When fat loss stops, it can feel like being in purgatory. You are not losing fat and you are not gaining much muscle. Grr.
You start asking yourself questions like. “WTF? Nothing is working?” “What else can I do to lose weight?”
Despite how much effort you have put in, there may be room for improvement in your fat loss process. These easy to make changes can switch your body into a fat-burning machine once you figure out what is causing the fat loss stall.
1. Rethink Your Cardio
Cardio not all that great for fat loss. Low Intensity Steady State cardio, doing things like exercise machines and jogging, does not burn enough calories for the time you spend working. And, the more cardio you do, the more efficient you become at it and you burn less calories for the same amount of work.
Instead try High Intensity Interval Training where you do all-out intervals of sprinting, swimming, cycling or your activity of choice for 30-60 seconds followed with 30-60 second slower paced active rest periods. Repeat these intervals several times in a session. Add more intervals or up the intensity as you get stronger and faster. HIIT burns more calories in the same amount of time, stimulates more fat loss, and creates a metabolic effect that can increase your fat burning for hours after your workout.
2. You Are Cheating on Your Meal Plan
Cheating on your meal plan is never a good idea. An all-out feeding frenzy can wipe out a whole week’s work. Even while sticking to a caloric deficit the rest of the week.
Instead of cheating, have a high carbohydrate refeed day once a week. The goal of this strategic day of overeating, at maintenance level, is to kick start your metabolism and reset hormones. This day also gives you a mental break from being in caloric restriction and is something to look forward to each week.
When you are in sticking to your meal plan and staying in a caloric deficit, leptin level drops. Leptin is a hormone that controls weight loss and defends against starvation. Low leptin levels make cravings more intense.
Cortisol, a stress hormone, causes fat to be retained and tends to increase while on a caloric deficit. Taking a refeed day reduces cortisol and gives you more energy.
The key to successful refeed day is to keep your protein and fat the same and replace all your extra calories with carbohydrates. A bonus of a high carb refeed day is your performance at the gym will be better because you have higher glycogen levels.
3. You Are Not Eating Enough Protein
Getting the proper amount of protein is extremely important when on a caloric deficit. Protein protects your muscle from being consumed by your body instead of fat. You should eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass.
Under consuming protein also slows fat loss. Protein is more difficult to digest compared to carbohydrates and fat. When eating an appropriate level of protein, your body burns more calories to digest these high protein foods.
As a bonus, protein filled meals keep you feeling fuller and helps to avoid cravings.
Lift Heavy - Get Stronger - Bring Out Your Potential
4. You Are Not Getting Stronger
Do not dodge heavy strength training when losing fat. High repetition, light weight training should be avoided since it will not give your body the stimulus needed to build dense bigger muscle.
In a calorie deficit, your body will lose muscle mass. The best way to prevent losing muscle is to train hard and lift heavy weight. If you are new to the gym, you can even build muscle and strength while losing fat.
A bonus when adding muscle is you slightly raise your metabolism with each pound of muscle gained and you can burn more calories throughout the day.
Focus on building strength and size in the gym to combat muscle loss by performing repetitions in the four to eight range while using compound movements and heavier weights. Compound exercises using multiple muscles are your best bet for retaining or building muscle.
5. Stopping Stressing Out
Stress is horible for fat loss because it elevates your cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol levels interfere with testosterone and growth hormone production. Lower levels of testosterone and growth hormone reduces libido, stunts muscle growth and leads to fat retention or even gain.
Take time to relax and reduce stress levels. Stop thinking about the scale and fat loss. I have found fat to drop easier when not logging my weight daily and forgetting about the fat loss for a while.
Make sure to take at least one day off per week from all exercise to get a mental break and to prevent over-training, which also spikes cortisol. Stick to a three-day workout routine with at least a day off between each session.
Fat loss is a marathon not a sprint. It took you years to get out of shape and gain unwanted fat. Enjoy the process of building muscle and getting lean. Take pride and enjoy the small acheivements you make along the way when working toward your goal physique.
6. You Are Not Logging Foods
You must track your calorie and macro nutrient intake to have a complete understanging of what you are eating.
If you are estimating your calories, you need to get a food scale and start weighing out your food portions. The food scale is the most accurate way to determine the number of calories you are eating.
Then log what you have eaten every day.
A food diary allows you to track and recognize what is going into your body. By having tracking in place, you can make educated decisions on what you can change in your diet if the process is not working as expected.
You can keep a diary on paper or use an application like My Fitness Pal, which is my "go-to" for logging nutrition.
7. You Are Not Documenting Progress
You must keep logs of your progress to see minor changes that occur over time. Looking in the mirror and stepping on the scale every morning will not show you changes that are significant enough to notice. If you lose a pound a week and if fat loss was linear, you are losing about 2.25-ounces of fat a day. I doubt you would be able to see those changes on a day-to-day basis.
At least once a week, first thing in the morning, record your measurments, your weight and take photos of yourself under similar lighting conditions.
Logging information will not make you lose fat faster but will allow you to see long term progress and give you motivation to keep your diet and workout plan on track.
If your statistics do not improve over the period of a few weeks, you should concider changes to your diet or strategicaly adding HIIT cardio to get things moving again.
8. You Are Not Eating Enough
You decided to jump into your diet feet first and go into a highly restricted diet. This is a common mistake made by people new to losing fat. Being in a severe caloric restriction feels aweful and will raise cortisol levels making fat lose more difficult.
Here is what can go wrong on a large caloric deficit:
While eating low calories, you may not be getting enough protein and you risk losing muscle. Not getting sufficent protein will also make you hungry leading to cravings and potential binges.
Not having enough carbohydrates will make you feel weak during your daily activities. Being weak hinders performance needed grow or protect muscle while at the gym.
Low fat diets hamper testosterone and growth hormone levels which can affect your abilty to gain muscle and strength. Fat is also a satiating macro that will help you feel fuller longer.
Don't do a low calorie diet.
You need to have an eating plan that provides sufficent calories and appropriate macro nutrient levels to keep fat burning on track and to help you build the body you are proud to show off.
If you have been crash dieting, you may want to consider taking a couple weeks off your diet plan and eat at maintenance levels to boost your metabolism and reduce stress hormones. Then you can come back to your caloric deficit with suitable caloric and macro levels.
Check out our macro calculator to determine a sustainable caloric intake with proper macro splits to support your fat loss goals.
If you find your fat loss not moving as quickly as expected, implement the strategies listed above.
You may be surprised that making small changes to your fat loss plan can add up to a massive change over time.
You can build the body you want. You just need to have a plan and patients that will get you there.