You train hard doing weights and cardio, but for some reason you're still not lean. Sound familiar? If so, you may find yourself wondering how it's possible to seemingly do everything right and still not see a ripped physique in the mirror.
If you're honest with yourself and reflect a little more, however, you may admit to one or more of these factors holding you back: too much fast food, sporadic training habits, underwhelming workouts, or even a wicked sweet tooth.
But those are pretty obvious. What about hidden saboteurs? Let's identify the most common culprits derailing your efforts. Below are five hurdles that can easily hamper your efforts to burn body fat and blur your abdominal definition. Address each one and you might finally make ripped a reality!
Cutting Cals Too Quickly
A common problem many dieters make is dropping calories and carbs too drastically right out of the gate. Lots of people try going on a ketogenic diet to get ripped, but honestly, dropping all your carbs in one fell swoop is the last thing you want to do!
Yes, a drastic cut in your carbs can lead to a big drop in bodyweight, but that drop will be short-lived. The problem with dieting is that your body is constantly fighting to prevent too much fat loss; after all, fat is a great energy reserve if times get tough and food is no longer plentiful. While that may have been a problem for our ancestors, it's not a real issue for most of us today.
So no matter how low you drop carbs (and calories), your body will eventually adjust to your new caloric intake. If you've dropped most or all of your carbs, your body will adjust to that low-carb intake and you won't have room to cut further. Where do you go from there when you're no longer losing body fat?
The real key to dieting is to eat as much as you can while still losing body fat. Then, when you reach a plateau, you make a small cut in carbs and calories so that when you plateau again, as you inevitably will, you can make another drop and can continue losing body fat.
Not Hiit-Ing It
One misconception that's been perpetuated in bodybuilding circles for decades is that you must do low-intensity cardio to maximize fat burning and spare muscle mass. Yet the research and what we're seeing in the gym today points in the exact opposite direction.
Studies having shown that those who do some form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which alternatives cycles of all-out training with slower recovery phases, lose about twice as much body fat as those who do steady-state (slow and steady) cardio. And this is despite the fact that those doing HIIT spend far less time exercising!
In a nutshell, HIIT results in less time spent doing cardio, and way more fat being burned. This is because HIIT increases your post-exercise metabolism, which boosts the calories and fat burned while you're not exercising.
As far as sparing muscle goes, both lab research and real-world experience show that those performing HIIT either lose no muscle or actually gain it. As an easy example, consider the muscle mass of a sprinter compared to a long-distance runner. The high-intensity training the sprinter does helps build muscle, not sacrifice it. The long-distance runner who trains at a slow, steady pace has far less muscle mass.
Lifting Too Light
Another misconception about training for fat loss is that you should opt for light weight and high reps to get lean. This misconception is probably the result of thinking that higher reps means more work performed, which can help you burn more calories. But it's not just about how much work you do, but also how the work you do affects your body and your metabolism.
Similar to HIIT cardio, research confirms that using heavier loads in your workouts results in a higher metabolic rate post-workout as compared to light weight. What does this mean? More calories burned!
Taking Too Much Rest
Another area that may be hampering your fat-loss efforts is all the time you waste in the gym between sets. If getting shredded is your goal, you should spend as much time as possible moving in the gym, not standing around.
Bottom line: Minimize your rest time between sets. Researchers from the College of New Jersey discovered that when subjects rested 30 seconds between sets on the bench press for 5 sets of 5 reps, they burned a little more than 50 percent more calories than when they rested three minutes between sets.
Try turning your rest time into work time via supersets. Supersets involve doing two exercises back to back, either for two different muscle groups (such as a chest exercise followed by a back move), or for the same body part (such as two quad exercises).
Research shows that using supersets can increase calorie burn both during a workout and afterward by around 35 percent compared to standard straight sets. So don't sit down after you finish your set!
Sitting For Too Long
What you do when you're not in the gym may further be compromising your fat-loss efforts, not to mention your health. Research from Australia found that, out of more than 2,000 subjects who exercised vigorously for a minimum of 2.5 hours per week, those who watched more than 40 minutes of television per day had higher waist circumference, blood pressure, and blood-glucose levels than those watching fewer than 40 minutes.
The researchers theorized this may be due to the fact that, when you sit for prolonged periods, your body's ability to burn fat is severely compromised. This was supported by researchers at the University of Missouri (Columbia) who reviewed studies done in both animals and humans and found that prolonged sitting severely blunted the activity of enzymes involved in fat burning, particularly lipoprotein lipase.
The take-home here is simple: Avoid a fat-burning slump by staying active throughout the day. If you sit for long periods at work, try getting up and stretching or walking to the fridge or water cooler at least every 20 minutes or so. Do the same if you're sitting at home in front of the TV or computer. When you're shopping or running errands, park far away from store entrances to increase total walking distance. Even better, walk or bike to run your errands when possible instead of driving. Avoid elevators and escalators and take the stairs whenever you can.
Seizing all of these opportunities for physical activity can add up to a lot of extra activity, which can keep your fat-burning engines primed and your health optimized. At that point, you won't need to look for reasons you're not ripped—because you'll be ripped!
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- June 28, 2017
- Jonathan Kay