The Six Ways You May Be Compromising Your Fat Loss Plan

While it is important to find, and consistently apply, well tested training principals in an attempt to grow larger and stronger, we must also be open to suggestion and must also explore more effective alternatives to standard approaches; unorthodox workout protocols may be assessed for their ability to boost our in-gym productivity and much trial and error is to be experienced before we hit on an approach that promises monolithic muscle gains via a tailored system geared for maximizing training efficiency and muscle recovery.

Unfortunately, many of us become stuck in our ways, too afraid to navigate uncharted training waters for fear of compromising the gains we have devoted much of our time to achieving.

The problem is we may have hit upon the wrong methods. Take fat loss. Whatever we do will for the most part procure the results we want… at first. Endless miles of steady state cardio, ultra-low-fat eating, and even intermittent fasting may have us ripped and ready in rapid fashion. Then there are fat loss mistakes that even the most ardent of trainees continue to make; such faulty practices proliferate because well-meaning people have convinced themselves of their efficacy.

Whether standard weight loss approaches unmodified over time, or fat burning methods to be completely avoided, a combination of these will often work, to an extent. But diminishing returns are soon experienced. Then we are left trying to determine from our mishmash of training eclecticism what is effective and what must be relegated to the bodybuilding scrapheap.

Rather than experiencing more error than trial and, worse still, continuing our losing ways unimpeded, we must instead fully equip ourselves with the knowledge we need to consistently stay on the right weight loss track. The following are six fat loss mistakes we may encounter. Avoid them at all costs.

1. Failure To Modify


As we steadily progress with our training we may begin to assume that what we have done to achieve our objectives may continue to be used to procure further results. As most experienced trainees know, this is not the case at all. There comes a time when program modification is needed; and this pattern of adjustment must continue to be employed for however long we continue to train.

Take steady state cardio (where a moderate pace is maintained for the full duration of our low impact aerobic sessions), for example: this approach may initially help to obliterate fat stores (for up to 6-7 months in most cases), but soon enough we may encounter the dreaded training plateau, after which negligible fat loss may come at a snail’s pace. So, rather than suffering further mediocre gains, begin to incorporate some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), decrease your rest between sets, periodically increase your resistance training volume, or combine all of these methods (and any others not listed here) to renew your fat burning success. The take away lesson: repeat the same weight loss approach continuously and you may eventually experience training stagnation, so always look to modify your program (whether nutrition or training related).

2. Low Intensity


As the old saying goes, “slow and steady wins the race”: but this maxim, as pertinent as it can be in other contexts, such as goal attainment and decision making, can effectively be ignored when it comes to effective fat burning. Low intensity approaches to fat loss do work to a point. Moderately-paced cardio, for example, will carve excess adipose, as will straight sets resistance training with longer rest periods. But to ensure further metabolic increases in your attempt to shrink wrap skin to muscle you must upgrade your efforts and work increasingly harder, the longer you train. The ways to generate maximum training intensity are endless: various intensity methods can be read about on this site as can the fundamentally important lean-body prerequisite HIIT.

One mistake you must not make is to back off the intensity when aiming to lose unwanted bodyweight; yes, steady state cardio and moderately intensive approaches to weight training do have their place, but nothing can replace good old fashioned hard work, consistently applied, to encourage great results. Remember: if you are sweating and your muscles are burning, chances are you are getting the job done.

3. Eating Too Few Calories


One commonly made weight loss mistake is to substantially lower our calories in an attempt to deplete fat stores. While reducing unnecessary saturated fats, simple sugars and completely cutting worthless trans-fats will strengthen your fat burning efforts you must also avoid an excessive reduction in calories which may, in turn, encourage the down-regulation of your metabolism through muscle losses and decreased thermogenesis.

An easy mistake to make, as, in many cases, the longer we diet, the more our appetite may plummet, and the greater our weight-gain paranoia may grow with every morsel consumed, caloric restriction can play havoc with our strength gains and may, in fact, reverse the fat loss process. By dropping too far below our daily caloric maintenance level we also run the risk of significantly depleting our energy reserves, and with little training fuel our workouts may not be conducive to the massive micro trauma needed to build muscle tissue (thus further thwarting fat burning through the lowered metabolic activity associated with muscle losses).

When embarking on your fat loss mission, be sure to avoid cutting back on naturally occurring fats found in steak and other animal products (these are needed for hormone production and a healthy nervous system, among other important biological functions); rather, gradually reduce carbohydrates, in particular the simple variety, and fatty/sugary snack foods, to drive caloric intake down. Keep your intake of clean foods high and continue to manipulate (stagger) your calories without dropping below 1500-2000 (depending on your muscle to fat ratio and total body weight).

4. Going Low Protein


That quality protein is the most important dietary component for hard training bodybuilders cannot be questioned. When aiming for single-digit body fat levels our protein consumption becomes even more essential and is to be even more closely monitored. While in the off-season we may escape the detrimental effects of the occasional missed serving of protein due to the protein sparing effect of our higher carbohydrate and fat diet, we must achieve our full complement of daily protein come shredding time (1-2 g per pound of lean body mass across 5-6 daily meals).

In their haste for fast fat loss results, some trainees indiscriminately cut their calories so as to draw energy from stored body fat. Wrong move. While we may manipulate our intake of carbohydrates and fats to enhance lipolysis, protein must always be kept high; this key building nutrient is one fat loss variable that must never be subject to change. By keeping our protein levels high, we ensure that our metabolism does not waver (as well as being lower in calories (4 per gram) compared with fats (9 per gram) and having a negligible effect on insulin release, unlike carbohydrates, protein will also boost our metabolic rate faster than any other nutrient).

Further, a sufficient protein intake will keep our muscles growing, itself a highly metabolically active process which may greatly boost our fat burning potential. So, when planning your shape-up nutrition plan, never cut total calories: instead, selectively control your carbohydrate and fat consumption while keeping protein high (at off season levels or even slightly higher).

5. Curtailing the Iron

An oftentimes tremendously mentally and physically draining experience, achieving superior conditioning (as opposed to simply ‘getting in shape’) may have us taking shortcuts because of our low energy levels. One shortcut we must never take, which also happens to be one mistake that is all too frequently made, is to drop our weight training intensity.

When training for paper thin skin, many of us automatically defer to the purported fat burning benefits of cardio. Unfortunately, because of this propensity to overdo aerobic training we may not have the energy needed to target our muscles with full ferocity. Responsible for keeping the fat burning process ticking along due to the enhanced metabolic activity they promote, our muscles (the bigger the better) are an essential component in the shredding process. By reducing our resistance output we risk de-conditioning our muscles and any attendant metabolic drawbacks. Never compromise your muscle development and strength levels; doing so may only make fat burning all the more difficult, regardless of how many hours you devote to the treadmill.

6. A Single Cardio Approach


A reliance on steady state cardio is one mistake many make in their quest for an enviable shape. Though initial fat loss is likely to occur through longer duration (40 minutes or more) aerobic work of between 60-70% of our maximal heart rate, our bodies quickly become accustomed to this level of intensity, and gains begin to slow.

Instead of drilling the steady state, mix in circuit work (in which our working heart rate is momentarily elevated by around 20-30BPM) and explore other cardio options. Stagger your aerobic training approaches so 2-3 different types are completed throughout the week to keep your body guessing. Further, by periodically elevating your cardio intensity levels, your metabolism will be increased and maintained at a higher rate for longer (in some cases for up to 24 hours after your last intensive cardio session).

To Falter is to Fall

Settling for ‘good enough’ when sublime conditioning is possible is one fat burning mistake many make. And it is easy to see why. Achieving an optimal shape is hard work, and to strip body fat to minuscule levels, attention to detail must be your primary consideration. Trouble is, when in the throes of heavy duty shredding we may become depleted, a state of mental and physical exhaustion which may lead to us adopting certain misguided bodybuilding practices, irrespective of how illogical and downright destructive they may be.

Do not settle for second best by committing the above-listed mistakes, all of which may derail your weight loss efforts. These will only make harder the difficult task of shaving your excess adipose. Let these mistakes guide your progress as you become leaner and harder than ever. Only then will you have learned to separate bodybuilding fact from fiction and your uncharted conditioning will be your ultimate reward.

David Robson

A respected health and fitness writer, David has been published in industry publications such as Status Fitness Magazine, Muscle & Fitness and With 20 years in the personal training trenches, the insights he has gained through practical experience, alongside degrees in psychology and sports science, have enabled him to go beyond the surface to provide educational articles that have informed thousands of health and fitness devotees the world over. Contact David at: and at

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