Whether you’re fired up by your results, or frustrated with slow progress, the temptation to add unnecessary strictness or complication can be hard to resist. But while it’s true that it’s important to do enough, everything has a point of diminishing returns.
Take strength training, for example.
Strength training is fantastic for building a lean physique. But for it to be maximally effective, you need to both train with enough volume to force adaptation, and increase that workload over time.
If you do it successfully, your body will respond by becoming fitter and stronger. But here’s the rub: you can’t just do more work linearly forever, as there is a point at which the volume of work you’re doing will become too much for you to recover from.
So while doing enough work is important, doing too much work isn’t going to automatically make you better. In fact, if you really overdo it, it will probably just set you back or potentially lead to injury.
The same goes for cardio.
Cardio is wonderful for many reasons, including stress management, cardiovascular health, increased work capacity, improved recovery from strength training, and so forth. Cardio is also a tool that you can use to create or magnify a caloric deficit.
So some cardio is a good thing. And of course, if you’re training for an endurance sport, regular and prolonged cardio is just par for the course. But if your primary goal is to look better, an excessive amount of cardio won’t necessarily make you leaner or give you better results.
Diet is no exception, either.
It’s not a huge leap to think that if a moderate deficit or surplus is effective, perhaps cutting calories severely — or gorging yourself if muscle gain is what you’re after — will speed up your results. But that’s usually not the case.
While it’s true that some people fare better with a faster rate of loss, many do better with a slower, more sustainable rate. As for the surplus, you can’t force feed muscle. If you’re already eating enough to gain, eating more won’t speed it up. It will just lead to unnecessary fat gain.
The same principle applies to the quality of the diet, too. Choosing whole, unprocessed foods is wonderful, and something that I encourage. But overdoing it and becoming obsessive about food quality to the point that it causes anxiety never helped anyone.
Don’t sacrifice long-term goals for short-term progress.
So keep in mind that there’s a fine line between enough and more. Sometimes we really do need more of something, such as when fat loss progress is stalled and we need to get back into a deficit to keep getting leaner. Other times, more is just more. In that case, taking a bigger picture view that takes long-term sustainability into account is way more important than doing more in the short term.