Through my years of playing high school and university sports, endless hours spent working out in the gym, and training family and friends, I’ve noticed something; most people’s bodies look the exact same, month after month, year after year. I’ve made a list of the 5 reasons your body may look the same, and why you’re not getting the results you’d expect for all of the fitness tips and hard work that you’ve put in over the years.
1. Your body is in equilibrium.
Our bodies love balance. Whether it be the perfect amount of fiber and probiotics in our digestive tracts, balance of moisture and dryness on our skin, or balance of fat burning, and fat storage. If you’ve been working out for some time, and your diet has some resemblance of healthiness, you’re probably not overweight in terms of a BMI or overall health standpoint. Nonetheless, with the new fitness craze, most women are looking to lose a few pounds even if they’re in good health.
What’s important to understand is that once your body feels relatively healthy, and is in a comfort zone, it takes more than a bit of exercise and decent eating to turn it into an efficient fat burning machine. For those of you trying to lose weight, t is critical that you stimulate your metabolism as much as possible. Although I’m not a fan of calorie-counting or calorie deficits, they’re a convenient way to explain how our metabolisms work when in equilibrium. Lets say that you are a 5’6, fit, 135 lb. woman who goes to the gym 5 days a week and does 45 minutes of cardio at 65% of your heart rate. (This seems to be a standard among many of the young women who I’ve trained or with whom I’ve discussed fitness) Lets say that your body needs 1600 calories a day to run at its optimal level throughout the day, including your workout. If you eat less than those 1200 calories instead, your body isn’t going to simply burn “400 calories worth of fat” from your body. Although this is a logical way to think, when your body is in equilibrium, this is just not the case. Instead, your body is going to slow down from its optimal level, so that it can perform all of your daily tasks with 1200 calories, leaving you feeling weak and sluggish. Needless to say if you eat more than the 1600 calories your body likes to burn every day, you will be storing some of the excess as fat, since our bodies naturally want to store fat for energy.
The key to breaking out of equilibrium is to drastically change your routine, and shock your system which will be discussed further below.
2. Your eating schedule is holding you back.
Skipping breakfast is weight-loss suicide. As mentioned before, the key to losing weight is stimulating your metabolism. Nothing impedes your metabolism, and the energy burning that goes along with it like skipping the most important meal of the day. For the last two summers I’ve had jobs that have required me to be up at 5:30 or 6:30am, followed by 10 or 12 hours of physical labor. I go to the gym 6 days a week for between 75 and 90 minutes. I’m rarely in bed before midnight, giving me about 5 hours of sleep per night. I’ve never had a coffee in my life, and have never felt the need to nap. My secret? Eat a huge breakfast to kick-start your metabolism and get your body firing on all cylinders!
The best way to eat if you’re trying to lose weight (I realize there are tons of theories out there, this is simply the one that I subscribe to, and have seen amazing results with) is to have a large, balanced breakfast, and eat small healthy snacks throughout the day to keep your metabolism running smoothly, and your energy levels up. There isn’t enough room in this blog to talk about specific diets/meal ideas, but visit my page for tips.
3. You’re scared of eating fat.
Fat is good. More specifically, healthy fats are good. If you’ve read fitness blogs or articles before you are undoubtedly aware that there are both good and bad, or healthy and unhealthy fats. Most blogs and articles do not take the time to explain why. Saturated and trans fats have no nutritional value, and are harder for our bodies to digest and are therefore stored more likely to be stored as fat for energy in the future. From a basic health standpoint, they increase cholesterol leading to heart disease and other health conditions. Since they have no nutritional value, avoiding trans and saturated fats to the best of your ability is certainly beneficial.
However, healthy fats (monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and more specifically the best polyunsaturated fat, Omega-3) are an absolute necessity to healthy living, for many reasons, including managing your weight. Our bodies need fats to build and repair cells, and Omega-3s are being shown to be particularly important to proper brain function and mental health. From a weight perspective, there are certain theories out there in regards to fats. Although I do not approve of ketone diets such as Atkins, because of their potential health risks involving brain cell damage, some people swear by them.
My approach to the use of fats in fat burning (sounds funny, I know) is based on the theory that if you eat a steady, low-dose of healthy fats, your body will be stimulated to burn more fats from its storage. The simplest way to do this is to snack on about 3 ounces of mixed nuts throughout the day. You may think to yourself, oh my god, I’m suddenly having another 40 grams of fat per day. Although this may seem counter intuitive, I have seen many people kick start their fat burning/cutting regimen with this simple trick and see great results. I’m currently trying to burn a bit of fat and noticed a difference in my body after 10 days with this being the only change to my diet. Give it a try!
4. Partying… Love n’ Hate
Partying kills. Just kidding, but it can certainly kill your chances of having the body you’ve always wanted. There are quite a few obvious reasons that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and staying up all night, mixed in with some late night munchies and a lazy hang over day can impede your weight loss goals. Now, I love partying just as much as the next guy, its just that if your goal is to lose weight, especially in a short amount of time (such as less than 6 weeks), this kind of partying should be done with caution. An average vodka cran has about 200 calories. Multiply that by 5 and you’ve got more than half a days worth of calories just in your drinks. If you’re the type to have 10 or more drinks, you’re looking at a day or two worth of calories just in beverages. Not to mention the fact that the vast majority of those calories are coming from refined sugars or high-fructose corn syrup, the worst kind of carbohydrates. Toss in a 1000 calorie meal from your favorite late-night dive or fast-food joint, sleeping in past breakfast the next day to slow your metabolism more, and a day of baking on the couch eating anything easy (usually unhealthy, processed foods full of saturated fats) and your weekend is looking more like a weak end to your fitness goals.
My suggestion? It would be pretty hypocritical for me to sit here and say to completely stop partying so that you can lose 5 or 10 pounds. I’m also going to catch a lot of flack from fitness extremists who think its unholy to assault your body with drugs or alcohol. That’s fine. If you’re like me and don’t want to sacrifice ALL of your partying days, just put an effort in to keep your routine the same. Don’t eat unhealthy, try to keep the sugary drinks to a minimum, wake up at your normal time, tough it out and eat a good breakfast, get to the gym and work your ass off and repeat.
5. You’re working out wrong.
Plain and simple. The myths about working out go on forever. Although different strategies and plans work for different people, I can tell you that if you’ve been going to the gym 5 times a week trying to lose 5 to 10 pounds for more than 3 months and haven’t reached that goal, its not working.
There are three factors apply to any type of workout plan/routine; frequency, time and intensity. Frequency being how often (we’ll say per week) that you work out, time being the amount of time that you spend exercising, and intensity which speaks for itself. In one of my exercise physiology classes at university the discussion was about these three factors. Its been proven that the most important factor by a landslide is intensity. Running for 60 minutes at 65% of your max heart rate is less productive than running for 15 minutes at 85-100% of your heart rate. The reason? You’re boosting your metabolism and teaching your body to use its fat stores as energy (because when operating at 100% of your HR you are using everything possible to exert yourself) rather than running through carbs and storing everything else. So, if you’re scared to sweat like Kobe in the 4th, don’t expect to shed off those last few pounds that everyone finds to be so elusive.
The last thing to talk about here is the myth that some women are finally starting to discover which is that lifting weights will not make you bulky. Lots of men and women work out 5 times a week for months with the goal of putting on muscle or “bulking”. There is no way that you will ever accidentally get too muscular in the gym. Doing low weight, high-repetition exercises (preferably in supersets of 3-4 exercises) are a surefire way to shock your metabolism and get your body where you want it to be.