Have you been training consistently, eating right, but aren’t losing fat? Troubleshooting fat loss fits into two categories: simple issues and complex issues. The simple issues address the hidden things you may not be aware of. Once you fix those things and give it all you’ve got, the fat will start to melt away.
Complex issues tend to have to do with hormonal or metabolic imbalances that mean your body is not be functioning as it should. If it’s broken, all the sprints, intense training, and low-carb clean eating in the world aren’t going to get you where you want to be. This article will address both.
Reason #1: Not Restricting Carbohydrates Enough
Low-carb, high-protein diets are effective for fat loss. This is a scientific fact. But, low-carb is a vague term. Simply halving the U.S. RDA of 300 grams a day could be considered low-carb, however if you are carb sensitive, you need to go a whole lot lower.
A review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests the 50 to 150 g/day range is too high for fat loss, and the authors provide a useful definition of less than 50 grams of carbs a day as ideal for fat loss. This will lead to the production of ketones—the body is no longer relying on glucose for its fuel source—and significant metabolic benefits.
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.
Reason #2: Not Weight Training Properly
Troubleshooting your training is out of the scope of this article, however, for fat loss you need to train fairly heavy with the intention of maintaining muscle and strength during fat loss phases. 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 additional sprint or strongman workouts for fat loss so that your focus in the gym is on maintaining strength and muscle mass.
Reason #3: Doing Cardio Instead of Intervals or Strongman
Sprint training is a powerful fat loss tool that gives you back considerably more in terms of fat loss than the effort required. In contrast, doing steady-state cardio, particularly on machines that emit dirty electricity and compromise insulin sensitivity, is unlikely to give you good results.
Research suggests steady-state aerobic training is not only ineffective for fat loss, but can actually detrimental. For example, a 2006 study that followed runners found that the majority gained fat over the 10-year study period. The only ones who didn’t increase body fat significantly increased either their training intensity or weekly mileage over the course of the study.
Reason #4: A Bad Gut
A poorly functioning gut is sure to inhibit fat loss efforts. The main culprits to look for in troubleshooting a bad gut are the following:
• Low stomach acid—avoid antacids and try digestive enzymes.
• Bad bacteria—take a probiotic.
• Chronic inflammation in the gut—caused by low fiber intake or food sensitivities, such as gluten or dairy intolerance.
Reason #5: A Nutrient Deficiency
There are not a lot of randomized-controlled trials testing the effect on body fat loss of treating a nutrient deficiency like vitamin D. However, there are numerous studies showing an association between greater body fat percentage and a vitamin D deficiency. The same goes for other nutrients: low magnesium and fish oil intake are both linked with obesity.
Solve these by getting a blood test for micronutrient deficiencies and reading up on fat intake with the link at the end of this article.
Reason #6: Not Sleeping Enough
The amount of sleep people need is very individualized, but lack of it mucks up all your fat loss efforts. Studies show people feel hungrier, make poorer food choices, and eat more (as much as 300 calories a day) when they are tired. Plus, insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance drop when sleep deprived, and the body shifts (or stays) in fat storage mode.
Men experience an acute drop in testosterone when they are sleep deprived, and both sexes suffer from lower growth hormone release since you experience the bulk of GH release during sleep. In addition, lack of sleep leads to high cortisol, inhibiting the body’s ability to burn fat. If you can’t make sleep a priority, you may never lose the fat.
Troubleshoot lack of sleep by making sure you sleep in complete darkness, turn off electronics an hour before bed, develop a bedtime ritual (try a grateful log), and consider using natural sleep aids like a topical magnesium cream or inositol.
Reason #7: You’re Stressed Out All The Time
Pay attention to this one! The effect of stress is often under-appreciated for its role in fat loss. 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 dysregularion of the hypothalamic pituitary axis, which means the body’s 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.
Reason #8: A Medical Condition: Anemia or Insulin Resistance
Medical issues such as anemia, which is the body’s ability to carry oxygenated blood to the cells and muscles, can stymie your fat loss efforts. Low iron or low B12, both of which are extremely common deficiencies, lead to anemia—women are especially susceptible.
Taking certain medications, or having insulin resistance, chronically low blood sugar, hypothyroidism, and other medical issues all keep the body from losing fat. These are complex physiological issues, and you need a functional doctor who can help you.
Reason #9: Your Meal Frequency Is Off: Low Blood Sugar
Intermittent fasting is all the rage, and many people report it helps with body composition. However, if it’s not working for you, or you’re a female of reproductive age, you may experience much better fat loss results from eating 5 or 6 meals a day for more stable blood sugar management.
The reason is that when you don’t eat, you often experience low blood glucose, or hypoglycemia, during which adrenaline is released to elevate blood sugar to keep you going. This leads to sharp elevations in glucose and insulin, causing insulin resistance and impeding fat loss. Hypoglycemia can also lead to chronically imbalanced hormone production—a classic example of a “broken” body.
Ladies, be aware that there’s also evidence that intermittent fasting and hypoglycemia can inhibit fertility and lead to more negative physiological changes than in women than men experience. Intermittent fasting is not all golden for men either—rodent studies suggest skipping meals can produce adrenal dysfunction.
Reason #10: Something Else…
• A Sedentary Lifestyle despite working out regularly. Gene signaling, protein synthesis, and insulin sensitivity all plummet when you are immobile. Move more, get a standing desk, and donate your TV.
• A Blindspot in Your Diet. Are you vegetarian, eating more than you think, or eating the same things daily? Do an honest food diary and have a dietitian or BioSignature trainer experienced in fat loss look it over.
• Not Eating Real Food. This one’s a no-brainer and easy to fix. Trade all low-carb processed or packaged food (Atkins, etc.) for fresh, whole food—organic meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats.
• A High Toxic Load from NSAIDs, alcohol, BPA, or other chemicals. There are not many randomized trials on how chemicals and drugs affect fat loss, but we do know that people with higher BPA levels in their urine have much more body fat. In addition, various chemicals disrupt the endocrine system, leading to high estrogen and greater body fat. Prescription drug use can produce fat gain, and simply taking NSAIDs can decrease insulin sensitivity and damage the gut.
Use natural products, eliminate alcohol and NSAID intake, and avoid artificial sweeteners.