You’re exercising more than ever while eating less than ever, and yet it seems that achieving your desired body transformation is still a far way off.
Whether you realize it or not, despite your best efforts, you may be making some small common mistakes that can lead to a weight-loss plateau.
Here, we present a list of several common fat loss mistakes holding your progress back and how to fix them!
Common Fat Loss Mistakes
#1 Overestimating Calorie Needs
Survey data indicates that the average individual over estimates how many calories they actually need to consume in a day to maintain their body weight.
And, when you also consider some other research which indicates that most individuals vastly underestimate how many calories they consume in a day, you can start to see why many people struggle to lose weight.
They’re consuming too many calories.
For instance, you might think you need to consume 2,000 calories per day to maintain your weight, but in reality you really only need to consume 1800 calories. That 200 calorie difference is enough to halt fat loss and even lead to mild weight gain.
Part of the problem is the over-reliance on online calorie calculators by individuals seeking weight loss.
At best, online calorie calculators provide a rough estimate of your calorie needs. Think of it as a starting point for your calorie intake requirements, and then start physically tracking your daily calorie intake by weighing your food and logging it as well as recording your daily body weight.
Take a weekly average of each of these and see whether your weight is going up, going down, or staying the same. After 2-3 weeks of doing this, you’ll have a better idea of what your true energy needs are and can then adjust as needed to meet your goals.
#2 Not Performing Resistance Training
A common (albeit flawed) weight loss tactic is to rely heavily on cardiovascular exercise (cardio). The reason for this is that since low-to-moderate intensity cardio relies primarily on fat for fuel, it should theoretically be the best way to lose body fat.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. In addition to underestimating how many calories individuals eat, research also indicates that they overestimate how many calories they burn during exercise.
The truth is that you don’t have to perform any cardio whatsoever to lose body fat. All you really need to do is reduce your calorie intake.
If you do choose to exercise during your weight loss journey (which we strongly recommend you do), you should first prioritize resistance training.
The reason for this is that resistance training helps your body retain lean muscle mass while dieting, helping ensure that the weight you do lose from your calorie deficit is body fat and not muscle mass.
Furthermore, resistance training also makes your muscles more efficient at burning fat for energy as well as improves bone density and carbohydrate metabolism and storage.[2,3]
Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t or can’t do cardio if you enjoy it, but it’s just that you should use it as your primary means to lose fat.
At the end of the day, the “best” way to lose fat and build muscle (instead of just “losing weight”) is to use a combination of resistance training and cardio, along with a diet tailored to meet your goals.
#3 Avoiding Carbs
Let’s make one thing very clear -- carbohydrates are not to blame for weight loss plateaus, consuming too many calories is.
Despite what you’ve read from the diet “gurus”, carbohydrates are not the demonic ne’er-do-wells seeking to wreck your body composition and overall health.
Remember, glucose is the preferred fuel for our cells, especially during intense exercise like resistance training or HIIT.
You do not need to eliminate carbohydrates entirely from your diet in order to lose weight. In fact, adopting such a draconian approach to your nutrition plan can often backfire and lead to binging or the beginnings of disordered eating.
You can still eat carbs and lose weight, provided that your overall calorie intake places you in an energy deficit.
Now, some individuals may experience greater satiety on a low-calorie diet by eating more fat and less carbs. And that’s totally fine. Just the same, there are those who struggle with low energy and greater hunger when they go too low on carb intake.
Find which method of eating works for you and work it until it no longer works for your goals.
#4 Drinking Your Calories
For some reason or other, a lot of individuals forget to consider the calories consumed from sugar-laden drinks, such as juices, soda, and smoothies. Sure, these options might be advertised to be “healthy”, but in reality, these are glorified sugar bombs that are low in protein, but high in calories and price tag.
They also do little to fill you up and may even cause you to eat more. For example, a 12-ounce can of soda has ~150 calories and 39 grams of sugar!
This is why we recommend you avoid virtually all pre-packaged calorie containing liquids while dieting.
Sure, you can make a post workout shake or smoothie from whole frozen fruit and protein powder, as its rich in protein, fiber, and micronutrients which help keep you feeling full and support the recovery process.
But outside of that, keep your fluid intake to non-calorie containing liquids like water or unsweetened coffee or tea.
#5 Avoiding Fat
For decades (long before carbohydrates were the whipping boy of diet gurus around the world), dietary fat was considered the evil doer who was causing disease and weight gain.
Again, things are not so simple.
The truth is that fat is an essential macronutrient, meaning you cannot live without it.
You do need some fat to function at a basic level.
Fat also makes food taste good, it slows down digestion, and it helps increase satiety.
A little goes a long way, so you don’t need to go overboard with your dietary fat intake, but you do need to consume enough each day.
Some of our favorite sources of dietary fat are eggs, peanut butter, avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon.
If you’re not crazy about fatty fish, then we’d recommend checking out 1UP Omega-3 to make sure you’re getting enough omega-3 fatty acids each day, which play keys roles in combating inflammation and supporting brain health.
#6 Not Moving Enough During the Day
We all know that exercise is important to health and to our daily energy expenditure. But, the reality is that exercise only makes up a small part of our total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
Our resting metabolic rate (RMR) and non-exercise activity (NEAT) account for a significantly greater proportion of our energy requirements.
RMR is the amount of calories your body burns if you just laid in bed all day and did nothing at all. Essentially, it’s the bare minimum number of calories your body needs to sustain life.
NEAT is the energy accounted for from non-exercise activities like walking from one room to another, blinking, fidgeting, tapping your toe/finger, clicking a pen, etc.
Increasing your NEAT is an incredibly easy (and sly) way to boost your energy expenditure each day without feeling like you’re exercising or taxing your body’s recovery capabilities.
Make it a goal to get up at least once every 30-60 minutes and take a walk around the house or office. Even better, you can take a lap around the block once an hour!
These small little bursts of activity will lead to big changes in overall energy expenditure at the end of the day, which helps weight loss!
#7 Being Too Restrictive with Your Diet
When many individuals embark on their transformation challenge they completely overhaul their diet and exercise regimens.
For some individuals, this cold turkey approach may work, but for others instituting too many drastic changes at one time just feeds into the “dieting” mentality and almost always results in the on-again, off-again diet cycle that never yields sustainable weight loss.
As with most things in life, moderation is key.
You don’t need to completely eliminate snacks or “dirty”, processed foods from your diet.
You can still have a small piece of chocolate or the occasional cookie while dieting. The key is to keep these indulgencesmoderate. They shouldn’t make up the brunt of nutritional intake.
You also don’t need to slash your calories to some absurdly low number (<1000 calories per day) to lose weight. Again, moderation is key. A moderate calorie deficit of 10-20% below maintenance calories is more than enough to facilitate steady, sustainable weight loss that doesn’t leave you feeling restricted or deprived.
- Brown RE, Canning KL, Fung M, et al. Calorie Estimation in Adults Differing in Body Weight Class and Weight Loss Status. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2016;48(3):521‐526. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000796
- Strasser B, Pesta D. Resistance training for diabetes prevention and therapy: experimental findings and molecular mechanisms. Biomed Res Int. 2013;2013:805217. doi:10.1155/2013/805217
- Hong AR, Kim SW. Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health. Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2018;33(4):435‐444. doi:10.3803/EnM.2018.33.4.435
- Dyall SC. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA. Front Aging Neurosci. 2015;7:52. Published 2015 Apr 21. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2015.00052