Name: Alex Carneiro
Occupation: IFBB Olympia Pro; Optimum-sponsored athlete; Kinesiologist; Nutritionist; Coach; Pro Fitness Cover Model
Losing weight is a challenging task for many people. After all, reaching your goals takes dedication, time, and consistency. But with mounds of information—and misinformation—floating around in magazines, videos, and marketing fads, it can become easy to lose your way. Effective, long-established methods to shed unwanted body fat can become twisted, warped, and misconstrued, and what you actually end up doing might lead you to sabotage your results without realizing it. Believe me, it happens.
If you kill it at the gym, bring sufficient intensity to your workouts, and follow a strict nutrition plan, but still don't see results—or even worse, you gain additional body fat—you've likely fallen into a weight-loss pitfall. Learn how to avoid dietary disaster with these 5 tips!
PITFALL 1 DIETING IN FITS AND SPURTS
Dieting: Let's briefly analyze the concept itself. Most people jump on the dieting bandwagon with a specific timeframe and goal in mind. The logic might go a little something like this: "If I cut carbs for six weeks, I can fit into that pair of pants," or, "If I replace sweets with veggies for the next few months, I'll lose those last 10 pounds in time for my high school reunion." No matter their reason, most people have something they're striving for and a due date for when it has to be completed.
The reality is that we all want things done now. We want everything to be fast and effortless. Whether it's a 30-day challenge or a 90-day transformation plan, it seems that nearly every goal has a date or finite time associated with it. While a sense of urgency might initially get you off the couch and into the gym, will it dramatically change you in the long run? Probably not.
Avoid It! Make a Lifestyle Change
Breaking years of bad habits is hard and can't be done overnight; you're not suddenly going to ditch pizza for rice and baked chicken. The key is to slowly start making changes you can sustain and integrate into a new, healthier lifestyle. Rather than banning certain foods completely, start by utilizing healthy substitutions. For example, if you regularly add caramel, creamer, and whipped topping to your coffee, try reaching for fat-free milk and nixing the sweet stuff. While it might be difficult at first, these small changes will eventually become habits, and you'll stop slurping down coffee that contains as many calories as a deluxe cheeseburger.
PITFALL 2 FALLING PREY TO SUPERMARKET BUZZWORDS
These days, supermarket shelves are lined with buzzwords such as organic, natural, gluten-free, farm-raised, sugar-free, and fat-free. Keep in mind that these phrases don't mean calorie-free!
On a daily basis, people come up to me and ask why they aren't losing weight, even if their diets consist solely of organic meats and fruit. Foods, even if they're organic or fat-free, still contain calories.
Avoid It! Expend More Than You Eat
You can debate whether all calories are equal until you're blue in the face, but effective fat loss really comes down to calories in versus calories out. If you're looking to lose weight, your calorie consumption has to be less than your caloric expenditure. Basically, you have to burn more than you eat.
Organic produce is better for you and your body, but it's all the same in macros. It's important to be aware of what you're consuming. Take fruit, for example. While fruit is great for you, and contains high levels of natural vitamins and minerals, its sugar content can be relatively high. One cup of grapes, for example, has 23 grams of sugar per serving.1
I'm not trying to deter you from eating fruit, but here's some food for thought: If one piece of fruit has that much sugar, a mixed fruit smoothie from your local health store is likely loaded with the sweet stuff. This can quickly add up to a calorie bomb. Eat well, but eat (and drink) portions that meet your goals.
PITFALL 3 SKIPPING BREAKFAST
"I'm trying to lose weight, so I'm not going to eat breakfast." So goes the mentality of many dieters. Many people think starting their day fasted will allow them to burn more calories. Alas, the opposite is usually true! Because people who skip breakfast typically get hungrier later in the day, they tend to overeat at lunch and dinner.
Avoid It! Fuel Up For Your Goals
Skipping breakfast isn't directly correlated with gaining fat, but it won't help you reach your goals. Trading in a potential muscle-building meal for, well, nothing, can leave you feeling depleted for any upcoming workout. Your body will be running low on fuel, so you won't have the optimal energy to lift as intensely or put the fire to stubborn body fat.
Exercising and eating well-balanced, nutritious meals are still the best ways to lose weight and keep lean muscle mass. Don't think that skipping one meal per day will reap magic rewards. Instead, check out the Bodybuilding.com Recipe Database for breakfast recipes that will fuel your body and support your fat-burning efforts!
PITFALL 4 FEARING ALL FATS
There's one point I can't drive home enough: Eating fat doesn't necessarily make you fat. However, it's important to note that not all fats are created equal. Trans fats and excess saturated fats are bad for you because they have the potential to raise your "bad" LDL cholesterol, and may even increase your risk for heart disease.
Avoid It! Eat the Right Fats
Instead of fearing all fats, turn to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have the potential to lower LDL cholesterol, and may even reduce your risk of heart disease. Essential fats like omega-3 fatty acids also provide a number of benefits to your physique and performance goals, so they're not to be missed.
While healthy fats like omega-3s and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) can help you burn fat, moderation is key. When you think about the fat you eat on a daily basis—almonds, fatty fish, oils, and seeds—you'll see that the calories in a high-fat diet add up pretty fast. In the game of numbers, fats carry roughly nine calories per gram, so be aware of how many you consume.
PITFALL 5 SIPPING ON ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
Today, chemists can create flavors that mimic just about anything. Chances are that new, bright green, lemon-lime-flavored soda wasn't Mother Nature's doing. To make your favorite snack foods "healthy," chemicals mimicking natural sugars are used. These chemicals can often trigger you to crave more sweets later.
Beyond the gastrointestinal problems that these foods may cause us, there are other problems to consider. Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered some frightening facts that should make us all swear off diet drinks and products.2 The two most alarming:
- Diet sodas raised the risk of diabetes more than sugar-sweetened sodas.
- Women who drank diet sodas consumed twice as much as those who drank sugar-sweetened sodas because of the addictive nature of artificial sweeteners.
Avoid It! Ditch the "Diet" Products
Alas, even zero-calorie colas come at a price, and none of them are a fat-loss magic bullet. Instead of trading cola for diet cola, ditch the cola entirely and stick with natural options like green tea or water, both of which can actually contribute to your fat-loss efforts! Green tea has a mild calorie-burning effect thanks to its high catechin content, while water is essential to performance and can help you feel full.