So you’ve been dieting for a while now, and you’re training regularly as well. You started off well enough, and you managed to lose a few pounds. But now you’re stuck. And no matter what you do, you just can’t seem to lose any more.
What could the problem be?
Well, it could be any of a number of things, but in this article, I’ll describe the 10 most common issues that could be stopping you from losing any more body fat.
1. You’re Eating Too Many Calories
This may seem obvious, but there are still some people who will tell you that you can eat as much as you want, as long as you avoid carbohydrates. But that’s just not true. And, although your body may handle the calories from the different macronutrients in different ways, when it comes right down to it, if you are eating too many calories you won’t lose weight.
If you are one of those who eats every two or three hours to “boost your metabolism”, you could easily end up eating more than you need over the course of the day. But if you cut your calorie intake down to 10–12 times your body weight in pounds, it would be difficult not to lose fat.
Eating less may be a bit of a challenge (although if your diet consists mostly of natural, whole foods, with lots of green vegetables, you should not need to go hungry), but anything in life that’s worth accomplishing will take some effort and discipline. So if you’re not losing fat as well as you’d like, the answer may be very simple – eat less!
2. You’re Eating Too Many Carbohydrates
If you are overweight, chances are you won’t be very insulin sensitive, so you won’t handle carbs very well. And most people don’t do enough physically demanding work to warrant a high carb intake anyway.
If you are quite lean, and you train hard, you can eat a good amount of carbs. But if you have a lot of fat to lose, cutting the carbs can be an important step to take in order to facilitate effective weight loss. Don’t go too far though, as you will need some carbs to help fuel your workouts, as well as to help preserve your muscle mass as you lose fat.
3. You’re Not Cycling Your Carbs
Unless you have a physically demanding job, you don’t need a lot of carbs on days when you are not training. So cycle your carbs, eating more on your training days, and less on your rest days.
You’ll want to eat some carbs (together with protein) both pre and post workout, in order to optimize workout performance and facilitate recovery. And you can also continue to eat them for a few hours after your workout. But apart from that, you should keep your carb intake fairly low if you are looking to shed body fat.
4. You’re Eating Too Much Fat
Dr. Atkins had it wrong. You can’t just cut the carbs and then eat as much fat as you want. Fats are very high in calories, so if you eat too much you can easily overshoot your daily needs.
However, I’m not advocating a very low fat diet either. You do need some good healthy fats in your diet for a wide variety of reasons. Get these from oily fish, nuts and nut butters, seeds, avocados, eggs, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil.
5. You’re Eating Too Many Nuts
Nuts (and nut butters) are good wholesome foods, and very nutritious, but they are also very calorie dense and high in fat, so you don’t want to be eating too many of them if you are trying to lose body fat.
If you can eat just a few, and then stop, that’s fine. But if you find them habit forming, it might be best to avoid them, or just use them occasionally as garnish.
6. You’re Drinking Your Calories
When you are trying to lose weight, it’s better to chew your calories. By drinking protein shakes, milk, fruit juice etc., on a regular basis, you can easily consume a lot of extra calories without thinking about it.
Have a whey protein shake after your workout by all means, but apart from that, stick to solid food. The simple act of chewing and digesting solid food burns more calories than drinking them does as well.
7. You’re Training Too Light
A mistake that many people make when dieting for fat loss is to use lighter weights, higher reps and shorter rest periods than they would normally use. But if you do that, you will just get weaker. And if you get weaker, you will lose muscle tissue.
When you are trying to lose body fat, you need to use weight training as a way to maintain your muscle mass. And to do that, you need to maintain your strength. So keep the weights heavy and the reps in the low to medium range – the same as you would if you were trying to get big and strong.
8. You’re Doing Too Much Cardio (or Not Enough)
Traditional steady state cardio will not do a great deal to help your fat loss efforts. And too much can actually be counterproductive. The reason for this is that excessive cardio causes your body to produce too much cortisol (stress hormone). And that can lead to muscle breakdown, fat deposition and many other health problems.
A much more effective type of cardio is high intensity cardio, such as sprint training. This really revs up your metabolism, so you’ll burn fat for hours after your workout has finished. But don’t do too much of this either, as it is much more difficult to recover from than lower intensity forms of cardio. Two or three sessions per week will be plenty for most people.
Another great form of cardio is walking. This is very low intensity, but ideal for burning off that little bit of extra fat, and it’s also easy to recover from. So, if you go for a fairly brisk walk for half an hour every day, you’ll be making a very positive contribution to your fat loss efforts.
9. You’re Under Too Much Stress
Stress causes your body to produce too much cortisol, which, as I have said, can lead to an increase in fat storage, especially in the abdominal area. Most people today are stressed out all the time, which means their cortisol levels are always high. This makes it very difficult to lose fat, even if your diet and training are perfect.
So take time out to de-stress. Meditate, listen to music, laugh, do fun things, and try not to take life too seriously. Good stress management is essential for successful fat loss.
10. You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
People who don’t get enough sleep also have high cortisol levels. And lack of sleep reduces your insulin sensitivity too. Obviously, both of these things will hinder your ability to lose body fat.
During sleep you produce more growth hormone, which helps your body burn fat more effectively. So, if you miss out on your sleep, you’ll miss out on this important aid to fat loss too. In fact, having adequate sleep improves every aspect of your health, so make it a priority to get enough each night.
So, if you are not losing fat as well as you’d like, these are the 10 most common reasons why that might be. Take a good hard look at the areas you feel you could improve on, and then take the necessary steps to put them right. When you do, you’ll then be able to get the results you want and achieve the weight and body composition you desire.
Photo credit: Jim Simandl, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, via Flickr (with permission)