Category Archives: Weight loss tips

5 Metabolism Boosters for Your 40’s

5 Metabolism Boosters for Your 40’s

For women, it becomes increasingly difficult to lose weight once midlife sets in. A slower metabolism is mainly to blame, but there are things you can do to reignite it.

1. Eat Enough.

When you consume fewer than 1,000 calories per day, or crash diet, your metabolism will slow in order to conserve energy. Eat several small meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism chugging along. Swap highly processed foods for whole foods like brown rice, green vegetables, fresh fruit, and lean protein.

2. Make breakfast your priority.

Within two hours of waking up, make sure that you have breakfast. This will spark your metabolism, fueling your body for the whole day. Focus on protein (think egg whites) and fruits, like grapefruit, to give your body the energy it needs to get you through your work day and workout.

See also: Secret Ingredient Mango Smoothie

3. Include protein in each meal.

As mentioned earlier, it’s good to include protein in your meals. Protein helps keep hunger at bay, facilitating weight loss. That doesn’t mean you should throw bacon on everything. Protein sources really vary and don’t require you to eat meat all day long. Greek-style yogurt, lentils, beans, and even edamame are all excellent sources of protein that will keep you full and satisfied.

See also: 9 Perfect Protein Solutions for Vegetarians

4. Get moving.

Because your body works differently after 40, make it a goal to exercise on a regular basis. Exercise helps your metabolism work well. Besides that, it helps you to feel better about your body while boosting your energy. Focus on aerobic exercise and walking for the majority of your workouts and squeeze in some strength training a few times a week to help tone muscle.

5. Sip green tea.

Sipping on hot or iced green tea can help your metabolism run at peak performance. Green tea contains epigallocatechin, also known as EGCG, the catechin that stimulates the metabolism, accelerating weight loss. The caffeine in green tea prompts the central nervous system to release fat into the bloodstream where it’s used as fuel to burn more body fat. Because the caffeine amount isn’t through the roof, you can sip tea throughout the day without risking a sleepless night.

See more Diet & Weight Loss

Why Am I Gaining Weight? 12 Causes Of Unexplained Weight Gain

Why Am I Gaining Weight? 12 Causes Of Unexplained Weight Gain

When you’re trying to lose weight or simply maintain your current weight, the last thing you want to see when you step onto the scale is unexplained weight gain.

Why Am I Gaining Weight? 12 Causes Of Unexplained Weight Gain

Not only is this the complete opposite of what you want, it’s also just flat out confusing. Possibly even depressing. Sometimes even concerning.

I mean, here you are, a person who is apparently eating (and/or exercising) in a manner that should NOT cause weight gain, but yet that’s what’s somehow happening.

And so you’re left with a very obvious question: why am I gaining weight?

To help you answer to this question, I’m going to break down every possible cause into two categories:

  1. Short term weight gain.
  2. Long term weight gain.

Let’s start with short term causes.

Why Am I Gaining Weight…. In The Short Term?

For this short term category, I’m referring to the kind of weight gain you see occur within the span of 1 week or less.

Let me give you a few common examples from this category:

  • Example 1: If you weigh 200lbs today and then weigh something more than 200lbs tomorrow, that’s part of what we’re talking about here.
  • Example 2: If you weigh 200lbs today and then weigh something more than 200lbs 2 days later, or 3 days later, or 4, 5, 6 or 7 days later… that’s also what we’re talking about here.
  • Example 3: If you weighed 200lbs on day 1, 199.6lbs on day 2, 199.2lbs on day 3, 198.8lbs on day 4, and then suddenly went up to 201lbs on day 5… that’s also what we’re talking about here.
  • Example 4: If you weigh 200lbs today, then something more than 200lbs on day 2, then something even more than that on day 4, and then something even more than that on day 6… that’s also what we’re talking about here.

Basically, any increase you see happen over the course of a day, a few days or an entire week fits within this category of short term weight gain.

Or, as I prefer to call it: temporary, ignorable, meaningless weight gain that is most likely NOT body fat.

Why do I like to call it that?

Because for most people, gaining weight during these types of short term scenarios is completely meaningless, will only be temporary, isn’t actually body fat, and should therefore be ignored.

Why?

Because, more often than not, it’s just completely normal day-to-day fluctuations in body weight caused by one or more of the following:

1. Water Retention.

This is the most common cause of short term weight gain, and it happens for a variety of reasons. This includes…

  • A higher sodium intake than usual.Did you eat more salt than usual? Maybe a bit more typical salty processed food (junk food, fast food, chips, etc.) than you normally do? Or maybe you ate “good” food that just happened to be extra salty (quite common when eating out at a restaurant)? Or maybe you just added more salt to your usual “good” meals than you normally do? Any sort of meaningful increase in sodium intake like this can cause a few pounds of temporary water retention, practically overnight. It will subside soon after your sodium intake returns to normal.
  • A higher carb intake than usual.Did you eat more carbs than you normally do? Maybe you’re coming off of a silly low carb diet? Maybe you’re using a calorie cycling approach that involves eating more carbs on certain days than on others? Maybe you’re doing a refeed? Maybe you’re taking a diet break? Maybe you just “messed up” and unintentionally ate more carbs than you were supposed to? Whatever the reason, if your carb intake increases by any meaningful amount one day or over the course of many days, it will often cause a temporary increase in your body weight as a result of water retention (and glycogen… more about that in a minute). Just like with sodium, this water weight will subside soon after your carb intake returns to normal.
  • Insufficient water intake.You know the “starvation mode” myth I’ve talked about before? It’s the idea that eating too little causes your body to hold on to its fat stores and prevent you from losing weight for the purpose of survival. Yeah, it’s bullshit. But, ironically enough, it’s kinda true when it comes to water intake. Meaning, your body will actually retain water when you consume insufficient amounts of it for the purpose of… you know… survival. On the other hand, drinking a sufficient amount of water will have the opposite effect and help to prevent and/or reduce water retention.
  • Elevated cortisol levels.Cortisol is the supposedly evil hormone we refer to as the “stress hormone” because it increases in response to stress. In and of itself, cortisol is actually not a bad thing. However, when it is elevated above normal levels (due to elevated levels of stress), that’s when it can become a bad thing. One such example of what elevated cortisol levels can cause is significant water retention. This is especially notable in the case of people trying to lose weight, because the actual act of losing weight (or, more accurately, the caloric deficit it requires) is something your body views as a form of stress (a caloric deficit is an energy deficit, after all). And, the more severe that deficit is in terms of how low your calorie intake is, and/or how excessive your workouts are (e.g., tons of cardio), and/or the longer you’ve been in a deficit without some type of break (be it a refeed, calorie cycling or a full diet break), the more stressful it is to your body. And the more stressful it is = the higher your cortisol levels will go = the more water retention you will experience. In addition, other fat loss-specific forms of stress (e.g., freaking out over your diet, freaking out over “messing up,” freaking out over plateaus, etc.) and more typical forms of life stress (e.g., work, school, family, etc.) will have a similar negative effect on water retention.
  • Certain supplements.The most popular water-retention-causing supplement that comes to mind is creatine, as it can cause anywhere from 0-5 lbs of water weight gain during its initial month of usage (most likely higher if you do the unnecessary high dose loading phase, lower if you don’t, and potentially none whatsoever if you’re a non-responder). Although, if you’re taking creatine, you typically want and/or don’t care that this water retention happens (water is retained in the muscle cells, potentially making those muscles look a tiny bit bigger/fuller/better). So, unlike everything else on this list, it’s not exactly unwanted water retention.
  • Certain medications.Certain medical conditions and medications are capable of causing edema (the medical term for water retention) as a side effect. Of course, any questions you have or information you seek about this aspect of things should be discussed with your doctor, not me.
  • A woman’s monthly period.More about this one later.

2. Glycogen.

The carbs we eat are stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver. For every gram of glycogen being stored, about 3 grams of water are stored along with it.

What does this mean to us?

Well, for starters, this is why people lose a bunch of weight fairly quickly when starting a low carb diet. They’re not losing fat just yet (and they potentially never will… that will always only be a function of calories, not carbs). Instead, what they’re losing is just a combination of water and glycogen.

Hooray, I guess?

The second thing you should know is something I actually mentioned a minute ago and is relevant yet again, which is that eating a large amount of carbs – or, more accurately, a larger amount of carbs than you usually eat – will have the opposite effect: you’ll gain weight fairly quickly.

But again, it’s not fat that’s being gained.

It’s that same combination of water (like I mentioned in the second bullet point above) and glycogen due to the increase in carb intake. And the more carbs you eat above the normal amount that you were previously eating, the more temporary weight you’ll find yourself gaining in the form of water and glycogen.

But the key word here is, of course, “temporary.”

When a low carb dieter’s carb intake returns to normal (or really just increases any degree above the “low” amount they were eating), the water and glycogen weight they lost will be regained pretty fast. And when the person who ate an above normal amount of carbs returns to their normal carb intake, they’ll quickly lose the water and glycogen weight they gained.

So, if you happen to eat more carbs than you usually do for whatever reason (unintentionally just eating more than you should have, cycling your calorie/carb intake throughout the week, purposely doing a refeed or diet break, etc.), it’s perfectly normal to find yourself gaining weight in the short-term in the form of water and glycogen.

3. Poop Issues.

Here are two examples:

  1. Constipation.If your poop isn’t coming out of you like it ideally should be, that means it’s still in you. And since poop weighs something, you can expect your body weight to increase to some extent as a result of this. The good news is that when you fix whatever is causing this constipation (e.g., a lack of fiber in your diet, insufficient water intake, etc.) and return to normal pooping, the weight gain it caused will magically vanish.
  2. Overpooping.Now let’s say you pooped a whole lot more than usual one day (fun times, I’m sure) or maybe even over the course of a couple of days (even more fun, no doubt). And then, in the following day(s), you went back to your usual pooping quantity/frequency (congrats). In this scenario, you will weigh more on your normal pooping days in comparison to the day(s) when you over-pooped (and/or the day(s) after). Is it because you suddenly gained body fat? No. You just happen to weigh more on the days when you’re not over-pooping compared to the days when you are. (And yes, that’s a new word I just made up right now. Over-pooping. Feel free to use it as often as you wish around your family and friends. Preferably at the dinner table.)

4. The Weight Of Food.

Not only does poop weigh something… but guess what else: food weighs something, too!

Which means, if you eat more food today than you typically eat, you will likely weigh a little more tomorrow simply as a result of having additional food in your stomach waiting to be digested.

It doesn’t even have to be “bad” food. It can be anything, really… including vegetables. And you don’t even have to go over your intended calorie intake to make this happen.

All it takes is eating a “heavier” amount of food than you usually eat. That’s it. It’s just the weight of additional food in your body that hasn’t been digested yet. The more your food weighs, the more you’ll temporarily weigh after eating it (but no, it will not be a 1:1 ratio).

As the digestion process begins to take place, this “food weight” will begin to disappear.

5. A Woman’s Monthly Period.

As I mentioned before, this is really just a subsection of #1, because a woman’s period causes short term weight gain as a result of water retention.

However, I wanted to give it a section of its own because, compared to the other causes of water retention we covered, this one is WAY more complex. Specifically…

  • The degree of water retention experienced can vary quite a bit from one woman to the next and even one period to the next.
  • Compared to other common causes of water retention (like an increased sodium/carb intake), water weight gain during a woman’s menstrual cycle has the potential to be much more significant (we’re talking as much as 10 lbs in some cases) and longer lasting.
  • Unlike the other causes on this list, this is the only one that’s going to be recurring every month (or so) over and over and over on a fairly consistent(ish) basis.

That third point (the monthly recurring format) amuses me a bit, because there are women who are still somehow surprised and confused by the water weight gain it causes for them each time it happens.

What I mean is, out of all of the “unexplained reasons” for gaining weight that we are discussing in this article, this is the one that fits that description the least.

Why? Because it’s something that consistently happens on nearly the same days every month… with similar(ish) amounts of water retention each time… which then goes away in a fairly similar manner within a fairly similar time frame.

Meaning, it’s pretty effing explainable.

So, for the handful of women who are still somehow baffled by its monthly occurrence… mark it down on your calendar next time or get one of those period tracking apps on your phone. This way, when you see the scale suddenly go up at some point every month and wonder why, you’ll easily be able to find your answer.

6. Improperly Tracking Your Body Weight.

This is something I’ve written about before (Why Can’t I Lose Weight?), so I’ll just be lazy and quote myself.

What do I mean by improperly tracking your body weight? Here are some common examples:

  • Person A compares what they weigh today to what they weigh tomorrow… and bases their progress on it.
  • Person B weighs themselves before eating/drinking/pooping on some days, and after eating/drinking/pooping on other days… and bases their progress on it.
  • Person C weighs themselves at random times throughout a single day… and bases their progress on it.
  • Person D compares their weight first thing in the morning today, to their weight after lunch tomorrow, to their weight after their evening workout the day after that… and bases their progress on it.
  • Person E is a woman who ignores the normal change in weight that takes place at a certain time every month… and bases their progress on it.
  • Person F weighs themselves once per week and compares that one day to the same day of the following week… and bases their progress on it.
  • Person G weighs themselves every day for 4 days in a row and compares it to their weight on the 5th day… and bases their progress on it.
  • Person H weighs themselves on Monday and compares it to what they weigh on Thursday… and bases their progress on it.
  • Person I weighs themselves as accurately as possible for 1 week only… and bases their progress on it.

In every single one of these examples, you have people who will step off of their scale and wonder “why am I gaining weight?” simply because they are failing to accurately use that scale and/or properly perceive what it’s telling them

Instead, they are letting their tracking get thrown off by completely normal (and temporary, and ignorable, and meaningless) fluctuations in body weight that happen as a result of everything we just covered (water retention, glycogen, poop issues, the weight of food, a woman’s period, etc.) rather than what these people will typically assume it is (body fat).

So, how do you prevent all of this from being a problem for you? By weighing yourself properly.

Here’s how…

  • Always weigh yourself first thing in the morning on an empty stomach before eating or drinking (but after peeing), and wear the same amount of clothing (ideally none or very little) every time.
  • Weigh yourself every day… take the weekly average… and only focus on the weekly average. This is key. What your weight does from one day to the next (or one hour to the next) is meaningless. The only reason you’re paying any attention to it at all is so you can take the average at the end of the week. That weekly average (and how it compares to the surrounding weekly averages) is what you should actually pay attention to. (Additional details here: How Often Should You Weigh Yourself)
  • Always have 2-4 weeks worth of accurate weekly averages to compare before assuming, worrying or adjusting. Meaning, if you’re wondering why you’re gaining weight in the short term (1-2 weeks or less) and are confused or depressed or ready to jump to some new diet/workout (because you think it’s body fat that was gained), then you’re doing it wrong. Always wait until you have at least 2-4 weeks worth of accurate data to compare before doing/feeling any of this.
  • Be aware of the previously mentioned factors. For example, if you consume an above-normal amount of sodium or carbs (or it’s your period), you should expect an above-normal amount of water retention to come along with it, and thus a temporarily above-normal body weight. Of course, the previous points (only paying attention to the weekly average over the span of 2-4 weeks) will go pretty far in preventing this sort of thing from making any meaningful dent in your tracking.
  • Measurements can help, too. So if your weight happens to suddenly go up from one week to the next (or stay the same when you’re trying to lose), but certain measurements have slightly decreased, it’s a good sign that things are still moving in the right direction (and for one or more of the reasons this article covers, it’s just not showing up on the scale yet). However, I do need to also mention that measurements come with their own accuracy warnings. For example, you could put the tape measure around your stomach and have it be just slightly less-straight than you had it last time, and that tiny difference could throw the measurement off by a full inch.

7. Something A Little More Serious.

The VAST majority of the people reading this who are experiencing some type of “unexplained” short term weight gain will find one of the previous items on this list to be their cause.

Having said that, I still need to mention that some people (a MUCH smaller minority) may have a more serious underlying reason for their unexplained weight gain, especially in cases where there are other symptoms accompanying it.

I have nothing more to add here other than to see a doctor if you suspect this might be the case.

Why Am I Gaining Weight… In The Long Term?

Now for the next category.

We will define “long term” weight gain as basically anything that occurs over a period of time longer than 1 week. Or, even better, let’s define it as weeks of weight gain.

So, for example, if 2 or more weeks have passed and you are consistently gaining weight during this span of time, these are the most likely explanations for it:

1. You’re Gaining Fat.

This is BY FAR the most common reason for weight gain that occurs/lasts over a span of weeks.

You are simply eating more calories than you are intending to, or burning less calories than you are intending to, or some combination of the two… and a caloric surplus exists… and your body is storing those extra unused calories in the form of fat.

This, of course, is the one and only way ANY amount of body fat is EVER gained by ANYONE.

And, much more often than not, it’s the cause of your “unexplained” longer-term weight gain.

Wait… what’s that you say?

But I’m NOT eating too many calories, I swear!

Uh huh, sure. Now let me show you why you (and most people) are almost always wrong…

  • Underestimating If there’s one thing damn near every nutritionist and diet professional can agree on, it’s that people trying to lose weight almost ALWAYS underestimate how many calories they are actually eating. It happens all the time and has been confirmed in studies (this one showed that the subjects underestimated their calorie intake by an average of 47%… which is huge). Some people underestimate the quantity of food they consume (like thinking you ate 1 serving when you really ate 2 or more), while others underestimate the amount of calories it contained (like thinking a meal was 500 calories when it was really 1000). Some underestimate both.
  • Tracking Mistakes Many people just screw up during the serving-size-measuring process and take significantly more food than they think they’re taking. It happens all the time, especially when using measuring spoons, measuring cups or just eyeballing it and taking your best guess (instead of using a digital food scale). Here’s an old (and kinda overdramatic) video from Leigh Peele showing how easily it happens…
  • Under-Reporting Then you have people who are under the impression that there are special “clean” and “healthy” foods they can eat unlimited amounts of and not count. As if they contain magical calories. Or those that eat “tiny” amounts of food here and there and assume it’s so insignificant that they don’t even need to bother counting it. In reality, these “I-didn’t-even-realize-it” calories can add up pretty quickly. Here’s a common real-world example of this. In addition, some people simply forget what (or how much) they ate and end up accidentally not counting it for that reason alone.
  • Lying As odd as it may seem, many people just flat out lie about how much they’re truly eating. Why? Usually because they’re too embarrassed to admit what/how much they eat (even to themselves), yet apparently not too embarrassed to continuously fail to lose weight because of it.

Wait, what’s that you’re saying now?

But I’m burning tons of calories, I swear!

Yeah, about that…

  • Overestimating Now take everything I said before about how people underestimate calorie intake, and change it to overestimate calorie output. The same studies show this, too (in this one, the subjects overestimated calories burned via exercise by an average of 51%… which is huge). People do some form of exercise – typically cardio – and assume they burned “tons of calories.” The problem is, no form of cardio truly burns anything resembling “tons of calories.” In fact, typical forms of cardio done at typical intensities will burn anywhere from 5-10 calories per minute. Yet people will finish their 30-minute jog on the treadmill and think they burned 1000 calories. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there’s often a “reward mentality” that kicks-in, thus giving people the false mindset that they can allow themselves to eat extra calories since they supposedly burned “so many” while exercising. They then proceed to cancel out whatever smaller amount of calories they did burn (and then some), and then wonder why they’re not losing weight despite “working out all the time.”

Now I’m not accusing you of being an under-estimator, or an over-estimator, or an under-reporter, or a bad measurer, or a liar, or someone who’s just bad at counting. I’m just telling you the facts.

And the fact is, if week after week is passing and you’re gaining weight (or stuck at a plateau when you’re trying to lose it) despite eating and/or exercising in a manner that you feel should either be causing you to lose weight or (at the very least) maintain your current weight, then guess what?

The chances are pretty good that you are simply eating more calories than you think you are, burning less calories than you think you are, or a combination of both, and it’s happening to a degree that’s either leading to a caloric surplus (which is causing you to gain body fat) or leading to maintenance (which is causing your weight to stay the same when you’re trying to lose it).

There’s your most likely explanation.

2. Longer Term Water Retention.

As I mention earlier, water retention is the most common cause of short term weight gain. It happens all the time to virtually every single person on the planet.

However, sometimes – certainly less frequently in comparison – there are instances where water retention can exceed the short term and last for a longer period of time.

So, instead of a day, or a few days, or a week… it can occasionally last for a few weeks.

This sort of thing can happen to anyone, although it’s probably more common among women than men, partially because of a woman’s menstrual cycle, and partially because… well… certain things are just weirder when it comes to women (physiologically speaking, of course).

And because of this occasional longer term water retention, a person can see their weight loss progress stall completely on the scale for a few weeks or potentially even see themselves gaining weight WHILE they are actually continuing to lose body fat.

The gain in water weight they are simultaneously experiencing is just counterbalancing that fat loss and preventing it from actually showing up on the scale (or the scale is showing an increase instead of a decrease).

That is, until a magical “whoosh” finally occurs and the scale finally shows a sudden meaningful amount of (water) weight loss in a short period of time and the person tends to notice they almost instantly look a little leaner.

This is one of the many reasons why I recommend properly tracking your body weight over the span of 2-4 weeks (not 2-4 days, not 1-2 weeks, but 2-4 weeks… potentially as long as an entire month) before freaking out and adjusting your diet and/or workout.

Having said that, there’s an important thing you need to keep in mind here.

If you exceed this period of time without experiencing a “whoosh” and/or your weight continues to stall or increase, then guess what? You should probably go and read #1 again because you’re probably eating more/burning less than you think you are.

3. You’re Gaining Muscle.

Honestly? This isn’t really something that I’d consider to be an “unexplained” reason for gaining weight.

I mean, when you consider how hard you need to purposely be working your ass off to make muscle growth occur, plus how slow the rate of muscle growth truly is, you begin to realize that it’s pretty damn rare for someone to accidentally or unintentionally gain any amount of muscle, let alone consistently gain an amount of muscle large enough to cause long term weight gain. (Some additional details here: Muscle Weighs More Than Fat?)

It’s also extremely rare for a person who is trying to lose weight to end up stalling or gaining weight for weeks at a time because they are gaining enough muscle to consistently offset the loss of body fat.

Rather, the real reason this sort of scenario takes place is because the person is eating more/burning less than they think, and no deficit exists.

Why is it usually this and not due to gaining muscle, you ask?

Because the average person can often lose an amount of body fat PER WEEK that is equal to (or in some cases, exceeds) the amount of muscle they can build PER MONTH. This is even worse with women, as they tend to build muscle at about HALF the already slow rate that men do.

Not to mention, many people won’t be able to build any truly significant amount of muscle while losing fat in the first place.

But despite all of this logical reasoning, the fact that muscle growth is almost always accompanied by weight gain (because… surprise… muscle weighs something), I’m going to include it here anyway.

So, there it is.

4. You’re Pregnant.

Um… congratulations?

On second thought, considering this is an article about “unexplained” weight gain – the kind of confusing, unknown, unexpected weight gain that makes the person wonder why it’s happening – then I’m thinking you might not be in a congratulatory mood right now?

That’s cool.

Anyway… good luck with all that.

5. Something A Little More Serious.

The VAST majority of the people reading this who are experiencing some type of “unexplained” long term weight gain will find one of the previous items on this list to be their cause.

Having said that, I still need to mention that some people (a MUCH smaller minority) may have a more serious underlying reason for their unexplained weight gain, especially in cases where there are other symptoms accompanying it.

I have nothing more to add here other than to see a doctor if you suspect this might be the case.

How To Avoid All Of This

So, there you have it. If you’ve been weighing yourself regularly and wondering why you’re gaining weight (or just not losing any when you are attempting to) in the short or long term… take a really good look at everything this article just covered.

You’ll find your unexplained explanation somewhere within it.

Oh, and if you’d like to lose fat, get lean and reach your goals while avoiding the problems we talked about in this article (excessive water retention, unknowingly eating more/burning less than you think, etc.) plus other common problems like losing muscle, feeling hungry all the time, not being able to eat the foods you love, metabolic slowdown and more, then you should check out Superior Fat Loss.

I designed it to greatly minimize or completely prevent everything that sucks about losing fat and all of the problems that screw things up along the way. See for yourself: Superior Fat Loss

Sources: aworkoutroutine.com

How Eating MORE Calories Can Make You Lose Weight (seriously)

How Eating MORE Calories Can Make You Lose Weight (seriously)

I like to think most people understand that they need to eat LESS calories to lose weight, right?

We’re all aware of this, aren’t we?

What’s that now? We’re not?

Most people think it’s carbs, sugar, fat, gluten, fruit, fructose, dirty foods and/or foods that cavemen didn’t eat that we need to eat less of in order to lose weight?

Oh. How wonderful.

Excuse me while I go bang my head against a wall to forget this reality.

Okay, I’m back.

As I was saying, fat loss and fat gain are determined by calories in vs calories out. Create a deficit and you lose, create a surplus and you gain. If you’d like a more thorough explanation of this (and why it’s NOT carbs, sugar or whatever else), read this one: How To Lose Fat.

And that brings us to the subject of this article.

Which is… the idea that there are times when eating less calories STOPS you from losing weight, and then eating more calories causes you to START losing again.

Let’s begin with the first half of that statement.

When Eating Less STOPS Weight Loss… aka “Starvation Mode”

Have you ever heard of the mysterious state known as starvation mode? If not, please allow me to fill you in.

Starvation mode (sometimes referred to as “survival mode”) is the idea that not eating enough calories will cause a person to STOP losing fat or possibly even GAIN some despite being in a caloric deficit.

As in, if you eat too few calories, your metabolism breaks or completely shuts down or some such nonsense, and, in an effort to keep you alive, your body will hold on to all of your body fat and prevent you from losing any of it until… wait for it… you eat MORE calories.

This concept/myth then leads to the following type of conversation on diet forums (I’m looking at you, MyFitnessPal) and throughout social media…

Person A: “I’m eating [insert some excessively low number of calories here… typically 600, 800, 1000 or 1200] calories per day, but I’m not losing any weight! What’s my problem?”

Person B: “Your body has entered starvation mode because you’re not eating enough, so it’s holding on to all of your body fat and stopping you from losing weight.”

Person C: “Yeah, Person B is absolutely right. I was in starvation mode myself at one point, and it sucked! Eventually I was in it for so long that I started gaining fat because I was eating so little! Once I started eating more, I instantly began losing weight again.”

Person D: “Um, you people have no idea wtf you’re talking about. Read this starvation mode article.”

Thank you, Person D.

It’s because of the many Person Ds of the world and the fact that they frequently link to my starvation mode article (which then sends traffic to my website from these sources) that I know just how often these stupid conversations are happening.

Why do I call them stupid? Because the entire concept of starvation mode – that not eating enough will stop fat loss (or cause fat gain) – is as stupid as it gets.

In that aforementioned article of mine, I reference Holocaust victims, starving children in Africa, reality show contestants, anorexics, the infamous Minnesota Starvation Experiment, and a whole lot of commonsense to show why starvation mode is nothing more than a stupid myth.

Feel free to read it for all the fun details.

But… But… But…

Now I know what you might be thinking.

If starvation mode isn’t real, then how do I explain how there are so many overweight people who are eating as little as 600 – 1200 calories per day but still aren’t losing any weight?

That’s easy.

They aren’t actually eating 600 – 1200 calories per day.

Instead, in the VAST majority of cases, there is some kind of mistake being made somewhere in the tracking of the person’s calorie intake/output that is causing them to unknowingly eat more calories than they think they are, burn less calories than they think they are, or some combination of the two… and no deficit exists.

This kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME and variousweightlossstudies confirm it. (Additional details here: The 1200 Calorie Diet)

But Wait, There’s More!

Less commonly, though, there’s actually a slightly different second scenario taking place that leads to this same nonexistent starvation mode bullshit.

That is when the person is indeed eating the (often excessively) low number of calories they claim to be… on certain days.

BUT, they are then overeating (or binge-eating) on the other days to a degree that cancels out whatever deficit they created and causes them to end up breaking even at maintenance for the week.

And when you’re at maintenance instead of in a deficit, you stop losing weight.

Taaadaaa!

This is how you get people (fun fact: it’s almost always women) who claim to be on some crazy low-calorie starvation diet eating 600 – 1200 calories per day but still aren’t losing any weight.

In reality, they’re either eating more than they think they are, or they’re legitimately eating the amount they claim some of the time (be it as little as one to as many as six days per week), but then overeating by thousands of calories on the other day(s) due to the excessive hunger that the previous extreme restriction caused.

Sometimes it’s so bad that this restrict-and-binge cycle doesn’t just land the person at maintenance for the week and prevent fat loss… it actually puts them into a surplus, thereby causing fat gain.

This, along with other related problems (e.g., water weight gain), is how you get people saying “I starved myself eating 800 calories per day but I still gained weight! It must be starvation mode!!”

No, it’s not.

But wait! I know what you’re thinking now: what about the second half of that original statement?

Ah ha! Good question.

Why Do People Claim To Lose Weight Again When They Start Eating More?

If what I’m saying is true (and it is), then how does any of this explain the next claim these people often make, which is that they finally started losing weight again as soon as they began eating MORE calories?

Doesn’t this prove that I’m wrong and that there are times when eating too little stops weight loss, and eating more restarts it?

Eh, not quite.

There are actually two very logical explanations for why people think eating more made them start losing fat again:

  1. First, because the “more calories” they are eating eliminates the excessively low-calorie days they previously had, which prevents the massively large binges those low-calorie days were previously causing. Meaning, the person actually ends up eating LESS total weekly calories now than they had been, despite thinking they’re “eating more calories.” And so, a deficit finally exists. Thus… weight loss happens.
  2. A second possible explanation is that if the person is legitimately eating more now after a period of eating significantly/excessively less, it would cause cortisol levels to drop. Guess what happens when cortisol levels drop? Water retention subsides… thus causing instant “weight loss” strictly in the form of water weight, not body fat. And if the deficit is as excessive as it usually is in these cases, the water retention can be quite substantial.

What Does All Of This Mean?

I’d sum this topic up like this…

  • A caloric deficit is the sole cause and requirement of fat loss. Always. For everyone. So, if you think you’re in a deficit but aren’t losing fat, you’re not actually in a deficit after all. Double and triple check the tracking of your calorie intake/output, because there’s most likely a mistake being made somewhere that’s causing you to eat more/burn less than you think you are. Again, this kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME. Yes, even to people who swear they obsessively track everything down to the very last gram and couldn’t possibly be making a mistake like this.
  • Starvation mode doesn’t exist. Just… no. For the love of all humanity… no.
  • People who think that eating more caused them to start losing fat again after a significant period of no fat loss (which was supposedly caused by “not eating enough“) are always wrong.
  • In reality, if they did indeed start losing fat after “eating more,” it’s because they actually ended up unknowingly eating less than before. Not more. Or…
  • In other cases, eating more after a period of eating excessively low calories has legitimately caused a loss of water weight, and the person is mistaking that water loss for fat loss.

Got it? Good.

By the way, if you’d like to lose fat while avoiding all of these annoying myths, mistakes and problems, and pretty much everything else that sucks about losing fat, feel free to check out my new program: Superior Fat Loss

I created it for this very purpose.

 Sources: aworkoutroutine.com

How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose Weight or Gain Muscle?

How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose Weight or Gain Muscle?

Despite the claims of various misinformed people, diet cults, pseudoscientific nutjobs and the countless “experts” willing to say whatever is needed to make money selling you bullshit, calories are the most important part of your diet.

How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose Weight or Gain Muscle?

Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle or simply maintain your current weight, how many calories you eat a day is always going to be the key determining factor.

No, it’s not the only thing that ever matters. It’s simply the thing that always matters most.

And it’s this fact that often leads to the following questions:

  • Why do calories matter so much?
  • What is the best way to calculate my calorie needs?
  • How many calories should I eat a day to lose weight?
  • How many calories should I eat a day to gain muscle?

Let’s now answer all of these questions, starting at the top…

Calories In vs Calories Out

The reason why your calorie intake is the most important part of your diet comes down to a very simple and scientifically proven concept best summed up as “calories in vs calories out.”

Here’s how it works…

  • Calories InThis refers to all of the calories you “take in” each day via the foods you eat and the drinks you drink. For the most part, everything you consume (except stuff like water and other zero calorie drinks) contains some number of calories. (No, there are no “negative calories foods.”)
  • Calories OutThis refers to all of the calories you burn each day. This includes calories burned during traditional forms of exercise (weight training, cardio, etc.) as well as normal daily movement (standing, sitting, walking to your car, brushing your teeth, etc.), spontaneous daily movement (fidgeting, adjusting your posture, etc.) and all of the “behind the scenes” activity taking place to keep you alive and functioning (pumping blood, digesting food, breathing, etc.).

With this in mind, there are 3 possible scenarios that can take place…

Scenario #1: Caloric Surplus

Caloric Surplus: This person will gain weight.

When you consume more calories than you burn (i.e. “calories in” is greater than “calories out”), you have what’s known as a caloric surplus.

This means there are leftover calories that never got used for anything, and they now have to go… somewhere. They can’t just disappear into thin air. Rather, your body will be forced to store them somewhere in itself for potential later use.

As it turns out, there are 2 storage options available within your body: fat cells and muscle tissue.

This is why a caloric surplus will always cause you to gain something. Either body fat, muscle mass, or a combination of both.

Now, in some very specific cases when a person is properly training/eating for the purpose of gaining muscle (more about that later), the ideal outcome is for most of those surplus calories to be stored in the form of muscle. However, in all other cases – meaning the vast majority of the time – a caloric surplus is going to result in fat being gained.

This is, after all, the one and only way that fat is EVER gained. So, if you or any other human on the planet has ever gained a single pound of fat, this is always what caused it. You consumed more calories than you burned (aka a surplus) and the excess was stored in the form of body fat.

Now for the opposite scenario…

Scenario #2: Caloric Deficit

Caloric Deficit: This person will lose weight.

When your body burns more calories than you consume (i.e. “calories out” is greater than “calories in”), you have what’s known as a caloric deficit.

This means that you didn’t consume enough calories to support the energy needs of your body. Rather, your body needed some number of calories to burn in order to do all of the stuff we mentioned earlier, and you consumed some degree less than this.

When this happens, your body is forced to find some alternative fuel source to burn for energy instead. After all, new energy cannot just be created out of thin air. It has to come from somewhere.

As it turns out, there are 2 fuel sources available within your body where leftover energy has been stored in preparation for this very scenario: fat cells and muscle tissue.

This is why a caloric deficit will always cause you to lose something. Either body fat, muscle mass, or a combination of both.

As you can already guess, in the vast majority of cases, a caloric deficit will primarily result in fat being lost. Yes, even when people screw up various aspects of their diet and workout and therefore end up losing muscle along with fat (something you want to minimize as much as possible), fat will almost always continue to make up the majority of what’s being lost.

This is, after all, the one and only way that fat is EVER lost. So, if you or any other human on the planet has ever lost a single pound of fat, this is always what caused it. You consumed fewer calories than your body needed to burn (aka a deficit), which lead to stored body fat being burned for energy instead.

Now for the final scenario…

Scenario #3: Maintenance

Maintenance: This person will maintain weight.

When you consume the same number of calories that you burn (i.e. “calories in” is equal to “calories out”), you’re at what’s known as a maintenance.

Since there is no surplus that needs to be stored anywhere, and no deficit that warrants burning off a backup fuel source, what happens is that you don’t lose or gain anything. Rather, you simply maintain your current state.

Now I know what you’re probably thinking…

“I don’t want to maintain my current state bro, I want to improve it! Let’s skip this section and get to the good stuff.”

I hear ya. But here’s the thing. This “maintenance” scenario is the one that’s going to help you figure out exactly how many calories you should eat a day to lose weight or gain muscle.

How so?

  • Because being “below maintenance” will constitute being in a caloric deficit… which is needed for weight loss to happen.
  • And being “above maintenance” will constitute being in a caloric surplus… which is needed for muscle to be gained (in most cases, at least).

And that brings us to a very obvious question: what the hell is this “maintenance” amount that you need to be below or above?

How To Calculate Your Maintenance Level

Have you ever come across the phrase Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)?

It’s basically a much fancier term for your maintenance level, as it represents the TOTAL amount of calories your body burns each day doing EVERYTHING.

This includes:

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate: This is the amount of calories your body burns at rest just keeping you alive and functioning. So, imagine the number of calories you’d burn if you stayed in bed all day not moving (or digesting food).
  2. Thermic Effect of Activity (TEA): This is the calories your body burns each day via exercise.
  3. Thermic Effect of Food (TEF): This is the calories your body burns during the digestion and absorption process of the foods you eat
  4. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): This is the calories burned as a result of all of the little things you do over the course of the day BESIDES exercise… which includes unconscious, spontaneous daily movement (i.e., the seemingly minor movements you make throughout the day that you didn’t consciously plan to make). This actually accounts for a surprisingly significant amount of the calories that people burn each day.

And all of this stuff varies from one person to the next. Hell, even when people are the same gender, height, weight and age, and they’re doing the same amount of exercise, you can still see huge variances in TDEE thanks to NEAT alone.

For this reason, it’s virtually impossible to tell you exactly what your maintenance level/TDEE is. Instead, the best we can really do here is come up with an estimated maintenance level.

Don’t worry though, this is fine. As you’ll soon find out, an estimated starting point is all we truly need.

And that brings us to our next obvious question: how do we calculate it?

The Maintenance Level/TDEE Calculation

There are dozens of different methods, equations, formulas and calculators to use for this, some of which are more or less complicated than others and often more or less accurate as well. In fact, a method that is super accurate for one person can be extremely inaccurate for another.

That’s why I often recommend just using the quickest and simplest method possible. It tends to be accurate enough and, when you compare the various methods, you’ll often find that they all fall within a similar range anyway.

So, here’s what I recommend…

Body Weight (LBS) x 12-18

Take your current body weight in pounds and multiply it by 12 and 18.

Most people will find that their maintenance level falls somewhere in between those two amounts (most often between 14-16).

For example, a 200lb person would do 200 x 12 and 200 x 18 and get an estimated daily maintenance level of somewhere between 2400-3600 calories.

Those who are female or less active both in terms of their job/overall lifestyle and how much exercise they do should usually stick more toward the lower half of their estimate. Those who are male or more active should usually stick more toward the upper half of their estimate. If you’re unsure, just pick a number somewhere in the middle.

Got it? Good.

Now that you have your estimated maintenance level, it’s time for the step you’ve been waiting for: determining exactly how many calories you should eat a day to lose weight or gain muscle.

Let’s start with losing weight…

How Many Calories A Day To Lose Weight?

As I explained earlier, a caloric deficit is the sole cause and requirement of fat loss. Which means, if your goal is to lose weight… your #1 focus must be to ensure that you are consistently below your maintenance level so that a deficit exists.

The only question is, what size should that deficit be? How far below maintenance should you go? Here’s what I recommend:

The ideal caloric deficit for most people is somewhere between 10-25% below their maintenance level. (Whenever in doubt, an even 20% is often a fine starting point.)

While there are certain rarer cases where something below or above this recommended range might be ideal, this tends to be the sweet spot for the vast majority of the population. This is because it will typically cause a rate of weight loss somewhere between 0.5-2lbs per week. For most people, this is ideal.

Here’s how it works…

Let’s pretend some example person had a maintenance level of 2500 calories. If they were to then create a deficit of 20%, they’d figure out that 20% of 2500 is 500. They’d then subtract 500 from 2500 and get 2000. In this example, this person would eat 2000 calories a day to lose weight.

Pretty simple.

Now let’s answer 2 questions that may have just popped into your head…

1. Where In This Range Should I Be?

At this point, you’re probably wondering what determines whether you should create a 10% deficit, a 25% deficit, something in between (like the 20% used in our example), or something below or above this range altogether?

Good question, and I have two answers to it…

The Shorter Answer

Simply put, the faster you want to lose, the larger the deficit should be. The slower you want to lose, the smaller the deficit should be.

But at the same time, the larger your deficit is (and the faster you’re therefore losing), the harder it tends to be because various hormonal and metabolic factors are affected to a larger degree (plus a larger deficit warrants making the biggest changes to your diet and/or workout).

And the smaller your deficit is (and the slower you’re therefore losing), the easier it tends to be because those same hormonal/metabolic factors are affected to a lesser degree (plus a smaller deficit warrants making much smaller diet/workout changes).

In addition, smaller deficits tend to be more ideal for people who don’t have much fat left to lose and/or those who are looking to go from lean to really lean. Larger deficits tend to be more ideal for people with a lot of weight to lose, partly because someone with more weight to lose usually should lose it faster than someone with less to lose, and partly because those hormonal/metabolic issues aren’t as problematic at higher body fat percentages.

And of course, you have your own personal needs and preferences to consider as well. As in… do you simply want or need to lose weight faster or slower?

So… yeah. There are pros and cons to every deficit size, and quite a few factors to take into account.

The Better Answer

This is why I spent an entire chapter answering this question in Superior Fat Loss.

In it, I clearly break down ALL of the pros and cons of EVERY possible deficit size to show you exactly what your ideal rate of weight loss is and exactly what size your deficit should be for getting the best combination of A) realistically fast fat loss, B) minimizing all of those hormonal and metabolic issues (and everything else that makes losing weight so hard) so things are as easy and sustainable for you as possible, and C) maintaining muscle while that fat is lost.

You can learn all about it right here: Superior Fat Loss

2. Where Does Exercise Fit Into This?

That’s entirely up to you. Why? Because exercise – specifically the kind being done for the purpose of burning calories/causing weight loss – is completely optional.

That’s because there are 3 different ways you can create your deficit…

  1. Diet (eating fewer calories)
  2. Exercise (burning more calories)
  3. Diet + Exercise (doing some combination of both)

So, using our same example from before, this person could potentially eat 2000 calories a day, or eat 2500 calories a day and then burn 500 through some form of exercise, or eat 2250 and burn 250, or anything similar.

In all 3 cases (and with all else being equal), they end up with the same 500 calorie deficit and will therefore lose the same amount of weight.

So… which method should you use to create your deficit? That’s entirely up to you and your own preferences.

Basically, whichever method is most doable and sustainable for you, that’s how you should do it. I cover this topic in much more detail here: How Much Cardio To Lose Weight and What Is The Best Way To Lose Weight

Now for goal #2…

How Many Calories A Day To Gain Muscle?

As I explained earlier, a caloric surplus is a requirement for gaining muscle in most cases.

Yes, there are some exceptions (most notably fat beginners) where stored body fat can be converted into the extra energy needed to synthesize new muscle tissue. But, for the most part, anyone looking to gain a meaningful amount of muscle at an acceptable rate will need additional calories via their diet to make it happen.

Which means, if your goal is to gain muscle… you’re #1 dietary focus should be to ensure that you are consistently above your maintenance level so that a surplus exists.

The only question is, what size should that surplus be? How far above maintenance should you go? Here’s what I recommend:

MEN: create a daily surplus of about 200 calories above your maintenance level.

WOMEN: create a daily surplus of about 100 calories above your maintenance level.

Please note, however…

These Surplus Recommendations Are Averages

Meaning, the average man should aim to gain between 1-2lbs per month. The average woman should aim to gain between 0.5-1lb per month. On average, this tends to be the sweet spot for maximizing muscle growth and minimizing fat gains, and, on average, these are the caloric surplus recommendations that will make it happen.

Can you tell that I’m going slightly out of my way to emphasize the word “average” here?

Good. Because there are actually MANY cases where a smaller or larger surplus will be ideal based on factors specific to each person that can affect their potential rate of muscle growth. This includes their age, experience level and a variety of genetic factors.

Why does this matter, you ask? Two reasons:

  1. Too small of a surplus can prevent or minimize muscle growth.
  2. Too large of a surplus will lead to excessive amounts of body fat being gained.

This is why I spent an entire chapter in Superior Muscle Growth breaking down every single one of these individual factors to provide you with specific surplus recommendations that are ideal for different categories of people. Male or female. Younger or older. Beginner, intermediate or advanced. Good genetics, average genetics and bad genetics. And so on.

You can learn all about it right here: Superior Muscle Growth

But sticking with the average recommendations I gave above, here’s an example of how it would work…

Let’s pretend some example person had a maintenance level of 2000 calories. If they are male, they should eat 2200 calories a day to gain muscle. If they are female, they should eat 2100 calories a day to gain muscle.

Pretty simple.

The Most Important Step Of All

Right now you have a number in mind for how many calories you should eat a day to lose weight or gain muscle.

And as nice as that number may be, it’s crucial to remember that it is just an estimate.

The maintenance level you calculated? Just an estimate. The ideal deficit for you? Also just an estimate. The ideal surplus for you? Again, just an estimate.

So while it would certainly be nice if this calorie intake turned out to be the 100% completely perfect calorie intake you need it to be, there’s a chance that it won’t.

That’s the bad news.

The good news, however, is that there is a very easy solution to this problem.

It’s something I like to refer to as The Key Step.

The Key Step

  1. Weigh yourself every day – first thing in the morning before eating or drinking – and take the average at the end of the week. (Additional details here: When Is The Best Time To Weigh Yourself)
  2. Pay attention to the weekly averages (not the meaningless daily fluctuations) for a period of 2-4 consecutive weeks.
  3. Ask yourself the following question: is my weight moving in the right direction at the ideal rate it should be?
  4. If the answer is yes, you’re all good. Keep eating this amount of calories each day and continue monitoring progress. If the answer is no, then adjust that calorie intake up or down in small increments (e.g. 100-300 calories at a time), wait another 2-4 weeks and see what happens then. Is your weight moving in the right direction at the ideal rate it should be? If so, you’re good. If not, adjust again and repeat this process until it is.

All of the maintenance level estimates, calculators and deficit/surplus recommendations in the world are lovely and wonderful, BUT THIS IS THE KEY STEP to guaranteeing that you’re eating the right amount of calories a day. Additional details here: Which BMR/TDEE Calculator Is Best?

Summing It Up

So, how many calories should you eat a day to lose weight or gain muscle? It’s pretty easy.

  1. Start by estimating your maintenance level.
  2. From there, create your deficit or surplus depending on which one suits your goal.
  3. And finally, monitor your progress and adjust when/if needed.

When your body weight is moving in the right direction at the ideal rate it should be, you’ll know you’ve found your ideal calorie intake.

What’s Next?

Now that your daily calorie intake has been figured out, the next thing you’re probably going to want to do is figure out what your daily protein, fat and carb intake should be.

To do that, just follow the 5 simple steps I explain right here: How To Calculate Your Macros

Sources: aworkoutroutine.com

The Truth About The Low Carb Diet And Weight Loss

The truth about the low carb diet.

If weight loss is your goal, you’re probably familiar with the low carb diet.

In fact, you may be using some form of this diet plan right now or are thinking about trying it out to see if it really works for you.

In either case, you’re going to want to stop and read this article. Why? Because I’m going to reveal the secrets behind the low carb diet and how it really works.

What you’re about to see is the stuff that the promoters of this diet often ignore, lie about, or just completely misunderstand.

Sound like fun? Let’s begin…

Does The Low Carb Diet Work?

Let’s start with the most basic question of all: does the low carb diet really work for weight loss?

The answer is YES.

Absolutely, positively, without question, no doubt about it. This type of diet plan works.

This is a fact that has been confirmed numerous times in studies as well as in the real world by the countless people who have used it successfully.

So yes, the low carb diet is 100% capable of making weight loss happen.

But, Here’s The Thing…

Now for the fun part.

You see, whether or not the low carb diet works isn’t really the question we need to be asking here.

Why?

Because all kinds of diets can “work.”

Low calorie, low fat, Paleo, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, raw, intermittent fasting, clean eating, Weight Watchers, The Zone, Mediterranean, South Beach and on and on and on.

There is a never-ending list of weight loss diets that are capable of “working.” In fact, every single diet in existence – no matter how weird, crazy, dangerous or stupid it is – has tons of people who have successfully lost weight while using it.

So, the fact that the low carb diet “works” isn’t really all that special or important.

What IS important, however, is why it works, how it works, and whether eating low carb is even remotely necessary at all for someone who wants to lose weight.

Because, when you start to truthfully answer these questions, you quickly realize that:

  1. The low carb diet is not at all what it seems to be.
  2. The biggest proponents of it are either wrong or lying to you.
  3. The effectiveness of low carb diets has nothing to do with carbs.

Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it.

SUMMARY:

Yes, the low carb diet can (and does) work for weight loss. But then again, the same is true of virtually every diet known to man. What’s really important here is why it works, how it works, and whether the “low carb” aspect of it is responsible for its effectiveness. As you’re about to see, it’s not.

The Truth About Weight Loss: It Has Nothing To Do With Carbs

(Note To The Low Carb Dieters Who Are Reading This: This next section will contain an “argument” you’ve probably heard before, and I know you’re going to disagree with it. That’s fine. All I ask is that you please stick with me anyway, because the sections that come after it are going to contain the things you need to hear. If it helps, you’re more than welcome to curse me and call me names while reading this section. Deal? Awesome.)

Weight loss and weight gain (or really, fat loss and fat gain) come down to one thing and one thing only: calories in vs calories out.

Yes, many other aspects of your diet (and workout, and lifestyle) still definitely matter and will play many important roles. But, above all else… it comes down to calories.

Here’s the really short version of how it works…

  • Caloric SurplusIf you consistently eat more calories than your body burns, you end up in a “caloric surplus.” Because you took in more calories than your body needed to use for energy, the leftover calories that weren’t burned got stored in your body for later use, primarily in the form of body fat. This, right here, is the one and only scenario when fat is ever gained.
  • Caloric DeficitIf you consistently eat fewer calories than your body needs to burn for energy, you end up in a “caloric deficit.” Because you took in fewer calories than your body needed, your body was forced to dip into the backup fuel source that it has previously stored in itself for this very purpose – aka your body fat – and burn that instead. This, right here, is the only scenario when fat is ever lost.

(For additional details, check out How To Lose Fat and How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day To Lose Weight)

Which is all to say that in order for ANY weight loss diet to EVER work, it HAS to involve eating fewer calories so that a caloric deficit is consistently present.

When this happens, the diet works.

When it doesn’t, the diet fails.

Always. 100% of the time. Regardless of what the diet is.

A caloric deficit = the sole cause of fat loss and the sole requirement of an effective weight loss diet.

With me so far? Good.

What About Carbs?

We’ve now reached the point where you’re supposed to be pointing out that low carb diets work (I even said so myself), yet they have nothing to do with calories.

No counting calories. No eating fewer calories. And certainly no caloric deficits.

Instead, low carb diets are all about carbs.

That’s the REAL “thing” you need to eat less of in order to lose weight… or so the proponents of this diet will claim. Not calories.

In fact, as long as you eat low carb, you can supposedly eat as many calories as you want and still lose weight just fine.

Why? Because this whole “calorie thing” is supposedly just a stupid, flawed, outdated myth, lie or scam, and carbs are the true determining factor of weight loss and weight gain.

After all, I said at the beginning of this article that low carb diets definitely DO work for weight loss. I stated this as a fact that has been confirmed in studies as well as in the real world… countless times over.

Therefore, what I’m saying about calories has to be false, right?

Well, let’s see about that…

SUMMARY:

A caloric deficit is the sole cause and requirement of fat loss. “Calories in vs calories out” is indeed the primary determining factor of weight loss and weight gain. Low carb diets dispute this and claim it is in fact carbs – not calories – that are the real key.

The 7 Real Reasons Why Low Carb Diets Work

It’s time to reveal the big secrets behind how the low carb diet really works for weight loss.

You ready?

It’s primarily a combination of 7 evidence-based reasons…

Reason #1: You Lose Water Weight

The carbs we eat are stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver. For every gram of glycogen being stored, about 3 grams of water are stored along with it.

This is why people who start a low carb diet almost immediately lose a few pounds (sometimes as much as 5-10 pounds) pretty damn fast.

Most of these people will think “Wow, low carb really does work! It’s only been a couple of days and I’ve already lost a bunch of fat!”

Only, they didn’t. What they lost is some meaningless water weight, all of which will be gained right back as soon as they start eating more carbs.

(Side Note: This “water weight” thing is also the biggest reason why people who overeat one day will often wake up the next day and see that they’ve gained a few pounds overnight and then freak out thinking it’s body fat. In reality, it’s largely just water retention (not fat) due to the extra carbs they consumed. Within a couple of days of getting back to their usual calorie/carb intake, that water weight will subside. Additional details here: The 12 Causes Of Unexplained Weight Gain)

Now, am I saying that ALL of the weight people lose while on a low carb diet is just water weight, not fat? Absolutely not. I am, however, saying that most (if not all) of the weight people lose during the first week or so of starting the diet is indeed just water weight.

Having said that, I will gladly admit that after this initial period, the weight being lost is indeed actual body fat. Let’s now take a look at the real reasons for how and why it happens…

SUMMARY:

Most, if not all, of the initial weight loss seen during the first 1-2 weeks on a low carb diet plan is due to a loss of water weight, not body fat.

Reason #2: Eating More Protein Keeps You Fuller

In addition to eating fewer carbs, low carb diets also always involve eating more protein.

Sometimes this occurs directly, where the diet will literally say “eat more protein” or “eat this much protein” or something similar. Other times, it occurs a bit more indirectly, simply as a result of the fact that if you greatly restrict or completely remove an entire macronutrient (in this case, carbs) from a person’s diet, they’re going to kinda have to start eating a lot more of something else (protein and fat) to compensate and… you know… not starve to death. Sometimes it’s a combination of both.

For this reason, all low carb diets can more accurately be described as being low carb, higher protein diets.

Why am I pointing this out, you ask?

Because protein is the macronutrient playing the largest role in controlling hunger.

In fact, protein’s role in hunger control is among the most significant of all dietary factors (sources: here, here, here, here and here).

Now guess what happens when you start eating more of something that helps you stay fuller, longer?

That’s rightyou end up eating less total calories because you’re less hungry.

And when less total calories are eaten, a caloric deficit will often exist.

And when a caloric deficit exists, fat loss happens because it’s calories – NOT carbs – that dictate fat loss and fat gain.

But wait… there’s more!

SUMMARY:

Low carb diets always involve eating significantly more protein, and protein plays a huge beneficial role in hunger control. This indirectly leads to fewer calories being eaten (because people naturally eat less when they aren’t as hungry), which increases the potential for a caloric deficit to exist.

Reason #3: Eating More Protein Increases Metabolic Rate

In addition to protein’s hunger-controlling qualities, it’s also the macronutrient that has the largest thermic effect. This means it will cause a person’s Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) to increase the most, which is defined as the calories your body burns during the digestion and absorption process of the foods you eat.

Basically, the higher your TEF is, the more calories your body naturally burns each day. With carbs, TEF is usually about 5-10%. With fat, it’s about 0-3%. But with protein, TEF is 20-30%.

So if a food contains 100 calories primarily from protein, 20-30 of those calories will be burned when your body processes it. With fat or carbs, you would likely only burn 0-10 calories.

Why am I pointing this out, you ask?

Because not only will a higher protein intake lead to less total calories being eaten each day thanks to its hunger-controlling benefits, but it will also lead to more calories being burned each day… which is yet another factor that contributes to the presence of a caloric deficit (sources: here, here, here and here).

But wait, there’s even more!

SUMMARY:

Since protein has a much higher thermic effect than other macronutrients, and since low carb diets involve eating more protein, a person on this type of diet plan will often end up with an increased metabolic rate due to this increase in protein, thus increasing the potential for a caloric deficit to exist.

Reason #4: Eating More Protein Preserves Muscle

As if hunger control and increased TEF weren’t enough, here’s another fun fact about protein: it’s the dietary factor playing the largest role in preventing muscle loss while in a caloric deficit (sources: here, here, here, here, here, here and here).

Why am I pointing this out, you ask?

Because a higher protein intake during a period of weight loss will ensure that more of the weight being lost is body fat rather than lean muscle mass. This, in turn, will help to keep a person’s metabolic rate comparatively higher as they lose weight because the body burns more calories maintaining muscle than it does maintaining fat.

Meaning, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body will naturally burn each day both at rest and during activity… which is yet another factor that contributes to the presence of a caloric deficit.

SUMMARY:

A higher protein intake helps to preserve muscle tissue while body fat is lost. And since muscle is more metabolically costly than fat is, a person’s metabolic rate will stay some degree higher during a period of fat loss, thus increasing the potential for a caloric deficit to exist.

Reason #5: Eating More Vegetables And Fiber Keeps You Fuller

Just like with protein, low carb diets also directly or indirectly involve an increase in vegetable consumption, as well as an increase in fiber consumption (which occurs largely due to increase in vegetable consumption).

Again, this either happens because the diet specifically says to eat more vegetables and/or a certain amount of fiber, or because vegetables appear near the very top of a low carb diet’s list of “foods that you’re allowed to eat.” Or… both.

Why am I pointing this out, you ask?

Because fiber is another nutrient that plays a huge roll in controlling hunger (sources: here, here, here, here and here). It provides “bulk” within your stomach, which increases how physically full your stomach is (which, in turn, increases how physically full you feel). Fiber also helps to slow the digestion of the foods and meals we eat, which increases how long we stay full after eating them.

In addition to being an excellent source of fiber, vegetables also happen to be high in water content, which is yet another nutritional quality known for promoting fullness (sources: here, here, here, here and here).

Which is all to say that when you eat more vegetables/fiber, you’re going to get a tremendous amount of hunger-controlling benefits.

And guess what happens when you start getting these hunger-controlling benefits? That’s rightyou end up eating less total calories because you’re less hungry.

SUMMARY:

Low carb diets almost always involve eating significantly more vegetables and fiber, both of which play a huge beneficial role in hunger control. Just like with protein, this indirectly leads to fewer calories being eaten (because people naturally eat less when they aren’t as hungry), which increases the potential for a caloric deficit to exist.

Reason #6: Eating More Fat Keeps You Fuller

Low carb diets also directly or indirectly involve eating more fat.

Why am I pointing this out, you ask?

Because, like protein and fiber, fat is yet another nutrient playing a beneficial role in hunger control thanks to its ability to slow the digestion of a food/meal and the absorption of glucose into the blood stream… which yet again leads to less total calories being eaten because you’re less hungry.

SUMMARY:

Low carb diets always involve eating significantly more dietary fat, which plays positive roles in hunger control. Just like with protein, vegetables and fiber, this increases the potential for a caloric deficit to exist because people naturally eat fewer calories when they aren’t as hungry.

Reason #7: Eating Fewer Carbs = Eating Fewer Calories

And now for the biggest reason of them all and the most top secret secret of all the secrets.

Low carb diets are built around one very obvious fundamental principle: eating fewer carbs.

Sometimes the diet is very low in carbs, sometimes it’s extremely low in carbs, and sometimes it’s a straight up “no carb” diet.

Why am I pointing out something so obvious, you ask?

Because carbs just so happen to be the macronutrient/food group that comprises the majority of the typical person’s diet. It also happens to be the macronutrient/food group that encompasses the majority of the foods that people tend to overeat the most.

You know… foods like:

  • bread
  • rice
  • pasta
  • potatoes
  • cereal
  • chips
  • cookies
  • sugary foods
  • snack foods
  • junk foods
  • soda
  • juice
  • sports drinks
  • and on and on and on.

Now guess what happens when you greatly restrict or completely eliminate all of these foods? Guess what happens when you remove a ton of carbs (which contain 4 calories per gram) from a person’s diet?

You end up removing a ton of calories, too.

And thus, less total calories end up being eaten.

And it’s this, above all else, that makes low carb diets “work.”

In fact, it’s this, above all else, that makes EVERY diet work. Let me explain…

Direct Deficit Diets vs Indirect Deficit Diets

In my book, Superior Fat Loss, I go into detail about what I like to call “direct deficit diets” and “indirect deficit diets.” Here’s the short version:

  • Direct Deficit DietsThese are diets built around DIRECTLY creating your required caloric deficit, and then designing everything else with that as the foundation of your diet.
  • Indirect Deficit Diets 

    These are diets built around placing any number of (often unnecessary) rules and restrictions on what, how and when you can eat, thereby INDIRECTLY causing your required caloric deficit to exist (often while claiming calories have nothing to do with it).

The low carb diet is a perfect example of an indirect deficit diet.

When it works, it’s because a caloric deficit was indirectly created. The reduction in carb intake – in and of itself – had nothing to do with it.

That’s because weight loss always comes down to calories in vs calories out. Eating fewer carbs is just an indirect means to eating fewer calories.

The same can be said for eating less fat, or less sugar, or less grains, or less “dirty” food, or less non-Paleo food, or fasting for significant portions of the day, or not eating after 7PM, or any other (unnecessary) dietary method that restricts what you can eat or the manner in which you can eat it.

That’s not to say this sort of stuff can’t work for losing weight. It certainly can. Like I said before, low carb diets DO work.

However, despite what the proponents of these methods might falsely claim or the users of these methods might falsely believe… it’s NEVER these other “restrictions” that are making weight loss happen. It’s always the underlying caloric deficit that they are indirectly causing.

Well, I should say… the underlying caloric deficit that they are hopefully causing.

The Problems With Indirect Deficit Diets Like Low Carb

With all else being equal (adherence, consistency, execution, etc.), direct deficit diets are guaranteed to work.

But indirect deficit diets like low carb? With all else being equal, many of them CAN work. And, like I’ve been saying since the beginning, many often DO work. No doubt about that at all.

The problem, however, is that it’s now less of a guarantee and more of a lucky side effect.

What I mean is, instead of directly doing the one thing that truly needs to be done for weight loss to occur (creating a caloric deficit), these diets ignore calories while placing various unnecessary rules and restrictions on the way that you eat (e.g., foods you can or can’t eat, times you can or can’t eat, etc.), thus indirectly causing you to eat less… thus indirectly causing a deficit to exist.

And that leads to two big problems…

  1. You’re doing stuff you don’t truly NEED to be doing for the purpose of causing the one and only thing you NEED to be doing… and these non-essential things are not always guaranteed to be enough to make it happen. Meaning, regardless of the type of non-calorie-based rules and restrictions a diet employs, it’s always going to be possible for a person to out-eat them. So while greatly restricting or completely eliminating carbs should hypothetically make it harder for someone to eat too many calories, it certainly doesn’t make it impossible (e.g., removing the “bad” foods isn’t guaranteed to prevent a person from simply overeating “good” foods instead). Which, of course, is why so many of the people on these types of diets still fail to reach their weight loss goals despite following all of their unnecessary rules. Speaking of which…
  2. The various unnecessary and often excessive rules and restrictions these diets entail typically force you to eat in a manner that doesn’t suit your personal preferences (or just flat out annoys the crap out of you). And doing things that go against your own personal preferences (like avoiding carbs even though you enjoy eating them and want to continue doing so) is the #1 way to create problems with diet adherence and long-term sustainability. This, probably even more so than the first problem, is why people on these types of diets either fail to lose weight in the first place, or fail to keep that weight off after losing it.

This is something I bring up for the people who say things like: “If the low carb diet can work, who cares why it works? Even if we know it’s just making us eat fewer calories? As long as it’s working, who really cares? Counting calories seems annoying anyway, so I’d rather just stop eating carbs because it seems simpler. So why not just do that?”

Well, these two potential problems would be my response to that question.

SUMMARY:

When you eat fewer carbs, you eat fewer calories. Plain and simple. 1 gram of carbs contains 4 calories. It tends to be the macronutrient that comprises the majority of most people’s diets and it’s also the one that people are most likely to overeat. Therefore, when you greatly restrict or completely remove such a significant part of a person’s overall diet, you also end up removing a significant amount of calories. And when that happens, a caloric deficit becomes a lot more likely to (indirectly) exist.

“More Proof! I Want Even More Proof!”

What’s that you say?

All of the facts, logic and evidence I’ve provided so far isn’t enough, and you want more?

Okay. Fine.

Here’s more…

Examples Of HIGH Carb Diets Working Well For Weight Loss

Here now is a handful of perfect real-world examples where people went on crazy/extreme diets that were very high in carbs and yet still lost weight just fine.

Why did these people go on these crazy diets, you ask?

In some (but not all) cases, they did it to help prove the very same points I’ve been making throughout this article, the most notable of which is that it’s calories and not carbs (or anything else) that determines fat loss and fat gain.

Here’s a breakdown of exactly what happened…

(Note: I am not recommending any of these diets. Like I said, they are all crazy, extreme and obviously FAR from ideal. However, they’re still useful for showing how unnecessary a low carb diet truly is.)

  • The Twinkie DietMark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, went on a 10-week diet comprised largely of snack foods that are super high in carbs/sugar (e.g., Twinkies, Little Debbie cakes, Doritos, Oreos, brownies, sugary cereals, etc.). However, he also created a caloric deficit. Guess what happened? He lost 27 lbs in 2 months and reduced his body fat percentage from 33.4% to 24.9%. He also reduced his “bad” cholesterol (LDL) by 20%, increased his “good” cholesterol (HDL) 20%, and reduced triglycerides by 39%. (source)
  • The Fast Food DietJohn Cisna, a high school science teacher from Iowa, went on a McDonald’s-only diet for 3 straight months comprised primarily of foods like Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, McMuffins, various desserts (such as sundaes and ice cream) and other typical fast food items. However, he also created a caloric deficit. Guess what happened? He lost 37 lbs during those 90 days. (source)
  • The Potato Diet(Version 1)Chris Voigt, the head of the Washington State Potato Commission (yup, apparently that’s a thing), went on a diet where he ate nothing but potatoes for 60 days. However, he also unintentionally created a caloric deficit (partially because he was so full from all of the fiber the potatoes contained and he simply couldn’t eat as much as he intended to). Guess what happened? He lost 21 lbs during those 60 days. (source)
  • The Potato Diet(Version 2)Andrew Flinders Taylor, who appears to just be some random dude from Australia, went on a potato-only diet of his own, this time doing it for nearly 1 full year. However, a caloric deficit also existed. Guess what happened? He lost 117 pounds in a year. (source)

There are actually more examples like this where people went on equally crazy diets that involved eating everything from only pizza to only ice cream and, in every single case, they all still lost weight just fine.

The key question is, why is this? And the answer is very simple.

Because weight loss and weight gain are dictated by calorie intake, not by carb intake. Even when you eat tons and tons of carbs – and even when they are the really bad, high sugar, high glycemic kind – fat will still be lost as long as a caloric deficit exists.

SUMMARY:

There are many real-world examples of people going on extreme diets that consist almost entirely of foods that are very high in carbs and/or sugar – the exact same foods that low carb diets say must be avoided in order to lose weight – and all of those people lost weight just fine thanks to the presence of a caloric deficit.

A List Of Relevant Studies

If real-world evidence isn’t your thing, and you happen to be the kind of person who requires a long list of relevant studies that support a point before you’d even consider accepting that point as truth… then this next section is for you.

Here now is a collection of just some of the studies that support the fact that A) a caloric deficit is the sole cause and requirement of fat loss, B) whether carb intake is low, moderate or high, fat loss still happens just the same as long a deficit exists, and C) when total calorie and protein intake are controlled for, it makes little to no difference whatsoever how many grams of carbs you eat.

Feel free to check out each study when you have a few hours to kill…

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26278052
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25007189
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22935440
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19439458
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22243943
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20679559
  • https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2673150
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20107198
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27385608
  • http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0804748
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16685046
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22258266
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19246357
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20141567
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18195164
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15632335
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21058203
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23035144
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9094871
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16403234

But wait… hang on… I bet I know what you’re thinking now.

“Where Are All Of The Studies That Support Low Carb Diets?!?”

If you’re a low carb dieter or thinking about becoming one, chances are you have seen numerous studies that support the usage of this type of diet plan.

You know… the studies that support the claim that is it indeed carbs (not calories) that truly dictate fat loss and fat gain. The studies that support the claim that low carb diets are superior to other types of diets. The studies that every well known low carb guru uses to back up the recommendations they give, the claims they make and the books they write.

Where, exactly, are all of those studies?

Am I ignoring them, or just insinuating that they don’t exist?

Nope, not at all. These studies absolutely DO exist. Guess what else? They all happen to have one minor detail in common…

They All Have Serious Design Flaws

Basically, the studies that support the usage of low carb diets for weight loss are flawed to a degree that makes their conclusions inconclusive at best. And at worst? It makes them useless misleading horseshit.

Usually, it’s the latter.

But the low carb world LOVES to cite these kinds of studies. And, well… they kinda sorta have to. Why? Because flawed studies are the only studies where the benefits of low carb diets are ever seen.

Take away those flaws and recreate the same circumstances in a better designed study (like many of the ones on the list from before), and guess what happens? Suddenly, those benefits no longer exist.

So, what kind of design flaws am I talking about here? These are the two biggest ones of them all…

1. Protein Is Not Controlled For

In every study where a comparison is being done between low carb vs high carb (or low carb vs anything, for that matter), and low carb comes out as the clear winner, it almost always just so happens to be that the low carb group had a much higher protein intake than the other group(s) did.

In fact, the protein intake of the higher carb groups in these types of studies is often below the RDA’s recommendation for protein intake, and damn near everyone in the nutrition field would agree that the RDA’s recommendation is already significantly lower than what’s ideal for someone trying to lose weight (for comparison, the protein intake of the low carb group is typically well above the RDA).

Why is this important, you ask?

Because, as I mentioned earlier, protein plays huge roles in…

  • Hunger control (more protein = less hunger = less calories eaten = more likelihood of a deficit existing).
  • Thermic effect (more protein = more calories burned per day = more likelihood of a deficit existing).
  • Preserving muscle (more protein = more muscle = higher metabolic rate = more likelihood of a deficit existing).

Which means, in order to truly tell if it’s the difference in carb intake that is making one diet more effective than the other, you MUST ensure that both groups are eating EXACTLY the same amount of protein. But yet…

In These Types Of Misleading Studies, Protein Is NEVER Kept Constant

Instead, the low carb group always eats significantly more protein than the group(s) it is being compared to. And magically… the low carb diet somehow comes out on top. Wow, what a surprise!

From there, various low carb gurus find this study and cling to it as proof of their false claims without ever mentioning a word about the differences in protein intake between the diets that were compared, which just so happens to be a design flaw that invalidates the conclusion they are coming to.

Really, if these studies tell us anything useful, it’s that high protein is better for weight loss than low protein. To which everyone already aware of protein’s benefits would say “yeah, no shit.”

What About When Protein IS Kept Constant?

Oh, and if you’re wondering what happens in studies that compare low carb diets to higher carb diets AND ACTUALLY DO keep protein intake the same between groups (like many of the studies I listed earlier), then here’s a little spoiler for you…

In 100% of the studies that control for both protein and calories (more about that in a second), every group ends up losing the same amount of weight. No benefit is seen with lower carb diets vs higher carb diets. No meaningful difference whatsoever is found between groups despite having higher or lower carb intakes. Basically, with protein and calories being equal, your ratio of carbs and fat doesn’t really matter much, if at all.

Fun times.

SUMMARY:

Studies that show any benefit or superiority to a low carb diet plan over a moderate or higher carb diet plan usually fail to keep protein constant. And since we already know that higher protein intakes provide a variety of weight loss related benefits, we know that whichever group is eating sufficient amounts of protein is going to come out on top of the group that isn’t. In these flawed studies, the low carb group just so happens to be the one that’s eating the most protein. Which means it isn’t the low carb aspect itself that’s doing anything special in these studies, it’s the high protein aspect. In the studies that DO keep protein intake constant between groups, no benefits are seen with lower carb diets.

2. Calories Are Not Controlled For

Now take everything we just talked about regarding protein intake not being kept the same between groups, and then replace the word “protein” with the word “calories.”

Because that right there is yet another wonderful flaw commonly seen in studies that show any benefit to low carb diets.

See, if we’re trying to determine if it’s calories or carbs that are the true cause of weight loss, or if lower carb diets provide any benefits over higher carb diets… the only way to accurately do that would be by having 2 groups eating the SAME amount of calories, and then have 1 group eat fewer carbs and the other eat more carbs.

This way, carb intake would be different, but total calories would remain constant.

Then, if the low carb group ended up losing more fat (or losing fat any better or faster) than the other group, then holy crap… we’d actually have something useful and conclusive!!

Unfortunately, This NEVER Happens In The Studies Touted By The Low Carb World

Instead, it’s just a lower carb diet vs a higher carb diet with little to no attention being paid at all to how many calories the different groups are eating.

Why does this matter so much, you ask?

Well, do you remember earlier when I explained how low carb diets always directly or indirectly involve making other dietary changes (more protein, more fiber/vegetables, more fat) that have significant hunger-controlling benefits? The kind of benefits that lead to fewer calories being eaten?

And how when you remove a ton of carbs from a person’s diet, you also end up removing a ton of calories as well?

Well, if Group A is doing a much better job of controlling hunger than Group B… and Group A has restricted an entire food group that Group B is still allowed to eat… and Group A is therefore going to be eating significantly fewer calories than Group B is… then guess which group is going to end up losing more weight and doing so better/faster/easier?

THAT’S RIGHT!! Group A!

And as it turns out, the low carb group is always “Group A” in these studies.

So again what will happen is that various low carb gurus will find these studies and hold them up high as proof of their false claims without ever mentioning a word about the differences in total calories eaten between the groups that were compared, which just so happens to be a design flaw that invalidates the conclusion they are coming to.

Really, if these studies tell us anything useful, it’s that eating fewer calories and adjusting your diet to better control your hunger is more effective for weight loss than doing the opposite. Once again…. yeah, no shit.

What About When Calories ARE Kept Constant?

And if you’re wondering what happens in studies that DO keep calorie intake the same between groups (like many of the studies I listed earlier), then here’s that same little spoiler for you from before…

In 100% of the studies that control for both protein and calories, every group ends up losing the same amount of weight. No benefit is seen with lower carb diets vs higher carb diets. No meaningful difference whatsoever is found between groups despite having higher or lower carb intakes. Basically, with protein and calories being equal, your ratio of carbs and fat doesn’t really matter much, if at all.

SUMMARY:

Studies that show any benefit or superiority to a low carb diet plan over a moderate or higher carb diet plan fail to keep calories constant. And since we already know that it’s total calories that dictate weight loss and weight gain, we know that whichever diet leads to fewer calories being consumed is going to end up coming out on top. In these flawed studies, the low carb group just so happens to be the one that’s eating the fewest calories. Which means it isn’t the low carb aspect itself that’s doing anything special, it’s the lower calorie aspect. In studies that do keep calorie intake constant, no benefit is seen in the low carb group.

So, How Do Low Carb Diets Work?

It’s actually pretty simple.

Low carb diets work by indirectly causing a caloric deficit to exist.

This occurs due to a combination of:

  1. Removing a ton of calories from your diet by removing a ton of carbs from your diet, and…
  2. Directly or indirectly getting you to make other dietary adjustments (more protein, more fiber, more vegetables, more fat) that just so happen to lead to significantly less hunger and thus less total calories being eaten. (And, in the case of protein, an increased metabolic rate and thus more total calories being burned.)

Or, to put that another way: low carb diets work by getting you to be in a caloric deficit while claiming it has nothing to do with being in a caloric deficit.

You know… just like every other seemingly non-calorie-based diet does.

The End.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Now let’s answer a few remaining questions/comments some people may have…

Q: I don’t care what you say or what evidence you have, the low carb diet works for me!!

Congrats on missing the entire point of the article.

Q: I disagree with all of this!! My favorite low carb guru disagrees with all of this, too!!

Wow, I’m so completely and utterly shocked to hear this. I would have thought for sure that you would have immediately changed your opinions, beliefs and recommendations. The fact that you didn’t is truly hard for me to believe. I don’t know what to make of this. How will I ever find the strength to go on.

Q: What about Gary Taubes and his popular books?

Yeah… about those books… I’d recommend checking out these breakdowns of Gary Taubes’ “work” right here, here and here.

Q: What about insulin? I always hear the low carb people talking about insulin?

I’d recommend checking out James Krieger’s series of articles about insulin starting here.

Q: What about the “type” of carbs we eat? Doesn’t that matter?

Strictly in terms of fat loss and fat gain? And with all else (e.g. calorie intake, protein intake, fat intake, dietary adherence, etc.) being equal? Nope. There’s no meaningful difference whatsoever. You’ll lose or gain the same amount of body fat regardless of whether the carbs you eat are “good” or “bad” or “simple” or “complex” or “high glycemic” or “low glycemic” or whatever else. (I cover this topic a bit more in my comparison of Brown Rice vs White Rice.)

In terms of things like overall health, micronutrient intake, hunger control and so on, then yes, there’s obviously some degree of difference between eating sugary garbage and eating some kind of higher quality, nutrient-dense carb source.

This is why the higher quality stuff should comprise the majority of your diet (80-90%) while the yummy lower quality stuff should be kept to a small yet still enjoyable and sustainable minimum (10-20%).

Q: What if I prefer to use a low carb diet, but not because of any supposed magic of carbs, but because it suits my personal needs and preferences and I find it easier to sustain than other diets? What if I simply don’t care that it’s really just a means of getting me to eat fewer calories? What if I just happen to like it best?

That’s totally fine by me.

Q: I tried this “caloric deficit” thing before and it didn’t work for me. The only thing that ever worked was low carb. Therefore… it IS all about carbs, not calories.

Cool… here’s two reasons for why you’ve come to this incorrect conclusion:

  1. First, if the “caloric deficit” thing didn’t work for you, it’s guaranteed proof that you weren’t actually in a caloric deficit. At least, not consistently enough for it to work. This scenario – where a person thinks they are in a deficit but really isn’t – is actually extremely common and occurs most often due to issues in the tracking of calories consumed and/or calories burned which results in the person unknowingly eating more and/or burning less than they think they are/claim to be… and thus no deficit actually exists. This happens ALL THE TIME (sources: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). So why did low carb work for you instead? Because it allowed you to finally end up in the deficit you unknowingly failed to be in before.
  2. Second, maybe you did legitimately get into a caloric deficit, but the rest of your diet was poorly designed. And so, your deficit was simply too hard to sustain. Meaning, you were probably consuming an insufficient amount of protein, fiber, vegetables and/or fat… all of which are things that would have helped you better control your hunger and sustain your deficit. And it wasn’t until you went low carb that you finally started to consume ideal amounts of these other beneficial things, thus making everything better and easier for you. So it wan’t the low carb aspect of the diet itself that worked for you, it was the other dietary adjustments that came along with it which you could have (and SHOULD HAVE) just as easily made on the previous diet you were using.

Q: But I’m on a low carb diet now and I’m eating TONS of calories from protein and fat. TONS OF CALORIES!! There are literally no limits on the amount of calories I can eat, so there’s no way in hell that I’m in a caloric deficit. Basically, I’m eating an unlimited amount of calories and I’m still losing weight just fine. Hooray for low carb!

Yeah, here’s the thing about that. You may not have a literal written limit on how many calories you can eat. On paper, you can seemingly eat unlimited amounts. However, in reality, you’re doing a bunch of things within your diet that will naturally limit how many calories you end up eating.

What I mean is, by greatly restricting/completely eliminating an entire food group – which happens to be the food group that people overeat the most – while simultaneously making other adjustments that keep you significantly fuller for a significantly longer period of time… guess what’s going to naturally happen?

The amount you’re capable of eating WILL be limited whether you realize it or not.

That’s just what’s bound to happen when you’re much less hungry overall and not allowed to eat the most popular food group. So yeah, sure, low carb diets may claim you can eat an unlimited amount of calories. But, at the same time, it’s a diet that is designed to greatly limit how many calories you end up eating.

Q: I’ve decided that I’m going to ignore 100% of the logic, facts and evidence you’ve presented here. If you continue to try to reason with me in a civilized manner, I’ll literally close my eyes, cover my ears and yell “LA LA LA LA LA LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU, LA LA LA LA LA LA!!” Instead, I’m going to cling to a few highly flawed cherry-picked studies that don’t control for calories and/or protein (while again ignoring the studies that do). Then I’m going to appeal to authority by mentioning names like Taubes, Fung, Ludwig, Noakes, Harcombe and other such people who are widely regarded as a joke by the actual scientific community. Then I’m going to say words like “hormones” and “insulin” and “metabolic advantage” even though, in all honesty, I don’t have a clue wtf they even mean.

From there, my next logical fallacy of choice will be “strawman” at which point I’ll say something like “so you think eating 2000 calories of nothing but sugar and white bread is a healthy way to lose weight?!?” After that, I’ll spout some batshit crazy nonsense about government conspiracies, followed by getting really angry and calling you names because I’ve formed an emotional attachment to bad information and I simply don’t know how else to respond at this point. Then I’m going to run back to the safety of my little low carb echo chamber/cult where other people who are just as misinformed as I am will confirm my preexisting biases and make me feel okay again. As an added bonus, I might also tell a few dozen of them to come here and leave angry comments.

Wow. I sooooo didn’t see that coming. Quite frankly, I’m stunned.

Q: What kind of diet do you recommend for losing weight?

It’s pretty simple…

  1. First, create a moderate caloric deficit. 20% below your maintenance level is a good place to start. Full details here: How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day?
  2. Second, get a sufficient amount of protein. 0.8-1g of protein per pound of your current body weight is a good place to start (use your goal body weight for this calculation if you are very overweight).
  3. Third, fill in your remaining daily calories with whatever amounts of fat and carbs you happen to like best so that a) neither nutrient is excessively low or excessively high, and b) your diet is as Preferable, Enjoyable, Convenient and Sustainable for you as possible (#PECS). Additional details here: How To Calculate Your Macros
  4. Fourth, get the majority of those nutrients from higher quality, nutrient-dense food sources (while still keeping the yummy fun stuff around as a small part of your overall diet).
  5. Fifth, put everything else (meal frequency, timing, scheduling, food combinations, etc.) together in whatever the hell way you like best so that, yet again, your diet is as #PECS for you as possible.

That’s it. That’s everything.

Sources: aworkoutroutine.com

How To Lose 10 Pounds In A Week, 2 Weeks, Or A Month

How to lose 10 pounds in a week, 2 weeks or a month.

Want to lose 10 pounds of fat? Of course you do.

The better question is, how fast do you want to lose it?

Based on the emails I get, there seem to be three main periods of time that most people are attempting to reach this goal in. They are:

  • A week.
  • 2 weeks.
  • A month.

Let’s now go through each and figure out exactly what you’d need to do to lose 10 pounds within that time frame.

How To Lose 10 Pounds In A Week

First up, we have the shortest time frame of all: one week.

So, what would you need to do with your diet and workout in order to lose 10 pounds this quickly? Let’s start with some important math.

The “3500 Calorie Rule” Of Weight Loss

Have you ever heard that there’s 3500 calories in one pound of fat? And that, if you wanted to lose 1lb, you’d need to either eat 3500 fewer calories, burn 3500 additional calories, or do some combination of both?

So, for example, if you maintain your current weight eating 2500 calories per day, and you then began eating 2000 calories per day instead (or kept eating 2500 but started burning an extra 500 calories per day), you’d end up with a total weekly caloric deficit of 3500 calories (500 calorie deficit per day x 7 days in a week = 3500 calorie deficit). Which means, you’d lose exactly 1lb per week.

Sounds nice, right?

Well, I have some good news and bad news about it.

  • Bad News: It’s not entirely true.Yes, one pound of fat contains roughly 3500 calories. However, there are a bunch of factors that prevent this from being the super accurate “rule” we all want it to be. For example, there’s the fact that the weight we lose and gain can be (and usually is) something besides only body fat (e.g. water, muscle tissue, glycogen, poop, etc… full details here: 12 Causes Of Unexplained Weight Gain). Then there’s the Thermic Effect Of Food (TEF) and Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) which will affect exactly how many calories we’re burning. Which is all to say that a 3500 calorie deficit is rarely going to result in exactly one pound being lost (and a 3500 calorie surplus is rarely going to result in exactly one pound being gained). It’s a lot more complicated than that.
  • Good News: The “3500 calorie rule” is still good enough.It’s definitely not perfectly accurate. And it definitely has its flaws. And it definitely won’t always work out like it hypothetically should. But, even still, it’s a decent enough method of estimating how much weight a person will lose or gain.

So, with all of that being said, we’re going to use this “rule” (3500 calorie deficit = 1 pound lost) for estimating what type of changes we’d need to make for 10 pounds to be lost. Cool? Cool.

Now for the important step…

How Much Of A Deficit Is Needed To Lose 10 Pounds In A Week?

If a 3500 calorie deficit is needed for 1lb to be lost, that means a deficit 10 times as large will be needed for 10lbs to be lost. So, let’s do the math.

3500 x 10 = 35,000

This means that in order for 10 pounds to be lost, a total caloric deficit of roughly 35,000 calories would be needed.

And, since we’re attempting to lose these 10 pounds in the span of just one week (which is 7 days), that would mean we’d need to have a caloric deficit of 5000 calories per day to make it happen.

So, how exactly do you go about creating a daily deficit of 5000 calories?

Simple: YOU F-ING DON’T.

Sorry, But This Is NOT A Realistic Goal

I hate to be the one to break it to you (actually, I really don’t mind it at all), but losing 10 pounds of fat in a week is just not going to happen. It’s an unrealistic and dangerous goal, and you’ll only be setting yourself up for failure.

I mean, think about it. Let’s say some example person maintains their current weight eating 2500 calories per day.

  • For them to lose 1lb in a week, they’d need to eat 2000 calories per day instead. That’s perfectly doable.
  • To lose 2lbs in a week, they’d need to eat 1500 calories per day. That’s going to be pretty low for most people (details here: The 1200 Calorie Diet).
  • To lose 3lbs in a week, they’d need to eat 1000 calories per day. That’s dangerously low and should not be attempted.
  • To lose 4lbs in a week, they’d need to eat 500 calories per day. What’s more dangerous than being “dangerously low?” Insert that here.
  • Do you see where this is going? I think you do.
  • To lose 10lbs in a week, they’d need to starve themselves to an extreme that isn’t even possible (i.e. they’d need to eat -2500 calories per day).

Now, sure, the person in this example could create some or all of their deficit by burning more calories via exercise (like cardio) rather than strictly eating less. And, in certain cases – like losing 2lbs in a week – that would indeed be a safer and more realistic approach. BUT, once the average person attempts to lose more than that at this rate… the same huge, dangerous problem exists.

So… how do you lose 10 pounds of fat in a week? It’s simple: you don’t, because you can’t.

But Wait A Second… I’ve Seen People Do It!!

I’m sure you have. I have too. Hell, you may have even lost 10lbs in a week yourself. I don’t doubt that it may have happened before, nor do I doubt that it could potentially happen again.

But here’s the important thing you’re missing: I’m talking about losing 10 pounds of body fat, not just 10 pounds of weight.

It’s crucial that you understand this difference.

You see, as I mentioned earlier, “weight” can be fat, muscle, water, glycogen, poop and more. In fact, you can cut off one of your legs and you’ll lose “weight” just fine.

My point is, losing 10 pounds of fat in a week is not going to happen. But losing 10 pounds of some other form of “weight” in a week? Yeah, that can happen.

For example, you can do some kind of stupid juice-cleanse-detox-horseshit-fad-diet-nonsense and temporarily lose a bunch of water weight really fast. Potentially even 10lbs worth. Potentially within a week.

But Is Temporary Water Loss What You Really Want?

Seriously, is that what you’re trying to accomplish here? To lose a bunch of water weight instead of actual body fat? And then instantly gain it all back as soon as your diet returns to being something less stupid?

If so, feel free. Also feel free to get yourself a case of food poisoning and then shit your brains out for a few days. That’s another effective method for losing 10lbs of “weight” in a week. (Disclaimer: please don’t actually do any of this.)

So yeah, it’s possible to lose 10lbs in a week. It’s just not going to be fat. For this and many other reasons, if you ever come across anything that claims it will allow you to lose this much weight this quickly, it’s all but guaranteed to be A) a bunch of bullshit, B) some nonsense that’s trying to take advantage of this “weight vs fat” difference, or C) extremely dangerous. Usually all of the above.

Either way, avoid it.

10 pounds of weight vs body fat.

But What About The People On The Biggest Loser???

There always seems to be one guy who loves to bring up The Biggest Loser whenever I write anything sane, realistic, or evidence-based about weight loss.

And I can only assume he’ll bring up the fact that the contestants on this terrible reality show often lose crazy amounts of weight in just a week.

How do they do it?

It’s a simple combination of the following:

  1. Being so obese that their calorie maintenance levels are high enough for a very large dietary deficit to be created that would be unrealistic/impossible for someone who isn’t that excessively overweight.
  2. Burning a ton of calories working out for hours and hours and hours a day.
  3. Losing “weight” that isn’t entirely body fat.

Moving on…

How To Lose 10 Pounds In 2 Weeks

Okay, now for the next time frame on our list: 2 weeks.

This one is going to be pretty easy to cover, because you can just take everything we’ve already discussed about losing 10 pounds in a week and… you know… cut it in half.

Meaning, that same total 35,000 calorie deficit is still required, only now we can cut it in half and make it a 17,500 calorie deficit per week, for 2 consecutive weeks, thus causing approximately 5 pounds of weight loss each week for a total of 10.

For this to happen, we’d now be looking at a daily deficit of 2500 calories instead of the 5000 from before.

So, what do you think?

Is losing 10 pounds in 2 weeks a better, safer, and more realistic goal than doing it in 1 week? Yup, of course it is. It’s literally twice as better/safer/realistic of a goal.

Unfortunately, that’s still not good enough, as it remains a highly unrealistic and dangerous goal for the very same reasons.

There may be a few rare exceptions this time… namely the obese (and even in those cases, this rate of weight loss wouldn’t last very long). And yup, the same “weight vs fat” stuff from earlier applies here just the same (hell, I can lose or gain 5lbs overnight just by manipulating my sodium and carb intake).

But the point remains that trying to lose 10 pounds of actual body fat in just 2 weeks is not going to happen for the vast majority of the population. Don’t bother trying.

How To Lose 10 Pounds In A Month

And finally, we have our third time frame: 1 month.

Let’s do the math.

A total caloric deficit of 35,000 calories divided by 30 days in an average month gives us a daily caloric deficit of: 1167.

So instead of eating 5000 fewer calories (or burning 5000 extra calories) per day like our first laughably insane scenario… or eating 2500 fewer calories (or burning 2500 extra calories) per day like our slightly-more-realistic-but-still-laughably-unrealistic second scenario… a person in this third scenario would need to eat 1167 fewer calories (or burn 1167 extra calories) per day to make it happen.

Is This Doable?

What do you think? Is this doable? And safe? And realistic?

For some people… it may very well be.

This ends up being about 2.5lbs lost per week for 4 weeks (1 month), and that can potentially fall within the realm of “realistic” for certain people in certain situations, namely those with an above-average amount of weight to lose who would typically have above-average calorie needs.

For example, someone who is maintaining their current weight eating 3000 calories per day would need to eat 1833 calories per day for this 1167 deficit to exist. That would be hard, and the person may be better off going with a more moderate approach… but it does still qualify as being realistically doable. At least, in the short term.

Similarly, this same example person could eat 800 fewer calories and then burn 367 additional calories to create that same 1167 deficit. This could also be accomplished with countless other combinations of eating less/burning more. Again, it would be hard, and the person might be better off using a more moderate approach… but it has the potential to be doable.

What About Everyone Else (aka Most People)?

As for everyone else, though… the answer would usually be no.

Especially for those with a more average or below-average amount of weight to lose, and/or those with lower calorie needs (details here: How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day?). In these cases, losing 10 pounds of actual body fat in a month becomes a lot less realistic and a lot less ideal… especially if you want to avoid losing muscle.

But wait, what’s that you say?

If this is true, then what time frame would be ideal for most people trying to lose 10lbs? Good question. Let’s find out…

What Time Frame Is Ideal For Losing 10lbs?

We know it sure as shit isn’t a week. Or 2 weeks. And for most people, it’s not even a month.

So then… what is it?

Well, the exact answer to this question depends on the person. After all, the ideal rate of weight loss for someone who only has 10lbs to lose is different than the ideal rate of weight loss for someone with 30lbs, or 50lbs, or 100lbs to lose. Each individual’s personal needs and preferences also play a huge role in determining what’s “ideal” for them.

But, in general… here’s what I recommend.

The Ideal Rate Of Weight Loss

Most people should aim to lose between 0.5-2lbs per week. The lower end (0.5-1lb per week) tends to be most ideal for people who have less fat to lose. The higher end (2lbs per week, sometimes a little more) tends to be ideal for those who have a lot of fat to lose. The average person who falls somewhere in between tends to do best with something in the middle (1-2lbs per week).

I also sometimes give this recommendation in terms of a percentage of a person’s body weight. Specifically, losing between 0.3% – 1% of your body weight per week. In most cases, for most people, this actually works out to being 0.5-2lbs per week, so it’s really just a slightly different version of the same thing.

Why Is This Ideal?

In my Superior Fat Loss program, I go into a ton of detail about this recommendation, why it’s ideal in most cases, and why going too slow or too fast can be problematic.

Here’s the short version: this is the sweet spot for getting safe, effective, sustainable fat loss results while simultaneously minimizing or preventing the MANY problems that come about during the fat loss process.

This includes muscle loss, strength loss, increased hunger, metabolic slowdown, hormonal changes, lethargy, moodiness, sleep issues, libido issues and so on.

For minimizing all of this while still making fat loss happen at a rate that is both acceptable (i.e. not overly slow) and sustainable (in both the short and long term), this is the ideal range to shoot for.

Which Means…

If your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you can usually expect it to take 5-15 weeks depending on the person.

For additional details on how to actually make this weight loss happen in the first place, go here: What Is The Best Way To Lose Weight And Keep It Off?

Sources: aworkoutroutine.com

Why Am I Not Losing Weight? Here’s Every Possible Reason

Why am I not losing weight?

Let me guess… you’re doing everything right, but you’re not losing weight?

This is something I hear on a daily basis. Someone will tell me they’re eating better. Or eating healthy. Or eating less. Or eating “right.” Or following some type of diet that’s designed for weight loss.

They may also tell me they’re working out. Maybe cardio. Or weight training. Or both.

And they tell me that despite doing these things, nothing is happening. It’s just not working for them. And that’s when they ask me: why am I not losing weight?

Well, if you’re wondering the same thing, keep reading… because I’m going to show you every single possible cause there is, and how to solve them.

The 3 Categories Of Not Losing Weight

As you’re about see, there are many different reasons for why a person will be in a scenario where they’re eating right and/or exercising but not actually losing any weight.

But the thing is, ALL of those reasons will fall into one of these three categories…

CATEGORY 1: Your Weight Is Being Counterbalanced

This is when a person is successfully losing body fat, but simultaneously gaining some other form of “weight” that counterbalances it and temporarily prevents any progress from showing up on the scale.

So, the person might lose X pounds of fat while gaining X pounds of something else (i.e. water, muscle, glycogen, poop, food, etc.), thus causing their weight to stay exactly the same or sometimes even go up (details here: 12 Causes Of Unexplained Weight Gain).

Which means the problem in these cases is that weight loss isn’t happening even though fat loss is. And that’s an important difference.

Causes Include:

  • You’re Retaining Water Due To Eating More Sodium Than Usual
  • You’re Retaining Water Due To Eating More Carbs Than Usual
  • You’re Retaining Water Due To Not Drinking Enough Water
  • You’re Retaining Water Due To Stress
  • You’re Retaining Water Due To Not Sleeping Enough
  • You’re Retaining Water Due To Too Much Exercise
  • You’re Retaining Water Because You’ve Been In A Caloric Deficit For Too Long
  • You’re Retaining Water Because Your Deficit Is Too Large
  • You’re Retaining Water Due To Certain Supplements
  • You’re Retaining Water Due To Certain Medical Conditions And/Or Medications
  • You’re Retaining Water Due To Your Monthly Period
  • You’re Constipated And Not Pooping As Much As You Should Be
  • You Ate A Larger Volume Of Food Than Usual
  • You Drank More Water Than Usual
  • You’re Gaining Muscle
  • You’re Pregnant

CATEGORY 2: You’re Not Properly Tracking Progress

This is another category where the person is successfully losing body fat, only in this case, they don’t actually realize it.

How can that be? Because they’re either A) not accurately measuring their progress, B) not accurately interpreting their progress (or lack thereof), or C) a combination of both… and it’s preventing them from actually seeing that it’s happening.

So, fat loss is taking place like it should be… they’ve just incorrectly concluded that it isn’t.

Causes Include:

  • You’re Comparing Your Day-To-Day Weight
  • You’re Tracking Your Weight For Less Than 3-4 Consecutive Weeks
  • You’re Weighing Yourself At Different Times Or Under Different Conditions
  • You’re Not Weighing Yourself Daily
  • You’re Only Tracking Your Body Weight
  • You Have Unrealistic Expectations

CATEGORY 3: You’re Not In A Consistent Caloric Deficit

Unlike the previous two categories, where fat was successfully being lost while a separate issue (gaining some other form of weight or improper tracking) prevented that fat loss progress from being known, this third category is the only one where weight loss isn’t happening because fat loss legitimately isn’t happening.

And that can only mean one thing: the sole cause and requirement of fat loss – a consistent caloric deficit – is NOT in place (whether the person realizes it or not).

What is a caloric deficit, you ask?

Well, there is a certain amount of calories that your body requires each day to maintain its current weight (aka your maintenance level). When you eat more than this amount (aka a caloric surplus), the excess is stored in the form of fat… which results in fat gain. But when you eat less than this amount (aka a caloric deficit), your body burns your stored fat for fuel instead… which results in fat loss. Full explanation here: Calories In vs Calories Out

So, if a person isn’t losing body fat, the only underlying reason is a lack of a consistent deficit. There is literally nothing else it can be.

Causes Include:

  • You’re Not Doing What Needs To Be Done
  • You’re Doing Things That Don’t Actually Cause Fat Loss
  • You’re Underestimating How Many Calories You’re Eating
  • You’re Miscalculating How Many Calories You’re Eating
  • You’re Under-Reporting How Many Calories You’re Eating
  • You’re Overestimating How Many Calories You’re Burning
  • You ARE In A Caloric Deficit… Some Of The Time
  • You’re Overeating Because Your Calorie Intake Is Unnecessarily Low
  • You’re Overeating Because Your Diet Is Unnecessarily Restrictive
  • You’re Overeating As A Reward For Doing Well
  • You’re Overeating Because Of Cheat Meals And Cheat Days
  • You’re Overeating Because “It’s The Weekend” Or “Probably Not A Big Deal”
  • There’s An Underlying/Untreated Health Issue Present
  • You’ve Reached A True Fat Loss Plateau

Let’s Find Out What Your Cause Is…

With me so far? Cool.

Because no matter who you are, what your diet or workout is, or what any other detail of your individual situation may be, I can promise you that the specific reason for why you’re not losing weight will always fall into one of these three categories.

The only question: what is the specific reason in your case?

Well, you’re going to want to sit back and get comfortable, because it’s time to take a look at every possible reason there is AND how to solve it.

Here… we… go…

1. You’re Retaining Water Due To Eating More Sodium Than Usual

(Category 1)

Let’s begin with Category 1 causes.

Did you eat more salt than usual? Maybe more salty processed food (junk food, fast food, chips, etc.) than you normally do? Or maybe some otherwise “good” food that just happened to be extra salty (this is especially common when eating out at a restaurant)? Or maybe you just added more salt to your meals than you normally do?

If so, there’s a damn good chance that you’ve gained some temporary water weight, as any meaningful increase in sodium intake will usually lead to a few pounds of temporary water retention, practically overnight.

The good news is that it will subside soon after your sodium intake returns to normal.

But the potential bad news is that there will be a short-term period of time where you might be successfully losing fat BUT NOT losing weight… all because the gain in “water weight” is counterbalancing the loss of “fat weight” on the scale, which will temporarily hide your progress.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t allow the temporary water retention caused by eating more sodium than usual to obscure your true fat loss progress. To do this, first be aware that a higher-than-normal salt intake can have this effect, this way you’re not surprised or confused if it happens.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

2. You’re Retaining Water Due To Eating More Carbs Than Usual

(Category 1)

Did you eat more carbs than you normally do? Maybe you’re coming off of a low carb diet? Maybe you’re using some kind of calorie cycling approach that involves eating more carbs on certain days than on others? Maybe you’re doing a refeed? Maybe you’re taking a diet break? Or, most commonly of all, maybe you just “messed up” a little on your diet and unintentionally ate more carbs than you were intending to?

Whatever the reason, you should know that the carbs we eat are stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver. And for every gram of glycogen being stored, about 3 grams of water are stored along with it.

This means that whenever your carb intake increases by any meaningful amount one day or over the course of many days, a temporary increase in your body weight will occur as a result of some temporary water retention.

This gain in body weight then has the potential to counterbalance any loss of body fat, thereby making your weight stay the same (or potentially even go up) even though progress is still being made.

Just like with sodium, however, this water weight will subside soon after your carb intake returns to normal.

This, by the way, is why people lose a bunch of weight fairly quickly when starting a low carb diet. They will then falsely believe they’re losing a bunch of fat (when it’s really just water/glycogen) and see it as clear proof that it’s carbs (and not calories) that are the key to weight loss.

These people are stupid.

Don’t be like them.

Details here: The Truth About The Low Carb Diet

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t allow the temporary water retention caused by eating more carbs than usual to obscure your true fat loss progress. To do this, first be aware that a higher-than-normal carb intake can have this effect, this way you’re not surprised or confused if it happens.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

3. You’re Retaining Water Due To Not Drinking Enough Water

(Category 1)

Your body will retain water when you consume insufficient amounts of it. This, of course, is for survival purposes.

On the other hand, drinking a sufficient amount of water on a daily basis will have the opposite effect and help to prevent and/or reduce water retention.

Why does this matter? Because if your water intake falls below what it should be, you’re going to start gaining some temporary water weight. And just like the water weight gain caused by sodium or carbs, it has the potential to temporarily hide your true fat loss progress.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t allow the temporary water retention caused by an insufficient water intake to obscure your true fat loss progress. To do this, the first obvious step would be to consume enough water each day.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

4. You’re Retaining Water Due To Stress

(Category 1)

Ever hear of the hormone cortisol? We often refer to it as the “stress hormone” because it increases in response to stress.

The reason I’m telling you this is because one of the negative side effects of elevated cortisol levels is water retention. And as you should certainly know by now, one of the problems with water retention is the potential for it to counterbalance the weight of fat being lost.

So, what kind of “stressful” stuff is capable of raising your cortisol levels?

First up, we have all of the usual forms of stress you’re probably already thinking of. Work, school, family, friends, husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend, social life and whatever other normal day-to-day obviously stress-inducing problems people experience.

Then there’s a weight-loss-specific subcategory of this type of stress that involves things like freaking out over normal meaningless fluctuations in your body weight (you know, like the kind caused by temporary water retention), freaking out over “messing up,” freaking out about why you’re not losing weight, obsessing about your diet/workout, and whatever else people commonly and unnecessarily drive themselves nuts about in the context of weight loss.

Then there are physical forms of stress, and you’re about to see some examples of that coming up next on this list.

WHAT TO DO:

First and foremost, avoid stress as well as you can. This is easier said than done, I know. But finding ways to at least minimize whatever stress you have in your life and/or finding better ways of dealing with that stress is the only true solution.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

5. You’re Retaining Water Due To Not Sleeping Enough

(Category 1)

Insufficient sleep has a negative effect on damn near everything, including hormones. From lowering testosterone, to increasing ghrelin, to reducing leptin, to… you guessed it… increasing cortisol.

And with that increase in cortisol comes the potential for water retention. And with that, the potential for water weight to temporarily hide your fat loss progress.

WHAT TO DO:

Sleep 7-9 hours a night. I cover some recommendations for how to do that here: How To Fall Asleep Fast And Sleep Better Through The Night

6. You’re Retaining Water Due To Too Much Exercise

(Category 1)

Most people who are trying to lose weight will incorporate some form of exercise into their program. This is a good thing.

Whether it’s weight training for the purpose of building muscle, weight training for the purpose of maintaining muscle while losing fat, cardio for the purpose of burning calories, or whatever the hell else… it’s always a good thing.

Unless you’re doing excessive amounts of it.

Then it’s a bad thing.

Among the many things that makes too much exercise “bad” (e.g. exceeding your capacity to recover, not making progress, losing progress, injuries, etc.) is that it leads to elevated cortisol levels. Exercise is a physical form of stress, after all, and the more excessive it is in terms of how much you’re doing, how often you’re doing it, and/or how intense it is… the more stressful it will be.

And with that stress comes elevated cortisol levels, which leads to water retention, which leads to the potential for it to counterbalance the loss of body fat.

This is one of a few reasons (the others will be coming shortly) for how a person can be in a scenario where they’re doing TONS of exercise (usually cardio) but yet not losing any weight. Their cortisol levels are simply through the roof, and they’re retaining a shitload of water.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t do excessive amounts of exercise. For weight training, when weight loss is the goal, I recommend no more than 3-4 workouts per week. For cardio… I recommend doing the least amount necessary to end up in your required caloric deficit. Details here: How Much Cardio Should I Do To Lose Weight?

7. You’re Retaining Water Because You’ve Been In A Caloric Deficit For Too Long

(Category 1)

The actual act of losing fat (or, more accurately, the caloric deficit it requires) represents a large form of stress to the body. After all, a caloric deficit is an energy deficit, and fat loss itself is your body using its backup energy stores to keep you alive and functioning.

Not to mention, you’re body can’t tell the difference between you eating a little less because you’re trying to look better naked, or because you’re about to starve to death. So, it responds the same way to both.

Which is all to say that there is quite a bit of physical stress involved in the weight loss process, which is why cortisol goes up during this time.

And the longer this stressful, calorie-deficient state lasts (and the leaner and leaner you get in the process), the higher your cortisol levels go.

Why does this matter? Because the more time you spend in a deficit losing weight, the more water retention you will likely experience… which increases the likelihood of your fat loss progress being temporarily hidden at some point.

WHAT TO DO:

Instead of going months and months in a consistent caloric deficit, use refeeds and/or diet breaks to periodically pause your deficit and go back up to your maintenance level (or a small surplus) to help minimize the amount of water retention that occurs and get rid of whatever water weight you’re already holding (this is the infamous “whoosh effect” …aka a sudden loss of water weight that comes about by bringing your cortisol levels back down to normal after a period where they were elevated). The full details of how to properly use refeeds and diet breaks are covered in my Superior Fat Loss program.

8. You’re Retaining Water Because Your Deficit Is Too Large

(Category 1)

This goes back to what I just mentioned a second ago, which is that cortisol levels increase as a result of any prolonged deficit.

However, this increase (and the water retention that accompanies it) will be more significant the more excessive your deficit is… to the point where it can temporarily hide your fat loss progress on the scale. (Fun Fact: this is one of the handful of true causes behind the “starvation mode” myth. I’ll be fully covering it/destroying it a bit later. Stay tuned.)

And just in case it needs to be mentioned, this water retention is one of the MANY problems associated with excessively low calorie diets (additional details here: The 1200 Calorie Diet Plan) and/or excessively high amounts of exercise.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t make your deficit any larger than it truly needs to be. I recommend eating the largest amount of calories possible that still produces a healthy and sustainable rate of weight loss. For most, this means creating a deficit of 10-25% below your maintenance level. Details here: How Many Calories A Day To Lose Weight?

9. You’re Retaining Water Due To Certain Supplements

(Category 1)

The most popular water-retention-causing supplement that comes to mind is creatine, as it can cause anywhere from 0-5 lbs of water weight gain during its initial month of usage.

This number may be higher if you do the unnecessary high dose loading phase, lower if you don’t, and there could potentially be none whatsoever if you’re a non-responder. (Details here: The Ultimate Guide To Taking Creatine)

Although, if you’re taking creatine, you typically want and/or don’t care that this water retention happens (water is retained in the muscle cells, potentially making those muscles look a tiny bit bigger/fuller/better). So, unlike everything else on this list, it’s not exactly unwanted water retention.

However, it is still something that has the potential to temporarily counterbalance the weight of fat being lost, which makes it something worth mentioning.

WHAT TO DO:

Research the supplements you’re taking, learn what their side effects may be, and be aware that some (especially creatine) may cause enough water retention to temporarily hide your fat loss progress.

10. You’re Retaining Water Due To Certain Medical Conditions And/Or Medications

(Category 1)

Certain medical conditions and medications are capable of causing edema (the medical term for water retention) as a symptom or a side effect. I don’t really have much more to add here, as this is a topic that you’d have to discuss with your doctor to know anything for sure.

What I will say, though, is that any water retention taking place for this reason has the same potential to hide true fat loss progress as any other cause of water weight gain.

WHAT TO DO:

Discuss any potential medical issues/symptoms you may experiencing with your doctor, as well as any medications you may be taking or considering taking.

11. You’re Retaining Water Due To Your Monthly Period

(Category 1)

Guys, you can probably skip this one.

But ladies? There is no more potentially significant or longer lasting cause of water retention than your monthly menstrual cycle.

While the degree of water weight gain experienced can vary quite a bit from one woman to the next and even one period to the next, it’s not uncommon to see a gain as low as a couple of pounds to as high as 10lbs… strictly from water.

And numbers like that come with a HUGE likelihood for counterbalancing (or exceeding) the weight of fat being lost… which can temporarily hide your progress. And this fun scenario will then repeat itself every month, over and over again.

WHAT TO DO:

First, instead of being confused, surprised or discouraged when it happens, women should expect to see some water retention each month at around the same. In fact, I recommend tracking it so you have a good idea of what to expect and when to expect it.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks (for women, I’d maybe even give it 4-5 weeks for this very reason) rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

12. You’re Constipated And Not Pooping As Much As You Should Be

(Category 1)

Guess what? Water isn’t the only thing we can “retain.”

If your poop isn’t coming out of you like it ideally should be, that means it’s still in you. And since poop weighs something, you can expect your body weight to increase to some extent as a result of this. And that “weight” gain is capable of temporary counterbalancing your fat loss.

The good news is that when you fix whatever is causing this constipation and return to normal pooping, the weight gain it caused will magically vanish (via a slightly different kind of “whoosh”).

WHAT TO DO:

Fix your diet. The best place to start would be by consuming a sufficient amount of fiber each day (10-17 grams for every 1000 calories you eat is a good place to start) through eating more fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans, wheat, oats, and so on. Drinking a sufficient amount of water each day would be another good move, as would just generally eating less crap and more higher quality nutrient-dense foods. In addition, getting enough sleep and reducing stress will help, too.

13. You Ate A Larger Volume Of Food Than Usual

(Category 1)

When it comes to weight gain and weight loss, we only focus on the calories and macronutrients a food contains.

In terms of FAT gain and FAT loss, this is how it should be. But when it comes to the issue of temporary WEIGHT loss and WEIGHT gain, there’s one thing people tend to not realize: food itself weighs something.

Which means, if you eat more food today than you typically eat, you will likely weigh a little more tomorrow simply as a result of having additional food in your stomach waiting to be digested.

It doesn’t even have to be “bad” food or high calorie food. It can be anything, really… including vegetables. And you don’t even have to go over your intended calorie intake for it to happen.

All it takes is eating a “heavier” amount of food than you usually eat. That’s it. It’s just the weight of additional food in your body that hasn’t been digested yet. The more your food weighs, the more you’ll temporarily weigh after eating it (but no, it will not be a 1:1 ratio).

As the digestion process begins to take place, this “food weight” will begin to disappear.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t allow the temporary weight gain caused by eating a larger volume of food than usual to obscure your true fat loss progress. To do this, first be aware that a higher-than-normal food intake can have this effect, this way you’re not surprised or confused if it happens.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

14. You Drank More Water Than Usual

(Category 1)

So… take everything I just said about eating more food than usual leading to temporary weight gain and apply it to drinking more water than usual. The same kinda thing happens.

It’s just the (temporary) weight of additional water in your body that hasn’t been excreted yet.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t allow the temporary weight gain caused by drinking more water than usual to obscure your true fat loss progress. To do this, first be aware that a higher-than-normal fluid intake can have this effect, this way you’re not surprised or confused if it happens.

Second, always weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

15. You’re Gaining Muscle

(Category 1)

There are two important points I need to make here.

Point #1

The first is that if you are weight training properly for the purpose of building muscle (and eating sufficiently to support it), then the possibility exists for building muscle while losing fat.

And, since muscle weighs something, that means there is definitely some degree of potential for this gain in muscle to counterbalance the loss of body fat… thus temporarily hiding your fat loss progress.

Point #2

The second point I need to make is that this potential is smaller than most people think.

This is ironic, considering how often I see people say they haven’t been losing any weight for weeks (or months) at a time at which point someone will suggest “you’re probably just building muscle” and “muscle weighs more than fat” or something similar.

Yeah… it’s not quite that simple.

Why? Because muscle growth is slow as hell.

How slow? The average person can often lose an amount of body fat PER WEEK that is equal to (or in some cases, exceeds) the amount of muscle they can build PER MONTH. For example, the average intermediate man might be able to gain 1lb of muscle per month. The average intermediate woman might be able to gain half that. (Details here: How Much Muscle Can You Gain?)

AND, that’s under the best possible circumstances.

Meaning, the person’s primary goal is to build muscle as fast as possible, and they’re in a caloric surplus to make it happen. In this case, however, the person’s primary goal is to lose fat, and they’re in a caloric deficit to make it happen.

That makes this scenario the opposite of ideal for maximizing muscle growth, so much so that it can often prevent many intermediate and advanced trainees from gaining any truly significant amount of muscle at all during this time.

Which is to say that any muscle gains that ARE taking place in a deficit will be significantly slower and lesser than the already-painfully-slow rate that muscle gains would otherwise happen at.

But yet so many people – especially those who aren’t even training properly for muscle growth in the first place (hello ladies doing useless light weight, high rep “toning workouts”) – are quick to assume this is the reason for their lack of weight loss.

Sorry, but the reality is that if weeks and weeks (or months and months) are passing and you’re not losing any weight at all, and you think it’s solely due to building muscle at a rate that consistentlyequals and completely offsets your rate of fat loss… you’re probably wrong.

Now, I’m definitely not saying it’s impossible for muscle growth to ever temporarily balance out the weight of fat loss.

This scenario CAN and DOES happen, especially in certain ideal short-term situations (complete beginners, people regaining lost muscle, etc.) as well as when someone is purposely trying to do a “recomp” (aka veryslowly losing fat and building muscle without much change to their overall body weight, usually involving some sort of cyclical deficit/surplus setup).

But for the typical person that’s in this “I’m doing everything right but not losing weight” scenario? And for a consecutive number of weeks at a time? It’s highly unlikely.

Chances are much greater that your rate of fat loss will end up exceeding your rate of muscle growth at some point during this time frame, thus causing SOME net loss of body weight to occur.

Having said all of that, gaining muscle is still worth mentioning in this article because it can certainly contribute to the total amount of “weight” a person might be gaining in conjunction with other forms of “weight.” And when that’s all combined together, it then has the potential to temporarily balance out the weight of fat being lost.

WHAT TO DO:

Eh, nothing. Gaining muscle is almost always something we WANT to happen, so it’s a welcome improvement rather than a problem that needs solving. You should still be aware that muscle growth can play some role in hiding (or simply lessening) a person’s true fat loss progress, especially when combined with other forms of more significant weight gain that may also be taking place (e.g. water retention, constipation, the weight of food, etc.).

Weighing yourself correctly (as previously described in this article), properly tracking your progress, and tracking more than just your body weight (more about that in a bit) will help, too.

16. You’re Pregnant

(Category 1)

Guys, there’s a really good chance you can skip this one.

But ladies? If there happens to be another human growing inside of you, there’s a strong possibility that it will counterbalance the weight of any fat loss taking place.

So, yeah. Feel free to take a pregnancy test if you think this could be the case.

WHAT TO DO:

Sorry… you’re kinda on your own with this one. Congrats, by the way.

17. You’re Comparing Your Day-To-Day Weight

(Category 2)

Welcome to Category 2, which is when a person IS losing fat, but they’re tracking their progress in a manner that prevents them from realizing it. Here’s the first example of this…

If you’re weighing yourself daily and interpreting what your weight is doing entirely by comparing one day to the next… you’re doing it wrong.

We just spent the first part of this article going over the many different causes of normal, temporary and (in most cases) completely meaningless body weight fluctuations that are regularly caused by anything from water retention to poop.

By focusing on how your weight changes from one day to the next, you’re letting these types of short-term fluctuations trick you into thinking you’re not losing fat (or are potentially gaining some) when, in reality, you may very well be losing it just fine.

This is a terrible way to track your progress.

WHAT TO DO:

Weigh yourself every day, but DO NOT compare the day-to-day changes. It’s largely, if not entirely, just meaningless short-term fluctuations that have nothing to do with any losses or gains of actual body fat. Instead, calculate your average weight for the week, and then ONLY compare weekly averages from one week to the next over a period of at least 3-4 weeks to minimize the impact of these types of temporary changes and better determine what your weight is legitimately doing.

18. You’re Tracking Your Weight For Less Than 3-4 Consecutive Weeks

(Category 2)

If it’s been a few days, or a week, or even 2-3 weeks where you haven’t been losing weight… it doesn’t mean you’re not losing fat.

The types of weight-counterbalancing issues we’ve already covered in this article are capable of lasting for more than a few days. Sometimes even for a week. In certain cases, they can potentially even last for a couple of weeks or more.

For this reason, if you conclude that you’re not losing fat based on the fact that you haven’t lost weight for a period of time shorter than 3-4 weeks… you might be wrong.

This is simply too short of a time frame to accurately gauge what your weight is truly doing.

WHAT TO DO:

Be patient! Always wait until you have at least 3-4 consecutive weeks of accurate weekly body weight averages to compare before concluding that you’re not losing any fat, or worrying that something is wrong, or rushing to make 100 changes to your diet or workout that you may not actually need to make.

19. You’re Weighing Yourself At Different Times Or Under Different Conditions

(Category 2)

I have a few questions for you. Are you the kind of person who…

  • Sometimes weighs themselves in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes at night, or sometimes just randomly throughout the day?
  • Sometimes weighs themselves before eating or drinking, and sometimes after eating or drinking?
  • Sometimes weighs themselves before peeing or pooping, and sometimes after peeing or pooping?
  • Sometimes weighs themselves before their workout, and then again after their workout?
  • Sometimes weighs themselves while naked, and sometimes while wearing clothes?
  • Sometimes weighs themselves on their own scale at home, and sometimes using the scale at the gym?
  • Sometimes weighs themselves in their bathroom, and sometimes in some other room or in some other spot (even just a different part of the same bathroom)?

If so – or if you do anything remotely similar – you are doing somewhere between a “poor job” and an “absolutely terrible job” of accurately tracking your fat loss progress. All you’re really tracking here are completely meaningless changes that couldn’t be more useless (or counterproductive) for determining if you’re actually losing body fat or not.

WHAT TO DO:

Consistency is key. Weigh yourself the same way every day. Do it first thing in the morning, before eating or drinking anything, on the same scale, in the same spot, wearing the same amount of clothing, and do it after peeing (maybe after pooping too if you’re someone who consistently poops this soon after waking up)… and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks. Ignore day-to-day (or hour-to-hour/minute-to-minute) changes.

20. You’re Not Weighing Yourself Daily

(Category 2)

A lot of people weigh themselves once a week and compare it to what they weighed on the same day of the previous week. Others will do the same thing, but just once a month. And others will randomly pick a day here and there and compare to the previous random day they happened to weigh themselves.

While there are some situations when weighing yourself less frequently may be worth considering (details here: How Often Should You Weigh Yourself?), this sort of thing comes with significant accuracy issues.

For example, let’s say you weigh yourself once a week, on every Friday. What if next Thursday, you eat more sodium or carbs than you normally do? Or maybe you were constipated? Or something similar?

You’re going to end up weighing some degree more on Friday morning.

Now, if you’re weighing in daily and taking the weekly average, this won’t be much of an issue.

But if you’re weighing in just once a week and interpreting your progress based on what your weight is doing on that one specific dayyou’re going to think you didn’t lose any weight (or you maybe even gained some) despite the fact that you might have successfully lost fat that week.

WHAT TO DO:

Weigh yourself every day and take the average at the end of the week. Then, ONLY pay attention to the weekly averages over a span of at least 3-4 consecutive weeks rather than caring about day-to-day (or even single week-to-week) changes. This will minimize the impact that any short-term “weight” fluctuations can have on your progress tracking.

21. You’re Only Tracking Your Body Weight

(Category 2)

Tracking what our body weight is doing is a good, fast, easy and convenient way of tracking what our body fat is doing.

But, if there’s one thing that should be pretty clear by this point in this article… it’s that tracking our body weight is far from perfect, because so many other non-fat forms of “weight” are capable of throwing things off.

This doesn’t mean we should abandon weighing ourselves on a scale as a means of tracking progress. It just means that we shouldn’t rely on it as the sole means of tracking progress.

WHAT TO DO:

In addition to weighing yourself properly, taking measurements every 1-2 weeks, taking progress pictures every month, and paying some attention to how your clothes fit would be helpful for improving fat loss tracking accuracy as much as realistically possible.

22. You Have Unrealistic Expectations

(Category 2)

We all want to lose weight fast, and the weight loss world is filled with claims and proof that it can supposedly happen.

  • We’ve all seen the fat burning pills and supplements that claim to help us “Lose 10 Pounds Of Fat In A Week… Without Exercise!”
  • We’ve all seen the magazines, articles and various forms of advertising that say stuff like “Learn How To Melt Away 20lbs Of Belly Fat Over Night!” or “Get The Sexy Six-Pack Abs Of Your Dreams In Just 3 Weeks!” or “The Secrets To Torching 30lbs Of Stubborn Body Fat In Just 7 Days!”
  • We’ve all seen the before and after pictures of people who claim to have lost VERY significant amounts of fat in VERY short periods of time… and they swear it’s all totally real and legit.
  • We’ve all seen the products and programs guaranteeing “FAST weight loss,” “QUICK weight loss” and “RAPID weight loss.”
  • We’ve all seen celebrities make impressive and surprisingly sudden changes to their bodies (often losing a ton of fat and gaining a ton of muscle) for their upcoming role in some movie.
  • We’ve all seen the “natural” bodybuilders and fitness competitors (male and female) who have gotten extremely lean impressively fast.
  • We’ve all seen that person somewhere (on the Internet, on social media, in a magazine, wherever) lose fat faster than most people do and claim it’s purely a result of their “special” workout or “special” diet or “special” method or “special” product, and you too can get those same amazing results as long as you do the same “special” thing they supposedly did.

This all seems great, except for one tiny thing: the vast majority is bullshit, and it creates an illusion of unrealistic results which leads to unrealistic expectations.

And one of the many problems with having unrealistic expectations is that is makes otherwise logical people think highly illogical things about their own progress.

For example, here’s a slightly exaggerated version of a conversation I’ve had many times and talked about before…

Person: I’ve hit a plateau. I can’t lose weight no matter what I do.

Me: How long have things been stalled?

Person: About one month.

Me: So you haven’t lost any weight at all in a month?

Person: I lost maybe 3lbs this month if I’m lucky.

Me: So then you have lost weight?

Person: Well, if you want to get technical about it, then I guess so. But it’s only 3 pounds so it just doesn’t seem like anything.

Me: First, depending on how much fat you have to lose, 3lbs lost in a month can actually be considered great progress. Second, it shows that you ARE losing weight. And third, can you hear that sound? That’s me banging me head against my desk.

See what happened here? A person makes what would be considered for many people to be solid, realistic progress, and it registers to them as making no progress at all.

Why? Most often because they assumed they were going to lose 5lbs per day or 20lbs every week or get a six pack overnight or whatever other unrealistic garbage they’ve been brainwashed into believing.

And so you end up in a scenario like this, where a person actually sees they’ve lost weight but still comes away wondering why they’re not losing weight. Logical? Not at all. But that’s just one of the side effects of having unrealistic expectations.

WHAT TO DO:

Ignore all of this nonsense, and base your expectations in reality. For most people, that means expecting to lose somewhere between 0.5-2lbs per week. The lower end (0.5-1lb per week) tends to be most ideal for people who have less fat to lose. The higher end (2lbs per week, sometimes a little more) tends to be ideal for those who have a lot of fat to lose. The average person who falls somewhere in between tends to do best with something in the middle (1-2lbs per week).

23. You’re Not Doing What Needs To Be Done

(Category 3)

At this point, all of the reasons we’ve covered involve scenarios where a person IS successfully losing fat, but some other factor – A) gaining some other form of “weight” that is counterbalancing the fat being lost, or B) tracking progress in a manner that prevents it from being seen – is making them think they aren’t.

Now it’s time for Category 3… which is when the reason for a person’s lack of weight loss is a legitimate lack of fat loss.

And as I explained earlier, this could only mean one thing: they are not in a consistent caloric deficit.

So, what causes this scenario?

It all comes down to two forms of noncompliance that I saw the mighty Alan Aragon refer to years ago as conscious and unconscious, but I prefer to call known and unknown

1. Known Noncompliance

This is when a person is eating more calories and/or burning fewer calories than they need to be for a consistent deficit to exist… and they know it.

They know they’re overeating. They know they’re missing workouts. They know they’re simply not doing what needs to be done.

Why does this happen? For any or all of the usual reasons. A lack of motivation. An over-reliance on motivation. A lack of consistency. A lack of self-control. General laziness. An inability to form the necessary habits. Using an unsustainable dietary approach that conflicts with personal preferences. And so on.

Whatever it is, the person knows they are failing to comply with the requirements of their diet and/or workout, and that’s preventing a deficit from consistently being present.

And that lack of deficit? That’s what’s preventing them from losing weight. Simple as that.

2. Unknown Noncompliance

This is when the same sort of thing happens (the person is eating more and/or burning less than they need to be for a deficit to exist), but, in this case… they don’t actually know it.

Rather, they THINK they’re “doing everything right” for fat to be lost, but in reality, they are unknowingly making a mistake somewhere that’s causing them to not actually be doing everything right after all.

How does this happen? Good question, and the answers to it are coming up next on this list.

WHAT TO DO:

It varies. For most forms of known noncompliance, using a more sustainable approach to diet/exercise, creating proper habits, and simply finding the discipline needed for you to do what needs to be done is what’s usually the solution. This is easier said than done, I know. But it’s a big part of what my Superior Fat Loss program was created to help you do. Feel free to check it out.

As for the many forms of unknown noncompliance… keep on reading.

24. You’re Doing Things That Don’t Actually Cause Fat Loss

(Category 3)

A caloric deficit is the sole cause and requirement of fat loss. Always has been, always will be. This is a scientifically proven fact.

However, some people either aren’t aware of this fact, or they’ve somehow come to believe that some other “thing” is what really causes fat loss.

The problem with this is that these people will then go on to do these other “things” – all while assuming they are the RIGHT things – and fail to lose fat.

They’ll then conclude “I’m doing everything right but I’m not losing weight.”

Except… they aren’t.

In reality, they are doing the wrong things, or things that don’t actually cause fat loss… and those things don’t work. That’s why they’re not losing weight.

They just don’t know it.

So, for example, instead of focusing on creating a caloric deficit, they may be focused on…

  • Eating fewer carbs.
  • Eating less sugar.
  • Eating less fat.
  • Eating “good” foods and avoiding “bad” foods.
  • Eating clean.
  • Eating healthy.
  • Eating Paleo.
  • Eating 6 small meals a day.
  • Eating every 3 hours.
  • Intermittent fasting.
  • Not eating after 7pm.
  • “Fat burning” workouts.
  • Cardio.
  • And on and on and on.

Now, sure, these are things that can potentially help a person indirectly get into a caloric deficit. But, in and of themselves, not a single thing on that list actually causes fat to be lost, becausenot a single thing on that list is guaranteed to make that deficit exist.

Why? Because regardless of the type of non-calorie-based rules and restrictions a person employs, it’s always going to be possible for that person to out-eat them. So while greatly restricting or completely eliminating this, this and that should hypothetically make it harder for someone to eat more calories than they should be, it certainly doesn’t make it impossible (e.g. removing all of the “bad” foods isn’t guaranteed to prevent a person from simply overeating “good” foods instead).

But many people don’t realize this.

And so they unknowingly end up doing things that can be classified as myth-based, or unnecessary, or insignificant, or just flat out bullshit… instead of focusing on total calories. And then they don’t lose weight. And then they’re confused by it, and rightfully so. After all, they think they’re doing the things that need to be done for fat to be lost. They think they’re doing everything right.

But they aren’t.

Instead, they’re doing a bunch of other things – some good, some bad, some unnecessary, some stupid – that don’t actually cause weight loss.

It’s the equivalent of someone saying “I got in my car, locked the doors, put on my seat belt, adjusted my mirrors, rolled down the window and turned on the radio… but I still didn’t arrive at my destination.”

Yeah, no shit.

You never actually drove anywhere. You just did a bunch of other things – some of which could potentially be beneficial – but none of which actually involve directly doing the primary thing you need to be doing.

So the next time you think “I’m eating healthy” or “I’m avoiding junk food” or “I’m cutting out carbs” (or whatever else) “but I’m not losing weight,” please realize that the thing you’re doing to lose weight in these cases is NOT what actually makes weight loss happen.

That’s always going to come down to calories in vs calories out.

WHAT TO DO:

The key to losing weight is being in a consistent caloric deficit. Above all else, THAT is the thing you need to make happen. Everything else is secondary in comparison. Full details here: What Is The Best Way To Lose Weight?

25. You’re Underestimating How Many Calories You’re Eating

(Category 3)

Now let’s say a person fully understands that a caloric deficit is the key, and they’ve adjusted their diet/workout to make sure that deficit exists.

And they know for sure it exists.

But yet… they’re still not losing weight. What’s the problem?

Simple. You know the deficit they know for sure exists? It doesn’t actually exist.

You're not in a caloric deficit.

Instead, the person is unknowingly making a mistake somewhere that is causing them to eat more calories than they think they are. This sort of thing is seen ALL THE TIME, including in a variety of studies (sources: here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

How does it happen, you ask?

The first common way is by underestimating how much is being eaten.

Some people underestimate the quantity of food they consume (like thinking they ate 1 serving when they really ate 2 or more), while others underestimate the amount of calories it contained (like thinking a meal was 500 calories when it was really 1000). Some underestimate both. This is something nutritionists and diet professionals see over and over again to shocking degrees of significance. In fact, one study showed that people trying to lose weight underestimated their calorie intake by an average of 47%… which is huge.

And that alone can easily prevent a person from being in the deficit they swear they are in.

WHAT TO DO:

Double and triple check the accuracy of your calorie intake. Then check it again. And then again. If you’re not already doing so, use some type of diet tracking app (e.g. MyFitnessPal) to closely track everything you’re eating. Consider it a requirement. And then check the accuracy of your calorie intake again. And again. And hey, what’s that over there?!? It’s me telling you to check it again.

26. You’re Miscalculating How Many Calories You’re Eating

(Category 3)

Another common (and related) way that people end up eating more calories than they think they are is by making mistakes while tracking their diet.

More specifically, people often screw up during the serving-size-measuring process and take significantly more food than they think they’re taking.

It happens all the time, especially when using measuring spoons/measuring cups or just “eyeballing it” and taking your best guess.

This old (and slightly overdramatic) video from Leigh Peele shows how easily it can happen.

WHAT TO DO:

Get yourself a digital food scale and weigh out as much of your food/meals as you can to ensure that your serving sizes are exactly what you’re intending for them to be.

27. You’re Under-Reporting How Many Calories You’re Eating

(Category 3)

Then you have people who simply don’t count all of the calories they eat, usually because they think they didn’t need to in certain cases.

What kind of cases, you ask?

  1. Some people are under the impression that there are special “free foods” they can eat unlimited amounts of and not count. Maybe certain clean foods, or healthy foods, or superfoods, or negative calorie foods, or something similar. As if they contain magical calories. Spoiler: they don’t.
  2. Then there are those that eat “tiny” amounts of food here and there and assume it’s so insignificant that they don’t even need to bother counting it (aka “bites, licks and tastes“). In reality, these “I-didn’t-even-realize-it” calories can add up pretty quickly. This video from Sohee Lee shows a slightly exaggerated (but still laughably realistic) example of this…
  3. In addition, some people simply forget what (or how much) they ate and end up accidentally not counting it for that reason alone, while others flat-out lie about how much they’re truly eating because they’re too embarrassed to admit it (even to themselves).

Whichever the case may be, the end result is the same: a person ends up eating more calories than they think they are (or claim to be), and no deficit exists… which is why they’re not losing weight.

Overeating due to under-reporting, miscalculating or underestimating.
Overeating due to under-reporting, miscalculating or underestimating.
WHAT TO DO:

Count everything, including the seemingly insignificant things you assume you don’t need to count. Count it anyway.

28. You’re Overestimating How Many Calories You’re Burning

(Category 3)

In addition to underestimating how many calories we’re eating, another lovely thing us humans do is overestimate how many calories we’re burning.

Studies show this to be similarly significant, like this one, which saw subjects overestimate calories burned via exercise by an average of 51%… which is huge.

So what happens here is that a person will do some form of exercise – typically cardio – and assume they burned “tons of calories.” The problem is, no form of cardio truly burns anything resembling “tons of calories.” In fact, typical forms of cardio done at typical intensities may only burn 7-10 calories per minute for the average person.

But yet people will finish their 30-minute jog on the treadmill and think they burned 1000 calories.

Can you hear that? That’s me laughing.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, there’s often a “reward mentality” that kicks in, giving people the false mindset that they can now allow themselves to eat extra calories since they supposedly burned “so many” while exercising.

They then proceed to cancel out whatever smaller amount of calories they did burn (and then some), and then wonder why they’re not losing weight despite “working out all the time.”

WHAT TO DO:

In the specific context of burning calories for the purpose of losing fat, a form of exercise like cardio – while certainly a useful tool – is a highly overrated and inefficient means of creating a caloric deficit. It burns significantly fewer calories than most people think, hope or incorrectly assume it does. This is something that you need to take into account to ensure you’re being as accurate as possible when estimating how many calories you’re truly burning.

29. You ARE In A Caloric Deficit… Some Of The Time

(Category 3)

Here’s a scenario where a person will legitimately be eating/burning the right amount of calories for a deficit to exist… but only some of the time.

The rest of the time? They’ll be overeating to a degree that puts them in a caloric surplus large enough to cancel out whatever deficit they created, thereby putting them at maintenance (or sometimes even a net surplus) in the end.

And when you’re at maintenance instead of in a deficit… you don’t lose weight.

This kind of thing can happen all sorts of ways.

For example, from one day to the next (so a person might be in a 500 calorie deficit on Monday but then in a 500 calorie surplus on Tuesday… breaking even in the end). Or one week to the next (they might have a total weekly deficit of 3500 calories one week and a total weekly surplus of 3500 calories the next… breaking even in the end). Or countless other versions of this same thing, some of which you’ll see next on this list.

So, basically, the issue here is that the person is indeed in a caloric deficit, just not consistently enough or long enough for it to actually work.

WHAT TO DO:

Consistency is key. If you’re not in a caloric deficit consistently enough for it to work, it won’t. So, make sure you are.

30. You’re Overeating Because Your Calorie Intake Is Unnecessarily Low

(Category 3)

Now for a slightly more specific example of the previous reason, and one that I see happen all the time.

That is when a person knows they need to eat less in order to lose weight, but they attempt to eat A LOT LESS.

As in… unnecessarily less, or excessively less, or in some cases, dangerously less.

So instead of going with a commonly recommended moderate deficit (e.g. 10-25% below their maintenance level) and losing weight at a moderate pace, they decide to attempt a very low calorie diet (e.g. 500-1200 calories per day) or really just any larger-than-necessary deficit so they can lose weight as fast as possible.

This sort of thing comes with a ton of potential health problems (both mental and physical), but that’s a subject for another article.

The one problem I want to focus on here is why deficits this big don’t actually work. And no, it’s not because of “starvation mode.” Again, I’ll be covering/destroying that myth a little later.

Rather, it’s because diets that are unnecessarily low in calories are not sustainable… even in the short term. So what happens is that the person may legitimately eat the excessively low amount they’re intending to – some of the time – but then overeat/binge enough at other times to cancel out the excessive deficit they created, thereby putting them at maintenance (or sometimes even a surplus) in the end.

Here’s an example.

Let’s pretend we have a woman with a maintenance level of 2100 calories. If she created a typical moderate deficit, she’d eat somewhere between 1600-1700 calories per day. However, she decides to overly restrict herself and eat 1200 calories instead. Here’s what often happens next…

Bingeing due to a low calorie diet.
Bingeing due to an unnecessarily low calorie diet.

The person in this example IS successfully eating 1200 calories a day like they intended to/claim to be… but only 4 out of the 7 days.

On the other 3 days day, the extreme hunger that is caused by an unnecessarily low calorie diet like this is making them overeat/binge to a degree that wipes out any deficit created on the other days… thereby putting them at their maintenance level for the week and preventing weight loss from happening.

This – among other reasons already covered on this list (e.g. underestimating, miscalculating, under-reporting, etc.) – is one of the ways you get people saying they’re “eating 500-1200 calories a day but not losing weight.”

Even better, imagine that the binge days in this example went even higher in calories. That’s how you get people saying they’re “eating 500-1200 calories a day but somehow gaining weight.

There’s no “somehow” involved here. It’s just simple math and the fact that very low calorie diets are going to make you hungry as hell, and you’re eventually going to act on it.

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t make your deficit any larger than it truly needs to be. I recommend eating the largest amount of calories possible that still produces a healthy and sustainable rate of weight loss. For most, this means creating a deficit of 10-25% below your maintenance level. Details here: How Many Calories A Day To Lose Weight?

31. You’re Overeating Because Your Diet Is Unnecessarily Restrictive

(Category 3)

Here’s a slightly different (but very closely related) version of the previous scenario. Only, in this case, it’s not the person’s calorie intake that is unnecessarily restrictive, it’s their diet itself and the manner in which they are creating their deficit.

Let me explain.

You see, if you’re creating your caloric deficit by using a diet that you hate… one that places a bunch of unnecessary rules and restrictions on you that don’t suit your personal needs and preferences… guess what’s going to happen? You’re not going to stick to that diet. At least, not long enough or consistently enough for it to work.

But yet that’s how most people approach their diet.

Instead of designing everything to be as Preferable, Enjoyable, Convenient and Sustainable for them as possible (#PECS), they force themselves to do a bunch of unnecessary things (or take the necessary things to an extreme) that only make weight loss harder for them.

The most common example of this is when a person uses a diet that requires them to greatly restrict or completely eliminate various foods, food groups or entire nutrients that A) they enjoy and would prefer to continue eating to some extent, and B) don’t actually need to be greatly restricted or completely eliminated for successful weight loss to occur.

You see this happen all the time with diets that are unnecessarily restrictivewith…

  • Carbs.
  • Sugar.
  • Fat.
  • Grains.
  • Gluten.
  • Wheat.
  • Diary.
  • Meat.
  • Foods that cavemen didn’t eat (aka non-Paleo foods).
  • Foods that aren’t raw.
  • Foods that aren’t organic.
  • Foods that aren’t “clean.”
  • Foods that aren’t “good.”
  • And on and on and on.

You also see people using diets that are unnecessarily restrictive with things like when and how often a person can eat (e.g. intermittent fasting, eating every 3 hours, eating 5-6 meals per day, eating 2-3 meals per day, not eating after a certain time, always eating breakfast, always skipping breakfast, etc.) as well as what and how they can eat (e.g. specific combinations of foods/nutrients in certain meals, etc.).

Why is this such a big deal, you ask? Why is being unnecessarily restrictive with your diet such a big problem?

Because it eventually leads to breaking point. And when that breaking point is reached, a period of overeating (or massively bingeing) on whatever was being unnecessarily restricted takes place. And it’s usually to a degree that cancels out whatever deficit the person successfully managed to create the day(s) before, thus preventing any weight loss from happening and potentially even leading to weight gain (among other problems).

WHAT TO DO:

Don’t make your diet any more restrictive than it truly needs to be. Here are the basics for how to do that:

  1. First, create a moderate caloric deficit. 10-25% below your maintenance level is ideal for most. Full details here: How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day?
  2. Second, get a sufficient amount of protein. 0.8-1g of protein per pound of your current body weight is a good place to start (use your goal body weight for this calculation if you are very overweight).
  3. Third, fill in your remaining daily calories with whatever amounts of fat and carbs you happen to like best so that A) neither nutrient is ever unnecessarily restricted, and B) your diet is as Preferable, Enjoyable, Convenient and Sustainable for you as possible (#PECS). Additional details here: How To Calculate Your Macros
  4. Fourth, get the majority of those nutrients from higher quality, nutrient-dense food sources while still keeping the yummy fun stuff around as a small part of your overall diet.
  5. Fifth, put everything else (specific food choices, meal frequency, timing, scheduling, food combinations, etc.) together in whatever the hell way you like best so that, yet again, your diet is as #PECS for you as possible.

And if you need any help putting your ideal fat loss diet together, I walk you through all of it and show you exactly what to do in Superior Fat Loss.

32. You’re Overeating As A Reward For Doing Well

(Category 3)

In this scenario, a person will do really well with their diet and workout for some period of time (e.g. a week). They’ll eat what they were supposed to eat. They’ll eat the amounts the were supposed to eat. They’ll work out when they were supposed to work out. And they’ll have successfully created their intended caloric deficit.

But then, at some point, they’ll begin to think they should be rewarded for this consistency… and that reward should come in the form of overeating.

You know, something like: “I stuck to my diet all week, so I deserve to treat myself.”

Now I’m definitely not saying that people should never allow themselves to eat the things they consider “treats.” I’m actually ALL for allowing that… in the proper context.

But this isn’t the proper context.

This is something else.

  • This is going off the diet as a reward for sticking to the diet.
  • Or overeating as a reward for undereating.
  • Or, as is commonly seen in the eating disorder world, a form of restricting and bingeing.

Regardless of which of these classifications most accurately describe your specific situation, the end result is the same: a period of being in a deficit is followed by a period of being in a surplus… and they cancel each other out. Thus, no weight loss.

WHAT TO DO:

First, be aware that any form of overeating in what is usually an untracked/uncontrolled format is quite likely to result in the consumption of a lot more calories than you think. And if it happens often enough (such as weekly as a reward for the previous 5-7 days of sticking to your diet), it’s quite likely to wipe out whatever deficit you may be creating prior to it and prevent weight loss from happening. This scenario should be avoided. Speaking of which…

Second, design your diet in a way that is as enjoyable and sustainable for you as realistically possible, so that you don’t actually need to stray from your diet in order to feel rewarded for sticking to it.

33. You’re Overeating Because Of Cheat Meals And Cheat Days

(Category 3)

This is a slightly different version of the “overeating as a reward” scenario we just covered, only in this case, the overeating (and perhaps the “reward” itself) is occurring in the form of cheat meals and cheat days.

These are meals/days where people essentially allow themselves to eat/overeat the foods they have been craving in what is typically an untracked/uncontrolled format.

And just like before, if it’s happening often enough, it is quite likely (and surprisingly easy) for it to cancel out whatever deficit may have been created prior to it, yet again preventing weight loss from happening.

WHAT TO DO:

I don’t recommend using cheat meals or cheat days. This is partly because the idea of “cheating” on your diet creates a poor relationship with the diet and food in general. But it’s mostly because I’ve found that people do a MUCH better job of consistently sticking to their diet (and not hating it or feeling tortured by it) when they keep these so-called “cheat foods” around as a small part of an overall good diet rather than completely avoiding them until it drives them insane and gives them a reason to need to cheat.

The way I like to explain it is like this: the majority of your calorie and macronutrient intake should always come from higher quality, minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods you enjoy, while the typical junkier foods should be kept to a sane yet still enjoyable and sustainable minimum. Specifically, a ratio like 90/10 or 80/20 (of “good/clean” foods to “bad/dirty” foods) tends to be an ideal balance for most people in terms of diet quality, overall health, and… you know… life not sucking.

34. You’re Overeating Because “It’s The Weekend” Or “Probably Not A Big Deal”

(Category 3)

Here’s a case where a person will stick to their diet all week and do a really good job of eating the amount of calories they’re supposed to be eating… until the weekend comes.

Suddenly, the diet adherence they had during the week magically disappears.

Even worse, some people in this scenario will think “ah, it’s the weekend” as if diets only matter on weekdays and they are totally free to eat whatever they want as long as it’s Saturday or Sunday.

Ehhh, not quite. What actually happens is that their weekend overeating cancels out the deficit they successfully created during the week, and they break even at maintenance in the end.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say some person has a maintenance level of 2500 calories, and they decide to eat 2000 calories per day to be in a deficit. Here’s what this scenario might look like…

Overeating on weekends.
Overeating on weekends.

Another similar example of this is when a person eats like they are supposed to a lot of the time, but also knowingly overeats in a single meal, or during a single day, or perhaps scattered throughout multiple meals/days and assumes “it’s probably not a big deal.”

As in, this couldn’t possibly make enough of a difference to interfere with their weight loss. Only… it often does.

WHAT TO DO:

Weight loss only happens when a net caloric deficit is present over a long enough period of time, and it’s surprisingly easy to cancel out periods of being in a deficit with periods of being in a surplus. Don’t let that happen.

35. There’s An Underlying/Untreated Health Issue Present

(Category 3)

In the VAST majority of cases where a person isn’t losing fat, it’s because they’re eating more calories than they think they are or claim to be… and no deficit exists.

However, much, much, much rarer, there are some cases where a person IS eating an amount of calories that should constitute being in a deficit for them… but there is an underlying/untreated health issue present (e.g. underactive thyroid) that is affecting their metabolic rate and causing their body to burn fewer calories than it be.

When this happens, it requires the person to have to eat much less (and/or burn much more via exercise) than they should truly have to in order for a deficit to exist and weight loss to happen.

Of course, the solution in this scenario ISN’T to continue eating less/burning more, but rather to see a doctor and get the underlying condition under control.

WHAT TO DO:

If you suspect this might be your problem, get things checked out by your doctor. It’s the only way to know for sure, and the only way to take care of it.

I will note, however, that in my experience (and in the experience of virtually every diet/fitness professional I know), out of the laughably large number of people (typically women) who are quick to assume this is indeed their problem and that it couldn’t possibly be anything else on this list… only a very tiny percentage have actually ended up being right. In the VAST majority of cases, they simply weren’t losing weight due to some other reason covered in this article (e.g. you’re eating more calories than you think you are).

But again, despite how rare it usually is, you should obviously not ignore the possibility. So, if you ever have any reason to suspect that there may be some underlying health/medical issue at play, you should always go to your doctor and get things checked out. It’s the only way to know for sure.

36. You’ve Reached A True Fat Loss Plateau

(Category 3)

Were you previously losing weight for a while, but then it stopped?

If so, you’ve reached a plateau.

The only question is, what type of plateau is it?

True Plateaus vs False Plateaus

In Superior Fat Loss, I go into detail about the two types of plateaus that a person can experience:

  1. True PlateausThis is… well… a true plateau. This is when fat loss progress stops for 3-4 consecutive weeks or longer as a result of the completely normal and often unavoidable physiological changes that are supposed to eventually cause fat loss to stop. In these cases, small adjustments will need to be made to get fat loss happening again like it should be.
  2. False Plateaus 

    This is the opposite of that. This is when fat loss progress stops because of other (often self-made) reasons that do not fit the above description, or when fat loss doesn’t actually stop, but something else happens that makes us think it did.

Up until this point, everything we’ve covered in this article is an example of a false plateau.

Everything from a person’s weight being temporarily counterbalanced while fat continues to be lost (i.e. a weight loss plateau rather than a fat loss plateau), to improper progress tracking that prevents a person from seeing fat loss is happening, to known or unknown noncompliance and the MANY different ways a person can end up eating more calories than they think they are, claim to be, or are intending to… and no deficit exists.

But a true plateau? That’s something different.

The True Plateau

It’s still a case of a person not being in a caloric deficit, except this time, it’s not their fault.

Rather, they’re still eating the amount of calories that constituted being in a deficit for them all this time, only now, their metabolic rate has slowed down so much so that their deficit has become their new maintenance level.

And when that happens, fat loss stops.

What causes this, you ask?

Mostly a combination of two things:

  1. You Weigh LessBecause you’ve successfully been losing weight, you now weigh less than you did when you started, and a smaller body burns fewer calories than a larger body. Simple as that. So, as you gradually lose weight, your body gradually burns fewer calories both at rest (i.e. your BMR decreases) and during all forms of exercise and non-exercise of activity (i.e. your Thermic Effect Of Activity decreases).
  2. The Adaptive ComponentSince your body only really cares about keeping you alive, and since it (as I mentioned earlier) can’t tell if you’re in a deficit because you’re trying to get leaner or because you’re going to starve to death, your body’s adaptive response is to do everything it can to stop you from losing weight. This includes, among other things, conserving energy by reducing how many calories it burns each day so you become less likely to continue being in a deficit and therefore less likely to starve to death. Also note that while this occurs during any prolonged deficit, it’s more significant the larger the deficit is (another reason to avoid unnecessarily low calorie diets) and the longer it lasts (another reason to use refeeds and diet breaks).

When you put these two factors together over a long enough period of time, what ends up happening is that the number on the “calories out” side of the “calories in vs calories out” equation (aka how much you’re burning) will slowly come closer to matching the number on the “calories in” side (aka how much you’re eating).

And when those numbers finally line up… the inevitable true plateau will occur.

Basically, the combination of the adaptive component and the fact that you’ve successfully lost fat (and now weigh less) has made it so that the calorie intake and calorie output that produced a successful fat-loss-causing deficit for you up until this point is no longer doing so. Instead, that calorie intake/output now represents your new maintenance level.

There’s nothing evil or mysterious about any of this. Nor is it anything to freak out about or be depressed by when it happens.

Weight loss plateaus.

You’re simply burning fewer calories than you previously were, and a deficit no longer exists.

WHAT TO DO:

Eat a little less, burn a little more or do some combination of the two so a deficit exists once again. It’s not rocket science.

But Wait… What About Starvation Mode And Not Eating Enough?

Okay, now that we’ve covered every single possible answer to the “why am I not losing weight” question, it’s time to cover one final thing.

And that is the topic of starvation mode and “not eating enough calories.”

Or, as it is more accurately known, one of the most common completely-bullshit reasons for why a person – almost always a woman – will assume they aren’t losing weight (instead of realizing and accepting that it’s one of the reasons we’ve already covered).

Let me explain…

The Concept

Starvation mode (sometimes referred to as “survival mode”) is the idea that not eating enough calories will cause fat loss to stop.

As in, if you eat too few calories, your metabolism breaks or completely shuts down or something equally hilarious, and, in an effort to keep you alive, your body will HOLD ON to all of your body fat and prevent you from losing any of it until… wait for it… you eat MORE calories.

In some cases, people claim this state of “not eating enough calories” is capable of not only STOPPING weight loss, but also CAUSING weight gain.

And so when a person is “doing everything right” and they KNOW FOR SURE they’re in a caloric deficit… but they’re still not losing weight… the only obvious conclusion they could possibly come to is that they are simply eating TOO LITTLE and have entered the mysterious state known as starvation mode.

This assumption will then be confirmed by their super smart friends on social media or whatever diet message board they happen to post on.

The Starvation Mode Flowchart Of Truth

Well, if you’ve ever made this same assumption, here’s a handy flowchart I’ve put together to help you determine if you are truly in starvation mode…

Starvation Mode Flowchart

The Bullshit

Listen closely, boys and girls.

Starvation mode doesn’t exist, because the laws of energy balance are ALWAYS valid.

Meaning, a caloric deficit – no matter how large it may be – will always result in some form of stored energy being burned for fuel. So as long as a deficit exists, something is always being “lost.” And, the majority of that “something” will be body fat.

To quote myself from a previous article (The Starvation Mode Myth)…

As long as you create a caloric deficit (meaning consume fewer calories than your body burns, or burn more calories than you consume… just different ways of saying the same thing), then you will lose weight every single time regardless of whether you’re creating a deficit that is small, moderate or large.

Even if your calorie intake is dangerously low (not recommended at all, just making a point), you will still lose weight.

There is no such thing as “I’m not losing any weight because I’m eating too little.” That’s horseshit. And there’s definitely no such thing as “I’m gaining weight because I’m eating too little.” That’s even bigger horseshit that I can only assume would require the presence of an even bigger horse.

And the idea that you skipped breakfast or waited longer than 3 hours between meals (or something equally meaningless) and have now instantly entered starvation mode as a result is too laughable to even warrant another second of discussion.

Create a consistent deficit and weight loss will happen. Calories in vs calories out always applies, no matter how low the “calories in” part is (or really, how low you mistakenly think it is).

Which means you’re NEVER failing to lose fat due to “not eating enough.” If this bunch of nonsense were true, then please explain to me how…

  • Anorexics reach deathly skinny levels by starving themselves.
  • Starving children in Africa reach deathly skinny levels due to not having enough food.
  • People in concentration camps reached deathly skinny levels from being starved.
  • Reality show contestants on shows like Survivor or Naked And Afraid lose a ton of weight from being unable to eat enough.
  • The participants of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment continuously lost fat by eating less and less until they reached dangerously low levels of body fat (about 5%) and essentially had no more fat left to lose.
  • Every single well designed calorie-controlled study shows fat loss happens every time a caloric deficit is present, regardless of the size of the deficit or the manner in which it was created.

What’s that?

You don’t have an explanation for any of this?

Don’t worry, I have it for you: starvation mode is bullshit.

Additional details here: The Starvation Mode Myth

Why Am I Not Losing Fat?

What About The Starvation Response?

What isn’t bullshit, though, is something better described as the “starvation response.”

This is real, as your body DOES indeed fight back against your attempt to lose weight (there’s an entire section in Superior Fat Loss where I break down ALL of the ways this happens). And yes, part of this “fighting back” involves adaptive thermogenesis (aka slowing down your metabolic rate).

However, this metabolic slowdown is NEVER significant enough to actually STOP fat loss. And it sure as shit isn’t significant enough to CAUSE fat gain.

Here’s a quote from Lyle McDonald on this subject that originally appeared in a 2013 issue of Alan Aragon’s monthly research review…

Because in no study that I have ever seen or ever been aware of has the drop in metabolic rate (whether due to the drop in weight or adaptive component) EVER exceeded the actual deficit whether in men or women. Fine, yes, it may offset things, it may slow fat loss (i.e. if you set up a 30% caloric deficit and metabolic rate drops by 20%, your deficit is only 10% so fat loss is a lot slower than expected or predicted) but it has never been sufficient to either stop fat loss completely (or, even to address the even stupider claim being made about this, to cause actual fat gain).

But even when the drop in metabolic rate is massive, sufficient to drastically slow fat loss, even when it occurs it’s only when that person’s body has more or less reached the limits of leanness in the first place.

Got it? Good. And if anyone tells you otherwise, send them here.

Then Why Aren’t I Losing Weight?

So, if week after week is passing and you’re not losing any weight, your problem is never “starvation mode” or that you’re “not eating enough.”

That’s a big, embarrassingly stupid, blatantly obvious myth.

Rather, the REAL reason you’re not losing weight is…

  1. Because you’re eating too much and a consistent caloric deficit isn’t present… for one or more of the reasons covered in this article (e.g. you’re eating more calories than you think you are).
  2. Because you’re mistaking a temporary lack of weight loss for a lack of fat loss… for one or more of the reasons covered in this article (e.g. temporary water retention).
  3. Because you’re tracking your progress in a manner that prevents you from seeing that it’s happening… for one or more of the reasons covered in this article (e.g. improperly weighing yourself).
  4. Any combination thereof.

But What About People Who Finally Start Losing Weight Again When They Start Eating MORE Calories?

If everything I just said about starvation mode is true (and it is), then how do I explain the scenario where people who are supposedly “in starvation mode” finally start to lose weight again after they start eating more calories?

Good question, and there are two very simple explanations…

1. You’re Not Actually Eating More

In this case, the “more calories” the person has begun eating eliminates the excessively low-calorie days they previously had, which prevents the massively large binges those low-calorie days were previously causing.

Meaning, the person actually ends up eating LESS total weekly calories now than they had been, despite thinking they’re “eating more calories.” And so, a consistent deficit finally exists. Thus… weight loss happens.

To put that another way, the only legitimate way that “not eating enough” can ever truly prevent fat loss from happening is when the period of “not eating enough” is followed by a period of overeating/bingeing to a degree that cancels out the excessive deficit that was initially created.

I actually showed an example of this earlier. Here it is again…

Bingeing due to a low calorie diet.
“Not eating enough” followed by eating too much.

“Eating more calories” prevents this scenario by eliminating the excessively low calorie days… which eliminates the excessive hunger they were causing… which eliminates the high calorie binges that were taking place because of that hunger… which was canceling out their deficit.

Now… the person is finally able to maintain a more moderate (and consistent) deficit.

Which is all to say that “eating more” has actually allowed the person to end up eating less that they had previously been.

2. You’re Losing Water Weight, Not Fat

A second common explanation is that if the person is legitimately eating more now after a period of eating excessively less, it would cause cortisol levels to drop. And remember what happens when cortisol levels drop?

Water retention subsides… thus causing instant “weight loss” strictly in the form of water weight, not body fat.

This scenario is actually more common than you might think.

Why? Because, as I mentioned earlier, an excessive caloric deficit (caused by an excessively low calorie intake and/or an excessive amount of exercise), or a prolonged caloric deficit without any form of diet break, or an excessive amount of physical or mental stress – all of which tend to be characteristics of people who find themselves in an “I must be in starvation mode!!” scenario – is going to raise cortisol levels through the roof and potentially lead to a shitload of water retention.

More than enough to hide true fat loss progress for weeks at a time.

And so when they finally start eating more (which basically serves as a diet break for them), cortisol drops, water retention subsides (whoooosh!), and weight loss (not fat loss) happens… finally revealing the fat loss progress that was previously being hidden by water retention.

Taaadaaa!

How do you avoid being in this scenario in the first place, you ask?

  1. For starters, calm the hell down. Stress is the underlying cause of this problem.
  2. If ANY aspect of your diet or workout can be described as “excessive,” fix that.
  3. If you haven’t taken a full diet break in a while (or more likely in these cases, ever), now is the time to take one. Again, the details of exactly how I recommend doing it are in Superior Fat Loss.

Got all that? Good.

“But I Swear I’m Doing Everything Right!”

Wanna know the worst part about writing an article like this? All 14,000+ words of it?

It’s that, while I know the majority of people who read it will figure out exactly why they’re not losing weight and exactly what they need to do to solve it, I also know that a small minority of people are going to skim through it and refuse to believe that anything in this article applies to them.

In fact, many of these people will react defensively to what they just read.

As if to say: “How dare you accuse me of eating more calories than I think I am! Or not tracking my progress correctly! Or mistaking water weight for body fat! I’m doing everything as perfectly and accurately as can be, 100% of the time, and I never make mistakes! Don’t ever question or doubt me like that again!”

Lolz.

Look, I’ve heard every version of this story you can possibly imagine.

You’re being patient and monitoring progress correctly. You’re counting calories and meticulously tracking your diet down to the very last gram. Your doing the right amount of cardio and weight training. You can GUARANTEE that you’re eating the amount you’re intending to eat, and burning the amount you’re intending to burn, and a caloric deficit is DEFINITELY present.

And you’re absolutely, positively, super-mega-ultra-sure of this.

So sure that you may even be willing to swear on the lives of your children to prove it (yup, I’ve seen it happen… more than once).

I hear ya.

But here’s the thing.

If you claim to be “doing everything right” yet aren’t losing fat… then guess what?

You’re doing something wrong.

Whether you ever come to realize it or choose to accept it, your lack of fat loss is the ultimate guaranteed proof that it’s true.

So, here are your choices.

Option 1

You can either continue to disagree with me, continue to ignore proven facts, continue to think you’re the one human on the planet who is magically defying the laws of thermodynamics, continue to refuse to believe that any of the problems covered in this article are relevant to you, continue to adamantly guarantee that you’re doing everything right, and continue to seek out some other sure-to-be bullshit-based reason for your inability to lose weight…

OR…

Option 2

You can let go of your preexisting biases and emotional attachments to misinformation, take your ego down a notch or two, accept that you’re wrong, and then, one-by-one, go back through all of the problems covered in this article until you find the one (or ones) that are affecting you.

Your call.

So, Why Aren’t You Losing Weight?

There are only three possibilities. You’re either:

  • Losing fat, but gaining some other form of weight that’s temporarily balancing it out.
  • Losing fat, but tracking your progress in a manner that prevents you from realizing it.
  • Not losing fat, because you’re not in a consistent caloric deficit.

That’s literally all it can be.

How To Determine Which One Is Your Problem

Simple.

  1. If you A) are NOT properly tracking your progress, B) are NOT properly interpreting that progress (or lack thereof), and/or C) DON’T have realistic expectations for what that progress should be… this could be your problem. Fix this first.
  2. If you ARE doing all of the above (A, B and C) properly, and you haven’t lost any weight for a period of time that is LESS than 4 consecutive weeks… your weight may be temporarily getting counterbalanced. Be patient and wait longer.
  3. If you ARE doing all of the above (A, B and C) properly, and you haven’t lost any weight for a period of time that is 4 consecutive weeks or longerthen you’re not in a caloric deficit.

Sources: aworkoutroutine.com

How To Build Muscle And Lose Fat At The Same Time: Can It Be Done?

How To Build Muscle And Lose Fat At The Same Time: Can It Be Done?

How To Build Muscle And Lose Fat At The Same Time: Can It Be Done?

I get a lot of questions about diet and fitness. No, seriously. I get A LOT of questions about diet and fitness. And I’ve consistently gotten this crazy number of questions for quite a few years now.

During this time, I’ve noticed that a handful of these questions seem to come up much more frequently than all of the others. And today, I want to answer one that is somewhere at the very top of that list…

How do you build muscle and lose fat at the same time?

In order to answer this one, we need to begin with the big problem that causes people to ask it so often in the first place.

Two Little Facts… One Big Problem

If you’re a regular reader of mine, then you already know what I’m about to tell you. But if you’re not, please allow me to bring the following two facts to your attention…

  • FACT 1: Losing fat requires a caloric deficit, which means consuming LESS calories than your body needs so that stored body fat is used for energy instead.
  • FACT 2: Building muscle requires a caloric surplus, which means consuming MORE calories than your body needs so that new muscle tissue can be created.

Once you put these two facts side-by-side, you come to a very obvious and confusing problem: losing fat and building muscle require the complete opposite of each other in terms of calorie intake.

And it’s this realization that leads those of us who want to build muscle AND lose fat (ideally at the exact same time) to wonder just how in the hell we’re supposed to make it happen?

In fact, it leads us to wonder if it’s actually possible for it to happen at all? Can it even be done?

Well, let’s clear it up once and for all, starting with whether it’s actually possible…

Can It Be Done?

The answer is: YES!

Yup, seriously. It is indeed possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time. In fact, I’ve even done it before myself. Anyone who says it can’t be done is 100% wrong.

That’s the good news.

The bad news however is that it’s not exactly something that everyone will be able to make it happen. Meaning, some people can do it… but most people can’t.

Let’s start with those lucky bastards who can…

Who CAN Do Both At The Same Time?

There are primarily 4 groups of people who can do it. In no specific order, they are:

  1. Fat Beginners
  2. People Regaining Lost Muscle
  3. Genetic Freaks
  4. Steroid/Drug Users

Now I’m sure #3 and #4 aren’t all that surprising. I mean, we all have an equal amount of jealousy and hate towards the people with amazing genetics for a reason, don’t we? They can do stuff we can’t do, and the stuff we can do they just do better, faster and easier.

And, as I’ve covered before, steroids and various drugs completely change everything.

So let’s ignore those two groups and look at the only two groups most of us will ever have a possibly of falling into: fat beginners and people regaining lost muscle.

1. Fat Beginners

The untrained state beginners are in when they start working out makes them primed for rapid improvements in virtually every area, especially strength and muscle. Noob gains are just awesome like that.

Now, if you combine this borderline superpower that beginner’s possess with an abundance of body fat, you end up with a magical calorie partitioning scenario that gives fatter beginners a short term ability to take calories stored on their body as fat and use them to build new muscle.

Basically, your body burns fat as a fuel source for muscle growth, essentially using your own body fat as your “surplus calories.” Like I said, it’s pretty damn magical.

Now how “fat” of a “fat beginner” do you need to be exactly to pull this off? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that the fatter you are, the more capable you’ll be of doing it… and the better and more significant your results will be. The leaner you are, the less likely you’ll be to actually make it happen and the worse/less significant your results will be.

So, if you have just a few pounds of fat to lose, don’t get your hopes up too high. But if you have quite a bit of fat on you to lose, you’ll most likely have a short term ability to both build muscle and lose fat at the same time.

To do this, create a moderate caloric deficit, get the rest of your diet right (sufficient protein intake, etc.) and use an intelligently designed beginner routine focused on progressive overload (and work your ass off to make it happen).

While you definitely won’t be building muscle at the same rate you’ll be losing fat (not even close), you’ll still be able to make some decent strength and muscle gains while in a deficit.

But keep in mind, this is only a temporary thing. As time passes and you become less fat and less of an untrained beginner (and more muscular, too), you’ll lose this superpower and become human again just like the rest of us. Enjoy it while it lasts.

2. People Regaining Lost Muscle

Similar to the fat beginner, there is another group of people who will be able to pull off a similar type of magic. In this case, the magic in question is largely due to the fact that muscle memory is very much real, and very much spectacular.

I’ve had the unfortunate luck of actually experiencing it first hand, as I once stopped training for about 3-4 months due to injury. I lost a bunch of muscle, AND I gained a little bit of fat along the way. As you can imagine, it sucked.

If there was one “positive” thing that came out of it however, it was getting to see what it’s like to return to lifting after a significant break and try to A) lose that fat, B) rebuild the muscle that I had previously built but now lost, and C) do both as fast as F-ing possible.

I don’t have the details in front of me, so I don’t remember exactly what happened or exactly how it happened. But, without a doubt, I was temporarily losing fat AND building muscle.

Each week certain measurements would consistently go up (like my arms) while other measurements went down (like my stomach). Strength came back at beginner speeds, if not faster (and my guess is faster). My weight was all over the place. Some weeks I’d lose, some weeks I’d gain, some weeks I’d maintain.

But in the end, there was less fat and more muscle on my body. And during the early stages, it was clearly happening simultaneously within the same period of time. I expected progress to go well, but it exceeded my expectations.

One of these days I’ll do a full breakdown of exactly what happened and what I did to make it happen, along with a complete week-by-week recap of how it all played out. It was pretty interesting, at least to me.

But the point I’m getting at here is that if you’ve built a decent amount of muscle, but then stopped training for a significant period of time during which some/most/all of that muscle was lost and body fat was gained, you’ll be able to rebuild that muscle WHILE losing that fat, at least for a little while. Just like with fat beginners though, this is only a temporary thing. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Who CAN’T Do Both At The Same Time?

For the most part… everyone else.

Certainly not at anything even remotely close to an acceptable rate, if any rate at all. I know it sucks to hear that, but it’s the truth.

Unless you happen to fall into one of the four groups mentioned above, the likelihood of you being able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time falls somewhere between slim and none. Or, to narrow it down even further, none and none.

But wait, what’s that you say? What about those who claim it can be done? What about those who claim they’ve done it themselves? What about those who claim it’s totally possible as long as you do it a certain way?

I had a feeling you’d bring that up.

But I’ve Seen Claims That It Can Be Done!

Yeah, I’ve seen those claims too. More often than not, it’s usually one of four things…

1. Bullshit

Do me a favor. The next time you see some fitness guru claim that “everyone else has it wrong… we can all build muscle and lose fat at the same time,” take a second and let me know what happens next.

I mean, as soon as they are done explaining why it’s possible or how it’s possible (or more often just hyping the fact that it’s supposedly possibly), do they just so happen to have some kind of program, book, supplement or product of some kind that you can buy to make it all happen?

Yeah, what a shocking coincidence.

This is probably the most common format you’ll see this claim made in… when it’s part of the sales pitch/marketing of some shitty product. Like most of the stuff you’ll see in the diet and fitness world… it’s just good old lies, deception and bullshit put out there to get you to buy something.

You know, just like how you can use this supplement to lose 20lbs of fat in 5 days, or use this program to build 25lbs of muscle in 3 weeks. Whatever it is you need to hear to get your credit card out, someone will gladly be there to claim it. This is no different.

Add in steroid use, muscle memory, or both, and they’ll even have the pictures to “prove” their claim. They’ll just accidentally forget to mention the steroid use and muscle memory part, of course.

2. Stupidity

Then we have people who aren’t really lying like group #1 is, at least not knowingly. Rather, these are the people who have somehow come to believe that this is a perfectly achievable goal for everyone (usually as a result of group #1) and are now out in the world spreading their own stupid misinformation.

Again, this is as common as it gets. I’d estimate that someone says something wrong and stupid about diet and fitness every second of every day while thinking what they’re saying is in fact right and smart. But it’s not. It’s just a nice example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.

So the next time you see someone claim that we can all build muscle and lose fat at the same time as long as we just “eat clean,” or “eat 6 small meals a day to speed up our metabolism,” or “avoid carbs after 7PM,” or “get our post workout mealjust right” or whatever else… ignore them.

Like the majority of the diet and fitness advice you’ll hear from the average person, it falls somewhere between “not quite accurate” and “dumb as hell.”

3. Semantics

Sometimes the claim can actually be 100% legit depending on exactly what the phrase “at the same time” means to you.

Are we literally talking about doing one while simultaneously doing the other? Or, are we just talking about building muscle and losing fat within the same period of time (e.g. 6 weeks, 3 months, 1 year, etc.)?

This seems like a silly point, I know. But, I’ve seen programs sold that claim they will allow you to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, only to go on to tell you to spend 10 weeks building muscle, then spend 10 weeks losing fat… and taadaaa!

Over the span of those 20 weeks, you’ve built muscle and lost fat “at the same time.” Not quite what you had in mind, was it?

4. The “Recomp”

And last but not least, we have various “recomp” methods.

These recomp (short for recomposition) methods typically involve alternating days of surpluses and deficits over the course of the week. The surpluses are put on training days to support muscle growth, and the deficits are put on rest days to cause fat loss. The goal at the end of the week is to break even and be at maintenance while (supposedly) making small progress in both directions.

So while there will be no real immediate change to your weight or your body, you’ll (supposedly) be making slow/tiny improvements in body composition over time. Meaning, less fat and more muscle.

Can this kind of thing work? I lean towards some combination of “maybe, kinda, barely and sometimes.”

The problem however is that if it does work, it will work so painfully and unacceptably slow that it will serve as a huge waste of time and effort for most people looking to build muscle, lose fat or do both.

I mean, if you’re only looking to make super tiny changes to your body, and you’re in absolutely no rush whatsoever to do it, it can maybe be an option to consider trying.

But honestly, for the majority of the population, it’s not really something I’d recommend at all.

But Then… How Do You Reach Both Goals?

It’s pretty simple, actually. You focus on one goal at a time and then alternate between them in a way that doesn’t interfere with the other.

Confused? Here’s what that means in English…

  1. You spend some period of time losing fat and getting lean. During this time, you should most definitely still be weight training intelligently so you can, at the very least, maintain your current levels of muscle and strength while body fat is lost. More about that here: How To Lose Fat Without Losing Muscle and in my new program: Superior Fat Loss
  2. Then, once you’re as lean as you wanted to get (or at least lean enough to go into a surplus), you switch your focus over from fat loss to building muscle. During this time, you should most definitely still be paying close attention to your calorie intake and rate of weight gain, and really just be optimizing your diet and training in general so that you gain as much muscle as possible while keeping fat gains to an absolute minimum. (UPDATE: I just put out a new program designed entirely for this exact purpose. Check it out: Superior Muscle Growth)
  3. Then, depending on exactly what your goals are and exactly how much muscle you want to build and how much fat you want to lose, you’d just keep alternating between goals until you end up with the exact body you’re trying get.

So even though you’re technically only focusing on one goal at a time, you’re never really ignoring the other. Instead, you’re always going about that one goal in a way that puts you in an ideal position for reaching the other.

Or, to put it another way, you don’t “old school” bulk and cut like an idiot. You do it the right way.

And if you’re wondering which goal you should focus on first, the right answer for most people most of the time is losing fat. More about that here: Should I Build Muscle or Lose Fat First?

Summing It Up

So, there you go. It is indeed possible to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, although there are only a small number of people who will be able to make it happen.

If you’re one of the few who can, be sure to take advantage of it and enjoy it while it lasts. You’ll be like the rest of us soon enough.

And for those who can’t, the worst thing you can do is attempt to anyway. Doing so will almost always result in a lot of wasted time and effort with little or nothing to show for it. Usually nothing.

The ideal solution is to simply attack one goal at a time as intelligently as possible, and then alternate to the other.

In the end, muscle will be built and fat will be lost… just not quite at the same time.

Sources: aworkoutroutine.com 

Meet Tiffany: AWR Reader Transformation And Success Story

 

Left: Tiffany at 123lbs, 25% body fat. Right: Tiffany at 126lbs, 18% body fat. More muscle + less fat = magical.

I’d like you to meet AWorkoutRoutine.com reader Tiffany.

If you follow the AWR Facebook page (and if you don’t, you should seriously start), then you’ve already seen me show off some of Tiffany’s impressive progress. Today I want to show off even more of that progress, and allow her to tell the equally impressive story that goes along with it.

I first talked to Tiffany about 5 months ago. She told me: “I have honestly seen better, more noticeable progress in the last couple of months using your guide than I have in the last 3 years using anything else! I seriously cannot wait to see what the next couple of months bring!”

She also included a few pictures showing off that noticeable progress she mentioned, and she was right. She was looking pretty good at that point, and I told her to check in again and keep me updated on how well things were going.

And then, about a week ago, she did just that. Only now her progress looked better than pretty good. It looked “I-need-to-show-this-off” good.

In fact, I thought she’d make a perfect example for me to show the countless women I talk to on a daily basis who are still doing most (if not everything) wrong and have doubts about what might happen if they actually did things right.

Luckily, Tiffany was perfectly happy and willing to be that example (thanks!). So, let’s do this…

Who are you and what are your current stats?

Hello! My name is Tiffany Meinhardt. I am married to my best friend and have 3 amazing kiddos; 20 year old son – Airman of the US Air Force, 18 year old daughter – Army Private (starts basic in just a few days), and then my 7 year old daughter – the little princess, and future artist. Sorry, I have to share – totally proud mama here! 😉

I am 38 years young; 5’3″ tall; weight 126lbs; body fat is 18%.

I’m not sure what would really be considered impressive as far as pounds lifted, but I am pretty proud of the fact that I can now do 10 (unassisted) consecutive pull-ups. It took me well over a year before I could do just one unassisted. I am also pretty pleased that a year ago I was squatting 60lbs and that number has a little more than doubled!

What are we looking at in your before pictures?

The before pics were taken in March of 2010. I weighed 123lbs and my body fat was around 25%. A year or so before those pics, I took up jogging to combat the weight I knew I would gain because I had quit smoking (finally, after 19 years). Other than that – no exercise whatsoever!

tiffany3
Which is better? A) The increase in back/shoulder/arm muscle or B) the decrease in lower back fat? I’m gonna say C) all of the above.

What has your diet history been like? What kind of eating habits did you have?

At 16 years old I developed an eating disorder. It came about innocently enough. I was just a little pudgy – I was 5’3” tall and weighed around 135lbs – 140lbs. Baby fat really. I decided I wanted to lose a few pounds and it went to hell from there.

I didn’t know anything about proper dieting and had no one to provide good advice or a good example (to this day my mother has an eating disorder). I watched as she lost weight by not eating anything at all or very little for days. So, I followed a diet of 1 cheese sandwich a day and nothing else for some time (I don’t remember how long). I was shocked to find that I got down to 110lbs in no time at all.

And so it began – a 20 year struggle of maintaining an ideal weight that just continued to get lower and lower.

In 2004, when I remarried, I weighed 98lbs and was pissed because I hadn’t reached 95lbs by my wedding day. This constant need to be skinnier and skinnier became so bad that my new husband threatened to divorce me if I didn’t seek help. I did go to a therapist for a while, but it did not really help.

I cannot really say what that breaking point was when I decided I couldn’t continue the way I was. I think I just seriously got sick of it – sick of constantly worrying about the number on the scale; sick of thinking of nothing but food, but not allowing myself to have it; sick of being tired and never ever feeling good; just freakin sick of it!

And I cannot really give a precise time of when I changed my habits and views as far as eating and how much I weighed. It happened very slowly – little by little (probably over a space of a few years).

I quit smoking in 2007 (I only remember because I quit the day after we had a party for my youngest daughter). I knew I was going to gain weight and I knew it was going to be a physical and mental struggle for me, but I also knew it was important to get rid of the cigarettes. I weighed 108lbs when I quit.

When I took up jogging in 2009 I weighed around 120lbs -125lbs. The running was not really a help to me – my weight continued to go up and down because of my poor eating habits. At that point, nothing would have helped with my weight – not until I would learn to deal with the mental part of it.

What has your exercise history been like?

In 2010, I was up late one night and an infomercial came on advertising a very popular exercise program. My son told me if I bought it he would work out with me, so I made the purchase (the booger never did work out with me – lol).

Up until I bought this program I had never lifted a weight in my life! Lifting weights had never even crossed my mind! I changed! I love how I felt when lifting! It may be cliché, but I seriously felt physically and mentally stronger. It gave me a confidence in all my years I had never had!

I saw some results. I slimmed down a little and saw a little definition that I had never seen before. I wanted more! I began to research and read. I started meeting new people with similar interests (via social networks). I had gained a boost of self-confidence, but not quite enough to venture outside of my home. I bought every single work out DVD I could get my hands on, but I wasn’t getting the results I really wanted.

I invested in some heavier weights and tried all kinds of programs found on different websites. I bought all kinds of new equipment – medicine balls, a sandbag, kettlebells, resistance bands, etc. I was changing up my routines every few weeks. I was buying all kinds of supplements. I was overwhelmed! Lol!

I didn’t know what piece of advice to follow; I didn’t know what article or website was accurate, as there are always contradictions or differences in opinions. So, needless to say, I was inconsistent as hell. I’d work out with one program for a couple / few weeks and then I would take a couple / few weeks off or I would revert back to jogging.

Then in October or November of 2012 I found Mr. Jay’s website, aworkoutroutine.com. I literally sat and read through his site for hours. I loved the way he wrote – to the point, no fluff, and totally loved the humor that was inserted into everything I read. I never once felt like he was blowing smoke just to get a sale!

So why would I not buy The Best Workout Routines?! I was more impressed and psyched to utilize his advice / approach than anything I had tried so far!

All I can say is OMG!!! Lol!!! When I think back on how much flippin money I have spent and how much time I have wasted I can only shake my head. I can only imagine where I would be with my strength gains and muscle definition, and even more importantly, my state of mind (concerning body weight and eating habits) had I found A Workout Routine sooner!

In my wildest dreams I never would have thought I could look the way I do and feel the way I do now! I love what I see when I look in the mirror now and I love the acceptance and peace that I have found within myself.

tiffany2
Left: March 2010. Right: July 2013 (Tiffany’s personal favorite)

What does your diet look like these days?

My diet is pretty simple and straight forward. I don’t follow any kind of low-carb, low-fat diets. I’m all about balance.

My daily caloric intake varies between 1500 and 1700 calories, and with that my weight has stayed pretty constant. I try to keep my protein intake at 1g per lb of body weight; fat intake is 25%; and carbs are around 160g.

I feel that I am extremely lucky in that I am a very picky eater. I don’t like much, therefore it is very easy for me to follow a diet. My food staples are skinless, boneless chicken (pulled or grilled), pork loin (pulled), brown or white rice, raw spinach, green beans, bell peppers, onions, salsa, massive amounts of tabasco, peanut butter, and my favorite sweet that I have every Friday is soft-serve frozen yogurt.

The typical goal of most women is to be “lean” and “toned” and “firm” and 50 other adjectives that all mean the same thing. And the typical way most women approach this goal is by getting on a treadmill for hours and hours, doing endless sets on the inner and outer thigh machine, and doing a bunch of high rep sets of “toning exercises” with 2lb pink dumbbells. What advice would you give them?

Total silliness! Unless, of course, you enjoy it! 🙂 I absolutely hate cardio and would rather scrub toilets! Lol!

I have had more results in the last 9 months than I have since I first picked up a set of weights in 2010, and this is with next to no cardio. Every now and then I’ll do 20 – 30 minutes of interval sprints (walking for 2 minutes at a 3.0 pace; running for 1 minute at an 8.0 pace), and that is usually because I plan on eating more than normal. 😉

I want to work smarter not harder! As long as you watch your diet and have a deficit, cardio is not needed in my opinion.

As a mother of 3, what advice do you have for other mothers? The ones who claim it’s impossible to workout and eat the way they need to because they’re too busy with the kids? And the ones who claim that there’s just no way their body can ever look how they want it to after giving birth?

All 3 of my children were born via c-section, and I gained 72lbs with my youngest child! For the longest time I truly believed the only way I was ever going to get a flat tummy was to get a tummy-tuck, and honestly, if I hadn’t started getting the results I have over the last several months, next year I most certainly would have gone forward with a tummy-tuck.

My stomach looks better now than pre-children – well, except for the stretch marks! 😉

I get up to workout at 3am. I do this because by the time my family and I get home in the evening there are about 2 – 3 hours left before my youngest daughter’s bedtime. I don’t want to lose the short amount of time that I have with her and my husband, so I workout in the early hours of the morning.

I have also found that I have more drive / energy for my workouts this time of the morning! It’s also my “me time” to think or blare my music on the drive to the gym.

Once my workout is complete, I drive back home to shower and get the family up so everyone can get ready to go where they need to. On a normal week, I work 9 hour days. I am also a full time online student. I am in my last year of obtaining my bachelors in nutrition science. So, some nights I may also have homework or a live seminar to attend. I spend a couple of hours with my family and go to bed directly after my youngest daughter, between 8-8:30pm.

Meals are very simple and pre-made. I usually spend Saturday and Sunday afternoons with 2 or 3 crockpots going with different meals. I’m fortunate enough that everyone in my family eats what I like for myself, so that saves some time to. After the cooking is done, the food is weighed and put into individual containers. Easy-peasy! 🙂

tiffany5
A 2 year comparison. Left: September 2011. Middle: June 2013. Right: July 2013

I think more important than what I’ve already stated is that you shouldn’t set yourself up for disappointment and possibly, failure by setting unrealistic goals / expectations as far as time and progress goes. It’s a slow process, and it’s not going to happen overnight.

You are going to have days when you skip a workout or eat everything in sight! And that is okay. I can tell you right now, I will never give up frozen yogurt, peanut butter and jelly, Mexican food, or pizza! I’m just not going to have it all the time, and when I do have it, I’ll be smart about the portion sizes.

Do not let having a set-back (although, I wouldn’t even really consider it a set-back) stop you! You start the next day brand new and keep working hard. Do not necessarily let the scale determine success for failure. There are so many environmental and biological factors that can influence the number on the scale, especially that one time a month for us ladies. I rarely get on the scale now. I go by what I see in the mirror and how my clothes fit.

I also do not agree with trying to find something that motivates you. I think it is simply determination. For me, I can look at pictures of other people all day long and that isn’t truly going to make me get up at 3am. I get up at 3am because I know what is important to me and what I want. I don’t want to feel guilt because I think I’m neglecting my family by taking time from them after work to go to the gym, so I do it in the morning.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely days when the alarm goes off and I lay there thinking screw it, I’m just going to sleep in today, but then I end up lying there harassing myself. I tell myself that I know I’ll be kicking my own ass at the end of the day if I don’t get up, and I think how I’ve already laid here arguing with myself for 10 minutes – get up! I also remind myself how good I’ll feel once the workout is done.

Nine times out of ten I get my butt out of bed, and I have never once regretted it! Lol!

What are your goals at this point?

A few – Right now, and always I guess :), getting stronger and maybe working on the definition in my legs a little more. I don’t know if you have heard of Andreia Brazier or Dana Linn Bailey, but those ladies have got some killer legs! Very very impressive! 🙂

I’d also like to be able to bench my own body weight and get my squats up to 1.5x my body weight. 🙂

Thank You Tiffany!

Thanks for being willing to show off your awesome progress and tell your story. And thanks in advance for being an example I direct other women to approximately 75 times a day from this point on. 😉

Sources: aworkoutroutine.com 

Starvation Mode: Is It A Myth? Is It Real? Is Your Body In It Right Now?

Let me guess. You want to lose weight, right? If so, then you have something in common with the majority of the population. Most of them want to lose weight, too.

But if you’re here to learn about starvation mode, then I can assume there’s something else you probably have in common with the majority of the population: you’re NOT actually losing weight.

You want to. You’re trying to. But, it’s just not happening. Sound about right?

And that’s probably why you’re here. You want to know why it’s not happening. Well, I can tell you straight up that there’s only one legitimate reason for why a person fails to lose weight, and the good news is that by the end of this article, you’re going to understand it once and for all.

But here’s the bad news. Even though there’s only ONE true reason for why a person isn’t losing weight, there are dozens of excuses and reasons that a person will come up with and consider to be the cause that just aren’t actually true, accurate or even remotely based in reality.

I’ve been lucky (or unlucky) enough to have heard most of those excuses and fake reasons over the years, but I’ve found that there are two that seem to come up more often than the rest:

  1. Muscle Weighs More Than Fat. The thinking here is that the person isn’t losing weight because they’re building muscle. So while they ARE actually losing plenty of fat, they’re supposedly gaining plenty of muscle at the same time and it’s balancing out their weight on the scale (thus causing it to appear as though they’re not losing fat even though they are). They’re just building an equal amount of muscle at an equal rate.
  2. Starvation Mode. The thinking here is that the person isn’t losing weight because their body has entered a weight-loss-preventing (or sometimes even weight-gain-causing) state commonly referred to as “starvation mode.”

Now I’ve already covered #1 in detail before (Weight Loss Plateau Myth: Muscle Weighs More Than Fat?), and I can sum it up by saying no… it’s highly unlikely that you’re building so much muscle so quickly that it’s completely covering up/balancing out your fat loss. MUCH more likely: you’re just not losing any fat, period. The full details of why are explained here.

But what about #2? The dreaded starvation mode. Is it just a myth? Or is this one real? Let’s find out.

What Is Starvation Mode?

That depends. Do you want to know what it actually is, or what most people think it is? Big difference. Let’s start with the second one.

Most people’s definition of starvation mode goes something like this:

To lose weight, you need to consume less calories. BUT, if you consume TOO few calories, your metabolism slows down so much so that your body enters a state where weight loss stops completely.

Some people also believe being in this state of not eating enough calories not only prevents weight loss from happening, but it can also cause weight gain.

So basically, eating too little prevents your body from losing weight. In some cases, it might even cause it to gain weight. To get “out” of this state and start losing, you must eat more calories, not less.

This, according to most people, is what starvation mode is.

Now with all of this in mind, let’s pretend we have a person who says they’re “eating right” and “eating healthy” and “eating less” and knows for sure that they’re eating an amount of calories that SHOULD cause them to lose weight. But yet, they AREN’T losing any weight.

Based on the definition above, it would make perfect sense for this person to assume that they’ve clearly entered starvation mode due to eating too little/not eating enough. That has to be their problem, right?

I mean, that’s the only logical conclusion a person can come to in this scenario, isn’t it? I guess so.

Well, except for one tiny thing… this definition of starvation mode is bullshit.

Your Version Of Starvation Mode Is A Myth

Seriously. It’s not real. It’s a myth.

As long as you create a caloric deficit (meaning consume less calories than your body burns, or burn more calories than you consume… just different ways of saying the same thing), then you will lose weight every single time regardless of whether you’re creating a deficit that is small, moderate or large.

Even if your calorie intake is dangerously low (not recommended at all, just making a point), you will still lose weight.

There is no such thing as “I’m not losing any weight because I’m eating too little.” That’s horseshit. And there’s definitely no such thing as “I’m gaining weight because I’m eating too little.” That’s even bigger horseshit that I can only assume would require the presence of an even bigger horse.

Starvation Mode is a myth.

And the idea that you skipped breakfast or waited longer than 3 hours between meals (or something equally meaningless) and have now instantly entered starvation mode as a result is too laughable to even warrant another second of discussion.

Create a deficit and weight loss will happen. Calories in vs calories out always applies, no matter how low the “calories in” part is (or really, how low you mistakenly think it is… more on that in a minute).

Simply put, what most people think of starvation mode to be is complete and utter nonsense.

And guess what? I can prove it. Guess what else? I can prove it with 4 different types of proof. Ready? Here we go…

1. Scientific Proof

The cause of starvation mode, they claim, is a huge drop in metabolic rate. Meaning, eating too little supposedly causes your metabolism to slow down to the point where it prevents weight loss from happening.

This is actually half true, which of course means it’s also half false.

Adaptive Thermogenesis

The true part is that being in a deficit DOES in fact cause your metabolic rate to slow down over time. This is known as adaptive thermogenesis, and it happens as a result of any prolonged deficit. The more excessive (in terms of size and duration) the deficit is, the more significant this drop will be.

The false part however is the idea that this “metabolic slowdown” is significant enough to actually STOP weight loss. It’s not. And it sure as hell isn’t significant enough to cause weight gain.

It’s mostly just enough to slow down progress a little over time. A much bigger factor slowing down weight loss progress over time is the fact that you’ve already lost a bunch of weight, so your body just isn’t burning as many calories as it initially was.

Meaning, your maintenance level has decreased because your body weight has decreased. So the calorie intake that caused lots of weight loss at 250lbs isn’t working as well (if at all) when you get down to 200lbs.

And it’s this successful decrease in overall body weight combined with that small (but real) amount of adaptive thermogenesis that causes people to eventually need to make adjustments at certain points so that weight loss continues happening (which, by the way, is a one sentence breakdown of what causes weight loss plateaus, why they’re common and normal, and what ultimately solves them).

It has nothing at all to do with “I’m eating too little and my weight loss stopped.” That’s nonsense, and literally every single study in existence supports this.

The Minnesota Study

Every controlled study where a deficit was created resulted in weight loss 100% of the time. Regardless of every other factor. A caloric deficit = weight loss. Always. Even in actual starvation studies like the often cited Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

In this study, 36 men were put on a 24 week long “starvation diet” consisting of two meals per day containing a total of 1560 calories, and that amount was then reduced further throughout the study to ensure weight loss kept happening

For these men, this represented a daily deficit of 50% below maintenance (compare that to a typically recommended “ideal” moderate deficit of 20%). Oh, and they all had to walk 22 miles per week as well.

Guess what happened? All of the participants lost approximately 25% of their starting body weight and reached about 5% body fat. So they were purposely (semi) starved for 6 straight months, and they all lost tons of weight/body fat.

Now For The Really Crazy Part

Ready for this one? This Minnesota Starvation Experiment is the study people sometimes use to show that “starvation mode” is real. I kid you not. This study, which clearly shows people eating very little and losing plenty of weight, is the same study idiots cite as an example of how eating too little stops people from losing weight.

A participant of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.
A participant of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment.

How can this be, you ask?

Because at the end of the study, the men’s metabolic rates dropped by about 40% (two points about that: 1) only a small percentage of that 40% was actually the adaptive component, the majority was just due to the overall loss of weight, and 2) 40% still isn’t the 100% complete metabolic shutdown or whatever nonsense people think happens… but let’s play along anyway) and appeared to finally stop losing weight.

So after they already lost over 25% of their body weight and hit 5% body fat and looked deathly skinny (see included photo), they finally appeared to stop losing.

So stupid people see this and say “HA! See… starvation mode is real! Told you so! This is why I’m not losing any weight!!”

But a non-stupid person sees this and says “Uh, no. They all just finally reached a point where there wasn’t any weight left to lose without dying.”

Take a look at that picture. That’s one of the participants somewhere near the later part of this study. Is that guy in his current state a perfect example that starvation mode is real? That eating too little stopped him from losing any weight? Seriously? No. He’s a perfect example of the opposite… to the point where he literally lost as much weight as his body was capable of losing.

And yet you – someone who is likely a normal weight, overweight, or obese person NOWHERE NEAR THIS STATE who will NEVER BE ANYWHERE NEAR THIS STATE who’s trying to lose anywhere from 5 to 200 pounds of body fat to look prettier in your swimsuit – thinks this somehow applies to you? HA!

And even if you did reach a point like this (and I seriously hope that you don’t), your lack of weight loss is the least of your problems. The fact that you’re about to die is probably your new biggest concern.

2. Unfortunate Real World Proof

A reader recently brought up the subject of holocaust survivors in the comments of something I wrote about starvation mode. It’s obviously not an example I’m happy to use, but… it’s there, so I will.

And all it takes is one look at the pictures of how horrifically skinny the people in concentration camps were and you should have all the “real world” proof you need that what most people consider starvation mode to be (“I’m eating too few calories and it’s stopping me from losing weight/causing me to gain weight”) is pure nonsense.

Those people were consuming less calories than anyone ever would under any circumstance, and they all lost disturbing amounts of weight.

But yet you, a normal person under normal circumstances who is unable to lose weight have somehow come to the conclusion that YOU’RE eating so little that YOU’RE in starvation mode and that’s why weight loss isn’t happening for YOU? Ha!

Can you even comprehend how silly that thought is?

If that was even remotely true, wouldn’t those pictures of concentration camps show a ton of fat people who didn’t lose any weight (or maybe even gained some!!) because starvation mode kicked in and magically prevented weight loss from happening for them just like it’s supposedly preventing it from happening for you?

And they were all eating WAY less than you are (or at least think you are), so it would’ve surely kicked in even stronger for them, right? Yeah… sure.

And that would also explain why eating disorder clinics have so manyfat anorexics” coming in all the time. You know, the ones who failed to lose any weight whatsoever and remained at their normal healthy weight despite eating very little and purposely starving themselves? Yeah… sure.

And let’s not forget the countless overweight starving children in Africa. Yeah… sure.

3. Television Show Proof

Now for something less serious… reality shows!

I was going to go the Survivor route with this one, but I’ve been catching up on shows that have been sitting on my DVR for a while, one of which is something called Naked And Afraid.

If you don’t know what it is, it’s basically a more hardcore version of Survivor. Two people (a man and a woman) get dropped in some hard-to-survive remote location with little to no supplies (or clothes) and have to survive there for 21 days with no help of any kind (although producers eventually step in when it looks like someone might die… how nice!).

So if these two people want to eat, they need to catch/kill/cook something. And most of the time in the episodes I’ve seen, they have a CRAZY hard time catching/killing/cooking things and spend most of the 21 days not eating anything whatsoever and complaining about how they are in desperate need of food.

With me so far? Cool.

At the end of the 21 days, the show does a quick recap of what happened, which includes telling us how much weight the two people ended up losing. I’ve seen the man and the woman each lose anywhere from 20-50lbs during those 21 days of barely eating.

Still with me? Cool.

So tell me…

If most people’s definition of “starvation mode” is real, and eating too few calories STOPS people from losing weight or even causes them to GAIN fat… how the hell did these people who were eating insanely low amounts of calories still lose tons and tons of weight?

If most people’s definition of “starvation mode” is real, why doesn’t every episode end with a recap explaining that no one lost any weight whatsoever because they were eating too little and starvation mode kicked in?

If most people’s definition of “starvation mode” is real, why doesn’t every episode end with a recap explaining that the man and the woman both gained weight because they were eating too little and starvation mode kicked in?

Why? Because most people’s definition of “starvation mode” is bullshit.

4. Perfect Real World Proof

I told this story on the AWR Facebook page recently, but it’s such a perfect real world example that I have to include it here too. So, here it is…

A woman who needs to lose 85lbs tells me she’s been working out a lot and eating 1300-1500 calories per day. But yet, she’s not losing any weight! In fact, her clothes feel tighter! WTF?

She’s considering eating more calories, with the assumption being her calories must be too low (that darn starvation mode strikes again!!!). She has also considered the possibility that, since “muscle weighs more than fat,” maybe she’s just building lots of muscle and it’s hiding her fat loss results on the scale (her trainer actually told her this was the reason).

So I tell her this, because I’ve heard her story a million times before:

“When it comes to fat loss results, someone like you with 85lbs to lose should be seeing some degree of progress pretty much every single week. Your weight should be gradually and consistently decreasing at some realistic rate (0.5-2lbs per week, possibly even more at first). So if that’s not happening, and you haven’t lost a single pound in weeks/months, and your clothes actually seem to be getting tighter on you, then it appears that there isn’t actually a deficit present. Simple as that.

How can that be if you’re eating and burning as many calories you say you are? Well, more than likely, you’re somehow miscalculating or underestimating your calorie intake (the most common cause), miscalculating or overestimating calories burned, or a bit of both.”

This is typically the point in the conversation where the person gets mad at me for insulting their intelligence. Luckily, this woman didn’t. The next day, she responded with this:

“I wanted to tell you after considering what you said (and it was hard not to react defensively… in my head I’m saying I KNOW I’ve been sticking to my diet religiously and haven’t miscalculated) but after that initial reaction I started to examine even more closely after reading your guides and understanding a little better.

The Weight Watchers program uses points. The points equate to about 50 calories each. I get 26 points a day and earn extra points based on my exercise so I was (I thought) taking in from 1300 to 1550 calories a day (less than what I figure I need based on your maintenance calculator).

So in looking at the program all fruits and vegetables are free, meaning no points to encourage one to eat more fruits and veggies. So I have been eating large salads and at least three fruits every day that I don’t count for! That’s at least an extra 300 calories or more a day not being counted!

Plus I noticed I pour a little nonfat milk in my morning coffee. I never count that because it’s just a dab but today I measured it and its about a qtr cup or another 22 calories.

Oh yeah, let’s not forget the frozen berries I add to my protein drink each morning… more free uncounted calories! Amazing!!!! I’m quitting Weight Watchers today to follow your plan. Will see if I can find a good calorie counting app and count everything.”

Happy for her? Definitely. Surprised? Not even a little.

A few days later, she checks back in with an update…

“Hi there. Just wanted to touch base after my first week following your guide to thank you. After getting my calorie deficit accurate I dropped 2.6 lbs this week!

I know that won’t seem like such a big deal to your readers but it’s everything to me. I don’t need to adjust my thyroid meds and for the previous 6 weeks of killing myself 6 days a week at the gym and sticking to Weight Watchers I lost, if lucky a half pound and just couldn’t figure it out… didn’t know what was wrong and was soooo discouraged.

I have a long way to go (another 75) but now I know I can stick to it thanks to you helping me see how to actually get results! You are an angel. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thank you for helping others cut through all the confusing crap!”

So what’s the moral of this story? Besides the fact that I’m an angel? It’s pretty simple…

If you’re not losing any weight over a significant period of time, it’s not because your calories are too low, or because you’re in starvation mode, or because muscle weighs more than fat, or because of carbs, fat, meal frequency, meal timing, food choices or any other crazy voodoo bullshit.

It’s because there is no deficit. Even if you think there is… there isn’t. If there was, you’d be losing weight.

An Updated Update

Literally the day before posting this article, that same woman sent me an update…

Just checking in. Since following all your great advice I’m 18 lbs down! 67 to go but thanks to you I know I will be successful this time. You are literally a lifesaver. Thank you for doing what you do. Will let you know when I reach my goal just thought you might want to know I am still progressing!!

Music to my ears.

Something Real: The Starvation Response

Alright, so by now I’ve hopefully helped you see that the typical definition of starvation mode is nothing but a silly myth and a convenient excuse people pull out of their ass to try to explain their lack of weight loss.

In reality, the real explanation is that they’re just failing to do what needs to be done (e.g. create a caloric deficit). Simple as that. Additional details here: How To Lose Fat

But, there is something else that needs to be mentioned here which happens to be very real. It’s something better described as the “starvation response.

Basically, if you do things to your body that it doesn’t like, it’s going to respond in whatever way makes the most sense to it from a survival standpoint.

In this case, the thing your body doesn’t like is an extreme and prolonged deficit caused by either severe caloric restriction (you know, VERY low calorie diets), excessive amounts of exercise (often tons and tons and TONS of cardio on a daily/almost daily basis), or some combination of the two (very few calories coming in with very high calories going out).

In this sort of extreme scenario, your body’s adaptive response is to make it harder for you to allow this to continue and, you know, prevent you from dying. How so? Well, for starters…

  • It slows down your metabolic rate, aka the adaptive thermogenesis I mentioned earlier. Since your body can’t tell the difference between you eating less in an attempt to lose fat and look good, and you eating less because you’re about to starve to death, it reacts to both scenarios the same way… by slowing down your metabolic rate in an attempt to conserve energy stores and keep you alive. This IS completely real, and the exact amount of it will vary from person to person. However, as mentioned earlier, this amount of “slowdown” is MUCH less than most people think. It’s enough to slow weight loss progress a little over time, but no where near enough to completely stop it or prevent it from happening in the first place (and certainly not enough to somehow cause a person to gain weight).
  • It reduces the amount of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) taking place, which in turn causes you to naturally burn less calories. This is really part of the previous bullet point.
  • It causes intense hunger and food cravings, which causes you to eat more than you’re attempting to. Pay extra attention to this one. Think of the people who starve themselves most of the week with some stupid 800 calorie per day diet, then binge like crazy during a 1-2 day span afterwards. They’ll say “I’m eating 800 calories per day and not losing weight… it has to be starvation mode!!” Nope. First of all, most of those people are unknowingly eating more than the 800 calories they claim. Second, the few that legitimately are eating 800 calories most of those days are following them up with those 1-2 day binges where they essentially binge-eat themselves right out of the excessive deficit they stupidly attempted to create during those previous days. So… stupid 800 calorie starvation diet most days + crazy 3000-6000 (or more) calorie binges on other days = no deficit present (but maybe a surplus now is). And that’s magically how someone “eating 800 calories per day” ends up not losing weight or possibly even gaining some. They’re either unknowingly eating much more than they claim, or eating what they claim on some days and then binge eating themselves right back to their maintenance level and then some on the others.
  • It makes you feel like crap mentally and physically. Pretty self explanatory.

This, among many other obvious health reasons (plus the increased risk of muscle loss, the fact that the weight is often regained right after, the likelihood of an eating disorder developing if it hasn’t already, etc.), is why you’re NOT supposed to severely restrict your calorie intake and/or do extreme and excessive amounts of exercise.

Doing so would be stupid.

But, here’s the thing. Even if you did do something this stupid… you’d still lose weight. Every single time in fact. Every study and real world example proves it, and there is not a single bit of evidence anywhere that suggests otherwise.

BUT PLEASE NOTE: I say this only to help show you that the concept of “eating too little preventing weight loss/causing weight gain” is bullshit, not to suggest you actually start starving yourself to lose weight. I’m NOT suggesting that at all. It’s a terrible idea. I don’t recommend it at all. You shouldn’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t be stupid. Have I said this enough times to sink in for the handful of people looking for someone to justify their eating disorder?

Just in case I haven’t, here’s one last thing about the Minnesota Starvation Experiment I mentioned before. Yes, they all lost weight on very low calorie diets. But, some pretty fucked up shit (technical term) happened as well…

Among the conclusions from the study was the confirmation that prolonged semi-starvation produces significant increases in depression, hysteria and hypochondriasis as measured using the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Indeed, most of the subjects experienced periods of severe emotional distress and depression. There were extreme reactions to the psychological effects during the experiment including self-mutilation (one subject amputated three fingers of his hand with an axe, though the subject was unsure if he had done so intentionally or accidentally).

Participants exhibited a preoccupation with food, both during the starvation period and the rehabilitation phase. Sexual interest was drastically reduced, and the volunteers showed signs of social withdrawal and isolation. The participants reported a decline in concentration, comprehension and judgment capabilities, although the standardized tests administered showed no actual signs of diminished capacity. There were marked declines in physiological processes indicative of decreases in each subject’s basal metabolic rate (the energy required by the body in a state of rest), reflected in reduced body temperature, respiration and heart rate. Some of the subjects exhibited edema in their extremities, presumably due to decreased levels of plasma proteins given that the body’s ability to construct key proteins like albumin is based on available energy sources.

Think of this as the starvation response at its absolute worst (which is consistent with what accompanies anorexia). The lesson? Very low calorie diets will cause weight loss, BUT DON’T ACTUALLY DO IT.

Another thing worth mentioning is that some degree of starvation response comes about during ANY form of consistent deficit, even the small/moderate/safe kind that is recommended. It’s just to a less significant and noticeable degree than when the deficit is excessively/stupidly large.

This is one of the many reasons why my Superior Fat Loss program uses a small/moderate deficit (it’s safer, healthier, easier, more sustainable, less problematic, etc.) and incorporates methods like refeeds, diet breaks and calorie cycling to help prevent, reduce and fix the various issues associated with this starvation response (and reverse it if it has already happened).

The full details of my program are over here, by the way: Superior Fat Loss

Although again, just keeping your deficit to a sane size and your activity to a sane level will help in reducing these issues for the average fat person trying to become less fat.

So yes, the starvation response is a real thing that does affect people losing weight. And yes, the more extreme your deficit is, the more extreme the response will be. This is all true and legit.

BUT… it’s STILL not what “starvation mode” is thought to be. It STILL doesn’t prevent weight loss. It STILL doesn’t cause weight gain. That STILL remains total horseshit just the same.

The starvation response will basically make weight loss harder and possibly slower at some point, and some adjustments may need to be made to compensate. But actually stop weight loss from happening or reverse it? Nope. That just doesn’t happen.

If It’s Not Starvation Mode, Then Why Aren’t I Losing Weight?

If weeks/months are passing and you’re not losing any weight (or you’re possibly even gaining some), and you came to the incorrect myth-based conclusion that you must be in starvation mode, then I hope you realize by now that you were wrong.

Just in case you’re still not sure, though, here’s a handy flowchart that will help you figure it out…

Starvation Mode Flowchart

All clear now? Good.

And that brings us to our next obvious question. If “starvation mode” isn’t the cause of your lack of weight loss… just what the hell is? Well, if you made it this far, that answer should be pretty obvious by now.

It’s not because you’re eating too little. It’s not because your calories are too low. It’s not because you’re burning too many calories. It’s the opposite.

Basically, you’re eating more calories than you think you are, burning less calories than you think you are, or both… and no deficit is present.

Surprise!

Why Am I Not Losing Fat?

I know, I know… “But I’m only eating X amount of calories, I swear!” You know who else swore they were “only eating X amount of calories” (with X being some low amount that should clearly cause weight loss)? The woman in my story from before.

You remember her, she was the woman who claimed to be eating 1300 calories per day until she realized she wasn’t. Instead, she was accidentally underestimating, under-reporting, and/or just miscalculating her calorie intake by hundreds of calories per day the whole time.

Just like pretty much everyone else who swears they’re “eating the right amount of calories” and “working out to burn the right amount of calories” but yet somehow STILL aren’t losing any weight for some crazy reason.

That “crazy reason” is just the simple absence of your required caloric deficit caused in these cases by an underestimated calorie intake, an overestimated activity level, or just some kind of miscalculation or mistake somewhere that has lead you to believe you’re “doing everything right” when in reality you are not.

How do I know this? How can I be so sure?

Because if you WERE doing everything right and you WERE in a deficit, you’d currently be losing weight and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Additional details here: Why Am I Not Losing Weight? (36 reasons)

And here: Eating 1200 Calories A Day But Not Losing Weight

And here: Why Am I Gaining Weight?

And, if you just want lose fat as quickly and effectively as realistically possible – WITHOUT losing muscle, or feeling hungry all the time, or giving up the foods you love, or doing tons of cardio, or following annoying diet rules, or experiencing excessive metabolic slowdown and plateaus, or regaining the fat after you lose it – then you should also check out my Superior Fat Loss program.

Sources: aworkoutroutine.com 

How To Get A Six Pack And Lose Belly Fat: A Guide To Ab Workouts

How To Get A Six Pack And Lose Belly Fat: A Guide To Ab Workouts

How To Get A Six Pack And Lose Belly Fat: A Guide To Ab Workouts

Some of us might want to build a little bit of muscle or a lot of muscle, or lose a little fat or a lot of fat, or get stronger, improve performance or something similar. But, there’s one thing that damn near all of us have in common…

We all want to lose our belly fat, have a flat stomach, and get that perfect six pack.

The problem is, most people can’t seem to do it. Why is that? Are they doing the wrong ab exercises? The wrong ab workouts? Not using the right fat-burning machines? Not training their abs often enough? Not doing enough sets or reps? Not taking the right supplements? Not eating the right foods?

Nope. It’s actually none of those things.

The real reason people aren’t losing their belly fat and getting that perfect six pack is because they don’t actually understand what needs to be done for those things to happen. So, please allow me to fill you in…

How Do You Get A Six Pack?

Are you ready for this? I’m about to reveal the highly complicated two step process that will allow you to get the stomach you’ve been dreaming of having once and for all. Are you ready? Here goes:

  1. Lower your body fat percentage.
  2. Maybe train your abs a little bit, too.

Taaadaaa! And honestly, #2 may very well be optional for many people.

The truth is, the big super secret key to getting a six pack (or even a two pack, four pack or eight pack for that matter) and getting the flat, lean, toned, sexy, awesome, [insert other similar adjectives here] stomach you’re trying to get is, above all else, a simple matter of just losing some body fat.

Confused? That’s cool. It’s time to un-confuse you.

You Already Have A Six Pack… You Just Can’t See It Yet

I think the best way to eliminate the majority of the confusion most people have about this stuff is by making a small change to the way we phrase what we’re trying to do.

Instead of saying we want to get a six pack, we should say we want to uncover a six pack. Because really, that’s what needs to happen.

What I mean is, your pretty abs and flat stomach already exist. Seriously, you have it all right now. We all do. The problem is, most of us can’t actually see it because it’s currently covered by a layer (or many layers) of ugly body fat. In order to see that lean stomach you’re trying to see and make your abs become visible, you just need to lose the fat that’s sitting on top of it and preventing it from being seen.

When you look at it this way, it’s really not that complicated at all, is it?

On the other hand, “getting a six pack” seems so mysterious. Who knows what you’ll need to do to “get” it? The special exercises you’ll need to do, the crazy workouts you’ll need to follow, the fancy machines you’ll need to use, the secret methods you’ll need to employ.

But to “uncover a six pack?” That sounds so simple (because it is). It gets rid of all of the nonsense that confuses and distracts people (e.g. ab workouts, exercises and machines) from understanding that the #1 thing that needs to happen here is you need to lower your body fat percentage and lose the fat that’s covering your abs.

The question now is… just how in the hell do you lose that fat and uncover your six pack?

The Most Important Part: Losing Belly Fat

How do you lose belly fat? You create a caloric deficit. Done. Next question?

Wait, what’s that you say? You need me to explain something I’ve already explained approximately 25 billion times before in a bit more detail? Alright, fine.

Your body has a certain unique amount of calories it requires per day to maintain your current weight. This number is based on everything from your age, height and weight to the thermic effect of food, NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogensis) and more.

This amount of calories is called your maintenance level. It’s the amount of calories your body burns each day to do everything you need it to do (live, function, digest, move, exercise, etc.). If you consume MORE calories than this amount — meaning more calories than your body actually needed — that left over amount of calories will be stored on your body for later use, typically in the form of body fat. This is called a caloric surplus, and it’s the one thing that causes people to gain fat.

Now guess what happens when you consume LESS calories than this maintenance level amount? It causes your body to find some alternative fuel source to burn for energy instead. And guess what that alternative fuel source typically is? You guessed it… your own stored body fat.

This is known as a caloric deficit, and it is the ONE SINGLE THING that EVER causes fat to be lost from ANY part of the body.

So if you have any amount of fat you want to lose from any part of your body, the only thing you need to do is create a consistent caloric deficit by either eating less calories, burning more calories, or doing some combination of the two. That’s all there is to it. That’s all that ever works.

If you want a more detailed breakdown of what I just explained, read these: The Truth About Fat Loss and Calories In vs Calories Out

Or, better yet, just get yourself a copy of my Superior Fat Loss program.

But wait, hold on. I bet I know what certain misinformed people might be thinking now.

The Magical Powers Of Spot Reduction

If you’re like most people, you probably think various ab workouts, exercises and fancy machines are all you really need here, because they’ll magically burn your belly fat. This is why it’s so common to see people doing endless sets of infinite reps of every ab exercise there is.

Why? Because they apparently believe in an interesting concept known as spotreduction.

And by “interesting concept” I of course mean bullshit myth.

Spot reduction is the “idea” that doing an exercise for a specific body part will in some way burn the fat that is on that body part. So crunches will target belly fat and leg exercises will target leg fat and back exercises will target back fat and chest exercises will target chest fat/man boobs, and on and on and on.

Unfortunately, this is all complete nonsense. Spot reduction is nothing more than a silly myth.

In reality, exercises target muscles, not the fat that happens to be sitting on top of those muscles. So while training your abs will certainly train your abs, it’s doing nothing about the fat that is covering them. The same goes for every other body part, too.

I cover this common myth in detail right here: Spot Reduction

Then What Are You Supposed To Do?

The human body gains and loses fat in a pattern that is predetermined by our genetics and can’t be changed. So if you want to lose fat from a specific body part, you pretty much just need to lose fat, period. At some point, it will come off from the specific spot you want it to… which in this case is your stomach.

And in case you forgot, this means you need to do the one and only thing that causes fat loss: create a caloric deficit.

The Least Important Part: Ab Workouts

Once you understand that spot reduction is a myth and that all of the ab workouts and exercises in the world won’t do anything useful whatsoever in terms of helping you lose the ugly belly fat that is covering your pretty abs (which again is the big super secret here), you might begin to wonder exactly what role ab workouts play in this six pack equation anyway?

And that’s something you should be wondering, because the role is pretty small.

How small, you ask? So small that many people don’t do ANY direct ab training whatsoever and still have awesome six packs. Just lowering their body fat percentage and getting lean enough — possibly combined with various compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, pull-ups, etc. that may train the abs statically to some extent — is all they need. No crunches. No leg raises. No nothing.

Do I think that’s enough for everyone? Uh, maybe. It’s certainly enough for lots of people. But, either way, I wouldn’t consider it optimal. Here’s why…

Developed Abs vs Underdeveloped Abs

You do occasionally see cases where someone gets lean enough to where they SHOULD be able to see abs, but still can’t really see abs… at least not as well as they should be able to at their level of body fat.

Why is this? Because their abs are just underdeveloped.

So yes, this sort of thing DOES happen.

Another similar thing that happens is this. Take two people with similar stats/genetics/everything else, and have Person A train their abs directly while Person B does no direct ab work of any kind. Now magically make them the same body fat percentage… something fairly lean. It’s highly likely that Person A’s abs will look better/be more visible than Person B’s to some degree despite everything else being equal.

Now granted, neither of these examples change the fact that being lean is STILL THE KEY FACTOR.

And again, MOST of the time a person claims to be lean enough to see abs but can’t see abs, the true culprit is the fact that they’re just not actually as lean as they need to be. Like virtually everyone else, their problem will be solved by losing more belly fat.

But, once that level of leanness HAS been reached, there will be some small differences in appearance based on how developed or underdeveloped a person’s abs are.

Direct Ab Training = Recommended

For all of these reasons and more, I think some direct ab training will be beneficial. It will make your abs bigger, stronger and better developed (you know, just like what happens to every other muscle group when you train it correctly) and this will make your six pack look better and “pop” a bit more once you’re lean enough for that kind of thing to actually matter.

And on a semi-serious/semi-not serious note, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind being a little fat but still likes to be able to see a faint outline of their hidden six pack poking through when flexing as hard as they can in perfect lighting, some direct ab training will help with that as well.

Of course, you will still look like crap when unflexed/in worse lighting. Wanna fix that? Lose the fat.

What Ab Exercises & Workouts Are Best?

Speaking strictly from the point of view of having “awesome abs” and a “sexy stomach,” I don’t really have any recommendations for specific workouts or exercises because I don’t really think it’s going to matter much.

Which is why my go-to recommendation in the routines I design is simply this: do about 10 minutes worth of whatever ab training you want twice per week at the end of a workout.

Yeah, seriously…. that’s it. That’s all you need, and that’s as specific as I feel I need to get. Again, the details really aren’t going to matter much in my opinion, so feel free to do whatever you like best.

As for me personally, I tend to keep it pretty basic and typically choose from the usual stuff: various forms of weighted crunches, hanging leg/hip raises, planks, etc.. Nothing fancy. Just about 10 minutes of whatever at the end of a workout twice per week, mostly in the 8-15 rep range.

Simple as that.

And yes, some degree of progressive overload should be taking place during ab training. So depending on the type of exercise being done, you might progress by doing more reps, or adding more weight, or adding more time, or moving on to harder variations. Or, all of the above.

But What About My Lower Abs?

Oh no!!! Not the dreaded lower abs!!! What ever will we do?!?!?

Lose more fat, that’s what.

You see, a very common problem many people have is that they can see their top 4 “upper abs” just fine, BUT their bottom 2 “lower abs” are nowhere to be found. Sound familiar? I’m sure it does. It’s why people tend to focus so much extra on lower ab training.

Those people would be wasting their time of course, as spot reduction remains a myth just the same for the lower abs as it does for the upper abs and every other part of the body.

The actual issue here is that the lower part of your stomach is the first place body fat gets stored when you’re gaining it and the last place it gets burned when you’re losing it. That’s why you don’t see people complaining that their lower abs are looking awesome, but their upper abs are still covered with fat and hidden.

It’s always the other way around.

So the fact that you can see your upper abs but can’t see your lower abs means that you might have lost a nice amount of belly fat and you might be quite lean, but you just haven’t lost enough fat to be as lean as you’re trying to be. Basically, you’re four pack lean, not six pack lean.

So what’s the solution? You simply need to lose a little more fat and get a little bit leaner.

And in case you forgot how to do that, it starts with the word “caloric” and ends with “deficit.” All of the lower ab workouts in the world won’t help in any meaningful way.

So… How Do You Get A Six Pack?

Get ready, here comes the highly complicated summary:

Lower your body fat percentage so you’re lean enough for your abs to actually be visible, and much less importantly, train your abs a little bit too.

NEW: My brand new fat loss program, Superior Fat Loss, is now available. It’s completely designed to allow you to lose fat as quickly and effectively as realistically possible… WITHOUT losing muscle, or feeling hungry all the time, or giving up the foods you love, or doing tons of cardio, or following annoying diet rules, or experiencing excessive metabolic slowdown and plateaus, or regaining the fat after you lose it. You can learn all about it right here: Superior Fat Loss

Sources: aworkoutroutine.com 

How Much Cardio Should I Do To Lose Weight? How Much Is Too Much?

How Much Cardio Should I Do To Lose Weight? How Much Is Too Much?

How Much Cardio Should I Do To Lose Weight? How Much Is Too Much?

QUESTION: I’m trying to lose weight, and I just wanted to know how much cardio you think I should do? How many times per week? How many minutes each time?

I’ve also been reading a lot of your articles and I’ve seen you mention that doing too much cardio can lead to muscle loss, so I was also wondering what you’d consider “too much” to be?

ANSWER: If you’re a regular reader of mine, then you probably know my general opinion of cardio. Which is… I think it sucks.

Especially as a tool for improving body composition (losing fat, building muscle). For that sort of thing, I actually think cardio is highly overrated and much less useful than most people think/hope it is.

I also don’t find typical forms of it (like jogging on a treadmill) to be all that fun or enjoyable. Plus, like the person asking this question mentioned, there is legit potential for cardio to negatively effect muscle maintenance.

So to recap, I think cardio is overrated, boring and doing too much has the potential to be problematic. Wow, sign me up!

Having said that, it CAN still be a useful fat loss tool. So if you’ve determined that you need/want to do some for that purpose, that’s totally fine and exactly what you should do. The question is, how much?

How Much Cardio Should You Do?

There’s two answers to this. Let’s start with the broader, simpler one…

You should do the exact amount necessary to accomplish the goal you’re doing this cardio for in the first place, but not so much that it has a negative impact on any other goals you may also have (assuming of course other goals exist beyond the goal the cardio is being done for).

Now let’s complicate things a bit by looking at the two most common people I get this question from…

An Athlete Training For Their Sport

In the case of some kind of athlete training for a specific sport or event who only really cares about that sport or event, they should simply do whatever amount of cardio activity is needed to support those goals. Not quite rocket science, I know.

But I obviously can’t you give an exact amount here because it will vary significantly from person to person based on their specific needs and the needs of the sport they’re training for. Not to mention, as someone who has little to no interest whatsoever in endurance sports, I probably wouldn’t be the best person to ask in the first place.

I point this out in a blatant attempt to hopefully start getting less emails from sprinters and marathon runners in the future.

Someone Trying To Lose Weight/Get Leaner

Now what about the case of someone who wants to lose weight while ensuring that “weight” is only body fat and not lean muscle. You know… the old lose fat without losing muscle goal. Which, by the way, should be the goal of everyone trying to lose fat (although the obese won’t need to worry until they’re leaner).

Well, the first thing you need to keep in mind is that unlike an athlete training for a sport where this sort of activity is a requirement, cardio is completely optional for losing fat.

Seriously. The one and only requirement for fat loss is a caloric deficit, and that can happen through diet alone with absolutely no cardio being done whatsoever.

For me personally, that’s my preferred way of doing it. If anything, I view cardio (and other forms of “fat burning” exercise like metabolic training) more as a last resort option to go to when I’m trying to get extra lean and my progress has stalled, but I’ve reached a point where I’d rather start increasing calorie output instead of reducing calorie intake.

Which is honestly rare as hell.

And generally speaking, that’s what I’d recommend to most people. It’s typically more efficient and sustainable to just eat a few hundred fewer calories per day than it is to burn those same few hundred calories every day through additional activity. So… my default advice is to let your diet set your deficit, continue/start weight training to maintain muscle (or in some cases simultaneously build muscle), and skip the cardio until you really need it. Or just skip it, period.

But hey, that’s just me, and I realize not everyone is like me.

It turns out some people prefer to use cardio to set/help set their deficit rather than just doing it through their diet alone. And that’s perfectly fine. More about that here: Should I Do Cardio On My Rest Days? and What Is The Best Way To Lose Weight

So now the question is, if a person will be doing cardio for the purpose of losing weight and getting leaner, how much should they do? Simple…

Do whatever amount is needed to put yourself in the required caloric deficit you need to be in for fat loss to occur.

So let’s pretend some example person figured out their maintenance level, created an ideal-sized deficit, and came to the conclusion that they need to be at about 2000 calories per day for fat loss to occur. (This is just an example amount, of course. To figure out your maintenance level and create your deficit, read the diet guide.)

To make this happen, our example person can:

  • Consume 2000 calories per day and do no cardio whatsoever.
  • Consume 2500 calories per day and do an amount of cardio that allows them to burn 500 additional calories thus ending up at the same 2000 they need to be at.
  • Consume 2250 calories and do an amount of cardio that burns 250 additional calories, thus arriving at the same 2000 calories.

These 3 scenarios (and other similar ones that use numbers different than the example ‘500’ and ‘250’ I happened to use because they’re nice and even) will all have the exact same fat loss effect for this example person. As long as the same deficit ends up being there in the end, that’s really all that matters.

Your goal is to figure out which scenario is most efficient, convenient, preferable and sustainable for you… and do it. Simple as that.

If that happens to be the first scenario (my personal preference), that’s fine. How much cardio should you do? Zero.

If it happens to be the second or third scenario, that’s fine too. How much cardio should you do then? That depends on your specific needs.

As much as you want me to just say “do X minutes of cardio Y days per week,” I hope you see that it’s a bit more complicated than that and the exact amounts for X and Y will vary based on exactly how much cardio you require — in conjunction with your diet — for your deficit to exist.

So one person might need to do 600 calories worth of cardio 3 times per week. Maybe 5 times per week. Maybe 325 calories worth 4 times per week. Maybe dozens of other amounts dozens of other frequencies. Basically, whatever amount you need to be doing to burn the calories you need to burn to create your deficit and cause fat loss… that’s the amount you should do.

If you’re looking for an estimate of how many calories various forms of cardio actually burn in a given period of time, Google is your friend. Search for something like “calories burned” and get a few million answers.

And don’t worry, as long as the amount of cardio being done isn’t too much, you’ll be just fine.

What? What’s that you’re yelling at your screen? Oh, I hear ya…

But How Much Cardio Is Too Much?

As mentioned earlier, one of the downsides to cardio (besides how boring traditional forms of it are and how it burns less calories than we wish it did) is that doing too much of it has the potential to be problematic.

How so? By negatively affecting weight training performance, recovery and your ability to maintain muscle and strength in a deficit.

The higher the frequency (2-4 days per week or 7 days per week?), duration (20-30 minutes or 60-90 minutes?) and/or intensity (walking or HIIT?), the higher that potential risk is.

To eliminate this risk, you just need to put together a combination of these 3 factors that doesn’t add up to being “too much.” And so the question is… just how much is too much?

Unfortunately, there is once again no exact answer to give you. Why? Because what constitutes “too much cardio” will vary from person to person based on everything from individual work capacity and recovery capabilities to sleep, stress and age.

Plus, how your weight training program is designed. For example, are you training with some kind of idiotic high volume bodybuilding routine, or something more ideal for deficit conditions? You know, like my Fat Loss + Muscle Maintenance program from Superior Fat Loss.

It all plays a role. So, what might be too much cardio for one person could be perfectly fine for another.

For this reason, I still can’t provide the exact X and Y figures you’re looking for. What I can do however is help you know when it’s happening…

What “Too Much” Looks And Feels Like

Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to pay close attention to everything. Then, I want you to answer the following sets of questions:

  1. Is weight training performance going well? Are you maintaining (or possibly improving) your strength levels? Are those workouts feeling okay overall? If so, that’s a very good sign that everything is probably fine.
  2. Is weight training performance starting to drop off quite a bit? Are your strength levels beginning to decrease? Are you feeling borderline dead during those workouts? If so, that’s a very good sign that everything is not fine.

Similarly, you should also pay attention to how you’re feeling outside of the gym and answer another set of questions:

  1. Are you feeling good? Does everything seem fairly normal and typical for what comes with being in a deficit for the purpose of losing fat? If so, awesome… you’re probably just fine.
  2. Are you noticeably more tired, run down and just “out of it” than usual? Are you having trouble sleeping or maybe getting sick more often than normal? Does your body and/or mind feel as though you just might be doing a bit too much training? If so, that’s a damn good sign that you probably are.

Basically, if everything seems to be going well and you feel pretty good, I’d say keep on doing what you’re doing.

On the other hand, if you’re starting to feel like crap and weight training performance isn’t going well (or at least as well as one should realistically expect in a deficit), I’d take that as a sign that it’s time to adjust and reduce something somewhere.

And assuming you’re already doing everything else right (e.g. weight training is adjusted properly, deficit isn’t excessively large, etc.), cardio would be the first place I’d look to for making that reduction. This doesn’t mean doing none whatsoever. It could just mean cutting back on the total number of days you’re doing it, or the duration you’re doing it for each time, or how intense your chosen form of it is.

Just keep in mind however that reducing any aspect of cardio means you’re reducing calories burned, so your diet will need to make up the difference in order for your deficit to continue to be present.

Which, in my opinion, is the ideal way for most people to be approaching fat loss anyway.

By the way… if you’d like to see more specific guidelines for how much cardio I recommend doing for losing fat (without experiencing the various problems “too much” of it can cause), exactly what type I recommend, and exactly when and how often I recommend doing it, I lay it all out in my Superior Fat Loss program. It also includes an option for doing no cardio whatsoever if you happen to hate it as much as I do.

Sources: aworkoutroutine.com