5 Weight-Loss Mistakes to Avoid

5 09 2011

 

By John Berardi, Ph.D., CSCS, and Krista Schaus, CPT

Women's

You can run eight miles without stopping, so why can’t you lose those last 10 pounds? Two nationally recognized weight-loss coaches give the skinny on this conundrum and lend their foolproof tips for getting down to size.

 

“I’ve been running for months and just can’t seem to lose any weight. Maybe I’ll never lose these extra pounds.”

“I’m doing everything right and nothing’s happening.”

“I work so hard and can’t lose a pound! What am I doing wrong?”

“Will I ever reach my goal weight?”

Having successfully coached thousands of women—from professional athletes to working moms—we can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard these quotes. It’s easy to become frustrated and confused when it comes to weight loss. So many women try their best to eat right and exercise without seeing the fruit of their efforts.

If you can relate, let’s start with the great news: you’re already doing many things right! You’re active, you’re consciously making better choices and you’re committed to fitness. There’s not a lot to change.

However, if you’ve been trying to reach a healthier weight and the pounds aren’t coming off, there are some simple changes you can make that will lead you closer to your goal. Here are the top five most common weight-loss sticking points and how to get unstuck for good.

 

1. Your Exercise Program isn’t Balanced or Intense Enough.

Running is a great way to burn calories and relieve stress. However, sometimes exercise alone won’t give you the body that you want. It’s best to complement your running with strength training and high- intensity exercise (sprinting or interval workouts).

Research shows that while endurance activities (like running at a moderate pace) burn quite a few calories during your workout, high-intensity activity forces your body to burn calories for 24 to 48 hours after the session has ended. Additionally, the only way to reshape your body is through strength and resistance training.

This means that for optimal weight loss and body transformation, you’ll need to do long-duration running, as well as high-intensity interval exercises and resistance training. Put all three together and watch the weight drop off.

 

2. Your Resistance Training isn’t Challenging Enough.

Many women have been told that lifting heavy weights means building big, bulky muscles. We’re here to set the record straight: this is complete fiction. It’s very difficult to build muscle, especially for women. Female hormones just aren’t structured to create big biceps.

The truth is, to ramp up your metabolism, you need to lift heavy weights. In fact, when performing resistance exercises, you’ll want to choose weights that are at least 70 percent of your “maximum” (i.e. the maximum amount of weight you could lift one time). This means if you can bench press 50 pounds one time, you should be using a 35-pound bar for your normal workout.

Instead of crunching numbers, you can also think of it this way: you want to be lifting a weight that feels like a seven out of 10 on the effort scale.

If you are new to resistance training, reach out to a local personal trainer or strength coach. She can help you learn proper form, determine the right weight to use and build a program best suited to your goals.

 

3. You’re Eating More Than you Think.

Sometimes we put too much emphasis on the idea that working out equals weight loss. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. In fact, recent studies from the University of Texas and Oklahoma University showed that 16 weeks of exercise alone produced a disappointing one-pound reduction in body fat.

Focusing solely on running (with little attention paid to diet) can make weight loss surprisingly difficult. Exercise ramps up our appetite and it increases the desire to reward ourselves, so it’s easy to overcompensate when we reach into the fridge.

To solve this problem, eat at least four small meals each day. By fueling the body often with nutritious foods, you’ll prevent unhealthy snacking or overeating. Your goal throughout the day should be: never starving, never stuffed.

Also, try to slow down and enjoy your food. It takes 15 to 20 minutes for the brain to perceive satisfaction, so if you rush through your meals, you’re likely to eat too much. Healthy food helps you run your best, so think of high-calorie treats as a once-a-week indulgence rather than a daily routine.

 

4. You’re Drinking too Much Sugar.

Soda, juice and sugar-heavy sports drinks can spell weight-loss sabotage. Put these to your lips and you can ingest a full meal’s worth of calories within minutes. Be honest with yourself. If you’re exercising recreationally and doing so to help lose weight, then most of the time, you won’t need those extra carbs.

Instead, choose plain water, and aim to drink about half a liter per hour of exercise. Save sports beverages for when you really need them: very hot days or during training runs that last longer than 90 minutes.

If you want something extra in your drink, try adding some sugar-free branched chain amino acids to your water. These amino acids help fuel exercise performance, recovery and weight loss without the extra calorie load.

If you crave starchy favorites, try to save these for after your run, and remember to keep the portions small (think: a golf ball or two). And choose healthier options, such as whole-grain bread and low-sugar desserts.

 

5. You’re Eating too Many Processed Carbs.

Many runners have a love affair with carbs. While carbohydrates are necessary for filling up our glycogen stores, eating too many (and the wrong types) can lead to problems managing the hormone insulin. If your insulin is out of control, it’s very difficult to lose fat.

How can you tell if a carb-rich food should be enjoyed or avoided? A simple rule of thumb: the more processed a carbohydrate, the worse it is for weight loss. Processed carbs, such as sweets and white breads, pastas and rice, typically lead to insulin surges and body-composition problems. On the other hand, unprocessed whole grains like quinoa, wild rice and barley are part of a healthy diet.

These five missteps are incredibly common. If you want to lose weight, consider which mistakes you’re making and develop a plan to help you avoid them. If you have several habits that need changing, don’t rush things along.

Choose one thing to improve and work on that for the next three to four weeks. Only once you’ve mastered one change, should you introduce another. Treat weight loss as a marathon, not a sprint—slow and steady wins the race.

 

 

Dr. John Berardi and Krista Schaus are part of the Precision Nutrition team, a group of nutrition, exercise and lifestyle professionals helping people lose fat, build lean bodies and improve their performance. To gather more weight-loss tips, check out their free online, five-day video course for women at precisionnutrition.com/fat-loss-for-women.

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