Weight loss runs a lot deeper than “calories in, calories out.” Here’s a closer look at some common mistakes that people make in hopes of trimming down.
By Brett Hoebel
In my career, I’ve trained thousands of people to lose weight. What I have found is that when these people come to me, they have generally lived in one of two camps: They have either greatly overcomplicated or greatly oversimplified things. Obviously, too much of one or the other can cause you to fail. But among these groups, we also see some things that overlap. These are usually practices that began as myth and somehow graduated to fitness gospel. Approaches that people think are actually working for them that are actually working against them. Are you guilty of any of the following practices?
1. Too Much Cardio: People trying to lose weight get into the habit of hitting the treadmill…hard. Twenty minute sessions move to 45 minutes. Three treadmill workouts become six. Or, like the example above, you end up taking back-to-back (to back?) group classes at your gym to burn a few extra calories. Unfortunately, doing too much steady-state cardio is counterproductive because it can eventually also eat away at muscle. Muscle is metabolic and you want to balance resistance training with your cardio. Absolutely make sure you get one or two strength training days in so you can keep your lean muscle and continue burning fat.
>> Steady-state cardio is indeed a valuable fat-loss tool but like anything else you must use it in moderation. If you do three cardio sessions per week, mix in at least one high-intensity interval training session (HIIT), which has been shown to burn more fat, while preserving more muscle. Also, make sure that regular resistance training remains part of your schedule!
2. Not Going Heavy Enough: If you’re not weight training you should be. And if you are, increasing the weight every week, even if it’s a few pounds, is important to keep the body guessing and not plateauing. If you feel like you’ve really maxed out and don’t want to risk not fitting in your skinny jeans, then try new exercises, reduced rest periods, new intensity techniques (such as supersets), or do circuit training for a while for a fresh change. And in this previous blog, I wrote about the unfounded fears of women getting “too big.” It’s just not a valid concern – even ladies need to be adding weight to the bar to induce change!
>>Don’t get into the habit of lifting the same weight for the same amount of reps every week. Force yourself to add weight each week (or every few weeks) so that your muscles can respond positively. Lean muscle is generally had by sticking to a weight that brings about failure around 10-12 reps, meaning you should be able to do 10 but if you can do more than 12, you need to increase weight.
3. Exercising Too Much: If one workout can help me lose weight today, then imagine what two or three can do! Your body doesn’t change when you train – it changes as it recovers. If you overdo it, you increase your body’s production of cortisol, a muscle-wasting, fat-storing, fatigue-inducing hormone that you want to minimize at all costs! I had a 20-year-old kid in my mixed martial arts academy that would take three different classes in a row to round out his skills. I warned him about overtraining and he kept on doing it. Three months later, his results had stagnated and he finally got injured. This was unfortunately, obviously — it was a lesson learned the hard way.
>> Some common signs of overtraining include increased resting heart rate, prolonged muscle soreness, sleeplessness, lack of motivation, degraded strength and performance and even depression. If you’re experiencing any of these things, it’s time to pull back on your aggressive training schedule or just take a week-long break to see if any of these symptoms subside.
4. Not Tracking Progress: Research has shown that tracking any part of your fitness helps improve results. I like using MyFitnessPal to track the number of workouts I get in each week and my food. It’s made a big difference for me in my consistency and has also helped me to make more effective and specific changes to my training and nutrition.
>> Write down measurable fitness goals and evaluate them constantly to see where you are. And there is a ton of wearable fitness tech, like FitBits, available now that you can use to make it all easier!