Q: Hi. I am 18 and weigh 140 lbs (10 st). I want to lose fat before I bulk up. I’ve been doing months of circuit training 4-5 times a week, eating very healthily to around 1,600 calories. BUT I’VE SEEN NO FAT LOSS RESULTS WHATSOEVER! Please help. – Ollie
A: It sure can be frustrating to work hard and see zero results. Like Sisyphus pushing the same boulder uphill day after day, when we’re stuck in a weight loss rut, our commitment to fitness feels eternally pointless.
And normally you should be seeing fat loss with metabolic circuits, or any other type of training that involves high-intensity interval cardio and resistance exercises. But there are still a lot of reasons why your squeaky-clean fitness routine may not be working. Take a look at these five possible causes:
#1: Repeating the Same Routine.
Your body will always adapt to exercise, so you’ve got to switch it up—and ramp it up—to keep from plateauing. If you want to keep doing metabolic circuits, you need to periodically increase intensity, add reps, add weight, go longer, rest shorter… you get the gist. Spice it up every few weeks or sooner if you feel ready. Or, throw your body off balance by changing your game every month: try spinning, join a fat loss boot camp, do combat workouts, then come back to circuit training.
By the way, there’s no harm in bulking up while you burn fat, is there? If you’ve been doing metabolic circuits, which incorporate resistance exercises, you are probably already well on your way to more developed muscles. And why not do both at the same time? After all, more lean muscle mass means stronger workouts and increased fat burn!
#2: Working Out Too Much.
Yes, it’s possible to overdo it, and people commit this exercise error often. “You only need three hard workouts per week,” says Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS. That’s welcome news for those of us who can’t spare more than a couple days a week at the gym. And, in fact, if you put in more than a handful of hard, full-body workouts per week, you could be hindering fat loss.
Better to have fewer higher-intensity workouts than more ineffective ones. Remember, it’s during rest that your body builds muscle and recharges for your next high-energy workout. Without adequate rest, you won’t allow muscle recovery, you’ll wear your body down, and you could become overly fatigued and injure yourself during your workout. Check here for signs of over-exercise.
Try to avoid working the same muscle groups on consecutive days. If you want to work out every day, mix in some steady state cardio or light activity on the in-between days.
#3: Being Sedentary Outside the Gym.
Here’s an ugly truth: working out for an hour a day, but being desk-bound (or couch-bound) for eight, will leave you in worse shape than someone who doesn’t exercise at the gym but stays active in their daily life.
Joe Kita of CorePerformance was surprised to discover that a fitness buff can be “sedentary.” “Like many people, I’ve put my exercise in a box,” he says. “But outside of that box, am I really any different from all those grandmothers in housecoats watching QVC from their couch?”
If you really want to be in good shape, you’ll need to make fitness your lifestyle. Squeeze action into every minute of my day? Sounds hard! But actually, it isn’t. And CorePerformance says picking up a pedometer will help you become more aware of your activeness. We’re guessing this’ll put a halt to indulgent elevator rides and shortcuts through the grass (which No More Bacon’s Ryan Sullivan pinpoints as the real reason we’re fat).
Of course, if you’re a student or work a desk job (that covers most of us), it’s tough to be active all day. But you need to keep yourself moving. How about a 10-minute stroll/bounce/cartwheel to the water cooler and back, once an hour?
#4: Diet Missteps.
It sounds like you’re eating healthy—consuming balanced meals and keeping your caloric intake under wraps. Make sure, though, that your calorie count doesn’t fall too low: calculate your caloric need here and don’t go less than 300-500 below that to lose excess fat. If your caloric need is 2,200, for example, then you can eat between 1,700-1,900 calories. Go lower, and you’ll kill your metabolism by sending a message to your body that it needs to hold onto fat in preparation for the “famine” it expects.
Two more ways to rev up your metabolism: take a metabolism-boosting weight loss supplement and eat 5-6 small, nutritious meals a day (starting with breakfast). While you’re at it, why not try this innovative approach to eating for weight loss?
#5: Not Seeing the Bigger Picture.
If there’s a chance you might have mood imbalances, dietary imbalances or a health condition, set up an appointment with your doctor. A lot of emotional and physiological factors can cause a person to gain weight, from stress and depression to endocrine system issues. If your body is trying to send you this kind of alert, not all the dieting and exercising in the world will make a difference.
If there are no health concerns, perhaps you could simply benefit from hiring a personal trainer or weight loss coach. Many people find it’s a great investment because they learn fitness and nutrition principles that last a lifetime. A trainer can also help you pinpoint what you’re doing wrong in your routine, and arm you with simple tips to maximize fat burn. Best of all, weight loss professionals will help you create exercise and diet plans based on your body, your needs and what you have time for.
Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged! You may have to try several things before you find out what works for you. In the meantime, take a look at more ways to push past the plateau, and spend a few minutes scrolling through Cranky Fitness’s fun tips for freshening your workout plan.
If you can look at health and fitness as a lifelong journey, you’ll be more patient with your body, more committed, and better able to appreciate your successes. Believe it or not, these are three ways to get quicker weight loss results!
Still stumped? Maybe the obstacles lie below the surface. Uncover subconscious saboteurs with weight loss hypnosis.