Many times, we wonder what could have been different if we had chosen a different path or method of doing something. Since I can't do that, I figure these tips may help someone who is new to training and living a healthy lifestyle. These tips could save you years of struggling or becoming frustrated with lack of progress.
If I could go back and change the way I did things concerning training, eating and overall health and fitness, here are the things I would have done differently:
1) Train with more people that were bigger and stronger than me (I did this several times when I was in the first few years of training and made great progress. But I didn't do this enough!).
2) Eat more protein with every meal and eat a lot more fruits and veggies and eat only starchy carbs from good sources and at certain times of the day (breakfast and post-workout have worked best for me).
I made the mistake of eating way too many carbs (potatoes, rice, pasta) in my quest to bulk up several times in the early days. I ended up just getting fat.
3) Focus on getting stronger on all the basic lifts (squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, rows, chins) while using less volume and more intensity.
4) Not forgetting to include some sort of short, intense cardio a couple times per week in the form of intervals, GPP, bodyweight circuits, complexes or circuits even when trying to bulk up or get stronger.
5) Change set/reps every 4-8 weeks so my body didn't get stale.
6) Only use food supplements like protein powders and post-workout drinks along with basic stuff like fish oil caps and ZMA.
I've wasted plenty of money on things that didn't make an ounce of a difference. But food supplements have always been useful for calorie and protein needs.
7) Not bulking up - the times I tried to bulk were the times where I felt like crap and looked like crap and gained too much fat. Bulking doesn't work for most people.
8) Keep a training log. I only started doing this consistently in 2005.
9) Not trying every "fad" program that came out or promised slabs of muscle and keeping my focus on the basic stuff.
10) Taking more scheduled breaks every 8-12 weeks for rest and recovery and to keep my motivation high.
11) I would have played sports when I was younger - I only played football when I was in the 5th grade. I should have played more sports throughout school or at least joined the wrestling team, track team or weightlifting team during high school.
Since I was always small and weak, I would have been much better off competing in a certain weight class. I only joined the weightlifting team during my senior year of high school. That's when I became interested in lifting. But I did a lot of stuff wrong for a few years after that.
12) I would have started seriously lifting before I was 18. Since I didn't play sports and didn't seriously begin lifting weights until I had graduated high school and began college, I feel that I missed out on making more gains.
When the health and fitness bug hit me when I was 14, I focused on eating better and just doing some bodyweight stuff and playing neighborhood sports with other kids from 14-18. I missed out on using those years to lift seriously and make some good strength/hypertrophy gains.