Ah yes, the summer shred. Every spring, gym goers put themselves through self-inflicted torture in (and out of) the gym to strut their stuff on the beach. But with this annual motivation comes a myriad of mistakes.
Whether it’s impatience or grossly impractical expectations, too many people are focusing on how fast they can lose fat instead of how long they’re able to keep it off.
This year, go against the grain and avoid these eight fat loss mistakes.
- UNDER EATING
The only way to lose fat is to be in a caloric deficit. Simple enough, I guess. But problems start arising when you significantly lower your calorie intake and under eat.
Contrary to what most of the crap you find on Google says, 1200 calories is an absurdly low daily target. Sure, you might be able to do it for a few days or even weeks, but you can’t sustain it. Nor should you.
While a deficit is necessary for fat loss, you also need to fuel your body with enough food. Yes, food is more than just fuel. But it’s still fuel. And if you’re not “fueling” your body with energy from food, where are you getting it from? Don’t say pre-workouts, either.
Eat and you’ll have energy to expend. Under eat and you’ll be in a constant state of tired, stressed, and hangry (no, that wasn’t a typo).
STOP: Under eating to get into “starvation mode”.
START: Eating enough to fuel your body while in a deficit so you can train hard and recover optimally.
- RESTRICTING THE FOODS YOU LOVE
Disclaimer: If you’re using a restriction diet as a process of elimination to figure out which foods may be triggering certain medical issues, this doesn’t apply to you. Listen to your doctor or health professional in correlation with how your body responds to certain types of foods.
I love food. And there’s no way I’m giving up ice cream any time soon. Think of your favorite foods and ask yourself how long you could realistically go without eating them. Better yet, ask yourself why you would want to do that in the first place.
Completely restricting the foods you love is a stressful and frankly unnecessary way to lose fat. And it’s probably not something you can sustain long term (or want to).
Rather, continue eating the foods you love while adhering to your calorie/macro targets. Remember, you need to be in a deficit to lose fat (broken record, I know). Well, who’s to say you can’t eat pizza and still be in a deficit? Seriously, tell me who they are and where they live so I can smack some sense into them.
STOP: Restricting the foods you love.
START: Eating them in moderation in correlation with your calorie/macro targets.
- NOT TRACKING YOUR FOOD
I get it. Food journals can be annoying. But they do show you what and how much you’re eating on a regular basis.
It’s like tracking your finances to save money. You write down your expenses, create a budget, and spend less than you earn.
So why not do the same for food? You can do anything for 30 days. Try tracking everything you eat (and drink) for a month and see what happens. Here are two things you can expect from keeping a food journal:
- You’ll eat less than you normally do. Similar to when you track your finances, you’ll typically spend less.
- You’ll have objective data. Whether you decide to keep tracking after 30 days, you’ll understand your eating habits at a much deeper level moving forward.
STOP: Guessing how much you should eat to lose fat.
START: Tracking your food for 30 days to see exactly what and how much you’re eating on a regular basis.
- DOING TOO MUCH HIIT
HIIT (high intensity interval training) is overrated. There I said it. But it’s a common line of action when trying to lose fat. Yes, HIIT can burn a lot of calories. But while HIIT can be effective, it’s usually done poorly and too often.
HIIT is NOT meant to be done frequently. It’s actually impossible to do so. The very nature of HIIT training is to perform all out, high-intensity exercise for a short period of time. And you need ample recovery between sessions to see the benefits of it.
If you’re doing “HIIT” (air quotes intended) every other day, you’re digging yourself into a hole. You’ll burn out fast because you’re trying to operate at a level of intensity that your body (and nervous system) simply can’t sustain.
STOP: Doing HIIT every time you’re in the gym.
START: Doing 1-2 HIIT sessions a week (at the absolute most) in combination with strength training. LISS (low intensity steady state) cardio like walking, biking, or playing sports are extremely underrated for fat loss. Just move more.
- NOT LIFTING HEAVY
Trying to lose fat? You might’ve heard you should ditch the heavy weights and replace them with the neon colored dumbbells in your grandma’s basement. Because “heavy weights make you bulky” and “light weights with high reps helps you shred”. Don’t make this mistake.
Stronger people are better at staying lean. Why? Because strength training doesn’t just build muscle, it builds an engine that burns fat. More lean muscle means better metabolism, which means more calories burned throughout the day (even after your workouts).
How often you lift and the type of program you follow are dependent on your training history, past or present injuries, and goals.
In general, lift heavy and sprinkle some high-rep sets into your program. Balance.
STOP: Doing 20-30 rep sets with obnoxiously light weights that don’t elicit any adaptation whatsoever.
START: Lifting some heavy ass weights and build a calorie-burning-energy-expending machine.
- OVERESTIMATING CALORIE BURN
Your treadmill is a liar. The amount of calories it says you burned are grossly inaccurate. Ignore it.
STOP: Paying attention to how many calories your treadmill or fitness app says you burned.
START: Focusing on putting in the work. Grit and effort bring about change, not technology.
- UNDERESTIMATING CALORIE INTAKE
Similarly, most food tracking apps significantly underestimate calories. If it says something is 100 calories, it’s probably closer to 200.
Just because an app says you’re under your calorie target doesn’t mean it’s true. Give yourself a “buffer zone” of at least 200-300 calories to offset the usually inaccurate estimates these apps include in their catalog.
STOP: Getting frustrated if you’re not losing fat and your tracking app says you’re in a deficit.
START: Giving yourself a buffer zone of a few hundred calories and be realistic with your eating habits.
- NOT MEASURING PROGRESS
Weigh yourself, take pictures, measurements. Do whatever works for you and/or your clients. Read my full article on how to track progress for the best results HERE.
STOP: Guessing your way through your fat loss journey and leaving things up to chance. START: Using objective data to measure your progress over time and hit your goals.
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