Can’t seem to get past that weight loss plateau? Our resident health guru offers his best solutions to the four hidden health hinderances.
Food is health; exercise is fitness. Two separate concepts, yet work synergistically. One shouldn’t neglect one or the other for ultimate health and wellness, especially for weight loss purposes. If you just started an exercise plan or are working out more consistently, you may need to change how you fuel your body to get the most out of it. Some nutrition mistakes, such as drinking your calories or eating too much post-workout may be the reason why weight loss has stagnated (or inches) even though you’re giving it your all. Although getting fit and healthy isn’t just about the scale, it’s still an important motivating factor, so lets break down 4 common issues—and how to resolve them—to get you back on the path to results.
Issue 1: No idea how many calories you’re really eating
It’s common to think more exercise = more calories. However, if you’re trying to lose weight, you may be adding on as many calories as you’re burning—or more. It’s commonly observed in those who want to lose weight are eating more than anticipated, and for those intending to gain weight are eating less than anticipated. I’ve shared this parallel to personal finances in previous articles, but think about the food you’re eating and ask yourself how it fits into your total calorie allotment for the day. Determining that caloric value is very subjective and unique though to every individual, but it starts with establishing a baseline first. Just because you hit the cardio hard today doesn’t entitle you to supersize dinner. Most people have no idea how much they’re really eating until logging is introduced. Once he/she realizes how much food is being eaten, especially mindlessly, it permits an opportunity to change the routine. Be honest with yourself and your calorie needs, literally write down everything you consume. Whether you write it down old school style or use a digital app like MyFitnessPal, use that as a starting point and analyze the trends. Thus, determine if you are losing, gaining, or maintaining in a week’s time and rate your energy level. The final numbers and macronutrient proportions will probably humble you. The figures provide clues as to how to proceed, with you in the driver’s seat.
Issue 2: You’re not having a pre-workout snack
As long as an individual is getting enough balanced calories in his/her diet, the average person should have all the glycogen stores he/she needs to get through an hour-long workout, even first thing in the morning. However, eating something beforehand might give your performance a little boost. If you notice what’s called “bonking” – the sensation where you run out of glycogen and blood sugar halfway through a workout – you may benefit from a pre-workout (PWO) meal or supplement.
Some fitness magazines are starting to report actual studies on PWO nutrition needs. If you consume a small amount of carbs first, you’ll have a much stronger, more effective exercise session. More calories are likely to be burned, more calories will be used during the subsequent couple of hours (even at rest), risk of lean body mass is reduced, and studies show collectively that more body fat loss occurs compared to fasted exercise. Carbs before exercise are important whether it’s first thing in the morning or mid-afternoon. Be sure to time the PWO fifteen- to sixty-minutes prior to training, and be cautious to use a small amount of carbs – just enough to prime the pump. For example, 50–100 calories of simple carbs should be sufficient. Half a banana with peanut butter or a quarter cup of oats with fruit is few of many ideas.
Issue 3: You’re eliminating all carbs
Aren’t we all sick of hearing about low-carb plans? Yes – they can work as far as losing weight, but you’ll end up slashing your metabolism as high as 50% in as short as three months. What’s the plan after the fact? Is it practical and sustainable to follow the plan for the rest of your life? The irony is fat is burned in the flames of carbs in the body. This is why having an understanding of your metabolic needs is critical because the body is only going to use what’s needed and store the rest, and this is very unique to every individual. It’s a continuum. Anyways, far too many try to eliminate ALL forms of carbs when they’re trying to lose weight or to jump-start the process with a detox/cleanse. Not only is it risky because the strategy can backfire, nor is it enjoyable, but depleting carbs too drastically from your diet can put you at risk for using lean protein stores for energy, which ultimately can decrease your lean muscle mass. See carbs as a buffer to preserve your muscles and metabolism. Muscle is critical for positively influencing your metabolism and burning more calories even at rest. The lesson? Don’t be afraid of carbs, so eat up – within context of the day of course and understanding of your metabolic needs.
Issue 4: You’re not working out hard enough
If you notice you come home from a run only to find that you’re noticeably hungrier, consider upping the intensity of that run. A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity looked at sedentary, overweight men who either worked out at a moderate pace for 30 minutes or completed a high-intensity interval workout for the same amount of time. Those who did the intense interval exercise ate less at a subsequent meal, as well as the next day. Not every workout should be an intense interval session, but fitting in one or two a week can help turn the dial down on your appetite. Much like your nutrition, monitor your training; be as objective as possible. In order to know what to do, you have to know what you did.