You’ve been watching what you’re eating, eating healthy, going to the gym 5 days per week consistently and participate in endless amounts of cardio. You check you scale, your tape measurements and body fat percentage and you just can’t seem to lose body fat no matter how healthy you eat and how much you work out. What’s the deal? Here in this article, I am going to go over a few scenarios that may be contributing to your stagnancy.
The first and most important reason why you are not burning fat is because you are eating too many calories. Plain and simple the only way to lose body fat is to be in a caloric deficit. You need to be expending more calories than you take in. A lot of this has to do with calories that you don’t notice. These are usually the foods you eat around your meals that you didn’t prepare yourself. For example liquid calories from freshly squeezed organic orange juice, or those few low-carb pretzels you grabbed at work or the 1 ‘light’ beer or glass of wine to help ease the stress of the day.
All in all, these will add up over time. You may not notice it or you do and think this won’t throw me off today, but you need to be realistic with yourself and take note of all the “off-plan” indulgences you have throughout the day. Say 1 day you go over by 150 calories with a few pretzels, the almond milk for your coffee and a half glass of orange juice, however when that turns into a week, your weekly calories increase by 1,050 calories!
There is such a thing of ‘too much of a good thing’, and cardio is one of those when it comes to losing fat. Cardio is a stress that is put on the body. As you do cardio, your body responds by adapting to that stress or becoming more conditioned. Your body is very efficient in terms of energy, so when it adapts to that stress, it is finding the best way to do that amount of work without expending as much energy. The only way to mitigate this to keep fat burning up, is to do more cardio. The problem is, the longer and more often you do cardio, the less muscle tissue you will build or maintain due to inadequate calories to support the muscle tissue mass.
Resistance training helps build muscle tissue. Muscle tissue itself is considered an energy glutton because it requires so much energy to maintain. This is why you see professional bodybuilders weighing 260 pounds or more needing to eat very often, in very high amounts (the last thing they want is have their body burn muscle tissue for energy). So if you think you are training hard, and your diet is in check, and you’re still not losing body fat, then you may be taking it a little too easy in the gym. Maybe you’re not tracking your progression either so you don’t know where to go in terms of weight to use for your next workout. Either way, some form of resistance training should be included, and you need to keep detailed notes of the set, reps, and weight used so you know where to go the next workout to keep building tissue. Don’t worry ladies, you do not have the hormones in your body to become bulky and develop ‘man shoulders’.
Cheat meals or weekends getting out of hand can factor into your stagnancy as well. If you are on a nutrition plan and your goal is to lose body fat, you need to have controlled “FREE” meals (not cheat meals) and controlled weekends. Look, the 80/20 rule is great for MAINTENANCE, not for solid fat-loss. If your main goal is to lose body fat, those ‘free meals’ need to be strategic and your weekends need to be planned out so you don’t go overboard. That 20% off can do a TON of damage, just like that 1 meal you have can do a ton of damage depending on how overboard you go.
If you want more freedom during the weekends, you can cut out few meals from your day so the meals you do eat need to contain more calories than normal. For example, if you normally eat 5 meals per day and total 2,500 calories in a day, each meal may contain 500 calories. Now when the weekend comes, you choose to sleep in and only have lunch and dinner. Those 2 meals need to contain 1250 cals each in order to hit your 2,500 calories for the day. This can allow for more “off the menu” foods (which tend to be more calorically dense) since you have some calories to play with.
The last reason that I want to focus on relates back to the 1st reason, and deals with the thought process of ‘eating healthy’. Just because foods are considered or labeled as healthy, does not mean you can eat endless amounts of it. Foods (that are made up of nutrients) still have CALORIES, no matter how “good” that food is. Making more mindful decisions by choosing more nutrient dense foods should be priority, and can definitely start the fat loss process. The problem is that these healthy foods do not mean low-to-no calorie foods. It is a common misconception that just because the foods are good for you, you can eat as much as you want of it.
Here are a few examples of what I like to call deceptive foods: hummus, dried fruit, organic nut butters, nuts and seeds, granola, smoothie drinks, and avocados to say a few. Hell, one half of an avocado contains 140 calories, one tablespoon of coconut oil contains 120 calories, and with granola, there are so many different foods included in that bag that each spoonful will have a different caloric value depending on what you spooned up. The media labels these foods as healthy and that makes all of us think we should choose them over something else, which is ok. This is ok, only if we take into account portion sizes to keep us in our caloric deficits.
When focusing on fat loss, focus on the following to help to ensure you are burning fat:
Track and count all calories! Yes, everything you consume to see where you stand. If you want to lose body fat, take in less calories then where you are at now. If you want to gain tissue, take in more.
I would write all day on this topic but instead you can read my last article on ‘The Importance of Protein’ here
When in a caloric deficit, your body will naturally (in response) want to expend less energy. It will be important for you to keep moving because your NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenisis) will have most likely decreased. Things like fidgeting, you walking around, your effort to perform simple tasks will all start to slow down and decrease in frequency. Maybe you want to get a step counter to make sure you are moving around enough.
Get in the gym or hire a trainer, or use some form of training that incorporates resistance against a movement to require your body to increase in muscle tissue. A great example without weights is running sprints uphill or with a parachute as there is resistance while doing the movement.
I hope this article has either helped to open your eyes as to where you may be going wrong or reinforced your drive and knowledge to reach your fat loss goals!
This article by Vinny Russo was originally posted on grenade.com
I have a Bachelors in Science, I am PN.1 certified, NFPT certified, and in the process of obtaining my CN.L (Clinical Nutritional License) and my MSCN (Masters in Applied Clinical Nutrition). My mission is help you reach your health-related goals while educating throughout our journey together. The goal is to have you become a master of your own health by teaching you how nutrition works and what works best for your individual body.
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