In our last article, we talked about the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to building muscle. But what about when it comes to losing fat?
There will inevitably come a time when you want to drop a few layers off your midsection. Whether you spent the last 6 months bulking up and now want to show off your newfound gains, or you let yourself go a bit too much over the last few years, and now you want to reclaim that college 6-pack – knowing how to effectively lose fat is important.
On the surface, fat loss is pretty straightforward: eat fewer calories than you burn, exercise – do those things consistently – and you’ll set yourself up for a pretty easy cut.
However, where most people fall short – and why losing fat often becomes more challenging for them – is because they’re making one of these four common fat loss mistakes…
1. You’re just ‘eating clean.’
I hear this one all the time: Someone comes to me, struggling to lose fat. When I ask what their diet looks like, the only thing they can tell me is “I eat clean.”
Clean eating is great in theory, but not so much in practice.
While eating whole, minimally processed foods a majority of the time is a great move for your overall health, it leaves out the most important component of fat loss: Calories.
It doesn’t matter how clean you eat, if you’re eating too many calories, you will not lose fat.
Yes, adopting a clean eating approach can help you naturally reduce your calorie intake by eating more filling, less calorically-dense foods. But if you’re still eating more calories than your body needs from those foods, it doesn’t matter.
If you’re struggling to lose fat, and not tracking your calories, start with that.
2. Not Eating Enough Protein
Studies have shown high protein diets to be one of the most effective for fat loss.
Why? Two reasons.
One, a high protein diet is very satiating – meaning it will help keep you full and greatly reduce hunger. The less hungry you are, the fewer cravings you’ll have and the less likely you’ll be to succumb to snacking and overeating.
Two – and more importantly – a high protein diet helps you retain lean muscle mass.
Muscle is the most metabolically active tissue in the body, meaning it takes the body more calories to maintain it. That means the more muscle you have, the more calories you can eat and still lose fat.
But because of that, muscle is also very easy to lose in the absence of adequate protein intake. And since muscle is what gives our bodies their lean shape, trying to lose weight without eating enough protein is only going to lead to you looking like a smaller but still soft and fat version of where you are now.
Aim to eat about 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight each day.
3. Only Focusing On Exercise
Reality check: Exercise by itself is a terribly ineffective way to lose fat; for two reasons:
First, exercise doesn’t burn as many calories as our Fitbits, Apple Watches, or treadmills claim. There is simply no way to accurately measure how many calories we burn through activity with these at-home devices due to the large number of factors involved in calculating calorie output.
Second, while an hour of intense, physical activity may burn 600-800 calories, the more you perform that activity, the fewer calories you burn; as your body becomes more efficient at it. This means you have to workout harder and longer to continue to get the same effect. And let’s face it, none of us have the time, commitment, or energy to be at the gym 1-2 hours a day, 7 days per week. Nor would our bodies let us do that for very long.
The old adage of “You can’t out-exercise a bad diet” is true for a reason: Because you can’t.
Your diet is what drives fat loss. Exercise is there to help us improve performance, build muscle, improve flexibility, and feel better. Whatever calories you burn is just a bonus.
4. Eating Out Too Much
I’ve worked with over 600 clients, and if there’s one thing I know to be universally true, it’s that the less control you have over your meals, the slower and more inconsistent your progress is going to be.
My goal with my clients is to help them get the results they want with the most flexible nutrition plan possible, so they can enjoy their favorite foods and not feel like they’re deprived or restricted. But that doesn’t mean they’re free to go out to eat every single night.
When you cook meals at home, you’re 100% in control of your food. You control the ingredients and amounts, which therefore allows you to control the number of calories you eat.
But when you’re eating away from home, you control very little. Which can lead to a lot of extra calories sneaking into your meals through added ingredients that you can’t account for.
Is it possible to lose fat while eating out consistently? Yes. But it takes a next-level amount of discipline and dedication. Which is why everyone is better off eating a majority of their meals at home, and saving meals out for special occasions.
Losing fat can seem daunting. It was for me for years. That was until I discovered I was making all of these mistakes over and over and over again. The same is true for most people I see. So if you’re struggling to drop the pounds and see the results you want in the mirror, take a look at what you’re doing and see if you’re falling victim to one or more of these crippling fat loss mistakes.
And if you need more help, check out this guide on the 6 Deadly Diet Sins to help you conquer your nutrition and lose fat faster.
Jorden is a cookie-loving former fat kid turned online fitness coach; who lost over 80 pounds and has now helped over 600 men and women get in better shape and improve their lives. You can find him on Instagram musing about fitness, life, and cookies.