Everybody makes mistakes. From seasoned professionals to beginners, mistakes are a normal part of the learning curve, and learning from them is extremely important for future growth.

Here are some common diet-related mistakes that almost everyone has made at least once in their lifting career.

MISTAKE 1: Cutting Calories too Fast

The biggest mistake I have seen almost everyone make is cutting his or her calories way too fast. Everyone, from the average gym goer, to the seasoned professional, has made this mistake. It almost seems like common sense, “I want to lose more weight, let me just cut out more food.” They then proceed to drastically cut their calories. Yes, that will work in the short term but becomes a problem as the diet progresses. When you cut calories too drastically, you risk losing precious muscle. Your body also senses starvation mode and slows down your metabolism. Cutting calories too fast will lead you to have a slower metabolism and risk losing more muscle.

MISTAKE 2: Too Much Cardio

Similar to mistake number one, so many people believe that when they enter a fat loss phase, they automatically increase their cardio output. Cardio is usually associated with fat loss. While cardio has many benefits, it does have some drawbacks, especially if added in too fast. The main drawback is an increased risk for losing muscle. Why work so hard during offseason, trying to gain muscle, when you are risking losing it all. I recommend for all my clients to begin the fat loss phase doing as little cardio as possible. Doing so ensures that the deficit needed to lose bodyfat is coming from our diet. As we stall out on the diet, we slowly add cardio in to push the fat loss.

MISTAKE 3: High Reps for Cuts

“Bro, if you want to get cut you need to do high reps.” This way of thinking will lead you to have less muscle. There is nothing bad about using high reps in your training. The problem occurs when you believe that doing higher reps (sets of 15-plus) will burn more cuts into your muscle. If you want more muscle cuts you need to focus on losing more bodyfat. Body fat is the fat that you can see in the mirror. Bodyfat covers muscle and makes you look less cut. The less bodyfat we have, the more cuts shown. How do we lose bodyfat? Diet and cardio- not training with high reps. Remember this, whatever program that helped you build muscle in the offseason, will continue to be the best program when dieting. When you switch over to a fat loss phase, do NOT switch your training over.

MISTAKE 4: Cutting Carbs

Low carb diets seem to be a trend of anyone having to drop bodyfat. I am not going to say low carb diets do not work. There is a time and place for everything. The main question you have to ask yourself is, “are low carb diets optimal?” Low carb diets, if done incorrectly, can lead to muscle loss and even metabolic damage. Carbs are your body’s primary source of fuel. If you cut carbs too drastically, your muscles will flatten out, increasing the risk of losing muscle mass. The more carbohydrates you consume when dieting, the fuller your muscles will stay and the more anabolic you will remain during your diet. Reduce your carbohydrates at a slower rate. Never make a drastic cut to your carbohydrate intake.

MISTAKE 5: Magical Foods

How many times have you seen ads that say, Eat These Eight Foods for Belly Fat Loss, later to find out that the ads were pitching some crazy product. There are no magical foods. There are ZERO foods that help you get leaner. Sure, certain foods contain more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and less calories then others, but your body only sees calories, protein, fat, carbs, fiber, amino acids, etc. Your body does not see food choices. Your body does not discriminate against any food. Let’s just say your eating a slice of pizza right now. Your body is not going to say, “OMG! You just had pizza! Let me shove that right in the love handles.” It does not work like that. Your body is a machine that will break down any food that you eat. The good news here is that no food is off limits when you diet. You just need to fit those foods into your calorie budget for the day.

MISTAKE 6: Unrealistic Expectations

“I am going to lose around 30 pounds in less than eight weeks to get ready for summer” or  “I want to lose around 3 pounds per week.” These are all goals that people make. Unrealistic goals can lead to you feeling frustrated and annoying with your progress. When those feelings take over, you start second guessing your methods and even start the urge to cheat, causing you to blow your diet. Set small achievable goals each week that will allow you to keep taking positive steps in the right direction.

MISTAKE 7: No Controlled Refeeds

Ahhh! The most favorite time of the week…cheat day! Cheat days are generally a day when someone will eat whatever they want in excessive amounts in order to help speed up their metabolism. There are plenty of benefits to having a higher calorie day when dieting. These benefits include, increased leptin levels (which speeds up metabolism), decreased hunger, and a mental break from dieting. The problem is is that by having a cheat day (no limits), you will gain fat. When we diet and get hungry, you lose some common sense when it comes to food.