5 Reasons You Can't Lose Fat. Image credit: kayak57
To lose fat, you have to eat less calories and/or burn more calories. That's what it will always come down to: create a caloric deficit and you'll lose fat. Even the 8 nutrition rules create a caloric deficit for fat loss by limiting starchy carbs.
But if losing fat is that simple, how come so many people struggle with fat loss? Because they're not eating less calories and/or burning more calories. Here are 5 reasons why you struggle to lose fat that will illustrate this point.
1. You're Underestimating How Much You Eat. If you can't lose fat, you're eating too much calories. I know you think you don't eat a lot, but you are. Otherwise you wouldn't struggle with fat loss.
Since people are bad at estimating calories, an easy way to know how much you're eating is to track your daily caloric intake for 10 days using fitday. Be honest and track everything, including junk meals.
To lose fat, you should eat about 13kcal/lb (11kcal/lb if you're a woman). That's 2600kcal/day if you're 200lbs and exercise 3x/week. Anything more, you won't lose fat. You might even need to eat less than 13kcal/lb.
2. You're Overestimating How Much You Burn. People usually do low intensity cardio. This burns about 6kcal/min or 1080kcal/week if you do 45mins of cardio 4x/week at lower intensities (less than 65% of your max heart rate).
1080kcal is the equivalent of a quarter pounder with medium french fries and a medium coke. So eating 1 regular size junk meal will make your 4x45mins low intensity cardio insignificant. Your caloric deficit is gone with 1 meal.
You'll only get away with a crappy diet if you do lots of high intensity cardio. Like Michael Phelps: muscular physique, 8% body fat, crappy diet. NY post reported Phelps ate 12000kcal/day mostly from pizza, pancakes & energy drinks.
Phelps gets away with this because he swims 6x/week for 4-6h/day and at high intensities. He burns everything. But if you're like me, you don't have the time to train that much. And you also can't train at the same intensity.
So cardio won't prevent the fat gains from unhealthy food choices. You'll have to eat healthy to lose fat and maintain a healthy body fat.
3. You're Starving Yourself. You have to eat less and/or burn more calories to lose fat. But if you cut calories too much, your fat loss can slow down and stop.
Cut calories by maximally 20% below maintenance for fat loss. So 13kcal/lb for men or 11kcal/lb for women. And always stay above these minima:
- Men: eat at least 1800cal/day
- Women: eat at least 1200cal/day
If you have to get lower to create a caloric deficit: stay at the minima and burn extra calories using cardio. Avoid starvation: it slows down metabolism, burns muscle and causes hunger. You'll binge and regain everything you lost.
4. You Think You're Eating Healthy, But Aren't. Don't trust what the packages say. Labels like "low fat" or "low carb" or "whole grain" are no guarantees. You have to read the ingredient lists.
- An organic donut remains a donut. It's junk food.
- Low fat foods are often high in sugar. Check low fat mayonnaise.
- Whole grain foods are rarely 100% whole grain. Check breads & pasta.
Eat whole, unprocessed foods the majority of the time. The less processed, the better. Rule of thumb: if a caveman couldn't eat it, neither should you.
5. You Think You're Different. To lose fat, you have to eat less calories and/or burn more calories. Even people blessed with a fast metabolism and who don't gain fat easily, need a caloric deficit for fat loss.
Stop thinking that you're different. Stop looking for special fat loss techniques. Unless you create a caloric deficit, you won't lose fat.