As I learnt first hand, you can train at an unmatched level of intensity but if you're neglecting your diet you're shooting yourself in the foot.
There's a ton of different myths and misconceptions when it comes to dieting out there, both building muscle mass and getting shredded to the bone are FAR easier than I used to believe... after listening to so much conflicting advice in YouTube videos, bodybuilding magazines and personal trainers at my local gym it comes as no surprise I fell victim to analysis by paralysis.
Looking back now, 5 years later with a lot more research, experience in the gym and the kitchen under my belt I can safely say the following 4 dieting mistakes stunted my progress - don't fall victim to these dieting mistakes.
Dieting Mistakes I Made
Not believing that a calorie is a calorie
It wasn't until I was over 2 years into my transformation that I heard the 'flexible dieting'. Up until this point I was so convinced that processed foods, desserts and pasta dishes were going to ruin my progress that I avoided them at all costs. In my mind, if you wanted to build muscle while looking lean your diet HAD to be limited to boiled chicken, broccoli, and brown rice.
There's no denying from a health perspective that eating unprocessed, fresh foods is a fantastic move however understanding that fat is lost and gained based upon caloric manipulation is a massive breakthrough for any gym-goer.
Now I understand that a gram of carbohydrates from brown rice and a gram of carbohydrates from a candy bar are, in terms of body composition going to give you the same result (even though one is a simple carbohydrate while the other is a complex carbohydrate).
Today I understand it's a game of calories in vs. calories out, regardless of what you're eating.
Religiously eating every 3 hours
Fitness magazines and personal trainers love selling their customers this myth.
You need to eat small, regular meals in order to lose fat and speed up your metabolism (eat every 2 - 3 hours).
If I left the house for work, or even just to go to the shops I'd pack my next couple of meals with me, merely out of the anxiousness that overcame me when there was I chance I'd miss a meal.
In hindsight, eating every 2 - 3 hours left me feeling constantly full even though the meals were small which resulted in me feeling lethargic and de-motivated at times.
There is a slight metabolic spike when eating smaller, more regular meals however studies have indicated that this is by no means enough to burn any additional calories when compared to the spike of larger, less frequent meals.
Today, as long as I get my meals in each day I don't care so much as to what time I eat them - I find myself most productive and energetic when I'm fasting. I use this to my advantage and get business out of the way first before I start eating each day because I know it's going to slow me down.
Dropping all of my carbohydrates to try and get shredded
During my first cutting phase I was convinced that by dropping my carbohydrates to literally zilch I'd shred all my abdominal fat and reveal the mass I'd been building that winter.
I followed what was essentially a ketogenic diet (high protein, no carbs, high fat) for 6 weeks and yes, I did drop a substantial amount of body fat however my strength, muscle mass and usual feeling of boundless energy all went out the window.
Today I understand that carbs are king when it comes to strength training, energy and performance.
I would not do, and do not advocate an extremely low/no carbohydrate diet for cutting again.
When cutting now I simply focus on dropping my caloric intake to 20% below my TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) while keeping my carbohydrate intake as high as possible, this way I continue to feel great and don't lose numbers off my main lifts.
Thinking I was eating more than I actually was
I was that guy on the Bodybuilding forums swearing black and blue that I was one of those few people that was genetically destined for life as a slender, 130lb rake.
I thought I was eating a lot, I told others I was eating a lot but when it came down to the number of calories I was actually eating while training to gain weight it made sense to me pretty quickly as to why it wasn't working!
After finally deciding to calculate how many calories I was eating upon entering the couple of main meals and handful of snacks I was eating it soon became apparent that most days I was eating around the 2,000 calorie mark while somehow expecting to gain weight! (for reference today when I'm shredding down for a photoshoot I consume around the 2,800 mark).
If you're unable to gain or lose weight note down exactly what you're eating into a calorie tracking program such as MyFitnessPal and you'll soon see what needs to be adjusted in order to progress.