What's Holding Back Your Weight Loss

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So you have been working out consistently for a while now, but you just can't seem to shed those few extra pounds. You go to the gym and make sure your diet is full of healthy foods. But for some reason you just can't seem to lose that extra body fat. Let’s take a moment to discuss a few things that may be impeding your weight loss success. 

#1 Not enough sleep.

Sleep is an important part of the body’s general health, and plays a unique part in weight loss. Sleep helps regulate hormones, like cortisol, a hormone produced during stress that encourages fat storage, as well as those hormones that regulate protein synthesis (i.e. HGH, Testosterone, and IGF-1.). Lack of sleep has also been shown to decrease leptin levels and increase ghrelin levels, two hormones that help manage hunger in the body and could cause the body to crave extra calories. When your body suffers from a lack of sleep hormone function is not optimal, and can lead to your body holding on to stubborn body fat.

Sleep also lets us recover from daily stresses. When you don't get enough sleep, your body lacks the time it needs to recover and function properly. This can lead to less muscle growth and repair from all your hard work in the gym. Additionally, being tired kills your motivation to even hit the gym. 

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. If you struggle with this goal try to identify what may be causing your restless nights:

  • If you have a tough time quieting your mind journal for a few minutes, or make tomorrow’s TO DO list right before bed.

  • If you feel like you wake up too often to use the restroom, cut back on liquids an hour or two before bed.

  • If you suffer from aches and pains that keep you awake you may want to try a hot bath with lavender immediately before bed.

  • In addition, create a daily routine that sets you up for sleep success. Finish your last cup of caffeine at least 6 hours before bedtime. Finish dinner 2-3 hours before bedtime. Also, finish exercising 2 hours before.

#2 Diet drink and artificial sugars.

Sugar has been blasted as one of the major culprits of the obesity epidemic.  In an effort to reduce their sugar intake, individuals look to diet drinks and artificial sugar to kick the sugar habit.  However, these items are not necessarily the healthier substitute for their sugar counterpart. Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, have been shown to be up to 200 times sweeter than regular sugar. This triggers sweetness receptors in the brain to crave sugar, making it harder to avoid sugary foods and only firming up your sweet tooth and possibly causing you to overeat.

The first recommendation is to give up all sugary drinks or to consume them sparingly.  However, if you still need some sweetness in your life try making your own drinks.  You can add sliced fruits and berries to your water, sip on green tea with some honey, or make a smoothie with real fruits to keep the fiber content that helps regulate how much sugar is absorbed into the body. 

#3 Reduce your stress.

Stress plays a major role in cortisol production, a hormone that can interfere with your weight loss goals by encouraging fat storage.  Eating has been associated with stress relief because the body releases chemicals in response to food that might have a direct calming effect. It’s important to find more effective ways of managing your stress than eating.  

Find activities that will help relax your mind. Take a walk. Take a yoga class or participate in another form of physical activity.  Hit the gym and lift heavy weights.  Meditate, or just walk away from whatever stressing you out for five minutes. Taking time to do something that you love will help you relax, and the break helps refresh your mind.

#4 Poor portion control.

So you made the switch to a cleaner diet. But calories are still calories. A lot of people believe that eating healthier food means you can eat more of it without having to really think about it.  But healthier doesn’t necessarily give your carte blanche to eat without restraint. For example, a small handful of mixed nuts can contain 190 calories in just 22 pieces. At two handfuls (double the amount), you are already around 380 calories.  That’s the same number of calories as a small meal. The bottom line is that your calories might be clean, but even too much of a clean food is still too much. 

To keep your portions in check:

  • Use a smaller plate to feel like you have a full plate of food.

  • Chew your food slower

  • Stop eating the moment you know longer feel hungry.

  • Drink water before a meal.

  • Measure your food to become more familiar with what a proper portion size looks like.

#5 Eat more protein.

Protein does more than just build and repair muscle tissue. Protein increases satiety (that sensation of fullness) at meals, helping you feel fuller for longer and eat less throughout the day. An added bonus is that high protein diets can have a positive effect on your blood lipids, glucose levels, and muscle-to-fat ratio. While protein is a great fat-loss macronutrient, don't think that you'll see quick results simply by adding some shakes to your diet. Fat loss still takes consistent dedication to the right nutrition plan for your goals.

#6 Stop drinking so much.

Your body only really needs water. But, of course, we all love our coffee, tea, and other sugary beverages that undermine our fat loss goals. Coffee and tea on their own don't really add calories to your daily intake. However, that milk, cream, sugar, and other flavors (like the syrup in a pumpkin spice latte) can easily take those drinks to more than 300 calories. Those 300 extra calories every day will add up over time, making fat loss difficult.

In addition, the easiest way to cut extra calories is by eliminating or greatly reducing alcohol content. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram, more than carbs and proteins (4 cal/g.). By eliminating alcohol you can easily cut out the extra calories that is causing you to hold onto your stubborn weight.

#7 Work out harder. 

If you were a beginner, you should start out slowly until you become accustomed to the weights, machines, and the gym environment. However, as you adjust, you must push yourself harder and harder. If fat loss is your goal, you have to create an energy demand so that your body is forced to change and become stronger. If you lift the same weight all the time, you were not forcing your body to adapt, and you should not expect any new results.

Great ways to level up your workouts include:

  • Adding a plyometric between exercises

  • Minimizing your rest

  • Adding a fourth set

  • Lifting a slightly heavier weight

  • Adding a circuit workout 1x/ week

If you believe you have been exercising and dieting correctly but aren’t seeing the results.  Take a moment to see if any of the mentioned culprits are sneaking their way into your life.  Little adjustments can make a difference in reaching your weight loss goals.