From Charles Poliquin
Are you training hard, eating right, but aren’t losing fat like you think you should be? Many things can get in the way of losing fat even when diet and training are optimal including a vitamin deficiency, a macronutrient intake that is off, too much stress, overtraining, or a food intolerance. This tip will tell you how to avoid five critical fat loss mistakes.
Mistake #1: You Are Deficient In Vitamin D
A vitamin D deficiency is associated with greater fat mass in all ages, races, and both genders. Raising vitamin D levels to the adequate range through supplementation can lead to fat loss. For example, a recent study found that women who took vitamin D for 12 weeks lost 2.7 kg of fat compared to a placebo group that lost nothing. This study didn’t modify diet or include training—the only thing different between the groups was that one took vitamin D!
During the winter and spring, surveys show that the vast majority of people develop vitamin D deficiency due to lack of sunlight, while people of color are particularly susceptible. Get a blood test for vitamin D and supplement to raise levels above 30 ng/ml. Other deficiencies to be wary of when trying to lose fat are zinc, magnesium, and fiber.
Mistake #2: You Aren’t Restricting Carbohydrates Enough
It is a scientific fact that low-carb, high-protein diets are effective for fat loss. However, depending on your sensitivity to carbs, you may have to drastically restrict your intake in order to lose fat. In a recent review of low-carb diets, researchers suggested that a useful definition of low-carb is less than 50 grams a day, and in some cases below 20 grams initially, because this will lead the body to produce ketones and burn fat.
For best results, get those 50 grams of carbs from vegetables and select fruits, such as berries, pomegranate, or kiwi. Eliminate all grains—whole and processed. Also, make sure you are eating whole foods and eliminating processed and packaged foods.
Mistake #3: You Are Under Too Much Stress
This is a big one! The effect of stress is often under-appreciated for its role on metabolism. Chronic stress is one of the most important issues to address if you’re not losing fat.
The reason is that persistent stress leads to cortisol secretion and cortisol’s primary function is to increase blood sugar (bringing with it an insulin spike) so you have enough energy to get through a stressful situation. When this becomes chronic it produces inflammation and dysregulation of the hypothalamic pituitary axis, which means the body is not working right any more. Everything is out of whack in the body and fat loss simply won’t happen.
Meditation, psychological therapy, or going to a functional medicine doctor are all things that might help, if you’re having trouble truly de-stressing your life. On a related note, if you are stressed, you probably aren’t sleeping enough, exacerbating your lack of progress!
Mistake #4: Training Errors Or Simply Too Much Cardio
Doing steady-state cardio is ineffective for fat loss, and if done excessively it can cause overtraining and produce a fat-storing hormone response. In addition, overtraining and undertraining are common obstacles to weight loss. If you’ve been lifting two-a-days in the hope of triggering fat loss, or just training too much volume for too long, you may need to back off to reset the body and let your adrenals recover so that fat loss can occur.
On the other hand, if your workouts are casual, have long rest periods, aren’t particularly challenging, or don’t make you sweat, you probably are not giving it all you could in the gym.
In general, for fat loss you should use 30- to 60-second rest periods with loads in the 70 to 85 percent of the 1RM range, multi-joint lifts, always count tempo, and keep volume high. Do a sprint interval program or strongman training to accelerate fat loss.
Mistake #5: A Food Intolerance—Gluten & Dairy Are Common
A food intolerance can impede fat loss because it leads to inflammation in the gut—a critical part of metabolism in the body. Gluten and dairy are common food intolerances, that when eliminated, results in fat loss.
You can test for a food intolerance by getting a blood test, but a simpler way is to take a week and eliminate the suspected food in question for the whole week. If you were intolerant to that food, you will likely feel better quickly and you’ll find that fat loss begins to occur.
On a related note, a poorly functioning gut is sure to inhibit fat loss efforts. Solve this by making sure you have adequate stomach acid and have good gut bacteria by taking a probiotic.
Salehpour, A., et al. A 12-Week Double-Blind Randomized Clinical trial of Vitamin D3 Supplementation on Body Fat Mass in Healthy Overweight and Obese Women. Nutrition Journal. 2012. 11, 78.
Westman, E., et al. Low-Carbohydrate Nutrition and Metabolism. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2007. 86, 276-284.