By Maggie Young Men's Fitness
Losing weight is no easy feat, but it’s even harder if you don’t know what you are doing wrong in your failed attempts to get lean. But we can help—we asked experts to weigh in on the nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle factors that could be causing the scale to tip in the wrong direction. From adding intervals to your routine to keeping your stress levels in check, this advice will fire up your fat loss fast.
1. You're not doing intervals
Long breaks between sets or steady-state cardio don’t do your body any favors when you're trying to lean out. Instead, use intervals—periods of intense training (high reps or maximum effort) with short periods of rest in between— to increase your routine's fat-burning potential. (This full-body Tabata workout is a good example.) “You can get in a 30-minute workout, but an intense one that’s just as good as an hour of a slow one,” says Jim White, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “It will burn up more calories, break the monotony, and will get the metabolism going.”
2. You're downing sports drinks
A seemingly healthy and electrolyte-filled 20-ounce sports beverages can often pack in around 34 grams of sugar. Ask yourself if the elixir's really needed to sustain your workout. If it’s not, it'll just add empty calories, which is counterproductive to creating the calorie deficit you need for weight loss. For workouts lasting longer than an hour, use sports drinks in moderation. When your workout clocks in at under 60 minutes, stick to good ol' H2O.
3. You're loading up on protein bars
Some seemingly physique-friendly protein bars can pack close to 500 calories and 18 grams of fat—that's one heck of a post-workout snack. Instead of grabbing a bar, fuel your body with whole-food post-workout snacks that deliver both muscle-building protein and energy-replenishing carbs.
4. You snack on junk after dinner
It’s not nighttime eating that packs on pounds, it’s what you consume after dark that’s the real issue. For a lot of guys, this tends to be crackers, chips, cookies, etc. White recommends subbing carb-laden snacks for cottage cheese, almonds, or celery with peanut butter when post-dinner hunger strikes.
5. You skimp on sleep
Solid sleep is the gateway to great health, and especially weight loss. Studies have shown that lack of sleep encourages mindless eating throughout the day and it can also lead to poor workouts, making it a double-edge sword. If you're fatigued during the day, you most likely won’t be able to power through a workout intense enough to burn a significant number of calories. Shoot for 71/2 to 9 hours of sleep a night to help enhance weight loss, says White.
6. You're not eating often enough
Skipping meals and snacks may seem like a surefire way to drop weight, but it almost always ends up backfiring. It can increase cravings and harm your metabolism, so it’s best to fuel up often. White suggests eating three hours after big meals and two hours after snacks. Of course, if you're working out, it’s important to refuel within 30 minutes of exercise.
7. You're not planning ahead
When it comes to eating and exercise, don't wing it. A plan will guide you in the right direction when other parts of your life—work, school—get out-of-control busy. “Plan out your meals for the week, schedule your workouts, and cook food on Sunday to eat throughout the week,” advises White.
8. You let stress build up
Stress-eating is a surefire way to sabotage your weight-loss efforts. Instead, try meditation, yoga or, of course, hitting the gym. “If you're under stress and don’t feel like you have enough time in the day, you should exercise because it will clear your mind and enable you to prioritize more easily," says Matthew Kornblatt, a N.A.S.M.-certified personal trainer and owner of RightFit Nation.
9. You forget to refill on H20
Focus on drinking a lot of water throughout the day. “Not only does it hydrate your body, but it also speeds up your metabolism and suppresses your hunger,” says Kornblatt. When you feel hunger pangs, try drinking a glass of water to tone down cravings. If you're still hungry, reach for a healthy snack. You'll still be less likely to overeat after drinking some water.
10. You dine while distracted
It’s best to enjoy meals and snacks at a table, where the focus is on the food. Kornblatt says it’s easy to consume more while in front of the TV or computer because you lose a little consciousness by sending your attention to the screen. When your awareness is solely on the food, you are more likely to stop when you are full and eat the appropriate amount.
11. You don't refuel the right way
Guys often overfuel for a day’s workout. “For instance, they are going out for a 30-minute jog, but eat a nutrition bar before they leave and follow the workout with a recovery drink,” says Sally Berry, R.D., C.S.S.D., owner of Bodyfuel, Inc. “This is way more than is needed.” Other times, the post-workout eating is insufficient. If the workout is 2-3 hours long and the post-workout snack or meal is skipped, then overeating later on in the day is more likely.