Alongside backing up their benchpress claims and re-racking their weights after use, dieting seems to be one of the things that gym-goers and enthusiasts often struggle with. Let’s face facts, anyone can train. Training is the easy part. The diet however, is where the majority of those who set out on the journey of continuous self-betterment fail and miserably so.
Whether it be due to a lack of dedication, willpower or simply misinformation, people always fall short of their expected results. It’s always the same. One minute everyone’s stomachs are burning with fiery flames of enthusiasm and passion. The next? The flames have been doused by every dieter’s worst and most dangerous enemy: a lack of results. After the first few weeks have gone by and people aren’t seeing the quick results that they want, they give in. Everyone these days just seems to want quick results, without putting in the work which is necessary in order to achieve them. They want secrets, they want shortcuts, they want anything. Anything except having to work hard – and that is ultimately, why they fail.
But I’m going to break it down further. If you fit into this category. If you have fallen on and off of your diet due to a lack of results, then it is time to address the issue. Whether it be a struggle for you to see any results at all, to you being someone who is stuck near the end, desperately trying to melt away the last few overhanging edges. This list covers factors from every aspect of the road to being lean!
Here they are, the 7 things which could be hindering your fat loss:
#1: Not training intensely enough
If you aren’t already aware, training intensely with weights and achieving the stimulation and failure of your muscles, causes your metabolism to encounter a boost for a considerable time period after the completion of your workout. You may have heard of this being referred to as ‘the afterburn effect’ or something similar, but I strongly dislike giving things fad-like names to make them appeal to the mainstream public. So for the purposes of this article, I will be referring to this boost in metabolism as simply that: a boost in metabolism, no need to try and make things sound cooler or more complicated.
The effect can be very much used to your advantage, especially if – like the rest of us – you’d rather not drop into poverty macros within the first week of your prep or diet. This temporary boost in metabolism can be extended by regularly training intensely and to failure. So if you’re training regularly and intensely, you will be utilising this metabolic boost more frequently, thus meaning that your caloric intake can stay exactly where it is but you will still drop fat, because your body is burning through them more quickly and efficiently. The same boost can also be stimulated through HIIT and fasted steady state cardio and regularly feeding your body, so when all of these factors are combined, you will, in theory, be able to keep your metabolism constantly boosted.
Now here’s one which I’m sure a lot of you won’t want to hear. Alcohol provides the body with what is known in the world of nutrition as ‘empty calories’ (7 calories per gram), which basically translates to calories without any nutritional values. Albeit, some alcohols – such as lager – also contain carbohydrates, these won’t be used efficiently and they certainly aren’t an optimal source.
The reason for this is because the body’s primary focus upon alcohol ingestion will be to synthesise it. Thereby meaning, the body will focus on using these calories as energy. And combining this with an increased appetite – which alcohol has also been proven to provide – means that you are likely to eat more and let’s be real here, those extra calories aren’t going to be accounted for. So you’re effectively causing the body to focus on breaking down and using the alcohol, and then the food which comes as a by-product of this alcohol consumption, as an energy source, rather than your stored body-fat.
Long story short: alcohol can hinder and even prevents fat loss, and in more ways than one!
#3: Overusing refeeds/cheat meals and thinking they are necessary for fat loss
In my opinion, the sole purpose of a refeed, whether it be using ‘clean’ foods or junk, is to replenish previously depleted glycogen stores. Okay so we’ll add another purpose on top of that: they relieve you; almost save you, from boring and mundane diet foods. But from a physical, rather than a mental standpoint, refeeds should be used to restore your glycogen stores and that is it.
The issue that most people have with refeeds is that they plain and simply overuse them. Think about it, if you haven’t restricted your calories (mainly carbohydrates) and/or increased your cardio and training intensity, your glycogen stores are going to be relatively full. If you then decide that you need a refeed – which 9/10 people will, because god forbid they go 1 week without one, that will lead to a total loss of GAINZ! But yeah, if you decide to have that refeed when your glycogen stores aren’t depleted, all of that extra glucose will have nowhere to be stored. Burning all of it off is out of the question. So what happens to it? Your body stores it as fat through a process called lipogenesis, to be used as energy at a different time.
This one doesn’t just hinder fat loss, it can actually be a lot worse, and lead to fat gain!
#4: Deficiency of micronutrients
Micronutrients are one of the most overlooked aspects in bodybuilding. Everyone knows what macronutrients are, well most people do – you never know in this day and age. Macros are among the forefront of simplicities. They are one of the first, if not the first things you learn as you take your first steps in your bodybuilding journey. They’re just basic nutrition and they form the base of any diet plan.
However, micronutrients? Not so much. People have a tendency to disregard overall health when it comes to dieting, meaning that micronutrients are forgotten. When in actuality, they are vital to not only general health, but also to making progress in your physique. Without the required vitamins and minerals, your body will not function optimally in terms of anything. Be it muscle building, fat burning or fighting off an illness. A deficiency of these vital nutrients is never a good thing and if you want to maximise your results, I would advise getting a good amount of micronutrients. Even if it makes a tiny little difference, that’s one tiny little difference in your physique and in the art of bodybuilding, every subtle difference counts.
#5: Lack of hormonal manipulation
I believe that even as a natural athlete, competitor or not, one can benefit greatly from setting up a diet around your hormones. The main one in terms of this article being: growth hormone. If you are unaware, your natural growth hormone is produced in its highest quantities whilst you are sleeping. If you consume carbohydrates upon waking with your first meal, you halt growth hormone production in your body by spiking your insulin levels. The two hormones counteract each other, when one is active the other is greatly reduced. So first thing in the morning, when your blood sugar is low, growth hormone levels are high and insulin levels are low. This, from a fat-burning standpoint, is ideal.
From an anabolic standpoint, first thing in the morning is when your body is more susceptible to carbohydrates due to these low insulin levels and spiking your insulin here can be beneficial towards muscle growth as insulin is the most anabolic hormone in your body. But to make the most of fat burning, especially if you are starting to hit plateaus, I would recommend avoiding carbohydrates for your first and even second meals wherever possible – consuming just protein and fats in these meals.
This is a simple trick which you can use to help your body burn fat for longer.
#6: BCAA’s and excess protein
I bet you just read that heading and thought ‘what?!’… But let me go into this one in a little detail. This one is mainly aimed at those who are rigorously tracking their carbohydrate intake in more specifically, when said intake is rather low.
Upon translation – the process in which cellular ribosomes create proteins – amino acids are incorporated into proteins, which are made available for the body to utilise during the reparation of bodily tissues. This, in layman’s terms, means that BCAA’s are in fact ‘good for recovery’ as so many labels and ‘gurus’ state.
So now you are wondering: ‘so how could they possibly hinder fat loss?’ well, here’s your answer:
After the body has made use of proteins to structure red blood cells, regulate enzymes and hormones and repair bodily tissues, and you continue to ingest protein or BCAA’s, what do you think happens to any excess protein? Contrary to the popular belief – which by the way leaves me dumbfounded every time someone I hear it’s mention in a serious manner – you don’t just ‘sh*t it out’ or excrete it, to be more politically correct. No. Your body is smarter than that. It doesn’t want to simply discard something which could be useful in the near future, it wants to do the exact opposite: store it.
The excess protein is converted, believe it or not, into glucose – the same thing that carbohydrates are converted to in the body. The process is called gluconeogenesis, during which the body converts amino acids firstly into alpha keto acids and then to glucose, with both processes occurring in the liver. And here’s where the ‘low carb’ aspect comes into play. The excess glucose then needs to be either used or stored. So if you mistime your consumption, the excess glucose will not be used during exercise and it will then be stored in your glycogen stores. Then when you bring refeeds into the equation, it will be quite easy to spill over and cause the body to store excess glucose as body fat – as I mentioned in number 3.
So, through overusing BCAA’s and overconsuming protein, you could actually, in essence, be taking in more carbohydrates than you think after the aforementioned conversion processes. And it is all overcomplicated by refeeds, because your glycogen stores are already fuller than you think, resulting in spilling over. The take home: BCAA’s, when mistimed, could be hindering or slowing your fat loss.
#7: Lack of dedication and drive – do it for you!
This one requires no explanation. I touched on it briefly at the start of the article. The final reason on my list of possible things which could be hindering your fat loss is, plan and simply: you don’t want to. Or rather, you want to at first, but after realising how hard dieting is you decide that you don’t want to and instead, you perma-bulk!
The main reason people fall off like this when things get tough, is because they aren’t doing it for themselves. They aren’t doing it for the betterment of themselves or their goals, they’re doing it to fit in. If you really want something bad enough, you’ll go out there and get it. Irrespective of how long it takes and how hard things get, you will keep moving forward. And those who seek their motivation from external sources – as I’ve touched on in one of my other articles – often fall off track and give in.
Overcome the Difficulties
In conclusion, if you’re going to diet either for a show, for summer, for your holiday or even just for general health purposes, make sure that the first thing you do is become your own motivation. If you’re doing it for yourself you’ll never fall off of the road to glory.
And if the road gets a little bumpy along the way as you start to hit some sticking points, use the tools and information that you have discovered in this article to get you over those hurdles. Bodybuilding is all about having an analytical mind. You have to be capable of focusing on minutia details and making minutia adjustments, but as I said earlier: it is more often than not these small details which make a huge difference. And being able to formulate plans based on the small details in bodybuilding, is an essential tool to be put in use when carving your perfect self.