As most who read this site know, I spent this past weekend in Atlanta, celebrating a family wedding. Between dancing my face off and singing “Im On a Boat” like T-Pain), fitness conversations came up.
The hot topic? Fat loss, and more specifically, how damn hard it is for most people.
Despite crushing my share of brisket and other Southern delicacies, one overwhelming factor stands out above all the others: Dietary consistency.
Oh, and Weekends count too.
You can’t be the dude crushing a 6-pack for every NFL game, eat chicken wings, and maximize your fat loss efforts. If you’re not consistently in a negative caloric balance, or eating less than you expend, you won’t lose body fat.
With Fat Loss on my mind, I have an excellent guest from coach Nick Smoot, whom I had the privilege to meet and hang out with at this past year’s Fitness Summit.
5 Mistakes that Will Derail Your Fat Loss Efforts by Nick Smoot
If you’re like most people, you’ve attempted to lose body fat. And you probably made some mistakes along the way.
I certainly have.
The mistakes can prevent you from reaching your ideal physique. Hey, it happens. But making mistakes can actually be a good thing.
Trial and error is the foundation that this whole “fitness” thing is built upon.
If you’re not making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and then using what you’ve learned to propel you to a higher level of success, you’re not doing things correctly.
Today’s article, focusses on the top five mistakes I’ve seen — and how to avoid them.
1. You Try to Lose Body Fat Before You’re Actually Ready to Lose Body Fat.
Sounds a little “out there,” I know. But the truth of the matter is this:
A lot of people *say* they want to lose body fat when in reality what they really want is something completely different (or at the very least, they want something else more).
And, this comes down to values.
Some people value getting bigger and stronger.
Some people value getting faster or more athletic.
Other people value drinking and partying it out with their friends.
And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. Whatever floats your boat.
The problem arises when what someone *thinks* they value (i.e. fat loss), and what they actually value (something else), don’t line up. Why?
Because values drive motivation.
They also drive habits.
And if you’re not motivated to lose body fat – or you have habits set up that are aligned with a different goal – your fat loss journey will be infinitely harder.
What to do instead: Be honest with yourself. Assess whether or not losing body fat is what you truly value (right now). If it is, go after at. If it’s not, chase what you currently value until fat loss moves up on the priority list.
- You Don’t Build a Foundation of Healthy Habits.
A lot of people think that the key to dropping body fat is having an extreme amount of willpower.
That’s not true.
In fact, I’d argue that most people who’ve achieved incredible physiques have will power no better than yours.
It’s not willpower that separates those that are successful at losing body fat, and those that aren’t.
It’s their habits.
It’s the stuff they do day in and day out that they DON’T have to think about.
Because willpower is a limited resource, and eventually it’ll burn out.
A lot of people think too much.
All that thinking leads to excess stress.
And too much stress – if not controlled and allowed to accumulate for a prolonged period of time – leads to giving up.
What to do instead: Before you start worrying about the smaller details of your fat loss plan, build a foundation of healthy habits. There are ton of habits you can choose from, but some simple ones to get you started are as follows:
- Eat a protein source with each meal.
- Don’t drink your calories.
- Fill up 1/3 of your plate with veggies.
- Drink a glass or two of water with each meal.
- Put the fork down in between bites.
- Chew slower.
- Choose whole, nutritious foods over processed, less nutritious foods 80% of the time.
- Eat with Chopsticks.
- If you think you want to dessert after dinner, wait 30 minutes and then re-evaluate if you still want it.
- Don’t bring “junk food” in to the house.
3. You Don’t Train.
Training in the weight room isn’t a necessity. Bbut not doing so will increase the difficulty of your fat loss efforts tenfold.
Because training helps you gain – and maintain – muscle mass.
Muscle mass is extremely metabolically active (i.e. it requires a lot of energy to maintain).
Carrying around more metabolically active tissue leads to an increase in metabolism, and the ability to diet on a higher food intake. Bot are extremely important.
Muscle mass is the foundation of your physique. No, scratch that, it IS your physique.
Fat loss is already difficult, time consuming, and painful.
The last thing you want to do is diet for six months, drop a bunch of body fat, and then wind up looking “skinny fat” because you don’t have enough muscle mass to fill out your physique
What to do instead: Train at least 2-3 times per week. Again, it’s not a necessity. But strength training is extremely beneficial, and probably the only activity on this planet that can dramatically change your physique.
- You Don’t Pay Attention to Calories.
“You can’t out-train a bad diet.” I’m sure you’ve heard that cliché before. But tis true. ‘You can’t train your butt off in the weight room . It’s important, but only one piece of the puzzle. You can’t ignore what you’re doing in the kitchen and expect to lose body fat.
Why? Because the energy equation matters.
If you take in more energy than you’re burning on a daily basis, you’re going to gain weight.
And if you burn more energy than you’re taking in on a daily basis, you’re going to lose weight.
People have a knack for rewarding an intense workout with extra food. That’s not to say training and consuming a bunch of nutrients isn’t important. It definitely is, and all three variables go hand in hand. But, when it comes to losing body fat, calories do – and always will – reign supreme. Never forget that.
What to do instead: Track your calories. Or at the very least, try to be consistent with the type and amount of food you’re eating on a daily basis. If you don’t measure your food intake (in some fashion), you can’t adjust it. And if you’re not making adjustments to keep yourself in a caloric deficit, you’re not going to make any progress.
- You Don’t Eat Enough Protein.
I remember someone telling me awhile back that when they eat meat, they think of it as “stealing that animal’s muscle and putting on themselves.”
Kind of a sick – yet cool – way to look at things. But the importance of eating protein cannot be overstated.
Protein is the most essential nutrient when it comes to losing body fat.
Carbs and fats are important too (balance is key), but protein is number one on the priority list because:
- It helps you maintain muscle mass while you’re in a caloric deficit.
- It keeps you full (it’s the most satiating macronutrient).
Being hungry all the time? That sucks too. Not only is it wickedly uncomfortable, but it makes your ability to withstand overeating virtually non-existent.
You can avoid all of this by eating a good amount of protein.
Of course, some people manage to lose body fat and develop a nice physique WITHOUT eating a lot of protein (barely any). But, those people are rare. And their quest to lose body fat was probably a lot harder.
What to do instead: Eat protein. If you track macros, aim for between .8 and 1.5g per pound of body weight (1g per pound of body weight makes things simple). If you don’t track macros, try to get in a protein source with each meal (the size of your palm or two palm-fulls).
Making mistakes is part of the fitness process (a valuable part), but it’d be kinda silly if we all kept making the same ones.
Don’t try to lose body fat until it’s something you currently value.
Don’t rely solely on willpower.
Don’t neglect strength training.
Don’t forget about calories.
And don’t eat a bunch of carbs and fats without eating an adequate amount of protein.
You avoid these mistakes, and you’ll be 80% of the way towards reaching your fat loss goals.
Nick Smoot is a strength coach and nutrition consultant out of Newport News, VA. He got his start in the fitness industry back in 2012, and since then he’s spent countless hours helping clients become the best versions of themselves possible. In his free time, he enjoys lifting heavy things, eating, writing, traveling, nerding out on Harry Potter, and eating.