6 Get Lean Mistakes You’re Making (and how to fix them!)
Trying to get lean can seem difficult and confusing. With so much information around it’s hard to figure out what’s fact and what’s not. So what’s the deal – low carb, high fat, low reps, heavy weight, light weight, high reps, low reps? It’s easy to understand why people give up in frustration. Read on to find out how to avoid some common dieting pitfalls.
MISTAKE 1: YOU GO ‘ALL OUT’ RIGHT FROM THE START
One of the fastest ways for your metabolism to hit a wall is by overdoing your activity level while on a fat loss diet. This is because your body has several mechanisms in place to try to maintain its homeostasis (its ‘current state’). When you push too hard (i.e. cardio twice a day, long duration gym or cardio workouts) during a low caloric diet, the body fights back and adapts by lowering your energy expenditure. This means a depressed metabolism and sluggish central nervous system output, which means less fat burned overall.
>> The Fix: Start your training efforts our gradually, then increase duration, difficulty and frequency as your body plateaus. It’s more beneficial to add more as you go than it is to start too much too fast and wreak havoc on your metabolism.
MISTAKE 2: REDUCING CARBS TO ZERO
Studies have shown that dietary carbohydrates are an important factor in the levels of T3, a thyroid hormone that controls metabolism. Subjects consumed zero carbohydrates for two weeks and it resulted in a 47% decline in their metabolism. Ouch!!
In addition, performance in the gym will be negatively impacted because glycogen is part of what’s used in the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the energy currency of the body. Along the same lines, 120-130 grams of carbohydrates per day has been shown to help maintain a healthy amount of T3s. The lowest amount of carbohydrates that has been shown to cause little change in the levels of T3 was shown to be 50 grams.
>> The Fix: Don’t go on a super low carb diet (especially for a long period of time). Two or three lower-carb days per week (less than 100 grams) is much more beneficial for fat loss. Don’t go lower than 50 grams.
MISTAKE 3: NOT REFEEDING
The higher your body fat levels the more circulating letpin can be found in your body. A significant part of leptin’s job is informing the brain how much energy the body has stored (body fat) and coming in (calories, specifically carbohydrates). If leptin levels are low, your brain signals the body to lower your energy expenditure (one way is through lowering your metabolism). Leptin levels can drop by 50% after a week of dieting! The other downside of low leptin – you’ll get hungry and suffering from a lot of cravings. Your body wants you to eat!
>> The Fix: Scheduling in a refeed day consisting of low-fat, high-carb meals (or even a cheat meal or two) raises leptin back up to respectable levels and prevents a drop in metabolism. The good news is, the leaner you get, the more frequently you should refeed.
MISTAKE 4: NOT ENOUGH FOOD VARIETY
Some people won’t eat fruit or dairy (for example) when on a fat loss diet. There’s no good reason to completely remove such food groups just because you want to get leaner – UNLESS you have an allergy or intolerance that causes negative consequences. Cutting out complete food groups will also lead to nutrient deficiencies, not to mention severe boredom!
>> The Fix: Take in a variety of clean, high-quality food sources such as poultry, beef, pork and fish, grains, legumes, seeds, fruits and vegetables. And, if you like dairy as I do, good quality Greek yoghurt is a perfectly healthy fat loss snack. And don’t forget good fats like avocado, nuts and coconut oil! Even saturated fats are not recognized as the evil they once were. Heck, go to town and include a little butter, cream and full fat cheese in your fat loss diet – in moderation of course!
MISTAKE 5: NEGLECTING CALCIUM
As someone who’s recently been diagnosed with osteopenia, aside from being really annoyed because of my years of weight training which is supposed to help prevent low bone density, I’ve been researching calcium quite a bit lately. I found this to be super important information you should take note of if you are on a higher protein/lower carb diet.
During a fat-loss diet, we usually increase protein while decreasing carbs and some fats. Prolonged high-protein/low-carbohydrate diets without calcium supplementation can result in a negative calcium balance. This is because the body’s acid-alkaline balance is now more acidic, and in such an environment calcium is leached from your bones. In addition it can lead to kidney stones.
>> The Fix: Be sure that you supplement with calcium plus vitamin D3 (for absorption) to help prevent bone loss.
MISTAKE 6: USING LIGHT WEIGHTS
Many women still think you should use heavy weights to build muscle and lighter weights to lose fat and “tone” up. This is not true – the rule of ‘use it or lose it’ comes into play here. A calorie deficit represents a threat to your body’s equilibrium and so its primary objective then becomes to sustain only what is needed. Unfortunately muscle isn’t a necessity and so unless lifting heavy weights your body is likely to sacrifice muscle while dieting.
>> The Fix: In order to maintain as much muscle as possible, you should continue to lift heavy loads (ie USE IT, or lose it). The same pathways that cause the increase of muscle will be used to maintain your current muscle.
*This advice is applicable for the general population, however it is important to note that everyone is individual and can respond in different ways.
I really hope you’ve found these tips to be helpful. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment on the blog if you have any questions or useful additions.