Has your fat loss stalled?
While on a quest to lose fat, there will be times when it feels like nothing is changing. You’re putting forth the work, but you’re not seeing the fruits of your labor.
There are a few common reasons why you may no longer be losing fat. Just a few small tweaks can make a big difference.
Too many calories
We’ll start with the most obvious. The top reason why you’re not losing fat is because your calorie intake is too high.
Your body burns calories all day, and it takes a certain number of calories to maintain your current weight.
In order to lose fat, you must be in a caloric deficit, meaning you need to consume less food than your body needs at its current size. You can also create a deficit by burning off calories thru physical activity.
If you’re not losing fat, the first place to check is your overall calorie intake.
Keep in mind, as you lose weight, your body requires fewer calories. If you’ve already reduced your calories, lost 10 or more pounds, and your fat loss has stopped, it may be time to reduce your calories again.
Try slightly reducing your portion sizes to shake things up.
Want to be even more precise? Calculate your recommended calorie intake here, and then track your food on a platform, like MyFitnessPal. This will help you determine the number of calories you’re consuming daily.
Too little calories
Yep. It’s possible to eat too little! Sometimes, in our quest for extreme results, calories are cut TOO low. As I mentioned above, our bodies are always using energy, and it takes calories just to live.
Once your calories are cut too low, the body starts trying to preserve itself, so it burns off the things that are taking up the most energy, like muscle. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue (which is why people with a large muscle mass burn a higher number of calories daily).
This means, as you’re happily losing weight on the scale, you could be losing your muscle and keeping your fat. Not good!
Not only does this affect the way you look, it affects your metabolism. The less muscle you have, the less calories you burn per day, and the harder it will be to continue losing weight.
Also, when you eat too little, your metabolism adjusts, and your body begins to burn even less calories, again, to preserve itself.
So, it’s important to have a caloric deficit, but don’t go TOO low. Aim for a deficit of 250-500 calories less than your maintenance level.
Too much sugar
One of the biggest inhibitors of fat loss is SUGAR. High sugar intake leads to high blood sugar levels. Chronically high blood sugar levels can lead to insulin resistance and leptin resistance, a combination which promotes fat storage and increased appetite.
The more sugar you intake, the lower your potential for burning fat. And high sugar intake has been linked to belly fat, especially when consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is high.
To reduce fat, avoid added sugars, commonly found in beverages, desserts, energy drinks, sports drinks, and cereals. This does not include natural sugars like those from fruit.
The daily recommendation for added sugar is no more than 6 teaspoons for women (24g) and 9 teaspoons for men (36g).
Check the nutrition label to determine how much sugar a food product has.
Even better? Eat your food as fresh as possible to limit the amount of sugar added to it.
Not enough protein
Carbs, proteins, and fats are the nutrients we need the largest quantities of, and they provide our bodies with energy. Because we need them in large amounts, they are termed macronutrients. You’ve probably heard them called “macros,” for short.
The amount of carbs, fat, and proteins you eat each day can affect how much fat you lose. For fat loss, you should prioritize protein. If your protein intake is low, you may end up losing muscle instead of fat while losing weight.
Protein is needed to maintain and build muscle mass. It also takes a lot of energy to digest, meaning your body burns more calories digesting protein than digesting carbs and fat.
The additional calorie burn helps to boost your metabolism and increases the amount of calories you burn throughout the day.
Protein can also help control your appetite and blood sugar levels. As mentioned above, when your blood sugar is regulated, you have a higher potential for fat burn.
When aiming to lose fat, I recommend consuming at least 25% of your calories from protein. Increasing it to 30-35% can be even more effective.
Too much cardio
Cardio is great for overall health. It helps keep the heart strong, increases lung capacity, and reduces your risk for various diseases.
But, depending on your fitness goal, you may be performing too much cardio.
To lose weight, a caloric deficit can be created by eating less food and/or burning off more calories. But, again, if that caloric deficit is too high, you risk burning off your muscle.
Effective fat loss requires a balance of cardio and strength training to help preserve your lean mass and lose fat.
The amount of cardio you need for fat loss is greatly determined by your body type. Some body types, like endomorphs, may need a high amount of cardio to lose fat. Other body types may only require a moderate amount, like 2-3 days a week for 20-30 minutes.
If you notice you are losing more lean mass than fat mass, your cardio workouts may need to be tweaked. Try shorter, higher intensity cardio sessions.
Too little cardio
On the flip side, there’s also a such thing as too LITTLE cardio.
If you spend most of your gym time lifting heavy weights and taking looong rest periods, you may be carrying a large amount of muscle while also carrying a potbelly.
Chances are, you aren’t adding enough cardio into your routine. Cardio has been shown to reduce belly fat, which is the most harmful type of fat in your body. Belly fat surrounds your organs and can cause them to malfunction over time.
Your cardio does not have to be one of the traditional methods, like treadmill, bike or elliptical.
A cardio workout is just a workout that elevates your heart rate and keeps it up for an extended period of time.
Strength training workouts can be structured to be cardio workouts when they are performed as a circuit training routine with little rest breaks to increase the intensity.
If your fat loss has stalled, you may need more cardio. Just make sure you also continue strength training to maintain your muscle mass.
Not enough sleep
One thing that’s not valued nearly enough is sleep! It is recommended to sleep at least 7 hours each night. Unfortunately, most people get 6 hours or less.
Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues. In other words, muscles recover during sleep. More muscle, higher metabolism, and the more fat that can potentially be burned.
Lack of sleep increases appetite and cravings, which can lead to late-night snacking. And let’s be honest… most late-night snack choices are not the healthiest!
Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood sugar level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar levels, which may increase your risk for diabetes. And if your blood sugar level is high, you will burn less fat.
Fat loss can be a complicated journey, but it is one that requires commitment and consistency.
To gauge fat loss while aiming to lose weight, I suggest having your body fat percentage measured at least once a month. Then, you can determine whether or not you are losing fat and make tweaks along the way.