long as he or she avoids big mistakes.”
And so it is with diet and exercise.
It’s easy to feel like you need to change direction every time you come across another “rule” about what to eat or how to exercise. Especially when that rule contradicts one that you’re already following.
But once the basics are in place, each rule that’s added has “declining marginal utility,” which is a fancy way of saying that a lot of rules are just minor details that don’t matter even half as much as some people think. They’re like extra snowballs to an Eskimo. They just don’t make any difference.
If you want to build a better body, you need to do a few simple things right, do them consistently and avoid big mistakes.
The people who are successful at transforming their bodies know this. They have one system or method that they believe in. And they give it their all without doubting or questioning what they’re doing.
They are, however, in the minority. Most will waste their precious time jumping around from one thing to the next. Few will make any real progress at all.
You may be the exception.
If so, here’s what I suggest you do:
1. Set a goal.
2. Pick a training and nutrition program.
3. Stick with it for the next 12 weeks.
4. Make a note of what worked and what didn’t.
5. Discard the stuff that didn’t work and keep the stuff that did.
6. Repeat until jacked.
You don’t have to use Muscle Evo or any of the programs I’ve put together. There are plenty of others out there that work. What’s important is that you get into the habit of using what you know, keeping your “eyes on the prize” and finishing what you start.
Pick one system and do exactly what it says. Don’t keep second-guessing what you’re doing or allow yourself to become paralyzed by too much information. And don’t give it anything less than your best. Just stick with the plan for the next 12 weeks and give it time to work.
If you enjoyed this post, there's a good chance you'll also like Truth and Lies about Building Muscle: 10 Muscle Myths Debunked By Science.
It's a FREE 20-page special report (PDF) I put together to debunk 10 popular myths that are still widely believed, despite all the evidence to the contrary. You can click here to download a copy.
SHAMELESS PLUG: Muscle Evo wraps up all my best ideas and advice into a complete science-based training program that you can use to build muscle and get strong without spending unnecessary hours in the gym. Click here to learn more about Muscle Evo.
About Christian FinnChristian Finn holds a master's degree with distinction in exercise science, is a certified personal trainer and has been featured on BBC TV and radio, as well as in Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Fit Pro, Zest, and Perfect Body magazine.