Anyone who has ever tried to lose body fat in the history of trying to lose body fat knows it is not always the easiest thing to do.
There are ups and downs. There are times of progress and plateaus. It’s quite a roller coaster sometimes to a point where some may argue it is more of a psychological game than it is a physical one.
With that being said, more often than not, the reasons people are struggle to lose body fat in their journey is not so much because they are miscalculating calories or eating too many carbs, but rather because of a few key variables they may never have even thought of.
Four reasons you are not hitting your fat loss goals:
1. Cardio overload
The very first thing people do when they want to lose body fat is hit up the treadmill and stay on it (running, jogging, or walking) for hours at a time.
If you don’t believe me, go to any gym and people watch for 2 hours and you’ll see. (don’t do that…it is kind of creepy.) But believe me it is true.
There are numerous things wrong with this, but two very important ones come to my mind off the bat.
- Firstly, that is not sustainable for the vast majority of the population. Very few people actually enjoy doing that and even fewer people are going to find long-term success from doing that.
- Secondly, too much of a focus on cardiovascular activity and too little of a focus on strength training ESPECIALLY when paired with a food restrictive diet eventually leads to muscle loss and actually puts fat loss to a halt.
So yes, you’ll lose weight, but you are not losing the weight you want to lose. Instead of getting a sculpted, fit physique, you become really thin with very little definition because you burned through so much muscle that you have none to show off.
Rather than overloading the cardio, maybe look into hitting up more strength training! Building that lean muscle mass will help you stay leaner more easily, as increasing your muscle mass increases your metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories simply by existing!). Burning more calories at rest leads to fat loss which leads you to be successful with your fat loss goals. Check out this vegan bodybuilders guide to bulking up!
Now, this is also not me hating on cardiovascular work! Everyone needs to be doing some sort of cardiovascular activity (e.g. walking, sporting activities, etc.) as there are numerous health benefits to that, but overloading is usually detrimental.
2. Eating less and less
I personally do not like counting calories nor do I do it myself, but that is not to say they are not real nor matter.
Of course calories matter! They are energy and your body needs a lot of them to survive daily.
But the problem with a calorie focused diet is that over time you end up just eating less and less. A basic rule of calorie counting for weight loss is to consume around 250 - 500 calories less than your maintenance to ensure you’re in a caloric deficit.
But then you also strength train and or perform cardiovascular activity that day which may burn anywhere between 300-800 calories depending how hard you go.
Lets average that to 500. That puts you at a 1000 caloric deficit. Hmmmm that’s a little much now? Your body can certainly use 1000 calories.
These calories aren't just used to keep fat on your body after all. They're also used for basic metabolic processes such as keeping your brain functioning at a high level, or balancing your hormonal function. And when we go too low on calories our body slows down our metabolism to compensate, making it harder and harder to burn fat as your body effectively goes into 'storage mode.'
Which is why people drop their calories lower and lower and lower over time... until they dig themselves into such a deep hole that they can't get out, and they eventually rebound and put all the weight back on.
If you’re going to calorie count, one thing I would suggest is not to create a caloric deficit through food restriction (i.e. eating 500 calories less than your body needs), but rather create a deficit through exertion (i.e. burning 500 calories through activity).
And understand that your body is much more than basic mathematics, and that healthy and sustainable weight loss takes time and patience. It is better to lose a couple pounds per month consistently over 6 months, then crash diet and lose 10 pounds in 2 months just to put it back on again straight away.
3. Jumping from fad to fad
This is the number 1 biggest problem I see. People jump on keto.
Keto doesn’t work so they jump on intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting doesn’t work so they jump on the zone diet. The zone diet doesn’t work so they jump on if it fits your macros (IIFYM).
IIFYM doesn’t work so they jump on __________ (insert diet name here) Repeat. Sound somewhat familiar? Its because it is so true.
Everyone is an expert right? “Well Dan, they said that carbs are bad for you so I am going to go keto”. 2 months later – “well Dan, they said that you should fast for 16 hours of the day so I am doing intermittent fasting”.
As you can see, I am not sure who they are, but they are stealing your money. Stop jumping from fad to fad to diet to diet. Whole, nutrient-dense foods without overeating (i.e. stuffing yourself) and being active…that is what you need to do.
That isn’t attractive and has no ring to it…but it is the thing that works. Check out these 11 delicious recipes for plant-based bodybuilders to gain some healthy inspiration!
4. Believing that 'cheat days' are good for you.
One of the most popular questions I get asked on my Instagram is how many cheat days to have in a week/month?
Well, there are a few problems with this, but the most basic one is that cheat days often involve downing as much processed junk food as possible which not only is extremely unhealthy for you and can lead to a variety of health conditions, but doing so can mean downing thousands and thousands of calories which will set you way way way back in your progress.
No, it does not speed up your metabolism or prevent your metabolism from slowing down. If you do not believe me, think about how you feel after said days. Lethargic and just gross. Not a great feeling. So, I am not a fan of cheat days.
What I am a fan of is taking the concept of the traditional cheat day (increased calorie consumption) and making it a day that we increase the volume of food, but making sure it is whole, nutrient-dense food.
This doesn’t have to be boring either. We can have desserts and treats, but they are homemade and unprocessed. The benefit of this you may ask? And if you didn’t ask, I’ma tell you anyways.
The benefit is we get all the “benefits” the traditional cheat day claimed to provide, but feel absolutely amazing the next day. You get the natural hormonal spike that comes from a caloric 'refeed' without all of the processed sugars, flours and oils that come from stuffing your face all day.
Have you or are you currently doing one or more of these 4 things? If so, it could be hindering your fat loss!
You can do it! Do not buy into the garbage advice the fitness industry spreads. More often than not, they care about their pockets and not your health or your results. You just have to do the right things to do it and that always means thinking of your health first.