Does it ever feel like there are a ton of “rules” when it comes to how to eat to get fit?

Things like:

  • “Don’t eat carbohydrates (or anything) after 7pm.”
  • “Eat 4-6 small meals a day.”
  • “Eat a big breakfast.”
  • “Get XYZ amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats every day.”

And the list goes on.

The problem is, some people get so caught up in trying to live by all of these rules, they lose sight of the big picture. It also creates a belief system that there is only one way to reach a goal.

Here’s a secret, one of the most effective ways to burn fat and get in great shape is to eat most of your carbohydrates later at night. It’s called “Carb Backloading”

And did you know a lot of people gain more muscle and lose more fat by fasting and eating less frequently? Intermittent fasting, particularly the approach, has gained a lot of popularity for going against the dogma of needing to eat 6 small meals a day by getting great results with 2-3 meals in an eight hour feeding window.

But my point is not to sell you on these approaches. Some people, in particular women, often do notice better results with smaller and more frequent meals. And it’s certainly possible to stay slim easier by eating most of one’s carbohydrates in a big breakfast and not eating after 7pm.

The point to all of this is to realize that all of these so called “rules” are rarely absolutes. A lot of times, they’re effective simply because a person believes they’re effective. And that’s ok too. There’s nothing wrong with utilizing a bit of the placebo effect (mind over matter) to one’s advantage.

What I am pretty certain of however is that getting stressed out and becoming neurotic about the tiniest details while losing sight of the big picture is detrimental. Following strict rules and routines has its benefits for people who tend to be lax. It helps develop a certain level of discipline and creates structure. This kind of thinking is also essential for competitive bodybuilders, fitness models, and athletes, but it’s rarely necessary for the average person.

To have the greatest effectiveness, one must be flexible. Bruce Lee puts it like this, “obey the principles without being bound by them.”

This means for those who tend to be unstructured, having a few rules in place is just what they need… for a period of time. But once that discipline is developed, I’ve found a great benefit by breaking the rules, if even only for a period of time, just to prove to myself that the world will not end.

For instance, it was very freeing to know I didn’t “have to” eat 6 small meals a day to stay in great shape which was what I was originally told. I also have found that for myself, 2-3 meals a day is a little on the low side and I do better with around 4 meals a day. But no matter what, the body will adapt to either approach to varying degrees.

By going to each extreme and not being attached to thinking I “have to” do anything in particular, I’m able to find what works best for me and continually adapt to my current circumstances. This also allows me to switch things up when what worked best for me a year ago or even yesterday might not still work best for me today. In other words, I obey the principles without being bound by them. I encourage you to do the same.


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